Need for Ecclesiology and the Believers’ Church: Article Critique

christian-doctrine

Against the backdrop of America’s Industrial Revolution, Jason Duesing compares President Theodore Roosevelt’s call-to-action in conserving the nation’s natural resources[1] to, “The people of God needing to take action to preserve and protect the doctrine of the church.”[2] America was growing at a rapid rate, yet Roosevelt had the foresight to recognize the immediate threat if changes were not made. Similarly, Duesing seeks to show, “Believers, acting under various constructs – from liberalism to ecumenism to even evangelism – have also engaged in ‘old wasteful methods’ with regard to the ‘natural resources’ of the doctrine of the church.”[3] The purpose of this critique is to assess Duesing’s proposed solution to overcoming indifference and his call to awaken evangelicals toward both ecclesiology and the believers’ church.

SUMMARY

            Duesing begins by establishing the widespread doctrinal deterioration that has plagued the local church and contributes this breakdown of the Great Commission[4] to the local church not protecting the gospel message, internal disputes, and attacks from outside the church. Where parachurch organizations thrived in evangelistic outreach efforts, the local church has become sterile in reproducing disciples, even within close proximity. Duesing then proposes the only way the true biblical gospel message will make it to the next generation is the believers’ church.

As the first champions of the believers’ church, since the Constantine Synthesis, Duesing acknowledges the Anabaptists were, “The pioneers of ecclesiological conservatism in an age not of ecclesiological indifference, but of ecclesiological intolerance.”[5] This distinction separated them from the Magisterial Reformers who Leonard Verduin asserts, were primarily only concerned with, “The Anabaptists’ desire to move beyond Church reform to complete restoration of the church to its New Testament origins.”[6] Duesing demonstrates, “The Magisterial Reformers were not looking to make many ecclesiological changes, [but were concerned with] the economic and political ramifications of separating the church from the state.”[7] While the Anabaptists sought to conserve doctrine, Duesing contrasts, “The Magisterial Reformers sought to make membership contingent upon baptism as an infant, [and] just as the State carried the sword for the purpose of maintaining and establishing justice, so too did the Church support the sword for the purpose of maintaining and establishing the truth.”[8] Ultimately, the Anabaptists recognized, “The only way to accomplish biblical purity in the Church was to separate completely from the existing institutions and establish a believers’ church, [which] no longer supported the use of the sword and refused to call for the death penalty even for those with divergent doctrinal views.”[9]

STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES

            Duesing does a worthy job demonstrating the state of affairs within the local church and the need for doctrinal reform. The gospel message has become so diluted and religion in general has turned more into an environment of pleasing people, rather than training and equipping disciples to fulfill the Great Commission. The formation of the believers’ church was truly a radical paradigm shift, rooted biblical teaching. This writer agrees, “For the sake of preserving what is essential for salvation for the next generation, a new call is needed to awaken evangelicals from a state of indifference toward ecclesiology and the believers’ church”[10]

By only briefly touching on the decline of the church, Duesing’s call on believers to see “Ecclesiological Conversation as a Christian Duty” does not paint as vivid of a picture had the failure of maintaining a pure church been better demonstrated. For example, H. Leon McBeth illustrates how, “The eighteenth century proved devastating for the General Baptists, [due] to theological problems, antiquated church practices, and failure to recruit new leaders of stature.”[11] Had this been included in Duesing’s article, another comparison could have been made to the eighteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution changed the way people lived and the Intellectual Revolution challenged the way people viewed God, the universe, and themselves.”[12]

CONCLUSION

            Duesing’s use of America, standing on the precipice of its own demise by reckless indifference sets the stage for a solid argument for the need of ecclesiological conservation and a movement towards the believers’ church. Duesing is right, doctrines must be upheld and biblical principles must never be compromised, even for the sake of unity, and the Anabaptists are a great example of what is sometimes needed to form a pure church rooted in biblical teaching.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Duesing, Jason G. “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving.” A White Paper from the CTR, Fort Worth, TX: Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006. http://www.baptisttheology.org/baptisttheology/assets/File/BelieversChurch.pdf (accessed April 6, 2017).

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

Verduin, Leonard. The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Sarasota, FL: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, reprint 1997.

[1] Theodore Roosevelt, “Conservation as a National Day,” in Conferences of Governors (Washington: G.P.O., 1909), 3-13.

[2] Jason G. Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” A White Paper from the CTR (Fort Worth, TX: Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006), 1.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Matthew 28:16-20

[5] Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 3.

[6] Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Sarasota, FL: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, reprint 1997).

[7] Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 3-4.

[8] Ibid., 4.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 5.

[11] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 170.

[12] Ibid., 151.

Purpose of Apologetics

Apologetics2

Why do we engage in apologetics?

            Rich Holland clarifies, “apologetics should be used to break down the rational or intellectual barriers one may have, so [he or she] can be more receptive to the gospel [and that is why apologetics] is often referred to as pre-evangelism, because it helps explain and remove barriers, so people become more open to the gospel message.”[1] Holland closes the presentation summing up apologetics as what believers do when they love God and others. This profound truth explains why followers of Christ should be compelled to engage people in apologetics, by defending the faith and evangelizing the lost. Douglas Groothuis adds, “apologetics is offered not only in response to the doubts and denials of non-Christians; it also fortifies believers in their faith, whether they are wrestling with doubts and questions or simply seeking a deeper grounding for their biblical belief.”[2]

What is the audience of apologetics?

Holland further demonstrates, “the love of Christ should compel believers to become ambassadors of God and engage in apologetics. [However,] apologetics is not evangelism because it cannot lead someone to Christ, but apologetics should be directed towards the lost, those who do not follow Christ, atheists, or followers of other religions.”[3] Apologetics and evangelism do share a common goal in pointing people towards Jesus Christ, but it should not come, as a surprise the majority of people may not immediately be open to the message of the gospel. Thus, every believer should be prepared to offer a good defense and reason for God’s plan of redemption, since people are naturally going to have questions and objections.

A basic definition of apologetics:

            James Beilby defines apologetics as, “the attempt to defend a particular belief or system of beliefs against objections… The term derives from the Greek word apologia and was originally used in a legal context.”[4] The apologia was then used in the defense of a plaintiff, in an attempt to show an accusation was untruthful, or to prove innocence.

The biblical basis for apologetics:

            The clearest picture for the biblical basis of apologetics is found in Peter’s first epistle,   “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”[5]  Peter Davids illustrates how, “Both ‘make a defense’[6] and ‘question[7] indicate formal legal or judicial settings, but were also used for informal and personal situations.[8] Rather than fear the unbelievers around them, Christians, out of reverence to Christ, should be prepared to respond fully to their often-hostile questions about the faith.”[9] Beilby demonstrates, “Christian apologetics is the task of defending and commending the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a Christ-like, context-sensitive and audience-specific manner.”[10]

Internal and external apologetics:

Beilby defines, “Internal apologetics taking place with those inside of or internal to Christianity, [while] external apologetics engages skeptics, agnostics, or those outside of or external to Christianity in an apologetic conversation.”[11] Beilby adds, “Christian apologetics involves an action (defending), a focus of the action (the Christian faith itself), a goal (upholding Christianity as true, and a context (the circumstances in which apologetics occurs.”[12] The clear distinction between the two involves internal apologetics focusing on reinforcing faith, removing intellectual barriers, and helping to clarify issues, while external apologetics focuses on changing the mind of skeptics, atheists, and agnostics.

Bibliography

Beilby, James K. Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Davids, Peter H. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle of Peter. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Holland, Rich. Liberty University. APOL 500, Week One Presentation “Introduction to Apologetics–What Is Apologetics?” (Video), 2015, 9:47, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_317469_1&content_id=_13462346_1 (accessed August 30, 2016).


[1] Rich Holland, Liberty University, APOL 500, Week One Presentation “Introduction to Apologetics–What Is Apologetics?” (Video), 2015, 9:47, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_317469_1&content_id=_13462346_1 (accessed August 30, 2016).

[2] Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 25.

[3] Holland, Liberty University, APOL 500, Week One Presentation “Introduction to Apologetics.”

[4] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 11.

[5] 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

[6] Acts 25:16, 26:2; 2 Timothy 4:16

[7] Romans 4:12; 1Peter 4:5

[8] Plato, Pol. 285e and 1 Cor. 9:3; 2 Cor. 7:7 respectively

[9] Peter H. Davids, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle of Peter, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 131.

[10] Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics, 30.

[11] Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics, 27.

[12] Ibid., 13.

Muslims in Evangelical Churches

WWJD

       James Hood, in his article Muslims in Evangelical Churches poses the question whether loving your neighbor means opening the church doors to false worship? Hood highlights two churches, which opened their doors for Muslims to use the church buildings as mosques. At Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee, pastor Steve Stone came to the decision to allow Muslims to worship on church property by asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” At Aldersgate Methodist church in Alexandria, Virginia, pastor Jason Micheli appealed to evangelical and exclusivist reasoning stating, “When we say that Jesus is the only way to the Father, we do not just mean our belief in Jesus is the only way to the Father. We also mean Jesus’ way of live is the only way we manifest the Father’s love.”

       There are multiple theological issues at play in these scenarios and throughout Scripture the Great Commandment[1] and the Great Commission[2] are among the top appeals Christ calls His followers to perform and embody. In the Old Testament, the Shema[3] calls followers to love the Lord their God above all others, so the issue of allowing idol worship to happen in the church is a highly debatable topic. While the church is not confined to the traditional four walls, there is precedence with the Great Commandment, the Great Commission, and the Shema, which cannot be ignored. Peter C. Craigie illustrates:

The Shema ultimately means: ‘Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is ‘One.’ These words, which have been called the fundamental monotheistic dogma of the Old Testament, have both practical and theological implications. The Israelites had already discovered the practical implications when they… discovered the uniqueness of their God… [and it] was because they had experienced the living presence of their God in history that the Israelites could call the Lord our God. The theological implications and the context of this verse indicate its source as a direct revelation from God. The word expresses not only the uniqueness but also the unity of God.[4]

       Growing up in a military community, the base chapel was shared by a multiplicity of denominations, some Christian and some far from it and it was the job of the chaplain to relate to multiple denominations of faith. This model and upbringing makes the Muslims’ use of Christian churches seem less about theology and more about embodying the love and compassion of Christ. At the same time, one cannot ignore when Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”[5]
If the churches in this article had opened up their doors as shelters due to a state of emergency, this writer wonders if it would have been an issue at all. Ultimately it comes down to stewardship. What churches do with what God has entrusted to them is the fundamental question. This writer believes by opening the doors and allowing the Muslims to use the facility acts as an olive branch of peace, which over time will hopefully develop into relationships, and is where the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will have the ability to be applied. Jesus came to seek the lost, the sick, and the hurting people. Christians must realize, “the church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners,” and by opening the doors to Muslims they have increased their mission field exponentially.

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Hood, James B. 2011. “Muslims in Evangelical Churches.” Christianity Today, January 3, 2011. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/muslimsevangelical.html   (accessed August 18, 2016).


[1] Matthew 22:36-40

[2] Matthew 28:16-20

[3] Deuteronomy 6:4-9

[4] Peter C. Craigie, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 168-169.

