AGENTS FOR CHANGE-THE HUMAN FACTOR IN FULFILLING GOD'S PURPOSE

 

A. Warning - Teaching - Presenting:

 

"Him we proclaim, warning everyman and teaching everyman  in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ. For this I toil … striving with all the energy which He mightily inspires within-me." Col. 1: 28-9

 

B. Freedom Under Subjection:

 

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to an, that I might win more ... I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." I Cor. 9:19-23

 

Agenda: Mobilization of God's Agents

 

Mobilization is the basis of world-wide evangelism. There are four basic principles for the mobilization of. the Church to fulfill God's purpose. (1) Kenneth Strachan rightly declares that the "Growth of any movement is in direct proportion to the ability of that movement to mobilize its total membership in the constant propagation of its beliefs." This principle stands in radical tension with the principle of mobilization by way of "professional evangelists." (2) Second principle: Mobilization within the framework of the local congregation.  (3) Third principle: Mobilization by Local Leadership. (4) Fourth Principle: Mobilization with comprehensive, global objectives. (See the Lausanne report - Let the Earth Hear His Voice. Minneapolis: World Wide Publishers, 1313 Hennepin Ave., MN 55403 and my The Word and the World. Lincoln, 1976.) But how can this challenge be met by our Restoration Heritage?

 

In the October, 1975 edition of Christian Life the list of the 100 largest Sunday Schools contains only 4 churches from the Restoration Heritage: (1) Broadway Church of Christ, Lubbock, Texas - 1600 + attendance Cranked 54); (2) First Christian Church, Canton, Ohio, 1300 + attendance with loss of 13 in attendance average compared to previous year (ranked 87); (3) Mt. Carmet Christian Church, Decatur, Georgia 1300 + attendance, with 58 increase in attendance average (ranked 95); and (4)Los Gatos Christian Church 2000 » attendance, 548 + increase in attendance Clanked 30).

 

If Christ's commission challenges His people to evangelize a world of 4 billion people with daily increases of ca. 225,000 people, and a total increase of ca. 100 million, how are we to carry out such an enormous responsibility? A basic strategy will necessitate a basic understanding of at least 5 areas: I. Analysis of World Situation: Caring in an age of Crises; II. Audience and Communication :Receptivity to Relevant Communication; III. Agents of Chang: Critics or Catalysts?; IV. Agenda for Victory; and V. Adaptation. Demands and the Challenge.

 

See - Tom Sine, Wild Hope (Word Books, 1992), and Russell Chandler, Racing Toward 2001 (Zondervan, 1992).

 

I. Analysis of World Situation: "Caring in An Age of Crises" Scriptures: Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 10:3ff; I Peter 5:7; II Peter 5:7

 

A. Revolt Against God's order resulted in alienation between (Gen 1-3):

 

1. God and Man

2. Man and Self

3. Man and Others

4. Man and Nature

 

B. Creation

 

1. Chaos                           4. Church / Christians

2. Covenant                      5. Consummation: Christ or Marx?

3. Christ                           (Frankfort School of Social Research)

 

C. Anxiety

 

1. Jesus and Anxiety - Do's and Don't

2. Freud and Anxiety

3. Constructive and Destructive Anxieties

4. Anxiety and Creative use of our Christian faith

5. Economical1y grounded anxiety: Taxes, inflation, recession, mission-evangelism, local congregation, Bible colleges, etc. (Christian vs. Marxian viewpoint).

 

D. Nature of' Contemporary Crises

 

A. Death and finitude: Thanatology since Elizabeth Kuber-Ross; Facing Death and dying in 400 new high school mini-courses on death.

B. Grief and guilt: From grief to guilt to bereavement to wholeness to forgiveness to holiness.

C. Freedom and security: Desire to be free seconded only by our desire to be secure.

D. Security and caring for others.

E. Sin/Salvation vs. genetic and environmental determinism: Mennger's Whatever Happened to Sin. Sin since the development in 19th-20th century behavioral sciences (Crick, Monad, Skinner) and Man's Future)

 

E.  Ingredients of Caring

 

A. Knowledge and caring: Knowing the needs of people, i.e., caring requires preparation.

B. Patience and caring: Patience does not entail passivity; rather meditation between extremes.

C. Trust and caring: Trusting in a loving Lord entails risk in our relationship with other people. Risk entails the possibility of failure and frustration.

D. Honesty and caring: Honesty implies truth; truth implies responsibility to both God and man, but never man at the expense of our relationship with God.

E. Hope and caring: Because we have been begotten to a new and living hope, we must care for God's view of Creation, His view of Home, and His view of the Church.

