Thursday, January 23, 2014

Avoiding Several Sovereign Grace Pitfalls

 Among those Christians affirming the sovereign grace of God in salvation, there are several in-house discussions and friendly disagreements about topics such as the Sabbath/Lord’s Day and the nature of the New Covenant. There is a variety of opinions about elders, Bible versions, and worship styles. Charity and brotherly love should be exercised regarding secondary issues, even as we encourage deeper dialogue.

The reason for my writing, however, concerns several unhealthy pitfalls centering on the central doctrines of regeneration, justification and faith. In an effort to stress sovereign grace and the truth of election, a minority have fallen into some unbiblical beliefs concerning these core doctrines.

Most of these soteriological errors bear the marks of Hyper-Calvinism. Sadly, the majority of hyper-Calvinists have not historically been Confessional Presbyterians or the Reformed, but have largely been Baptists. Hardshellism is mostly a Baptist error. Therefore, as a Calvinistic Baptist missionary, I want to warn you of several of these pitfalls below.

Eternal justification:   As people discover that God foreordains all things whatsoever that comes to pass, many come to marvel that we, as Children of God, are predestined from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4,5). Some who are zealous to stress God’s eternal purposes, however, forget that God’s decreed things come to fruition in time. Enamored with the work of God from all eternity some believe erroneously in “eternal justification” – asserting that God not only decrees to justify His Elect from all eternity but also actually does so, justifying the Elect before time began.

The truth, however, is this: God has decreed to justify His Elect from all eternity, and yet He does so in time. The Elect, too, were once, “children of wrath even as others” (Ephesians 2:1-3). God’s children “were once darkness, but now are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8, c.f., I Peter 2:9-10). God quickened us at a point in time and declared us “not guilty” at that point, imputing the righteousness of Christ to us whereas before we were unsaved, unjustified, and guilty before a Righteous God.

This belief in Eternal Justification, or Justification from Eternity, is a dangerous soteriological error into which some Calvinistic Baptists have fallen. In a zeal to stress God’s works from eternity, some ignore God’s works in time. God’s decrees are sure and are guaranteed to come to pass. However, a decreed thing of God does not actually come to pass in time until its own specific pre-ordained temporal moment arrives.

Again, God has decreed to justify His Elect from all eternity, and yet He actually does so at a moment in time. We are predestined eternally in order to be justified and saved in time. Beware of this first pitfall.

The denial of duty-faith: Another common error is misunderstanding the role of human response to the Gospel. Many rightly affirm that we can do nothing pleasing to God in the flesh. However, though natural ability lacks, sinful man still stands obliged to obey the Gospel and believe savingly in Jesus Christ. God everywhere in Scripture commands what man cannot supply. We can only pray as Augustine did, “Demand what You will, O Lord, and give what You demand.”

Some Calvinistic Baptists deny this truth. Some have accused me of holding to “Duty-Faith” and others have called me a “Fullerite” and a “hypo-Calvinist” for vigorously stressing that God commands men everywhere to turn away from their evil ways and embrace the Gospel  (Acts 17:30). We cannot peer into the eternal counsels of God and see clearly, but we can vigorously attempt all which God clearly and explicitly commands in His Word, praying all the while for God’s enabling power in the performance of these same commands.

The deniers of duty-faith reason thusly: How can God command faith if natural man is unable to provide it? If Faith is a gift, how can it also be a duty? If faith is a duty, then how is faith not a condition placed upon free grace?

Immediate regeneration:  Closely related to the denial of “duty-faith,” many Calvinistic Baptists have fallen into the severe error of “immediate regeneration” whereby God saves men without any means, to include the instrumentality of the Word of God and the instrumentality of faith.

The instrumentality of the Word of God:
The truth is that God ordains that the Elect should ordinarily be saved through faith, upon the hearing of the Gospel. Infants and the mentally infirm constitute extraordinary cases, yet ordinarily the witness of Scripture states the following:
  •   “Ye are already clean because of [or through] the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3).
  •  “Of His own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures.”(James 1:18).
  •  "...knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance." (1 Thess 1:4, 5).

Many who deny the instrumentality of the Word are often admirers of John Gill, and yet not even Gill supports their claims of “immediate regeneration.” Gill affirms, on page 534 of his Body of Divinity, the instrumentality of the Word:

"Though after all it seems plain, that the ministry of the word is the vehicle in which the Spirit of God conveys himself and his grace into the hearts of men; which is done when the word comes not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost; and works effectually, and is the power of God unto salvation; then faith comes by hearing, and ministers are instruments by whom, at least, men are encouraged to believe: 'received ye the Spirit', says the apostle, 'by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith': Ga 3:2 that is, by the preaching of the law, or by the preaching of the gospel? by the latter, no doubt."

The same God who has ordained the ends of all things, has also ordained the means. God works through His Word. Chapter 14 of the Westminster Confession, as well as the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, states that saving faith “is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word” and the Second Helvetic Confession quoting Romans 10:17 on this point asserts, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (16:2).
The instrumentality of Faith
Chapter 14, “Of Saving Faith”, in both the Westminster Confession of Faith as well as the 1689 Confession of Faith, summarizes the role of faith as an instrument through which God saves the Elect: "The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word..."