[5] Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV)

The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement: Book Review

Sweeney-American-Evangelical-Story-cover-195x300

        The American Evangelical Story examines the role American evangelicalism played in the scope of evangelical history and demonstrates how evangelicals have continued to change the world. Douglas A. Sweeney, professor of church history and chair of the department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School[1] offers this work as an introduction to evangelicalism for Christians interested in the historical roots of evangelicalism’s recent, massive growth. Sweeney first, “provides a summary of recent debates concerning the scope of evangelicalism, he then tells the story of its birth in the transatlantic Great Awakening, and its development in the United States through many cultural changes and challenges. [Lastly, he] accounts for the broad range of individuals, institutions, issues, and doctrines that have made us who we are.”[2]

Brief Summary

       Sweeney sets the tone for the reader, by offering a prayer to demonstrate his underlining purpose: “I pray that the burden of this book – to refresh our shared, historical memory – may help us to regain our spiritual bearings. And I trust that a fresh appropriation of our common heritage, though surely limited by our own historical blinders, can be used by God to bless the church for many years to come.”[3] Sweeney begins by explaining evangelicals are gospel people, but quickly demonstrates the difficulty in defining evangelicalism, claiming there is no clear consensus among scholars. Sweeney then shows, “at the center of the movement lies a firm commitment to the good news (euangelion) that ‘a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law’[4] [demonstrating] evangelicals’ doctrine clung to the gospel message as spelled out in the Bible (sola Scriptura).”[5] Other defining convictions include: the majesty of Jesus Christ, the lordship of the Holy Spirit, the need for personal conversion, the priority of evangelism, and the importance of the Christian community for spiritual nourishment, fellowship, and growth.[6] Sweeney also connects the emergence of evangelicalism to the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century, crediting missions and evangelism as the catalysts. Sweeney concludes: “Evangelicals comprise a movement that is rooted in classical Christian orthodoxy, shaped by a largely Protestant understanding of the gospel, and distinguished from other such movements by an eighteenth century twist – the impact of the Great Awakening.”[7] This renewal movement forever changed the course of history of Protestantism in North America and the rest of the world.

Critical Interaction

       It is obvious Sweeney comes from an evangelical heritage he is proud of.[8] His narrative style, his attention to chronological detail, and his personal insights provide the reader with an unbiased view of history. Leading up to the Great Awakening, Sweeney correctly shows the conflict, which existed between Catholics, and Protestants and how the Reformation led to the Transatlantic Great Awakening pioneered by John Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement, George Whitfield, who actually convinced John Wesley to take up field preaching,[9] and Jonathan Edwards, who helped Calvinists come to terms on predestination and election. This era marked the first time Protestants worked together to spread the gospel internationally. Sweeney makes it clear the goals of this movement were made with the best intentions, but he also demonstrates when human nature is involved; there will always be division. “No sooner did the Great Awakening hit America’s shores than it led to some major realignments and rivals.”[10]

       Sweeney explains, “Despite the gains of the Great Awakening, by the end of the eighteenth century, many evangelical leaders had grown concerned about the spiritual life on the new United States,”[11] giving rise to the Second Great Awakening. This era shows immense diversity as some revivals split and new ones were formed. Sweeney illustrates, “the first major theater was New England, where Edwardsian evangelists prevailed, and the second stretched along the Erie Canal in Upstate New York, dominated by Presbyterians and Congregationalists, and the third was Cumberland River Valley, led by the Armenian Methodists.”[12] Sweeney highlights, “the best known event in this third theater was the Cane Ridge Revival (1801), often called ‘America’s Pentecost’ for the amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit there.”[13] Charles Finney is portrayed as the most important leader of the revivals in New York as he had immense influence teaching, “religion is the work of man and that revival is not a miracle, but the result of the right use of appropriate means. As a supernaturalist, he acknowledged that neither revival nor conversion ever occurs without the help of the Holy Spirit, but as an experienced revivalist, he claimed these things do not occur without human effort either.”[14] The second Great Awakening seemed to be more about man than about God, as it emphasized the role of a sinner needing to choose to repent. Regardless, it still led to more conversions, and it also formed more institutions, which helped the spread of the gospel. Overall, Sweeney accomplishes a comprehensive overview of evangelical missions, by detailing even the racial prejudice, which was rampant, and the birth of the Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. Racism remains a sore spot in the history of the church and “while evangelicals did not invent the sins of racism… millions of white evangelicals have participated in or sanctioned one or more of these things, leading to four million slaves in America by 1860… and evangelicals are still untangling themselves from this sordid legacy.”[15] A. Derwin illustrates, “less than five percent of evangelical churches are multi-ethnic… [making the] evangelical church one of the most segregated people in America on Sunday morning. The gross smell of racism still lingers in our churches like a bad odor that will not dissipate.”[16]  Sweeney rightly emphasizes, “the importance of never forgetting the utter enormity of this evil or the extent to which evangelicals condoned it.”[17] The lines of color must be crossed and perhaps one of the best examples is the Azusa Street Revival. This Pentecostalism was interracial and as Frank Bartleman noted, “The ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood.”[18] Paige Patterson best sums up the viewpoint of evangelicals, “If God has spoken, then one must heed what He says. For evangelical believers, the authority of the Bible must remain unassailable and un-debatable. We must applaud those who make other kinds of telling arguments against racism and join the chorus in at least a thirty-fold “Amen.” But, the time has come for evangelicals to bring the mother load, if you will forgive the pun. If we believe the Book, let us appeal to its lucid position on race and say to all of the tribes of the earth, “Eve is the mother of all living.” That, in effect, settles the issue!”[19]

Conclusion

       Sweeney makes a strong case, “the church needs evangelicals, evangelicalism functions as a renewal movement within the larger, universal church, and evangelicalism is not enough.”[20] Sweeney provides a well-balanced and clear history of American evangelicalism, while also demonstrating the major shift, which is currently taking place. No more is America or Europe the front-runners in evangelicalism; instead the shift is in Africa and Asia. While America and Europe used to be the nations sending missionaries to these countries, now those countries are sending missionaries to America and Europe. The future of evangelicalism rests on solely on whether denominations and ministry leaders can set aside minor differences and unify one another by embracing the Great Commission[21] and the Great Commandment.[22] The church is made up of many parts, and when those parts are working together, God will do mighty things as the world will come to know the love of Christ.

The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement. By Douglas A. Sweeney. Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2005, 208 pp. $22.00 (Paperback).

Bibliography

Baker Publishing Group Website, http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/douglas-a-sweeney/344 (accessed August 11, 2016).

Bartleman, Frank. How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman. Ed. Donald W. Dayton. New York, NY: Garland, 1985.

Derwin, A. “The Emergence Of The Emerging Church,” Christian Apologetics Journal 07, no. 1 (Spring), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 35.

Patterson, Paige. “The SBJT Forum: Racism, Scripture, and History.” – Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 08, no. 2 (Summer), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 82.

Sweeney, Douglas A. The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2005.


[1] Baker Publishing Group Website, http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/douglas-a-sweeney/344 (accessed August 11, 2016).

[2] Douglas A. Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2005), 10.

[3]  Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 185.

[4] Romans 3:28

[5] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 25.

[6] Ibid., 18.

[7] Ibid., 23-24.

[8] Ibid., 5.

[9] Ibid., 41.

[10] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 55.

[11] Ibid., 66.

[12] Ibid., 66-69.

[13] Ibid., 70.

[14] Ibid., 68.

[15] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 108.

[16] A. Derwin, “The Emergence Of The Emerging Church,” Christian Apologetics Journal 07, no. 1 (Spring), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 35.

[17] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 108.

[18] Frank Bartleman, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman, ed. Donald W. Dayton, (New York, NY: Garland, 1985), 54.

[19] Paige Patterson, “The SBJT Forum: Racism, Scripture, and History,” – Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 08, no. 2 (Summer), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 82.

[20] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 184.

[21] Matthew 28:16-20

[22] Matthew 22:36-40

Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth Book Review

Move_1000 Churches

            Greg L. Hawkins is executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. For twenty years, he has assisted senior pastor Bill Hybels in providing strategic leadership and his prior management experience came as a consultant for McKinsey & Company. Hawkins received his undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA from Stanford University. In 2011 he became co-author of Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, which combines sound research with practical application on ways to improve the spiritual growth in churches. Cally Parkinson, the other co-author of Move… serves as the brand manager for REVEAL, an initiative within Willow Creek Association who utilizes research tools and discoveries to help churches better understand spiritual growth in the multiplicity of congregations. Following a twenty-five-year career with Allstate Insurance, she has also served as the director of communications at Willow Creek Community Church. Her diverse background and skills were formulated at DePauw University, where she received her bachelor’s degree and the American Graduate School of International Management, where she earned her master’s degree.[1]

            Facts on their own can be overwhelming, so what Hawkins and Parkinson set out to do was provide a model for any church, no matter the size, denomination, or location to become effective in producing spiritual growth within the congregation. After surveying one-thousand churches, Hawkins and Parkinson found that no matter the size, denomination, budget, or geography, the churches that were highly effective excelled in the following four best practices: (1) Getting people moving; (2) Embedding the Bible; (3) Creating ownership; and (4) Pastoring the community. This discovery was profound because for centuries, church leaders have known the primary goal of disciples is to produce more disciples, but the how has alluded many who have tried. Hawkins and Parkinson illustrate, “Jesus wants us to love God and love others, and it is pretty straightforward, making the what the easy part of church leadership… However, each new generation of Christian leaders has struggled to get a handle on the how: How do we foster the transformation of our people into disciples of Christ and how do we extend His love to others?”[2] Every church has a limited amount of resources, so it only makes sense to use those commodities in areas that provide the best return on investment. Move… provides the answers to these questions by utilizing thorough research, time-tested-principles, and by then providing sound practices to move people along the path to being more Christ-centered. There should be a deep desire in every believer to become more Christ-like and this book provides twenty-five high impact catalysts, which promote spiritual growth in the believer. In addition to the catalysts, there are numerous strategies, insights, models, and patterns to help any church become effective in producing spiritual growth within the body. The book is nicely divided into three parts focusing on: (1) The Spiritual Continuum: moving people from exploring Christ, to growing in Christ; (2) Spiritual Movement: identifying the spiritual catalysts, needed in the evolution of becoming Christ-centered, while also illustrating potential barriers to spiritual growth; and (3) Spiritual Leadership: defining best practices, analyzing spiritual vitality, and preparing leaders to get the body of Christ moving and doing what God has called them to do.

Critique

            Reading this work was very similar to reading something by George Barna, but Hawkins and Parkinson go a few steps further, by providing real-life-application and strategies to employ in order to bring about spiritual growth in any church. These premises are bold, but the statistics presented are frightening for any western church. To think, “The longer someone attends church, the less likely they are to become Christ-followers”[3] is terrifying. Hawkin’s and Parkinson’s research actually found, “people who have attended church for more than five years are far more likely to become spiritually stalled or content with their spiritual growth.”[4] This only shows the importance of engaging people in ministry as soon as possible because the longer an individual is classified in the getting to know Christ stage, the less likely he or she will feel compelled to serve in ministry. This is enlightening, especially since believers find so much about themselves and God through serving in some form of ministry or outreach. Hawkins and Parkinson have termed a church, which is only exploring Christ as being stalled in the rust belt. This is because the majority of the congregation is stuck on the spiritual fringe, investigating, but undecided about the claims of Christianity, attending, but not involved in church, and possibly a long-tenured churchgoer.[5] This is spot on and evident in all generations of church attenders, as the Abrahams feel any dues have already paid: monetarily or service oriented, the Isaacs are too busy with life to commit any more time to the church, and the Jacobs have a sense of entitlement, where everything should just be provided. All of these warped perceptions are wrong and indicate just how many churches are still stuck in the first stage of exploring Christ. Once someone truly begins to know Christ, the next logical step is to grow in Christ, which represents the largest segment of people surveyed at thirty-eight percent.[6] Hawkins and Parkinson provide valuable information as to exactly what this largest segment is looking for from the church: (1) Help in developing a personal relationship with Christ, (2) Help in understanding the Bible in greater depth, (3) Church leaders who model and consistently reinforce how to grow spiritually, (4) Compelling worship experiences, and (5) Challenge to grow and take next steps.[7] A problem many churches make is babying new believers, instead of issuing challenges and showing them how to find God and answers to life’s questions in Scripture. It is also crucial for church-attenders to see the leadership embodying Christ-like character in word and deed. Those considered to be growing in Christ are: on board with core beliefs, are comfortable with spiritual practices, and are poised for great spiritual advances and impact.[8] As the largest segment, Hawkins and Parkinson do a good job illustrating how to move this group closer to Christ, by teaching them how to love God and others.[9] Hawkins and Parkinson explain this is so crucial because those who are close to Christ engage in a deeper level of personal spiritual practices.[10] The next stage of evolution involves the, “Christ-centered believer emerging from a battle between two sets of values: the secular values that define personal identity, happiness, security, and success for much of the world, and the spiritual values of selfless love and dedication to others that characterize a life centered on Jesus.”[11]

