Peters Preaching The Good News Theology Religion Essay

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02 Nov 2017

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As people became Christians and miracles were happening many were added to their numbers and they started to fellowship together sharing possessions, gathering to pray together was the beginning of the church. Graham Beynon calls this the brand new community of people of God. [2] This was through the work of the Holy Spirit that the disciples were patiently waiting as promised for the mission to start. They could not begin before the power was given to them by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the great work was inaugurated after the event on Pentecost. David Hesselgrave attributed that the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples on Pentecost into witnesses of the Gospel consequently the mission work began as the disciples went out preaching the word. [3] 

Preaching the good news was the principal activity in the disciples’ missionary assignment. [4] They took this as an important task in their lives. The word of God started to be spread to other parts starting from Jerusalem as the narrative commanded. Gerhard Krodelgives maps the Acts narrative journey in four section in which the word of God was spread to other parts from firstly Jerusalem the starting point when the church was established by twelve disciples (Acts 1:1-6:7). Secondly, extemporaneous development to Judea, Samaria and Gentile areas, the expansion of the ministry adding the seven and others who scattered to other areas due to the persecution in Jerusalem (Acts 6: 1-8, 12:24). Thirdly the Gospel continuing to expand under Paul’s leadership to the ends of the earth; Asia Manor and Europe, Antioch in Syria, and also in Ephesus (Acts 12: 25-19:20). Fourthly, the epilogue; Paul whilst arrested through persecution continues to preach the Gospel in Rome and because of his perseverance the word continued to spread by the believers who received Christ when they encountered with Paul (Acts 19:21-28:31). [5] 

Therefore all of this demonstrates that the framework of the Acts narrative clearly outlines the mission of the church to take the Gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth and the story of Acts tells that narrative. Whatever we look at in terms of mission in the Book of Acts we must do so within the overall framework that Luke has constructed. This is what I have chosen to do with Church Planting.

Church Planting within the Acts narrative

Stephen B. Bevans and Roger P. Schroeder are influenced that the Acts narrative portrays the story which has been consciously told through the schematised description of the development of churches. [6] This story has a lot to inform on Church Planting as from the beginning of the Early Church and the apostolic ministry of Paul and his journey with other disciples planting churches.

The developing of new communities of faith or Church Planting can be a direct and unavoidable consequence of the fulfilled mission of God through the believer’s involvement in witnessing and proclaiming the Gospel. [7] It is unmistakably clear that the Acts narrative and the fulfilment of the mission of God leads to the establishment of new communities of faith. Therefore, the founding of churches is one of the natural consequences of the mission from Jerusalem to Rome. Michael Green states that "it is undeniable that the Early Christians thought that founding churches was part of their commission." [8] Ed Stetzer, Aubury Malphurs, David Hesselgave, J D Payne, Joel Comiskey, Shenk and Stutzman agree in a claim that the planting of churches was the biggest task of the early church as the disciples understood the commission led by the Holy Spirit as demonstrated in Acts. [9] Darrell Boch emphasises this point by stating that;

This commission describes the church’s key assignment of what to do until the Lord returns. The priority of the Church until Jesus returns, a mission of which the community must never lose sight, is to witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth. The Church exists, in major part to extend the apostolic witness to Jesus everywhere. [10] 

Therefore, planting churches is also a task for the Christians of today. Martin Robinson and Christine Stuart backing this claim states the fact that the Acts narrative included the Gentiles in the mission of God means planting churches is God’s plan and legitimate, it is not an option for Christians today. [11] 

To demonstrate that the forming of new communities is rooted in the Acts narrative as one expression and evidence of the spreading of the Gospel, Acts 13-21 describe the missionary work that led to the churches planted by Paul and his co-workers. In the book of Acts, Luke intentionally portrays Paul as a church planter." [12] Paul describes his own mission within the mission of God with reference to the Old Testament [13] by declaring boldly; "for so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’" (Acts 13: 47). [14] Therefore, to Paul, his mission was from God and he took it seriously. The Gentile mission was a fulfilment of the scriptures, the promises of God to bless all nations. [15] As a result of Paul’s missionary endeavours to fulfil his calling new churches were established in Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Colossae, and Rome. [16] 

Therefore the establishment of churches as a way to fulfil God’s calling to share the Gospel today is in itself a principle recorded in the book of Acts. Building the community of faith is fundamental and central part of God’s purposes as He works through human beings in partnership with Him. Whenever people respond positively to the preached Gospel about Jesus Christ, they enter the Christian community. This is how the missional task is achieved. David Bosch acknowledges that the disciples were the first to respond to this mission of God through their faith by witnessing about Jesus resulting in forming churches. [17] Church Planting is therefore one significant way in which the Commission of Acts 1 v 8 is clearly realised.

