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Category Archives: Missions Issues

Evaluating the Prosperity Movement

You’ve heard of the Prosperity Gospel, haven’t you? Essentially, it is the “good news” that Jesus came to deliver people like you and me from poverty, problems, financial ruin… to “save” us to a life of success, blessing, and prosperity. This is the “gospel” preached by people like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and many (but certainly not all) preachers in more extreme versions of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements.

Theopedia remarks: “Prosperity gospel supporters ‘believe that faith works as a mighty power or force. That it is through their faith that they can obtain anything they want such as health, wealth, or any form of personal success. However, this force is only released through their faith.’[1] Adherents of the Prosperity Gospel, almost always also part of the word of faith movement, usually hold to the tenet that God never grants suffering or poverty, and that both always should be attributed to sin and Satan in every way, and in no way attributed to God. For example, Kenneth Copeland writes,

‘Tradition has taught that God uses sicknesses, trials, and tribulation to teach us. This idea, however, is not based on the Bible. God has never used sickness to discipline His children and keep them in line. Sickness is of Satan, and God doesn’t need Satan to straight us out! “Kenneth, I see Christians that are sick all the time. Why does God allow it?” God allows it because we do. Why? Because He’s given us the right to make our own choices, along with authority over the kingdom of darkness. According to Deuteronomy 30:19, He has put life and death before us. Then He instructed us to choose life. It’s up to us to make that decision. You have the power to live after God’s ways and resist sickness, or not to. You have the choice to let Satan run over you, or use the authority you have been given. Good gifts come from God. No matter what tradition has taught, sickness and disease simply don’t fall into the category of good gifts—ever.’[2]

Sadly, this is the version of Christianity that many third world countries have bought into hook-line-and-sinker. Missionary Seth Meyers of South Africa, on his blog, points out the following errors of this interpretation of the gospel message:

  1. The prosperity gospel is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. The prosperity gospel urges sinners to commit idolatry.
  3. The prosperity gospel denies God’s sovereign purposes for pain as revealed in Scripture.
  4. The prosperity gospel ignores Biblical teaching on wealth.
  5. The prosperity gospel discourages logical thought about the Bible, a work ethic, sickness, economics, and politics.
  6. The prosperity gospel requires other heresies to support it such as deification and positive confession.
  7. The prosperity gospel inoculates people from hearing the truth because they think they already know Gospel.
  8. The prosperity gospel has never been accepted in the Christian church until the 1980’s.
  9. The prosperity gospel contradicts the lives of the many godly but poor believers in the Bible and history.

Theopedia also offers the following points in evaluation of this movement:

God himself is the chief blessing

While it is true that God often shows his goodness by granting health and wealth, we must see these as secondary blessings. The primary blessing is knowing God himself (Psalm 27:4John 17:3), and all secondary blessing is meant to point to him. We will enjoy health and material blessing to a degree unfathomable at the resurrection, but while on this fallen earth, preparing in a spiritual battle for either heaven or hell, we must remember the words of Proverbs:

“Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9)

Jesus warned of the danger of wealth

Jesus frequently warned against the allure of wealth. In Matthew 19, after Jesus told the rich young man, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (v. 21), he said:

“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24) And in Matthew 6:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) And in Luke 6:

“But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:24-25)

Suffering is a blessed means of producing endurance and testing genuineness

When we define (either implicitly or explicitly) blessedness chiefly as having material things and good health, and obligate God to bless us with these things, we ignore scripture which speaks of the sufferings of the followers of Christ as a badge of honor, and a means of producing endurance and testing genuineness. Paul wrote,

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29, emphasis added). “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5, emphasis added) Peter wrote,

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7, emphasis added) And we have David saying,

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71) And lastly, James writes a sober warning to those who have “lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence”:

“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” (James 5:1-5)

God’s goodness is not bound by our exacting demands

The theology of the Prosperity Gospel also distrusts God’s higher prerogative and wisdom and sovereignty–God has the final, supreme right to answer our prayers how and when he pleases. His wise goodness is not bound by our exacting demands.

