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Earl Marshall

Month: February 2013

Making Disciples Requires a Community

Paul Tripp writes in Dangerous Calling , “For much of my Christian life and a portion of my ministry, I had no idea that my walk with God was a community project.  I had no idea that the Christianity of the New Testament is distinctly relational, from beginning to end.  I understood none of the dangers inherent in attempting to live the Christian life on my own.” (page 83)  The call on the church is to make disciples and this requires our lives together in community.  No passage tells this better than Ephesians 4:11-16.  The goals of this passage are captured in phrases like “unity of faith”, “knowledge of the Son of God”, and “maturity in every way in Christ”.  Being a disciple is becoming more and more like Christ and Ephesians 4 reminds us that this is accomplished when every person is doing their part. We “speak the truth in love”.  We are “joined and held together by every joint”.  This is all about “each part working properly”.  Every disciple is expected to live within the essential ministry of one to another.  There are no exceptions.   Jesus is the head and everyone else is the body.  You can’t become an imitator of Jesus without the community of faith.  Being a disciple and making disciples requires one to another ministry.  This definitely ramps up the importance of our time together with other followers of Christ.  Just think of how important it is, then, to think of your small group meetings as a means for disciple making.

At the heart of our time together in small groups and one to one is the Word of God. Marshall and Payne in The Trellis and the Vine speak of this as the “word ministry of each and every Christian.  Speaking God’s word for the growth of the vine is the work not of the few but of the many.” (page 44)  You can see the importance of this in the New Testament.  Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”.  Romans 15:14, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another”.  Hebrews 3:12-13, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  The one to one ministry of God’s Word is powerful and must be central in our life of being a disciple and making disciples.

That is why a tool like One-to-One Bible Reading is helpful in developing the important ministry of the “private” word (in contrast to the “public” like Sunday morning sermons).  This tool will help the new disciple learn how to handle God’s Word more effectively but it will also aid the more mature disciple in working with others.  The bottom line is that to make disciples (apprentices of Jesus – people who will grow in their imitation of Jesus) requires the community of faith interacting with one another, speaking and living out God’s truth to each other.  No one becomes the disciple they need to be without this.  No one!

Preaching the Big Idea from Revelation

I am in the middle of writing a thesis-project on how to preach Revelation to a multiple end time view audience and it is becoming abundantly clear to me that no matter your interpretive scheme to this apocalyptic book (futuristic, preterits, idealistic, eclecticist) there is a common foundational truth to the visions of Revelations that weaves itself through these pictures that John sees no matter what your interpretive scheme.  It is the task then of the preacher who is preaching to a multiple end time view audience to capture this foundational truth and emphasize this in their preaching and not their particular interpretation of the symbolism of Revelation.

For example this week I am preaching from Revelation 11.  In a text like this it is so easy to get lost in the details of the text and not see the foundational truth in the vision of a temple, two witnesses, a beast, etc.  For certain there is much of this passage that needs to be understood before you can preach the passage and to some extent explained to the audience (although you need to be careful with that – more on this in another post).  At every turn there seems to be interpretive battles over the extent to which this vision finds its fulfillment in the future versus the past or present.  Is the measuring of the temple to be understood as a vision of the restored Jewish people of God (Israel) in Jerusalem?  Is the 3 1/2 years a literal 3 1/2 years of tribulation in the future?  The questions go on and on.  But when we are preaching the meaning of this text one can move away from the danger of promoting or even debating a particular interpretive view by capturing and emphasizing the big idea of the text.  I would suggest that the big idea of the vision must be able to be equally applied to numerous interpretive schemes – i.e. whether this is a future fulfillment, present fulfillment, or even both there is a point that weaves itself through each of these.  So instead of being concerned about all the interpretive conclusions of each of the details the preacher should present the idea behind the conclusions.

For Revelation 11 one such big idea could be “God uses a faithful witness to impact/change a hardened heart”.  The interlude of Revelation 10 – 11 in the context of the trumpets would support such an idea.  This is equally true if the witnesses are actually two people who show up in the future during a time period known as the Tribulation as much as saying that there is no future aspect to this text.

Try this on at text like Revelation 20 and the concept of a Millennium.  What is the idea that is common to an a, post, or pre, millennial understanding of this text?  Perhaps preaching this big idea will promote unity amidst all the diversity.

The State of Evangelicalism

Mike Breen has written a stimulating blog post on the state of evangelicalism or as he calls it “The State of the Evangelical Union”.  On “The Year That Was” I hope he is wrong about discipleship being a phase and I love his optimism on “The Year That Could Be”.  What do you think?

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