Category Archives: Evangelism

Noah’s Proclamation

Noah must have been one of the most tenacious and single-minded people who ever walked the face of the earth. He lived at a time when God was all but forgotten; a time when wicked living was standard operating procedure everywhere. But Noah stood strong for what was right even though the whole world was against him. He was willing to speak the truth in a world that did not want to hear. Surely his life would have been easier had he simply kept his mouth shut, but he did not.

And Noah did more than speak the truth; he lived the truth. Noah’s faith was so strong that he not only worked to support his family, he also worked to build an ark according to God’s design and for God’s purpose. He was devoted to doing work that would please God and lead others to faith and deliverance.

So Noah proclaimed righteousness in a world of wickedness and he built an ark for safety in the day of God’s judgment. He did all this despite the apathy of his generation. How did he do it? How did Noah stand for truth and build for God under such difficult conditions?

One reason that Noah had such a strong faith was his conviction that he had received a word from the Lord. He had no app on his iPhone with multiple translations of the Bible and word-search capabilities. He had no TV preachers, Sunday school teachers, or conference speakers, but he knew that God had spoken to him.

And Noah was willing to live his life based on the word which he had received from God. Even though God’s word to Noah meant that he would be going against the strong tide of public opinion, Noah obeyed. Pleasing God was more important to Noah than getting along with everyone else.

Like Noah, we have a word from the Lord. Like Noah, we are called to speak for God and to build for God in a world that is unfriendly to God. And like Noah, we can choose to be silent and get along with the world, or we can decide to speak up and get the approval of our Lord.

Noah went through some tough times, but God was with him. In the end he experienced a great victory. God is calling us to proclaim his truth and to build his kingdom in a rebellious world. Going against the flow is not easy, but our Lord promises to be with us. And he promises that we will share in his ultimate triumph.

May the love of Christ compel us to say and do all that our Lord desires,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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What Is “Impact Lostness” (sic)?

People keep telling me to “impact lostness.”  But what does that mean?  The phrase is vague almost to the point of nonsense.  Are we being encouraged to have an impact that supports or opposes lostness?

And what is lostness?  My Office Suite software insists on placing a squiggly red line under the word lostness, warning me that something is amiss.  An online dictionary service told me “no dictionary results” and went on to ask me if I meant “lousiness.”

Surely the word is meant as a reference to the state of being lost.  But who or what is lost?  And what are we to do about it?  Presumably we are being called to create a state of foundness, but my software does not like that word either (“Do you mean ‘fondness’?” I was asked.).

The context in which this phrase occurs must be consulted in order to discover its meaning.  I hear the phrase used by Christians when they exhort fellow believers to action.  Given that environment, the word lost begins to make sense, maybe.

Lost is a word right out of the Bible.  Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10).  He said that the Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones be lost (Matthew 18:14).  In his so-called High Priestly prayer Jesus told the Father that none had been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled (John 17:12).

Jesus used the word “lost” in reference to people.  Jesus’ mission was about people.  He came to seek and save lost people.  So the opposite of being lost is being saved and the object of salvation is not a state of being but individuals.  Jesus came not to impact lostness, but to seek and to save lost people, living, breathing, hurting people.

Jesus used the picture of a shepherd and his sheep to illustrate his mission.  A shepherd looks for, finds, and brings home sheep who have wandered away from safety and sustenance into danger and darkness.  Jesus came looking for people who wandered away from God and got entangled by the dangers of sin and worldliness.  His mission was to bring them back to the safety of the flock, God’s people, where they receive the protection and encouragement they need in order to heal and to grow stronger.

Jesus entrusted his mission to his followers, the church, with the instruction that has come to be known as the Great Commission.  Go, he said, and make disciples from all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that he commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).  His instruction, to make disciples and to teach them, is easy to understand: convert people to Christian faith and then help them grow in the faith.

Now perhaps people who use the phrase “impact lostness” are simply trying to express Jesus’ meaning with different words.  If so, then their word “impact” must somehow relate to Jesus’ word “make” and their word “lostness” must somehow relate to Jesus’ word “disciples.”  If the phrase “impact lostness” is meant to be synonymous with the instruction “make disciples,” then what is gained by changing Jesus’ terminology?  What is the goal of using different words?  Is it possible that something is lost in the switch?  Jesus was pretty good with words.  We had better have a good reason to change his terminology.

Perhaps the new phrase is meant to be more accessible to our increasingly secular environment.  “Disciple” is an old word and maybe people no longer understand what it means.  Or worse, it could be an old word with negative connotations and so it creates unnecessary barriers to carrying out Jesus’ Great Commission.  Is that the problem?

