Monday, September 29, 2008

Does Your Church Look Like This?


If not, it should.

The church should be so radically in allignment with Jesus' ways, that the world wants to burn it down.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Attitudes To Minister To The Outcast

Gentleness (Proverbs 15:1; Matthew 11:28-30; Galatians 6:1-2)
The outcast are typically wrathful, having been oppressed by the evil. Even if they are in sin, they don’t need to be treated with harshness. They know their sin, and if they do not, they need to be informed carefully, not with anger. They are looking for deliverance, they are looking for family. They will not choose to pursue family with those who are harsh or critical. This is not to say that sin should not be spoken of—it is. But it needs to be dealt with kid gloves, not with wrath.

Patience (Psalm 103:8; I Thess. 2:9; II Peter 3:9)
Convictions built up over years do not melt away overnight. It requires much patience and work to show others that God is for them, although the world be against them. The outcast will reject you, will speak evil of you, will mock you and secretly despise you. But over time, the message of the gospel will work in the hearts—even of those who seems least likely to hear it! Labor patiently—literally for years—in order to see the fruit of faith.

We are not to show favoritism between social groups. (James 2:1-8; I Cor. 7:22) We are not to show favoritism between ethnic or cultural groups. (Matthew 8:11-12; Acts 10:34-35) We are not to show favoritism between knowledge of God. (Romans 2:11-13). We are not to show favoritism between sins. (James 2:10) This last is a tricky one. We want to separate some sinners from another because one sin is worse than another. James says that we are condemned by all of them. If we are to offer a benefit or service to one sinner outside of Christ, then why shouldn’t we give it to all of them? Impartiality is essential in ministry to the outcast, for their sense of injustice is strong.

Reliance on God (Matthew 10:9-10)
We, the ministers of the gospel, must be dependent on God. In the New Testament, most ministry is done with total dependence on God, for no one can do miraculous healings or exorcisms of their own power. Even so, we must not depend on our own resources or abilities to minister, but to rely on God and his work.

Surrender (Colossians 1:24; Philippians 2:3)
In ministering to the outcast, we must be ready to sacrifice. The needs are great—greater than we can meet. And more will be demanded of us than we can give. Yes, we do what we can so we can minister, but let us not set arbitrary boundaries around our love. Instead, we should set boundaries so we can love the most people we can. This will mean that care for ourselves might be compromised—but this is what ministry is about. Do what you must to continue to love, and beyond that, give and give.

Ministry To The Outcast

All true ministry has the goal of leading a people to faith in Jesus as Lord and living that out in their lives.

Identification—I Cor. 9:19-23
Some within a congregation that will take on the role of an outcast in order to reach them. Get rid of the separation between the “server” and the “served”.

Offer to be Family—Mark 2:15-17; Luke 15.
Total love of the “sinner”, and an offer to partake in acceptance. This is the major felt need of the outcast—social acceptability. To offer acceptance is not to have the outcast feel that acceptance—this only comes with an acceptance of forgiveness and inclusion in the community. This sense of family cannot be created by a program, but one can use a program as a base-point to increase this acceptance.

Listening—James 1:19
You cannot meet anyone’s needs until you know what they are. Get past the first hurdles in order to discover their real needs (e.g. no one needs money, money is a means to meet the real need)

Trying to meet their needs, but doing so with dependence on God. Those with resources, give what you have (Luke 12:33); those without, pray for healing (Matt 10). To give what we have, may be to offer what God alone has to give, instead of the petty resources we have (Acts 3:1-8).

Deliverance—From Satan, from sin, from death.
This is God’s area, and if we are called to work with the outcast, we are God’s representatives.
A. By prayer. (Mark 9:28-29; Luke 18:1-8). Through prayer, deliverance from oppression can occur.
B. By teaching. (Matthew 28:19-20). Through the teaching of Jesus’ commands, teaching and life there will come understanding of God’s justice and of gaining that justice.
C. By dwelling with (John 1:14; Acts 2:42-47). By living with the outcast and showing them the life of Christ they will gain understanding and the ability to live it out.
D. By suffering for. (John 12:24-27; Colossians 1:24) Through suffering the suffering of Christ the people of God will be redeemed. This is the wake up call, the realization of the atonement in the lives of the people, the life of Christ in the flesh.

Forgiveness— Luke 15; Mark 2:1-12; John 20:23.
This is also a sense of acceptance, like mentioned above, under “family”. But this is different, in that it occurs after regret for sin and repentance is done. This is an acceptance that comes after a wiping away of the debt of sin, and is fuller than a simple offering of acceptance.

