As I sit to write this, I am a little hesitant because I’m not sure I have landed concretely on any position concerning the millennial reign of Christ. The most popular view held today is the premillennial view. In 2019, I remember being at a lunch for reformed pastors in our area. One of the other pastors asked what my millennial view was. Without hesitation, I answered, “Premil.” That was less than two years ago. In 1918, when premillennialism essentially became the national view of United States citizens with the rise of fundamentalism, mainstream Christians (who were mostly postmil at the time) warned that the premillennial position (which they unnecessarily conflated with Nazi socialism) would lead Christians to forsake the world and the United States, which happened. In the aftermath of World War I (1914-1918) and the accompanying civil and social unrest, premillennialism became attractive because it explained why the world seemed to be getting so terrible and why the liberal agendas (primarily women’s right to vote) of the age seemed to be winning. The American version of premillennialism emerged from the new dispensational theological camp and became associated, at first, only with fundamental baptists. The premillennial viewpoint was and is as diverse as any other theological perspective because people think differently, including historic (which I was in 2019) and progressive premillennialism today. Much of my life, I was premillennial because I grew up learning from mostly premil teachers. Though I was aware of other positions, I cared not to work out my own eschatology because the church environments I found myself in were so eschatologically charged. I did not feel free to investigate the Scriptures because I felt the church would not allow it. Such dogma would have been my reason for leaving the church altogether, but the Holy Spirit was more persuasive than wretched people. The Holy Spirit is the only reason I, who almost forsook the church, became a preacher.
Prior to the 20th Century, protestants in America were mostly postmillennial, a theology which influenced the founders, even if they were not postmillennial, of the United States to form a Christian union in order to bring the kingdom of heaven to the earth. Their viewpoint was positive, nationalistic, and, unlike premillennials, enabled them to make the world a better place. At the dawn of premillennialism, the populous postmillennials saw their premillennial brothers and sisters as defeatists and pessimistic. Though postmillennialism is not as popular today, there has been a revival of the viewpoint in the 21st Century because Christians noticed the mass secularization of the nation—which can be traced back to the premillennial revolution in the 1900s.
I desire to be a postmillennial, but I am not yet convinced that it is the biblical position. I like the optimism. The viewpoint that most closely aligns with what I currently see in Scripture is the amillennial perspective, though I am sure I disagree with other amillennials about some things (e.g. a future seven-year tribulation). Historic theologians like Augustine, Calvin, and Luther held to an amillennial view of the millennial reign of Christ, as did R.C. Sproul and does Voddie Baucham, Sam Storms, and Ben Merkle. I have come to realize that not many really know what the position entails. Like many things, people scour the internet and make assumptions. Then they accuse others of all sorts of awful things based on their own assumptions about what a position is or implies (that’s called a straw-man). Or, they find information from someone who does not represent any position other than his own well. I receive emails from people who tell me they disagree with me, but they prove to have no understanding about what I believe by arguing against positions I do not take. Just this week, someone lambasted me for “…aberrant/twisted theology with unchecked license for unfettered allegory—worse than the Catholic church!” Such accusations are interesting since I hold strictly to a historical-grammatical (otherwise known as “literal”) interpretation of Scripture. It is important to seek understanding rather than make assumptions. So, I will explain the amillennial perspective and briefly defend my outlook against postmillennialism and premillennialism—knowing full well that I am not antagonistic toward either disparate perspective. I also do so knowing that Scripture can change my position because it has been changing my position in the last couple years. These words should not be taken as my final statement about the issue. My goal is simply to observe the biblical evidence, not forming an opinion based on worldly events or what I previously believed but Scripture alone. Before late 2019, and possibly up until June 2020, I would have identified as a historic premillennial—and I could have defended it vigorously by parroting what I heard from others. The sincere study of Scripture is the thing changing my mind because I could not reconcile certain passages of Scripture with my eschatology. When our worldview does not match Scripture, we have the responsibility to change.
To anyone reading this, please know that I arrive at my doctrinal convictions painstakingly by wrestling intensely with the text of Scripture and poring over the plethora of thoughts and scholarship on each issue before speaking about it.
Ammillennialism is a bit of a misnomer. It is not the belief that there is no millennium. It is the belief that the millennium is not earthly but heavenly. The distinctive characteristic of amillennialism is the belief that the 1,000 year reign of Christ in Revelation 20:2-3, a time during which Satan is bound, is the indeterminate amount of time in between Jesus Christ’s incarnation or ascension in the 1st Century AD and His return at the end of the church age. During this time, Christ is reigning from Heaven, where He sits at the right hand of the Father:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:18-21 HCSB).
