Advance 2020 represents one of the greatest opportunities for explosive gospel growth in the lifetime of The Message. Ben Jack gets to the heart of what it’s all about.
An Instagram post of a cheeseburger with the comment, ‘Best. Burger. Ever.’ can be the making of a restaurant if posted by the right person. But does anyone actually believe it’s true? When the naïve and ‘take-everything-literally’ hero of one of my favourite films, Elf, arrives in New York city and sees a coffee shop advertising the ‘World’s Best Cup of Coffee’, he runs inside to enthusiastically congratulate them – only to be greeted by a room of bewildered faces. But we know better than Buddy: we accept the language of ‘awesome’ for what it is, reading between the hyperbolic lines to see a simple endorsement that this burger is pretty good!
I want to be clear that I don’t intend any sense of hyperbole with what comes next. I genuinely, passionately, literally believe that in the next few years we are going to see the greatest evangelistic awakening this nation has seen in decades. As I visit church communities across the country, I can’t ignore the sense I get from ministries and leaders of all ages and backgrounds that God is powerfully on the move in our nation. The fields are rich for harvest and God is asking us again, ‘Who shall I send? Who will go for us?’ (Isaiah 6:8).
Isaiah’s answer was simple – and so should ours be. ‘Here am I. Send me.’ I’m passionate about Advance because I believe it’s a brilliant way for us to equip and encourage one another to be a people who get excited about what God is calling us to. And at its core, I think Advance is as simple as Isaiah’s response – and here are five ‘basics’ which both underpin Advance and serve as a way we can meaningfully answer God’s call.
Prayer is the bedrock of our spiritual life. It’s also, therefore, the bedrock of our evangelism. The power of salvation belongs to God alone, so we must constantly and continuously be asking him to provide opportunities for us to share our faith and to bring those who do not yet know him to life (check out Luke 18:1-8 and Romans 1:16).
Back to Basics
Try writing a list of five not-yet-Christian friends and family and praying for them every day. For your church, it could be devoting serious time within your services to pray for the lost as part of your worship.
Biblical illiteracy is one of the greatest challenges the church faces today. If we don’t know what we believe and why, our message to the world lacks clarity and integrity. We must resolve to take the word of God seriously – especially in areas where it challenges our cultural predispositions. After all, the gospel is inherently a counter-cultural message which sees God-centred reality conflicting with human-centred culture. Interpretation and application can be tricky, but our starting position should be serious engagement to discover biblical truth, rather than trivial engagement to confirm our bias (see Matthew 4:4 and Hebrews 4:12).
Back to Basics
Try setting your alarm hard an hour earlier to spend time reading and studying the Bible. For your church, it could be starting adult Sunday school classes before or after your regular service to create space for teaching the Bible.
The kingdom of God is not limited to a particular place, but the reality of God’s rule and reign over everything. There is a past, present and future dynamic to God’s kingdom – and understanding all three is essential if we are to make sense of who God is, who we are in light of this, and what that means for our lives today and in the eternity to come (read Mark 1:15).
Back to Basics
For you and your church that could be rooting your identity in the words ‘thy kingdom come’. What would it look like for God’s kingdom to come in your life, and through you and your church as kingdom ambassadors in your community?
For many Christianity is comfortable – but Jesus makes it clear that following him is costly. God gave the greatest treasure of heaven, his own son, to rescue us from our rebellion. Jesus paid the cost to save us and asks us to live likewise. Take a look at your faith and ask, ‘Where is the cost?’ Be encouraged in the things you have given to God, and commit to letting go of the things you haven’t, so you can live fully in the freedom he has bought for you at the greatest cost of all (check out Matthew 16:24 and Ephesians 5:2).
Back to Basics
Is there a distraction in your life you could lay down? Could you think afresh about how you spend your time and finances? For your church it could be making changes to elements of your service to make it accessible to new people, or to be sacrificially generous with your resources. God often asks us to lay aside our comforts for the blessing of those who dont yet have the hope of eternal comfort in his kingdom.
Evangelism is the business of every Christian, not just the ‘professionals’. Not everyone is called to preach from a stage, but we all engage in conversations daily that can be used to help people encounter Jesus. We need to be intentional about speaking of Jesus as a normal aspect of our daily lives. Once the other four basics are in place (prayer, the Bible, God’s kingdom and sacrifice), it makes proclamation easier, even if it remains challenging and costly (Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:8).
Back to Basics
Resolve to tell a friend your testimony over coffee this week. For your church it could be providing personal witness training and regular opportunities to go in to your community to offer prayer, a listening ear, and the chance for people to ask questions.
Through Advance we have a unique opportunity to get back to the basics. The evangelist mentoring groups, personal witness training and all we’re planning for 2020 are a way for us to return to, live out and speak out a simple truth: the king of the universe loves and accepts us and there is hope for all the world.
In an age of over-exaggeration, the least hyperbolic thing I could do would be to post a picture of the cross of Christ online, with the following caption: ‘Best. King. Ever’.
Do our lives declare the same truth? The vision of Advance is to help us do exactly that – to get back to basics so that the world can meet the best king ever.
Find out more about Advance and start or join a group at advance2020.org