These are my patchy notes from the first of Richard Pratt’s lectures at the Fellowship of Word and Spirit Conference 2012.These notes may not reflect exactly what was said but how I heard it and write it down.
How to live as the minority and suffering church.
Most Christians do not read the NT as the NT was meant to be read. We need to know the OT well. We see things from the perspective of 2000 years of church history and Christian theology. Look at the book of Acts from the perspective of a shocked church, which was a minority and suffering church. Acts will be shocking to us because we are more like the baby church with respect to their OT expectations.
1. Opening re-orientation.
2. Closing reflection.
3. Repeated patterns.
Christians in the West are now in the minority and the nations may not, or probably will not turn back to Christ, any time soon. We need to get used to the idea that we will be in the minority and will suffer for it.
Acts 1:3-8 “Is now the time that you will restore to us the kingdom of Israel?” Jesus’ answer is shocking and dismaying.
Isa 52:5-10 – the gospel, outpouring of the spirit (Isa 44:1-5, Jo 2:28-32), the disciples ask Isa 60:10-22 – are these the glorious last days – victory over your enemies, as Christ comes to bring freedom to captives. Jesus responds by saying “no one knows the day or hour.” OT expectation of militaristic, cataclysmic and quickly ordered coming of the Kingdom. “You have been resurrected and are about to ascend to the throne, will things come quickly, when Israel will rule – judgement and salvation to the ends of the earth. Surely now!”
Jesus responds surprisingly, not “you fools, it will take over 2000 years.” but rather, he says, “only the Father knows.”
But verse 8, you will receive power, when HS comes, and you will be my witnesses (martyrs – not soldiers, not militaristic, but sacrificial missionaries) from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
Acts 2 – gathering in from the exile, speaking different tongues and hearing the gospel.
Acts 15 – Luke quotes Amos 9 where the temple is restored and conquers the world. The Gentiles are being conquered by the Jews through the proclamation of the gospel.
We need a contemporary re-orientation in the Western Church. Mission will be painful and the church will be a persecuted minority for most of history.
By 2040 the white North American (Christian, Protestant, culture and history) will be the minority for the first time. We are back in the Apostolic Age. This is wonderful and exciting, not something to be bemoaned.
Ambassadors would go to the enemy camp and offer peace terms – “My king is coming to destroy you, these are his peace terms, what is your answer?” Typically the ambassador’s head is sent back to the King in a basket.
Closing reflection – this is exciting
Paul – two years – welcoming – preaching – the Kingdom of God – with all openness and unhindered. Luke shows that this is a great success story, as Paul speaks to those who come, that is the success – the proclamation – it looks small and weak and not great. In Rome – enemy capital of his day – Revelation speaks of Rome as an utterly Satanic place. We are to reconsider what metrics of success we are using. What looks successful?Preaching the gospel under house arrest? When can we say that we are doing what the NT church was called to do. It may not look all that grand.
Churches in the US are in panic mode, not because they will be restrained, not because the gospel will not be preached, but rather a loss of status and retirement benefits.
Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria to the ends of the earth.
Internal tensions in the church leads to internal growth in the church.
Consummation Acts 1
Twelfth Apostle Acts 1
Ananias and Sapphira’s lie Acts 5
Discrimination against Hellenistic widows Acts 6
Jerusalem council Acts 15
External challenges to the church leads to the external development of the church.
The church in China does not suffer like it did under the Communist system, because now that the free market rules, young people will not suffer but want a car and a condo.
Mocked on Day of Pentecost Acts 2 – Peter preaches – opposition is the opportunity for the growth of the church.
Arrest of Peter – Acts 5 – growth
Prohibition to peach – growth
Martyrdom of Stephen – preaching which leads to growth
The eschaton is the time when Christ has victory over the world. We need to re-orientate. China and Africa will re-evangelise the West but the gospel in these countries are buying into prosperity gospel. The rest of Christendom is singing the melodies of the Christian church today. We are now dancing to Africa’s melodies.