Application

            Hawkins and Parkinson do a wonderful job explaining the “what and how” behind ministry, by pointing out the importance of each member taking ownership. This principle is true in many business models, as those who are involved during the inception of something, or feel a sense of being needed will have a much stronger commitment to see it succeed. It also follows the 80/20 principle, where twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work. Sadly, this is also the case with giving in the church. For these reasons, this is an area this writer will be focusing on. If twenty percent of the people are doing all the work, this eventually leads to burnout. Hawkins and Parkinson suggest three ways to create ownership are: (1) To empower people to be the church, (2) To equip people to succeed, and (3) To hold people accountable.[12]

            Another area of importance is evangelism outside the four walls of the church. Terry Inman once made the comment, “I do not pastor a church; I pastor a community.” Hawkins and Parkinson use this illustration to explain the flocks pastors are called to shepherd over are actually all the people in the local community. For many churches, this is a huge paradigm shift, but for this writer’s church, this is an area that has already been targeted. Hawkins and Parkinson found, “best practice churches pastor their local communities by bringing the same inspirational energy… to outreach strategies and initiatives that they bring to designing and executing weekend services.” Hawkins and Parkinson break this strategy down into three strategies: (1) Set a high bar for serving the church and the community. Often the senior pastor will set the tone for this model; (2) Build a bridge into your local community. This will develop strong and long-term relationships, which will also help address any immediate community needs; and (3) Make serving a platform for the gospel. Hawkin’s and Parkinson’s research shows there is a natural affinity between evangelizing and serving those who are struggling and broken.[13] Love and compassion are the best motivators for evangelism and by meeting the most basic needs of the community; the outreach initiative will poise the church to not only gain new people, but also advance the gospel at the same time. This book is a great resource for any church or individual looking to grow spiritually. In life, if something is not living, then it is dying and for many churches, they have essentially become stagnant cesspools, but by applying these principles and models, churches will experience real growth, as the result of the development of the congregations’ spiritual formation and desire to be more Christ-like.

Bibliography

Hawkins, Greg L. and Cally Parkinson. Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

 


[1] Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 6.

[2] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 12.

[3] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 37.

[4] Ibid., 38.

[5] Ibid., 44.

[6] Ibid., 50.

[7] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 55.

[8] Ibid., 61.

[9] Ibid., 75-77.

[10] Ibid., 75.

[11] Ibid., 84.

[12] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 231.

[13] Ibid., 239-240.

Hawkins, Greg L. and Cally Parkinson. Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, 286 pp. $21.99 (Hardcover).

Pentecost and Role of Holy Spirit Pre/Post

            Pentecost-front.jpg

            The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts is one of the most significant events in history.  It was more than just the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy[1] and it did so much more than just provide the disciples with what Jesus had promised would come after His ascension to heaven.[2] Through an understanding of the triune nature of God establishes that all parts are equal, infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. This conclusion means God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have existed everywhere since the beginning of time itself. What have changed, over the course of the metanarrative, are their roles and functions in the redemptive plan.

            The primary goal of this project is first to answer exactly what happened on the day of Pentecost, and to clarify whether this event marked the beginning of the Church Age. This will be accomplished by contrasting Old Testament Pentecost practices versus what took place in the New Testament Pentecost account. In addition, a clear biblical exegesis of the Acts account will be conducted demonstrating the new role of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, this research paper will systematically look at the Holy Spirit’s role throughout the canon of scripture, by contrasting what role the Holy Spirit played in the Old and New Testaments, compared to what role the Holy Spirit plays in a modern-day context and application. Lastly, this paper will look at the Apostle Paul, and examine how the Holy Spirit impacted his life, from his conversion experience, to his supernatural encounters, and lastly the divine inspiration the Holy Spirit imparted on him, which are found in his letters. From Paul, much can be learned about the Holy Spirit, so understanding how the Holy Spirit impacted his life-story is pertinent in showing how the coming of the Spirit not only inaugurated the Church Age, but also established what role the Holy Spirit plays today.

Origin of the Holy Spirit

Creation Account

            The earliest mention of the Holy Spirit occurs in the creation account: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”[3]  Scholars have debated the translation of this passage, but Philo, the first century philosopher from Alexandria and Victor Hamilton provide the clearest picture demonstrating how, “God caused a wind rûaḥ to blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. [Here,]‘Breath of God’ or ‘Breath of Life seems most natural for rûaḥ.”[4] This same wording is used to describe and symbolize the Spirit of God in the coming of the Holy Spirit, during Pentecost, in the Acts account.

Roles of the Holy Spirit

            Anytime the role of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in scripture, there are four primary purposes: regeneration, indwelling, the control and conviction over sin, and the empowerment for service. F. F. Bruce highlights:

 The Old Testament prophets foretold a coming age, which would be marked in a special way by the activity of the Spirit of God. Two strands of this expectation are especially important. In one, the activity of the Spirit is associated with a coming figure – variously depicted as the ideal ruler of David’s line and the humble and self-sacrificing Servant of the Lord, who would be anointed with the Spirit in order to discharge a ministry of mercy and judgment for Israel and the nations. In the second, the promise is given that in the days to come, the same Spirit will be poured out on ‘all flesh,’ so that the gift of prophetic utterance will no longer be confined to a chosen few, but will be widespread.[5] [6]

Regeneration

            The Holy Spirit’s role in regeneration can also be interpreted as rebirth and the classic example is found in the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus: “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[7]  Bruce explains, “Even if earlier He had impressed on Nicodemus the necessity of the new birth ‘of water and the Spirit,’ this new birth, with the eternal life to which it was the gateway, could not be experienced until the Son of Man had been ‘lifted up’[8] Luke, makes it clear that John the Baptist’s prediction was ultimately fulfilled at Pentecost. Leon Morris further explains, “Being born “of water” may point to natural birth, which must then be followed by being born ‘of the Spirit,’ that is spiritual regeneration. Or better, we may take ‘water’ and ‘Spirit’ closely together to give a meaning like ‘spiritual seed.’”[9]

Indwelling

           The indwelling of the Spirit in the Old Testament was vastly different than the New Testament encounters. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, judges, and kings would receive the infilling of the Spirit for specific tasks and once the task was completed, the Spirit would depart. Joshua,[10] David,[11] and Saul[12] were all anointed by God and received the Spirit and the indwelling was a representation of God’s favor and if God’s favor left, the Spirit would also leave.[13] Bruce explains, “Jesus alone had received the Spirit of the new age. John the Baptist indeed had been filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb,[14] but that was the Spirit of prophecy. When John baptized Jesus in water, God simultaneously baptized Him with the Spirit: It was then ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with Power.’”[15][16]  God filled Jesus with the Spirit at His baptism, which demonstrates up to that point, the Holy Spirit was not yet in Him. Interestingly, after this encounter, the first narrated episode of Jesus’ public ministry takes place in His hometown of Nazareth. This sets the precedent that the Holy Spirit plays a major role in the equipping and empowering of ministry. It is also here that Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah and proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[17]

Control Over and Conviction of Sin

            The Holy Spirit’s third function is vital in both resisting the temptation to sin and also the conviction of sin, once it has been committed. God is holy and righteous and man is prideful and deceitful, so the Holy Spirit’s role in keeping followers of Christ righteous through their faith in Christ is paramount. Genesis 6:3 establishes that God’s holiness stands in direct opposition to sin and given enough sinfulness, His Spirit can leave. Hamilton illustrates, “The withdrawn Spirit of 6:3 calls to mind the hovering Spirit of 1:2. Where it hovers there is order, and chaos is restrained. Where it is withdrawn, chaos flourishes unchecked.”[18] This role of the Holy Spirit will be crucial during the end-times when the man of lawlessness is revealed and a growing apostasy exists.[19] After Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit would be available to Jew and Gentile alike to convict, regenerate, indwell, and empower anyone who would accept Christ as their Savior.

Empowerment for a Specific Task

           Steven Studebaker argues, “Only in the Holy Spirit does the triune nature of God find fullness of fellowship as the Spirit plays a liminal, constitutional, and consummative role within the Trinity.”[20] The significant difference between the role the Holy Spirit played in the Old Testament versus after Pentecost was after the Spirit was poured out on those gathered in Jerusalem, now when a believer was filled with the Spirit, he or she received the permanent indwelling of the Spirit and became a new creation.[21] In the Old Testament, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was only temporary and was used to accomplish a specific task, like leading the Israelites. However, the indwelling after Pentecost represented a time where the Holy Spirit would take up permanent residence inside the believer’s heart, fulfilling the prophecy.[22] J. A. Thompson illustrates how, “Yahweh Himself proposes to bring about the necessary change in the people’s inner nature, which will make them capable of obedience. He will set his law (tôrâ) within them and write it on their hearts, that is, on their minds and wills.”[23]

Outpouring of Holy Spirit

            Bruce provides one of the clearest pictures of what happened on Pentecost: “In the upper room, the Spirit brought to the disciples minds all the teachings of Jesus, showing them truth and what was to come. The Spirit then enabled them to bear witness and proclaim the gospel with conviction, while also performing signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.”[24] In addition, as John Wesley points out, there were 120 in attendance, which is significant because it points back to the original dedication of the Temple, built by King Solomon.[25] In the Temple, there were 120 priests performing the required rituals of purification, leading the people, and praising God. As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifice. This parallels the Acts 2 account as they too were waiting for God’s presence to come and once again fire would come down, representing the divine presence of God, going back to the Moses and the burning bush.[26] Wesley further illustrates:

 At the Pentecost of Sinai, in the Old Testament, and the Pentecost of Jerusalem, in the New Testament, where the two grand manifestations of God, the legal and the evangelical; the one from the mountain, and the other from heaven; the terrible, and the merciful one. They were all with one accord in one place – So here was a conjunction of company, minds, and place; the whole hundred and twenty being present.[27]

Acts Account of Pentecost

           Arguably, the most significant event in church history and the beginning of the Church Age, Pentecost plays a huge part in Christianity. It would forever change the face of Christianity as Johannes van Oort explains how, “The authors of the New Testament speak of the all-encompassing work of the Spirit in both the world and mankind, as well as the inhabitation of the Spirit within Christian believers, the gifts of the Spirit and baptism, the specific guidance of the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit.”[28] However, despite the detailed Acts account and all the other references and occurrences in the canon of scripture, there is still much debate as to what really happened on that day and what is applicable to the church today. What cannot be contested is the Spirit’s main purpose was to equip and supernaturally empower them to proclaim the gospel.

            Oort poses the question, “Should [the outpouring of the Spirit] and other special charismata be regarded as a peculiar privilege of the apostolic and primitive church?” Oort then shows, “In past centuries, the gift of special charismata was often considered to be appropriate only for the very first time of diffusion of the gospel, that several church fathers did not accept this view, [and] ages later, during the Protestant Reformation, such a view was also not the common opinion.”  Oort is correct in asserting, “There is no denying the universal emergence of charismatic movements brought with it a new consciousness of the biblical charismata and their significance to the contemporary Church.” However, Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit set in motion the Church Age and empowered the body of Christ of fulfill the work Jesus had started.

