Why Believe?

My time as a student at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University has pushed me to grow in both the foundations as well as the practice of faith and ministry.  The constant and hard work of integrating scripture, theology and church history with the demands of ministry requires rigorous thought and application.  Instead of having specific courses in particular areas, the seminary combines all three of these with a specific area of ministry (worship, preaching, congregational spiritual formation, etc).

For example, the “Missional Church” course forced me as a student to grapple with how we reach a world in need of Jesus.

As a Christian, I am constantly concerned with this question: By what authority do I believe the Gospel?  As a pastor, I am constantly concerned with this question: By what authority should an unbeliever believe the Gospel?

This course helped me develop this methodology to show by what authority people seem to come to faith and grow in faith[1].

The Rule of Faith

Ultimately, one must either have faith or not.  Either I believe in Jesus or I don’t.  If I don’t have faith, none of these models matter.  If I do have faith, these models simply inform my faith without diminishing the “who” of my faith (Jesus).   Whenever our faith rests on the model itself, we have missed Jesus and must repent of our idolatry.  In short, my faith must rest in Jesus.  Although I may appeal to scripture, the church, tradition, reasons, or experiences, these in themselves are not my faith.

Apply it

Why is this so important to me?  Why does this matter to my – or your – ministry?

As a minister of the Gospel, I must relinquish my desire to force people into Christianity, no matter how sophisticated my methodology may be (whether model 1, model 3 or model 6).  If faith is developed only through the power of the Spirit, then my goal is to point to Jesus and to point to the work of the Spirit.  As a witness, as I point to Jesus, I may use scripture, reason, theology, or the local church.  But these things, as well as myself, must give way.  Once I have witnessed, I must get out of the way and let the Spirit do His work.

Pastors are constantly guided by the Spirit to discern where a person, a church, or a community is at in its faith journey (pre- or post-salvation) and based on this, must decide how to properly minister.  For example, The Missional Church course taught me to think about which model my local church could adopt in its evangelistic efforts in order to meet the specific needs of our context.

So what about you? 

Do you find yourself ministering in primarily one model?  Can you see how ministering in different models could help you have a more effective evangelism ministry?  Would you add a model?  Would you subtract a model?  Are some models more important in your tradition? How can you minister differently to help people come to faith and continue to grow in Christian faith?

[1] Note: These models are listed in no particular order.   Various Christian traditions will place these models in different orders of importance.  Some will emphasize some models while others will even reject some models as illegitimate.  You may discover you want to add or subtract from this list.  This is simply my attempt to make sense of how faith actually seems to take place.  For example, a person miraculously healed may believe because of a miracle.  We know Jesus says that a wicked generation desires a sign but the reality is that signs still bring people to faith.  This tries to address models of authority that bring people to faith and how they may be used for evangelistic purposes as well as how we should guard against the dangers of each model.