December 13, 2017

“Pray, Give, and Go” Believers

By Chaplain Mike

I was in Chicago over the weekend, and attended Wheaton Bible Church with my wife’s sister on Sunday. It has been our habit to worship at WBC when we visit the area.

WBC is an established evangelical church in what used to be the “Mecca” of evangelical Christianity: Wheaton, Illinois, near Wheaton College, evangelical publishing houses such as Tyndale and Crossway, and a large number of mission organizations. The church was founded in 1929 as the “Wheaton College Interdenominational Church,” and its meetings began on the college campus. Well-known pastors at WBC (at least in the evangelical Bible-church world) have included J.C. Macaulay, Malcolm Cronk, and Richard Seume.

One great passion of the church and its people is worldwide missions. This impulse is still, to my mind, the saving grace of evangelical Christianity.

iMonk readers are well aware that I have been critical of the movement with regard to worship, a separatistic rather than a missional attitude and practice in the context of the local church, and the practice of pastoral care and spiritual formation. However, one characteristic that draws me back to evangelicalism over and over again is its commitment to the “GO” part of the Great Commission. As far as I can tell, Wheaton Bible Church is filled with “pray, give, and go” believers, who have bought into the call to take the Good News to the ends of the earth.

The mission statement of the church includes a direct reference to this: The mission of Wheaton Bible Church is to love God, grow together and reach the world. It captures what Jesus expressed in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. We want to do what He commanded and live how He lived.

Simple, mission-oriented, this statement captures well the activist impulse that is at the heart of what is right with evangelicalism, an impulse that is missing, at least at the personal and congregational level, in many other branches of Christianity. It represents exactly why it is called “evangelical” (gospelizing) faith.

On Sunday, WBC featured a guest missionary speaker, Tom Doyle of E3 Partners, a ministry devoted to church-planting in various countries and regions around the world. You can read an interview with Doyle on “The Breakthrough of Christianity in the Middle East” here. You can also download his message from Sunday’s service at WBC here.

We hear alarmist talk from many corners today about the advance of Islam in the world. Doyle gave another perspective, and made some remarkable claims about the progress of the Gospel among Muslim peoples in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The power of God is being seen today throughout the Muslim world in the Middle East and in Central Asia. Significant breakthroughs have occurred in the last few years as God is opening the hearts of Arabs, Jews, Iranians, Afghans, Kurds and other people groups in the two regions. Mission researchers estimate that more Muslims have committed to follow Christ in the last 10 years than in the last 15 centuries of Islam. Although Islam is still the dominant religion in the MECA area, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are nominal and do not practice their faith. The door to reach them has never been more open.

Source: E3 Partners website

Doyle has written a book on the subject, called Breakthrough: The Return of Hope to the Middle East. One of the great challenges in the region is to go beyond merely reaching individuals for Christ, and establishing strong local congregations that nurture and support believers, many of whom live in obscurity, poverty, and under persecution.

Discipleship is the key to building a strong church in the MECA region. The church must be strong enough to withstand the onslaught of persecution that is being leveled at it by Islamic terrorist groups. e3 is investing in leaders within the region in order to equip them to launch stable reproducing flocks. Training is the key and e3 has ministry training centers around the MECA region and even seminary level courses to teach the national leaders within their own country. This year hundreds of new churches will be planted across the region. At e3, our vision is that these churches help change nations by bringing life in Christ to every village and city within the Middle East and Central Asia.

Source: E3 Partners website

This is a Jesus-shaped, church-based, Kingdom-oriented vision that lifts our eyes from a commitment to living small lives.

  • Praying fervently for the success of missions like these connects us to something deep within the heart of God.
  • Giving generously and sacrificially to the advance of missions like these teaches us to use our resources in “seeking first the Kingdom” rather than our own comfort.
  • Going and actively participating in the work of missions like these enables us to see just how big and wild and wonderful our world is, how diverse and interesting God’s family is, and how great and sovereign our Lord is in extending his rule to the ends of the earth.