The Belgic Confession (Article 2) explains further:
“Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith without works. However, to speak more clearly, we do not mean that faith itself justifies us, for it is only an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness. But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all His merits, and so many holy works which He hath done for us and in our stead, is our Righteousness. And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with Him in all His benefits…”  
Below is an explanation concerning the instrumentality of faith that I sent to one Primitive Baptist man who vigorously denied this truth, calling it a form of “works-righteousness.” Examine my explanation yourself to see if it accords with Scripture:
“The Elect are justified by or through faith (Rom. 1:17; 3:25, 28, 30; 5:1; Eph. 2:8; Gal. 2:16; 3:11, 24; Phil 3:9).  
Faith is not the reason or ultimate grounds for the Elect’s justification. We are not saved because of our faith or on the grounds of our faith, as if we can produce a certain sufficient measure of this substance from within ourselves which God would then honor and allow us into heaven.  This would be to make faith into a meritorious act and our work of producing enough faith of sufficient quality to be a work of righteousness, able to commend us before God. This would be yet another form of works-righteousness. 
This may be part of your zeal in denying “duty-faith” – your legitimate desire to guard against any form of “works-righteousness.”
However, though we are not saved because of our faith, faith is the instrument through which God’s Elect are united to Christ. The expressions are thus—dia pisteos, ek pisteos, and pistei, which can all be translated as “by means of” or “through” faith. 
Faith is the instrument which lays hold of Jesus. God, through free grace, enables a person to believe. It is a gift of grace, yet God does not believe for the man; the man must believe. 
Therefore, being an instrument and channel, faith does not come at some later time after a person is united to Christ, but a person is united to Christ by faith itself. Therefore, though it is proper to speak of a logical priority of regeneration over faith/conversion, God monergistically taking initiative to move the man, let us not mistake a logical priority with a chronological one; there is no perceptible chronological gap in time, nor are there any who are regenerate but who have yet to exercise saving faith. Everywhere we see faith we will see the new birth, and where we see the new birth we will see faith. 
Again, Ek pisteos (“by” or “from” or “out of” faith) describes faith as that which logically precedes a person’s justification. Faith is the gift of God which is given to us so that we may cling to Christ, though it is never the efficient or ultimate cause of justification, the dative use of the noun pistis being used in an instrumental sense (see also Rom. 3:28).”
Likewise, not only faith but repentance as well, is an essential grace-gift that the Elect must possess for salvation. Though faith and repentance are not produced within ourselves by our own merits, we still must possess these gifts of grace, wrought by the work of Christ for His Elect on the Cross, for us to see heaven. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith guards us from error in regard to the necessity of repentance:

"Although repentance be not to be rested in as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God's free grace in Christ; yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.”  (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 15:1-3).

      Thus, we see that an “instrument” is not the effective cause of a thing, and that God unites us to Christ by the instrumentality of faith upon the hearing of the Word. To believe these things is not “works-righteousness” but are truths defended both biblically and historically.

Placing regeneration chronologically prior to faith:  Placing regeneration at some point in chronological time prior to faith is the 3rd sovereign grace soteriological pitfall.

Perhaps this error is an understandable reaction to the prevalent error in many churches today. Many falsely believe that mankind summons up some measure of man-produced faith, which then commends them to God in such a way that God then grants them the new birth. Thus, our faith produced from within causes God to regenerate us in a synergistic cooperation. Thus, man’s initiative is critical in salvation.

This common view is contrary to Scripture, which speak of a divine monergism, whereby God is the one who initiates the work as well as completes it (Philippians 1:6). Thus, the new birth, regeneration, is the cause and not the effect of our faith. Thus, many sovereign grace theologians rightly defend the logical priority of regeneration over faith.

However, some have mistaken a logical priority with a chronological one. Instead of seeing regeneration/conversion as a “package deal” even as God takes the initiative, some have defended a scheme of salvation whereby regeneration occurs chronologically first and then faith comes later (in time). 

The truth is this: There are no regenerated people walking around that lack faith. We should not expect to encounter faithless persons who nonetheless possess regenerate souls.  God moves the wheel, yet all the spokes of the wheel turn at once. A logical priority does not necessitate a gap in chronological time. Some Primitive Baptists speak of regenerate people walking around that just need to know that they are already regenerate. However, if you are saved, you surely know it – now – through faith in Christ.


            I love the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. To know that all things work for God’s glory and His People’s good is a great comfort during times of trial. The knowledge that God has a People that He will unfailingly call to salvation motivates my missionary activities. God’s eternal decrees and His works from eternity cause us to marvel, as does God’s free grace in salvation apart from human contribution. However, in our zeal to defend these great doctrines, let us also remember the instrumentalities that God ordains and that God’s eternal decrees are decreed to unfold in time. Let us beware of these pitfalls above.

Friday, December 13, 2013


                                          By Teresa Johnson

The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” –William Ross Wallace

As Trevor and I researched going into missions, I still remember one well-meaning representative from an evangelical missions agency asking me this awkward question: “Okay, now what will be your ministry on the field?”

"Um…my family?"

The lady was not satisfied, but persisted, "I mean what else, like… what ministry [enunciating that word]...will you be doing?"   

What?  I was at a loss as to what to tell her. We wanted to safe-guard my future priorities at home, having no children at that point, but planning big!  We asked ourselves, would our family choices be embraced by this missionary organization?

Sometimes mothers feel guilty for not doing more. But, during those “Little Years” of one’s children, your family needs you the most.  There’s no need for remorse when prioritizing family.  

Motherhood doesn’t limit one on the mission field – but shows the Gospel in action.  

