Thursday, January 4, 2018

How Might the Church in Thyatira Evangelize?

I have recently met with two students who both shared with me that in their contexts they have felt pushback in the area of evangelism. It would seem that what they perceived as biblical evangelism was not always accepted as such by other Christians.
In such circumstances, I can readily empathize with their struggles, since I have been dogged with a similar resistance for most of my ministry. However, rather than to be brash and insolent in the face of opposition, I remind them of three things:
  1. They need to remain humble, recognizing that they do not have the final interpretation of Scripture;
  2. They can and ought to learn from hard circumstances and other Christians, including those who oppose them; and
  3. Their naysayers should drive them to humbly open the pages of the Bible and ask God to reveal His heart to them, confirming if their approach to evangelism flows from God’s standard in His Word.

In so doing, they will receive the peace that passes all understanding, in a world that Christ has promised will be filled with tribulation.
One of these students brought up a very good question. In essence it was as follows:
If there is one Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit fills all of His people, and if He has clearly spoken through His Word, then why are there so many different and opposing interpretations of the Bible?
I explained that while it is true that there is only one Holy Spirit and that His Word is very clear, the Bible also clearly describes differentiation among those who would call themselves Christians. Here are a few examples to whet our appetite:
  • Those who say, “Lord, Lord” in Matt 7:21
  • Those who receive the word on stony places in Matt 13:20
  • Those who receive the word among thorns in Matt 13:22
  • The tares sown by the enemy in Matt 13:25
  • The inevitability of those who become offenses in Matt 18:7.

It appears that all of these would call themselves “Christian” in one way or another. Yet these will not be received by Christ at the end of the age.
Paul mentioned some whose teaching and behavior would be scandalous to Timothy:
  • Those who teach otherwise than Paul, 1 Tim 6:3
  • Those who do not consent to wholesome words, 1 Tim 6:3
  • Those obsessed with disputes and arguments about words, 1 Tim 6:4
  • Those who seek to use godliness as a way of gain, 1 Tim 6:5

Further, Paul spoke some very sad prophetic words to the elders of the Ephesian church in Miletus:
"For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse [twisted] things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Acts 20:29-30 (NKJ)
The result of all these varying levels of submission to Christ is a sovereign blending of good and bad motives within the church. God has foreordained and foretold that among His people there would be diverse levels of adherence or lack of adherence to the truths of Scripture—in every area covered by Scripture, including evangelism!
So also, in God’s sovereign plan in the history of His church, He has revealed seven different church-types that will coexist in every church age. One of these church-types is the Church in Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29. It is called “a church” by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hence comes the question, “How Might the Church in Thyatira Evangelize?”
Two areas of false teaching existed in the church of Thyatira, which Christ called out as problematic:
  1. They encourage systemic moral compromise; and
  2. They inspire religious syncretism.

Both of these areas of false teaching intersect with evangelism styles. Some encourage Christians, that if they only let down their moral boundaries, then they would be more effective in reaching others for Christ. May the reader fill in the blank. If Christians would only do _____, then he could have a more effective witness with lost people. If churches only allowed _____, then they would be more attractive to lost people. If pastors ceased to preach _____ or do _____, then they would no longer be seen as irrelevant.
Others persuade Christians that true effectiveness is found in syncretism with the culture and its worldview. The reason that churches are not irresistible to lost people is that they need to engage culture by doing _____ or _____. Implicit in and complicit to syncretic theories is that the gospel is not “the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Rather, the power of God unto salvation is found in a churches willingness to syncretize with the world around them.
However, these teachings, while titillating to the ear, are in fact fallacious and faulty. They are not founded upon “sound words of doctrine” or on the words of Christ. They find their foundation in the Baal of culture worship. I have not found anywhere in Scripture where culture is described as a friend of Christ or of the Christian.

Could it be possible that my students have encountered those within their contexts who appear to be members of the Church in Thyatira? It might be. That will be for them to determine for themselves, as they humbly bow the knee before God and His Word, asking Him for His divine wisdom.

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