One of the things I’ve done is to take a seminary-level study of the book of Acts taught by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School professor John Nyquist. This “bible study” came complete with
- 382 pages of textbook reading
- 28 chapters of Acts reading
- a summary book chart of Acts giving titles to each chapter and paragraph
- a 10 page paper
All this in 5 days of class( plus one day of writing the paper)! It was great. It was rewarding. It was refreshing. It was revitalizing.
The Holy Spirit reminded me of four major themes in the lives of the disciples and the early church:
- Engaged in evangelism
- Empowered by the Holy Spirit
- Prayerfully dependent on Christ
- Unafraid of persecution and sacrificial suffering
I wrote a paper to help me process my thoughts. You are welcome to read it if you want. It is in Adobe Acrobat format, so if you do not have Acrobat Reader, you can click here. It is free!
My paper is Acts-The Missionary Roadmap.
In case you can’t wait to get to the conclusion, I wrote:
What does this mean?
There seems to be a tendency to reduce the missionary enterprise to training, to strategies, to tactics, to methodologies. Acts is a reminder that at the core of the missionary enterprise is the commissioning of God to go, the empowering of the Holy Spirit for supernatural effectiveness, the communing of prayer for wisdom and direction in daily decisions, and the role of suffering in the “presentation to the nations of the sufferings of his cross in the sufferings of his people” (Piper).
Tell me what you think?
Rick Diefenderfer says
I haven’t yet read your paper. I’m believing you intentionally posted your conclusion to peak my interest in reading the content of your paper but I must confess, I’m really hoping for something more!
You conclusion states (in part)… “There seems to be a tendency to reduce the missionary enterprise to training, to strategies, to tactics, to methodologies. Acts is a reminder that at the core of the missionary enterprise is the commissioning of God to go, the empowering of the Holy Spirit for supernatural effectiveness, the communing of prayer for wisdom and direction in daily decisions…”
With all the respect that is rightly due you, please understand, the use of the word “reduce” in your concluding statement struck a nerve in me. Please attempt to put yourself in my shoes as you read my response…
I was once very supportive of the Southern Baptist denomination and still today, I am very grateful for the privilege of graduating from what I believe is the best seminary in the world — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, Texas.
After graduation, December, 1992, we relocated the family to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in response to the call to serve as Associational Director of Multihousing Ministry. Six months later, (May 1993) while experiencing much frustration caused by the apparent expectation of church members and associational leaders that I serve as an administrator of programs rather than as a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I retreated to a lookout point overlooking the city lights while high upon the eastern slope of the Rockies.
It was then when I received a personal visitation from the Spirit of God. In this visit, the Holy Spirit imparted to me the vision of cell-based ministry and instructed me of His purpose for this new direction He was leading me in ministry. Paraphrased: The Holy Spirit revealed the STRUCTURE and STRATEGY of a simple cell-based church SYSTEM. Or, if I’m understanding your concluding statement of your paper, He revealed to me the “…training, strategies, tactics, methodologies of this missionary enterprise”.
Again, imagining yourself in my shoes, even though I was already coloring outside the denominational lines/swimming upstream of the Southern Baptist programmatic mentality as an advocate of Multihousing Ministry, I wasn’t at all prepared for the kind of reception I received from my denominational leaders when I informed them of my personal encounter with God and of this new direction for His church. The reception I received was as if I had just landed from some distant planet. Wishing to be obedient and pursue God’s purpose for my life rather than pleasing men as an administrator of programs, I resigned from that denomiational position and moved the family back to Texas.
Shortly after returning, I once again met with denominational leaders within the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex and once again received condemnation and ridicule. It was then when God directed me to one of His servants, a godly man who is well respected within the Southern Baptist denomination who serves simultaneously as a pastor and a professor at both; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Howard Payne University. His name is Dr. Frankie Rainey.
I scheduled an appointment with him and then met with him and shared this vision I received from the Holy Spirit. When I was done, Dr. Rainey pulled a denominational document out of his desk drawer and read the preamble of this document outloud to me. The document was the “Vision 2000 Statement of the Southern Baptist Denomination” and it contained these words, “We must seek and obey new direction from the Holy Spirit”.
Dr. Rainey then looked at me and said, “Rick, you are coloring outside the lines, color my brother. You are swimming upstream, swim my brother.” He then said (and keep in mind this happened back when the Dallas Cowboys was America’s team), “Rick, you be Emmitt Smith, hold on to this ball and run and I’ll be a blocker for you.”
Brother Frankie Rainey not only spoke blessings over my ministry, he agreed to be the Chairman of the Board of the first cell church we planted and he remains my personal mentor to this day.
Yes, brother Keith, the Holy Spirit did speak to me. And when He did He revealed the entire system — structure, strategy, tactics, and methodologies of this missionary enterprise.
I find your concluding statement disturbing because I have had my fill of spiritual platitudes amounting to nothing more than ‘que-sara-sara/whatever will be will be pragramatism — an insistence upon a view of ‘what works for you today?’ multiplied by the 82 members of an average size American church. Please imagine with me for a second, what would John Wesley have to say about the sad state of the Methodist church today that now resembles every other church across USAmerica? Now, imagine the great awakening across Europe 200 years ago when the structure, strategy, tactics, and methodologies of his class system missionary enterprise was followed. More than just a thought!
In His Love,
Thanks for your comment, Rick. I look forward to your comments on the paper.
Rick Diefenderfer says
Hello Bro. Keith,
I read your paper. Well done! I appreciate the way you connected your findings to the ministry you and Kay are involved in. How refreshing that the book of Acts continues to speak to the hearts of men and women and directs our service down different paths.
