Our Greatest Need as a Nation

So what do you think is our greatest need as a nation?

Interestingly, in a Wall Street Journal article, written in 1947 (two years after the Second World War), a writer made this observation: “What America needs more than railway extension, western irrigation, a low tariff, a bigger cotton crop, and larger wheat crop is a revival of religion. The kind that father and mother used to have. A religion that counted it good business to take time for family worship each morning right in the middle of the wheat harvest.”

In short, according to this writer, what America needs most is a revival of religion—a religion that is based on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his book—The Secret of Christian Joy—published in 1938, Vance Havner (1901–1986) also made a similar observation: “The greatest need of America is an old-fashioned, heaven-born, God-sent revival.” I do believe too that today our greatest need as a nation is true revival.

Now, what is revival? In his book Revival: A People Saturated With God, Brian H. Edwards gives what I think is a comprehensive definition of revival: “A true Holy Spirit revival is a remarkable increase in the spiritual life of a larger number of God’s people, accompanied by an awesome awareness of the presence of God, intensity of prayer and praise, a deep conviction of sin with a passionate longing for holiness and unusual effectiveness in evangelism, leading to the salvation of many unbelievers.”

Noticeably, revival can only be experienced by believers—by those who have been made alive by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Christ. An unbeliever—a spiritually dead person cannot be revived; he must first be born again, because there is no life to be revived in him. Yet, remember that God is pleased to use the revival of his people to bring many sinners to true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Or as Edwards says, revival leads to “the salvation of many unbelievers.”

Oh, may we sincerely pray with the hymn writer William Mackay (1839–1885),

Revive us again–fill each heart with thy love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Hallelujah, Amen!
Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Revive us again.

The scriptural background for this hymn is Psalm 85:4–7: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.”

Revival is ultimately the work of our sovereign God, not primarily for our good, but for his own glory. Oh, let’s not stop crying out to God to pour out his Spirit on us as a nation—to heal our broken land. Nothing is impossible with God! Could it be one of the reasons why we don’t experience revival is because we don’t earnestly ask for it? As James tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).

And before we pray to God to revive the church in our country, we first need to ask God to revive ourselves. Revival must begin with us believers. The English evangelist Rodney “Gipsy” Smith (1860–1947) was once asked the secret of revival. His reply is convicting: “Go home. Take a piece of chalk. Draw a circle around yourself. Then pray, ‘O Lord, revive everything inside this circle.’” This ought to be your prayer and my prayer: “O Lord, revive me first.”

Has it really been your prayer in the past few weeks that God will revive your heart? How quick we are to see the need for others to be changed, overlooking our own need for revival. We see the speck in other’s eye but do not notice the log in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3). Before we criticize others, we first need to examine ourselves. Before we ask God to revive our nation and our leaders, we first need to ask God to revive us.

Our Greatest Need as a Nation

 

Revival

Stop Blaming Others, instead Self-examine Your Heart

We are in the middle of a pandemic right now. And in the midst of this health and economic crisis we see an increasing inclination to blame others.

We blame China. “If China had told us about this COVID-19 earlier, we would not have been in this situation. It’s China’s fault.”

We blame the President. “Our president failed to prepare our country for the coming of this coronavirus.”

We blame our governor. “She is too strict. She is robbing us of our freedom to do what we think is good for us.”

We probably even blame God. “If God is good and loving, why did He give us this virus?”

Of course, blaming shifting is not new. Our first parents did this in the Garden of Eden after they had sinned against God. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:11–13). The fact that we also love to blame others shows that we are their children. Like father, like son; like mother, like daughter.

But here’s my question for you: Does it solve our crisis by blaming others? Does it help our situation get better by pointing our finger at others? Of course not! So instead of engaging yourself in blaming others, use this time to self-examine your heart. Instead of finding fault with others, why don’t we pray with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23–24).