“Lostness” is a somewhat friendlier word.  “Lostness” can mean a lot of things.  It could mean a lost culture or society.  Pointing the finger at individuals and telling them that they are lost is intimidating, confrontational, and perhaps a bit judgmental.  To say that society is lost, or unjust, is softer and friendlier; no one gets their feelings hurt.

A similar effort has apparently influenced the language used by some Christians in the debate about how to define marriage.  The word “tradition” is popular with Christians who, no doubt, have a sincere desire to engage the culture in meaningful dialogue.  Unfortunately, traditions are usually established by common practice and the common practice for family is rapidly changing in our culture.  God’s people should support and promote Biblical marriage, God’s unchanging design for marriage, not traditional marriage.

Perhaps we should simply use Jesus’ words in order to stay as close as possible to Jesus’ intentions.  New words come with new meanings that may also usher in new goals, whether intentional or not.  True, different visions and missions can be very attractive and can make the church more acceptable to secular culture.  But variations to Jesus’ original mission will almost certainly distract from his mandate for his church.

One of Jesus’ followers rebuked a woman for her extravagance in worship because the incense she used to anoint the Lord could have been sold and the money used to great benefit for the poor (John 12:1-8).  Jesus’ concern for the poor was clear from both his words and his actions.  Nevertheless, on this occasion he subordinated that concern to his primary focus: to die for sinners.

Jesus’ commission ends with a promise: He will be with us to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).  To the degree that we stay faithful to Christ’s vision for ministry and mission, the church can count on the authority and power of Christ.  If we replace Jesus’ goal with our own vision then we operate without a mandate from the Lord and without the power of God’s Spirit.

The clear implication of Jesus’ promise at the end of his Great Commission is that he will empower his followers for the task of making disciples.  He gave no promise about power for other tasks, no matter how good other tasks may be.  Good works abound, but the best work for followers of Jesus is to make disciples.  The Lord gave no promise about popularity in carrying out the task which he outlined.  In fact, Jesus warned that his representatives would meet with firm opposition from the world (John 15:19).

Does this mean that the Lord’s people should not labor to find effective ways to communicate with the world?  Absolutely not.  Jesus was the master at words, both in his instructions to the people of God and in his outreach to lost people.  Compare his approaches to various individuals in John’s Gospel.

To the powerful religious Jewish leader, Nicodemus, Jesus talked about being born again (John 3:1-16).  To the outcast promiscuous woman at the well, Jesus talked about living water (John 4:1-26).  To the fickle crowd that followed him across the lake, he talked about the bread of life (John 6:25-66).  But Jesus’ creativity in communicating one Truth was not used in order to be popular.  His bread of life discourse resulted in negative growth!

Jesus used variety and creativity in his presentation of spiritual truth in order to confront people with the Truth.  He did not employ his great skill as a communicator for popularizing his message.  On the contrary, he seemed at times to use his talent in order to make it more difficult for some of his listeners (Mark 4:11-12).  The guiding light for Jesus was not popularity or acceptance, it was adherence to his God-given mission: to seek and to save lost people (Mark 10:45).

Perhaps it is clear to many people that “impact lostness” is just another way of expressing Jesus’ Great Commission.  Maybe not.  The phrase tends to depersonalize the work of God’s people.  “Lostness” has no personal name.  Moreover, “impact” requires a lot of clarification.  All in all, the phrase seems to leave open the possibility of redefining the church’s mission as social activism.

Without trivializing Jesus’ obvious concern for the marginalized in this world, his followers must not tweak his obvious mission: Make disciples.

May the Lord enable us to fulfill our calling,

Richard Foster, November 2012

 

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The Sheep from Another Pen

Jesus painted wonderful and memorable word pictures that describe God’s marvelous love for his people.  In John chapter 10 he pictured God’s people as a flock of sheep.  The Good Shepherd, Jesus, calls his sheep by name and they recognize his voice.  He goes ahead of them and leads his flock out to pasture.

The flock is endangered by a wolf and made vulnerable by a hired hand.  The wolf slips in to steal and destroy the flock.  The hired hand flees, leaving the sheep to be attacked and scattered.  Although the hired hand protects himself at the expense of the flock, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus’ metaphor is a striking way to think about God’s people (the flock of sheep), Jesus (the Good Shepherd), Satan (the wolf), and false teachers (the hired hand).  The great affection of the Good Shepherd for his sheep is expressed by his willingness to die for his flock, an obvious reference to Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary.

