We Beg

Raj (Kunal Nayyar), on the Big Bang Theory TV series, once said to someone during one episode from whom he had asked something, “Please, don’t’ make me beg. I grew up in _ , and I know how to beg.” (You can guess the country.)

As a world evangelist for several decades, we also could say the same. We grew up as evangelists, and we too know how to beg, for there is a little begging in every evangelist.

It seems that in the past we were always asking (begging) someone for something to support somewhere. But those days are long gone for us. We terminated “most” of our begging, finally concluding that if the Lord wanted it done, then He would provide the funds. Nevertheless, we still have a little begging left in us. We cannot help but beg on behalf of so many lost souls throughout the world.

Therefore, we continue to beg the Lord on behalf of others, especially those evangelists—we really do not care what the nationality of their passport is—who are worthy of our support (1 Tm 5:18). Since we have wandered the world for fifty years, we would consider ourselves “foreigners” in reference to our origins in America. Only our passports indicate that we are “American.” But in reference to culture, we are as mongrel dogs straight off the world streets.

Unfortunately, it is the culture of the world to ask. Local poverty-stricken folks have a hard time supporting their evangelists, both in reality, and in mentality. There is a historical reason for this. In the nineteenth century, the colonial nations of Europe ventured throughout the world and built schools, hospitals, roads, and then supported for almost two centuries the administration of the government networks that they had set up in their various colonial “possessions.”

For example, in the scramble for African territory during the nineteenth century there developed a sociological culture that did not exist before the coming of all the well-meaning humanitarian western folks. Most of the colonial arrivals had forgotten that for centuries Africans had existed, doing their own thing and presiding over their own survival. Unfortunately, the colonialist moved independent thinking locals aside in order to teach a “civilization” that would make them dependent on foreign support and control. The self-confidence, or arrogance, of the foreign visitor sometimes moved him to assume control of the local situation.

Of course all the do-goodness of the colonials would filter into the church. The building of schools, hospitals, church buildings, and the supporting of national preachers who lectured western sermons to an assembly of western-nurtured dependents, produced a dependent thinking in the minds and behavior of local folks.

We may have been innocently naive in our desire to clone the “Western Christian.” In doing so, we lost our independent thinking and behavior. As a result, we seem to have never weaned ourselves off the western source of financial benefits. And now, it is unfortunate that local evangelists often have to “beg” local members for support, though the local evangelists continue to faithfully sow the seed of the word freely for the local church. Too many of our faithful preachers have turned into “church thieves” because local brethren have not taken ownership of their responsibility to support them (Study 2 Co 11:7-11). The local church has forgotten that those who preach the gospel have a right to live of the gospel (1 Co 9:14).

We could conclude from the secular society that was groomed after colonialism that it would produce a “colonial church,” which church lives on today in many areas of the world. In other words, if something is needed, or to be done, then we lead ourselves to believe that we can look to an endless financial resource from the colonials in order to fulfill all our local needs, including the support of our preachers.

Since colonialism occurred over a period of centuries, we even now question why the colonial source would refuse our humble pleas (begging). Nevertheless, we continue to ask, though we often do not receive. But we want you (the West) to understand that we do not beg for ourselves, but for the ability to go forth in all our nation, paying bus bills, in order to evangelize our own people. So we beg in the name of Jesus for the mission of Jesus.

A good example is here in order to highlight some problems that have developed throughout the centuries. In our area, the church in America built a particular local church building. After thirty-five years, the roof of the building completely collapsed. (Thankfully, no one was in the building at the time of the fateful event.) Immediately after the collapse, however, the leaders of the small group of about twenty-five members met in order to determine how they would rebuild the roof.

The members met with one particular church leader who had contacts in America, but had never lost his independence. They were about to ask this one wise old member, “Could you go to America and raise funds for this building that the Americans built for us thirty-five years ago?” The wise brother abruptly interjected, “Don’t even think about asking me to do that. After all these years, we must ourselves take ownership of this building.” The wise brother was right. Unfortunately, since the local brethren refused to take ownership of the building over the thirty-five years of their “use” of the building, the building has remained a heap of rubble after all these years since the calamity of the collapse.