Could it be that you and I are in part responsible for God’s bringing this virus on us? Remember Jonah. To run away from God, he took a ship going to Tarshish. But God sent a violent wind over the sea, putting the ship in great danger. The sailors wondered who was responsible for bringing this disaster on them. To make the story short, Jonah took the responsibility. Jonah then said to the sailors, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you” (Jonah 1:12). The sailors eventually did as Jonah told them to do and “the sea ceased from its raging” (v. 15).

Now, I share this story not to suggest that it is your fault or my fault that we are caught up in this pandemic. But have you ever thought that you could be a partaker of this crisis? Have you ever thought also of the possibility that one of God’s many purposes with this coronavirus is to specifically test you? Perhaps God wanted to see how you would react to the pandemic. This virus can definitely expose who we really are!

Ironically, some Christians have the courage to protest against their political leader whom they think is robbing them of their freedom, yet remain silent when it comes to sharing their faith with others. I sometimes wonder what change could happen in our country if these Christians have the same boldness to rally for the gospel’s sake? Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying Christians cannot disagree with how our government is handling the COVID-19 crisis, or that Christians cannot use the proper means to protest. However, how many of us have the same courage and passion to proclaim the gospel to our neighbors, or to surround the state capitol because we are so grieved about how our state tramples on God’s law? When was the last time you made a special trip just to share the gospel with others?

In addition to blaming others for the crisis, some of us may also find ourselves focused on complaining about our situation. Again, let’s pause and ask God to search our hearts. And let’s ask ourselves: What have we done to actually help solve our crisis? In the past three weeks, have you earnestly prayed to God to stop this pandemic? Have you diligently asked God to direct you to ways in which you can practically help your extended family, church, community, and beyond in the midst of this trying time? One early Christian once said, “I know many who fast, pray, sigh, and demonstrate every manner of piety, so long as it costs them nothing, yet would not part with a penny to help those in distress.” What sacrifices have you made for others’ sake?

I therefore plead with you. Please let’s stop blaming others and using our energy to complain. Rather, let’s use this very difficult and painful time to engage in self-examination. Maybe God gave us this COVID-19 to redirect our hearts back to him.

We are all anxious to get back to “normal” life. But I’m afraid to say that for many of us normal life is that which is consumed with the idols of this world such as money, sports, and entertainment. Could it be that one reason why God has not yet taken this virus away from us is because we have not learned the many lessons that he is teaching us through this pandemic? Why don’t you prayerfully ask God, “Lord, what do you want me to learn from this crisis?”

May we not emerge from this pandemic hardening our hearts like Pharaoh who feared the plagues but not God!

A Call for Self-Examination

 

Affliction Suffering

A Guide for Small, Low-Tech Churches to Start Their Online Ministry

Today our guest blogger is Tim Arndt. He is an assistant pastor at Allendale Baptist Church where he is heavily involved in discipleship, outreach, and communications. He is the director of the Michigan Apologetics Network and is a chapter director with Ratio Christi at Grand Valley State University. Anyone who meets Tim easily remembers him as the tallest Filipino they’ve ever met.

Tim Arndt

Tim Arndt

____________________

As the COVID-19 crisis hit America, in a matter of a 48 hours, I had four churches (besides my own) contact me asking for help to livestream their services and move their ministries online.

It was kind of funny having so many churches look to my church as if we were “experts” when just a few years ago we were a low-tech church of 40 people meeting in a funeral home.

By God’s grace, our church kept growing bit by bit and we kept seeking to improve in our use of technology too.

If you’re in a smaller, perhaps “older” church that is having a hard time adjusting to moving your ministries online, I’m writing this article for you.

I understand the challenges you’re experiencing.

The advice I’m giving here assumes you have little to no knowledge of how to utilize these technologies and can be quickly implemented.

(Not to mention, my advice shouldn’t break your budget either).

So grab the most tech-savvy person at your church and see if you can start using some of these tools to get your ministries going during this time of social distancing.

Online Sermons and Classes

If your church has not previously been recording video of sermons and classes, here is the general approach I would recommend:

Record your video in high definition, with good audio, and then upload the recorded video to both YouTube and Facebook.