In his lovely portrait of God’s sacrificial affection, Jesus introduced the idea that he also has sheep that are from another pen.  In other words, the people of God include more than citizens of Jerusalem or Israel.  In fact, God sent Jesus to be Savior for people from every tribe, language, race, and nation.

Jesus emphasized his global mission to tell all people everywhere about God’s plan of salvation after his resurrection, just before he ascended back to heaven.  We should not, however, mistakenly get the impression that the Great Commission was a sort of afterthought or last-minute addition to Jesus’ mission.  The worldwide scope of Jesus’ mission is in the DNA of his words and works.

Missionary work is not an afterthought in Christianity; it is the very heart of God.  The Good Shepherd has a love that leaves the ninety-nine in order to find the one lost lamb.  And he rejoices when that endangered sheep is found.   And the Good Shepherd calls his followers to share in the toil and the triumph of God’s global mission.

May the love of Christ compel us to go and tell the Good News,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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How Do We Make Disciples?

Our common love for the Lord Jesus unites us in our work, and our common desire to obey the Lord Jesus binds us together with a single goal: to glorify Almighty God.  Our Lord’s commands will keep us focused as we face many challenges and opportunities along the way.

Our Savior summarized his instruction for all of his followers in all places at all times in this age when he spoke to his disciples after his resurrection.  As they stood on a certain mountain in Galilee Jesus came to them and gave them, and us, a mandate for action.

Jesus prefaced his instruction with a statement about his right to command the people of God.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, he said.  When we obey the Lord Jesus, we are in step with the highest authority in all the cosmos.

So what has Jesus commanded his followers to do?  The short version is this: Go make disciples.  In other words, go make more followers of Jesus.  Before explaining how, Jesus addressed the question of whom; to whom should we go?  He simply said, everyone, make disciples of all nations, all peoples.  Jesus placed no limit on the type of person who can become his disciple.

How do we make disciples?  First, we baptize them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Baptism means conversion.  We announce and explain the Good News about salvation through faith in Jesus.  Then we invite people to trust the Lord and become followers of Jesus.

Saving souls is the beginning of a new life that requires instruction.  So Jesus has commanded us to teach disciples after we make them.  And he has given us the curriculum; we are to teach all that he taught his disciples, which is recorded in the Bible.  Our textbook for discipleship is God’s Word.

We have a mandate from the Lord of heaven and earth.  Our shared labor of love is to help people find saving faith and then to help them grow in their faith.  As we obey our Lord’s command we, too, grow spiritually.  Jesus himself is our model.  Our goal is to become more and more like him.

Not only is Jesus our model in discipleship and our authority for making new disciples, he also has the power to enable us in our work.  He finished his instruction by promising his very Presence will always be with us no matter how long the job lasts.  “And look!” he said, “I am with you all the days, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

May we always bring glory to God through our obedient service to Jesus,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Can You Do Greater Things than Jesus Did?

Just before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus said things to his disciples that were nothing less than astounding.  He told them that he would soon be leaving and returning to the Father.  As a result of his going to the Father, Jesus revealed to his followers that they would do greater things than he had done (John 14:12).  Do greater things than Jesus did?

Jesus turned water to wine at a wedding.  He satisfied over 5,000 hungry people with only five small barley loaves and two small fish.  He walked on water.  He gave sight to a blind man.  He went to a funeral and told the dead man to come out of his tomb, and the man did.  How could Jesus be serious in saying that his followers would do greater things than these?

Jesus made this promise to his disciples before he died on the cross, before giving his life as a ransom for lost sinners.  His death and resurrection was greater than anything he had done before because his sacrifice made eternal salvation available.  After all, what good is it to make a heart merry with wine, a stomach satisfied with food, a pair of eyes able to enjoy light, or even a dead man to get up and walk, if they still face an eternity in hell?

After Jesus died to provide God’s forgiveness and rose again to offer new life, the greater work could be done.  Jesus entrusted the proclamation of his saving work to his followers.  Jesus’ followers still have the responsibility and the honor of telling the world about the greatest work ever done.  What could be greater than seeing lost souls transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light, to see a person’s eternity changed from everlasting death to everlasting life?  Eternal salvation is a greater work than food, sight, or even earthly life.

True, Jesus attended to people’s immediate needs, and so should his followers.  But Jesus did not get distracted from the greater work of eternal salvation and neither should his followers.  Our Lord has not only saved us to live a new life, but he has called us to proclaim this new life to others who are still lost.  To enjoy God’s blessings is a good thing.  To live holy lives is pleasing to God.  To help those in need is work worthy of our labor.  But to share in God’s work of salvation is truly the greatest thing we can do.