Ministry is not merely what we do; ministry flows out of being. What we do out of the home flows naturally from what is done in the home.  Home-life and ministry life are interconnected.

Many folks who will not read Scripture will ‘read’ Christians every day.  Let them read the whole weighty tome of an entire Christian family!

To plant the church deeply in the world, plant it first deeply in the home.  Marriage and family are tools of sanctification. We daily learn to die to self and live for others.  Christ humbled himself. Likewise, many mothers remain unknown to the world and yet have blessed the world more than most of the famous have ever done.
Modeling a Christian home is ministry.  

The family is in crisis in Papua. The faith is not being passed on.  Even families of church leaders suffer much sinful dysfunction.  Modeling a Christian family, showing how the Gospel impacts motherhood , marriage, and child-rearing, is vital.  Mirror the Gospel.   This is ministry!

Often, Papuans comment on our home-life (I’m glad somebody thinks our family is orderly . . . it seems so chaotic at times).  

One evangelist commented to Trevor, 

We know you must really know God because we see your family and your children . . . they are so smart and obedient . . . and we would like to know more as well so that we can also teach our children.”  Another grieved, “We teach our children to hunt from a young age, because we ourselves know how to hunt. We teach our children to make boats from the time they are small, because we know about these things. But our children are not learning the Gospel from us – maybe this means that we do not know it ourselves. We want to know it more.” 

What is my normal day like? Not entirely unlike the normal day of other moms. We are normal people serving an extraordinary God.   

I rise early like many parents. I homeschool - but so do many non-missionary parents.  Around 9 am, school begins.  I find myself quite busy with school, making lunch, providing food for Trevor’s language helpers, more schooling, preparing dinner, cleaning and keeping home. 

Jungle living does bring its differences, however.  People stare through our windows much of the day. I feed many guests, even at odd hours when evangelists or tribal peoples need to urgently speak with Trevor, often from afar.  We treat the occasional case of malaria or dengue in our family or in the village.  I wash laundry in the river, chase the occasional rat, stomp the more than occasional cockroach. Yes, it can be different.  But God’s grace is sufficient for raising three small children - even in remote jungle.

Are my children deprived?  

Not at all!  Their experiences are richer.  

They have three rivers to choose from; their usual dilemma is, “Where do I swim now?”  They play soccer, climb trees, hunt bugs (collecting more than I would like to see). They shoot bows and arrows, attend school at home, get dirty and then visit the river again (wash, rinse, and repeat). They fall into bed at night, usually exhausted from having fun.  

Rather than entitlement and ingratitude, a sense of thankfulness and an awareness of blessing develops. They see how the less fortunate live. They help me treat the sick who come to our porch. They see both the good and evil of multiple cultures and can weigh and question these worldviews. There is added risk, yes, but all lives are fragile, all plans uncertain, and no place in this fallen world is truly safe.

My hope for this article: Mothers, feel free to be who God made you!   A stay-at-home mom, supporting her busy husband and raising her family to the glory of God is a great calling!

Trevor and Teresa serve in Papua among the Korowai people.  Their three children are Noah, age 8; Alethea, age 5; and Perpetua, 15 months.  Check out their blog at:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Local churches - get active in missions!


 A Solid Port and a Steady Wind to Speed Seaworthy Vessels to the World. 


A missionary can be likened to a sailing vessel, the missionary’s journey to a great sea voyage. The sweat of many brows and many calloused hands make the vessel seaworthy. Then, the sails are hoisted, farewells are given, and the vessel debarks, often crossing vast spaces and reaching lands far different from home. Sails which are full and rounded with the wind drive the ship onward towards its destination.

The importance of the local church in missions:

Without a solid launching port, the missionary vessel often founders or is lost at sea. One’s local sending church is such a port, a harbor from which to launch the missionary vessel in zealous obedience to the biblical mandate. Much peril was faced by trading companies reaching precious spices in days of old; how much greater is our charter, how much more regal our sending King, and how much more vital the goal of our journey.

While plenty of legitimate helps exist to aid us, the task is still ours! 

Local churches may rightly delegate authority, utilize outside agencies, or band together to help her complete her task. However, such delegation is not abdication and local churches, especially sending churches, must stay involved.

While we remain thankful for seminaries, tract and bible societies, and missionary organizations, these are mere servants who walk beside local churches, not substitutes who take the lead. These helps are complementary in nature and are not competitors, having the common goal of seeing Christ glorified and His Church multiplied.

Kennedy Space Center takes successful space launches seriously. Their Launch Complex 39, just north of Cape Canaveral, is a mammoth construction. To get a rocket into space, the average depth of the concrete on just the pathway heading to the launch pad is seven feet deep. Local churches must be similar to this launching pad if we are to launch the Gospel to the world, with deep foundations grounded firmly in the truth.

Highlights from Acts 13:

The book of Acts illustrates deep local church involvement in evangelizing the world:

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

First, a church’s missionary vigor is usually derived from the leadership: Churches that are missionary-minded are usually led by missionary-minded leaders who set the tone. In Acts 13 we witness five key spiritual leaders seeking the Lord’s will in unity. Church leaders are divinely appointed shepherds who must cast the vision, spread the passion, and create a climate for missionary-sending.

