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Phases of Effective Ministry

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 21, 2024 12:00 am

Phases of Effective Ministry

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 21, 2024 12:00 am

In this episode, we continue our study of Acts, delving into chapter 14 and the remarkable phases of Paul and Barnabas' first missionary journey. Drawing from Calvin Miller's insightful description of church growth stages, we'll explore how these early church planters navigated through initial enthusiasm, growing pains, and eventual reproduction of new ministries.

We’ll reflect on Paul’s deeply personal account of his hardships, revealing a transparent and encouraging perspective on the challenges of ministry. Despite being stoned and left for dead, Paul and Barnabas demonstrated incredible resilience, preaching the gospel with unwavering determination.

Discover the stages of their journey: from the Initiation of preaching Christ’s truth, through the Orientation of establishing churches and appointing leaders, to the Evaluation of their mission’s impact, celebrating all that God had done through them. This episode highlights the importance of perseverance, the power of human encouragement, and the necessity of God's involvement in any lasting, eternal work.

Join us as we uncover timeless lessons from Paul and Barnabas' experiences, applicable to our own lives and ministries today.

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I'm fearful of reducing the miraculous to handouts and overheads.

I don't believe that if you do ABC this will happen. That is an affront to a sovereign God. You cannot reduce sovereignty to a sheet of paper. What is it about our ministry that can't be reduced down to some formula that can be explained only in light of this is what God has done. This is the door that God has opened.

All we happen to be is in the way. How do you evaluate the effectiveness of a church? What do you look for in selecting a church? And how do you know if a church is doing what it's supposed to do?

Well, there may be many ways to answer that question, but today Stephen Davey is going to point out one important truth. An effective church will always be birthing new ministries. And at the same time, an effective church will be reproducing itself in its own community and around the world. That's exactly what we find in the early church. And today Stephen will teach you more in a message called Phases of Effective Ministry. When we get to Acts 14 in the last paragraph, it's sort of like taking a stroll through these phases, all in just a few verses. We were encountering in this paragraph some basic truths that will refresh our memory and challenge our thinking as we evaluate ourselves in light of the text. Paul and Barnabas didn't have Pepsi or pizza, but they had great passion and purpose.

You notice that right away. In fact, if you were with us in our last discussion, you remember how they were revered as gods and then stone. Paul was stoned, left and supposedly dead. They preached the gospel and Iconium and Lystra. They've moved about rejection on one hand and cult worship on another.

Their ministry would have been this roller coaster ride of highs and lows. And he would write about it in 2nd Corinthians as we read that he was crushed and overwhelmed at times, despairing even of his life. Let's go back and refresh our thinking in verse 19. As we read, Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead in Acts 14 verse 19.

Now that was that overwhelming moment of despair. But while the disciples stood around him, he rose and entered the city. The text goes on to say the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derby where they discussed quitting the ministry.

Follow. He went away with Barnabas to Derby where they decided to come up with a message, a different message that would be less life threatening. No, the Bible delivers these startling words. They went away to Derby and preached the gospel.

This is incredible spirit enabling determination and persistence. They didn't remodel their message or change their tact. This preaching of the gospel could be considered phase one. They're speaking to unbelievers.

You could call it the stage of initiation. They're simply exclaiming Christ's truth. You'd think after the responses they'd received, they'd change into something else. No, they continue to preach the gospel. The question is what's the gospel?

Doesn't tell us here. Who defines the gospel today? Tradition, church, fathers, synods, public opinion. Who has the truth of the gospel?

Who has the authority to give entrance into heaven as it were and condemn to hell? Well, David declared in Psalm 119 160, the sum total of thy word is truth. Jesus Christ declared in John 8 that you shall know the truth in relation to his words and the truth shall set you what?

Free. It is found in the word. Galatians chapter 2, Paul refers to the truth of the gospel. In fact, Galatians 1, Paul exhorts the church that if anybody comes preaching another gospel than the one they received, let them be what?

Let them be accursed. It is in the clarion call of the scripture. Sola Scriptura is the call of the church. The scriptures alone, which define the truth as opposed to the counsels of men. So then how do the scriptures, the authoritative word from God related to the gospel, which sets you free or condemns to eternal bondage? What does the scripture say is the gospel?