Shenk and Stutzman states that "the Kingdom of God becomes visible in any community wherever a cluster of people gather in Jesus’ name", and expanded by taking the message to other communities through Church Planting. Therefore, planting communities of the kingdom is one way in which the Gospel is preached. [18] Ultimately there is need to plant churches to be able to practice all this and nurture people in their Spiritual and faith growth. This is how the Kingdom of God is built.

The theological and biblical foundation for planting churches rooted in the mission of God (missio dei) and the incarnation of Jesus Christ. [19] The planting of churches is based on "God’s inspired revelation to mankind" to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. [20] This Biblical Church Planting is evangelism that results in new churches. Tim Chester in the book "Multiplying Churches" edited by Stephen Timmis observed in Paul’s work that, mission signified planting churches and that in the Acts narrative wherever the Gospel was preached local churches were established." [21] Stuart Murray writes,

The practice of Church Planting may encourage the conclusion that reproduction is as fundamental feature of the church as it is of biological organisms. A healthy church does not just develop internally and expand in size and social impact, but naturally expresses its life in new forms and structures. [22] 

Hence, the Acts narrative informs the legitimacy of planting churches, is there anything that we can learn from this framework? Paul and the other Apostles did plant churches as a result of their obedience to the commissioning of Jesus Christ to reach everyone from Jerusalem to Rome. Today, it is our commission, how can we go about it for this remains God ultimate plan for His people. I believe there are other important principles that can be helpful in today’s church planting movements as informed by the Acts narrative.

Important principles from the Acts narrative

There are several authors who agree that the Acts narrative provides useful principles that the church today can adopt and guidance or learn from, not meaning that they can be used as blue print. [23] David Shenk and Ervin Stutzman write extensively in their book "Creating Communities of the Kingdom" about the importance of Acts for Church Planting. They see the book of Acts as a Church Planting manual drawing a number of principles that can be useful today such as Holy Spirit, leadership and training, vision, prayer, cultural differences, challenges and obstacles, and teams. [24] These authors and practitioners in church planting therefore draw upon the Acts material in framing helpful principles for the church planting, even if not everyone agrees it offers a blueprint to copy.

For Paul the process of Church Planting or multiplication was on-going, that is why he believed in principles such as team work, identifying, training and empowering new leaders. Hesselgrave organised a cycle in the book of Acts on Paul’s work as follows: commissioning of missionaries (13:1-4; 15:39-40), contacting listeners (13:14-16; 14:1; 16:13-15), proclaiming of Gospel (13:17; 16:31), converting of listeners (13:48; 16:14, 15), congregating converts (13:43), faith confirmed (14:21, 22; 15:41), leadership set apart (14:23), believers commended (14:23; 16:40), maintaining relationships (15:36; 18:23), and sending churches convened (14:26, 27; 15:1-4). [25] This showed that Paul believed that he was commissioned to fulfil all the ten steps. Therefore, out of these steps and the whole of the Acts narrative, are principles that can indeed inform and shape Church Planting today. This can be useful in today’s Church Planting, however not to be followed as outline but assistance.

Murray states in his book "Church Planting: Laying Foundations" that though the Book of Acts has been perceived as a handbook or manual for church planting it is not basically only about planting churches but it has interesting things to learn from the Early church, the inclusion of the Gentiles, community leadership, discipline of the church, pastoral issues, therefore the Book of Acts should not be only regarded as the Church planting manual but also provides resources useful for considering the ethical, missiological, theological principles in the development of the church. He added that there are principles that can be helpful for the church today giving emphasis that though useful nothing has to be used as blue print but guidance. [26] He noted that "the fact that Paul planted churches in the first Century does not require us to adopt his strategy or copy his methodology, any more that we should feel obliged to circumcise members of our Church Planting teams simply because Paul did this on one occasion!" [27] Therefore, the Acts narrative can be a useful source with principles that can be helpful today but we cannot copy as it is because what is written there was not for this context and this time and age. Things have changed, what they had then is not the same as what we have, however important principles that took place then can be a guidance in Church Planting practice today. Some of the helpful and important principles are explained below.