Those sent were already recognized leaders in the church, actively exercising their gifts: In the midst of local service these first missionaries were called out for global work. These men were already serving when the Lord called them into greater acts of service. The reward of Christian service is often opportunity for greater acts of service (Luke 19:11-27), thus we pray not for lighter tasks but for the Lord to give us stronger shoulders to carry even more.
Acts 11:25-26:
Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people…

These men were not inert at home while hoping to suddenly become active overseas. Crossing oceans does not make someone more effective in evangelism; it makes them far less effective due to the stresses and barriers involved.

The local church is a hot-house and nursery for the task of planting in the rest of the world: Small tender plants are often raised in a greenhouse, and small trees are often matured first in a nursery. There, tender shoots are strengthened and readied for the world. The church functions in just such a way. Believers are matured and readied for service out in the world. Greenhouse buds are not prepped merely for more long-term residence living in the greenhouse; likewise, our goal in church attendance is not merely to attend more church, but to become well-nourished and prepared as one of God’s roses to make the world more beautiful and sweet. Whether standing tall or crushed underfoot we are to be a sweet savor to the world.

These in Acts 13 were intentionally fasting, praying, and seeking the Lord’s will: We need intentionality. We should be begging God (Luke 10:2) to give us missionaries to send, all the while identifying those persons of high potential, praying with them about possibly going, training and nurturing their gifts, and then sending and supporting them!

Regarding new missionaries perhaps we have not because we ask not. The Lord himself commands us to pray the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers, and it appears that God will be pleased to answer prayers that are commanded such as this – if His People actually do pray for such things. Our Father does, indeed, seem pleased to answer the prayers of his people (Matthew 7:7-11;18:19; 21:22; Luke 11:9; John 14:13; 15:7,16; 16:23-24; Philippians 4:6; Philippians 4:19; James 1:5; 4:2;1 John 3:22;5:14), how much more ready will He be to answer prayers resulting from an explicit request of His Son.

I am greatly encouraged by Brother Larry Dean’s recent calls for intentional prayer for spiritual awakening, and I know that such prayer precedes true awakening. May the Lord be pleased once more to have mercy on our land and so fill our spiritual wells such that we may not only deeply drink but still have enough to carry to other dry lands!

These did not leave the task to others - they were themselves deeply involved: Strive to be as involved as possible in missions!

If you can support missionaries by prayer, don’t be content to merely read missionary newsletters. If you can support missionaries financially, don’t be content merely to support missionaries by prayer. If you can support missionaries sent out by your own church, don’t be content merely to support those sent out by other churches. If you yourself can go out, don‘t be content merely to support others whom your church sends. Be as involved as possible! As the Church charges the battlements of the enemy, press as far forward into the front lines as possible!

In Acts 13, there were five prophets and teachers named; two of these five were sent. Also, in Matthew 9, those who were told to pray for laborers were themselves sent out in the very next chapter. Having a heart ready to pray for more laborers often leads to a heart ready to go labor.

Released for service - not bound by the cords of control: In Acts 13 the Holy Spirit set apart these men and the local church recognized this call and released them for service. The Holy Spirit commanded the church to separate (aphorisate, to severe, to place apart) Paul and Barnabas to the work that the Spirit had called them (proskeklemai, a call to a special task) and the church released these from their present church obligations and sent them off or sent them away. The term used here is apoluo, used elsewhere to denote the pardon of prisoners and even divorce, Matthew 27:15; Acts 3:13; Matthew 1:9; Luke 16:18.

Thus, we see that a call to missions is a divine call (they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed…), a call which the Church is duty-bound to recognize, and a call which may cause separation and sending away (after all, if we are commanded to reach all nations, we must first go to all nations).

Let us train well, but let us also “release well.” One church I know never released a qualified young man who longed to go into missions, because, “We need him here at home still.” And I suspect they always will.

We must train our missionaries adequately. We must put pre-field training requirements into place to prevent premature sending. We must maintain close fellowship such that we weep at the thought of losing them. Yet, we must be ready to release.

They were commissioned:  Next, we see a commissioning service in Acts 13, a laying on of hands. This wasn’t ordination, but a formal recognition and separation for the task.

The Apostle Paul was already a missionary, but now the Antioch church gives him formal recognition and authority unto this new task. Acts 13 wasn‘t Paul‘s ordination service, but a formal declaration that he was to be sent forth with a mission. Such an act confirms the local church‘s commendation of the missionary. It is their seal of approval, a transfer of authority, granting the missionary the right to act in the name of the church for the sake of the Glory of Jesus. When a church lays on hands this is a testimony that they recognize the fittedness and the preparedness of the missionary to serve in that cross-cultural capacity for which they were commissioned.

It is an affirmation of suitability and, therefore, not a light or casual event. As eager as local churches are to send one of their own to the field, such a serious step should give pause to churches lest they risk turning their ugly ducklings into swans and confirm one who should not be sent. Many commissioning services include a charge both to the missionary and also to the sending church body, reminding them of their mutual obligations.

Such a laying on of hands is an evidence that the missionary is not merely one who runs forward on his own, but is one who is sent.  He is not laying hands on himself, but the larger body of Christ is testifying that the missionary is truly, indeed, a “sent-out one.”

They were sent out with a purpose:  At the end of Acts chapter 14 those sent out returned to Antioch, “for the work that they fulfilled.” There was a designated work to be done and they fulfilled it. Mission accomplished. They reunited and celebrated together.