Old Testament Pentecost

            Pentecost is the Greek word for fiftieth and is associated with the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. This religious holiday began in the Old Testament and was originally a festival that expressed thanks to God for the blessing of their harvest.[29] The celebration has deep Jewish roots and is also associated with the Torah and the Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. There are a great number of parallels between the Word of God being given to the Israelites at Shavuot and the outpouring of the Spirit during the Pentecost account in Acts 2. It was only after Moses had come down from the mountain and the Jews had accepted the Law that they truly became servants of God. Similarly, it was only after the disciples and new converts had received the outpouring of the Spirit that they truly became witnesses of Jesus Christ. In both cases, it has been said, “The Jews celebrated a joyous harvest on Shavuot, and the church celebrated a harvest of newborn souls on Pentecost.”[30] When God would speak through Moses to the Israelites, it is interesting to note he had to wear a veil so as to not blind them with glory of the Lord.[31] This glory would fade over time in the Old Covenant, but in the New Covenant, as Paul Barnett shows:

Paul continues to contrast the old covenant with the new, based on his Midrash of Exodus 34:29-35. He turns now to the people of the old covenant, with whom he will compare the people of the new covenant… The “hope,” which is of the “glory that remains” makes Paul “very bold.” This “boldness,” or, more probably, “openness,” is opposed to the “veiled”ness that was interposed between “Moses”—symbolizing the old covenant—and the people of Israel, which prevented them from seeing the “end” of the “glory, which had been abolished.” “But” —in contrast with Paul’s and others’ “opened”ness and consonant with Israel’s “veiled”ness over their hardened minds—the same veil remains unlifted at “the reading of the old covenant”; only in Christ is the veil abolished.[32]

          Daniel Block also illustrates in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones something very similar to the creation account. Once again, rûaḥ is used to represent the winds or divine breath that blows in every corner of the earth, giving life to all creatures.  Block further explains:

Here Yahweh, the sovereign of the universe, is summoning the winds from around the world to direct their life-giving energy to these corpses lying in the valley. In John 20:22, the risen Christ breathed on his disciples, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” By breathing on the disciples he constituted them the new people of God. The early church fathers were less ambiguous in their interpretation of this text. In fact, references to Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones appear frequently in their discussions of the resurrection.[33]

New Testament Pentecost

          On the morning of Pentecost, which occurred fifty days after Passover, Thomas Lea and David Black explain, “[this event] celebrated the wheat harvest, but was also the traditional day on which Moses received the law at Mount Sinai.”[34] In Luke’s account, the place where the disciples were gathered was suddenly filled mighty rushing wind from heaven. During the descent of the Spirit, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”[35] Bruce illustrates how, “The Spirit pours the love of God into the hearts of believers[36] and brings them into conformity with the Character of Christ.”[37] Douglas Moo further explains, “Paul’s choice of the verb ‘pour out,’ means it is certain that we should paraphrase ‘the love of God for us’ rather than ‘our love for God.’”[38] This love of God for us had sent the Spirit and immediately, there is evidence of unity, as people from many different nations could understand each other, despite any language barriers. Those who were not filled with the Spirit mocked what was happening, accusing them of being drunk on wine. It is here that Peter addresses those gathered and proclaims, “This is what was said through the prophet Joel and today marks the fulfillment of God’s promise.”[39] Joel’s prophecy spoke of a time when the Lord would act in righteousness and mercy and Bruce demonstrates, “The “last days” began with Christ’s appearance on earth and will be consummated by his reappearance; they are the days during which the age to come overlaps the present age. Hence the assurance with which Peter could quote the prophet’s words and declare: “This is it.”[40] Paul Wegner shows:

One of the most important theological concepts in the Old Testament is the New Covenant.[41] This passage demonstrates three specific outcomes: (1) “I will write My law within them,” which was promised in John 14:16-17 and is fulfilled in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was poured out into the believers’ hearts; (2) Believers can go directly to God without the need of a human priest because Christ had fulfilled that role; and (3) Christ’s atoning work on the cross provided the forgiveness of sin. The events of Pentecost were the final promise, thus ushering in the Church Age and New Covenant.[42]

Holy Spirit Precedent

           Ralph Martin speaks on the highly debated topic of Pentecost and what potential applications they play in today’s believers by explaining this supernatural and divine encounter of the baptism in the Spirit describes an experience of the Spirit, accompanied by a deeper personal encounter with Christ. He then shows how this encounter is, “Characterized by a glimpse of His Lordship, a personal and liberating experience of the Father’s, and a new awareness that we are truly not orphans but that the Holy Spirit is truly present and ready to encourage, convict, guide, and help us understand the things of God.”[43] These roles of the Holy Spirit fall directly in line with doctrine, but have caused schisms in many Christian religions. What Paul said should unify the church but has, in many ways, come to divide her. Robert Wright further demonstrates, “The history of the Holy Spirit in the early Church can best be understood as a development from experience to doctrine.”[44] The sign of the age to come was the presence of the Spirit, which would bring about a call to repentance rooted in the hope of divine forgiveness. Peter echoes this as Bruce explains, “Peter told them that there was hope even now. Let them repent of their sin and turn to God; let them submit to baptism in the name of Jesus, confessed as Messiah. Then not only would they receive forgiveness of sins, but they would receive also the gift of the Holy Spirit—the gift which had been bestowed on the apostles themselves only a few hours before.”[45]

Holy Spirit Implications

              Bruce postulates whether it was only the disciples who heard the rushing wind, or if it was audible to others? He contends, “There is no way of knowing. What is certain is that the wind was held to symbolize the Spirit of God. When Ezekiel, by divine command, prophesied to the wind and called it to blow on the dead bodies in the valley of his vision, it was the breath of God that breathed into them and filled them with new life.”[46] [47] In any event, Pentecost was a complete reversal of what had happened with the tower of Babel. N. Stonehouse illustrates:

Peter interprets the days of the Spirit as constituting “the last days” (Acts 2:17), and this eschatological evaluation of Pentecost gives perspective to the ensuing history. Pentecost itself is not repeated… In what follows there is nothing comparable to the “tongues as of fire” or the “sound as of a mighty wind being borne along”. And evidently the speaking with tongues described in Acts 2 is not repeated.[48]

        Pentecost represented the beginning of a new age where the Holy Spirit made salvation available to the Gentiles, not by conforming to Jewish Law, but through faith and repentance in Jesus Christ. Stonehouse adds, “When the Jews heard them speak with tongues and magnify God, they were assured that the Gentiles had received this gift.”[49] This ushered in a new age.

Open to Jew and Gentile Alike

            Up until Pentecost, there was animosity and misunderstanding between the Jews and Gentiles, but the Spirit’s indwelling unified all believers to Christ and to one another. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”[50] George Richards explains:

           What happened on Pentecost in one sense is not repeatable. The Spirit came into the followers of Jesus as a new fellowship of men came to birth… It is the church, the body of Christ; and there is one body and one Spirit. As Jesus was born but once, so the Spirit came, and the church was born, once only. Yet Paul tells us to “be filled with the Spirit.” It is an admonition that we are to heed; otherwise it would have no meaning.[51]

            D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo illustrate Luke’s purpose in writing the Acts account of the infilling of the Holy Spirit was to show how, “God’s salvation was revealed in, and made available through, His Son, Jesus Christ. That message of salvation was entrusted by Christ Himself to His apostles, and through the empowering and directing of the Holy Spirit, they have now brought that message, and the salvation it mediates to the ends of the earth.”[52] The Great Commission and the Great Commandment were enacted to make salvation available to all.

Longevity of the Holy Spirit’s Presence

            Once a believer comes to faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit takes up permanent residence in the believer’s heart, which seals them as a child of God.[53] As Moo affirms, “Paul believes that every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God. Indeed, this is just what Paul affirms in the last part of the verse, where he denies that the person who does not have the ‘Spirit of Christ’ can make any claim to being a Christian at all. In other words, for Paul, possession of the Spirit goes hand-in-hand with being a Christian.”[54] Paul also refers to the believer’s body as being the temple of the Holy Spirit. Here, Gordon Fee demonstrates, “The body is the present habitation of God’s Spirit, meaning by implication that one belongs to the God whose Spirit dwells within.”[55]

New Role of the Holy Spirit

          Robert Pyne clarifies, “In John 16:8-11, Jesus described one aspect of the Spirit’s evangelistic work. As part of the Upper Room Discourse, in which the Lord comforted the disciples and gave them instructions before His death, He told them they should be encouraged, for it was to their benefit that He was leaving.”[56] The reason this was true is that His departure would result in the coming of the Holy Spirit,[57] who would comfort them, teach them, and help them in their evangelistic mission through His ministry of reproof.[58] Bruce also adds, “The Spirit is the sanctifying agency in the lives of the believers as He wages perpetual warfare against the flesh. [The Spirit] is more powerful than the flesh and can put the flesh progressively out of action in those lives, which are yielded to His control.”[59] Charles Stanley best explains the Holy Spirit’s new role: “Since Pentecost, every believer has received the Holy Spirit. If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, then the Spirit is the sap equipping us for the Christian life. Furthermore, He no longer comes and goes but rather remains permanently. He seals us in Christ—proof of the promise that we are forever in God’s presence.”[60]

Role of Holy Spirit in Apostle Paul’s Life

            One of the best representations of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit is found in the transformation of Saul, known as the persecutor, who would instead be remembered as Paul, the preacher of Christ and martyr for Christianity. For Paul, the primary function of the Spirit was the reproduction of the Christ-likeness in his people, so there would be unity in the body of Christ. In his letter to the Ephesians, Bruce demonstrates: “It is by faith that the people of Christ are united to Him, and in being united to Him they realize their own unity one with another.”[61] [62]

Conversion Account

            Paul claimed his gospel came to him through a divine revelation from Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and he believed his gospel came to him supernaturally and not through or by any human means.[63] However, Paul does give credit to the Christians before him, as is evidenced in his letter to the Corinthians. Carson and Moo show, “What Paul seems to be asserting is that elements of his gospel teaching, such as the truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection were handed down to him by other people.”[64] Lea and Black add, “Any analysis of Paul’s thoughts, which ignores his gospel came to him as a revelation from Jesus Christ cannot do justice to his theology.”[65] Lea and Black add, “the content of Paul’s gospel, received by direct revelation, affirms that Jesus was the Son of God and that He died to redeem sinners for the curse of the law.”[66] For Paul, being in the Spirit was the opposite of being in the flesh. From this belief, Bruce asserts, “There is no difference between the indwelling of the Spirit and the indwelling of the risen Christ, so far as the believer’s experience is concerned.”[67] This does not mean Paul equated the Spirit with the risen Lord, but he did see a dynamic uniformity between them.

Supernatural Encounters

            Paul had two specific mystical and supernatural encounters, which had divine and lasting effects on him and his ministry. Paul’s first encounter with the exalted Christ occurred on the road to Damascus. Bruce explains, this encounter allowed Paul to proclaim a direct and personal acquaintance with the exalted Christ despite not knowing Him during His earthly ministry.[68] Lea and Black explain, “Paul’s entire belief system was Christocentric, [meaning,] he did not emphasize theology for its own sake, but to stress the urgency of a vital, living encounter with Christ.”[69] [70] This divine encounter allowed Paul to receive a supernatural revelation of Christ and the redemptive work of the cross. Carson and Moo also contend this experience would turn, “Paul into more than a follower of Jesus, rather it would turn him into a preacher of Jesus.”[71]

            Paul’s second mystical experience occurred around 42/43 A.D., which was fourteen years following his first. In his letter to the Corinthians, he tells them, “To keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, I was given a splinter in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, and to keep me from being too elated.”[72] This thorn in Paul’s side has been said to be many things, but it ultimately led him to truly understand and embody how the Lord’s grace was completely sufficient and how His power was made perfect in humanity’s weakness. Bruce adds, “the sequel to Paul’s mystical experience was a distressing, indeed humiliating, physical ailment which he feared at first might be a handicap to his effective ministry, but which in fact, by giving his self-esteem a knock-out blow and keeping him constantly dependent on the divine enabling, proved to be a help, not a handicap.”[73]

