~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is an adapted excerpt from a sermon by Peter DeWitt. You can hear the whole sermon, Equipped for Service (Part 1: The Word!) by clicking here.
“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isa. 43:18-19) Sometimes your need to not remember the former things and not consider the things of old – because God is doing a new thing! Don’t get rid of the former things, but sometimes you have to consciously decide to say “God it’s a new year and You’ve told me You are doing a new thing and I am going to let you out of all the boxes I have you in.” This is not a word to destabilize your heart. It is a word to encourage and incentivize intimacy. He wants to tell you the new things that He is doing, but He can’t tell you His secrets if you are not alone with Him. You have to be with Him.
He is wanting to lead you far further into the specificity of your gifting and calling – how He’s made you and what He’s made you to do. I want to listen to other ministers but that only gets you so far. There is a place in God where where human tour guides cannot take you. God has a specificity – a personalization – to your calling. This is going to be a season of adventure – He has new territories and new adventures for you! For each of us there are some things the Holy Spirit has hidden for us, but we have to follow Him to get there. 2017 represents an opportunity to explore unknown territory with a known God. There is a specificity to your calling, and you need the Holy Spirit to take you there! Cultivate intimacy with God in this new year because He is doing some new things!
We see in Luke 19 that increase is important to Jesus. We see in Acts 2-9 that God wants churches to grow. We have to get out of the mindset that having a rich, personal relationship with God is OK without outreach. God has told us to do business – to “go out, to reach out, to deliver to others what’s been delivered to you.” We have one commandment and one commission, and the great commission is our Christian job description. So, why do churches not grow? They either do not have a powerful product, or (if they do have a powerful product) they don’t get that product in front of people. We (Agathos) have a great product and we are have been called to start getting it in front of people! We are going to be reaching out!
Scripturally, we should have multiple types of outreach, but only one message. Paul said “I’ve become all things to all people.” With outreach, the messenger becomes all things to all people. For example, in Acts 16:3-5, we see that Paul circumcises Timothy before taking him to minister to the Jews. This was the same Paul that opposed Peter to his face because he stood condemned for operating under the Law. Do you think Paul then had Timothy, whom he circumcised, preach circumcision? Absolutely not!
So, we see that Timothy became all things to all people so that the Jews would receive him to hear the ONE message. The message is not supposed to become all things to all people. Paul said in Galatians “if anyone preaches a different gospel than me, let him be accursed!” Paul told Timothy “don’t tickle their ears, Timothy! Don’t you dare! You protect that doctrine!”
There’s only one doctrine and there’s only one message. “And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.” The doctrine is set by the leaders and we actually have a discipleship manual that has that doctrine and the associated scriptures. The content is already there for you when you are meeting to disciple people. You don’t have to come up with the content, now it is just about the pastoral piece.
And this is exactly what we see as the scriptural model in Acts 16. You do different types of outreaches (these are the multiple tines of the rake) – because different outreaches reach different people. But there is only one message – only one doctrine, only one set of decrees. It is the same doctrine for everybody. So many believers get into problems because they try to make the message all things to all people. Love causes you (the messenger) to become all things to all people, but love does not cause you to make the message all things to all people!
We are going to be a no-compromise church that does outreach awesomely. It is so important that the church does not become the only outreach organ of a church. The people are supposed to do the outreach. When the church becomes the only outreach organ, then well intentioned pastors are only able to teach milk because there is no one reaching out and feeding the babies milk. The result is that now everyone is perpetually a baby because all they feed on is milk – no one learning to eat meat. Conversely, if a church is teaching a lot of meat, the church itself is not a very good outreach system – because new believers can choke on the meaty teaching. The solution? Keep teaching meat and know and act on the fact that new believers need someone to bottle-feed them just like we needed someone to bottle-feed us initially!
In Matthew 28 we hear Jesus command the apostles to teach all believers to make disciples! In Acts 4:13, we see that the religious authorities were stunned at how bold Peter and John (uneducated men) were in preaching the gospel and they found out that they had been with Jesus. There is a very powerful truth there: you do not need to have a theology Ph. D. in order to disciple someone. You just need to be with Jesus!
Hebrews 5:12-14 shows us that everybody in the body of Christ should be able to teach. Everyone ought to be able to teach in the body of Christ, but there is a five-fold teacher. Everybody ought to be able to perform signs and wonders in the body of Christ, but there are apostles. Everybody ought to be able to witness, but there are evangelists. Everyone in the body of Christ ought to be able to prophecy (earnestly desire spiritual gifts – especially that you may prophecy) but there are prophets. Everyone ought to be able to pastor and disciple but there are pastors. The five-fold minsters are to be equipping the saints for the works of service!