Let me unpack that for you a bit.

By “high definition” I mean, make sure you are recording your video in at least 1080p or better yet, 4K resolution.

You’ll notice that I recommended recording your sermon and not livestreaming.

Livestreaming can be a lot more complicated than simply recording and you will usually end up with a much lower quality video. There are more reasons I can offer, but if you’re not used to using video, start with recording good video and you can work on livestreaming later.

The nice thing about recording is most people now own phones that can record in HD.

So you don’t need to spend extra money right away purchasing a camera! (of course if you have a nice camera, feel free to use it).

For good audio, you’re going to need a decent microphone.

There are a lot of microphones out there, but I’ll give you 3 examples of mics you can use with an iPhone: The Shure MV88, Blue mics, and this lavalier-style mic.

Here is why I recommend uploading your video to both Facebook AND YouTube.

Chances are your church has a Facebook page with some following. Since you already have an “audience” there, put your sermon right in front of them and then they can easily share it with their friends and family.

The reason it’s good to also upload your video to YouTube is because while over 70% of Americans use Facebook, over 90% use YouTube. For the people in your church who are not yet on Facebook, you can email them a link to your sermon on YouTube.

There’s a lot more that could be said about how to take good video of your sermons and classes, but if you at least pay attention to your lighting and the “rule of thirds”, your video should look great.

Here’s a list of free video editing software you can use.

Online Small Groups & Bible Studies

My church has continued doing small groups and smaller Bible studies on line and people have been really loving it!

To do this, you’re going to want to use some video conferencing software.

My top recommendation is Zoom.

I’d recommend that your church get a pro account or two ($15 per month) and it is really easy to setup and invite people to connect through video.

Other alternatives are Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams.

While these are not as advanced, you could also do video calls through Facebook messenger and Facetime. To be honest, while our church is using Zoom for most things, some people prefer using these other options and that’s okay!

Ultimately the goal is to keep your people connected to God and each other, and video conferencing software can really help with that.

Online Church Fellowship

This is something I think all churches need to start doing:

Utilize Facebook “groups”.

We’ve received an overwhelming amount of feedback from people telling us how thankful they are for our “prayer and encouragement” Facebook group.

In our group we encourage people to ask for prayer requests and share how God has worked in their lives.

Additionally, it’s a great way for the pastors to send encouragement to their people.

While there are probably people in your church who don’t use Facebook, I would suggest that there are just as many (if not more) who don’t really use email.

Our prayer and encouragement group on Facebook has 120 members and 111 of them were active in the group in the last 7 days.

Meanwhile, only 40% of our people open the emails we send them.

I’m not suggesting you replace email with Facebook, but what I am saying is that your people are on Facebook and are more than willing to interact with the church in a group!

Here are 3 pieces of advice to using your Facebook group well.

  1. Make sure it’s a “private” group so that people have to request to join.
  2. Make sure you have a few trustworthy Admins or Moderators who can remove any posts that may be gossip or harmful in any way.
  3. Don’t overwhelm people with information, rather encourage interaction among the church. Ask how you can pray for people, or what they are thankful for. Get a conversation going.

Online Giving

My church took a hit when we had to cancel our services, but we still had an encouraging amount come in through our online giving platform.

I’ve spoken with a few churches this past week who said they have not received anything.

I know some churches have been hesitant to use online giving, but I think in this situation of quarantines and social distancing, utilizing online giving is a way to love your people.

Believe it or not there are a ton of giving platforms out there designed for churches.

If you currently use any sort of church database which stores your members’ contact information, they might have an online giving platform already.

Using your current database as a giving platform conveniently syncs your information automatically.

However, if you are starting from scratch, begin by looking at the fees involved.

Givingfees.com has compiled the pricing of the most popular online giving platforms for churches and you can weigh for yourself which option will be best for your church.

The Church Will Stand

In times like these it is important to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18b: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

These are hard times for churches, but it is in the darkest times that the church will shine brightest.

Utilize the gift of technology to the best of your ability and you can continue to see your church grow in the love and knowledge of Christ.