That's where you want to go to find out. Well, you can turn if you'd like, but for the sake of time, we're going to keep moving. But in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, I'll just quote it. He defines the gospel. Paul says, this is the gospel which I preached unto you by which also you are saved.

Oh, that's interesting. He is saying, I'm delivering a gospel message that I preached to you by which you are saved. So it's time to sort of sit on the edge of your seat. If you're in Paul's day, it is this definition Paul says he's about to declare that determines the difference between forgiveness of sin and condemnation by sin, salvation to heaven or judgment in hell. And I delivered to you that gospel by which you were saved. Well, that's the gospel. He goes on and he says, you know how Christ died on the cross according to the scriptures?

He was buried and on the third day he rose according to the scriptures. That's it. That's the gospel. It is the finished atoning work of Jesus Christ alone, the dying, burying, resurrecting work of Christ. That is the gospel. Anything else is to concoct another gospel.

The word gospel in the Greek text is simply euangelion. It could be translated the good news. That's all it means, the good news.

And it is defined as the atoning work of Jesus Christ, that work of burying, dying, burying, resurrecting. And his work is complete. You don't add anything to that good news. You don't take anything away from that good news.

Any other good news is not good news. The works of men that would condemn for who would be good enough. Good intentions that would not work. Who would have the best of intentions?

They would falter and waver. Adherence to a church. I personally believe more people find hell through the doors of a church than they do find heaven. Anything else is enslavement. Apart from the word of scripture that defines the gospel as the work of Jesus Christ alone, it might be the nine practices of Hinduism as exposed in the Bhagavad Gita that I pulled out and just reread. The awful circle of despair. It might be the five precepts of Buddhism. That is another gospel. It might be the seven sacraments of Romanism. They all have in common that they lead the religious individual not into religious freedom but into religious bondage.

They are man-made outside of sola scriptura. The gospel, according to the New Testament, is supposed to be good news. The reason most people do not find the good news is they cannot hurdle the bad news.

For the good news begins with bad news. The bad news is you and I are sinners, hopeless, condemned. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3.23. But if you can admit to that and come to Christ as your savior, you can move into the good news, which is Romans 3.24. That is being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption that is found in Jesus Christ. That's the gospel. And Romans 8.1 tells us that those who have accepted this gospel, literally this person of Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation then to them who are in Christ Jesus, period.

That is good news. And this is what Paul was preaching to them. Now I want you to notice the next phrase in verse 21 after they preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples.

Now stop. They were making disciples. Has it ever occurred to you that the church has not been told by Jesus Christ to make converts? The church has been commanded by Jesus Christ to go into all the nations and make who?

Disciples. Evangelism is simply the initial step of the process. It is the initial step of the journey. It is the initiation of the commission.

It is not the fulfillment of the commission. Go and make disciples. And it tells us here that they were making disciples by the preaching of the gospel. So the next question is, what is a disciple? It doesn't really tell us here in this text. So we have to go elsewhere.

Four very quick thoughts. A disciple, first of all, is someone who's asked for it. Salvation, that is. The word disciple throughout the book of Acts is a term for someone who's placed his faith in the dying, burying, resurrecting work of Jesus Christ for salvation. There isn't any distinction, by the way, between a Christian and a disciple.

Over and over again, you find the analogy between the life of the believer and that discipling learning process of it's one and the same. In fact, disciple means mathetes, or is mathetes, which means simply learner or follower. It's someone who is following Jesus Christ, who's learning after him. A disciple is not some special category of Christian. You become a Christian and then maybe one day I'll become a disciple. No, you become a disciple the day you place your faith in Jesus Christ. One interesting paragraph from an author reads it this way. The disciple of Jesus is not the deluxe or heavy duty model of the Christian. I like that.