Pastor Micah Colbert at gospelcenteronline.org

 

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How should we view corporate worship?

“Missional church members do not enter corporate worship for the purpose of being entertained or for having their felt needs met. Nor is their worship energized because of an implied promise of prosperity. They go to connect with God, who calls His people into mission, and with their fellow soldiers who are also on mission. They see the main worship event as a context in which they may glorify God and hear from Him.”

MacIlvaine, W. R., III. (2010). What Is the Missional Church Movement?. In . Vol. 167: Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 167 (665) (104–105). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary.

 

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How do we define effectiveness?

“Missional church leaders measure the effectiveness of their church, not by counting the number of people attending the main weekend service but by assessing the number of people serving significantly in the city.”

MacIlvaine, W. R., III. (2010). What Is the Missional Church Movement?. In . Vol. 167: Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 167 (665) (104). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary.

 

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The Missions Minded Church…

“A missional church is a highly unified body of believers, passionately committed to being God’s missionary presence to the community that surrounds them, recognizing that God has already been at work in that location and has a specific agenda for it…They embrace the mindset that they are exiles (Heb. 11:13) and resident aliens (1 Pet. 1:1) whose citizenship is firmly rooted in heaven (Phil. 3:20). They therefore seek to live a counter-cultural lifestyle in ways meaningful to that culture (Dan. 1:4–8). This mindset empowers consistent, humble, and sometimes sacrificial service (Mark 10:45).

MacIlvaine, W. R., III. (2010). What Is the Missional Church Movement?. In . Vol. 167: Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 167 (665) (104). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary.

 

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Lessons Learned on Deputation

From Friends:
• Deputation is a season of ministry not second class drudgery.
• Minister to your family first and they will minister with you.
• Base your ministry practice on Scripture alone not on the norms of our contemporary American Christian culture.
• By establishing Biblical ministry patterns, your ministry will be simple and reproducible in any culture.
On Evangelism:
• Strive to never manipulate people’s wills to coerce them to make a profession of faith.
• Strive to present the gospel accurately.
• Patiently wait on God to do the work that He alone can do.
• The glory in a man’s salvation is never the tool that God uses or the manner in which he is used, but in God alone and the nature of His drawing grace, ministering grace, and saving grace.
From the deputation process:
• God is well able to sustain men through the challenging seasons of life.
• God is well able to meet the needs of His children.
• God is well able to bring His children into favor to accomplish His purposes.
• Christian love is the supreme mark of spiritual maturity and a beautiful expression of a love for God.
 After the death of Little Malachi:
• Children are a wonderful gift from God, and should never be viewed as a burden or right.
• God’s grace administered through His word and spirit-filled children is alone sufficient to sustain us through seasons of human suffering.
• God’s greatest and sweetest expressions of love and grace are most vividly perceived in the most intense seasons of human suffering.
• There is always sanctifying value in God-ordained human suffering.
• Right thinking in the crucible of human suffering produces the spiritual fruit of joy.
• God’s actions in every way are always right.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Missions Issues

 

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Lessons Learned from a Missionary Friend

I just received an email from a dear friend, with the following ten lessons that he and his wife had learned while on the mission field.  While not yet on the field, I have found these lessons to be so true from practical ministry stateside and studying the Word.  I hope you enjoy these insightful lessons.

1. We are learning to die to the opinions of man to, as George Muller so eloquently put it, “live for the Audience of One.”

2. We are learning that the quality of a person’s ministry depends upon the source of their service.

3. We are learning that “doing” can be a very subtle and dangerous substitute for “being.”

4. We are learning that the greatest “evangelism program” is believers living out a thoroughly Christian worldview in their families, villages, and workplaces.

5. We are learning to have a big enough vision to think small. That is, we are learning to focus our labors on thoroughly discipling the few so that, in time, the many might be reached.

