by Mike Ratliff
32 Ἀκούσαντες δὲ ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν οἱ μὲν ἐχλεύαζον, οἱ δὲ εἶπαν· ἀκουσόμεθά σου περὶ τούτου καὶ πάλιν. 33 οὕτως ὁ Παῦλος ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ μέσου αὐτῶν. 34 τινὲς δὲ ἄνδρες κολληθέντες αὐτῷ ἐπίστευσαν, ἐν οἷς καὶ Διονύσιος ὁ Ἀρεοπαγίτης καὶ γυνὴ ὀνόματι Δάμαρις καὶ ἕτεροι σὺν αὐτοῖς. (Acts 17:32-34 NA27)
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some were mocking him, but others said, “We will listen to you about this again.” 33 Thus Paul went out from the midst of them. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom were both Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (Acts 17:32-34 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
Many reading this may remember my post from June 2010, The Epistemology of Transformative Learning. Before I left to go on a short mini-vacation to visit my son in Washington D.C., I remember being inundated by emails and Tweets, et cetera about all of the stuff going on with Mark Driscoll and his church planting network and the reason he is so “bent” on doing it is that he had a vision or something like that directly from God to do that. However, this church planting is not done in any way like the Apostles did or those who followed them in the early days of the Church. No, the emphasis is not on following the Great Commission to the letter as given by our Lord in Matthew 28:16-20 which is to go into all the world making disciples from every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded them. They were to go with boldness knowing that Jesus would always be with them to the end of the age. (Paraphrase of the Great Commission) That is what we are to be about, which is taking the Gospel to the World, but that is not the same thing these people mean when they talk about “Church Planting” and “Transforming Lives.”
Check out this site. A friend sent that link to me earlier today. I read most of the articles there and as I did, I did what I normally do while doing something like that, I compare what I am reading with the real deal. Is what is being described there compatible with the Great Commission? One of those fellows even says that he was trying to plant a church (via committee) and became frustrated “then as he returned home, “God appeared to him” telling him that he was right where he needed to be… I didn’t count, but I know there was at least a half dozen times in that site where it was made plain that the focus of planting those churches is to transform cities. Really? I thought the purpose of planting churches was to serve as a place for the sheep God saved in the area to gather, hear the Word, fellowship, and take the sacraments. Then they are to go forth and obey the Great Commission from there. That is NOT what these people are about at all. In fact, the focus is to work WITH the secular governments and groups in their areas to transform societies. I saw one of those churches in Washington D.C. over the weekend. It was not that far from the Kennedy Center. It had two signs that made it clear that it was totally apostate. The first was a large rainbow banner running across the front of the building. The other was blue with words, “All Are Pilgrims and Are Welcome Here.” On that sign was the “COEXIST” logo. There was no mention of the Gospel or the Cross…
In any case, as we compare these “Christ Follower” or “Missional” or “Transformative” initiatives with the real deal, which is our obedience to the Great Commission, the glaring difference becomes obvious very quickly. When Paul and his group of church planters were obeying God in spreading the Church, it was the Apostolic Age, which is not the age we are in now, but even so, when they “worked” it was not as if they were doing some sort of checklist to see if they were following God correctly off of some list every day like these jokers do. What does this mean? It means that the real missionary is not self-reliant, but is fully dependant upon that thing Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is not up to us. Yes, we obey. Yes, we share our faith. Yes, we must always be ready to explain to those who do not believe why we have this hope within us. Yes, we should support genuine missions. However, that is not the same thing as what they mean with their “Missional/Transformational” stuff.
The passage I placed at the top of this post is the conclusion of Paul’s address on the Areopagus in Athens. Many “Christ Followers/Emergent/Missional/Transformative” people have attempted to use Acts 17:22-31 to justify Gospel contextualization. Nope, sorry it is not. Paul pulled no punches. He makes it clear that all men need God yet cannot have a relationship with him unless they repent because judgment is coming. He also said the remedy is found in one whom God raised from the dead. Most of those hearing this scorned him and refused to hear any more yet a handful did believe and did join with Paul as I shared in that passage.
Now, that is how a church is planted. Look at how many refused to have any part in it. Yet these few did believe and from there Paul went to Corinth and planted a church there (Acts 18). How did he do it? Did he work to transform the city or the culture, which was wicked? No, he reasoned with them, all who heard the Gospel, whom God had given to believe, believed and were saved, and so that Church was planted. If you read 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians it is plain that the culture there was never “transformed” and that church continued to struggle with all sorts of sin. However, in Paul’s dealing with those issues, we have two wonderful books in our New Testament for our own instruction.
Whenever you run across something like this site, always go back to the Word of God and compare what they are saying with the truth. What is the purpose of the Church? What is the purpose of the Gospel? Are Christians on this earth to transform the world, cities, and countries or are we here to obey Him as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling knowing that our Lord is coming back for us at the end of the age?
Soli Deo Gloria!