Importance of contextualisation

According to David Hesselgrave, the Acts narrative does not only take into consideration the geographical area (Jerusalem to Rome) but also the cultural aspects. [28] This means that the Gospel when preached should be able to reach people of different cultures and different nations and understood without any barriers or wrong interpretations. The fact that the Gospel was to reach the Jews as well as the Gentiles, the works of Peter and Paul cannot be overlooked they are crucial when talking about contextualisation. [29] Graeme Goldsworthy explains the term "contextualisation" as "the taking of unchanged Gospel into an oft-changing culture by restating the meaning of the Gospel in a way that is comprehendible to those who are hearing the Gospel." [30] David Hesselgrave agrees by stating that: "the words in Acts 1:8, … witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth take on cultural as well as geographical significance." [31] This directs to the idea that the message was to be taken to people of different cultures, languages, communities and belief. Therefore, for the message to be understood and received by all nations there was need for contextualisation. This was demonstrated by the power of the Holy Spirit when Peter preached the first sermon; it was understood by all the recipients from different cultures and languages (Acts 2: 14-15).

David Shenk and Ervin Stutzman claim that is how God showed his intention for the Gospel to reach all people. [32] Therefore they both insist that the message should be contextualized for the message to be heard by the community it is being preached to so that the truth of God’s word can be understood by the people who haven’t heard it. Doug Priest asserts that the essential notion of "contextualization" is to address the community in their context of culture and language so much that the message portrayed to them could be clear. [33] That means cultural and language barriers need to be broken down so that everyone hears the Good News. Cultural or ethnic differences disconnect people and create problems in communication. Therefore it is paramount important for the Church Planting team to consider contextualisation.

Bevans and Schroder states that;

" the churches missionary manure only emerges as the community engages with particular context, under the direction of the Holy Spirit; the Jewish identity of the community is transformed into the church as the community recognised the Spirit among the Samaritans, in the Ethiopian eunuch, in the Cornelius and his household, and in the community of Antioch. [34] 

Paul used different strategies in his missionary work. In his evangelism, understanding and relating to different contexts was important to him in sharing the Gospel with different people. As intended "to the ends of the earth", included all nations. [35] This included people of different backgrounds, culture, languages, and beliefs. Therefore, he communicated the message differently to be effective to different context. Paul went out of his way and took Timothy and circumcised him to be able to reach the circumcised audience, knowing they were not going to accept them according to their culture (Acts 16: 1-5). As they were diversity, Paul contextualized the ministry for the benefit of the Jews so they could receive it. Other Brief examples of Paul’s different approaches in diverse contexts included while he was in Athens’ synagogue and the market-place (17:17), in Corinth with Jews and Greeks in the synagogue (18:4) and in Ephesus, in the synagogue the first three months and a rented lecture hall for two years (19:8-10). [36] 

In more detail; Paul started evangelism by preaching in the synagogues to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia and got an invitation to come again (Acts 13:13-48). The invitation could be because the audience understood what he was saying to them and were eager to hear more. He addressed them from where they were starting from the Old Testament on a tour through Hebrew history to validate the authentic of Jesus as the promised Messiah who fulfils the ancient prophecies (Acts 13:16-41). He quoted the Old Testament five times preaching to them because that what they would understand. [37] Â However, in Iconium when he preached in the synagogue not many were convinced by the message but by miracles and wonders performed through God’s manifestation (Acts 14:1-4).  Furthermore, while Paul was in Lystra, nothing has been said of him being in synagogues preaching but he did heal a sick man and managed to preach the Gospel to the multitudes who came to witness this miraculous act (Acts 14:8-18). He explained to them that they were just human beings not to be thanked but the one who had performed the miracle was not human, but God who is not part of creation but creator the one who deserved to be worshipped. By this they were opening the eyes of the people to see that what they were worshipping was not the real God and they understood and got saved. Using the Old Testament in this context was not going to be helpful because the audience had no clue about it but what they knew and worshipped were idols, ultimately Paul used what they knew to bring what they did not know for better understanding.

Contextualisation was also an important feature of Paul’s ministry in Athens when he addressed a pagan audience in Acts 17. Paul understood the audience he was preaching to that they were pagan worshippers and did not want to offend them in order to draw their attention to the God he was bringing to them rather than the unknown god they were worshipping. [38] With his knowledge of their religion as he was addressing the philosophers, the council and inquisitive citizens of Athens, he took into consideration his speech to suit his audience (v22). [39] He used the language of the philosophers by quoting "in him we live and move and have our being, for we are indeed his off spring" (Acts 17: 28). This language can also be found from the Greek poets, playwrights and philosophers as claimed by Patrick Darrin. [40] He



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