Amillennialism is essentially different from post and premillennialism in the following ways:
Christ reigns from heaven in the current age.
Christ reigns through the church on the earth in the current age.
Christ will reign physically on the earth at a future time.
Satan is currently bound from deceiving the nations concerning the Gospel.
Satan is currently bound from deceiving the nations concerning the Gospel.
Satan will be bound from doing anything at a future time.
Sees the kingdom of God as existing alongside the kingdom of Hell until Christ’s return.
Sees the kingdom of God as taking over the world progressively until the entire world is conquered by the church.
Sees the kingdom of Hell as taking over the world progressively until Christ returns, destroys everything, and sets His kingdom on the earth (progressive premil is an exception).
Some of the particulars of these views are not mutually exclusive. There is overlap.
Though these are the most basic differences, you see why a person’s millennial perspective shapes the way he interacts in the world and with the Bible. I am not currently convinced of the postmillennial perspective because, though I do recognize the slow expansion of the kingdom of heaven on the earth in Scripture (cf. Matthew 13:31-35), I also recognize the existence of evil up until the return of Christ—which does not seem to cohere with the idea that the kingdom will simply take over the world until the church is the only nation. I am not currently convinced of the premillennial position because Scripture seems to indicate that Christ is currently reigning over this earth rather than beginning His explicit reign at some point in the future. The amillennial perspective will become clearer as I work through the biblical evidence.
My biblical investigation into the millennial perspectives began when I started preparing for our current Revelation series at The Church at Sunsites. If I did not have to teach it, I would have had no reason to investigate as thoroughly as I have. My previous understanding was simply a parroting of teachers from whom I heard the premillennial position taught. Like many things in theology and practice, the Bible indicates something different from what is popularly taught. I have had to constantly wrestle with the Bible during my investigation, and, surprise, the Bible is winning against what I previously believed. Here, I will mention particular references that have persuaded me.
First, you should know that there are several references that can be interpreted coherently in light of every perspective. Such references include Matthew 24:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Revelation 8:13, and 20:2. I will include a chart explaining how at the end of my argument, which includes more references. The Great Commission, however, was sufficient to cause me to question the premillennial point of view. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus claimed that all authority had been given to Him. As a premillennial, I was taught that the reign of Christ upon the earth was being reserved until a future period of time. Either Christ is reigning now on David’s throne or will begin reigning at some point in the future. He simply cannot both be reigning now and not reigning now. Further, Christ ascended into heaven—which means that from the moment of His ascension, Christ is reigning over the earth with all authority from the right hand of the Father in Heaven. The amillennial viewpoint is the only viewpoint that describes Christ currently reigning with all authority from heaven, though the realization does not exclude the postmillennial viewpoint—which espouses that Christ is reigning upon the earth through His church. Christ’s revelation about the timing of His own authoritative, kingdom rule upon the earth represents what He taught throughout His ministry, “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), not thousands of years in the future. In order to believe that the kingdom of heaven would wait, I would have to take Jesus’s explicit revelation about His own person and work figuratively (or think that Jesus was wrong)—and I’m simply not comfortable doing that.
Jesus’s disciples asked Him, “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus answered their question by telling them all the prophetic signs that the Old Testament prophets foretold. Jesus even gave them a timeline, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34). Jesus predicted that His kingdom would come to the earth with all the eschatological signs within the generation of His disciples. By Matthew 28:18, Jesus claimed that all authority had been given to Him—everything had been fulfilled, which fits not with premillennialism but, again, does not exclude postmillennialism.
