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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article XIII

Article XIII: Stewardship

God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth.

Unifying Principles of Article XIII
The Baptist Faith & Message’s statement on stewardship has no areas of disagreement among Southern Baptists according to my understanding.  Therefore, only a short response is required.  We all agree that God is the Giver of “all blessings, temporal and spiritual.”  We agree that “all that we have and are we owe to Him,” which is directly connected to our understanding of God as provident and gracious.  We all agree that we have been entrusted with the treasure of the gospel and with material possessions as well for “the glory of God and for helping others.”  While we may sometimes disagree how cooperative funds would best be used, we all agree that they would be used for the building of the kingdom of God through world missions and education.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Ephesians 4 Project: ArticleXI

Article XI.:  Evangelism and Missions
It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man's spirit by God's Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.


Unifying Principles of Article XI.
One of the reasons that I am most proud to be a part of the SBC is the fact that we are a “go and tell” denomination. The Baptist Faith & Message reminds us of this with its statement on evangelism and missions. I praise God that Southern Baptists are unified on this great “duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ.” No matter our varying theological stripes, we are united by our “love for others” as imparted by the Holy Spirit. While our methodologies may vary, the BF & M allows for this among Southern Baptists by stating that evangelism ought to be pursued “by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.”

Here we must make an especially heartfelt cry for unification. There are some in our denomination that accuse their fellow Southern Baptists who have a more Reformed understanding of salvation of not “believing in evangelism” or not being “passionate about evangelism” or even “refusing to evangelize.”  The fact remains, that as long as a Southern Baptists can conscientiously sign the BF & M, then they are affirming their commitment to our Lord’s command to preach the gospel to all the nations.

Therefore, we must refrain from spouting such slanderous accusations against our fellow brothers in Christ.  The reality is that all of us could use an extra unction of God’s Spirit for the purpose of personal evangelism and missions.  In the end, this accusation is nothing more than a straw man designed to tear down another for three main reasons: to promote one’s own theological understanding, to boast of one's own evangelistic pursuits, or to shift attention away from one’s own evangelistic negligence.  With any of these, pride is the culprit.  Let us humble ourselves before the LORD our God, think the best of our fellow believers in Christ, and link arm to arm in the preaching of the gospel!

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Church Planter

Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission was published by Crossway and written by Darren Patrick, who is the vice president of the Acts 29 Network and the founding pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis.  Patrick has organized the material for his book around the simple premise noted in the title and sub-title.  It seems good to present this review with that same organization in mind.

Church Planter: The Man--In essence, Patrick describes the qualified church planter as a man who has been genuinely saved by grace, called of God, meeting the biblical qualifications of elder/bishop/pastor, who is dependent on God, skilled in teaching the Bible, able to shephered the flock of God, and determined not to turn his back on the task no matter the personal cost.

Church Planter: The Message--In this section, Patrick discusses the message that the qualified church planter will proclaim.  The message is the gospel of Jesus Christ, a message rooted in actual history, that results in salvation for all that repent of sin and believe in Christ, a message that is centered on Christ rather than sinful man, that exposes sin for what it is and what it does, and a message that destroys man-made idols that hinder whole-hearted worship of God.

Church Planter: The Mission--Patrick ends the book with this section on the church planter's mission.  Each chapter addresses an area of the mission including the necessity of the church planter having a compassionate heart, carrying out the mission through the local church (as opposed to para-church organizations), contextualizing the gospel, caring for the less fortunate, and hoping and aiming for city transformation.

Strengths of the book include Patricks' faithfulness to the Bible and biblical orthodoxy when addressing issues in the sections on The Man and The Message.  For Patrick, the church planter must be a man, and a saved, called, qualified man at that.  Additionally, the church planter must be a preacher of the historical, saving, Christ-centered gospel that exposes sin and crushes idols.  This is a breath of fresh air in an area that too often encounters mush.  The Mission section also challenged the reader to think deeply about how compassion is a key component for every church planter and every pastor in general.  Each of these strengths coupled with the fact that the book is an introductory work for church planting types, makes it a valuable tool.

Weaknesses of the book are most notable in the final section The Mission.  The previous sections were outstanding material, especially for potential church planters who may not have a solid foundation in the areas of biblical qualifications of pastors and the biblical understanding of the gospel.  Patrick's  section on the church planter's mission was also insightful, yet it lacked the jolt of the previous discussions.  The greatest weakness of The Mission was the discussion of contextualization.  To be fair, Patrick acknowledged the slippery slope of contextualization.  On one end there is under-contextualization that ignores a cultures "language, customs, politics, and belief systems" (p.194).  On the other end there is over-contextualization that subverts the gospel to the authority of culture.  I agree with his point here.  While I also agree with Patrick's main premise that the church will always carry cultural baggage and have a certain cultural flavor to it, I do think too much is made of this principle in the book.  As I have heard Thabiti Anyabwile say, the church is indeed multi-ethnic but that does not mean it is multi-cultural.  Rather, the church has its own culture, which in reality is counter-cultural.  There is neither time nor space to elaborate on the issue here, so much has been left unsaid.  All in all, Patrick has done a good job handling even this aspect of church planting.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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