Especially padded, streamlined, and empowered for the fast lane on the straight and narrow way. The disciple stands on the pages of the New Testament as the normal, basic individual who is traveling toward the kingdom of God. So a disciple, ladies and gentlemen, is simply somebody who's asked to become one by placing their faith in Christ. Secondly, a disciple is someone who's immersed because of it. The mark of the disciple given to us in Matthew chapter 28 is water baptism, baptizomai, immersion. Baptism by immersion is that literal translation of the word. The mark of someone who has already identified spiritually with the death, burial, and resurrection is in the presence of witnesses identified physically with the burying in the water, which represents the grave, and the resurrecting out of the water.

It is that outward display of something that has already happened inwardly. You do not become a disciple by being baptized. You are baptized because you are a disciple and you are simply declaring that truth and fact to the world. Third, a disciple is someone who's reformed in light of it. Salvation is accomplished in a split moment when you receive the Savior. Discipleship is an adventure of a lifetime. It's an invitation to radical personal reformation. You will never be able to say, ladies and gentlemen, oh, that thing about being a disciple, I mastered that. What's next?

Never. It is a process that is inaugurated on the day of your conversion to faith in Jesus Christ alone. A disciple is one whose life is being reformed. One author put it this way, a disciple is a person whose life is a conscious and constant identification with the Lord through words, behavior, attitudes, motives, and purpose, fully realizing Christ's absolute ownership of his life, joyfully embracing the Saviorhood of Christ, delighting in the Lordship of Christ and living by the abiding and dwelling resources of Christ, according to the imprinted pattern and purpose of Christ for the chief end of glorifying his Lord and Savior. This is not only the purpose of salvation, but this is the fulfillment of salvation, redemption from self and devotion to the Lord and to this every Christian has called.

You say, boy, I got a long way to go. Is it possible for a disciple to sin? Well, study the disciples and then don't ask such a question. It isn't a matter that we're perfect.

It is a matter that we are progressing. However, I frankly believe the pews of our land are filled with people who have no conscious decision to follow or hunger after righteousness, no thought of glorifying Christ, no personal interest in Christ's word and no intention whatsoever in advancing the Church of Jesus Christ. They are self-deceived. They are not disciples. Paul exhorted his audience to make sure to examine themselves, to make sure they are of the faith. You want to examine yourself, write out the gospel or the epistle of John, his first epistle, and you just read through it and you examine yourself to see if you have the hunger for righteousness, a thought of glorifying Christ, the intention of serving his church, desires to learn of his word. Disciple is one who is reformed because he's one.

Fourth, the disciple is someone who's suffered or who is suffering because of it. Now, we're going to have Paul specifically deal with that issue in a moment, but for now here in Derby, Paul and Barnabas are involved in making disciples, all that we talked about, bringing people to faith in Christ, baptizing them, teaching them there's reformation occurring. Now, notice stage two is orientation.

Now, they will go back to cities and we get to see phase two. We've just discussed what they're doing in phase one as they declare the truth of Christ. Now, we go back with them to cities where they have already preached the gospel and people have already believed, and we see the establishment of Christ's church. There are several key phrases that come out of these next few verses. Look at verse 21 again. After they preached the gospel in that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, and those frankly are astounding words to me.

Let's refresh our memory. Pisidian Antioch, it was in that city where they were driven away and probably beaten in Iconium. There was a plot to kill them. They discovered the plot and they fled for their lives.

Lystra, they were first worshiped as gods, Zeus and Hermes, and then Paul was stoned and left for dead. They returned there? They returned to those cities? They went back there?

That's why those are startling words. Why? Why would they do that? Because of the priority of establishing Christ's church.

Notice how they did it. The first phrase there in the first part of verse 22, they strengthened the souls of the disciples. This was not a fitness program, vitamins and good food and all that. They strengthened the souls of the disciples. Strengthening the soul is a phrase that's coupled with teaching the word in other passages of scripture. It is by the word that you gain strength. If you're having a weak Christian walk, if you're a disciple that wavers, it is because you are not in the word. It is the word that produces strength spiritually.

It does not come by osmosis. You don't get it one hour in church a week. You have to be dedicated to the word. And this was their priorities. They strengthened them.

That is, they taught them. Now notice the next phrase, they encouraged them to continue in the faith. Does that mean they could lose their faith? Does that mean they could lose their salvation?