To match what Jesus taught about the coming of His kingdom, John the Revelator revealed that the 1,000 year reign of Christ “must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1). He was writing in the First Century AD. John was describing an imminent reign of Christ, not a distant one. By John’s own words, if we take him at his explicit and literal word, the reign of Christ upon the earth was within sight of his own generation, which he learned from Jesus. That is why, in Revelation 3:12, John described the New Jerusalem as currently coming down out of heaven. Once again, we see the Bible explicitly describe Jesus currently reigning on David’s throne from Heaven. The realization does not exclude the postmillennial viewpoint. The explicit and literal claims of Scripture do, however, directly contradict the premillennial viewpoint. If anyone wants to be premillennial, I will maintain fellowship with that person—millennial views are no reason to divide Christ. Please understand that the premillennial theological position must see Scripture as, at best, generally figurative, and at worst, not inerrant. Even great expositors like John MacArthur assert away such explicit claims while accusing amillennials of doing the same. He misrepresents and conflates the postmil and amil views. I love MacArther as an expositor, but he has a bad habit of making certain assertions without defending those assertions. I only mention MacArthur because I am often accused of being ignorant because I don’t agree with him. If only people realized that most reformed, calvinistic theologians disagree with MacArthur because he tried to mix reformed and dispensational theology, and the two do not mix well. Premillennialism puts us in a precarious position as Christians because it gives Christianity’s critics ammunition to fire at the kingdom of heaven. I have heard more than once that Christ cannot be God because He was wrong about the establishment of His own kingdom and our Bible is incoherent and unreliable because it contradicts itself concerning the millennium. In reality, the Bible does not contradict itself. Christians simply do not know their Bibles. Instead, they only seem to parrot what they have been taught by others—some of which is irreconcilable with Scripture’s explicit claims.
None of the previous references negated a postmillennial viewpoint. There are a few claims in Scripture that currently keep me from ascribing to the postmillennial position even though I find the position attractive. If I were to take a position based on my own preferences, the postmil position would be it. John the Revelator described dead saints being raised to life and reigning with Jesus Christ over the earth during His immanent reign (Revelation 20:4-6). If we presume a postmillennial position, identifying Christ’s kingdom as directly on the earth through the church, we should expect that saints who die in the church age would be immediately resurrected from their graves to abide with the church on the earth. We do not, though, see our dead brothers and sisters in Christ currently occupying our auditoriums with us on Sunday morning. If we presume a premil position, our interpretation of the text demands a sort of soul sleep until a future 1,000 year reign and requires that some Christians enter into the glorified state prior to others and prior to the final judgment—which contradicts even the proposed premil timeline (which places the final judgment prior to the resurrection and glorification). So, the premil position contradicts itself and forces incoherence in one’s worldview if one believes Scripture. If we take an amil position, those saints are recognizable as Christians dying, going to heaven, and reigning with Christ there until Christ’s second coming—which seems the simplest and plainest reading of the explicit text.
John the Revelator also revealed that Satan will be released at a time following the expansion of the Gospel during the reign of Christ. Christ’s reign does not end, but Satan will be loosed (Revelation 20:7-10). Postmillennial proponents generally claim that Christ’s reign began at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. From that moment, the kingdom would slowly overtake the whole earth until the kingdom of heaven is the only kingdom remaining. Such a trajectory seems to not account for an unbounding of Satan either at junctures in human history or the end of the age prior to the final judgment. Further, it seems not to allow for a future judgment with fire—a reality about which the New Testament seems clear (cf. 2 Peter 3:7).
In Matthew 19:28, with reference to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18, Jesus identified the end of the age as His death burial and resurrection—a time at which the apostles would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve nations of Israel. Jesus did not identify the end of the age as AD 70 like many postmillennials do. He did not identify the regeneration as an indeterminate future time like premillennials do. He identified it as the time at which He was granted all authority in heaven and on the earth, about AD 33.
Conclusion (sort of)
It seems to me that the plainest and most literal reading of Scripture indicates a basically amillennial position. It seems to me that premillennials must allegorize, or at least see as figurative, many passages that are meant to be accepted literally—which is why the dispensational, premillennial interpretation of Revelation seems so fantastical and Christ is seen as not currently reigning even though He revealed that all authority was given to Him. It seems to me that postmillennials do not allow for great apostasy, the loosing of Satan, or a final judgment of the world by fire. This short paper does not represent the full depth of my own thought. It is a brief survey and basic reasoning. It is not my resolved, final statement on the millennium.
Bible reference chart
The following chart represents my current biblical concerns with my own shortnotes. Green means that the view seems to correspond to the Biblical reference(s). Red means it does not seem to me to correspond. White means that I am unable to conclude whether or not it currently seems to me to correspond to the biblical text. I am still adding references and considering each view as we walk through Revelation together and still discovering new eschatological viewpoints. Ken is working on a similar defense of postmillennialism to help us come to our own conclusions. I am still looking for someone able and willing to write a biblical defense of premillennialism. If you are able and willing, and will do so respectfully, please let me know. I need something I can publish without copyright issues.
W. Carter Heath and Laura Porter, “The Rise of Fundamentalism,” inTurning Points in the History of American Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2017.
W. Carter Heath and Laura Porter, “Antebellum Reform,” inTurning Points in the History of American Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2017.
