Terry introduced Dave in the warmest possible way, telling us jokingly that if (like me) you have yet to read his book on the church, “you deserve a slap!” The friendship between these two men is palpable.
Dave began by reading large portions of Romans 1, 15, 16. How to begin and end sermons is important – some start by telling a joke or with a story, or thunder out the main point; others will make confessions. Dave made the point that he had been insulted by both of the first two preachers – even Dave would have to admit that his inability to sing or do DIY is legendary, however!
All too often Romans is a book we dip into rather than read from beginning to end. We often ignore the ending of Romans apart from mentioning the personal relational way in which Paul builds. Paul, in his introduction, summarises the Gospel; in chapter 15 he describes his apostolic ministry, and he concludes in chapter 16. They all talk about the same theme the obedience of faith for the sake of his name. Chapters 1:15: “bring nations to obedience, chapter 16 obedience of faith. Thus the objective and theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans and his ministry is to bring about the obedience of faith in EVERY nation.
Romans 1:5 – bring glory to God everywhere he has been commissioned to go to the whole world.
What is the Gospel? It is summarised in chapter 1 and worked out in the rest of the book – it is the good news of the now-reigning Christ, and all nations must obey Him. Paul interprets the Old Testament stories in the light of Christ. Adam, Abraham, the prophecies of the Messiah, the suffering servant – all are fulfilled in Christ. Paul says Jesus has come and brought propitiation. Jesus is the reigning Messiah.
Let’s preach the Gospel! This king Jesus is now claiming the whole world! By grace and apostleship Jesus calls all the nations to the obedience that comes from faith. Caesar’s generals didn’t invite people to have an experience; they COMMANDED people to obey. Similarly, Jesus is commanding – not through the law, but through grace. God’s undeserved favour is to flow throughout the world.
It is not a matter of telling people ‘don’t do this’ or ‘do this ritual.’ Instead, obedience springs from faith in the glorious message of faith. We are to obey it from the heart.
Our commission, the commission of EVERY Christian, is the same as Paul’s grace and apostleship to bring the whole world to submission. (NB – a note for all the non-newfrontiers readers here. By apostleship Dave means a commission from God to GO into all the world and call people to submit to the Gospel i.e. we are acting as God’s messengers, representatives, or ambassadors. Paul was an Apostle, but Ephesians 4 makes it clear that for each of these gifts their role is to get the rest of the church doing the stuff thus we are looking for an apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, instructing people of God where every member feels the need to do all these things.)
Paul speaks of being a slave to the cultures he is trying to reach because of the passion he has for this message. Why did Paul feel there was no room for him to work there anymore? We have to take Paul’s drive to preach where Christ was not known seriously. Paul was always keen to plant reproducing churches that could then carry on the work, so he didn’t see it as his role to evangelise so that every person would be saved; instead, once the churches were planted, he wanted to move on.
Three reasons to reach the totally unreached: prophetic promise, apostolic passion, and eschatological necessity -the Gospel MUST be preached in every nation. There is also an issue of the contemporary urgency with secularism, the advance of militant Islam, and the needs of the lost. We believe in the power of the Gospel to bring every nation to faith.
Dave is a truly motivational speaker and spent some time sharing fantastic stories of God working in the nations among newfrontiers churches to bring remarkable instances of salvation, which would in themselves make the download worthwhile.
Who are the unreached?
A culture which does not have a self-sustaining vibrant church. Some say it should be defined as a culture where less than 2 per cent are evangelical, and on that definition most of Europe would be unreached. Dave then showed us some selected slides of people groups who have yet to be reached, some of whom we as newfrontiers are already working with or near.
What is stopping us reaching the unreached?
- Non-missional churches – we need whole churches that are missional.
- Culture-bound instead of cultural-challenging churches.
Identification by Muslims and others of Christianity with the West they feel that Hollywood morality represents what Christians do, and war is between Christianity and Islam. We can only overcome that by planting small communities of Christians that demonstrate that Christians aren’t like that.
- Cultural and linguistic challenges.
Church planting is the only way to reach the world. Dave said he was going to preach this message of the nations until we are sick of it, and until we start to go.
Dave closed his sermon with these words:
God has a calling on us – we are together on a mission . . . and that includes going to those who have never heard the Gospel . . . we want to make an appeal similar to that made to Paul – ‘Help us, please.’ Encourage your people to go, and be willing to support them financially when that is needed. Please come! Come and help us . . . Don’t ever say, “We are not working there.” Jesus is Lord, Jesus is king, and He will return! Until that time, we are called to bring all the nations to the obedience of faith.