Use technology for the glory of God, until we can all meet again.

 

 

 

Ministry Technology

A Biblical Theology of Sickness

At some point in your life you will experience sickness (you might get a cold, the flu, cancer, or the coronavirus). And since sickness is a part of our existence, having a biblical view of it is of great importance. Therefore, in this article I will examine what the Bible teaches about illness. Here are six truths about sickness.

1. Sickness is a consequence of original sin; and in this sense, sickness is a punishment from God for sin.

In Genesis 2:17 God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that he eats of it he shall surely die.  Adam disobeyed God. And the moment he sinned, his body started dying. His body became subject to illness. God punished Adam for his sin. If Adam had not sinned, there would be no death, there would be no sickness.

Hence, the presence of sickness is a sad reminder of the fall of Adam. It is one of the effects of original sin. Sickness exists because sin does. In the new heaven and new earth there will be no more sickness because there will be no more sin (Rev. 21:4).

2. Your sickness may be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a chastisement from the Lord.

In James 5:14–15 the author asks, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Here it is possible that the person is sick because of particular sin in his life.

Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul proclaims, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:27–30). Notice the connection between sickness and sin here. Many members of the Corinthian church are sick because of their sin.

It is therefore possible that God has given you infirmity in order to chastise you (Heb. 12:6). Perhaps it is a consequence of your irresponsible care of your body (e.g., bad diet). Nevertheless, in this context affliction comes to us from God’s loving hand. Affliction is like a rod that God uses to bring back his wandering sheep to the fold.

3. Your sickness may not be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a test from the Lord.

The word “if” in James 5:15 also allows the possibility that the sick person has not committed sins and in this way his sickness is not a result of his personal sin but a test from God. Job is an example of this truth (Job 2:4–7). Sickness became an instrument in God’s hand to mold Job into the person that God wanted him to be. Sickness became a blessing for Job, for it brought him closer to God. The wheelchair- bound Joni Eareckson Tada once declared, “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”

4. Sickness can be a consequence of the personal sin of another person.

2 Samuel 12:15 tells us that “the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.” David’s child died as a result of David’s sin concerning Bathsheba and Uriah. David committed adultery and murder. At another instance, the nation of Israel suffered a pestilence because David’s sin (2 Sam. 24). It is thus possible that a person or even a nation suffers the consequence of the sins of others.

5. Sickness can neither be a consequence of our personal sin, nor a consequence of the personal sin of another person. In this sense, sickness is simply a demonstration of God’s absolute sovereignty.

Remember the man born blind in John 9:1–3. In that passage the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” No one sinned. God was simply practicing his absolute prerogative to do whatever pleases him. He was simply displaying his sovereignty—to remind us that we do not control our health. He does!

6. Sickness comes to us from God ultimately for His glory and for our good.

In John 11 when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Whatever kind of sickness you have, pray that through it God may be glorified.

While sickness is for God’s glory, it is also for our good. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh…to keep me from becoming conceited.” In short, God has given Paul “a thorn in the flesh” (whatever it might be) in order to keep him from the sin of pride.

Maybe God has given you a certain kind of illness (like the coronavirus) in order to keep you from pride and teach you to depend more on his grace (2 Cor. 12:9), so that at the end you can sing with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Ps. 119:71).

A Biblical Theology of Sickness

Affliction

10 Ways in which this Coronavirus Pandemic Can Be for Our Good

I am a Christian and therefore I want to look at this coronavirus pandemic through the lens of the Bible, particularly of Romans 8:28–29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

This text teaches us that for us, believers in Christ, all things, without exception including the coronavirus, work together for good. Although sometimes in time of great trial we feel what Jacob felt, “all these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36).  But later, once we look back we can say with Joseph, “God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

So how can this coronavirus be for our good? Let me suggest ten ways in which this virus can be for our good.

1. It can unite us in prayer globally, since the virus is now pandemic. And let us not underestimate what our prayers can do. Revival begins with prayer.