John Hesselink, “The Millennium in the Reformed Tradition.” 99ff.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1oEmg6iqow&t=1166s John MacArthur asserts that postmillennialism is another form of amillenialism, that all amillennials hold a replacement theology, and that amillennials believe there is no millenium. Almost none of his claims about the opposing positions are true for everyone who hold those positions, which is frustrating. MacArthur commits the straw-man and hasty generalization fallacies without apology and makes many assertions that he does not defend with evidence, biblical or otherwise.
I know many people who reject God based on claims about what science reveals or not. People evolved from a more primitive creature and were not created from dust. The earth is nearly 5 billion years old, not 6 thousand. The universe took billions of years to form, not six days. Many of us have family members who question the biblical claims about God or reject God. Perhaps, you are one of those who question God’s existence, the validity of Jesus’s claims, or the reliability of the Bible. I want to invite you to join us on Wednesday evenings for six weeks starting on March 3, 2021. If you are unable to make it to campus, please join us via Zoom.
In this series, we will talk about when we should and should not debate, how to have gospel-centered conversations, introduce the basic arguments for and against God’s existence, and prove why biblical Christianity is the most reasonable worldview.
When: Wednesday evenings @ 6:30pm MST
Where: The Church at Sunsites–995 Treasure Rd. Pearce, AZ 85625 Or on Zoom from anywhere in the world.
There is much misunderstanding in the church about the differences between the 3 basic millennial positions. As we continue to walk through Revelation during our Sunday lunch series, I wanted to provide the distinctives. I also want to encourage you not to give-in to the sin of hasty-generalization. Even if someone technically falls into one category or another, we cannot assume to know exactly what they believe or how they apply their personal doctrine. For instance, many premillennials (doctrine) I know live more like postmillennials (practice). The best way to know what someone believes about something is to ask. If we do not ask personally, we judge others based on our own thoughts rather than theirs. I hope this brings some clarity to the millennial perspectives and helps to dissipate the cloud of apocalyptic confusion many find themselves in.
Premillennial: fundamental, separatist
Definition: Christ’s second coming will precede His millennial reign.
The millennium comprises a literal 1,000 years at some point in the future.
Generally sees the world as getting progressively worse. Christ will return when the world is bad enough to destroy the wicked and establish His kingdom.
Postmillennial: reformed, activist
Definition: Christ’s second coming will follow His millennial reign.
The millennium comprises the time between the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and Christ’s second coming.
Generally sees the world as getting progressively better. Christ will return at the consummation of His kingdom, which is currently overtaking the world through the church.
Amillennial: reformed, pacifist
Definition: Christ is reigning in Heaven and on Earth during the millennium established in Heaven.
The millennium comprises the time between the crucifixion and Christ’s second coming.
Generally sees the world as being conformed more to the image of Christ, but allows for an up and down struggle between good and evil until Christ’s return. The world won’t necessarily always be progressing or digressing. Christ will return when He sees fit in order to finally consummate His kingdom on the earth.
Eschatology and World Engagement
A person’s view of Christ and His work determines the way he or she engages the world, participates in church, and generally relates to others. If someone is premillennial, for instance, he or she is more likely to be dogmatic about personal beliefs and separate from those who believe differently. Why? Because inherent in the premillennial position is the idea that the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket. The church is departing from Christ. The Christian’s responsibility is to remain utterly unstained from the world. So, premillennials generally teach a separatistic approach to life and ministry, forbidding Christians from going to certain places and doing certain things on the basis of their remaining holy and pursuing righteousness.
Those who hold the postmillennial position are most likely to encourage the church not to separate from the world but, instead, lead culture, arts, sciences, and literature. Why? Postmillennials generally teach that the kingdom of Heaven (i.e. the church) is currently taking over the world. American Christians were historically postmillennial, which is why the founding fathers of the United States waged war against Britain—freedom and equality were “kingdom of Heaven” issues. Postmillennialism has experienced a recent revival along with the social justice movement, though the two should not be conflated. Many of the young, restless, and reformed camp moved quickly from the Gospel to social activism (or social justice) because of the postmillennial roots in the movement. Not all postmillennials are social justice proponents (many are not), but the application of the theology demands they take a leading role in reforming the world, politics, culture, arts, sciences, and literature.
Those who hold the amillennial position are generally pacifistic as they engage the world because they believe that Christ is already reigning and will have His way. They tend to engage the world, but in a less radical way than postmillennials. They are not separatists. They believe that God is renewing His world and strive to participate with Him—though they are less prone toward activism. They believe that the world will get better overall, but allow for great apostasies and the loosing of Satan at the end of the church age. Christ will be the one to establish His kingdom at the end of the church age. Amillennials differ widely in their theology, some even embracing a seven-year future tribulation, through which the church will live.
