Monday, September 28, 2009

Power of the Gospel

Several leaders of a church were gathered in prayer. During this time, the Holy Spirit revealed that He wanted two of the leaders to become church planters. After a time of preparation, the two men left to plant churches. The visited eight large cities, and planted four churches.

Normally, God spread His presence with His people. If His people are not in a place, then His presence is not in a place. God’s intention has always been for His people to cover the earth. But, at this time, as today, there are some places where His seed is planted, and some not. The cities they visited had varying degrees of influence by God’s people – some a lot, some not at all.

Let’s get a clear picture of the environment. The cities were spiritual cesspools. Idolatry, superstition and immorality were rampant. There were no Bibles in the heart language of the people. And if there were, there was only 5-10% literacy.

The cities were used to make commercials for relief organizations like Compassion. Families made their living sifting through the dump. There were some land owners, some soldiers, some subsistence farmers, some craftsmen, and possibly half the population were slaves. Poverty was overwhelming. Cities were dirty, smelly and unsafe. There was disease and malnutrition. There was a 25% infant mortality rate. 50% did not reach the age of five. 30% did not reach the age of eighteen. Life expectancy for men was 45. Life expectancy for women was 38.

These cities were “unplowed fields”, with lots of birds, rocks and thorns. The ground was hard. It was next impossible for any “desirable plant” to take root.

Moreover, there were no planes, trains or automobiles. There were three modes of locomotive power: wind, animal and feet. The journey was around 1200 miles, taking about two years. Average travel was around twenty miles a day. 1200 miles at twenty miles means 60 days of traveling. (That is, if everything went well – no sicknesses, no shipwrecks, no robberies, inclement weather, etc.)

Let us assume they attempted to plant a church in every city they visited. How do they do that? There is no TV, no internet, no radio, no newspapers or printing presses. There were no big evangelistic rallies. There were no call-forwards.

(“Call forwards” were not invented until the 1830’s or 1840’s. So, not only were they not part of these church planter’s arsenal, but the world had experienced several large, high-impact revivals with it.)

They sought out those who they believed would be most open. So, they went to the synagogues, arguing from scripture that Jesus was the Messiah. From there, they approached God-fearers wherever there were groups of people: markets, schools and places of business.
So, if they took:
• Two months to travel
• Fours to reach out to four unresponsive cities
• And eighteen months to plant four churches.

That’s an average of four and a half months for each church plant. And in most of the churches that were planted, they were beaten and thrown out of the city. And they left a group of baby Christian to fend for themselves for 1-2 years.

Understand –
• On barren soil,
• In destitute physical circumstances,
• Amid opposition and persecution,
• Amid scores of deceiving voices,
• Without leadership,
• Without resources,
• And with minimal grounding.

(Which sounds like a recipe for disaster) These baby churches survived, thrived and grew.

They presented the gospel and painted a picture of Jesus in a way that all those factors had no power against the gospel and the Spirit behind it. The testimony is that the gospel grew and increased. Transformation was evident everywhere it went.

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