Inspired Letters

            The letters of Paul provide some of the best illustrations of Paul’s theology following Pentecost and the outpouring of the Spirit. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he says, “He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him.”[74] Gordon Fee demonstrates how, “The illicit union is now contrasted to the believer’s union with Christ: “But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” In light of vv. 19-20, Paul probably is referring to the work of the Spirit, whereby through the “one Spirit” the believer’s “spirit” has been joined indissolubly with Christ. The believer is united to the Lord and thereby has become one S/spirit with him.”[75]  Later in this letter, Paul stresses the unity of God, by explaining while there are a variety of gifts, they are of the same Spirit.[76] Diversity and unity in the body of Christ were and still are essential to maintaining a healthy church, as Fee expounds further: “The one God who is Himself characterized by diversity within unity has decreed the same for his church… Everything, absolutely everything—gifts, persons, church—owes its origin to the one God who works all things in all of his people.” In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he says: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”[77] Throughout the Old and New Testament, the Spirit stands in direct opposition to the flesh. Bruce emphasizes, “The Spirit is the antithesis of flesh and God, by implication, is Spirit; not only so, but the Spirit of God energizes men and imparts on them physical power, mental skill, or spiritual insight that they would not otherwise have.”[78] In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “If you are under the Spirit, you are not under the law.”[79] Paul wanted everyone to experience the freedom in Christ by casting off the yoke of bondage that came from the law. The law’s primary purpose was preparing the people for the arrival of Christ. Ronald Fung demonstrates, “That the guidance of the Spirit can be experienced as a reality in the life of the believer is a sign that Jeremiah’s prophetic word about the New Covenant has been fulfilled. Additionally, [the believer] must let himself/herself be led by the Spirit—that is, actively choose to stand on the side of the Spirit over against the flesh.”[80] The overreaching theme of Paul’s letters was putting to death the things of the body combined with the flesh and Spirit antithesis. David Wenham has identified a close parallel in the story of Jesus’ agony and betrayal in Gethsemane with Paul’s flesh-Spirit opposition.[81] In Matthew and Mark’s gospel,[82] Jesus makes known the Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak. This theme comes from a similar passage in the Old Testament, “The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not Spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together.”[83]  John Oswalt shows how this verse continues the contrast between Egypt and God by asserting that flesh is hardly equal to Spirit. He says, “We human beings have continued difficulty acting upon it, because we tend to value tangible things more than intangible ones. So the Scriptures remind us in various ways that flesh can neither help us nor harm us in the face of God.”[84] The Spirit was essential in Paul’s theology and was much more than the fulfillment of prophecy. Fee shows, “That God Himself would breathe on us and we would live, that He would write His law in our hearts, and especially that He would give His Spirit into us, so that we are indwelt by Him.”[85]

Modern-day Roles of the Holy Spirit and Application

            The Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit has been at work since the beginning[86] and for people today, some of the main roles the Holy Spirit plays are convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.[87] When people come to faith in Jesus Christ and experience salvation,[88] the Holy Spirit then acts as a comforter and helper, which Jesus promised would come before His ascension to the right hand of God.[89] As the Holy Spirit indwells within the believer, He comforts them, allowing a sense of encouragement, even during times of great need. The closer a believer grows to the Lord, the more the Holy Spirit will take an active role in their life, thus supernaturally guiding them to what is pure and true.[90] As the Holy Spirit is allowed to take root in the believer’s life, they are compelled to worship and glorify the Lord because the work of the Spirit is Christocentric, meaning all praise, honor, and glory are directed towards Christ. As believers grow in their faith, the Holy Spirit also provides special gifts to aid in fulfilling the Great Commission, in meeting the needs of others, and in glorifying God.[91] Paul writes the following to the church in Corinth: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”[92] Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh in his letter to the Galatians, because it is impossible to bear fruit and reflect the desires of God without the fruits of the Spirit being active in the believer’s life. The Holy Spirit places the believer under the protection of God, which Paul writes to the Ephesians: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”[93]

            Julie Ma demonstrates, “God initiated mission and intends to achieve it by work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, mission—which God commands His church to accomplish—belongs to God, not to human agency. Prior to ascending to heaven, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to his disciples, and asked them to wait in Jerusalem. This Holy Spirit is given to enable them to be witnesses of Jesus from Jerusalem to the end of the world.”[94] The Holy Spirit enables and empowers believers to fulfill the Great Commission, by aligning the disciple’s motives with the Father’s. As Ma highlights “This implies that the church has to partner with the Holy Spirit to fulfill this mission. Missionaries need to consciously work together with Spirit and be directed and guided by the Spirit.”[95] Roy Zuck additionally shows how, “The Holy Spirit, as the παράκλητος “Helper”,[96] is available to help believers ascertain the correct meaning of the Bible’s statements, commands, and questions.”[97] Lastly, as Leon Morris illustrates: “The Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of truth,’ for His work here is to guide the followers of Jesus into all truth.”[98]

Conclusion

             The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts marked the beginning of the Church Age and the most significant part of Pentecost was how the Holy Spirit indwelled inside Jew and Gentile alike. This fulfillment of prophecy equipped and empowered the disciples and converts for the work of the church and it bestowed divine inspiration to the writers of the Bible. The Holy Spirit plays just as active a role today, in the believer’s life, as it did on Pentecost. One of the greatest gifts the Spirit imparts to those He indwells is the revealing of truth. Satan attempts to destroy, counterfeit, or pervert everything God stands for, and the Holy Spirit pierces through the concealment of lies and cuts to the heart of the matter, revealing truth and life.

Bibliography

Barnett, Paul. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Block, Daniel I. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Bruce, F. F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977.

Bruce, F. F. and Frederick Fyvie. “Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles.” Interpretation 27, no. 2 (April 1973): 166-183. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2016).

Bruce, F. F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Bruce, F. F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Carson, D. A. and Douglas Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.

Fairchild, Mary. http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefeastsandholidays/p/pentecostfeast.htm  (accessed June 28, 2016).

Fee, Gordon D. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1994.

Fee, Gordon D. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Fung, Ronald Y. K. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Galatians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Lea, Thomas D. and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003.

Ma, Julie. “The Holy Spirit in Mission.” Dialog, 54: (2015) 171–179. doi: 10.1111/dial.12172 (accessed June 3, 2016).

Martin, Ralph. “A New Pentecost?: Catholic Theology and “Baptism in the Spirit”.” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 14, no. 3 (2011): 17-43. https://muse.jhu.edu/  (accessed June 12, 2016).

Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

van Oort, Johannes. “The holy spirit and the early church: the experience of the spirit.” HTS Teologiese Studies 68.1 (2012). Academic OneFile. (accessed June 13, 2016).

Oswalt, John N. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Pyne, Robert A. “The role of the Holy Spirit in conversion.” Bibliotheca Sacra 150, no. 598 (April 1993): 203-218. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 4, 2016).

Richards, George Warren. “Spirit-filled.” Interpretation 4, no. 1 (January 1950): 36-39. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2016).

Stonehouse, N. “Repentance, Baptism And The Gift Of The Holy Spirit,” – Westminster Theological Journal 13, no. 1 (Nov 50), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 5-6.

Studebaker, Steven M. From Pentecost to the Triune God: A Pentecostal Trinitarian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012.

Thompson, J. A. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Jeremiah. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Wenham, David. Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

Wegner, Paul D. Using the Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2009.

Wesley, John. Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament. London: Wesleyan-Methodist Book-Room, n.d. WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 2”.

Wright, J. Robert. “Holy Spirit in Holy Church: From Experience to Doctrine.” Anglican Theological Review 83, no. 3 (Summer, 2001): 443-54, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/215264412?accountid=12085 (accessed June 13, 2016).

Zuck, Roy B. “The role of the Holy Spirit in hermeneutics.” Bibliotheca Sacra 141, no. 562 (April 1984): 120-130. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 4, 2016).


[1] Ezekiel 11:16-20; 36:24-27 & Joel 2:28

[2] John 14:16

[3] Genesis 1:2 (ESV)

[4] Victor P. Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 112.

[5] Joel 2:28

[6] F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 207.

[7] John 3:3 (ESV)

[8] John 3:5

[9] Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 191.

[10] Numbers 27:18

[11] I Samuel 16:12-13

[12] I Samuel 10:10

[13] I Samuel 16:14

[14] Luke 1:15; Isaiah 61:1

[15] Acts 10:38

[16] F. F. Bruce, (Frederick Fyvie). “Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles.” Interpretation 27, no. 2 (April 1973): 167. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2016).

[17] Luke 4:18-19 (ESV)

[18] Victor P. Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 267.

[19] II Thessalonians 2:3-8

[20] Steven M. Studebaker, From Pentecost to the Triune God: A Pentecostal Trinitarian Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), 274.

[21] II Corinthians 5:17

[22] Jeremiah 31:33

[23] J.A. Thompson, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Jeremiah, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 581.

[24] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 208.

[25] II Chronicles 6:1-7:10

[26] Exodus 3:2-5

[27] John Wesley, Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, (London: Wesleyan-Methodist Book-Room, n.d.), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 2”.

[28] Johannes van Oort,  “The holy spirit and the early church: the experience of the spirit.” HTS Teologiese Studies 68.1 (2012). Academic OneFile. (accessed June 13, 2016).

[29] Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:15-22, Deuteronomy 16:16, II Chronicles 8:13

[31] Exodus 34:29-35, II Corinthians 3:12-18, & I Corinthians 3:7-8

[32] Paul Barnett, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 188.

[33] Daniel I. Block, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 389.

[34] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2003), 292.

[35] Acts 2:4 (ESV)

[36] Romans 5:5

[37] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 141.

[38] Douglas J. Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 304.

[39] Acts 2:17

[40] F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 60.

[41] Jeremiah 31:31-34

[42] Paul D. Wegner, Using the Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2009), 82.

[43] Ralph Martin, “A New Pentecost?: Catholic Theology and “Baptism in the Spirit”.” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 14, no. 3 (2011): 17-43. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed June 12, 2016).

[44] Robert J. Wright, J. “Holy Spirit in Holy Church: From Experience to Doctrine.” Anglican Theological Review 83, no. 3 (Summer, 2001): 443, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/215264412?accountid=12085. (accessed June 13, 2016).

[45] Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts, 69.

[46] Ezekiel 37:9-14

[47] Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts, 50.

[48] N. Stonehouse, “Repentance, Baptism And The Gift Of The Holy Spirit,” – Westminster Theological Journal 13, no. 1 (Nov 50), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 5-6.

[49] Stonehouse, “Repentance, Baptism And The Gift Of The Holy Spirit,” 8.

[50] I Corinthians 12:13 (ESV)

[51] George Warren Richards, “Spirit-filled.” Interpretation 4, no. 1 (January 1950): 37. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2016).

[52] D. A. Carson, and Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2005), 306.

[53] Romans 8:9 & I Corinthians 6:19-20; 12:13

[54] Douglas J. Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 490.

[55] Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 263.

[56] Robert A. Pyne, “The role of the Holy Spirit in conversion.” Bibliotheca Sacra 150, no. 598 (April 1993): 202. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 4, 2016).

[57] John 14:16-17; & John 16:7

[58] Pyne, “The role of the Holy Spirit in conversion.” 202.

[59] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 210.

[60] Ephesians 1:13-14

[61] Ephesians 4:13

[62] F.F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 350.

[63] Galatians 1:12-16

[64] D. A. Carson, and Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2005), 371.

[65] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2003), 335.

[66] Lea and Black, The New Testament, 336.

[67] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 209.

[68] F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 113.

[69] Colossians 3:1-5

[70] Lea and Black, The New Testament, 354.

[71] Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 359.

[72] II Corinthians 12:7-10

[73] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 135.

[74] I Corinthians (ESV)

[75] Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 260.

Ibid., 283.

[76] I Corinthians 12:4 (ESV)

[77] Romans 8:5-6 (ESV)

[78] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 206-207.

[79] Galatians 5:18

[80] Ronald Y. K. Fung, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Galatians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 248-251.

[81] David Wenham, Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 275.

[82] Matthew 26:41 & Mark 14:38

[83] Isaiah 31:3 (ESV)

[84] John N. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 572.

[85] Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1994), 6.

[86] Genesis 1:2

[87] John 16:8

[88] Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 6:19-20

[89] John 14:16-17

[90] John 16:13

[91] Matthew 28:16-20

[92] 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV)

[93] Ephesians 1:13 (ESV)

[94] Julie Ma, “The Holy Spirit in Mission.” Dialog, 54: (2015) 171. doi: 10.1111/dial.12172 (accessed June 3, 2016).