Social media now plays the role of making possible sources only a click away from what is believed to be a bottomless pit of money in the West. Whenever a church building is to be constructed—or repaired—emails, facebook and whatsapp accounts often light up. One of the most interesting pleas we received was from one good brother who emailed, “Because of the Covid pandemic, the government will not allow us to meet in the local government school. Therefore, it is necessary that we build our own building. Can you help?”

If we constructed a church building with funds that were contributed mostly by colonial sources, then it may be that the constructed building will never become “our own building,” even after having the keys to the building for thirty-five years. In these matters, it is best that the local folks and foreign folks go into some kind of percentage agreement where everyone is investing in the construction and support.

Nevertheless, we will continue to “beg,” especially for those evangelists of the world who must be supported full-time for the sake of the preaching of the gospel. It is simply right to support such men because they often live in very financially depressed economical environments. They are goodly men who should be supported in order that the gospel of the kingdom be preached in other areas. At least this was what the apostle Paul did in order to prepare the Roman disciples to support him when he passed by them on his way to Spain: “Whenever I make my journey into Spain, I hope to see you in my journey and TO BE [financially] SUPPORTED ON MY WAY THERE BY YOU” (See Rm 15:24). In other words, if you support a worthy evangelist, it makes little difference what the nationality of his passport indicates, as long as he has a passport and is on his journey, as Paul, somewhere to preach the gospel. The following statement is still a command of the Lord: “Even so the Lord has commanded that THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL SHOULD LIVE FROM THE GOSPEL” (1 Co 9:14).

Our purpose for writing the preceding is based on changes that are rapidly taking place in our world. Consider the fact that the pandemic has greatly minimized church budgets, particularly in the West. Inflation around the world is devastating the contributed dollar, that is, people have less to contribute. As inflation bites into the income of every Christian in the world, especially the West, contribution coffers are being greatly diminished.

Also consider the fact that the West is religiously changing into a nonreligious culture, just as Europe. Subsequently, the Western church is essentially minimizing the number of evangelists that is sent forth into all the world. Missionaries are becoming a rare breed.

Nevertheless, God’s work of gospel preaching should never be confined to contributions. We see contributions as a serendipity in reference to world evangelism. Therefore, we will be content with the widow’s mite that is given out of a dedicated heart. We will continue to beg of you, but we will preach the gospel regardless of whether were are supported.

Grace Response

Grace that is extended to us always results in our sacrifice for others. It is for this reason that grace is the definition of Christianity.

In the New Testament, casual reader discovers that the power of grace (gospel) worked in the hearts of the early disciples. Grace worked to the extent that it moved those first disciples into the realm of personal sacrifice. This nature of grace in the heart of the Christian is expressed in one short statement: “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).

As the grace of God permeated the hearts and lives of the early gospel-obedient disciples, it was only natural that they give out of sacrifice for the One who sacrificed for them. John expressed it in the following words: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).

This all began on the first day of the existence of Christians. On that first day of the existence of the church in Acts 2, and before the garments of those first converts had dried from the waters of baptism, “they [the local resident Christians] sold their possessions and goods and divided them to all, as everyone [baptized visitors] had need” (At 2:45).

A similar awesome response to the gospel of grace is illustrated by the sacrificial giving of the Philippians. After Paul and Silas stayed only a few days in the city of Philippi, both men and women responded to the grace of God by being buried with Christ in baptism. Paul then went on to Thessalonica. It was while he was in Thessalonica that the dripping wet disciples in Philippi “sent once and again” for the needs of Paul (Ph 4:16; see At 16:12).

