The Send Network Church Planting Blog

Three convictions for ministering in today's world

May 5, 2014 by Tony Merida

This year our church is sending out five guys to plant churches in five cities in the United States. It's an exciting year for our congregation! Each of these guys will have particular challenges as they labor in Philly, Boston, L.A., Buffalo and West Raleigh.

One challenge that every pastor must deal with is how to relate to the culture. While much could be said about this topic, and while I'm no cultural guru, I would like to highlight three convictions for ministering in today's world.

In the World, Not of the World

First, the church planter/pastor must be separated from sin, but not isolated from sinners. Personal holiness is about hating sin and pursuing Christ-likeness. It's not about being a mystical hermit. We can't do evangelism and mission while living in bomb shelters praying for the rapture. We must be in the world, but not of the world. Now, most church planters know that they have to be with people. That's not my main concern. My bigger concern is that in "engaging the culture" they will lose their saltiness. We must pursue likeness to Jesus, who was a friend of sinners, but not a friend of sin. May God give our planters a longing for pervasive holiness and missional engagement.

Biblical Preaching

Second, the church planter/pastor must not abandon biblical preaching just because it's not popular. A few years back, some of our guys took a trip to Boston. We went into a Unitarian "church" building. As we looked around, we noticed some trifold "doctrinal statements" regarding various issues like the Bible, Jesus, salvation, etc. We grabbed a handful of them, went to lunch and read them. We laughed and cried at the same time. The idea that we have an inspired Bible, an exclusive way of salvation and a Savior who is the resurrected Lord of glory is not popular in this region of the world--nor is it popular elsewhere.
Instead of abandoning preaching, we must work to be both faithful and effective in our preaching.
So what should we do? Should we say, "No one wants to hear biblical preaching in Boston, so let's do something else?" Not if we follow the pattern of Paul and the apostles. Did they preach because people wanted to hear it? No. They preached because the Gospel was true, because Jesus commissioned them, and because saving faith comes through the living Word of God. Instead of abandoning preaching, we must work to be both faithful and effective in our preaching. Besides this, there's no reason to believe you can't grow a church by preaching the Bible. One could list a number of examples to illustrate otherwise.

Contact & Conflict

Third, church planters/pastors do well to work toward establishing a point of contact and a point of conflict with those they evangelize. Steve Timmis uses these two words "contact" and "conflict" when talking about contextualization. We need a point of contact with people, lest we seem irrelevant. But as we make this point of contact, we must also have a point of conflict. That is, we must show our friends how their beliefs collide with the Gospel. Some guys are really good at establishing a contact point, but never really get to the Gospel conflict point. "Lets do lunch" is a great place to start with people, but it has to extend beyond that. We have to be ready to present the conflict. This may take a long time with people. They may need to see a biblical community that puts the Gospel on display. They may need to hear numerous sermons before the penny drops. So, let's patiently connect with people, and commend Christ to people, as we do the work of an evangelist. These principles aren't profound or new. They are basic missionary principles. It's not new methods that we need but an army of faithful servants to live them out. We need thousands of churches; thousands of communities of light to flood this dark world. We need a hunger for holiness, a love for truth, and a zeal to see people meet Jesus. May God give us a generation of such church planters and church members.

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