[95] Ma, “The Holy Spirit in Mission.” 171.

[96] John 14:16; 15:26

[97] Roy B. Zuck, “The role of the Holy Spirit in hermeneutics.” Bibliotheca Sacra 141, no. 562 (April 1984): 120-130. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 4, 2016).

[98] Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 620.

Unreached People Group Project: The Soninke of Mali

Soninke People

In order to fulfill the Great Commission in today’s world, one must first understand the command Jesus gives to His disciples, “to make disciples of all the nations,” flows from the very heart of God. Throughout the Old and the New Testament, God is seen moving toward the lost and broken-hearted. As part of His redemptive plan, God sent Jesus to restore the communion that was corrupted between man and God, and Jesus gave His life, so that all who would call upon His name would be saved. Jesus tells His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[1] This means anyone, any nation, and any people group can be redeemed, forgiven, and receive salvation.

Over time, the word “nations” has become synonymous with people groups or cultural groups and according to the Joshua Project; the world is currently made up of 16,464 people groups. Of those groups, forty percent or 6,659 are considered as being unreached, meaning the evangelical population is less than two percent and they lack the ability to evangelize their own people.[2] The 1982 Lausanne Committee defines people groups as, “The largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planning movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”[3]

This project will focus on a region within the 10/40 window of the world because as A. Scott Moreau et al. illustrate, “this [region represents the] vast bulk of people who have yet to hear a clear communicated invitation to repent, return to Christ, and worship God…”[4] While Christianity ranks as the number one religion in the world, Islam follows closely behind it. Within the 10/40 window, this paper will specifically target the people group called the Soninke who are located primarily in Mali. In order to do this, this project will first endeavor to give a brief background of their history, language, culture, economy, religion(s), and family structure and values. Secondly, a brief overview of past and present mission efforts will be detailed, demonstrating the current state of the church, number of known believers, challenges, and any successful strategies. Lastly, a proposed strategy will be presented detailing how best to evangelize and reach the Soninke people. Given this writer’s role as a church pastor, a plan will be designed centered on taking the gospel to the unreached people of Soninke, in the form of church laborers to work among them, with the end-goal ultimately being the establishment of a mission’s outpost/church and the digging of a water well.

Background Information

Status of the World

In a world with 7.3 billion people, where every second that passes two people die and four babies are born,[5] there has never been a greater need for evangelism and missions. John Piper believes, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.”[6]  Daily, between 150,000 – 175,000 people perish and 325,000 – 350,000 births occur.[7] The good news is everyone has everlasting life; the bad news is not everyone will spend it in heaven. These are unsettling statistics because out of the world’s population, only 1.9 billion people profess to be Christians, and of that number, only two percent regularly share their faith with others, and only five percent have ever led someone to Christ.[8] To make matters worse, the Barna Group recently found that seventy-five percent of Americans who said they were “born again” could not even define what the Great Commission[9] was.[10]  This is the fundamental problem facing Christianity today, as George Barna explains, “The gap between the churched and the churchless is growing, and it appears that Christian communities of faith will struggle more than ever to engage church outsiders…”[11]

History of Soninke People

The Soninke people primarily live along the Senegal River where it enters the western border of Mali in the Kayes, Yelimane, Nioro, and Nara regions. According to the Joshua Project, other small tribes settled along the borders of Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso and due to influence by a large nomadic tribe known as the Fulani, the Soninke have become farmers and herdsmen.[12] One of the earliest Soninke settlements was established in Ghana around A.D. 750 and because of persecution by the Berbers, the Soninke dispersed into small groups within the neighboring regions. The three main sub-groups of the Soninke are the Marka, the Nono, and the Azer. Often, these three tribes are further broken into even smaller clans that specialize in various crafts. Four of the most important Soninke tribes are the Sisse, the Drame, the Sylla, and the Kante. Some of these groups eventually intermixed with the local Wolof, Serer, and Malinke tribes.[13] Today, there are roughly 800,000 Soninke in Mali, making up seven percent of the country’s total population.

Map of Soninke in Mali

Soninke in Mali

[14]

Language, Culture, and Economy

The Soninke are believed to have descended from the ancient central Saharan people and archeologists believe they used to make and trade woven textiles through a process called strip weaving. It was from this region that led to the Songhai Empire expanding across West Africa and some of the earliest evidence of the Soninke people can be traced near the Tichit-Walata and Tagant cliffs dating back to 2500 BC to 2000 BC. There is also evidence, which supports the Soninke were early producers of stone settlements. Some these establishments still have traces of the massive defensive walls that once stood. Mali’s most famous Emperor was Kan Kan Mussa, also known as the Lion of Mali. Under his rule, this became an extremely rich area and during his pilgrimage to Mecca, he brought over one hundred and eighty tons of gold with him. As Global Prayer Digest illustrates,

Looking at the poor farmers working their fields in Ghana, one would never guess that the ancestors of these Soninke people once ruled a powerful empire along the banks of the Niger River. Gold flowed like water from the mines of the Ghana Empire. This people group also once traded in salt, copper and slaves. Then in the 13th century Berber invaders from Morocco drove the Soninkes from their homeland along the Niger River scattering this people group across West Africa and pillaging them as they had once pillaged others. Greed had come full circle.[15]

The social structure and organization of the Soninke are typical of the Mande-related people groups, who speak many of the Mande languages of the region of West Africa. They are now mostly farmers who raise rice, peanuts, and millet. They also raise large numbers of livestock including: goats, sheep, horses, chickens, and cattle. Because little to no fishing and hunting is done, trade among their neighbors is extremely important. While the Soninke trade in the local markets, it is also common for them to travel to markets in other regions to trade their goods. Interestingly, while in the past, the Soninke men worked the land and cultivated the crops and the women worked in the gardens, today things are much different. Part of this may be attributed to their high migration rate, but the primary factor is directly related to roughly half of the men leaving anywhere from two to five years doing migrant work. This is common practice, so the men can send money back to dig wells and provide for their villages and families in ways not possible if they were back home. As a result, the Soninke people have taken on more of a matriarchal society, where the women hold prominent positions of power and authority over the older men and children who are left behind. Recently, two hundred thousand Soninke people up and moved to Paris, making them the largest West African group in France. This has led to many problems in France, partly because of the unsanitary condition they live in and because they brought their religious customs with them (i.e. polygamy, high birth rates, and female genital mutilation).[16]

Religion(s) and Family Values/Beliefs

The poor Soninke live in small villages, with homes made out of brick and thatched roofs, while the wealthier people have brick homes, flat terraced roofs, and an interior court. Houses will typically line both sides of the main road, and a mosque will be positioned in the village square. Much like other cultures, the town square was where the market was located as well as where the religious influences were made known. According to Islamic law, the men are allowed to have four wives and while a dowry is customary in their culture, the payment goes to the bride instead of to her parents, which is vastly different from other cultures. Pre-marital sexual relations are strictly forbidden, so they do possess moral integrity, but there inheritance laws only give daughters half shares, while sons get equal shares, and the widow only gets a one-eighth share.

The Soninke were forcibly converted to Islam beginning around the 11th century and currently Sunni Muslims make up the majority of the Soninke in Mali at seventy percent of the population. Just less than thirty percent of the population is made up of ethnic/syncretistic religions, which are more animistic in nature. As with most Muslims, they follow the teachings of Mohammad, who they believe to be the Islamic prophet. Their holy book is known as the Koran, and they believe it was given to Mohammad by the angel Gabriel. The Muslim faith is centered on the five pillars or duties of Islam. They are extremely devout followers who believe there is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet. They pray five times a day while facing Mecca, they observe religious holidays, and if possible they make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca.

According to Global Prayer Digest, “This Soninke for centuries looked to the north for inspiration, adopting Islam, brought to them by Berber traders from North Africa. Despite their conversion to Islam, some still practice Animism, the worship of nature spirits.”[17] Ernst Dammann illustrates, “Though Islam has gained a footing in these parts of Africa in the thirteenth century already, and though since the middle of the nineteenth century there has taken place an intensive Islamization here as well as elsewhere in West Africa, the tribal religions are far from being extinguished.”[18]

 Paolo Gaibazzi details the influence the outside world has had on the Soninke people stating: “The end of internal slavery in West Africa is generally associated with an increase in labor mobility. However, in Sabi, a Soninke village in Upper River Gambia, economic migration intensified and globalized from the 1950s onward. Although they have since been free to move, the descendants of slaves have migrated less than those of the freeborn.”[19] Gaibazzi argues, “the persistence of social liabilities linked to slave descent after emancipation has partially prevented slave descendants from accumulating the resources needed to out-migrate.” He then demonstrates while emancipation from slavery and migration are usually seen as closely related events, which lead to a free and mobile labor market that is not the case in people groups like the Soninke.

Survey of Missions Work

History of Missions Among the Soninke People

Missions can be dated back to the early church, which shows God desires that everyone come to faith in Him through Christ, but that not all will. Romans 10:13-14 demonstrates the significance of Christian evangelism when it comes to reaching those who have never heard: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” A great example is Cornelius who knew about God, but not about Christ; however, because of his sincere desire to know God, Cornelius came in direct contact with the Apostle Peter who told Cornelius about Jesus.[20]

The first Christian missionary translators began working among the Soninke in the 1980s. While there are only a few books of the Bible that have been translated into their language, they do have access to the Jesus film[21] and global recordings.[22] [23] After consulting with several missionaries based in Mali, it became abundantly clear Christianity came at a great cost. The missionaries consulted for the purposes of this report were very cautious about giving any information, they did not want their names mentioned anywhere, and they all insisted only exchanging information if it happened using FaceTime, so they could see whom they were talking to. All of the missionaries have had multiple death threats on themselves and their families from followers of both Islam and from the people who still follow the animalistic ethnic religions.

One missionary couple had been down there for two years working to finish a complete Bible in Soninke’s native language. They have just come back to the states to raise additional funds so they can go back and hopefully finish what they had started, and they said raising money is one of the hardest parts of missions’ work. While they have many people who sponsor them, the effects on the economy in the United States has had worldly impacts and all the missionaries consulted said raising money has become harder each year. The missionaries who are working to finish a complete Bible said part of the difficulty was there are five different dialects for the Soninke language in Mali alone: Touba, Serecole, Azer, Kinbakka, and Xenqenna. They cannot wait to go back and finish what they started and they expressed gratitude to the instructor who encouraged this project of his graduate students. Some of their work on can be found at http://bienvenueafricains.com/en/soninke/ and at http://www.wycliffe.org. They have played a huge role in presenting the gospel to a people group who had not previously heard of Christ and the sacrifice He made for anyone who would respond. Despite their amazing work and contributions to the Soninke people, they wanted it to be known there are still over 1,800 languages that are still waiting for complete Bible translations, so while Wycliffe just celebrated twenty-three new languages receiving access to scripture, they stressed, there is still much work to be done.[24]

Current Status of the Church

            Seek first the kingdom of God are lofty words, but without action behind them, the result is a lukewarm Christianity. Bruner illustrates, “The church exists by mission… [And] when a church is no longer on mission, it is no longer a church.” The question that is highly debated is whether the church should meet the physical needs or the spiritual needs first. This writer is of the opinion that both must be reached, and through meeting both needs, a bonding relationship will form. In the past, Islam has been the religion observed by the majority and as a result, much of their infrastructure and supplies are from fellow Muslim believers. If Christianity wants to take root among the Soninke people, there are many physical needs that must be considered. While these needs provide great opportunities for God to produce wonderful miracles of blessings and new ways for converts to grow their faith, they cannot be ignored when attempting to evangelize, convert, baptize, and teach the Soninke people.

Known Believers

The Soninke people group is represented in eight different countries around the world: Cote d’Ivoire, France, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and the United States, with a total population of 2,390,700. Currently, the Soninke in Mali have a population of 1,440,000 and Islam represents 94.99% of the population, with only .01% being Christian and .00% being evangelical. Of the .01% of known believers, 85% are Roman Catholic and the remaining 15% are Protestant. Among the Soninke in Mali, there are very few known Christians and those who convert to Christianity are severely persecuted by the Muslims. This has made evangelizing efforts extremely difficult.