Evangelicalism, like all Christian movements, is far from perfect. But it often gets it right here. When Jesus shapes our lives, we become his praying, giving, and going disciples.

Comments

  1. “what used to be the “Mecca” of evangelical Christianity.”

    Are you saying it is no longer a major base of evangelicalism, or that there are now others in addition to Wheaton, or are you saying something else?

    • Wheaton is still the center of “old” evangelicalism, the generation of Billy Graham and the post-WWII evangelical establishment as represented by Christianity Today magazine. However, places like Colorado Springs have in some ways surpassed Wheaton to become the “new meccas” for the evangelical movement.

  2. Wheatonites prefer the moniker “New Jerusalem”…………

  3. Am I reading this correctly?

    “One of the great challenges in the region is to go beyond merely reaching individuals for Christ, and establishing strong local congregations that nurture and support believers.”

    Looks like, at least in regards to the MECA area, they’re actually practicing something resembling discipleship rather than just seeking conversions. Any chance this could catch on elsewhere?

    • Like in the United States? Please, Lord?

    • I’ve always been challenged by that when visiting other parts of the world, many of which seem to get the discipleship part better than we in the U.S. do.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I think it’s due to the extreme individualism of American culture. (Which often shows its individualism by groupthink conformity, but that’s a whole ‘nother paradox.)

        When your Gospel emphasizes Individual Salvation at the expense of everything else, there’s no way you’re going to have “strong local congregations” and “Christian community”. (Except in the sense of “Us against Everybody Else”.) A Gospel of “Me & Jesus” does not lend itself to community except in the most superficial ways.

        • Damaris says:

          HUG said, “I think it’s due to the extreme individualism of American culture. (Which often shows its individualism by groupthink conformity, but that’s a whole ‘nother paradox.)”

          Groupthink: “In America the majority draws a formidable circle around thought. Inside those limits, the writer is free; but unhappiness awaits him if he dares to leave them. It is not that he has to fear an auto-da-fe, but he is the butt of mortifications of all kinds and of persecutions every day. . . .Chains and executioners are the coarse instruments that tyranny formerly employed; but in our day civilization has perfected even despotism itself.” Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835)

  4. Just wanted you to know that e3 Partners (the organization Tom Doyle is with) does have a focus for the U.S. – it’s called “I am Second” (www.iamsecond.com). It’s more than videos – check out the I am Second groups.

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    The power of God is being seen today throughout the Muslim world in the Middle East and in Central Asia. Significant breakthroughs have occurred in the last few years as God is opening the hearts of Arabs, Jews, Iranians, Afghans, Kurds and other people groups in the two regions.

    Assuming this source is on the up-and-up (and not succumbed to wishful thinking and/or the need to present an Always Victorious Christian front), this means it’s not so much Islam overrunning Us as the competition between the two rival faiths is still going on.

    Although Islam is still the dominant religion in the MECA area, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are nominal and do not practice their faith.

    And this differs from everybody else in what way? You get a lot of nominal believers in every faith; especially when that faith is mandated by law.

  6. Grew up in a muslim central Aisian country and still in touch with a lot of missionary friends there. The reports in this post of growing acceptance of Jesus in these populations are right in line with what I’m hearing, and the figures don’t particularly surprise me based on the trends I know about. Most of what is happening is under the radar of necessity and you won’t read about it in the major media (and that’s probably a very healthy thing in that it keeps the movement safe and indigenous), but some amazing transformations of lives are taking place. For example, I know of theleader of at least one mosque who found Jesus and now the message of Jesus is taught in that mosque.

    The other fact under the radar is that there are a large number of muslims that aren’t just nominal in their beliefs, but significantly disillusioned with Islam and looking for something with true hope. The opportunities for the gospel have perhaps never been greater. Please pray.

  7. I like it –

    EIther you go down into the well or you hold the rope for those who do.

