The Apostle Paul, the first global church planter, expressed his gospel mission with this astounding expression of his ministry:
“Of this gospel I was made a minister …though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” (Ephesians 3:7-8, ESV)
In other words, Paul saw his responsibility as a church planter to be, at its essence, the proclamation of the unsearchable riches of Christ in the Gospel. Similarly, with humility and grace, the weighty responsibility of every church planter and missionary is to make known the good news regarding the unsearchable riches of Christ to our communities and our world.
With that in mind, the first of our church planting courses in the seminary is entitled “The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.” Last May, on the first day of class, I began with a statement that I intended to be jarring. I said, “I am afraid that some of you speak the gospel in a manner that is boring to believers and is totally incomprehensible to unbelievers.” After that class, a pastor, who was guest sitting in on the session, came and confessed to me, “That’s me. You were describing me.”
At Bethlehem College & Seminary, we labor in our studies for a true grasp of the truth of God and Christ in the Scriptures, so also, we labor for the practical impact of the glorious truth of God to accompany our head knowledge with appropriate affection in our hearts and fitting action. Thus, we begin our church planting classes by pressing a right understanding of the gospel, a joyful daily embrace the gospel, and loving proclamation of the gospel of Christ to others.
To that end, during the class we think hard together about the biblical gospel of Christ. We observe that the gospel is news about what God has done in Christ, not about what we are do to. It is a call to faith in GOD, not a call to work for GOD.
We observe that at the heart of the gospel is the substitutionary death of Christ for our sins to reconcile us with God. We have no gospel if we deny that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures in order to bring us to GOD.
We observe that the gospel can be expressed simply, as the angels did at the birth of Jesus, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-12, ESV)
At the same time, the gospel can be more clearly explained through the typical themes of God as Creator, Man as sinner, and Christ as Savior, followed by a call for a response of personal faith. At the same time, we admit that the whole big story of the gospel, revealed in the Bible, cannot be understood fully apart from the whole of God’s salvation history revealed to us in the Scriptures.
We observe that the gospel is the news of God graciously giving himself to us and its benefits are expressed in the complementary terms of judicial justification, redemption from slavery, birth/adoption into God’s family, union with Christ, and new eternal life of knowing God.
What’s the point? My point is to observe with the apostle Paul that there are glorious unsearchable riches in the gospel that is ours in Christ, fueling our worship of him, shaping our lives, and enlivening our proclamation of the gospel to other people, for the glory of Christ. We will discover and joyfully treasure for all eternity the gospel, with praise for God’s glorious grace.
Associate Professor of Church Planting
- Pray that all our students might receive grace to comprehend again and again the unsearchable riches of Christ that is ours in the gospel.
- Likewise, pray that all our students might receive grace to speak of the unsearchable riches of Christ to others.
- Pray as we partner with Bethlehem Baptist Church to fulfill the “Fill These Cities” vision to commission 25 church planters and pioneer missionaries by the year 2025. Please pray that the pastors, church planters and pioneer missionaries God calls from among our graduates might with the apostle Paul, take hold a joyous God-given responsibility to “proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ” in the gospel.
- Pray that God would continue to work through his people to fund the Serious Joy Scholarships needed for the coming year.