On Wednesday evenings, during our Bible study, we are starting the Holy Week discourse. The Holy Week discourse is seven chapters long from Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem to His resurrection and covers the span of only eight days from Sunday to Sunday.
Holy Week at a Glance
Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem Cleansing of the Temple Jesus and His disciples spend the night in Bethany.
Start in 28:1 (Sunday) and trace the days of the week back. 28:17
Jesus curses a fig tree. Jesus’s authority is questioned. Jesus tells parables and answers accusations. Jesus exposes the religious leaders in Jerusalem and laments Jerusalem. Jesus and His disciples leave Jerusalem and spend the night on the Mount of Olives.
21:18, indicates a new day. 21:23 indicates the continuation of that day.
Jesus spends the morning teaching His disciples about the end of the age and the coming of His kingdom. The chief priests and elders plot to kill Jesus. In the evening, Jesus is anointed and Judas bargains with the chief priests under cover of night.
26:2 indicates that these things happened two days prior to Jesus being betrayed by Judas (Thursday). 26:6—Jesus returns to Bethany for the night.
Jesus observes the last supper with His disciples. After supper, they go to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus will teach, and then to Gethsemane, where Jesus will pray until dawn.
26:20 indicates that another evening and Judas was with the disciples. This meal was also close to when Jesus would be betrayed (Thursday; cf. 26:2; 27:1; 28:1).
Jesus prays. Judas hands Jesus over to the chief priests. Jesus stands before Caiaphas. Peter denies Jesus thrice.
On the next day, Jesus will be crucified, so these events must take place on Thursday (cf. 27:1).
Judas commits suicide—dying for his own sins rather than trusting Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Jesus stands before Pilate and is mocked by the Romans. Jesus is crucified and buried.
27:1 indicates a new day.
Jesus rests on the Sabbath.
Sunday(28:1-20; Sunday and following)
Jesus is risen!
*My Holy Week timeline might look different than some because there is guesswork involved.
January is already over. I finished revising my crazy school paper, and will see if I am really finished when my prof gets back to me. I miss everyone who isn’t able to make it on Sundays or throughout the week for whatever reason. I just want to be around my church family and friends all the time. On Sunday, P.A. joked around about me making coffee at 6am for everyone. Seriously, I would love to have coffee with anyone anytime. The fellowship is not only necessary for our spiritual health, it is lovely–and my heart aches just a little when we are apart. I love my mission field, but I also love my church family. I’ve said it before, and I will continue saying it: I can’t do anything I do without you. Here is the skinny for this month and some new resources for you. –Andrew
We started 1 Corinthians on January 3. Remember to pick up your 1 Corinthians journal and send us any questions you have as you read through 1 Corinthians so we can plan on answering those as we walk through the epistle together. Catch up on the series here:
Please see the church calendar for other scheduled events this month.
I have been asked if we can Zoom people in who desire to be part of our Sunday-lunch Revelation series and Wednesday evening Matthew series. Here are the zoom links. These links will remain the same from week to week:
If you do not give online, please remember to mail in your first-fruits or place your offering in the offering box when you are at the church building. We do not take up an offering during any worship gathering.
Remember to Subscribe to this blog and Contact us with any questions!
We sat together in our annual meeting, and the congregation had one heart. I asked, “What are some words that describe The Church at Sunsites?” A few members spoke up:
We love God. We love the fellowship. We love the Bible.
To find a local church that truly loves and follows hard after God is like finding diamonds in the sea. Doubtless, there are people in many local churches who love God and pursue Him wholeheartedly. The Church at Sunsites is a rare kind of church in the Sulfur Springs Valley, and beyond. Our elders (pastors) talk often about how God is changing their hearts and minds about things they read in Scripture. The congregation yearns to know more about God (they don’t let me stray from a deep presentation of His word). The members here pray for one another and the community, wanting everyone to come to know Jesus in a sincere way.
The Church at Sunsites yearns for more and more meaningful fellowship–fellowship that builds up rather than tears down. Fellowship is the thing that makes us strong in faith, practice, and evangelism. Fellowship in the church shakes the whole community. Our vision this year is to build up the fellowship of believers here and there.
