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August 2, 2011

Old Testament Evangelism

by Rev. A. J. Iovine
Figure of a Missional Perspective

Image via Wikipedia

This morning, I was fishing around on the Internet and I clicked onto one of those blogs I read “religiously” — the John the Steadfast blog. As I scanned the homepage, a post by a brother pastor piqued my interest: Was the Church of the Old Testament missional?

The fact is the people of Israel during the Old Testament time were not “let’s go and outreach to our neighbors” sort of people. There were no prayer walk teams, groups who walked the neighborhoods hanging door hangers, or even small group coffee klatches at people’s homes.

The Israelites didn’t send mission teams to the Edomites or even the Ammonites.

And they sure as heck didn’t have boards for national and international missions.

But the Lord did send Jonah to the Ninivites to urge them to repent and turn from their sinfulness. Kind of missional, don’t you think? Yes, it was God led and there wasn’t a great program in place. He was sent to call them to repentance. The Israelites didn’t have a big Synodical board to plan his trip. I think they would have thought of a better way of convincing him to go to Ninivah rather than being swallowed by a big fish and being vomited on the seashore. But Jonah eventually listened and God’s Word was spoken to those of Ninivah.

The idea of being missional is not just relegated to specific programs that a church runs. It is also a personal action that each God-fearing redeemed Christian embarks upon. Oh, I am getting away from the Old Testament. OK. How about the Lord urging His people to love their neighbors (as written in Deuteronomy 10:19 and in the Law handed through the Ten Commandments in Exodus)? Showing mercy and grace to people who hate you — sounds very missional since by showing mercy and grace, one expresses what it means to be a faithful believer who has been saved by a loving and gracious God.

There seems to also be an understanding within some sectors of the modern church (not just centers of the LCMS, but all around Christianity) that the faith was only given to the people of Israel to be used with their own kind. No sense being nice to the neighboring country since those harlot heathens are headed for the burning circles of hell, right?  Well, don’t tell that to King David. Anyone who has ever read any of his Psalms could see that he not only was focused on the people of God’s nation, but also how the nations of the world would praise God’s name. And how would they learn of God without being told? The prophets wrote of this incessantly, including the first Italian prophet, Malachi (OK, Malachi is NOT the first Italian prophet, though the name could be viewed as one coming from the Boot) wrote in Chapter 1 that God’s name would be praised from the rising of the sun to its setting. And, oh yeah, there was that little promise to Abraham how his descendants would be as numerous as stars in the sky, though that Genesis passage doesn’t point to anything missional, I guess, but it speaks very directly to the missional heart of God’s people.

If churches just hold car washes or community dinners and fail to speak of Christ and Him crucified for the salvation of the world, all these projects are just exercises that may raise a few bucks that will be used to plug a hole in a church’s budget. Many times churches can lose sight of the big picture of the church — is it there to hold luncheons and craft fairs every year, or is it there to embolden believer’s faith and to work in the harvest field helping our God to grow His kingdom? As I like to say, are we a social club or the house of God?

In a nutshell, I believe God’s Word shows the church has always been missional. At the center of the life of the Christian is the loving need to express the faith in word and deed.


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