Grace permeated the hearts to the early Christians. By the time Paul wrote the 2 Corinthian letter, a great famine was occurring in Judea. Consequently, all the disciples in the province of Macedonia—this would include the church in Thessalonica and Philippi—“in a great trial of affliction, and abundance of their joy and their DEEP POVERTY, abounded in the riches of their liberality” to contribute to the famine victims in Judea (2 Co 8:2).

The Holy Spirit moved Paul to testify of this gospel-driven sacrificial giving: “For I testify that according to their ability they gave of their own accord” (2 Co 8:3). But we must not stop here. The Holy Spirit drove Paul to write that the disciples in Macedonia had to beg us “with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering [contributing] to the saints [in Judea]” (2 Co 8:7).

Grace always reverses the order of begging. Instead of begging to get, grace changes our hearts to the extent that we beg others to receive our gift. It is a marvelous transformation of the heart (See Rm 12:1,2).

Four chapters before Paul wrote the preceding in 2 Corinthians 8, he explained why Christians, even new Christians, give out of their poverty: “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (2 Co 4:15).

Those Christians who try to excuse themselves from sacrificial giving because of some self-proclaimed poverty, are perpetuating their unchanged lives. They are refusing to allow grace to transform their hearts. They are expecting others to pay for that for which they must take responsibility themselves. They are thus not in fellowship with all the saints in ministering to the needs that may occur in another area of the kingdom.

We realize that the famine contribution to Judea was a onetime sacrifice on the part of those who gave. But the need brought out of gospel-responsive disciples their appreciation for the tremendous heavenly sacrifice that was made in order to bring us into a realm of eternal existence.

We must add to this the fact that those who do not take personal ownership of fulfilling their own needs, are also not responding to the grace of God. In fact, Paul was so direct on this matter that he set an example for the new disciples in Thessalonica by writing the following back to them about six months after they had obeyed the gospel: “… nor did we eat any man’s bread without paying for it. But we worked with labor and hardship night and day so that we might not be a [financial] burden to any of you” (2 Th 3:8). What was lacking on the part of the Philippians sending “once and again” to him while in Thessalonica, he worked making tents in order to supplement the financial gap.

In this way, Paul and Timothy did not walk disorderly among the Thessalonians (2 Th 3:7). Unfortunately, those in Thessalonica who did walk disorderly by not working to support their own needs, were to be disfellowshipped from the fellowship of the disciples (2 Th 3:6). In his letter to Timothy, Paul revealed that if “one does not provide for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever [infidel]” (1 Tm 5:8). This mandate was based on the principle “that if anyone is not willing to work, neither let him eat” (2 Th 3:10). When one becomes a disciples of Jesus, therefore, he must work to support his own needs. The church is not a welfare society for those who can work, but do not want to work.

When one becomes a Christian, he or she must take ownership of his or her physical needs, as well as the needs of family members who are under their care. But this care can, on special occasions, extend beyond one’s own family. Reconsider the care of the local Christians in Judea when they sold their possessions in order that nonresident visiting Christians continue receiving teaching and fellowship at the feet of the apostles (At 2:42). This too was a onetime sale of personal goods and lands. But it was a contribution that revealed the desire of the local Christians to maintain fellowship among all those of the universal body of Christ.

Other than occasions as this, Christians are not obligated to contribute to the needs of those who have the responsibility to work with their own hands, but do not. They have the option of doing so, but if such folks have been given everything all their Christian lives, or supported with outside sources throughout the history of the church in their area, then there may be some church colonialism going on that hinders the spiritual growth of the church. It may be for this reason that local members are not taking ownership of their responsibility to support local evangelists.

Cooperation among disciples in the matter of giving can sometimes be very challenging. This is especially true when local autonomous groups are not willing to partner with one another in a particular region. Because they do not desire to fellowship with one another in the matter of giving, they often do not support the local evangelists who go about the entire region where all the churches are based.