2. It can open a door for us to share the gospel with the unbelievers. With this pandemic, we Christians have a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to others. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

3. It can wean us from some of our idols in this world such as sports, since this virus has caused cancellations and postponements of sporting events. Sadly, some Christians would rather watch or attend a sporting event on Sunday than worship God.

4. It can compel us to put our confidence in God for healing, since there is no known vaccine yet for this virus. Medicines are gifts from God but sometimes we depend more on these gifts than on the Giver.

5. It can give parents special time to be with their children, since this virus has also caused schools to shut down. Let’s ask help from God that our time with our children will become a blessing rather than a burden. Let’s remember, too, that our children are watching us. Thus, by what we say and do, let’s teach them how to react to a crisis like this in a God-honoring way.

6. It can serve as an occasion for us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The pace of life in which we live now is so fast that we hardly find time to pause and meditate on God’s Word. Since this virus has brought normal life to a halt, for most of us we have extra time to commune with God and ponder upon heavenly and eternal things.

7. It can bring us face to face with the reality of death, as this virus continues to claim lives around the globe. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Are you ready to die?

8. It can be a wakeup call to us from God to repent of our sin. Usually a pestilence is a sign of God’s judgment. For instance, in 2 Samuel 24 God punished His covenant people because of David’s sin and God’s punishment came to them in a form of pestilence that claimed 70,000 lives.

9. It can point us to Christ’s Second Coming. In a sense, we should not be surprised to see more events like this pandemic as Jesus Himself says regarding the last days, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:10–11). Unfortunately, people prepare for the coming of the coronavirus, but give little thought to Christ’s Second Coming.

10. It is certain that God will only use this pandemic as an instrument in His hand to conform us more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. So the coronavirus is not designed to drive us away from God but to draw us closer to Him. It is in this sense that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory.

Therefore, fellow Christians, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).

COVID-19 Pandemic

Affliction

Michigan is now under a State of Emergency because of Coronavirus

I live in Michigan and yesterday our Governor Gretchen Whitmer confirmed the first cases of coronavirus (we have two cases as of now: one in Oakland county and one in Wayne county).

And “to harness our resources across state government to slow the spread of the virus,” Governor Whitmer has put Michigan under a state of emergency. She said, “We’re taking every step that we can to mitigate the virus spread and keep Michiganders safe. I’ve signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in order to maximize our efforts and assist local governments and officials to slow the spread. It’s crucial that Michiganders continue to take preventative measures.”

Although I’m a Christian, I confess my fear, especially as I have four small children (seven years old and under). But as David confesses, too, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in [God]” (Psalm 56:3).

I know I should not worry, yet I admit my tendency to worry. Oh, but why worry, when I can pray! Paul says, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5–7).

Because this coronavirus is new, we have many uncertainties such as when the vaccine for this virus will be available and if this virus will be seasonal like the flu. Yet, in the midst of all these uncertainties, we can trust our sovereign God. We know for sure that nothing happens without a purpose and that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for the glory of God. As Romans 8:28–29 declares, “And we know that for those who love God all things [without exception, including this virus] work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

With this passage in mind, we can be certain that God will only use this coronavirus as an instrument in His hand to conform His people more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. It is in this sense that this virus is for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory. Let’s trust God even if sometimes we don’t always understand how all things (including this virus) could be for our good. As one song says,

“All things work for our good/ Though sometimes we don’t see/ How they could/ Struggles that break our hearts in two/ Sometimes blind us to the truth./ God is too wise to be mistaken/ God is too good to be unkind/ So when you don’t understand/ When don’t see His plan/ When you can’t trace His hand/ Trust His Heart.”

