Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
Last week I laid a Biblical foundation for ministry outside the walls of our churches. Today, I want to give a few practical suggestions for what that might look like for you this summer. I chose the word “suggestions” with purpose. This is not meant to be an exhaustive look at discipleship and evangelism but rather some humble suggestions to jumpstart your personal ministry as we come out of stay-at-home orders.
Before going all in, take time to talk with those in your church leadership. They may be planning and praying for someone to step in and continue or start a ministry. You could be the answer to their prayers! Whether it’s the head pastor, youth pastor, or a deacon, talk with someone about the vision for ministry this summer. Don’t be afraid to contribute your own ideas as well. Start by listening, but if asked, share possibilities you have in mind or plans you have already made to be an encouragement to the church.
Once you’ve given some thought to what you would like to do, determine who you could invest in this summer. Think, “Who could I help to take the next step spiritually?” and also, “Who could help me take my next step?” One of the biggest mistakes we can make is believing we don’t need discipleship. None of us have arrived on this side of heaven. Find someone from a group of older, wiser, more mature Christians who can pour into your life. (Use a church directory to help you think outside your normal circle.) Then, take what’s been given to you, find others your age and younger, and pass on what you’ve learned! As a college student, you have tremendous opportunities to shape and develop those younger than you. This summer is a great time to invest in them!
Once you have people in mind, the toughest part can be trying to get something started. It’s often awkward (although, usually worse in our minds than reality) to walk up to someone and say, “Can I disciple you?” or even “Can you disciple me?” Don’t be afraid to be creative here in finding something to bond over. Running, hiking, cooking or any number of hobbies can be a natural way to kickstart something!
However, don’t allow it to be just a hobby. As you find something to connect over, ask if it would be okay to include a Bible study or to read a good Christian book together. There are so many ways to turn our everyday lives into discipleship and ministry opportunities, but, in my experience, they don’t typically happen accidentally. You will have to be intentional about including spiritual growth opportunities.
Now, maybe you are wondering how to choose what to do. At times, my discipleship experiences have included going through a specific Bible study or reading a good Christian book together. Other times, they have been a mix of the two. There are merits to each. A good way to combine both discussion over Scripture and a book would be to discuss the weekly Sunday sermon(s). Knowing that someone is going to regularly ask me about the sermon helps me to focus on it every week. Accountability like this also creates an ongoing impact of the preaching ministry.
Here’s why I am a proponent of using good Christian books for discipling. Ultimately, it is the Spirit of God through the Word of God that changes hearts. If your study of another book doesn’t push you deeper into the Word with a greater understanding or passion, then I would ditch the book and stick exclusively to the Word. However, in my experience, good books on spiritual growth can help in two distinct ways. First, they launch young believers into the Word. Second, new believers and spiritually stunted believers can be helped by authors who tactfully address a number of specific truths (often hard truths to address) that must be applied in order for believers to learn to feed themselves through the Word.
In no way do I want to steer you away from a Bible Study. Scripture is the source for true, lasting, Biblical change. Utilize good books as much as they drive you to respond to the Word of God.
Lest you think I have forgotten about evangelism in this COVID culture, consider that, right now, the best opportunities to invite unbelievers in to hear the gospel may include some of these instances of Christians meeting together outside the church. I imagine you have experienced the currently awkward routine of simply going to the grocery store. Lingering to look for the right vegetables feels like a crime! It seems that some people will be nervous for quite some time about gathering indoors for a church service. These very people might not step foot inside a church for the foreseeable future, but, just like the rest of us, they are stir-crazy. Maybe, they would be willing to meet in a small group to enjoy an activity together.
Doing life-on-life ministry outside the church walls may be easier and more well-received by unbelievers we invite to join us. Whatever you choose as a hobby, find ways to use it for discipleship and evangelism.
In review, talk with your church leaders, find people to invest in, find reasons to get together, be strategic in your discipleship, and enjoy this season of life as a recipient and agent of spiritual growth. God has given us this unprecedented time for ministry. Let’s make the most of it!
 Here is a short list of books I have used or would recommend for spiritual growth. Essential Virtues by Jim Berg, What is the Gospel? By Greg Gilbert, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung, Need to Know: Your Guide to the Christian Life by Gary Millar, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines by David Mathis, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
I remember when I was younger, there was a fad in Baptist churches to put a sign as you exit the church that read, “You are now entering the mission field.” Some would give a hardy “amen” while others would be a little more reserved in how they use the word “mission.” This blogpost is not about whether we should take those signs down or build one to place over the doorway but to challenge our thinking about how we exit our church buildings.
Last week was the first time in ten weeks my church opened its door for people to gather. It is painfully obvious that we will not be picking up where we left off before the pandemic. Most Christians in America will experience a gradual reopening of services and programs at their church. Just the thought of your ministry at church suspended for another month may dampen the joy of regathering with your church. But before we go down that road, let’s consider the possibility that this may be the God-ordained push to move our churches forward.
I’ve heard pastors say something like, “The call to be a pastor is a call out of the ministry.” Ephesians 4:12 is their explanation for this. Here, Paul gives the purpose of a pastor (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers): “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Certainly, pastors are called to model what ministry looks like, but the vast majority of ministry done in a healthy church is done by people not paid to do it. So, if I may, I would like to tweak the plaque above our church doors to say, “You are now entering the ministry.”