The second missionary interviewed for this report said, “For most Soninke, they have still not yet heard a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” When asked the question whether it was harder to evangelize someone who believed in Islam or someone who held no religious beliefs at all, he responded saying, “It was easier evangelizing someone who already believed there was a God versus someone who did not believe in any god, held to ethnic religions, or had no religious values.” He also said, “the main obstacle was building trust with the locals and making provisions for those who are open to the gospel.” After asking what role the Holy Spirit played in their mission, he replied: “The Holy Spirit was relied upon heavily and that he had seen the Spirit at work on a constant basis, both in converts and in those who were open to hearing what he had to say.” This writer holds to the belief that the Holy Spirit has the power to undo what happened at Babel, but for missionaries in this region, the language barrier still seems to be the biggest stumbling block to bonding and forming lasting relationships. Peter Wagner illustrates, “An estimated 48% of the world’s non-Christians find themselves in unreached people groups. That means over two billion individuals for whom Christ died will not hear of His love unless someone follows the call of God and leaves their own culture.”[25] A research team from Link Up Africa (LUA) reported, “We know of only one born-again believer among the Senegal Soninke and five to ten Soninke Christians in Mali. This believer in Jesus is like a flickering candle that the Holy Spirit can use to ignite a spiritual awakening to bring deliverance from sin, deception and the bondage of evil spirits.”[26] Darkness, by definition, is the absence of light, and all it takes is one spark to lead to a wildfire revival, with the power of the Holy Spirit. This is currently happening in other regions of Africa and LUA’s prayer is that the Lord would raise up messengers to carry the good news of the gospel across the Soninke territory, so they will no longer be isolated from the knowledge of the truth.[27] From this report and the information gathered from the missionaries consulted, there are now approximately twenty professing Christians among the Soninke people. This is a good start, but there is still much that needs to be done, especially as it relates to forming an indigenous church and teaching them how to evangelize their own people.

Challenges

Currently there is still no complete Bible in the Soninke’s native language, which all the missionaries cite is one of the primary obstacles in spreading the complete gospel and evangelizing the unreached. Wycliffe research shows, “When people finally get the Bible in their own language, lives often change in amazing ways. People are transformed as they are led to Jesus Christ and a right relationship with God.”[28] Both missionaries said it was important to also know the culture and traditions, which meant it was often necessary to go with the flow, almost like what the apostle Paul was referring to when he said: “Do whatever it takes.”[29] The only exception to this notion would be anything that would violate the inherent and infallible Word of God.

While each new day has presented different obstacles, it has also allowed opportunities for God to show up and meet a need. According to Claude Hickman et al., “When it comes to God’s will, many of us want the GPS version of God’s plan, [but] the Bible does not lay out a map, it gives us a compass.”[30] The missionaries said there are still many obstacles that stand in the way of evangelizing the Soninke people. Some of the biggest they have faced were: lack of understanding, language barriers/dialects, or cultural variations. When a complete Bible is available, the missionaries will be able to show how much of their Koran is found in the Bible, and how the chosen people of God came from the descendants of Isaac, not Ishmael. It will also rightly portray Jesus as the Son of God and not just a prominent prophet.

For the second missionary team consulted, they said their end-goal was for the indigenous people to begin evangelizing within their own communities. This model will cause churches/communities of faith to be self-sufficient and become multipliers of people of faith. In some cases, this process can be lengthy, since new languages must be learned, the translated Bible may not yet be available, or the people group may be resistant to Christian missions. This however was an area the two missionaries consulted differed on. One thought the notion of an indigenous church was great and the other had mixed emotions about it. This was something William Smalley believed was extremely misunderstood by many missionaries asserting, “An indigenous church is one in which the changes taking place under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, meets the needs, and fulfills the meanings of that society and not of any outside group.”[31] As Americans, it can very easy to try and duplicate and impose one’s own ideas and values in the people group trying to be reached. This is also an area that must be watched very carefully because syncretism has a tendency to blend a new believer’s previous customs and traditions with any newfound faith.

A great resource in helping to fulfill the Great Commission is the Joshua Project, which is a research initiative focused on taking the gospel to all unreached people groups. They use Revelation 5:9 and 7:9-10 to show that there will be some from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people before the Throne of God. Their goal, through the collaborative efforts of missionaries, is to help define the unfinished task of the Great Commission by highlighting unreached people groups. Their data and information is extremely helpful to: mission agencies, different denominations, churches, and missionaries to accelerate the Gospel’s advance into each of the least-reached people groups.[32] For the Soninke people, they are specifically praying for, “the Lord to send forth laborers into Mali to share Christ with the indigenous people, that Christian broadcasts will soon be made available in their region, that God will give the small number of Soninke believers’ boldness to share Christ with their own people, and that God would rise up people who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Mali through worship and intercession.”[33]

Global Connections is another great resource that believes missions are at the heart of the church and the church is at the heart of missions. They illustrate some additional challenges that they have personally faced in country: “Soninke live in difficult areas with a hard climate, their living conditions are primitive, there is little to no technology, they are subject to tropical diseases, and witnessing to them is very hampered by the mobility of the population.” Interestingly, over the last few years, through their continued commitment to the Soninke people, they have been leading a small number of people to the Lord and some have even expressed an interest in obtaining more Christian literature. Global Connections also found the Soninke people preferred reading in Arabic rather than Roman script.”[34]

Proposed Strategy

For the Great Commission to be truly fulfilled the gospel must be taken to every tribe, tongue, and nation, otherwise this commandment becomes nothing more than the “Great Suggestion.” R. T. France further illustrates,

The phrase panta ta ethne, “all the nations,” has occurred already in Matthew 24:9, 14; 25:32, to denote the area of the disciples’ future activity, the scope of the proclamation of the “good news of the kingdom,” and the extent of the jurisdiction of the enthroned Son of Man. In each case we have seen that the emphasis falls positively on the universal scope of Jesus’ mission rather than negatively on “Gentiles” as opposed to Jews.[35]

Survey of Past and Present Mission Work

Missions and evangelism are being done with great success in the “Global South” and according to Todd Johnson, places like “Africa have seen the most vigorous growth, exploding from 10 million Christians in A.D. 1900 to 360 million in A.D. 2000.”[36] This is in sharp contrast to what is happening in America as Johnson demonstrates, “After A.D. 1980, Christians from the southern hemisphere outnumbered Northern Christians for the first time since the 10th century.”[37] Considering in A.D. 1500, ninety-two percent of all Christians were European, the future of Christianity in the south is exciting, while the future in the north is in trouble. For a nation, which was founded on biblical principles, America has hardened their hearts and turned their backs on God. While North American missionaries, over the last few centuries, played a huge role in the outpouring of Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, it is now the sending nation of America that needs an awakening and spiritual rebirth.

Larry Stockstill recently said that missiologists tell us that over one million souls are being saved every week around the world and that over 180,000 new churches are being planted every year and even among Muslims; there is a huge influx of Christianity. It is interesting to note, when looking back over the history of Christianity, the times when it thrives were and still are during times of the church’s greatest persecution and turmoil. For example, before ISIS, there were one million Christian believers in Egypt and now there are 4 million.[38]

As Luke Keefer illustrates, “We live and minister in a world that is changing quickly and much. But God has given the church a genetic code, a particular DNA, which gives us an identity in a world that is losing its face, and a mission in a world that is losing its way. That genetic code is the gospel, which has endured from the first to the twenty-first century.”[39] At PeopleGroups.org, their goal is to fulfill the Great Commission by informing the body of Christ about the people groups around the world: who they are, where they are located, and the progress of spreading the Gospel among them. Their vision is to see a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ.[40]

Phase One: Going There to Work Among the Soninke People

C. Peter Wagner illustrates, “The teeming multitudes of all colors, languages, smells, and cultures are not just a quaint sideline in our nation; they are America. And it is America that God has called to evangelize, [but] the first step in reaching [people] for Christ is to want to do it. Motivation is key.”[41]

For the purposes of this report, this author has decided to team up with Operation World, an organization dedicated to evangelizing the world. Their key strategy is prayer and Patrick Johnstone believes, “When man works, man works; when man prays, God works, [demonstrating] the ministry of the children of God is not just doing but praying, not just strategizing, but prostrate before God seeking His will, not just clever strategies for manipulating people and events but trusting in God who moves in the hearts of even His most implacable enemies.”[42] They believe firmly that prayer changes people, situations, and even the course of history. Only after prayerfully considering the mission that waits and counting the cost will a team be sent. Given the relationships formed with several missionaries in country and other organizations through the research of this project, it became clear there were many physical needs that needed to be addressed, in addition to the spiritual needs. As a result, the initial team going down will consist of people trained in the medical field, to heal the sick; contractors, to help build key infrastructure and begin work on the multipurpose mission outpost/church; and also laborers to help both in the treatment of the sick and in various construction roles. Another initiative will be the drilling of a well in a key location. Upon visiting the people and discovering where the greatest needs are, the goal will be drill a well very close to where the mission outpost will be. This will act as a central point where people will travel, not only to receive water for human consumption, but also to receive water from the river of life, that will cause one to thirst no more.[43]

After addressing their most basic human needs, the focus will then turn to meeting their spiritual needs. Fulfilling the Great Commission always leads to planting churches and involves three parts: going, baptizing, and teaching them to obey. Beram Kumar, when talking about the Western and non-Western church demonstrates, “We need one another. We need to be careful to guard that relationship. Of equal importance, however, is the need for the Church in the West to move out of the ‘they are emerging’ mentality and recognize that non-Western missions movements are equal and able partners.”[44] When looking at unreached people groups, what separates them from other groups is they lack an indigenous community of believing Christians who are able to engage with the group and have a church planting strategy, consistent with evangelical faith and practice. Emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s guidance is key, as Ed Stetzer illustrates, “Without the Holy Spirit’s work, we are not planting churches; we are starting religious clubs.” The end-goal must be the gathering of believers and planting churches to establish an effective and multiplying presence among the people group.[45] This will be the vision and strategy for this project. Training and equipping the people to do the work is fundamental to the health of the church. The same is true for any church, as it is the job of the church pastors to teach the laity of the church how to do the work of the church. This model has gotten lost, been forgotten, or blatantly been ignored out of a desire to control and do everything themselves, but in doing so, they are essentially robbing the people out of the blessings they would have received in doing the work they were called to do. The body is made up of many parts for a reason and each one contributes something specific according to the giftings God has given them.[46]

For some of the Soninke, it is harder to become a Christian because they already believe in a god, while for others it is hard because they do not believe in any god. However, the majority of the Soninke people believe in some form of god, so a strategy must be developed to illustrate how the Koran is really accounts from the Bible twisted to show it was the offspring of Ishmael that were God’s chosen people. Once the complete Bible is available, this will be a huge benefit to present the entire gospel meta-narrative. Next, a strategy must also be implemented to deal with the animalistic witchcraft currently being practiced. By showing God created all the animals on the earth in the Genesis account would be a good starting point to showing God’s supremacy over animals and man’s dominion over them, once that part of the Bible is completely translated.

One of the biggest obstacles faced in evangelism is explaining how a loving God can send people to hell. In their book, Faith Comes by Hearing, Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson write, “How could it be fair and just for those who have never even had a chance to hear the gospel, which is necessary for salvation, to be condemned to hell? The question sounds powerful, but behind it lies faulty assumptions.”[47]  Morgan and Peterson demonstrate the first mistaken assumption is that, “our condemnation is based on a rejection of the gospel.” They then show Scripture teaches that our condemnation is based on the fact that we are sinners, not because at some point in time we rejected the gospel. Morgan and Peterson then show, “God’s wrath is revealed against everyone who suppresses His truth revealed through creation … [And] strictly speaking, the Bible denies that there are persons who have never heard of God.”[48] Another faulty assumption that will have to be addressed pertains to “a confusion of justice and mercy.”[49] God is gracious and merciful in that He has provided a way of salvation through faith in Christ for those who will accept Him, but God also cannot let un-repentance go unnoticed. Ultimately, God will deal fairly with those who have not received a direct presentation of the gospel, just as He will deal fairly with those who have. God’s way is wide enough for everyone willing to accept it and receive Christ. The most important question any of us can answer is the one Jesus asked his own disciples, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”[50] This will be the question every Soninke will eventually have to answer.