Support personnel are needed: John also went to minister to them, possibly as an assistant, “and they had also John to their minister.” Paul, elsewhere, lists many fellow-workers in his epistles, both male and female. We are to conclude that not all of these were elder-qualified preachers, nor did they all exercise ecclesiastical control nor administer the Gospel ordinances of baptism and the Lord‘s supper. Yet these are said to share the work with Paul, indicating that we may freely send many to the field. A person contemplating missions does not need to be an ordained theologian, but must, indeed, be and think theologically correct. So, if you want to come and push the Gospel plow, there are ample opportunities for a multitude of persons with a variety of gifts to offer.


The Pauline missionary band was field-led, they didn’t clear every decision through Antioch: In the chapters following Acts 13, we see the manner in which Paul labored once he was on the field. Paul and his band made field-based semi-autonomous decisions. In other words, Paul was not micro-managed by a missionary council sitting 1,000 miles away. Paul even recruited others without first asking Antioch for permission regarding every Timothy and Titus raised up. Paul appears to have made determinations of location, strategy and partners while on the field.

On several occasions I (Trevor) have needed advice regarding issues encountered on the field, and I have called Bible Baptist for help. What impressed me was the manner of Brother Tom Henry, always thoughtful in his responses and yet frequently reminding me, “We sent you out, we trust you. You know the situation on the ground.” He was always non-intrusive in his guidance and non-oppressive in his oversight, yet always deeply involved and helpful, elucidating practical biblical principles applicable to every situation.  Oversight and accountability are to be maintained, yet many churches with good intentions can become overbearing; but if you don’t trust someone enough for them to make field decisions without your constant supervision, don’t send them out.

Paul went back to his home church and stayed there for a while:  In Acts 14:26-28 we read the following;

…And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples.

Paul returned home to Antioch and resumed a close relationship with his home church, cheering their hearts and encouraging them by reports of the work. His ministry did not cease once he arrived back home. The missionary ought not to seek merely to bless his target people “over there.” He should seek to bless the “home folks” as well.

Some literature speaks of Paul returning to Antioch in order to “report back” to his authority, but I think this misses the point. Paul wasn’t merely dutifully reporting to his boss; instead, he was celebrating with family! He rejoiced with the church, stayed with them for quite some time, resumed his old teaching and leadership duties, and even engaged in deep theological controversy with the Judaizers in the very next chapter. Paul wanted to celebrate with his Antiochan family because the missionary task is not a “one man show.” This was their mutual work.

Likewise, we (Trevor and Paul) are deeply aware that missions is not about the Johnsons and the Snider’s, but about all of us. Together, we actively obey the command to “make disciples” by you saying to us, “We want you to go, because we want them to be saved.” Missions is a state of total war; not all go far away to fight, but all labor on behalf of the war effort.

Let Paul’s attitude in Romans 10:1 be ours, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Furthermore, let Paul’s reminder several verses later stir us to new action, “…And how can they preach, except they be sent.” What a pleasure when beautiful feet which bring glad tidings of good things have their origin in your local churches and are shod by the loving care of your own people!

Finally, they recognized that success was due to God’s power:

“…They rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” 

Paul was a very active worker, and yet Acts 14 speaks of all that God was doing. The entire world is the stage, yet God is the main actor in missions; we merely fill bit parts (and we usually stutter our lines). God is the bringer of results. God plants the Church.

William Carey and co-workers recognized this truth in their Serampore Covenant:
“We are firmly persuaded that Paul might plant and Apollos water, in vain, in any part of the world, did not God give the increase. We are sure that only those ordained to eternal life will believe, and that God alone can add to the church such as shall be saved. Nevertheless we cannot but observe with admiration that Paul, the great champion for the glorious doctrine of free and sovereign grace, was the most conspicuous for his personal zeal in the word of persuading men to be reconciled to God. In this respect he is a noble example for our imitation. Our Lord intimated to those of His apostles who were fishermen, that he would make them fishers of men, intimating that in all weathers, and amidst every disappointment they were to aim at drawing men to the shores of eternal life. Solomon says: “He that winneth souls is wise,” implying, no doubt, that the work of gaining over men to the side of God, was to be done by winning methods, and that it required the greatest wisdom to do it with success.” 

Bible Baptist Church of Maplewood, Missouri and their example:

Bible Baptist Church launched me well and I (Trevor) would like to thank them publicly here.

First, Bible Baptist Church (hereafter called BBC) was instrumental in identifying any missionary potential that I possessed. Brother Moore gifted me with the missionary book, Through Gates of Splendour upon college graduation. The spark of missionary desire was there, and he fanned the flame. He did not merely wait for me to take initiative, for I didn’t even know where to begin.

Second, BBC groomed me and gave me opportunities to serve. Pastor Moore, again taking the initiative, requested that I bring a devotion to the youth shortly after my graduation. It was just a small informal meeting, but it was a start. Then on Wednesday nights and then later on Sunday nights I began to periodically preach. I suppose I was started out on Wednesday nights where I could do the least damage. My gifts were tested and developed locally and Pastor Moore gave much helpful advice and even critique in an encouraging way without crushing my spirits.

Third, BBC actively participated in my missions planning. BBC even hosted a representative from World Team who flew out from Pennsylvania to attend our services and talk to our leadership afterwards.

Fourth, BBC endorsed me and gave me their seal of approval at the appropriate time. Pastors Moore and Henry wrote letters and called other churches on my behalf. My ordination, my missionary commissioning service, and the formal start of my missionary support raising occurred simultaneously. Several churches supported me “right out of the chute” even before visiting them, giving me confidence and a certain “momentum” towards the field.

