Wednesday, 1 June 2011
The Shape of Gospel Partnership| Part 3c: Partnership for the Sake of the Gospel (3)
5) Resourcing Gospel Work
The work of the gospel is costly. Not only in terms of the suffering and hardship that is the lot of the gospel worker, but also in terms of finances and other resources. I’m sure all of us are aware that gospel work cannot function without such resources. If there is no building, where shall people meet? If there is no money, how shall those set aside for the ministry of the word and prayer pay for food, shelter and clothing? How shall the expenses of the different ministries in churches be covered?
This means that one of the areas that gospel partnership must be addressing is that of where the finances and resources needed for the continuing and furthering of the work of the gospel are going to come from. It is very often the case that one of the areas that we are most reluctant to speak about is that of money. However, if the gospel affects every area of life and addresses every area of life then this means that we need to think and talk about how our wallets can be shaped by the gospel (whilst heeding Jesus’ warning about blowing trumpets when we give money). One of the great examples in the New Testament of such gospel shaped wallets is the Macedonian church (2 Corinthians 8) who “in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity…” (2 Corinthians 8:2). Even though they were extremely poor they begged to be able to serve their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem by giving financially (v. 3). All of this was God’s work in them (v. 1) Oh, that God might give such hearts to our churches. Generosity begets generosity, therefore the gospel of God’s generosity in Christ ought to lead to generosity in us and our churches.
6) Praying for Gospel Work
It has been noted by many that the revivals of the eighteenth century came off the back of years of persevering prayer by faithful believers. The work of the gospel is not ultimately our work, it is God’s, it is not dependant ultimately on us, nor can it be done by our own strength or strategy. Therefore, if we want to see Ireland and the nations reached with the gospel and men and women bowing the knee in trusting submission to the Lord Jesus we must be committed to prayer. This is a vital, and often overlooked, part of gospel partnership.
Being partners in prayer, as with the above areas, is something that should be happening on many different levels. It will mean wrestling in prayer for one another and the work of the gospel in private prayer. It will mean that our churches ought not to be focussed solely on praying for needs within the congregation (as hugely important as this is); rather, we want to help our churches to lift their eyes to the work of the gospel further afield. We need churches that are committed to praying for other churches, mission organisations, and missionaries as well as the needs in their midst and local area. This could be done by a church committing to pray for a certain number of churches in their prayer meeting and setting aside time within the church’s regular prayer meeting for this purpose. It will mean that as pastors that we are committed to praying for, and with, each other. It could mean organising times to join together with other churches in a certain area to pray for the work of the gospel.
These are just a few suggestions to get us thinking. Whatever shape it takes, we must be committed to the joyful discipline of wrestling in prayer for the work of the gospel in Ireland and further afield. Prayer is so often the first thing to let slip in the business of gospel ministry and of gospel partnership, so we must do all we can to guard the persevering of the people of God in prayer for the work of the gospel. Seeking to go ahead in the work of the gospel without praying is arrogance, because it is says that we are sufficient for this work by ourselves, that our strength and strategy are sufficient.
When we look at all of what we have covered under the heading of 'partnership for the sake of the gospel' over the last three posts, it becomes quite clear that any one church or ministry is going to struggle to carry out all of these areas. They may only have the resources or gifts to carry out work in one or two of these areas. This is why partnership is crucial. We need one another. We all have strengths in different areas and will able to provide resources for and serve in different areas. We will be serving in different churches and ministry contexts which will have different strengths and resources, and thus be able provide help in the areas in which they are rich.
Next week we shall,God willing, look at the third major implication of gospel partnership: partnership shaped by the gospel.
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