  8. Thanks for the encouraging update, Chaplain Mike. It’s good for me when you point a strong aspect of evangelicalism that is one of my weak areas (unfortunately).

  9. Tom Huguenot says:

    OK, many people are going to hate me for this, but I need to say I am not impressed by how the US Evangelical missionary movement works. I see several problems.

    -Commercialism and “pragmaticism”. Example: the 10/40 window fad appears, and suddenly there is no money for Western Europe anymore. Too bad for the projects there.

    -refusal to work with nationals on the field.

    This is one of the (many) reasons why I would not go to an Evangelical church if we lived in the States.

    • the problem is also missions is for the theologian and the exegete not for 80 young adults in the same t-shirt spending 2 weeks in a country…..

      we have missions all wrong – heartcry & new tribes mission dont though

      • As for mission trips, I am not against them (and the fact I’ve met my American wife during one of them is not the main reason why). I think it’s good for the 80 young adults you mention to have at least this potential of an eye-opening experience outisde of Wahtever Community Church, Suburbiana, USA.

        Now, as for theologians and exegetes as missionaries, you do not want to get me started. Anyway, they do not send the best missionaries: they send the best support-raisers.

    • “Training is the key and e3 has ministry training centers around the MECA region and even seminary level courses to teach the national leaders within their own country.”

      Tom H., I agree with you on some of those possible flaws (especially the trendy part, although I don’t want to diminish the importance of people in the 10/40 window). However, I think that the above quote from the e3 website does address one of your concerns. It appears that they do place an emphasis on working with nationals in the field. I don’t know enough to know if your concerns are generally legitimate (although it sounds like you’ve seen it firsthand), but it sounds like e3 has at least one covered.

  10. I agree with Tom H. above, I have always supported missons – but if not done correctly it becomes a project to help the individual or make the western churches feel good about themselves.
    I believe the projects mentioned above by Chaplain Mike are good programs – but there are many down-right silly programs out there (ala having 9-12 year old go to other countries to “build houses”).
    One real problem in missions outlook in evangelicalism is the romanticism of the mission field.
    we love to talk about people risking their lives ( & yes people still are risking thier lives & should be given their dues) but most of the missions today are not situations with risk of death, instead they are complicated situations of different groups of people trying to work out there differences, trying to understand each other, with Christians trying to share the Love of Jesus & his gospel without causing needless pain & conflict. The missions field is a mine field of Economy, Culture, religion, Family structure, Politics, & Life in general. The mission feild needs prayer, thought, & Love – not just mindless zeal, & short-term adventure.
    Chaplain Mike, I know you look at missions the correct way, but when you wrote:
    “Going and actively participating in the work of missions like these enables us to see just how big and wild and wonderful our world is, how diverse and interesting God’s family is, and how great and sovereign our Lord is in extending his rule to the ends of the earth. ”
    it makes me cringe because it seems to be focused on our benefit instead of the benefit of the lost to find the Gospel of Jesus. I’m probably overly nit-picking. & I know that we receive benefit in our service as well – but I just worry sometimes the focus becomes our feelings of achievement instead of spreading the Love of God. just some thoughts & feelings , peace

    • Good point, Brian, but I do think spiritual formation happens through service as much as it does through any other spiritual discipline.

      • I am glad i didn’t sound too critical. it is not the reality that we receive spiritual formation that i have a problem with, it is making that spiritual formation the focus of missions, I have a problem with sometimes. Thanks, peace

      • double amen to that: fewer “Find YOUR Spiritual Gift” surveys and classes and more roll up your sleeves (if only for a week) and do something. Out of the two or three yrs I spent in high school ministry, I’m sure my messages are long forgotten (probably by the week following delivery). But maybe sleeping on the floor of JPUSA and helping clean out a 5 story building in urban Chicago, and doing church (for 2 or 3 hrs LOL) in an urban black church left a mark. Worth a try.