The Church at Sunsites truly loves the Bible, which is God’s word. From most other pulpits you hear the words crafted by a public speaker centered on a topic. Here, we read the text, discern its meaning, and make application. In the last two years, I had the privilege of preaching through every verse in 1 Samuel in order. We have now started 1 Corinthians. On Wednesday evenings, we walk through Matthew’s Gospel verse-by-verse. We even have a lunch series during which I get to walk through Revelation verse-by-verse. Our goal is to conform to God’s word, not have God’s word conform to us.
Important things to know in 2021:
The church office is now open Monday-Thursday from 9am-5pm (unless I’m out visiting or for lunch). Stop in to:
Look at the church library
Please feel free to make appointments at any time.
Current opportunities to fellowship and growth:
Sunday School- Sundays at 9:30am
Main Gathering–Sundays at 11am (livestreamed on Facebook)
Lunch Series–Sundays at 12:30ish pm.
Women’s Bible Study–Mondays at 9:30am
Men’s Systematic Theology–Mondays at 6:00pm
Bible Study- Wednesdays at 6:30pm (Join on Zoom).
If you are interested in being a part of the Duffy church-planting team (Douglass), please let us know. If you feel led to plant a church somewhere else, please let us know.
Our deacons now have a benevolence fund to assist the poor and otherwise in need in our church and community. Be sure to contribute regularly by giving your offering or making other special donations.
We look forward to an amazing year. I want to thank my church family and my community for a good 2020. I look forward to an even better 2021. Let’s heal the land–light in the darkness.
During my first elders’ meeting with the other elders of the church in early 2019, Albert asked, “What is your vision for the church.” Where did I see the church in five or ten years? I shared my desire to emphasize outreach and missions, but I told the elders that I did not have a five or ten year plan for TCATS. I wanted to get to know the church, first, which takes a couple years.
It takes at least two years, sometimes longer, for any transition when a new pastor comes to a church. The congregation has to become familiar with a new personality–a pastor who is not like the previous because no two people are the same or do things the same way. The incoming pastor has to get to know not only the church members, but attenders and the community at large. Added to these challenges, The Church at Sunsites lost her previous pastor, Ted, to cancer not long after his retirement. And, 2020 shook us all around again, making everything more difficult. We needed at least the two years we have had together before any real vision-casting was done. Approaching 2021, I was looking for signs that the congregation was ready to really get moving for the cause of the Gospel and relight the lamp at the top of this lighthouse in the desert.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” Albert reminded me during an elders meeting in the later half of last year. The verse is Proverbs 29:18, and by it Solomon instructed his son to provide direction to his son. Vision is direction. We know our purpose (glorify Christ) and mission (expand Christ’s kingdom), what is our vision or direction? Albert’s question was the first sign to me that we are ready to develop vision for this chapter in the life of The Church at Sunsites.
I have been working hard to share the Gospel and promote the ministries of The Church at Sunsites. I have been building relationships in our community, and trying to plan ways to reach our community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of the sudden, quite a few people I love seemed really angry with me about something. I responded badly because of my experiences at previous churches. You remember the Sunday I repented during the sermon and couldn’t hold back my tears? That was because of all this. The experience was sanctifying for almost everyone. I became a better servant, and I think it finally brought those who wanted to work as a team together as local church servant-leadership. “God had a reason,” Steve said with a smile on his face. Skin grafts and organ transplants require time to take. After two years of healing and struggling together, I think TCATS was finally reborn. The general frustrations of 2020 helped with that. I sat with the deacons, and they started talking about godly vision. That was the second sign. The deacon body and elders were unified–not in a passive way but in a very active way.
Our study of 1 Corinthians (a study I’ve been planning for about a year), could not have been timed more perfectly. God seems to work like that. A church member approached me and said, “You know, it might be good for us to talk about the basics of church.” Such was Paul’s goal as he wrote to the Corinthian believers. This church member was concerned that we were merely doing church rather than being the church. This, matched with other comments about people not feeling like they were part of the church or frustrated because things were not as unified as they once were, were together the third sign. Congregation members are beginning to ask, “What is our purpose.” Others desire to be more involved in the ministry of the church. That’s good! All of the emotions, angst, and frustrations were necessary parts of the transition (and the mourning process). Events and meetings the church did with Ted kind-of fell away. The church hurt, even experiencing difficulty amidst the pastor search committee before I came, and needed time. Some of what we did, we did from a place of stress and obligation rather than with heartfelt sincerity; yes, even me. We honor Ted and his ministry. The grieving process was tumultuous and will doubtless have invisible residual effects on us, but we can now look to the horizon. Family, I am proud of you. In the past couple of months I have seen amazing forgiveness, a rejection of gossip, and a willingness you have to consider others more important than yourselves on all matters. We have rediscovered what it means to live full of the Holy Spirit. There was a sweet spirit before. Though 2020 was rough, there is now an even sweeter spirit in The Church at Sunsites (if that’s possible).