Fifth, BBC continued to manage communications and to campaign on my behalf even after I was overseas. I have received new support from strangers because Brother Tom Henry talked to them; “Yes, your church told me all about you and they think a lot of your work. Therefore, we now support you.”

Sixth, BBC has cleared up misunderstandings on my behalf, acting as my advocate. When I carelessly mentioned “women evangelists” in one prayer letter, Bible Baptist clarified that I was not, in fact, talking about women pastors, but rather referring to female Christians evangelizing women and children in segregated Muslim contexts. Bible Baptist acted as my champion and defender of my cause, even defending me from myself and from my own careless phraseology.

Seventh, BBC takes care of a lot of logistics. They are like mission control. They have duplicated or mailed thousands of letters, special articles, and videos of my ministry. The church (especially Jeannie Henry) has managed the Quilt Project, selling Indonesian-made quilts to support indigenous believers, in such a smooth, low-maintenance manner that I often forget about it totally.

Eighth, BBC offers emotional support. They have always been there to take our calls, to follow up, even to find and send small comfort items that we cannot find here.

Rosemont Baptist’s intentional spiritual development for the Great Commission:

Below is Paul Snider’s testimony of how their home church at that time, Rosemont Baptist Church of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, helped prepare them to launch.

Through God’s sovereign design, Trish and I (Paul) received a call after our conversion from Pastor Mark Reed to come and worship with them. Little did I know God’s blessings in store for us through this local body. Pastor Reed was intentional in discipleship right from the start. He invested his time to see me grow in my faith and modeled selfless and intentional discipleship for me to see.

This was not an overnight process, but a deep, committed effort of mentoring, grooming, and teaching. At every meeting Pastor Mark encouraged me in evangelism, bible study, and teaching, even helping me in my prayer life and as a husband and father. Growing through discipleship is never over, but “teaching others to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2), making disciples who can then make disciples, is achievable in even small local assemblies. When this happens, new generations of zealous and engaged disciples will take up the Cross and follow Christ to the nations.

As if it were yesterday, I still vividly remember Pastor Reed approaching and asking me to preach at the Saturday night nursing home service. Without delay I enthusiastically agreed, although I could feel my stomach churn with nervousness. This first Saturday message was 15 minutes. Pastor Reed was always there to give feedback and instruction, mentoring me both in preparation and delivery. This process was continual. Seeing my love for teaching, he continued sharpening my tools by having me lead the teenage Sunday school class and speaking at the church services occasionally. He was always intentional, purposely fanning the flames of my growing desire for greater future ministry where my gifts could be used for the glory of God.

Throughout my time at Rosemont Baptist I never lacked accountability, intentional discipleship, nor encouragement. Where would I be if God had not placed such a church with such a shepherd in my path! I consider Rosemont Baptist Church our second sending church. There we were groomed from young believers to missionaries ready for launch. Now as we prepare to leave, our sending church Bethany Bible Church, where my father pastors, has taken up the baton. Praise God for such churches. Praise God for such leaders.

Best Practices for Missions Engagement

Below are some tips for churches trying to increase missions engagement:

Do you have plan?  Is it action-oriented?  One of the biggest challenges for many would-be missionaries is translating theoretical missionary aspirations into actionable plans.

Is your church living up to its claims? Every church I know claims to be missions-minded, but the proof is in the pudding.  What missions are you financing?  How often do you mention the missionary plans of the church from the pulpit or newsletter or elsewhere?  Can your church membership name your missionaries and their locations (has missions knowledge disseminated to every person)? What is your commitment beyond money?

Is your missions vision led from the top and supported at all levels?

Is there a route for the implementation of missionary plans? I often read about “why” we should do missions, but less frequently about “how” we should do missions or prepare for missions. What steps of training should missionaries take? Do you have a list of good training centers or schools that are recommendable to interested parties? Can you point the aspiring missionary to helpful courses of study and to missionary organizations that would be acceptable and approved by your church? Can your church leadership meet regularly with the aspiring missionary and will their schedule accommodate such a feat and see it as a priority?

Is missions visible in your church?  Advertise missions.  Hold a missions conference, create a missions bulletin board, have a “missions moment’ every week from the pulpit, have a missions focus month, devote one sermon in 10 to a missionary theme. Email your missionaries! Ask specifics as to what to pray for.

Does regular prayer and financial support help “fill the sails” of your missionaries?

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be ; 
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea !

…Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion ;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean…       

 -Samuel Coleridge Taylor, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Doldrums were the fear of sailing men of ages past, being stuck on a still and painted ocean until provisions ran out and the crew slowly succumbed to slow weakening and death.

The book Too Valuable to Lose analyzes data drawn from thousands of cases of “negative missionary attrition,” i.e., premature and preventable departure from the mission field. Loneliness and emotional factors rank highest, as well as inadequate support. A third reason, an inadequate sense of call, will be dealt with shortly below.

Don’t let your missionary get caught in the doldrums! Fill their sails with contact, loving affirmation, and enough material support to keep them on their voyage.

Own not only your missionary but your missionary’s burden:  We must become more missions-focused rather than merely missionary-focused. To be missionary-focused is merely to care for your own personal missionary. A good thing, yes. To become missions-focused is to expand that care beyond just your individually-supported missionary and to embrace the people and the country your missionary serves. If a church is missions-focused rather than merely being missionary-focused, that church has a greater tendency to raise up future teams of multiple people to the same region. Love not only your missionaries, but also love the people they serve.

