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Lessons from Church History 1600's to Today

Posted on November 14th, 2008

At NLF a few weeks ago, we had a one day course with my good friend, Scott Sunquist a global church historian from Pittsburg Theological Seminary. He focused on implications and lessons from the past for today, beginning with the Protestant missionary movement of the 17th century and then moving to the church in Africa and the Pacific.  It was an outstanding day, one that left us with much to ponder as we consider our mission for Christ. The following were my top applications: 1. Earliest Protestant missionaries were from the margins of the church, that is common people, not professional clergy. The Moravians, the Methodists, the Baptists (e.g. William Carey) were common people with passion and zeal for Jesus.Their stories filled me with great excitement and vision to challenge our own people to “Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” 2. One of the applications that came out of this was our need to instill in our own people a deep sense of being missionaries/chaplains at their place of work. Imagine if every person in our churches saw themselves as an evangelist/prophet pastoring their workplace for Christ, sent there by Him to proclaim the gospel and make disciples! With secularization we are now in a missionary situation in the West.  I don’t think we have taken this very seriously as of yet. 3. Scott’s global and historical perspective also gave a unique vantage point on how materialism is strangling us in the USA. We were able to see so clearly our own idols around comfort and security, especially when considering the rest of the global church. For most USA Christians, the idea of a tithe continues to be a bit extreme as is the idea of centering our entire lives around Christ, not upward mobility. I came away under profound conviction to do a better job teaching in this area. 4. I was challenged by the explosion of Christianity in Africa where one half of the continent is now Christian. Their openness to signs/wonders/visions/dreams/the prophetic for mission has driven me to prayer, asking God what He might be saying to us today. What new initiatives does the Holy Spirit want to unleash in and through us at NLF? Through our young people? Through a neo-monastacism? Through new forms of radical leadership development initiatives?    5. Finally, we talked about the great reversal, how the world is coming here to the West. “The Empire is striking back.”  This has large implications for us in Queens with its 2.2 million people, with over 65% being foreign born, as well as the rest of North America. What other global, historical trends do you see with large implications for us in the church today?

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