6. We are learning that disciples are not developed through programs, but through personal investment / purposeful proximity.

7. We are learning that real ministry requires Spirit-empowered, enduring patience.

8. We are learning the joy of transitioning from ministering to the people to ministering with the people.

9. We are learning that some of our most treasured friendships in this life come from a people whose skin color is far darker than ours.

10. We learning that God’s work done God’s way never lacks God’s blessing.

 
 

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How does God speak?

Introduction

I begin our study by saying that I believe there is a tremendous need in our day to ponder the nature of God’s revelation. How has He revealed Himself to mankind? Why is it necessary you might ask? Its necessity flows from two facts. First, ponder Paul’s prophetic statements in II Timothy 3:1-17 concerning the last days. He says that “in the last days perilous times shall come.” Men will have “a form of godliness, but will deny its power,” meaning that they will have the appearance, shape, or structure of Biblical Christianity, yet their religion will not be genuine. It will be powerless to justify or mature them in the faith. It will be a seductive counterfeit to truth. This deceptive form of religion will creep into people’s homes and capture those who are naïve and burdened by their sins. They will be deceived by their lusts. This deception will be similar to Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses when he stood in Pharaoh’s court. As they resisted the truth, so will those proclaiming these various forms of error. These men are men “of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” He says that, “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”

We are living in the last days, the final chapter in human history. The rapture of the church is immanent. In Acts 2, Peter preached that he was living in the last days. The apostles addressed the early church as people living in the last days, and they commanded the churches to be looking for the return of Christ. We all should be deeply burdened for doctrinal purity and precision in these last days. If we are going to do this, we must obey Paul’s command to Timothy. Though “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived,” Timothy you must “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Paul commanded Timothy to be a man fully committed to the inspired word of God. Paul reminds him of the nature of the word: holy, profitable for salvation, instructing, rebuking, correcting, and grounding; the source of the word: unchanging God Himself; the tools God used in delivering the word: tried and authenticated apostles of Jesus Christ; and the power of the word: it brings salvation and maturity to the believer. Paul commanded Timothy to be a man of the Word alone; sola scriptura as the Reformers would have referred to this doctrine. If we are anything but Biblicists in our practice or teaching, we are little better than the Pharisees in the days of Christ. We are in danger of leading people astray and setting before others a damaging pattern of preaching and teaching. While I assume that the people that will read these articles are doctrinally sound, I challenge each one of you not to practice the principles of those whom Christ harshly rebuked as “blind leaders of the blind” who according to Matthew 15 “transgressed the commandment of God by their traditions.” Let us never elevate tradition/opinion/derived principle to the place of inspired revelation.

A second reason that we embark on this study is the practical observation of Paul’s statements, in our contemporary culture. I think of several contemporary issues that we could easily see. We have false prophets telling us that Christ is going to return on a specific day when the word is clear, that no man knows the day or the hour. Groups preach a health and wealth prosperity gospel and are followed by the thousands. Some cults say that Christ is not the Second person of the Trinity, God incarnate, but that He is a god, a created being, brother of Satan, or a prophet. Some teach that salvation is through the church alone and its sacraments, while others teach that salvation is impossible to those who are joined to a church. While the name on a church sign may align that assembly with a historically orthodox, position that is distinctly sola scriptura, their practice may deny their name. Their teaching may be little better than the practice of the cults or the Pharisees of Christ’s day. I pray that these studies will challenge us to elevate the “rightly divided” Scripture alone as our standard for faith and practice rather than our opinions as we preach and teach the word of God. I also pray that these studies will aid those who have been careless in their study and teaching of the God’s word to develop a principled approach to studying God’s Word, so that the Holy Spirit can take the “rightly divided” word and apply it to our hearts and the hearts of those to whom we minister. May our teaching be Biblical not an emotional form of godliness that denies its power!

 

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