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Bible Quiz (Each week this blog will begin with four questions. The answers are at the end of the blog. Have fun!!)
According To the Bibleâ€¦ 1. God cannot look on sin. (This is one of the explanations given for Jesusâ€™ cry, â€śMy God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Meâ€ť - that God turned His back on Jesus when He took on our sins because â€śGod cannot look on sin.â€ť) 2. The first sin was committed by (a.) Adam (b.) Eve (c.) Neither 3. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit at His Baptism and that is when He began His ministry. 4. The symbol of the Fish â€“ ICHTHYS - was used by the early church on places of worship, placed by believers on homes or objects and worn by believers to identify themselves as Christians.
Dear Prayer Warriors,
Jacob and Esau are one of the many illustrations in the Bible of brothers who should have been best friends - on each otherâ€™s team - who, instead, lived in animosity and jealousy towards each other. This is contrasted with Paul and Timothy, brothers in Christ - one a para-church missionary, the other the pastor of a local church - yet close friends throughout their lives. Unfortunately, both of these models play out in the Christian world today. Brother ministers, who should be best friends and on each otherâ€™s teams, live in animosity and jealousy towards each other - para-church minister and local church pastor, both speaking against each other. Contrastingly, you have situations like myself and my pastor Dave Schneider of Conroe Bible Church - close friends. We pray for each other, bless one another and unequivocally affirm one anotherâ€™s ministry and call of God.
In our mission journeys, our thoughts turn, of course, to family but also to our church, church family and our pastor who are waiting for our return. We praise God for a pastor, elders and deacons who support wholeheartedly our ministry. When we leave, they call us before the church body to pray for us before sending us out. When on the field, they faithfully pray for us through adult classes, prayer bulletins and individual contact. When we return, we will be welcomed back and the adult class at which I teach when in town will have us give a report, as well as being asked to stand in the congregation as praise is given for our safe return. God has truly blessed us with a godly and Christ-centered church with a heart for missions and a heart for our ministry.
The wisdom of God in raising up both the local church and the para-church is ever before me as I travel and minister. After completing the Family Discipleship Seminar in Nairobi, Kenya, the pastor of one of the largest churches in Kenya stood up to speak. The pastor shared how his own walk with God had been established by a para-church campus ministry, how his wife had been blessed by a para-church Bible study ministry, how the church had been blessed by a para-church Bible publishing and distribution ministry, and now they were once again blessed by a para-church ministry, Grace Community International. I praise God for a pastor who so openly and warmly embraces the ministries which God sends his way to bless His church.
When in Moscow presenting the Marriage Seminar to Campus Crusade for Christ (a para-church ministry), I stopped by the office of the national director. There on the wall was a map of Russia with dozens of different colored push pins scattered across the nation. He explained the differing colors â€“ churches they had planted that were established, churches they had planted that were still being helped to stand alone and churches they were in the process of planting. As I looked at that map I thought, â€śHow could anyone say that this para-church ministry was in opposition to the local church?â€ť As in Africa, so in Russia - the local churches love and appreciate the para-church ministries that come to serve, to train, to strengthen and, yes, to plant.
It is unfortunate that this is not always the case. In an age when the Body of Christ should be rallying itself in unity of message and purpose, we find many who would rather snipe at their brothers and sisters in Christ than at the enemy. It always saddens me when I meet young staff laboring sacrificially for a para-church ministry who have been attacked, not by the enemy, but by a fellow believer. I once pointed out to a seminary professor who enjoyed attacking the para-church staff who took his summer courses that he was employed by and ministered full-time with one of the largest para-church ministries in the United States - his seminary. This institution was independently incorporated, had its own board of directors, its own ruling administrative staff and was in every way an independently functioning para-church ministry. He served under this para-church ministry, submitted to its leadership and was paid by it. Yet, here he was discouraging these young zealous men while he himself was sponsored that very thing he was attacking.
It is unfortunate, as well, that I have seen and heard this from the pulpit. I praise God this is not true in my church, but I have visited churches where the standard sermon is trotted out. Para-church ministries are an aberration of Godâ€™s will. They are sucking people and money from the local church. Ministry, service and, most importantly, money must be funneled through and administered solely by the local church.
I recently sat and listened patiently to a sermon such as this while noting several ironies: - The pastor preaching it used a Bible published not by a local church but a para-chruch Christian publishing house. - The reference books in his library were likewise published by a para-chruch ministry, and he purchased them from a Christian bookstore, again a para-church ministry. - The diplomas on his wall, yes, a para-church Christian college and a para-church seminary. - His sermons are posted on the internet using a para-church Christian ministry which runs the Christian website. - His sermons are preached weekly on the radio, again using a para-chruch Christian ministry.
The list goes on and on.
But the greatest shock of all came later. I filled out a visitorâ€™s card and placed it in the offering box. Several months later I received an appeal from his book, tape and radio ministry for funds. This is the same pastor who proclaimed, â€śThe para-church is sucking the lifeblood out of the local church!â€ť The truth is that his church in particular, and the world-wide church in general, is blessed, and willingly so, by a multitude of para-church ministries.
Can you imagine the expense, the cumbersomeness if all publishing, all missions, all radio, all schools, all hospitals, all missionaries, all military chaplains, all college ministries, all Bible translation work and all Christian endeavors were carried out exclusively and individually by local congregations? How many local churches can you think of right now who could train, fund, insure and send out a single missionary? It is true that in metropolises there exist a number of mega churches who can do this, but this situation is the exception, not the rule. Most churches are struggling to fund and budget their own staff and ministries, much less send out dozens of missionaries - fully funded, trained and supplied solely from their local church. Most local churches are struggling to maintain and build their own much-needed structures, much less fund and build churches, schools and hospitals on the mission field.
Now this sword cuts both ways. I can remember a cartoon from a Christian magazine. Two church members were at home watching a tele-pastor. One turns to the other and asks, â€śWhen was the last time your tele-preacher visited you in the hospital?â€ť The primary organ raised up by God for the care and maturing of Christians is the local church. This cannot be denied either by doctrine or by the reality of facts.
In the same way that some pastors criticize the para-church while benefiting directly from their ministry, some called to minister in para-chruch ministries are no more than parasites. They feed off the success of the local church and give nothing back. They view the local church as a fishing pond for their ministries and fundraising. They enjoy the luxury of devoting themselves to what they consider to be the fun part of the ministry without assuming the responsibility for the children, the aged, the weak, the building, the administration and other aspects of church life which does not appeal to them. The ministry of the local church is central to the work of God here on earth and to the success of Christians and, in particular, the Christian family.
I'll end here for now, and continue these reflections (as well as provide the answers to the Bible Quiz) in tomorrow's post.
By His mercy, II Corinthians 4:1 Rev. John S. Mahon Grace Community Int. - Tyumen, Russia