Please pray about your participation in the core mission of your church, proclaiming the Good News about God’s salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  Attend a personal evangelism class.  Tell others about the faith.  Invite people to church.  Go or help send someone else on a mission trip.  Find your place in God’s Kingdom mission and enjoy the excitement of doing greater things.

May Jesus Christ always be our greatest passion,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Abundant Life

Jesus told his disciples, “Just as the Father sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21).  In the same way that God the Father sent his Son Jesus into the world, Jesus has sent his followers.  In other words, Jesus’ followers are carrying on the mission that Jesus started.  In order to understand what Jesus has sent us to do, we must look at what God sent Jesus to do.

Jesus said, “I have come in the Name of my Father” (John 5:43).  Jesus had the authority of God’s Name standing behind his work.  We too, as followers of Jesus, have the Lord’s authority to do what he sent us to do.  With God’s authority we can act confidently, knowing that our mandate comes from on high.

Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but the will of the One having sent me” (John 6:38).  Jesus was an ambassador for God using God’s authority to carry out God’s will.  All followers of Jesus are expected to be ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his appeal to the world through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). 

“For judgment I did not come into this world, but so that those not seeing may see,”Jesus said (John 9:39).  The Day of Judgment has not arrived.  Today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day to bring sight to the blind, which is a picture of lost people finding salvation.  We need not condemn the world.  It stands condemned already.  Like Jesus, we bring light into a dark place.

“The thief does not come except to kill and to steal and to destroy,” said Jesus, “I have come so that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Like Jesus, we address a world that is endangered by an Enemy who causes only destruction and death.  As ambassadors for Christ we help people escape eternal destruction and enjoy abundant life.

Jesus also said, “I am Light come into the world so that everyone trusting in me will not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).  When people put their trust in Jesus Christ they cross over from death to life, from darkness to light.  Trusting Jesus is the doorway to abundant life.  We serve the Lord by encouraging people to put their trust in Jesus in order to find eternal salvation. 

When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, accused as a criminal even though he was innocent, threatened with death even though he gave new life to so many, he told the Roman governor his life mission.  “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, that I may testify to the Truth” (John 18:37).  What Jesus did, we do.  Our focus is to testify to the Truth, God’s unchanging Truth revealed in the Bible. 

As a part of your local church, you can participate in our God-authorized and God-empowered missions in a variety of ways. You can learn more about sharing the faith through personal evangelism training.  You can serve where people’s physical needs are met in hopes of sharing God’s Truth with them.  You can join your state or foreign missions and reach out to other communities and other countries with the Truth. 

Through your participation, your support, and your prayers, you enable us to do what Jesus did.  We testify to the unchangingTruth of God to a world that desperately needs a sure foundation for life and for eternity.  Jesus was right.  The thief is busy killing, stealing, and destroying, but we come to tell people about abundant life. 

May the love of Christ compel us to go and tell the Good News,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Jesus Came, We Go

Jesus’ disciples feared for their lives, hiding from the leaders who had crucified their beloved Master.  Suddenly the Lord Jesus himself was standing in their midst, speaking with them.  They were thrilled to see that he was truly alive.

Jesus showed his disciples the marks left on his body from the nails that had held him on the old rugged cross and the sword that had pierced his side after he gave up his spirit.  The fear caused by his death was shattered by joy at his presence.

“Peace to you all!” Jesus said to them.  The peace he was speaking about, however, was not one of inactivity.  His next words were these: “As the Father has sent me, I also am sending you.”

Jesus promised peace to his followers in the midst of a mission.  They were being sent out by Jesus in the same way that Jesus had been sent out by God the Father.  In what way did God send Jesus?

Jesus came in the Name of the Father (John 5:43).  Now, his followers are sent in the Name of Jesus.  Jesus came not to do his will, but the will of the One who sent him (John 6:38).  The followers of Jesus carry out the will of God instead of living for themselves, building God’s Kingdom instead of their own and seeking God’s honor and praise instead of accolades for themselves.

God the Father sent Jesus into the world not for judgment (John 9:39), but so that people may have abundant life (John 10:10).  As followers of Jesus, we too, are sent not to condemn the world but to announce the true source of abundant life.  And what is that source?

Jesus said, “I am Light come into the world so that everyone trusting in me will not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). The source of abundant life is Jesus, the Light of the world.  By trusting in him millions have found Life and Light.  Billions more still need to hear the message and have the opportunity to choose life.

We go because Jesus came.  Jesus came from heaven to earth but he also reached out to his neighbors.  We go around the world and across the street because we are sent like Jesus was sent.

May we enjoy the peace of Christ as we fulfill the calling of Christ,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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