So let’s not panic but pray. It is during a crisis such as this that God causes mankind to pause, to stop and remember that He is in control and that we are but dust. And as Kevin DeYoung reminds us, “Our biggest concern in life is not sickness, it is sin. By all means, let’s do all we can to limit the spread of physical disease. But our precautions against vice should be even more than our precautions against a virus.”

coronavirus

image source: wxyz.com (Detroit)

Affliction Uncategorized

A Word in Season: The Life and Ministry of Rev. Arie Elshout

A few weeks ago, Reformation Heritage Books published my father-in-law’s translation of the biography of his father, Rev. Arie Elshout (1923–1991), entitled A Word in Season: The Life and Ministry of Rev. Arie Elshout.
To give you some background information, let me quote part of the Translator’s Preface:
It has been an extraordinary and unforgettable privilege for me to translate this biography of my father (and mother!). For obvious reasons, it was a task in which I was also engaged emotionally. My intense and extended interaction with the text of this biography have only reaffirmed what my siblings and I have known since we were children: the life story of our parents is the story of God’s remarkable and gracious dealings with two sinners.
When our parents celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary in 1985, we asked our father to commit to writing—also for the benefit of our children and grandchildren—the many stories our parents had told us. Our father agreed to do that, and during the six remaining years of his life, he faithfully recorded his memoirs for us—memoirs written strictly for the benefit of our extended family. All of this changed, however, when our mother was approached by the author of this biography, Adriaan Van Toor, informing her of his desire to publish the story of the pilgrim’s journey of our beloved parents. After careful and prayerful consideration, our mother agreed to fully cooperate with this proposed publishing venture.
When Mr. Van Toor approached our mother, he had no knowledge of the existence of our father’s written memoirs. How astonished and pleased he was when our mother handed him these memoirs! This provided him at once with the complete framework of the life story of our parents. With this valuable documentation in hand, he then engaged in his own independent research of every aspect of this story. And thus the moment arrived in 2008 that this biography was published in the Netherlands, having as its title Aan Armen uit Genâ (for poor sinners, merely of grace). These words, taken from the rhymed rendition of Psalm 72:12,2 were graven upon his heart by the Holy Spirit as the message he would be called to proclaim as a minister of the gospel. Since, however, an exact translation of this phrase is difficult to achieve, we have opted for A Word in Season (Isa. 50:4), a title that accurately summarizes our father’s ministry as well—especially in light of the context in which these words are found. God gave him a special gift to speak a word in season to the weary, and to comfort the feeble-minded (1 Thess. 5:14).
Not only was this gift evident in every aspect of his pastoral ministry, but also in the three books he has written—books that have been, and continue to be, a “word in season” for many. It never occurred to our father that his life story would be published. In his own words, he viewed himself as one of God’s sparrows rather than an eloquent nightingale. Yet, God’s sovereign purpose was otherwise! It has been a humbling and encouraging experience for our late mother, and our family, that this biography has been so well received in the Netherlands.
Since our father served two North American congregations (1967-1974), it was our late mother’s express desire that our father’s biography be made available in English as well. We are hopeful that many in the English-speaking world will be edified by the account of God’s remarkable dealings in the lives of our parents.
Let me conclude by emphasizing that the story of our parents is ultimately not about them, but rather, about a faithful, covenant-keeping God who, for Christ’s sake, was (is!) also their God. Therefore, to Him alone be all the glory!

Contents:

Preface – Rev. C. Harinck
Translator’s Preface
Introduction

Chapter 1: Peculiar Folk
Chapter 2: A Change of Direction
Chapter 3: In Exile
Chapter 4: Anxiety and Stress
Chapter 5: Destined for Each Other
Chapter 6: Number 742
Chapter 7: How Can This Be?
Chapter 8: He Hears the Needy When They Cry
Chapter 9: This Is the Lord’s Doing!
Chapter 10: “I Shall Go There…”
Chapter 11: Love and Tact
Chapter 12: Trusting in His Sender
Chapter 13: The Ends of the Earth
Chapter 14: “Be It unto Thee Even as Thou Wilt”
Chapter 15: The Long Road to Recovery
Chapter 16: The LORD Made Room
Chapter 17: The Spirit’s Work Encompasses All Kindred and Nations
Chapter 18: Covenant Faithfulness toward Zoetermeer
Chapter 19: A Step Back
Chapter 20: The End of the Journey
Chapter 21: And He Was Not, for God Took Him

Appendices—Two Sermons by Rev. A. Elshout

Sermon 1: Jesus or Barabbas (Luke 23:13–25)
Sermon 2: The Slaying of the Children in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16–18)

 

To purchase a copy, click here.
A Word in Season
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Two Main Reasons Why Members Leave and Join another Church

Members come and go. Some leave because they relocate. Others are compelled to leave because of doctrinal errors. Some leave not because the church is at fault but because they want to look for a congregation where their worldly practices can be tolerated.