Guiding to Commitment—Luke 14:26-27.
Commitment to God as the one true Lord (Matthew 6:24);
Commitment to living according to the righteousness of Jesus (Matthew 7:24-27; John 14:15);
Commitment to Love (Mark 21:29-31);
Commitment to the family of God (Matthew 12:47-50);
Commitment to reaching out to the outcast (Matthew 28:19-20).

Who Are the Outcast?

The context of being outcast
In Matthew 8, Jesus spoke of the “inheritors of the kingdom”, or, those who apparently are in God’s good graces and who will receive the kingdom of God on the last day but who will be cast out. These “inheritors” will not receive the kingdom of God because they do not do God’s will according to the teaching of Jesus. These apparent inheritors have built a structure which has its own laws and rules about who will be included in God’s kingdom apart from God’s righteousness. These are based on the traditions of men, rather than the distinctions that Jesus made.

What does it mean to be outcast?
To be outcast is to be told that you are not a part of the kingdom of God, nor ever will be. You are excluded. Set outside, rejected, separated from, persecuted, laws are made against you, hated, yelled at because of who you are, not what you’ve done. Perhaps you have failed to live up to people’s expectations or have crossed some unknown line. But you are neglected and all “good” people will have nothing to do with you.

Who are the outcast?
In Jesus’ day—tax collectors, women, sinners, prostitutes, Zaccheus, gentiles, lepers, and anyone who associated with Jesus.
In our day—Homeless, illegal immigrants, homosexuals, the poor, drug culture, belong to a cult, and many who follow Jesus strictly and abide by what he says.

What kinds of outcastness is there?
1. Socially—unacceptable because of social reasons (e.g. education, manners, inability to speak English well)

2. Righteousness—unacceptable because of evil done in the past, or done in ignorance

3. False righteousness—unacceptable because of standards of righteousness that were not handed down by God; unacceptable because of assumed guilt

4. Chronic problem—unacceptable because of constant demand to have needs met (e.g. chronic illness, mental illness)

5. —unacceptable because of one’s race, nationality, social group, culture

The outcast and the Anawim
The Anawim are those who are poor or vulnerable or persecuted and they cry out to God for justice. There are three categories of poor, generally, that are used in Scripture:

A. Those who are poor, but unrighteous. They are outcast from the inheritors of the kingdom of God, and it is as it should be. They are suffering injustice, but they are either oppressors of others or are trying to save themselves either by themselves or by a power apart from God. They still receive God’s benefits, such as their basic needs and an offer for salvation, but unless they repent they will not receive the kingdom of God. These poor would be considered outcast from society, but they are not inheritors of the kingdom of God and they are not among the Anawim.

B. The Anawim who cry out to God, but they don’t know how they will be delivered. These are people like Cornelius (Acts 10), Namaan (II Kings 5), and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15) who are looking to God for salvation, but they don’t know how they will receive salvation. God listens to their cries and brings them a deliverer, which means Jesus. These people are outcast, but they are only potentially inheritors of God’s kingdom.

C. The Anawim in Jesus. These are those who suffer because they are living according to the life and teachings of Jesus. They have surrendered everything, and they are oppressed because they are righteous and they are vulnerable. God will deliver them and give them the kingdom of God. Everyone who is a true follower of Jesus is either part of the Anawim or they stand with the Anawim in their suffering, helping them as they can. These people are outcast from the apparent inheritors of the kingdom of God, but they are the true inheritors.

Should the church outcast anyone?
According to Matthew 18:15-17 and I Corinthians 5-6, the church should be involved in separating those who are entering the kingdom of God from those who do not. While unbelievers should not be excluded from Christian meetings, they should not be allowed to take the Lord’s supper or other signs of believers, nor should believers enter into long term contractual agreements with unbelievers (I Corinthians 10:16-21; II Corinthians 6:14-18) Most importantly, however, those who claim to be right with God but sin continually without repentance will not be able to enter into God’s kingdom, and the church must completely separate themselves from these (I Corinthians 5:9-13). Those who teach in opposition to what Jesus taught should be separated from the true inheritors of the kingdom (II John 7-10).

Those who are not to be outcast
Those who are unbelievers are not to be outcast (I Cor. 5:9-13). Therefore, if believers offer services (this could be a worship service or an act of benevolence) to anyone—believers or unbelievers, they should do everything they can to make them available to everyone, no matter what sin unbelievers are involved in (Matthew 5:43-48).
Those who are in the process of repenting of their sin are not to be outcast from the true kingdom of God—no matter how evil the sin. If you have someone who is repenting from sin, you must forgive them and receive them back into full fellowship. This is true, even if they’ve fallen away many times before. (Matthew 18:21-35)