Here are my notes from last week’s Reaching the Unreached conference, probably the best Christian conference I’ve been on. If you weren’t there, the videos will be posted on the RTU blog. As with all my conference notes, these are not verbatim, so what I wrote might not be what Tim Chester actually said.
Addressing the heart – Tim Chester
Interview: What place does reaching the unreached have in the current Christian mission to Britain?
Sheffield presentation by local councilor on socio-domographic factors and stats – West affluent, east deprived. All the big churches are in the west of Sheffield and the east is largely unreached. This reflects the present reality. Evangelicalism doing well in affluent, middle class areas, but the inner city has been neglected. A growing and genuine heart for the inner city, UPA an encouraging sign.
1.We disciple one another in everyday life.
You can lose them in the first two days.” Simon Smallwood. People might make a commitment to Christ but if you are not in their life for the next two days and onwards you will lose them to their old social networks (friends, gangs etc). So share your life day-to-day, not just Sunday sermons.
Psalm 1. If we want people to prosper, like trees by streams of living water, they need an alternative to the counsel of the wicked or seat of scoffers. If they sit on a Sunday with the people of God but for six days on the bar stool with mockers, they will not be blessed or prosper.
Make use of meals, every day life situation. Get out. Meet people. Make the most of every opportunity. Share the gospel of God in the context of sharing our every day life. Do the dishes and talk about God. Have people in your home. Go to the shops together. Pray on the spot for people as their needs arise. Be intentional. Challenge and disciple one another in everyday life.
2.We disciple one another in community
Not the sermon, Sunday service, pastor’s study. We need to create communities in which people are constantly discipling one another, in every day life. Focus on community in the New Testament “love one another” follows point 1 as we can only disciple one another in everyday life if we live in community everyday.
3.We disciple one another over a lifetime
Sin runs deep in our hearts, change is gradual, therefore we need to be discipled over a lifetime. Remember this or be frustrated. The gospel is true and we believe it, but the struggle to believe is a lifetime struggle. Those who are from dysfunctional backgrounds, mental illness, welfare culture, addiction, poor experience of education. Those from middle class backgrounds come to Christ and expect change because they are accustomed to a culture of achievement. This expectation is often absent in people from other backgrounds.
“The gospel is not the ABC of the Christian life, but the A-Z.” Tim Keller We never outgrow our need for the gospel of Christ. Do you baptise someone who has stopped swearing but still cheats on their benefit, or someone who has married but still gets drunk? When someone asks “what must I do to inherit eternal life.” Not two ways to life, but specific repentance. “Sell your possessions…” It’s either God or money. You must give up everything to follow me. The person who responds to that call may fall into sin many times but the fundamental direction of their life will have changed.
Direction of travel. Response and direction rather than behaviour the key to discernment.
Living with sinners as sinners. We are not only victims of other people’s’ actions. We are not just sinners in the hands of an angry God. We are sinners who are sinned against. This demands compassion and discipleship, the hope of change.
Do not measure people against a false standard of middle class respectability, because the middle class itself is riddled with sin and self centredness.
The questions we ask must not be focused on behaviour but on Christ. Ask: Do you love Jesus? Do you need Jesus? Do you want to obey Jesus?
4.We disciple one another with grace
Matthew 7. Do not judge….specks of dust and planks in eyes.
This is not a prohibition of rebuking sin. It is a rebuke to the self-righteous. The key word in the passage is “hypocrite”. Self righteousness, establishing his own righteousness. When challenging sin don’t leave people feeling a sense of condemnation, crushed and depressed. Counsel and rebuke in the light of grace. Big up the love and acceptance of God in Christ. Give people such joy in Christ that they long for him and count everything else as rubbish.
5.We disciple one another with good news
We never forget his death for sin, resurrection from the dead, indwelling Spirit. People must walk away with the feeling that what they have heard is “good news.” We must not give “good advice”: avoid that person, don’t go to that pub, that bookies. We don’t want to become the parent, against whom people rebel or become passively dependent. Nor should we elevate ourselves to the role model “you need to become like me.” Both skew our relationship. We stop being on the level. Jesus is my Saviour and your Saviour. Listen to him, not to me. He is wise. I am foolish.
Don’t preach the law like this: “You should not get drunk” but like this “you need not get drunk because Jesus is your all in all.”
The heart of the problem – our hearts
People who their temper do so because some deep-seated desire in their heart has been upset. Therefore, God needs to get to the heart.
1.We choose to desire or believe other or trust instead of God.
Our behaviour springs up and flows out of our hearts. When someone says “why were you so angry?” I’ll say “it’s because he/she did this, or it’s my hormones or my genetic make-up.” But we can’t blame our circumstances but must look at our heart and ask what it is desiring (peace/control/self-expression etc).
We can have bad desires and bad desires are not just for bad things, but can be for a good thing that has become bigger than God. Eg. If I want to be married, that’s a good thing, but if that desire makes me bitter, then not being single has become bigger than God. If I get angry at people who are out of my control then I have stopped trusting God’s sovereignty and wish to take control ourselves. Behaviour reveals the heart.
Heretics is not simply a change in confessional belief but in our functional belief. If I am banging my head against the steering wheel in frustration in a traffic jam, I either believe that life has spun out of God’s control or that I do not think God’s purposes for me are not good.
2.We choose to trust or believe other things instead of God’s word. (Prov 4:23; Mark 7:20-23; Luke 6:43-45; Romans 1:21-25; Eph 4:17-24; James 4:1-10)
Four liberating truths (the four G’s)
1.God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
We want to be in control so we dominate or manipulate people. Or we worry and stop praying. But God is in control.
2.God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
We don’t need to fear others or seek their approval. God approves of us in Christ.
3.God is good – se we don’t have to look elsewhere
The world has temporal pleasures, we can enjoy life, but lasting joy comes from knowing God.
4.God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves
We are accepted by grace so we don’t need to make an effort to win acceptance. We, therefore, don’t need to look down on others. There is no such thing as a righteousness ladder/hierarchy.
Why do people get angry?
God is not sovereign. People and their behaviour seem out of control.
God is not glorious. The fear of the gang or the need for others approval eclipses God.
God is not good.
God is not gracious. If I am good, God will bless me. If life is difficult, then bitterness follows. Contractual basis for relationship with God.
Don’t hit people with statements of fact “You obviously don’t think God is sovereign.” So tell stories about what you know about God. “Do you remember Joseph? He suffered for 17 years, and he was innocent. God knew what he was doing, he put Joseph through suffering to save his people. God is in control.
Are you anxious. Remember the time Jesus was in the boat in a storm? He calmed the storm. Jesus calms storms. You have no need to worry.
Share your every day life with people so that you can make connection between heart and Jesus by telling stories in-situ.
Speak the truth in everyday life. You know programmatic discipleship does not work in situations where life is chaotic and lacks structure or routine. Mix and make Jesus known to address the heart.
If someone is getting angry with their kids, one of the four truths above will be at work. Get to the root cause and address it with story of Christ.