Image: By Carlos G. Lopez via Shutterstock
Although these are times of isolation and quarantine, we’ve been reminded that the gospel cannot be quarantined.
In fact, during this pivotal time in history, we’ve seen multitudes respond to the gospel from all over the world. This may be one of the greatest evangelistic moments in recent history.
At the Luis Palau Association, where I’m privileged to serve, we’ve seen a significant shift in online ministry with thousands responding to the gospel each day. In fact, it’s been so dramatic that we’re hesitant to share data from our online ministry Hope with God that has a Facebook page that’s grown to nearly 20 million people.
Luis Palau, our founder, has primarily been known for city-wide evangelistic campaigns reaching thousands upon thousands in person for close on six decades. In a few months, Luis, Andrew, and Wendy Palau have impacted multiple cities across many continents with the message of hope in Christ alone, and all this without leaving Portland, Oregon.
We’re in a season of flux and the only certainty we have rests in the reliability of the gospel and the goodness of our God. We’re in a season where God is allowing us to experience the unveiling of the vast inadequacies of the false idols our culture worships.
Perhaps our isolation from the persistent idolatry of our church preferences will enable us to crystalize the importance this cultural moment presents for a movement of evangelism like we’ve never seen before in our lives. This will likely be the dawn of another paradigm shift in Christianity that recalibrates the ecclesiological instruments we’re too easily relied upon historically.
The Apostle Paul is a good example of someone whose focus and determination to follow Christ into the unknown changed the scorecard for Christianity among the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13-14).
Paul was a pioneer of true faith in Christ at a time of epic upheaval. Christianity’s viral nature is due (in part) to the fact that Paul partnered with others for the sake of the gospel, and through relational connections, accomplished the mission Christ gave him to fulfil.
Paul states in Romans 15: “My aim is to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation, but, as it is written, those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”
Paul defines his ministry lane and exposes important truths that must be applied for the effective (yet simple) spreading of the gospel and for the multiplication of gospel relationships that lead to deeper cultural and societal permeation.
Let’s explore these multilateral ministry partnerships as described in Romans 15 and 16 respectively.
Paul’s Multilateral Ministry Plan
The Apostle Paul truly believed that the way Jesus modelled his ministry was the best way to function in spreading the gospel in a globalised Roman Empire. Paul’s passion for the gospel, love for the Gentiles, and ability to set in place systems led to the multiplication of opportunities for believers to partner for the sake of the gospel.
His letters bear testimony to Paul’s commitment to movemental Christianity in the long haul, trusting God to use believers to accomplish this end.
Below are four important principles below that are derived from Paul’s ministry. These form an important foundation for a ministry of multiplication in an age of flux.
First, leadership versatility.
Throughout the New Testament, we read about Paul connecting with numerous people in establishing the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.
Paul multiplied his ministry vision to the army of committed Believers and harnessed their skills, gifts, and abilities for the kingdom good. Romans 15 (written on Paul’s third missionary journey c.a. AD 57) links beautifully with Ephesians 4 (written c.a. AD 60 from Rome while imprisoned) where Paul describes in verse 11 the diversity of roles God has given for the equipping of the church.
These roles describe the versatility and diversity required of leaders and the need for multiple inputs without relying on one leader for all these qualities. In Romans 15: 14-21, Paul describes his leadership and ministry lane in relation to the missio Dei, while in Ephesians 4: 11-17, Paul legitimises the gift of Christ’s diverse body for the united task of reaching the world.
Is this not a good time to move beyond our ministry silos?
Second, team dependency.
The monopoly of ministry by the clergy will not rightly serve the mission of God; the mission of God embraces all of God’s people, utilises their full gifting in Christ, and moves them to places in the world where their gifting and the greatest need exist.
The danger of church redundancy will only grow in a church culture that fosters the mentality that ministry is for paid professionals and a select few.
Paul continually testifies to a better way. Throughout the New Testament, Paul mentioned some 150 names of men and women who formed part of his greater team. In Romans 16 alone Paul mentions many individuals and families who were a blessing to him and a help in spreading the gospel. Paul’s multiplication mindset ensured that he lived out what he asked of Timothy (see 2 Timothy 2:2).
Mission beds to a multiplication of ministry for believers, not a monopoly of opportunity for a few.
It’s going to take more than the pastoral professionals to reach a world in great need. Perhaps it was never God’s intent that pastors and paid staff would be the main purveyors of the Gospel message.
The missional renaissance of the last decade is an important turning point for effective ministry in our age of flux. It would do us a world of good to see our mission in this vein, and finally abandon Christendom-like practices.
Third, Spirit-filled directionality.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Apostle Paul depended upon God’s divine leading for his ministry endeavours as he attributes every success to the grace of God and God’s rich providence.
Paul proclaims in Romans 15:22-23: “That is why I have been prevented many times from coming to you. But now I no longer have any work to do in these regions…” Doesn’t this sound all too familiar during COVID-19?
Paul had goals and desires, like many of us do, plans to travel to a specific place, or visit with our friends in ministry across the world. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these desires and plans if they are rooted in our leadership lane and if we complete the task God has set for us to do.
Paul writes about this principles earlier in Romans 12:2 where he states: “Do not be conformed to this age but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
This often-quoted text precedes a section on Spiritual gifts and serves as a helpful reminder that in our ministry a renewal of the mind will lead to a discerning heart. The many options, paths and desires that exist in our hearts must always be subject to God’s desire for glory and fame. May we finish well, honor God and not set aside all he has in store, even the difficult aspects.
Finally strategic ministry nexus.
Paul’s ministry, his goals, and his objectives are not our own as they were directed by God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about a knowledge of Jesus and a repentant heart.
Yet one thing stands out to me in Paul’s ministry is that he lived up to his calling and kept it simple by staying the course and doing what God had instructed of him in simply proclaiming the gospel where Christ was not known. If we are honest, much of our ministry is limited to the boundary of our comfort zone (which may extend to the boundaries of your yard right now, I guess).
I am heartbroken by the many opportunities to have passed me because I have been too focused on other things, too tired from ministry within the church and too busy with tasks and duties that have landed on my lap.
The truth is that we always find time for what’s important to us, and Paul teaches us as leaders that what needs to be central to our lives is the reality that there are places where Christ is not known. Like Paul, we need to consider the strategic importance of ministry in areas and among people where Christ is not known and centre our efforts and resources around reaching out and pioneering work for Christ and his Kingdom.
If there’s ever a time to innovate and embrace change, it is now! Let’s become innovators and early adaptors and take hold of every opportunity we have to proclaim the Gospel in these desperate days.
We need one another
How did Paul accomplish all he did in ministry and manage to finish strong? Paul saw himself as one of God’s servants, not as God’s gift to mankind.
Paul served alongside others and championed the cause of many believes as they grew toward maturity in Christ, John Mark is such an example for us. As we have seen demonstrated above, the Apostle Paul was led by the Holy Spirit and sought to keep the main thing central to his life and ministry. We can learn much from Paul about ministry and mission, but one thing is for sure; Paul did not do it alone, he was intentional in cultivating ministry relationships for gospel multiplication for the glory of God and the good of the church.
This is exactly what we are about at the Luis Palau Association. Through our Global Network of Evangelists, we seek to accelerate evangelism worldwide and we would love to engage with you about how we can change the scorecard in your city by establishing an Evangelism Team alongside our City Gospel Movement catalysts.
We would love to connect with you, so feel free to send us an email at either firstname.lastname@example.org.