This has been an extended series and we are grateful to all the OPC Pastors who participated in the interview. They provided great insights and examples. But we know that your lives are saturated with information–even great information. So, our final two posts will be some of the great quotes from the series. If you have read along with the series, these will remind you and stir your hearts and minds. If you just haven’t been able to keep up and read, this will give you a taste. These two final posts would make for good reading in a small group or outreach committee to then discuss.
The second half of the best quotes:
Jeff De Boer
“Finally, the failure to reach others with the gospel is one of the reasons that people leave conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches. A number of years ago I read Clowney’s “The Church.” In that book he notes that a church that says it is about the gospel but does little to gather those who do not know the gospel will inevitably begin to lose its own young people. These young people will come to believe that the inactivity of the church is a clearer indication of the church’s real convictions than the talking and teaching about the importance of the gospel.”
“For a time I participated in some Acts 29 church planting meetings. At one of those meetings a church planter mentioned something that seemed rather striking at the time but upon reflection is a perfect consequence of good biblical theology. This church planter suggested that rather than trying to create all kinds of new opportunities to evangelize, we simply consider the way in which God has uniquely created each of us with our strengths and weakness, likes and dislikes, and we use those creational realities in seeking those who do not know Christ. For me that might mean joining a group to ride motorcycles or bicycles. For others it means gaming groups, biking and running clubs, or something totally different. Live life with other people rather than seeking to normalize the security of isolation.”
“If we want to reach the lost more effectively, one thing we can do better is to work on being more outward focused and less inward-focused. For example, sometimes a local church family shares similar views on politics, methods of schooling their children, and they together hold tightly to various tertiary and non-essential aspects of the Christian tradition or Reformed practices. In addition, the preaching and teaching is often be full of terminology that people outside the church family have a difficult time understanding. These and other similar factors often result in a church becoming inward focused rather than outward focused.
When a church becomes“tribal” like this it hinders outreach in two main ways: 1) the above similar non-essential views often become part of outreach either inadvertently or purposely. This prevents outsiders who have different views from coming in. 2) Tribalism also hinders outreach because when or if an outsider does come in, there is pressure for him or her to become part of the tribe – including the adoption of the above similar views or customs.
I believe that by becoming less tribal we can better reach the lost. Yes, our church families should be close-knit. And yes, sometimes Christians hold tightly to various non-essential aspects of the faith. But these things need not hinder our outreach. First, we should be close-knit with a view to opening our doors and arms to people who are not like us. Christian love is an outward and open thing – it looks for people we can help and it is open to helping anyone in need. And if the Lord is pleased to bring the lost to himself through the ministry of our local church, we welcome them with love even if they have different views, customs, and a different ethnic background than us. People don’t need to become like us in every way. Second, another way to avoid tribalism is to preach and teach with the aim that average people in our context will be able to understand the message. While we need to use biblical terms, of course, we should be careful to explain them in a way that average people can understand.”
“I think a strength of the OPC is the desire to be faithful to the gospel and the whole counsel of God; to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) . We love our Presbyterian and Reformed heritage as it pertains to our doctrine, life, and practice. I believe we can be more effective in reaching the lost when we leverage that faithfulness in doctrine with a flexibility in practice. This could mean taking risks and doing what has not been normally done in terms of evangelism and congregational life. It could be as simple as fostering a more welcoming environment toward visitors and people who have never stepped foot in a Christian church or have never opened or owned a Bible. It could mean giving short explanations of the elements of the service and its role in worship and relevance to the gospel. It could also mean preaching the gospel with both believer and unbeliever in mind. But most importantly, it means allowing OPC churches and mission works to have a missionary flexibility in practice to reach unbelievers in their communities; to do what OPC evangelists and missionaries have always done overseas and try them here, in our home mission fields. This is why I believe some of the most fruitful home missionaries, at least, here in Southern California, were former foreign missionaries like Bruce Hunt and David Crum.”
“We need to become better at welcoming and communicating with the lost when they attend worship. Many of our sermons are filled with reformed lingo and are incomprehensible to non-Christians. When a non-Christian enters our churches, do we have a welcome packet to help them comprehend what is going on? Do we have a mechanism in place for inviting them to stay for lunch or for following up with them? Do we do everything in our power to make them feel welcome and to communicate that we want to help them understand what’s going on?”
“John Leonard (one of my profs from Westminster days and the author of Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day emphasizes the importance of simply inviting people to what your church is already doing. You’re having a church picnic? Great, invite your non-Christian neighbors. You’re having a youth volleyball night? Great, have them invite their non-Christian friends. Invite people to worship, to Bible study, to just about anything in the life of the church. Special evangelism events are good and have their place. But think of everything your church does as an opportunity to share Christ. Have an open-hearted, inclusive spirit to the life of your church.”
“The sovereignty of God in all things, including evangelism’s “results”, is a great encouragement. Just live life and in all you do seek to glorify God and reflect the character of Jesus Christ and you will shine in the darkness. When people ask, and if you’re living in community with non believers, they will ask, let them know the Christ whom you love. My favorite Biblical model of evangelism is the Samaritan woman at the well – she had no period of training and her basic theological struggle was probably heresy (worship on Mount Zion or Mount Gerazim), but she could easily and joyfully say “come and see this man!” Anyone can invite someone to church to come and hear Jesus, and my job as a preacher is to preach Christ Jesus clearly and winsomely from every text in which he is central (and every text points to Him).”
“One of the most important emphases of a healthy and growing church is “the Gospel plus Nothing” ministry. Setting aside, as much as possible, the other areas of Christian practice that brothers and sisters may differ on creates a congregation who is defined and the Word, the Gospel, and nothing else. This in no way means our Reformed Distinctives are played down – the Doctrines of Grace are as clearly held forth as I am able, and Confessionalism and Presbyterianism is clear in our teaching and practice. Letting God bring people along, and trying to wisely encourage people along leads to some leaving after a while and some staying and becoming part of the congregation. Whatever God chooses to do, our job is simple.”