World Conquerers?

This was going to be a “these two things” post but the subject matter didn’t seem to lend itself to it.

First, you’ve probably seen the news reports of the “oldest church” (please attached the word ‘building’ to the end of that) being discovered in Jordan. Archeology is interesting but the building isn’t what got my attention as much as an an inscription on the church built above the discovery. It describes the early Christians as “the 70 beloved by God and Divine.” It is believed that the site was built by Christians who fled Jerusalem during the first persecution there. No later than 70AD.

This got me thinking about the Church and how she grew. There were more than 70 Christians at that point but the Church was pretty small and geographically restricted. In Sunday school a few weeks ago, I put up a map that showed all the cities with churches in them by 100AD and it was pretty impressive. From a Western perspective, it was pretty much every spot in the known or ‘civilized’ world at the time. In a very short period, the church blossomed, even when she faced opposition and persecution. As I’ve been working on Colossians, I’m impressed with how much emphasis Paul puts on the gospel in the first chapter where he reports how it is bearing fruit not just amongst the Colossians but all around the world (1:6)  and how it has been proclaimed “in all creation under heaven” (1:23). The phenominal success of the church was the triumphing power of the gospel and it conquered the world. Amazing.

So when I saw how Josh Buice talked to some Westboro cult members, it jarred me.  Props to Josh for obeying the prompting of the Spirt to talk to them. He was attending the SBC meeting and the cult was protesting outside. This one statement really caught my attention:

These people are part of the world that we are called to evangelize (Matthew 28:18-20), and it would have been ultra hypocritical to sit in a Convention Center and talk about the Great Commission without fulfilling it less than 400 yards away.

I mean really! Awesome. I wish I would obey more often and recognize opportunities like that. What the cult was saying is what struck me. Their perverse logic has twisted even hyper-Calvinism into a distorted mess. When Josh asked how many people are saved through their false message, the cultist he was speaking with replied, “The Bible says that it will be like the days of Noah in the last days, and how many were saved through Noah’s preaching?” They are preaching a false message in which the expect very little fruit. Imagine if the church that met in that cave in Jordan preached the same message and got the same results! Colossians would be a very different letter.

To be fair, you don’t have to be a member of the Westboro cult or one like it to adopt a similar mindset. On my first short term mission trip I found that the same poison had crept into my thinking. My partner and I spent the day preaching to a crowded room of people in a bamboo building. At the end, we asked how many people wanted to become Christians. Nearly the entire room raised their hands and to my great, great shame the first thing that passed through my mind was “They don’t understand. They’re not getting it.” God was good to correct that faithless notion that evening and build my confidence in the gospel and destroy my confidence in my ability to preach it. He saved an amazing number of people in that one week period despite my faithlessness. I’m so glad that I didn’t develop a false theology to justify my error.

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