This week I have been reflecting on our church’s central ministry focus of connecting people around the Word. We need to connect people because we were designed for community. We need to be connected around the Word because the Word of God is transformative.
The first evangelistic message was preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost. His message started with a quote from the prophet Joel. When Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert he explained the Scripture to him and the man came to faith. Peter reminded believers that they were “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23). There is power in the Word. The same Holy Spirit that convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment is the Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible. He uses his Word to draw people to faith. Evangelism happens around the Word.
Discipleship happens around the Word. As the Church began, “they devoted
themselves to the apostles teaching” (Acts 2:42). After talking about how he
should conduct himself, Paul encouraged Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself
to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). Jesus
teaching with the crowds and with his disciples was largely made up of references
to, allusions to, or direct quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures. Over the
centuries, when missionaries have gone into illiterate areas, one of the first
things they do is develop an alphabet and teach people to read. Then they
translate the Bible into their language. Martin Luther translated the Bible
into German so the average person in the church could read the Word for
themselves. Wycliffe was a predecessor of the reformers. His insistence on
translating the Scripture into the language of the people was the fuel that
fired the reformers. Discipleship happens around the Word.
Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church put more emphasis on Church
authority than on Scriptural authority. For them, Bible interpretation is best
left to the professionals. But the thing that drove the church from the beginning
was the availability of the Scriptures to the people. The universal use of the
Greek language in the First Century made that possible. Granted, not everyone
had Bibles, but they had access to the Scriptures, and the letters and writings
of the Apostles and eye witnesses to the resurrection were distributed far and
wide. Christianity has always been a religion of the Book.
Why do we connect people around the Word? Because evangelism, discipleship,
and church teaching and authority are grounded on the Word. From the beginning,
the catch phrase of the Evangelical Free Church of America has been, “Where
stands it written?” That should raise three questions for us. 1. Am I in the
Word? 2. Are we teaching the Word? 3. Are we connecting people around the Word?
If we are to glorify God by sharing, teaching, and fellowshipping, it must be
around the Word. Let me challenge you to pick up your Bible today and spend a
little time listening to God through his Word.
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