As we consider our vision, here is my commitment to you:
I am devoted to you in all things,
I will lead in the vision we develop together,
I will not run without you,
I will consider you more important than myself,
We will run the race our Lord has given us together,
I am always available to you because this isn’t merely a job, and
I am on your team for your good unconditionally.
I want to do things well. I want our vision to be a biblical one. I want it to be the vision of Christ and of the whole congregation, not only me.
In our constitution, we have already described our purpose and mission.
The purpose of the Church is to glorify Jesus Christ through worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry (Constitution III).
The mission of the Church is to seek to lead the people of Sunsites and surrounding areas to Christ as Lord and to expand the work of the Kingdom of Christ into all the world by meeting the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of persons near us and supporting the work of other like- minded churches by our participation both personally and financially (Constitution IV).
We can summarize these by saying our purpose is to glorify Christ and our mission is to expand the kingdom of Christ. Biblically, that is the purpose and mission of the church. What about vision? What is our end goal? What tangible outcome are we working toward that we can grab hold of, invest our time and finances in, and invite others into? Our purpose is to glorify Christ. Our mission is to advance Christ’s kingdom. What does that look and feel like?
I’m going to do something a little crazy and ask you to recall the sermon from the first Sunday of Advent–”Hope.” Do you remember what the messianic hope was? Peace and justice on the earth—measurable outcomes of the Gospel being worked out. That’s vision. God’s vision, what His Gospel work is accomplishing, is peace on earth and justice for all people. People don’t realize that their participation with the true church body accomplishes very real results in the world—results that every person and nation long for. Worldly institutions, rulers, and social means of justice are failing. Christ is not. The world desperately needs the church and the vision laid out in the Old Testament. In large part, the church in America has lost sight of Christ’s vision. It separated out of the world, became religious, and stopped speaking into the world as if the Gospel actually accomplishes peace and justice among the nations. It comes together to glorify Christ by neglecting the world. Christ gave His church her mission because that is how He is accomplishing His own vision. We are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded. The church drives peace and justice in the world by carrying the Gospel message of hope. Through Gospel proclamation, Christ is conquering the world just like He promised in the Old and New Testaments.
What does that mean for our valley? Well, most churches I know of spends their time condemning the world and sharing a defensive Gospel, “If you don’t want to go to Hell, come to Jesus because the whole world is being destroyed and that’s your only hope.” When Christ spoke to Peter, He told Peter that He would build His church through the ministry of the apostles and the gates of Hell would not be able to stand against it (Matthew 16:17-20). Gates are defensive structures. Christ and His church are placed in the offensive position against the gates of Hell. Christ promises success. If we take on Christ’s vision for our valley and continue to expand the kingdom of heaven on this earth through making disciples like Christ instructed, we will be, perhaps, the only local church sharing an offensive Gospel, “Come follow Christ. He will save you and use you to renew His world. This is how we see peace and justice in our time.” What a different, hopeful, proclamation! Now, there’s something I can invest in! The best part… It’s true, and it’s Christ’s vision for the world—including our valley. The church is the institution through which the world is being made new. We are charging against Hell and its gates cannot stand.
What a Biblical Vision Means for Our Valley (and all the places we expand Christ’s kingdom through church planting and web ministry)
Since Christ is building His kingdom, broken homes unite,
wayward children return to Christ,
people experience less anxiety and more joy,
people become less condemning of others,
friendships are restored,
conflict between individuals, households, and different philosophies is lessened,
marriages are mended,
parents raise their children well and wisely,
people begin to care for the resources God has provided,
people no longer live in fear,
crime rates lessen,
trade becomes fairer,
people become better at their trades,
people become more generous and less stingy,
and so much more.
All because the Gospel accomplishes Christ’s vision for the whole world; It is effective. If our vision reflects Christ’s, we can invite people to invest in The Church at Sunsites. Such a vision calls parents to raise their children in a healthy church. We want the generation following us to be prosperous and experience the kingdom of heaven coming to earth—something the world has not been able to accomplish through its own education, training, or workforce. We desire Christ’s blessings to radiate from The Church at Sunsites to our valley, county, state, country, and world such that we don’t condemn the world to destruction but see Christ conquering and renewing the world through peace by making disciples of all nations (cf. John 3:17, Matthew 28:18-20).