 

II. Audience Analysis and Communication: Contemporary Communication

 

Theory utilizes three symbols S -source, M - message, and R - receiver, to express the interrelationship of all forms of communication, both verbal and non-verbal. A recent communications seminar held at Harvard University concluded that the significance of words, voice-tone, and body language were In order of Importance: (a) Body language - 60%, (b) Voice-Tone - 33%, and (c) words - 7%.

 

Any strategy must begin with Audience Analysis, but attention must also be given to (1) competition, (2) government regulations, and (3) media resources. Strategy must begin with the isolation of homogeneous segments, defined in terms of lifestyle, educational background, age etc. - see Engel, Wales, Warshaw, Promotional Strategy, 3rd ed. (Homewood, IL: R.D. Irwin, Inc., 1975, chp. 9: for issue of manipulation see - Engel, Kollat, Blackwell, Consumer Behavior (NY: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1973, chp. 8).

 

A. Perceptual filter programmed around the "Big I" - John 2:25; Luke 5: 30-32; 6a1.6:14f Romans 7:Iff. The filter functions to admit those stimuli that are relevant to the 'self and screens out those that are not.

 

B. Adapting to the audience - Luke 5:32 - message falls on empty ground. Your filters are closed, and you will not even hear my words.

 

C. A Pattern For Today: Eph. 4:23; II Pet. 1:13; Romans 12:2

 

1. Analyze the environment

2. Make plans based on this Information

3. Measure effectiveness

4. Analyze results and change plans where necessary, i.e. be effective managers of the resources

 

D. Making Disciples of all nations; Matt. 28:19,20

 

1. Presence

2. Proclamation of the message

3. Persuasion of unbelievers

4. Process of cultivation of believers

5. Presentation of everyman - Col. 2:27f (see C. Kraft, "God's Model for Cross-cultural Communication - the Incarnation" Evangelical Missions Quarterly, vol. 9, summer, 1973, pp. 205-216; also his “Dynamic Equivalence Churches: An Athno-theological Approach to Indigeneity”, Missiology, vol. 1, Jan.1973, pp. 39-57; and "Christian Conversion as a Dynamic Process." International Christian Broadcasters Bulletin. 1974, pp. 8)

6. Power for Decision - Communion with God, Stewardship of every aspect of one's being. Reproduction - internally and externally. Foundation of spiritual growth is conceptual: knowledge of the Word of God.

7. Systems Analysis of Proclamation - Persuasion and Cultivation

III. Agents of Change: Critics or Catalysts (Luke 5:37-8; Matt. 15:2)

 

A. Church as Pilot Plant

B. Church as Body of Christ

C. Church as equipped by God to perform God’s purpose in nature - history - Ephesians 4; I Cor. 12; Rom. 12.

D. Church's ministry to Self - Gifts and Grace

E. Church's ministry to World

F. Church with new lifestyle

G. Church as instrument of Reproduction

 

(See Howard A. Snyder, "The Church As God's Agent of Evangelism" Let the Earth Hear

His Voice, pp. 327-60; and his The Problem of Wine Skins, IVP Press, 1977)

 

H. Four Currents of Renewal

 

1. Personal Evangelism Movement

2. Church Renewal Movement

3. Charismatic Movement

4. Church Growth Movement

 

I. Seven Signs of the Times; Comparison of First and Twentieth Centuries

 

1. Urban world - cities playing major role

2. Peace, Stability and political unity

3. One predominant culture and language

4. Travel, communication and cultural Interchange

5. Rapid social change - mankind's unity-arid destiny

6. Widespread religious and philosophical ferment

7. Moral degeneration

 

J. The Gospel to the Poor - Poor, fatherless, the widow, the oppressed - Isaiah 61:1,2; Luke 4:16ff; Ps. 72:12f; Isaiah 25:4; Deut. 15:17ff; Lev. 19:9ff; Zech 7:9-10; Amos 2:6-7.

 

K. Church and Parachurch Structures: Implications for Cross-Cultural Witness

 

1. Biblically based Church is always cross-culturally relevant

2. Small groups and mobile leadership are always cross-culturally viable

3. Para-Church structures are not always cross-culturally valid

4. Gifts of God in His Body are always cross-cultural in significance for evangelism

5. Church as body Is missionary structure

6. Para-Church structures are created to fulfill a specific-responsibility of Church

7. Para-Church structures are culturally determined and thus should be continuously and rigorously analyzed to determine their fidelity to Biblical understanding of the Church

 

 

IV. Agenda for Victory

 

A. Program-centered Problems

B. Personnel-centered Problems

C. Organization-centered Problems

D. Fellowship-centered Problems

E. Renewal-Growth-Centered Problems (See H. L. Green, Why Churches Die (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship Press. 1971), also Why Conservative Churches are Growing (NY: Harper and Row).