Therefore, when studying the subject of grace, it can be quite unsettling, for grace assumes that grace-orient disciples will always partner with one another in Christ in order that the gospel of grace be preached to others. It is for this reason that when one grows in grace, he or she starts to ask, “How has the grace of God caused thanksgiving in my own heart to respond to the needs of others and the preaching of the gospel?” We must continually ask ourselves the question, “Am I sacrificing in order that the gospel grace be preached to the world?” (See 3 Jn 5-8).

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If in one’s personal study of the word of God he discovers truth that is contrary to the accepted theology of his present religious heritage, then it is incumbent upon him to teach what he has learned through his studies. If he does not do this, then the blood of those whom he would teach is on his shoulders (Ez 3:18,19). This responsibility is the inspiration for restoration, and thus the heart of our continued call for a restoration to the authority of God’s word.

However, we must regularly remind ourselves that the curse of any restoration “movement”—we do not really like the word “movement” in reference to faith—is that such movements seem to always circle around. They circle around and become the very form of religion that the fathers of the “restoration” originally fled.

We would judge the Pharisees on this point. Centuries before the coming of the incarnate Son into this world, Israel turned from the word of God in order to create religious beliefs and behavior after the religions around them. By forgetting what their Bibles taught, they established their own idolatrous faith (Hs 4:6). As a result of their apostate deed of turning from the word of God, they were subsequently scattered by God throughout conquering nations, first by the Assyrians (722/21 B.C.), and then by the Babylonians (586 B.C.).

Nevertheless, God promised to the scattered that a repentant remnant of all twelve tribes of Israel would eventually be restored to the land of Palestine, though the land of their fathers to which they would be restored would be governed by foreign empires. Regardless of this, however, they would be blessed in the land if they restored themselves to the word of God (See Dt 30:1-10; Ez 6:8; 14:22).

From the time of their last return to Palestine in 444 B.C., it was four centuries before the incarnate Son of God arrived on the scene. By the time of His arrival, the religious leaders of Israel, however, had again hijacked the faith of the people. They were so effective in this that the Holy Spirit revealed through Paul that the religious leaders had created the “Jews’ religion,” which we commonly refer to as Judaism (Gl 1:13,14). This was a legal-oriented religion that was based on the authority of traditional interpretations of the Sinai law, with the added religious rites and ceremonies the Jews had accumulated over the centuries. Except for references to the Sinai law, Judaism was a compilation of a host of religious traditions that the Jewish leadership considered to be binding as law, and thus, the identity of Judaism (See Mk 7:1-9).

Judaism took centuries to develop into a religious system that even opposed the incarnate Son of God. The Jewish restoration movement of the remnant of Israel eventually turned against the God who had brought the captives out of the bondage of foreign nations. And finally, after four centuries of religious heritage building, the restored remnant even crucified the One for whom they were restored to receive as the Messiah and Savior of the world.

(Legalized restoration movements will usually crucify those who call for a restoration to the authority of the word of God within the confines of an established religion. The leaders of the movement will often adopt a catechism of theology that should not be questioned or attacked by anyone who might have Bible questions about certain beliefs or behavior.)

Israel’s legalization of their restoration after their return to Palestine was no different than all legal restorations since that time. Restoration movements are often stimulated by sincere Bible students who renew continually their desire for Bible authority in all matters of faith. In their studies, sincere Ezras and Nehemiahs of the restoration will discover points of truth that have been ignored or violated by the religion in which they find themselves. And herein is embedded a danger.

In the early years of a restoration focus is usually on legal points of difference between the existing theology of a religion and Bible truth. What the early restorationists often do not understand is that in their legal opposition to erroneous theology, they invariably establish a legal road map to direct sincere people out of the quagmire of past ritualistic religion. But in establishing a legal system to escape legalized religiosity, a canonized legal theology often comes out on the other side of the movement. The movement subsequently becomes just another legal religion. The zealous followers of the movement thus circle around from one legally defined religion to establish their own legally defined religion.