Vision drives the events we plan together, the outreach we do, and the missions we are involved in. Vision provides structure in an otherwise mad world. The vision we develop together on January 14 will help to establish the place of The Church at Sunsites in the kingdom of heaven in our day and in the future–like the vision of the church under Ted provided the path on which we continue to walk and the foundation on which we continue to build. Family, let’s get to work. Love you.
You might not know it, but part of my job description is to mobilize the Church at Sunsites for world mission (Bylaws IV.2.b.xi). The responsibility is biblical because every Christian is to do the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and the pastors of the church are to train the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). This year, the congregation will discuss and set its own vision for 2021. But, over the last two years I have emphasized missions and outreach. Those emphases were not on accident. When I started in 2018, I went to work figuring out how to mobilize The Church at Sunsites for world mission. There are two parts to my missional responsibility as an elder (along with the other elders) at this local church. 1) I am to mobilize the local church, not merely ask it to give money to the cooperative program of the SBC or CBA. 2) I am to mobilize The Church at Sunsites around the world, beginning in the Sulfur Springs Valley. I wish you could know how difficult a task this really is and how many people hate the work that goes into fulfilling such a responsibility. After two years of laying the groundwork, monotonous work that is largely invisible to most, I hope to mobilize the church in two ways: (1) locally through our deacon ministry’s benevolence fund, and (2) by directly sharing the Gospel with people in nations around the world.
Some of you might recall a Wednesday evening in 2019 in which we talked with a pastor in Liberia who began following the ministry of The Church at Sunsites and began modeling his own church after the church here. That meeting was the result of my striving to fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to me by the congregation here in Sunsites. Well, I guess we stumbled upon a worldwide need by accident. I started investing some of my time and money in Christians and ministries around the world. Then, some of you wanted to start contributing too. Upon researching liability issues connected with world mobilization, I realized a need to incorporate the work that accidentally began. The Church at Sunsites did not have the appropriate corporate structure for us to do anything more than give to missions organizations or go on short-term mission trips. The work I had stumbled upon and the need for long-term mobilization was impossible.
I remembered our elders’ trip to Shepherds’ Conference earlier in 2019. I remembered hearing that MacArthur’s church was able to mobilize in the way that happened upon me. How did Grace Community Church accomplish such mobilization for the Gospel? I discovered that the church was doing work through two parachurch corporations, Master’s Seminary and Grace to You. I’m a logistician, so I was able to put the pieces together and see how the machine worked pretty easily. It was genius and still promoted the local church instead of parachurch organizations, which is biblical. I had a blog that I operated for nine years, which had some similarities to Grace to You. So, I experimented by filing articles of incorporation under the name of the blog for a public charity for the purpose of worldwide education, training, and benevolence. I received my incorporated statue and tax-exempt status, and suddenly had a parachurch ministry (which is really simply a glorified blog) that provides the infrastructure needed to mobilize the Church at Sunsites for world mission in ways most churches cannot because they don’t have the structure necessary.
I spent a year-and-a-half making contacts and building rapport–which cost me almost no time. Hundreds of people a day started contacting me and poring over the teaching coming out of The Church at Sunsites (I had to do some major shifting to limit the amount of people trying to contact me). I didn’t bring the church in because I really didn’t know exactly what was happening. I started personally investing in pastors around the world and their ministries because they started coming to me. Some of you have been very eager to get involved. This year, it’s time for me to bring the church alongside me in the work that I did not plan if the congregation desires to be involved. Because of the infrastructure I developed and parachurch status, mobilizing for world missions costs TCATS nothing financially.
I will bring this up as we talk about our vision on January 14. Before that, and because of the Gospel work through TCATS, I am meeting with about 50 pastors and church leaders in Kenya via Zoom. The churches there have many needs and are struggling with the doctrines of Heaven and Hell, baptism, and speaking in tongues. You don’t know it, but you have been accidentally investing in these pastors for about a year now. I would love for you to meet them if you are able. You can come to the church at 5am on Monday, January 11, 2021 or register and attend via Zoom (no cost). Why so early? 5am here is 3pm in Kenya. Click here to register if you would like to attend from home.
When I came in view of a call in 2018 and told the church I was interested in church planting, the congregation members responded with their desire that I (1) get a PhD, (2) put myself out there and publish, and (3) mobilize the church for world mission. I could not have laid this groundwork without you. May the Gospel continue to flourish through The Church at Sunsites. May our work in our own community and around the world light up the darkness. May we be the lighthouse in the desert.