Truth Is The Word

Month: May 2010

Evangelism

Theme: Evangelistic Outreach

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Matt and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matt 28:19-20
The preacher fixes you with a stern yet challenging gaze and asks; “So, how many people have you led to the Lord this week?” How are you supposed to respond to that?!

Recently there was a televised ‘revival’ in East London and at each evening service they would get someone to answer this very question. One evening they made a huge fuss of a cute little ten-year-old girl who said that she had led 17 people to Jesus that very day. Of course, what she really meant was that she had approached 17 people in downtown East London and asked if she could read out a prayer to which they were to respond with “Amen”.

We are called to go into the world and make disciples, followers of the Lord Jesus. Discipleship starts with the rebirth of the spirit and continues with the transformation of that new spiritual life into the likeness of Jesus. Rebirth of the spirit is an act of God in response to genuine repentance, belief, and heart-felt request – it is not the automatic reward for a formula prayer spoken or acknowledged!

Evangelism is the word we give to the process of sharing the good news of salvation with people who have either not heard it or have not yet responded to it. It is a part of outreach but it is not the definition of outreach. We reach out into our world to give to it what we have – and the most valuable and life-giving thing we have to give is the message of life in Christ Jesus; the Gospel.

Giving our time, money and talent will help others in the short term, but unless accompanied by a generous ‘giving’ of the Gospel it will not affect others eternally. Outreach without the Gospel is good at a temporal and human level but that is all: our outreach must have the Gospel as its central concern if it is to be of any lasting benefit.
A better question for the preacher to ask is; “Are you in the process of making at least one disciple right now? Are you helping someone else to come to know Jesus, to grow to become like Him, and to then to go and do the same for someone else?” So that’s the question – are you?

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What is Outreach?

Theme: Evangelistic Outreach 

‘The Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’ Acts 20:35
As a child raised in a Christian home I was accustomed to hearing a fair amount of ‘Christianese’, the word I use to describe the peculiar English dialect that Christians often adopt. For instance, ‘Brother’ does not mean sibling, it means, “I can’t remember your name but I want to be your pal”. Outreach is one of those sorts of words and usually means a mercy mission to the slums or a neglected old age home. I use the word differently.

Outreach, to me, is a mind-set that is central to the Christian message. It signifies an outward life orientation. We are called to live lives characterized by giving – and giving is outwards, from us to others. It is so frustrating and sad to see how much of today’s church emphasis is on getting instead of giving. Get rich, get health, get success, and so on. And when giving is taught, it is so often in the context of getting – Sow in order to reap, sort of stuff.

Outreach is not natural to us; it is something that we adopt as part of our life in Christ. For example, try this little experiment. Ask half a dozen people to join hands and form a circle. Then watch what they do. They will arrange themselves in a circle facing inwards and then grab each other’s hands. I have done this on a number of occasions and never have I seen people form a circle facing outwards! It just doesn’t come naturally.

Outreach includes charity, ministry, social concern, and evangelism but it is more an attitude and orientation than it is a group of activities. When we are born again we are turned inside out and our life orientation shifts from inwards to outwards. And it is because of this outward orientation that we give our money, our time, our talents… and the Gospel. 


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Relationship First and Last

‘When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.’ Acts 4:1
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I graduated from the church Sunday School system at the age of thirteen, firmly convinced that Christianity was a knowledge-based religion. I didn’t like it, so I dumped it. At the age of thirty I met Jesus; I entered into a relationship with him and I am still in that relationship. Not only that, but I am now in relationship with his church; I have brothers, sisters, and friends. As much as I am against religion I am for relationship. In fact, my conviction is that life, both temporal and eternal is all about relationship.

To embrace religion is to let go of Jesus, because Jesus shunned religion. Equally, to believe that Christianity is a private affair is to miss the whole point of it. Heaven is not a solitary confinement cell; it is a space of endless ‘family’. To know Jesus is to enter into his family, and to be part of his family is to be part of the church, both here and in heaven.
Religions have communities of fellow adherents, but they are lifeless groups gathered around doctrine, or tradition, or a leader. Relationship is the glue of living Christian community. Relationship is also the purpose of that community; I am in the church community not to serve a cause, or to promote a philosophy, or to make converts, but to be in relationship with Jesus and his disciples.
Religions are mainly knowledge or skills based. Ones standing and role within a religious system is dependent on what one knows or what can do. Our standing within Christianity is dependent only on who we know, not on what we know. It is also based on what God can do, not on what we can do. In the very first years of the church, the disciples were different from others not because of their knowledge or skills, but because they had been with Jesus. It is still the same today.

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Religious Stuff

‘Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.’  Colossians 2:16-18
Have you ever been criticised for not tithing to your local church? Of course giving is a central element of Christian faith and financial giving is an important part of that. But giving ten per cent of one’s pre-tax income is nothing less than a religious presumption. 

Do you feel uncomfortable when you are expected to recite the ‘Lord’s prayer’ so fast that you cannot possibly even think about what you are saying? If you do feel uncomfortable with this then thank God because you are not yet religiously inoculated!

Why must ‘church’ be on Sundays? Do we have to observe Christmas? I must tell you that I go to church on Sunday and I do observe Christmas – but not because it is a religious convention to do so. I come together with my fellow believers on a Sunday to worship God, to learn to obey his Word, and to have fellowship with his other children. I would happily do this on a Saturday, or a weekday evening. However, Sunday is a non-work day for most and so it is a good day to gather together as a local church.
As a leader of a local church I call my fellow Elders to annually examine our church practices. We ask the question of all rituals, rites, and ceremonies, ‘Do we do this to help us build our communal relationship with Jesus and each other, or do we do this because we always have, or because it’s expected?’ This is a healthy practice for any church and for our private devotional lives.

Quiet Times

‘One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.’  Luke 6:12-13
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Do you have a daily Quite Time (QT)? Most Christians try and make time each day to be alone with the Lord. The problem is that much of what goes under the heading of Quite Time is religious and not relational.
The idea is to draw apart from the business of our family and work day to communicate with God. Jesus did this often and it is therefore an excellent practice. But what takes place during the QT? 

Daily reading and devotionals are fine if they serve as an aid to real communication between us and God.  However, for many people the ‘Faith for Today’ type devotionals have become a substitute for communication. There is a mentality that a verse a day will keep the devil at bay, or that someone else devotional thoughts become mine simply because I read them. This is religious.

When we meet privately with God we should read the Bible conversationally, praying and reading simultaneously. When we pray it should not be according to a template of first thanksgiving, then intercession, and then petition. Rather, we should talk to God as humble but loving children, expressing our hearts with honesty and transparency. 

A QT that consists of a daily reading and a prayer list is religious… sorry but that’s how I see it. How about you? What do you think?

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar. I have started a site called Classical Guitar SA to serve classical guitar enthusiasts in South Africa.