Phase Two: Setting Up a Mission Outpost/Church and Well

The American Missionary Fellowship has developed a four-tier goal/system of planting churches where there is presently no clear gospel witness to reach the un-churched by: influencing future generations by reaching their children and young people; establishing ministry centers in the areas of trade and commerce, where there are desperate spiritual needs; and by multiplying leaders who can then take the gospel even further, and by developing ministries to target peoples of other diverse cultures. David Schenk and Ervin Stutzman affirm, “Church planting is thus the most urgent business of mankind. It is through the creation or planting of churches that God’s kingdom is extended into communities, which have not been touched by the precious surprise of the presence of the kingdom of God.”[51] Planting churches matters because people matter.

Eugene Scott explains, “One of the biggest mistakes pastors of white evangelical churches can make is not addressing policies that affect the poor. Coming to urban environments and endorsing policies that only benefit new transplants and businesses directs attention away from issues that have affected neighborhoods for generations.”[52] If someone is starving, you should first offer him or her bread for their body and then talk to them of the bread of life for their eternal soul. Efrem Smith says church planting has to be about serving the undeserved, not just following the latest trends: “We don’t simply need more churches… We need church planting and leadership development movements. These movements should specifically center on the empowerment of the poor. This will call church planting movements to connect evangelism, discipleship, and a liberating witness to the marginalized and outcast.”[53] These are whom Jesus sought out in His ministry and Wagner believes new church planting is the single most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven,[54] but as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. popularly said, “Sunday is also the most segregated hour of Christianity in America.”

David Mechanic and Jennifer Tanner illustrate a fundamental issue facing any outreach effort is: “The behavior that the public views as personally controllable is fundamental to whether they see people as sinners or victims. Governments provide assistance to those who are not seen as responsible for their vulnerability. When people are seen as responsible for their life circumstances, there is less public compassion and often stigma.”[55] Making disciples and multiplying churches must be the unified goal. At the first Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) was founded as part of “one sacred effort, for the propagation of the Gospel.” Southern Baptist churches believed that by working cooperatively, they could accomplish more for God’s kingdom. Today this organization is know as the International Missions Board whose focus has shifted from geographic countries to people groups, with a concerted effort to start church-planting movements among unreached peoples.[56]

With this team-focused approach, the goal will be to identify a key location to setup a mission outpost/church, and also dig a well within a close proximity. For the water well, World Vision will be consulted, as they have just dug their 1,000th successful borehole drilled in Mali since 2003 marking a substantial breakthrough in the effort to provide as many as 120,000 Malians a year with access to clean water and improved sanitation and hygiene.[57] Having access to clean water is of the utmost importance, as nearly one thousand children die everyday as the result of unsanitary water conditions. Depending on the location of the well will determine how deep it needs to be dug. The deeper the well, the more expensive it is to have access to clean water. For shallow wells, a hand pump is sufficient and only cost between five to ten thousand dollars. For deeper wells, where a diesel motor is required to bring the water up, the cost can be as high as thirty thousand dollars. However, with the deeper and larger well, the pump can tend to the consumption needs of several thousand people.[58]

The overall goal with the mission outpost/church will be to have versatility with the space, so it can be used for medical needs, teaching, church, and even a place where the local people can come together under one roof. Most of the villages all have mosques, so presenting this location, as a church may be problematic. In addition, Africa requires numerous permits for both building and drilling, and this process varies greatly at every location. The assistance of locals and organizations familiar with the process will be relied upon heavily. Before phase two can be implemented, a significant fundraising effort must be started back home, in addition to soliciting any support from the local Soninke people.

The Stone-Campbell Movement in Mali is a great example of sustaining a long-lasting partnership with the Soninke people. The missionary couple began their ministry in the late 1980s and made the commitment early on that they were going to stay for at least fifteen years to establish a local church that would be indigenous and self-sufficient apart from missionaries and the mission. Their plan was, “instead of focusing on a quick growth in numbers in the church, they concentrated on laying a firm foundation for the church.”[59] This meant a great deal of time and resources were spent on teaching new believers, building cement block structures, establishing irrigation and agriculture projects, and raising up natives to function in leadership roles within the church. This team also used their medical training to help better the lives of those they came to serve. One of the things, previously stated, that must be avoided is offending the Muslims; this regrettably was a reality this missionary team eventually faced:

Unfortunately, as time went by, the work had become more of a “church,” and except for programs on the radio station, their outreach was greatly diminished. When it was still at its beginning and the assorted buildings in the villages were seen as multi-purpose buildings, most Muslims did not object to participating, but when the local Christians insisted on setting up a large sign with a church name and hours for the service, the Muslims quit coming. Muslims do not want to be seen going to “church”. Church traditions are prevailing over the need to reach out to the un-reached.[60]

This is what will prevent growth from beginning and it will stop it even quicker. The mindset of the mission team must be focused on meeting the needs of all, both physical and spiritual, and not segregating those who are not Christians. This is what has happened in America, and as a result, the world knows more what the church is against than anything it is for. Love must be the motivation behind all actions, as reflecting the image of Christ is the ultimate goal and the only way the Great Commission will truly be fulfilled.

Conclusion

This project has given a brief background of the Soninke’s history, language, culture, economy, religion(s), and family structures/values. By understanding the people, their past, and their culture/religious views, an action plan was presented to reach the Soninke people. A detailed presentation of past and present mission efforts was then presented demonstrating the current state of the church, number of known believers, challenges, and successful strategies. Lastly, a proposed strategy was then presented on how best to evangelize and reach the Soninke people. Given this writer’s role as a church pastor, a plan was be designed, which was centered on taking the gospel to the unreached people of Soninke, in the form of church laborers to work among them, with the end-goal ultimately being the establishment of a multipurpose mission’s outpost/church and a water well to provide clean water for consumption. The location picked will be the Antioch of Mali, as this project will be the epicenter of missions to the Soninke people. By meeting the physical needs of the Soninke people, bonding will be developed and relationships will be formed. Over time, this will open the door to meeting their spiritual needs and fulfilling the mission Jesus passed onto the church after He ascended to heaven. By being imitators of Christ and showing love to the Soninke people, the mission effort will have the best possible chance of making an eternal impact.

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Scott, Eugene. “Evangelizing in the inner City: the role of white evangelical churches in urban renewal.” Kennedy School Review 15 (2015): 23+. Academic OneFile. http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=vic_liberty&id=GALE|A414840773&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon&userGroup=vic_liberty&authCount=1# (accessed April 21, 2016).

Stockstill, Larry. Why I Give a Flip About Missions, http://larrystockstill.com/missions/  (accessed May 2, 2016)

Smalley, William A. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: Cultural Implications of an Indigenous Church, 4th Edition. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009.

Smith, Efrem. “Church Planting Among the Urban Poor,” Christianity Today, 15 May 2014.

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Wagner, C. Peter. “A Vision for Evangelizing the Real America.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 10, no. 2 (Apr 01, 1986): 59, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1299982994?accountid=12085. (accessed April 21, 2016).

Wagner, C. Peter. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy, 4th Edition. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009.

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[1] John 14:6 (ESV)

[2] Joshua Project Website, https://joshuaproject.net (accessed April 19, 2016).

[3] Joshua Project Website, https://joshuaproject.net/resources/articles/what_is_a_people_group (accessed April 19, 2016).

[4] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey, 2nd Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2015), 281.

[6] Moreau et al., Introducing World Missions, 75.

[8] Bill Bright, The Coming Revival, (Orlando, FL: New Life Publications, 1995), 65.

[9] Matthew 28:18-20

[10] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is… How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2010), 35.

[15] J.S. Global Prayer Digest, “Soninke People,” http://www.globalprayerdigest.org/index.php/issue/day/Soninke-People5/ (accessed May 7, 2016).

[16] J.S., Global Prayer Digest, “Soninke People in Paris, http://www.globalprayerdigest.org/index.php/issue/day/Soninke-People-in-Paris/ (accessed May 7, 2016).

[17] J.S. Global Prayer Digest, “Soninke People,” http://www.globalprayerdigest.org/index.php/issue/day/Soninke-People5/ (accessed May 7, 2016).

[18] Ernst Dammann, Review of La Societé Soninke (dyahunu Mali). Journal of Religion in Africa 6 (2). 1974. Brill: 153–54. doi:10.2307/1594893. (accessed May 10, 2016).

[19] Paolo Gaibazzi, “THE RANK EFFECT: POST-EMANCIPATION IMMOBILITY IN A SONINKE VILLAGE.” Journal of African History 53, no. 2 (07, 2012): 215-216, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1041238287?accountid=12085. (accessed May 8, 2016).

[24] https://www.wycliffe.org/celebrate (accessed May 9, 2016).

[25] C. Peter Wagner, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy, 4th Edition. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009), 577.

[27] Ibid.

[28] https://www.wycliffe.org/about/why (accessed May 9, 2016).

[29] I Corinthians 9:19-23

[30] Claude Hickman, Steven C. Hawthorne, and Todd Ahrend, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: Life on Purpose, 4th Edition. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009), 725-726.

[31] William A. Smalley, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: Cultural Implications of an Indigenous Church, 4th Edition. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009), 499.

[33] Joshua Project Website, https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/14996/ML (accessed April 27, 2016).

[35] R. T. France, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel of Matthew, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 1114.

[36] Todd Johnson and Sandra S. K. Lee, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: From Western Christendom to Global Christianity, 4th Edition. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009), 387.

[37] Johnson and Lee, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 388.

[38] Larry Stockstill, Why I Give a Flip About Missions, http://larrystockstill.com/missions/ (accessed May 2, 2016)

[39] Luke Keefer, “The Changeless Gospel,” – Ashland Theological Journal 32, no. 0 (NA), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 20.

[40] People Groups Website, http://www.peoplegroups.org/Understand.aspx (accessed April 19, 2016).

[41] C. Peter Wagner, “A Vision for Evangelizing the Real America.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 10, no. 2 (Apr 01, 1986): 59 & 63, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1299982994?accountid=12085. (accessed April 21, 2016).

[42] Operation World Website, http://www.operationworld.org/prayer-and-nations (accessed April 21, 2016).

[43] John 4:14

[44] Beram Kumar, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: No Longer Emerging, 4th Edition. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009), 369.

[45] People Groups Website, http://www.peoplegroups.org/ (accessed April 20, 2016).

[46] I Corinthians 12:12-27

[47] Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, editors, Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008), 241.

[48] Morgan and Peterson, Faith Comes by Hearing, 241.

[49] Morgan and Peterson, Faith Comes by Hearing, 242.

[50] Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20

[51] David W. Schenk and Ervin R. Stutzman, Liberty University GLST 500, Week 7 Course Content, Fulfilling the Great Commission through Church Planting, https://media.liberty.edu/cqhne (accessed May 6, 2016).

[52] Eugene Scott, “Evangelizing in the inner City: the role of white evangelical churches in urban renewal.” Kennedy School Review 15 (2015): 23. Academic OneFile. http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=vic_liberty&id=GALE|A414840773&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon&userGroup=vic_liberty&authCount=1# (accessed April 21, 2016).

[53] Efrem Smith, “Church Planting Among the Urban Poor,” Christianity Today, 15 May 2014.

[54] Wagner, “A Vision for Evangelizing the Real America.” 63.

[55] David Mechanic and Jennifer Tanner, “Vulnerable People, Groups, and Populations: Societal View.” Health Affairs 26, no. 5 (Sep, 2007): 1221-1222, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/204641146?accountid=12085. (accessed April 21, 2016).

[56] International Mission Board Website, http://www.imb.org/about-us/history.aspx#.VxknPj-J-8U (accessed April 21, 2016).