Month: November 2007

Ten Things I Believe: Number 1: Proper Evangelism to the Ends of the Earth

I believe in the proper evangelism to the ends of the earth. I wish I were more evangelistic. I often find myself looking back in hindsight thinking of ways I could have said something differently or transitioned into the Gospel during a casual conversation. I tell you this so that you understand I do not write this to brag about my own evangelistic efforts. With that said, I do want to point out a few things about evangelism and missions.

First, without evangelism and missions we will never fulfill the great commission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Second, all believers should witness to others. We should not have a mentality that some are called to evangelism while others are not. All Christians should engage in evangelism as one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.

Third, I believe that we should share the Gospel accurately. The Gospel necessarily includes the need for a savior and the love of a God who paid the debt I could not pay. Some overemphasize the love of God without ever mentioning the sinfulness of mankind. Others overemphasize the law and the depravity of mankind without sharing enough about the love which covers our sin. Proper evangelism addresses both our need and Christ’s love. Proper evangelism does not manipulate, but it does invite. Proper evangelism, does not deceive but it does plead.

Fourth, I believe that we have created a false dichotomy between missions and evangelism. I don’t see this distinction in the New Testament and although I readily admit the distinction is logical, I believe that evangelism should take you all over the world and missions cannot occur without evangelism. The two necessarily depend on each other.

Lastly, I believe we have also created a false dichotomy between evangelism and discipleship. Perhaps this distinction led to or relates to the Lordship Salvation controversy. However, the great commission commands us to first “make disciples” which is evangelism. What we usually consider to be discipleship occurs in “teaching them to obey all things that I have commanded you.” Making disciples is evangelism–teaching people to obey all things is sanctification and spiritual maturity.

I have been reading a lot of L.R. Scarborough in preparation for Southwestern Seminary’s 100 year anniversary. His inaugural sermon impressed me greatly. The fact that he considered “calling out the call” (encouraging people to commit to vocation service) part of evangelism enlightened me. The fact that he titled his book Recruits for World Conquests inspired me. His passion for evangelism excited me. He exemplified the “chair of fire” which he held and set an example worth imitating. I pray that God will raise up hundreds of Scarborough’s to reach the world for Christ. I pray that God will help me to be more evangelistic and give our churches a passion for sharing the Gospel all over the world. I pray that we will see the fulfillment of the great commission in my lifetime. These are but a few of the reasons that I believe in proper evangelism to the ends of the earth.

Ten Things I Believe: Number 2: The Local Church

I believe in and love the local church. The word ecclesia is mentioned in the New Testament approximately 117 times omitting Acts 2:47 as not in the best manuscripts. Of these 117 occurrences approximately 112 of them refer to Christ’s church. The passages which do not are Acts 7:38; 19:32, 39, 42; Heb 2:12. The last passage, Heb 2:12 is a quote from the Old Testament. Of these 112 references to Christ’s church, approximately 90 of them refer to the local church. (B.H. Carroll’s work Ecclesia lists them all) The others can be debated but do indicate a doctrine known as the universal church. While I acknowledge that the universal church exists at least in conceptual form, there will be no meeting of it until we gather in heaven. Why does it not meet you ask? The universal church is the redeemed from all the ages. That includes

1. Members who are now in heaven.

2. Members who are now on earth.

3. Members who have yet to be born and thus are not in heaven or earth.

4. Thus, the universal church has prospects of future assembling, but no opportunity for present assembling.

Because the universal church does not currently meet and is a conceptual idea, we must focus on the local church which does meet. For this reason, I studied systematic theology with a concentration on Baptist theology and an even deeper focus on ecclesiology or the doctrine of the local church. In the wisdom of God, he has chosen to have me serve at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; however, my love and passion is still for the local church. Perhaps this is healthy since our seminary serves the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I love the mega-churches which have reached so many people for Jesus Christ and where the pastor must manage a large company in addition to preaching the word of God. I love the small country churches where the pastor wears all the hats. I love the medium size church which makes up the majority of our Southern Baptist Zion and contains many underappreciated men who serve our Lord faithfully.

The primary reason I love the local church is because Jesus in divine wisdom chose to establish the local church to accomplish His mission and bring glory to Him.

1. Jesus established the local church. (Matt 16:18)

2. Jesus gave the power of discipline to the local church (Matt 18:17)

3. The ordinances belong to the local church. (1 Cor 5)

4. The church is the “bride of Christ.”

I love the fact that the local church is where people hear the preaching of God’s Word, come to faith in Jesus Christ, publicly profess Christ through baptism, observe the symbolic celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and are taught all things as Jesus has commanded us. If I were to include all the reasons, I could write a book on why I believe in the local church. Let me simply close by expressing my appreciation to all those who serve in our local churches. From our largest mega-churches to our smallest country churches, I sincerely appreciate all you do. Proper theology must be chained to the cross, to evangelism, to missions, and to the local church or it becomes an ivory tower, dead orthodoxy.  I hope that what I do as a seminary servant, professor, and theologian helps the local church. This is my goal because I believe in the local church.

© 2020 Thomas White

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