Not at all. In the New Testament, you'll discover the word faith refers to at least three different arenas. If you want to add this to your thinking and study it on your own, it'd be wonderful if you have questions about this. The first kind of faith the word tells us about the New Testament is decisive faith or that is saving faith. When the object of your faith being Christ replaces the object of your faith being yourself. Saving faith is a transaction that occurs at a moment in time just like you placed your faith in that chair you came and sat down. Second, there's doctrinal faith. The word faith is used to refer to a body of truth.

Paul would tell the believers in Corinth to contend for or you could render it to defend the faith that is this body of truth, doctrinal precept upon precept that the church is to defend. The word faith is used to refer to that body of truth. Then there's daily faith. This is the faith where you day by day rely upon Christ your Savior and Lord. He the discipler, you the disciple, and you rely entirely upon him for strength, for wisdom, for direction. That's daily faith.

For we walk, not by sight, but by what? Faith. That's daily faith. Paul tells the believer to take up the shield of what? Faith.

So they can extinguish the darts, the fiery darts of the evil one. So this is a daily process of exercising, developing faith. It is that faith that Paul is exhorting and encouraging the disciples to continue in.

The pressures, the struggles, the difficulties, the temptations of life. They exhorted them to keep the faith. In fact, the next phrase provides the context for this necessity of daily faith. Look at the last part of verse 22, continue in the faith and saying through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God here is presented as future tense. We are disciples marching toward this literal coming kingdom of Christ's reign on earth.

And it's presented here in the future tense. The phrase doesn't mean you have to suffer so that you can get into the kingdom. The phrase means that going into the kingdom will involve suffering. We tend to view suffering as a surprising event. According to the Bible, suffering is a standard encounter. So much so that Peter would write, beloved, don't be surprised by the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing.

Don't be surprised as if some strange thing is happening to you, but to the degree that you are sharing in the suffering of Christ, keep on rejoicing. This is standard activity for the disciple heading toward the kingdom. A disciple is someone who is suffering in some way for the cause of Christ. Finally, in this phase or stage of orientation, Paul and Barnabas established the church. You read in verse 23, and when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they believed. The word elder here is the original word presbuteroi gives us our transliterated word presbyterian. The elder, the presbuteroi were given the administration and leadership of the body, the flock. Peter will write later that the flock is to submit and follow the leaders, the elders are to with integrity lead with love. And so what's happening here?

You're just sort of in the meat and potatoes of the New Testament. You're watching the establishment of a new church. They're teaching and encouraging people who are struggling, exhorting them to maintain the faith.

Then they're dealing with the form that always follows function. It is the leadership of the church, the office of elder, and the ordinances would come by their leadership. And all of this is happening. They are establishing Christ's church, having made disciples for Christ.

Stage three, evaluation three. The last part of this paragraph strikes me as simply this, the excitement of God's work. The key phrases would be what God has done or what God has opened, the door that God has opened.

Look at verse 27. And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentile. It's interesting because the imperfect tense of the verb to report indicates that the story that Paul and Barnabas wanted to tell the church couldn't be told at one sitting. They had to have several sittings or several meetings. This is the first missionary conference in the history of the New Testament church.

Maybe not like we do it, but that's what you have here. Several meetings where Paul and Barnabas share the news. Let us tell you about Lystra. You won't believe what happened there. They called Barnabas Zeus and I bet everybody just burst into laughter. We were worshiped until we stood firm for Christ and then Paul could show them the marks on his body. He would say later, I bear in my body the marks of Christ. They would weep together and laugh together and pray together as they reported. You notice you do not read. And when they gathered the church together, they began to report all the things that they had done. Do you notice that? How they had opened the door of faith?

No. Listen to what God has done with us. Listen to how God has used us. Has there been a point in your life as a believer, as a disciple headed toward the kingdom, where as his disciple, you're able to say to somebody, your family, your children, your spouse, your church, your class, hey, guess how God used me this past week? Nothing more exciting than knowing that somehow you got in his way as he was at work and he used you as his disciple servant.