Be able to distinguish kinds of missionary labor:  Types of missionary service differ. From pioneering to pastoral leadership to discipleship, to development and relief, to medical, to leadership training, etc. Become acquainted with each kind of labor and what is needed to be effective in all kinds of work. Don’t needlessly disparage any of these sub-types of missionary labor, but please do familiarize yourself how these labors differ, and what different demands and preparations these types of labors call for.

Re-affirm the missionary call: I have known missionaries who have undergone stress almost to the breaking point. These stressed-out missionaries have then gotten well-intentioned emails from church folks back home suggesting that the missionary come home if things got too bad. Please be careful in this area.

You can love your missionary best by encouraging them to do their best. Love pushes people through the hard times and doesn’t allow people to quit. Be like a supportive but firm coach, “Get back in there, you are doing great. Yes, your opponent is tough, but hang in there.”  Affirm your missionary’s sense of call to keep him on the field. Remind him, “We affirmed your call when we commissioned you; we trust that these trials will pass and you will stick by your post and that God will reward your faithfulness.”  A church’s firm affirmation through ordination and/or missionary commissioning grounds a missionary with a more firm confidence when all of his own confidence has drained. A solid sense of the missionary call is an anchor in rough seas and comes, in large part, from one’s home church.

Be active, not passive: There is nothing wrong with pastors approaching church members of high potential and asking them to fast and pray specifically about whether the Lord would call them into missions. God works through His Body and one way in which the missionary call may become manifest in a church member is through a pastor or fellow church-member burdening them to pray and seek whether missions might be for them.

Sending your own doesn’t mean denying help from others: Utilize the larger body of Christ for training. Take the Perspectives Course (, utilize missionary prayer letter services, work with a missionary agency to help launch your missionary. The independency of the local church does not mean isolation; we are all interdependent in Christ and can utilize outside resources and band together for the sake of large enterprises such as fulfilling the Great Commission, training future leaders, or publishing Gospel materials.

Be encouraged. It is not our seating capacity but our sending and praying capacity that counts: Some hesitate to act because they fear that they cannot make a difference. However, the majority of the support that we receive comes from small churches, and a great number of missionaries are sent out from small churches. Small churches are disproportionately impacting the world!

We count it all joy to serve Christ in a needy land and pray that God would raise up a wave of new workers that will break upon pagan shores and sweep away their idolatry.

Join us in the work! Connect with us.  Use us as missionary resources. Give us the privilege to help you fan the flame for missions in your own local church.

Trevor Johnson - sovereigngracemissionary at gmail dot com
Paul Snider - smile0979 at aol dot com

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sign this petition: Lost In Translation: Keep "Father" & "Son" in the Bible

Here is the link:

And here is the text:

Western missions agencies Wycliffe, Frontiers and SIL are producing Bibles that remove Father, Son and Son of God because these terms are offensive to Muslims.

Some examples:

• Wycliffe/SIL produced Stories of the Prophets, an Arabic Bible that uses “Lord” instead of “Father” and “Messiah” instead of “Son.”

• Frontiers worked with an SIL consultant to produce True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ, an Arabic translation which removes "Father" in reference to God, and removes or redefines "Son."

• Frontiers produced a Turkish translation of Matthew, distributed by SIL, that uses “guardian” for “Father” and “representative” or “proxy” for “Son.”

• SIL consulted on the Bengali Injil Sharif, advising that “Son” be translated as “God’s Uniquely Intimate Beloved Chosen One.”

By removing Father and Son, these translations fail to portray God as who he is: the familial, eternal, loving God the Father, Son and Spirit. The deity of Jesus is obscured, and thus the self-sacrifice of God on our behalf. In June 2011, the Presbyterian Church of America explicitly declared such translations as “unfaithful to God’s revealed Word” because they “compromise the doctrines of the Trinity, Scripture, and the person and work of Jesus.” John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, said that “it is not biblically justified to . . . remove or replace ‘Father’ and ‘Son of God’ in translating Biblical revelation of God and Jesus Christ in any language.”

Perhaps most importantly, national Christians say these translations are harming their work. Yet Western proponents condone removing Father or Son because they say Muslims can only see sexual connotations to these terms. Numerous missionaries and national believers, however, strongly assert this is not the case. Further, Christian churches in places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Middle East, Turkey, and Malaysia have asked these agencies to stop producing these translations, but to no avail.

Adding fuel to the fire, these agencies have raised millions of dollars for these projects, yet donors are unaware their gifts are being used for translations that remove Father, Son and Son of God from the text.

A member of the SIL board indicated that while “a few objections” over these translations would be “dismissable,” SIL would need to respond when the “man in the pew” created a “backlash.” By signing this petition, you are letting these agencies know that your convictions, and the integrity of God’s own Word, can’t be dismissed. Instead, you are asking for a written commitment from Wycliffe, Frontiers and SIL not to remove Father, Son or Son of God from the text of Scripture.

Consider going to the link and signing this petition, as well as checking out what missions your church supports and whether or not you are helping misguided missionaries to muslims reinterpret the bible when they should only be translating it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The High Privilege of Mobilizing for Missions

Hebrews 10:24:And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works

The joy of introducing friends to my Lord Jesus! What can compare?

Well, perhaps this - introducing a friend to the joy of missions and seeing God at work in their growing commitment to follow his calling.

