The Bible and the Gospel: Prioritism vs. Holism

What does the Bible teach to be the primary mission of the church? That question is what the debate between prioritism and holism seeks to settle. Prioritism is the belief that though the church may do many things, the proclamation of the gospel must take priority. Holism is the belief that the church must give an equal priority to ministry both to the soul and body. To come to some conclusions, we must look at the ministry of Jesus.

The ministry of Jesus is summarized in Matthew 4:23: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (English Standard Version) The threefold ministry of Jesus was to teach, to proclaim the gospel, and healing. So, we see that Jesus ministered to both the soul and the body. Many would include justice as a part of healing ministry, which makes sense in light of the Old Testament emphasis on the subject and its prophetic attachment to the Messiah.

Pioritism in missions and ministry means that the proclamation of the gospel takes priority over other ministries. The first priority of the church is evangelism and making disciples. We find evidence of this fact in Jesus’s words. After healing many people in Luke 4 and with many people looking for him for healing, Jesus said, “I must preach the good news in other towns as well, for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:23) Further, it is reflected in Jesus’s commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples among every people group.

Our first priority is to make disciples. That truth doesn’t mean that other facets of ministry are not important. We do good to all people, not necessarily to open doors to evangelism, but because it is the right thing to do. Our loving ministry to the needs of others along with our stands against evil and injustice are part of our witness. But our priority is to proclaim the gospel and to make disciples.

The Bible and The Gospel: Central to Movements

A couple of weeks ago I began a series on how beliefs in the efficacy of prayer and the truth of the Bible are foundational for disciple-making and church planting movements. Last week, I wrote about prayer. This week, I begin looking why what we believe about the Bible matters.

Central to the Bible’s story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration is the hope offered by the gospel. The gospel is simple: Christ died for our sins according to Scripture, was buried, and was raise from the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) People motivated to make disciples in a way that leads to movements must believe this message and certain things about it.

They must believe that the spread of the gospel is the best cause to which they can devote their lives. Many people can provide clean drinking water, medical care, community development, and job training, but only followers of Jesus can make disciples. In the course of making disciples, we may do all of those other things, but the central goal is the proclamation of the gospel.

Also, they must believe that Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to the Father and fulfill the purpose for which we are created. (John 14:6) There is no other name by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12) It is this truth that drives movement leaders to seek to multiply disciples in a way that is both rapid and biblically sound. There are people dying without hearing the gospel. They are dying without hearing the only true message of hope.

Prayer as a Movement Catalyst

Movements that result in a dramatic, exponential increase in disciple-making and church planting are more than a matter of using the right methodology. They are the result of God moving. If one takes time to read or hear the testimonies of movement leaders, the common point in every case is a sense of desperation and discontentment that led them to pray intensely for God’s direction and power in their ministries.

Steve Addison pointed out that movements are the result of people exercising a “white’-hot faith.”[1] Pointing to the examples of Patrick, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, Addison said that they began as “broken men crying out to God for an encounter that would change their lives.”[2] David Garrison wrote that “Prayer permeates Church Planting Movements.”[3] He called prayer the priority of church planting movement strategist.[4]

Robert E. Logan wrote that planting multiplying churches requires the creation of the right spiritual atmosphere.[5] He said, “Leaders need to model an active prayer life and actively encourage it in their followers.”[6] In his book, Be Fruitful and Multiply, Logan described the prayer component of multiplication movement strategies.[7] It is well-worth reading by church planting and discipleship strategist.

If we ever see exponential multiplication of disciples and churches, we must be people of prayer. How do we cultivate a prayer life?

  • Have a godly sense of discontentment with the way things are. I am not talking about the car and the house. I am talking about the coldness in our spiritual life and the coldness in our churches, the existence of lostness in our communities, and the fact that thousands of people groups remain unreached with the gospel.
  • Have an utter sense of personal helplessness to do anything about what makes us discontent.
  • Have a “white-hot faith” that God can change the circumstances leading to our discontentment. Have a growing love for God and desire to see His name glorified in every home and among every people.
  • Make prayer a top priority among your spiritual disciplines. Set aside time for daily prayer and special days of intense prayer. Make the spread of the gospel and matters critical to God’s kingdom the central focus of your prayer life.
  • Invite others to pray with you.
  • Pray for God to bring people to you whom you can make disciples who will, in turn, make disciples who make disciples.

God has convicted me of my prayerlessness and small praying. May God transform all of us into disciples who, to paraphrase William Carey, ask with an expectant, white-hot faith great things from Him and attempt great things for Him.

[1] Steve Addison, Movements That Change the World Five Keys to Spreading the Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2011), 36.

[2] Addison, 37.

[3] David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World (Monument, CO: WIGTake Resources, LLC, 2004), 172.

[4] Garrison, 173.

[5] Robert E. Logan, Be Fruitful and Multiply: Embracing God’s Heart for Church Multiplication (St. Charles, IL: Church Smart Resources, 2006), 65.

[6] Logan, 67.

[7] Logan, 69–74.

Crucial Truths for Disciple-Making Movements

I did not grow in a family that regularly went to church. (Note: When I was eighteen, my family and I began to attend church.) Just the same, my parents had Christian backgrounds and gave me some religious teaching. Two simple theological truths that they taught me remained with me through life, and eventually, led me to go to church and discover what a relationship with Jesus was.

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The first truth was, “the Bible is true.” The second was “prayer works.” As I have studied and listened to people involved in disciple-making and church planting movements, besides the gospel itself, these two truths stand out as foundations of the movement. In disciple-making movements, these basic doctrines are crucially important. In the next few posts, I hope to expand on these two ideas and show how they are foundational if we are to see movements in our churches, communities, and world.

Review of Hero Maker by Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird

The Problem

In our North American context, few churches are multiplying by planting churches that plant churches. Something has to change. In Hero Maker, Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird suggest that something has to change in the way church leaders think. They must make the transition from being heroes to becoming hero makers. A hero maker is a leader “who shifts from being the hero to making others the hero in God’s story.”

Personal Opinion of the Book         

One of the things that drew me to read the book was the Exponential podcast. Hearing the testimony of church planters and church leaders who are catalysts for church multiplication is an inspiring exercise. They have selfless attitudes. This book gets to the heart of their thinking.

Helpful for understanding such thinking is Table 1.1 on page 29. To sum up the general principle, hero makers shift from asking what they can do and accomplish to asking they can equip and enable others to expand God’s kingdom. It is a foundational way of thinking, exemplified in the ministry of Jesus, that facilitates the multiplication of disciples and churches.

From the chart mentioned above, the authors build in the body of the book upon five crucial practices of hero makers: multiplication thinking, permission-giving, disciple multiplying, gift activating, and kingdom building. Each chapter includes insights and testimonials from people putting the principles into practice.

Many books on discipleship and church multiplication are heavy on theory and principles and low on practicality. What I appreciated about Hero Maker is that I finished the book with a better sense of how to put the principles into practice. Merely asking the question each day, “Am I trying to be a hero or a hero maker?” is a reminder of keeping the focus on God’s kingdom instead of a personal one.

Key Quotes

“Gift activating requires that we not fill slots but instead develop people’s gifts.”

“It’s not just about your personal stat line. It’s not just about growing your church. It’s about the kingdom.”

“A hero maker’s methodology is not about creating a crowd but about multiplying a movement.”

“Some of your church’s hero makers might become church staff, but the majority will make heroes of others as volunteer leaders.”

“Jesus told his followers that he was investing his life in them so they would do greater things than he would.”