Sunday after Sunday, our pastors are faithfully feeding us with the word and equipping us for ministry. The alarming statistic thrown around is that 20% of church members do 80% of the work. The good news is we have been given a reset on church ministry! In a day where everything needs to be sanitized before ministry can take place, there has never been a greater time for the average Christian to take up his call to ministry by doing it outside the church. If we begin to view our churches this way, we will rise out of the pandemic with stronger church members and churches.
This shift from the church building as the primary place of ministry to our tables and couches will take some adjustment. Running a program at church breeds a sense of familiarity and comfort. In contrast, there is something unnerving about opening our not-so-clean homes to one another. However, if we want to see our churches grow to be Great Commission focused, it will probably begin to look a lot more like Acts 2:46-47, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people” (emphasis mine).
It was a daily event for the people of God to get together in the early church. Just imagine with me what that would look like in 2020 America. In reality, we can’t even begin to imagine orienting our schedules in such a radical way, but maybe we should. At the very least, this glimpse into the early church should cause us to pause and consider, “How can I spend more time with my church?”
Not only did the church gather daily, but members also met in multiple places. First, they were going to the temple, but Luke takes careful note that even this happened together. Second, they were eating in their homes. Scripture has much to teach us about hospitality, but as we slowly reopen our church buildings, we need to learn hospitality in our homes. We have substituted hospitality in our homes for potlucks and fellowship meals in a church building. Neither are bad, but they cannot replace the benefits of hospitality in our homes.
Luke adds one little detail at the end of Acts 2:47 that most Christians are interested in, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” We all want our churches to grow! It would be ungodly to wish for unbelievers in your community not to be saved. There are other factors throughout the book of Acts that contribute to the rapid growth of the early church. Not insignificant was the power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the saints, but in a passage where Luke draws attention to the daily addition of new believers, he also gives a couple of the reasons for that growth. One of these reasons is gathering around our dinner tables.
Now, I know that this is a blog from a university, and most college students do not have their own dinner table, much less a home. In part 2 of this post, I will take the principles of Acts 2 and make a few suggestions for those of you who are like me and do not have the opportunity to practice table hospitality. But, as you attend your church, I want you to remember when you exit, “You are now entering the ministry!” Let’s start being the church daily!
Mark Vowels, CGO Director
The Struggle with Worldliness
I struggle with worldliness. My flesh likes the world’s music, its movies, its pleasures, its excesses. But having lived my whole life within the confines of conservative Christendom, I really don’t have bad habits that I need to confess regarding “worldliness.” I’m not guilty, at least, of external worldliness in the way conservative Christendom generally labels things as worldly. “I don’t smoke, drink, or chew and I don’t run with those who do.” Yep, that’s me. Simple, pure, godlike.
The Reality of Worldliness
But worldliness is not just about what I wear, or watch, or listen to. For those who have been enculturated to avoid certain components of “the world,” it’s second nature to stay away from things on “the list.” Worldliness, however, is much more about embracing the values and priorities of a society where God is not central than it is about the culturally driven fads, fashions, or flavors of the moment (Romans 12:1-2). Conforming to the rules is easy, it is resisting my culture’s way of thinking that I struggle with when it comes to worldliness.
Our Moment of Worldliness
What troubles me right now is the uninhibited worldliness that I am seeing in posts, likes and shares on social media. The incredible divisiveness that has arisen over responses to the Covid-19 pandemic makes me shudder. Blinded to the reality that we are not defending unalterable truth, but are rather mirroring the world’s mindset and priorities, many Christians are making pronouncements about everything from political conspiracies to demands for the preservation of their rights; from sneering at those who are anxious about risks to their health to condemning those who forego wearing a safety mask. We are living in the most opportune moment in our lifetime to show the world what it means to be a Christian, but instead we are showing each other what it means to be like the world.
Jesus and Worldliness
Jesus modeled humility and meekness, refusing to raise his voice against the political and societal disputes of his day (Matthew 12:18-21). He was not driven by the need to win arguments; he was driven by the need to save souls (John 3:17). Because he was kind and empathetic to sinners (Matthew 11:19), the religious leaders of his day accused him of being worldly. And on the eve of his unfathomable sacrifice, he told his followers that the primary proof of our relationship to him is in how we show love to one another (John 13:34-35).
The Apostle Paul, who told others, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), taught us how to treat one another. Here is a sample of his admonitions:
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.
So, Stop Being Worldly
The Coronavirus pandemic is revealing just how worldly we really are. We are demonstrating our worldliness in our prejudice, class warfare, ethnocentricity, and bitter speech. The plague is showing us what we really value and where we really place our trust.
What will bring hope and peace in this uncertain time is not America, or political parties, or jobs, or stimulus packages, or even vaccinations. What will bring hope is Jesus. And the world will see Jesus when we love one another in ways that defy our cultural assumptions and parochial ideals. Jesus showed His love with a towel, a basin of water and a cross. Maybe we can show ours through our social media posts.
 All Bible quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016).
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.