David Livingstone’s proclamation rings true: "If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”  Our missionary labor is not duty or sacrifice so much as it is God’s gift to us – an invitation into joy.


I marvel that God has saved me. Furthermore, He has called me into service and into a hard place among the unreached. His kindness to me overflows. To have the further privilege of introducing others to the joy of missionary service takes my breath away.


To not only be caught by the grace of Christ, but also to become a fisher of men is great - but to further become a fisher of fishers of men is an astonishing blessing. Ralph Winter put it well, “If you see a roaring fire, you can grab your bucket, run to the stream, then run to the fire and pour water on it—and you can do that repeatedly. Or you could wake 100 sleeping firemen.

Believers in community bless one another by provoking one another to love and good works by arousing, stirring up, and calling one another to action. Deep Christian fellowship fuses hearts together with a contagious holy ardor that desires to see Christ magnified and which longs for others to desire this as well. One coal alone easily cools; but coals lumped together burn all the hotter. Let us ignite one another to glow brighter and burn hotter for Jesus!


Believers are not only blessed to exercise “love and good deeds,” but are further gifted with the privilege of stimulating others to good works. God grants us the gift of not only serving Him but also being fuel and catalysts to help others achieve high and holy ambitions as well.


This is multiplication! As we stir up others who in turn do the same, including the invitation and challenge to join us in missionary service, we become multiplicational mobilizers as well as multiplicational church-planters. As we pray for church planting movements to occur among people-groups around the world, we can also work to initiate mobilization movements among our own circles of support as we each fish from the ponds which God has providentially provided for us.


Intentionality is commanded. The word “consider” demonstrates thoughtful planning in our quest. We are to conspire and plot to bless others lavishly! We bless others by seeking their good, recruiting them into greater levels of service. We love them by helping them reach their full potential. We have but one arrow of life to shoot, let us charge our friends to aim well! As such, mobilization is an act of love.


We pray for what we value. My personal prayer is this: “Lord, every year may you grant me the ongoing privilege of serving on the field. Please also give me the privilege of significantly helping at least one other single person or family move towards the field.”


If God has saved a dear soul and is now calling them into missionary service . . . Oh Lord, what a blessed gift to be able to aid them towards the field of their calling! Give us the privilege of helping other brothers and sisters move forward.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why Christians should do more than others?


1. Because more is done FOR him than for others.
2. Because he is more nearly RELATED to God than others.
3. Because he PROFESSES more than others.
4. Because he is inwardly CONFORMED to the Redeemer more than others.
5. Because he is WATCHED more than others.
6. Because if he DOES no more than others - it will appear that he IS no more than others.
7. Because he is appointed to be a JUDGE of others.
8. Because he EXPECTS more than others.

As the disciples of Christ are more than others - so the disciples of Christ do more than others.

Where there is an overabundance of privilege - there should be an overabundance of practice.

To whom much is given - of them much shall be required.

Those should bless most - who are the most blessed.

---From William Secker's Nonsuch Professor

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carrying the Grand Banner of Christ, not just your own little denominational flag

(thanks C. Poe for alerting me to this fine Spurgeon quote)

Here's the nutshell if you've no time to read the full quotation:

"We do not regard it to be soul-winning to steal members out of churches already established, and train them to utter our peculiar Shibboleth: we aim rather at bringing souls to Christ.....

..... Our first care must be that the sheep should be gathered to the great Shepherd; there will be time enough afterwards to secure them for our various folds. To make proselytes, is a suitable labour for Pharisees: to beget men unto God, is the honourable aim of ministers of Christ."


This may be instructively answered by describing what it is not.

We do not regard it to be soul-winning to steal members out of churches already established, and train them to utter our peculiar Shibboleth: we aim rather at bringing souls to Christ than at making converts to our synagogue.

There are sheep-stealers abroad, concerning whom I will say nothing except that they are not “brethren”, or, at least, they do not act in a brotherly fashion. To their own Master they must stand or fall. We count it utter meanness to build up our own house with the ruins of our neighbours’ mansions; we infinitely prefer to quarry for ourselves. I hope we all sympathize in the largehearted spirit of Dr. Chalmers, who, when it was said that such and such an effort would not be beneficial to the special interests of the Free Church of Scotland, although it might promote the general religion of the land, said, “What is the Free Church compared with the Christian good of the people of Scotland?” What, indeed, is any church, or what are all the churches put together, as mere organizations, if they stand in conflict with the moral and spiritual advantage of the nation, or if they impede the kingdom of Christ? 
It is because God blesses men through the churches that we desire to see them prosper, and not merely for the sake of the churches themselves. There is such a thing as selfishness in our eagerness for the aggrandisement of our own party; and from this evil spirit may grace deliver us! The increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan.

We would do a great deal to make a Paedobaptist brother into a Baptist, for we value our Lord’s ordinances; we would labour earnestly to raise a believer in salvation by free-will into a believer in salvation by grace, for we long to see all religious teaching built upon the solid rock of truth, and not upon the sand of imagination; but, at the same time, our grand object is not the revision of opinions, but the regeneration of natures.

We would bring men to Christ and not to our own peculiar views of Christianity. Our first care must be that the sheep should be gathered to the great Shepherd; there will be time enough afterwards to secure them for our various folds. To make proselytes, is a suitable labour for Pharisees: to beget men unto God, is the honourable aim of ministers of Christ.
C.H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, p. 11-12, Pilgrim Publications, 2007.