Notice that these were the gifts of Christ to men. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, themselves are the gifts of Christ to men. (Eph. 4) Jesus was perfectly an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, but then Jesus then gave gifts of people to the church for the equipping of the saints for the works of service. You might then wonder why Jesus did not just give His whole self (such that one person could then do all of those things)? Easy. He wants us to be in relationship with each other! He wants us to be interdependent. You have to receive grace from all 5! We’re getting equipped for the works of service! So, for example, what do the teachers do? They equip the saints such that all the mature are able to teach!
1 Corinthians 15:34 says “awake to righteousness and sin not.” We are not going to be a “flesh clean-up event discipleship” church. We are going to be spirit-based discipleship church. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us to regard each other no longer according to the flesh. Baby Christians and mature Christians alike are new creations in Christ! We need to teach them who they are and let them see in the Word who they are in their born-again Spirit! The mind set on the flesh is DEATH! So much of what happens in discipleship is flesh-analysis. You wonder why you are still meeting with the person 3 years later and nothing has changed! They need good teaching from the Word. With the discipleship manual it is going to be very easy to orient people to who they are in Christ. They will awake to righteousness and sin not!
Some of us may wonder: “but who would want me to disciple them?” When you think about reaching out, you may think in the back of your mind that you are hocking some sort of philosophical ideas to try and get people to ascent your brand of something. Not the case at Agathos! We have real, powerful truth in demonstration and in word to actually be able to give real, tangible solutions to people in need. I want us to have this mindset: you have what the world is looking for! We have individually experienced freedom, healing, wisdom, purpose, love, joy, and peace from God! If you ask God for someone to disciple, He’s going to give you someone!
Where do you start anything that you want to accomplish in your life? In the Word! All things were made through the Word and without the Word nothing was made that was made. In John 15:5, Jesus says “without Me (the Word) you can do nothing.” So when we are thinking about stepping out, about reaching out, and discipling people, we want to start with the Word! And when you think about your new year and any resolve or any resolution that you have this new year, know that the main resolve you want to have is being in the Word! It will effect everything else!
When you are going to minister, you need to be in the Word more. The Lord told Peter this summer “I’m the vine, your the branch, and you are only supposed to feed people fruit.” He will never minister through you more than He ministers to you … but you might try to minister more than you are getting ministered to. Don’t do it! Another way to say this is to “give away the golden egg, not the golden goose!” The whole body of Christ is to be equipped for the works of service and we need to stay out of spiritual debt by preemptively building up a spiritual trust fund. Jesus does not want you, as you move towards ministering, to allow your time an connection with Him to be take away by any means.
Exodus 16 teaches us a a powerful truth about grace for your time in the Word. Do not beat yourself up with some sort of huge hours requirement for your time in the Word if you don’t have a grace for that yet. Simply do something! Every man gathered Manna according to his need and none lacked! Here’s what will happen: if you even set 15 minutes as your goal in the Word each day, your hunger will increase and all of a sudden you will be spending 30 minutes in the Word. All of a sudden you are going to be spending 45 minutes in the Word and then an hour because it is so powerful that your business only takes half as much time as it used to take because you have the wisdom of God flowing! So, what you want to do is gather something! But, when you are going to start discipling people, realize that there are more people in your tent. If you were gathering one omer before and it was enough and you had no lack, when you start discipling people you may need two omers worth.
Finally, let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Notice that it is instruction in righteousness not instruction in sinfulness! People need instructed in righteousness! They need to know who they are in Christ. At the start of 1 Timothy 1, Paul tells Timothy that the Law is good if it is used lawfully. Do you know how the law should be used? With sinners! Not with saints! Jesus fulfilled the Law for righteousness! Romans 10:4 says it “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness for all those who beleive!” Now, as new creations in Christ we have the Law written on our hearts with a propensity to do good and serve God! You want to instruct believers in righteousness – awakening them to who they are in Christ! Do you know why we walk in great purity? Righteousness-conciousness!
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good (AGATHOS) work.” The good work here is “Agathos.” Our church is rightly named and the scriptures are equipping us for our Agathos Work!
Know this: Satan is going to oppose you getting in the Word. He is more opposed to you getting in the Word than just about anything else. You getting in the Word and you reaching out – those are about the two things He is most opposed to. He doesn’t want to get the Word because the Word will change you – and once you have the Word, He doesn’t want you to get out because the Word in you is going to change everybody else! So, be wise to that and know that Satan is going to use emotions and circumstances to mess you up in the Word! So do you know what you can do? Make a plan. With a plan, you have already pre-decided that emotions and circumstances are not going to mess you up in your time in the Word. God bless you! Happy New Year! It’s such an exciting time to be alive!