F. Under New Management: The Lordship of Christ

G. Setting Men Free: The Truth Shall Set You Free, Jn. 8;31f; Gal. 5:1

H. Man's needs and Some Men’s Success - Meeting Needs, egs. Living Bible; Bill Gothard Institute for Basic Youth Conflicts, and K. Miller's -Taste of New Wine and The Be-comers.

I. Surveying for Needs - Doctrinal Understanding; Understanding believers life-style; media - Where do we start?

 

Strategy: (1) analyze environment, (2) set goals, (3) prepare an adaptive strategy, and (4) measure effectiveness

 

V. Adaptive Strategy:

 

The fulfillment of the Great Commission in the 20th Century world requires careful Spirit-led analysis planning, strategy, and measurement. But often individual congregations are resistant to change. The great question before all Christians in the last quarter of the 20th century is, will the Church be characterized by Resistance or by Renewal? If the whole church is God's agent in recovering the fallen universe, then an agenda commensurate with the task is imperative. "Other organizations such as evangelistic movements, broadcasters, publishing agents, and mission movements are best considered 'para-church structures,' which exist alongside of and parallel to the community of God's people" (Engel and Norton, What's Gone Wrong with the Harvest (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975, p. 137).

 

There is indeed a "crisis in effectiveness." Surely the major key for the recovery of effectiveness lies in the discovery of the function and organization of the New Testament Church, i.e. the rediscovery of the gifts of every member of Christ’s Body and to place these at His disposal in our daily existence as His people. See David Mains, Full Circle (Waco. TX: Word Books, 1971);

Orlando E. Costas, The Church and Its Mission: A Shattering Critique From the Third World (Wheaton: Tyndale House. 1974), and E. Trueblood's older study - The Incidental Fellowship   (NY: Harper, 1967).

 

Needed: Systems Analysis of the Church

 

A. What is The Church? Eph. 1ff; Eph. 2:19-21

 

1. Organized under Christ - Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:17

2. Equipped by Christ to fulfill His purpose - Eph. 3

3. Ministry to the Body

4. Ministry to the World

5. New Life - New Life Style - Romans 6

6. Reproducing - individually and corporately

7. Church is a live, functioning organism - witnessing and worshipping -working toward Kingdom fulfillment          

 

B. Equipped by God's Grace, Truth, and Spirit - Romans 12, Eph. 4; I Cor. 12-14. Development of gifts virtually impossible under the conditions of Sunday morning spectator mentality.

 

1. Church organization is often an inhibiting factor

2. Often church organization precludes recognition, development, and exercise of gifts of most members of any given congregation. God cannot work through an organization chart, which is man-made "parachurch structure" anyway. Programmed for Impotence? Developing people rather than using people in the Church program is God's solution. Using people in the program of the Church is a vicious and non-biblical dead end.

3. Mutual Ministry of Encouragement - e. q.. Body Life Movement is bringing revolution (Ray C. Stedman, Body Life. Regal Press. 1972).

4. Radical obedience of Every member - I Jn. 2:3 - Body Life becomes virtually impossible in a congregation with thousands of members, so the objective should be to create new smaller groups as part of the over-alt larger organism.  It has been scientifically demonstrated that the Church Growth principle which entails the claim that the Christian faith penetrates a society only to the extent that number of existing Churches is multiplied. God's plan does not call for the establishment of S.M.O.T.S. groups (Secret Meeting of The Saints) (See N. Braun, Laity Mobilized: Reflections on Church Growth in Japan and other Lands (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971).

5. Renewal 1s Dead End: From Renewal to Renaissance - We've only just bequn;

6. Renaissance requires an Adaptation to a multiple-media Strategy

 

a. Let's not borrow someone else's program egs. - Lay Institute of Evangelism, Kennedy Plan, Body-Life Plan.

b. Witnessing

c. Oneness within The Body

d. Devotional life in the family

e. Bible reading

f. Meeting social needs in the community: Matt.25-, Acts 2:41-47, etc.

 

7. A Word of Warning - Do not equate the Church with Para-Church Structures! We must restore the cutting edge of the sword of the spirit by restoring the total Church to Its total mission.

 

Needed; An Agenda for the Agents of Change (see Shaw-Strauss, The Birth of a Revolution (Cincinnati: Standard, 1974).

 

James D. Strauss