There are those who leave because they are fed up with church traditions that are not necessarily bad. But the problem is sometimes we (church leaders) place our traditions above the gospel. We unconsciously become legalistic in the way we deal with the life and ministry of our church. We become more concerned with our traditions than with the Scriptures.

Yet, I think, of all the possible reasons people leave, poor preaching and lack of love are the two leading ones. Two Main Reasons Why Members Leave and Join another Church

1. Poor preaching

Perfect preaching does not exist. Expecting our pastor to always deliver an A+ sermon every Sunday is not realistic either. However, if the preaching is poor almost every Sunday, most likely members will leave.

Here are some of the characteristics of poor preaching:

  • too doctrinal with almost no practical or personal applications
  • not engaging (preaching becomes like newscasting or reporting)
  • difficult to understand (too technical)
  • hard to follow (too unorganized with no clear direction)
  • too shallow

Now, sometimes a pastor does not preach well because he does not have enough time to study for his sermons, perhaps because of his other duties at home and at church. This is why elders need to protect the time of their pastor for sermon preparation. If you want to hear good sermons from your pastor, don’t overwork him.

2. Lack of love

Members want to belong to a congregation that they can call a “home church,” where they feel welcome and where the communion of the saints exists. When the love of Christ is not felt in a congregation, people usually begin to look for a new church where they can find such love and experience the care of other believers. The Apostle Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up….encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thess. 5:11–14). “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).

Sometimes even if preaching is not the strength of a church, but if the gospel is proclaimed faithfully and the members feel loved, they usually stay. But if the preaching is poor and love is lacking, don’t be surprised if one day members leave.  That’s why church leaders need to make a consistent effort to cultivate a loving environment in a congregation. Also, members are responsible to seek ways to become actively involved in the ministry of the church and to reach out to their fellow church members with the love of Jesus.

 

 

 

Preaching

George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire (book review)

George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire, by Peter Y. Choi. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018 (xvi + 252 pp). $24.00 softcover George Whitefield- Evangelist for God and Empire

Good biographers faithfully present all the facets of the person they are studying. As no one is perfect, these facts include both negative and positive elements. Unfortunately, some Christian biographers tend to provide a hagiographic portrait of their spiritual hero, giving an incomplete picture of their hero’s life. In his book, George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire, Peter Y. Choi offers his readers some insights that are often overlooked by Whitefield scholars. Books on Whitefield usually concentrate on his early and middle life, highlighting his itinerant evangelistic preaching, significant contribution to the rise of eighteenth-century evangelicalism, and important role in the Great Awakening. Thomas Kidd’s definitive biography, George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father (2014),[1] is an example of a fine work that focuses on Whitefield’s early and middle life. Choi, on the other hand, focuses his research on the latter years of Whitefield’s life, especially when the colonial revival started dying down. Thus, Choi’s book, originally written as a doctoral dissertation, may helpfully serve as a sequel to Kidd’s biography.

Without intending to slight Whitefield’s spirituality and by placing him within the political, economic, and social context of his time, Choi introduces us to a George Whitefield less well-known to many of us. For instance, we learn that this “Grand Itinerant” was also an evangelist for the British Empire. That is, as a citizen of heaven, he evangelized for the coming of God’s kingdom; as a citizen of the empire, he evangelized with the agenda to expand this empire. Choi puts it this way, “Though best known as the Grand Itinerant who traveled far and wide proclaiming a religion of new birth, Whitefield was more than a famous revival preacher. He was an agent of British culture who used his potent mix of political savvy and theological creativity to champion the cause of imperial expansion” (3). Understanding “Whitefield exclusively, or even primarily, as an evangelical religious leader is not enough,” contends Choi (14), hence, the title of his book George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire. He reminds us that Whitefield lived and ministered in the context of an imperial culture and that the empire shaped his life and ministry.