Well, that's all they're doing here. Listen to what God has done with us. Listen to how he's used us. He's opened this door of faith into the Gentile world. And imagine the thrill in that congregation as they are the ascending church. They are now reaping the investment they've poured into the lives of Paul and Barnabas and they're sharing in the fruit of their first missionary enterprise.

Well, let me give you a couple of thoughts by way of application. First of all, anything effective in ministry is going to be reinforced by encouragement. Paul and Barnabas didn't breeze into town here, preach an evangelistic sermon or two and move on and just hope the believers found their way.

No, no, no. In fact, for the last hundred years, beginning with Charles Finney, we've had that kind of evangelism that I believe has brought great disservice to the church. God did not call us to do anything less than make disciples.

So they go back, they go back, they go back. They write what you hold in your lap as the body of truth so that these people stay in the faith, establish the church, appoint needed leadership, commit to a body of truth. You're part of God's church through this local assembly experiencing the same things and we need the encouragement of leaders and fellow brethren and the encouragement of the words. Second, anything eternal is going to be accomplished by God's involvement.

May I ask you a question? What is it about your church that can be explained only in light of God's involvement? Let me put it this way, and I had this question posed with other students in a class. If the Holy Spirit left this ministry, Colonial Baptist Church, sometime this afternoon, how long would it take us to figure out that we were doing everything on our own?

I have been asked many times, and I'm always uncomfortable when I'm asked, what is it about Colonial that's caused growth or their perceived notion of effectiveness? I was asked a couple of months ago to teach a seminary course in the summer, a module in the north, a seminary in the north on the subject of church growth, and they gave me three days and I picked 1999 because it was the latest one they offered and I wanted to shove it as far as I could. So I'm frankly uncomfortable with that subject. I'm fearful of reducing the miraculous to handouts and overheads.

I don't believe that if you do ABC, this will happen. That is an affront to a sovereign God. You cannot reduce sovereignty to a sheet of paper. What is it about our ministry that can't be reduced down to some formula that can be explained only in light of this is what God has done. This is the door that God has opened. All we happen to be is in the way. A few months ago, some preachers visited our services, looked around, listened to me preach, and left and said, we don't know why that church is growing.

Good, good. I came looking at the wrong things. What is it about your life that can be explained only in terms of God's involvement? What development is taking place right now that you have to simply say this is what God is involved in with my life? What ministry? What exercise?

What trial? Where you know you are abandoned to a sovereign God who alone is at work. It's the only way to live, by the way, as individuals and as a corporate body, a family. The exclamation of Christ's truth. The establishment of Christ's church. All that brings the excitement of God's work. If you're involved in church ministry, you're involved in God's work, or at least you're supposed to be. I hope Stephen's reminder and challenge has been helpful for you today as you think about your own ministry.

You don't want to be involved in things that can be explained by your own plans and your own efforts. What really matters is what God is doing and being involved in things that can only be explained by the power of God. This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. We're working our way through a series Stephen taught many years ago from the book of Acts. The lesson you heard today is entitled Phases of Effective Ministry.

If you missed a portion of this message or any of the messages in this series, we post all of them to our website. You'll find us at wisdomonline.org. We have another tool to help you walk in wisdom and grow in your faith.

It's the Wisdom International Phone App. If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to install the Wisdom International App to your phone or tablet. Once you do, you can take this Bible teaching ministry wherever you go. You can follow along on both the wisdom journey and Wisdom for the Heart. You can access the library for Stephen's four decades of Bible teaching. All of his sermons are available on that app. You can listen to each one or read Stephen's manuscript. You can read the daily devotional, read Stephen's blog, read our year-long Bible reading plan and much more. In the menu along the bottom is a tab that says Bible. That gives you access to the complete text of the Bible, but if you don't want to read it, you can just hit the play button and listen to the Bible being read to you. That makes it convenient if you're driving or if you just want to listen along. Here's another feature. When you're looking at the Bible, if Stephen has a lesson from that section, you'll have a link right to that lesson in the app. So, if you need clarification on what a passage means, you can listen to Stephen explain it in a quick, convenient way. Get the app today, then join us next time. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-21 01:06:56 / 2024-06-21 01:17:28 / 11

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