Essentially, the justification for the fathers’ flight from traditionally defined religion was usually based on establishing Bible authority in all matters of faith. The fathers of the restoration movement discovered points of difference between the Bible and the unbiblical traditions that were bound on adherents. They discovered that what was bound was nothing other than matters of opinion and tradition, with an assortment of religious rites and ceremonies mingled in with the religious behavior of loyal adherents.

Unfortunately, as stated before, the fathers’ original restoration was often based on a legally defined road map of proof texts that moved them and their followers to establish another legally defined religion. Instead of founding their “movement” on the gospel in order to establish unity among believers, they established a systematic legal theology to which all adherents of the movement must confirm in order to be considered faithful. The restoration, therefore, was established on law, not gospel. Legal restorationists often forget that we “are not under law, but under grace” (Rm 6:14).

In these two millennia since the cross, grace and gospel in religious restoration movements are often minimized in religious debates in order to establish points of doctrine to which adherents can come together to produce some sense of unity within any particular movement. And because of this, the supposed restoration movement to a gospel oriented-church eventually circles around to become just another denominated church that is validated by a legal catechism of doctrine, rather than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The hermeneutic, or system of Bible study in legal restorations, is often a misguided effort to establish a doctrinal outline by which the adherents of a particular movement can be identified. But in reality, legal hermeneutics are more often an effort to establish some system of theology to produce an “intellectual unity” that is based more on the mental skills of noted interpreters, than the simple gospel. If our faith is established in this manner, then we will end up in a movement that is quite denominational. The hermeneutic is inherently divisive because in the theology of the movement, religious rites, rituals and ceremonies slip into the behavior of the people as law, and thus, divide believers in the gospel from one another. This is what happened among the Christians in Galatia who ended up biting and devouring one another because some were preaching “another gospel” (See Gl 1:6-9).

The preceding happens when the gospel alone is not established as the foundation upon which the church is built and united (See Mt 16:16-18). We must remember that we are one man IN CHRIST, not one man in doctrine (See Gl 3:26-29). We are reconciled in one body by the cross, not by a common belief in a catechism of doctrine (See Ep 2:14-16).

Unfortunately, if there are any gospel-oriented prophets who would rise up to continue a valid restoration among the people, and by doing so, inherently contravene some point of the legal catechism of the heritage of the now denominated religion, these prophets are often nailed to crosses in order to preserve the movement and keep the theology of the movement pure of “false doctrine.”

True leaders must look in their own hands an find a Bible, not a hammer and nails. If our gospel is to defend the heritage of the fathers, then we know that the original fathers of the movement have been betrayed.

In the final years of a restoration movement, the “hammer-and-nail” defenders are actually promoting a heritage that has digressed into just another religion. The failure of a restoration is identified by the efforts of “hammer-and-nail” crusaders who seek to defend a legalized theology, and not the gospel, which gospel foundation has long been forgotten within the movement. As in the final years of Israel’s apostasy, the religious leaders put to death those prophets who spoke out against the established religion of the day (See Hb 11:32-39). They eventually put to death the One who came to reveal the gospel to the world.

People of faith know that they are a part of a failed restoration movement when they no longer subject themselves to the final authority of the word of God in all matters of faith. They know that they have failed when the gospel is not the foundation of their faith.

If we are not motivated primarily by the truth of the gospel of the incarnate, crucified, resurrected and reigning Son of God, then our attempts to restore the body of Christ that is founded on the gospel will fail. We must not forget that it is the gospel that is the power of God in our lives (Rm 1:16). When we search for this gospel in our Bibles, the more we learn about the gospel, the more God’s power is released to continue the restoration of the Son of God in the lives of people.

Crosses are often reserved for those who would question the heritage of any particular religious group. When there are those with hammers and nails among the leaders of any restoration movement, then we know that that “restoration movement” has gone astray. Just ask Jesus about this matter. It is for this reason that we would exhort the reader to read again 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

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