The connection between Whitefield’s religious and imperial agendas (or his Protestant evangelicalism and British imperialism) is the centerpiece of Choi’s discourse and is also his new addition to Whitefield scholarship. These two “isms”, according to the author, “were the twin targets of Whitefield’s intensely focused evangelical ambition, such that his efforts to preach for religious revival were at the same time a project of British cultural exportation” (16). The first part of the book underscores that Whitefield was not only a Protestant itinerant preacher but also a British explorer in America (chapter 1). He both acted as a Protestant missionary and a British emissary (chapter 2). Even Whitefield’s decision to invest his time and energy in the newly founded colony of Georgia was driven by these twin targets. He saw this colony “as fertile soil into which he could transplant British religion and culture” (45). Thus, even when he established Bethesda Orphanage in 1740, which he called “my darling,” he had this twofold agenda in mind (230).

Choi’s thorough analysis of Whitefield’s life after the Great Awakening’s peak reveals another side of Whitefield as a plantation and slave owner (chapter 4). Choi observes that “Whitefield’s disappointment at the harvest of the awakenings sowed the seed for his deepening involvement in slavery. It is a story of how his reaction to religious and theological crisis paved the way for political, social, and economic development of grave moral consequence” (134). Whitefield had always been an advocate of slavery in Georgia even before its legalization in 1751. In fact, Choi goes on to say, “If any one person does indeed deserve blame for the introduction of slavery in Georgia, it may actually be George Whitefield” (145). But why did this evangelical preacher practice slavery? Why did he purchase Ephratah Plantation in Georgia along with enslaved laborers? Theologically, he justified his practice by the example of Abraham (Genesis 21): “As for the lawfulness of keeping slaves, I have no doubt, since I hear of some that were bought with Abraham’s money, and some that were born in his house” (133). Economically, he thought a hot place like Georgia could not “be cultivated without negroes” (162). Furthermore, only with enslaved labor could he sustain his work in Georgia, particularly his Bethesda Orphanage. Of course, Whitefield was not the only evangelical leader who practiced slavery. Jonathan Edwards also owned slaves. It is striking and critical to note that, lamentably, the two key figures in the Great Awakening both owned slaves.

Against the backdrop of the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), the book’s fifth chapter looks at Whitefield as a supporter of Great Britain against France and a defender of Protestantism against France’s Catholicism. As Choi outlines Whitefield’s part in British affairs, he further intensifies the book’s thesis: Whitefield’s work as a builder of Protestant empire and his actions as an upholder of the British Empire were inseparable. For him, says Choi, Christian faithfulness was measured “by devotion to the British Protestant cause against the French Catholic threat” (191). The final chapter examines Whitefield’s last years of life in America where he died in 1770. During this period, aware of his nearing death and desiring to leave a lasting legacy, he used his remaining strength to attempt to convert his Bethesda Orphanage into a college. Although unsuccessful in his attempt, his motive behind this project revealed his twin targets, a point that Choi is making throughout his book. In Whitefield’s own words, if his college could be established, its purpose was to equip “persons of superior rank” to “serve their king, their country, and their God, either in church or state” (195).

Choi should be commended for his well-researched and beautifully written book. I think he has convincingly demonstrated Whitefield’s key roles as an evangelist for God and empire. His book provides the missing piece of the Whitefield puzzle. When added to the other pieces (i.e., other works on Whitefield), the result is a more complete picture of the most famous preacher of the eighteenth century

[1] Thomas S. Kidd, George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).

Note: The original review appeared in the Calvin Theological Journal 54/2 (2019): 465–68.

Book Review