I was blessed to read that the Holy Spirit reminded you of four major themes in the lives of the disciples and the early church in that they were: engaged in evangelism, empowered by the Holy Spirit,
prayerfully dependent on Christ and unafraid of persecution and sacrificial suffering. Just as I know is true of you and Kay, Becky and I identify with the disciples of the early church. And speaking of the ‘early church’, this is precisely the path God has revealed to me and Becky to pursue; to plant and pastor and to teach others how to plant and pastor a New Testament church.
Personally, I view the book of Acts as both a historical and theological document and I rejoice over the treasure it contains in Acts 2:41-47 precisely describing the New Testament church.
In Acts 2:41-47 we read,
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”.
Here we discover the New Testament church was involved in only nine basic activities. They: believed in Jesus Christ, were baptized, were added to the group, spent their time in learning, took part in the fellowship, shared their possessions, prayed together, met regularly as a group to worship, and regularly added new believers to the group.
These nine basic activities reveal four essential attributes: worship, instruction, fellowship and expressions; of faith in Jesus Christ through edification and lifestyle/friendship evangelism. We are convinced that when a church follows this simple system of being a New Testament church we will accomplish the mission God has given His church of creating Christian communities where people can grow in their relationship with God and with one another.
Then we will become what the church was originally designed to be -irresistible! We become irresistible Christian ommunities “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” And then? Well, then the Lord will add to our number daily those who are being saved.”
Keith, as you are aware, I wrote a book consisting of 182 pages around the seven verses contained in Acts 2:41-47. What an awesome challenge you undertook to summarize the entire book of Acts in a ten-page paper! My only concern for you (if I’m understanding your paper as you intended) is that you not view dependence upon the leading of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives and ‘structures, strategies, and systems’ as contrary but rather complimentary in reaching this world for Christ.
May God continue to bless you and His purpose for your life real good!
Sharing the Journey,
Rick & Becky Diefenderfer
Rick, thanks for your comments. As I studied Acts this time, I was exposed to the idea of Acts as theology over time — that is, the theology of salvation and the theology of the church (soteriology and ecclesiology, since I’m learning big words!) developed over time (the 30 years of Acts, or for sure the first 20 years or so until Acts 15 settled these issues at the Jerusalem Council) as the Holy Spirit revealed yet another group after group who were included in the Jesus’ original Great Commission command in Acts 1:8.
What I realized was that the disciples didn’t have it complete and “right” at the beginning, but God wasn’t worried about that. Because of their total commitment to evangelism, their walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, their expressed dependence through prayer, and their understanding that persecution and suffering were a part of God’s plan for the presentation of Christ’s sufferings through his followers, God knew he could direct and clarify the scope of his Great Commission as they moved forward over time.
So Acts is a history book showing their developing understanding of basic theologies about salvation and the church. Amazing. For years, I’ve used the acronym of FAT to describe the type of people who can make a difference in the world. FAT is an acronym for Faithful, Available, and Teachable. The early church leaders were definitely FAT!
I especially appreciate your warning. I completely agree that the church needs strategies, methods, tactics, and training. I have spent 31 years with Campus Crusade for Christ. If we’re known for anything, we’re known for tools, strategies, tactics and trainings. The Four Spiritual Laws, the Transferable Concepts, the Ten Basic Steps, the Jesus Film, and our basic, intermediate and advanced training seminars. What absolutely freed me personally from paralyzing inaction was learning basic “how-tos” in the Christian life.
My pastor growing up frequently would say “Let go and let God have control of your life.” I tried. I tried many times. I walk forward to rededicate my life to God multiple times. But it didn’t stick. It didn’t “stick” because I was missing basic how-tos: how to be sure I am a Christian, how to experience God’s forgiveness and his love, how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, how to share my faith, how to lead a Bible study. Campus Crusade for Christ training filled this tremendous void of basic how-tos. These are called The Transferable Concepts. God used them to change my life, my career, my purpose.
My concern is that we sometimes focus on the tools, strategics, and training only. My conclusion about not reducing the Great Commission to tools, strategies, and training came out of this mindset. Being a part of a large organization with excellent tools, global strategies, and life-changing training, there is sometimes an “occupational hazard” where our focus is on these items. I found Acts refreshed my understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and even suffering in the Great Commission.
I realize now that I could have been a bit more balanced. Thanks for pointing this out, Rick. Blessings!
Rick Diefenderfer says
You wrote, “…I could have been a bit more balanced”. Hey Bro, don’t beat yourself up. We could all be a bit more balanced.
In his book, The Purpose-Driven Church, Rick Warren writes that he tells his staff that the ninth beatitude is, “Blessed are the balanced, for they shall outlast everyone else”.
In both, my personal life and public life, I am so glad the Holy Spirit lead me in discovering the balance of the fourfold purpose (worship, instruction, fellowship and expressions of our faith) of the New Testament church described in Acts 2:41-47.
Elsewhere in his book, Warren writes, “Balance in a church does not occur naturally; in fact, we must continually correct imbalance. It is human nature to overemphasize the aspect of the church we feel most passionate about. Intentionally setting up a ‘strategy and a structure’ to force ourselves to give equal attention to each purpose is what being a purpose-driven church is all about.”
And isn’t it interesting that in both quotes Warren is referring to the balance of the nine basic activities of the Acts 2:41-47 New Testament church?
Ah, yes, ‘balance’… how sweet it is! 😉
Sharing the Journey,
Rick & Becky Diefenderfer