This is the second in a series on the practice of postmillennialism. Too often postmillennialists are theoreticians rather than practitioners. This ought not be! In this article we consider:
Demonstrating Evangelistic Zeal
I have shown how true postmillennial zeal promotes the primacy of the gospel. The cross is foundational to God’s eschatological victory; in fact, the cross guarantees eschatological victory. Correlatively, theonomic postmillennialism also demands that one demonstrate evangelistic and missiological zeal as well. I will now explore this latter ethical implication of optimistic eschatology.
God’s Word confidently describes the Lord’s expanding reign:
His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; All nations shall call Him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things! And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory, Amen and Amen. (Psalm 72: 17-19)
Sadly, in Reformed circles many confess evangelism’s necessity, but few practice it. An ethical gap exists between declaration and demonstration. James condemns such hypocrisy: “but be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
Reformed Christians must ponder just how the whole earth will “be filled with [God’s] glory” and just how “all nations shall call Him blessed.” Are these phrases just nice sounding shibboleths? If not, then what conduct—here and now—is the Lord pleased to use in order to transform these proclamations into reality?
Lord of the Saved
(by Ken Gentry)
A critique of easy believism and affirmation of Lordship salvation. Shows the necessity of true, repentant faith to salvation.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
As Calvinists, Reformed Christians certainly know the academic answer to these questions: God uses “secondary causes” for effecting His Decree (WCF 3:1). But again, from an ethical standpoint demonstration must accompany declaration. It is humbling to see just how impoverished Reformed missiology—indeed, evangelical missiology—is today.
On a global scale, consider the following sample data: Surveying the missionary output of Singapore, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, The United States, The United Kingdom, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, and Brazil, we discover that only one of them, Singapore, sends more than one missionary per Christian congregation. The cumulative average ratio of missionaries per congregation for these twelve nations is a deplorable 0.12.
[Note 1] Thousands of congregations exist within these twelve countries and yet a covenantal and tangible commitment by the local churches to support personally-known missionaries is decidedly lacking. Reformed congregations fare no better.
For example, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church includes scores of congregations, but supports only fifteen foreign missionaries. [Note 2] Money follows ministry. If a congregation’s (or denomination’s) heart promotes missiological zeal, then funding to effectuate that zeal will not be lacking. As someone once quipped: “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s funding.”
The Reformed faith is “Christianity come into its own,”according to B.B. Warfield. It alone provides the potent doctrinal foundation that both motivates and sustains missiological efforts. On paper, therefore, the Reformed churches should have the “market cornered” in evangelism and missions. Sadly, they do not. Why?
Thine Is the Kingdom
(ed. by Ken Gentry)
Contributors lay the scriptural foundation for a biblically-based, hope-filled postmillennial eschatology, while showing what it means to be postmillennial in the real world.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
One reason the gospel is not promiscuously and zealously proclaimed stems from a heart problem: the fear of man. [Note 3] “We don’t want to be Arminian.” “Door to door knocking is outdated.” “God is sovereign; He will bring people to our [dead, lifeless, rote, unfriendly, inhospitable, clannish] church in His time, but in secret we hope He doesn’t.” [Note 4] As the Scripture makes plain: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25 (ESV)). Are we more interested in “Reformedness” than being faithful? [Note 5]
The reality is, however, as Calvinist Ernest Reisigner declared: “The church that does not evangelize will fossilize, that is, dry up and become useless to Christ and the world.”[Note 6]
Evangelism and missiological efforts are not somehow antithetical to the robust Calvinism of the Reformed faith. Just the opposite is true. And this is especially the case when Calvinism melds with an optimistic eschatology, as was done by the father of modern missions, William Carey and the Puritans before him. [Note 7]
The vitality of the Reformed faith instills great confidence in missiological efforts. The doctrines of grace ascribe to God the certainty of salvation, for the Calvinist believes that “as many are were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48, ASV). Reformed doctrine teaches—rightly—that evangelistic and missiological efforts cannot not succeed. Enter postmillennial eschatology.
The Bible teaches that not only does God eternally elect, effectively call, sovereignly regenerate individuals whom he has appointed unto life, but also that he has purposed and willed, according to his good pleasure, to call many multitudes into His Kingdom. Indeed, the prophet avers without hesitation or qualification: “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). Consequently, the doctrines of grace also provide the certainty of kingdom expansion. Appropriately then, Christ is the “savior [soter] of the world” (1 John 4:14). [Note 8]
This eschatological certainty should fuel evangelistic and missiological zeal. Most self-conscious postmillennialists would “amen” this conclusion, but the ethical questions remain: Is this confession being demonstrated in one’s life? Does one practice what one professes?
Here are a few simple, but effective “fog-clearing” diagnostic questions:
• Do your family devotions contain not only instruction regarding, but also a passion for the lost?
• Do your prayers beckon the Lord to open doors for His Word—among the unconverted, or is “evangelism” directed predominantly to “converting” the non-Reformed? [Note 9]
• Does your mind automatically conceive of “missions” as being an impersonal excursion to African subcontinent while your own neighbors have never heard the gospel from your own lips?
• Does your checkbook reflect not only commitment, but sacrifice for the gospel’s spread?
• Do you routinely disparage the outreach efforts of other members of Christ’s Body merely because their theological acumen fails to meet your own private convictions or preconceived preferences?
• Do your mission efforts embrace the antithesis or do you spend your efforts seeking to convert fellow covenant keepers?
When taken to heart, postmillennial convictions embrace evangelism and discipleship with gusto. If the gospel is not primary and if one does not burn with a passion for converting and disciplining the nations, then his optimistic eschatological confession is suspect. Frankly, such a confession would be nothing more than sound and fury signifying nothing.
Eschatology matters, and it matters on a personal ethical level. May God kindle a raging fire for evangelical and missiological zeal in his Church, especially among those who embrace the Scripture’s optimistic eschatology. Anything less would be, in a word, antinomian.
This series will continue. Stay tuned!
1. John Piper, The Pleasures of God (2d. ed.: Portland, Ore.: Multnomah, 2000), 114.
2. To somewhat balance this equation, it should also be noted that in the past decade the OPC’s efforts in supporting church planting “home missionaries” has greatly increased resulting in the establishment of many new congregations. Currently, the OPC supports thirty-four such “Home mission” works, many of which involve my friends and acquaintances. But the central point remains: are these new congregations now expressing missiological and evangelistic zeal?
3. For a trenchant analysis of the idolatry that fuels the fear of man, see, Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small : Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man (Phillipsburg, N. J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1997).
4. Examples of similar, functional hyper-Calvinism could be multiplied. In fact, one supposedly reformed pastor actually expressed that he did not want the congregation to grow numerically because he (and his relatives) would lose control. The good news is that God frequently removes the candlestick, or to change the metaphor, the shepherd, from such authoritarian churches. (See, Ezek 34: 1-10). For a telling expose of churches that abuse authority, albeit from a non-reformed doctrinal perspective, see, Mary Alice Chrnalogar, Twisted Scriptures : A Path to Freedom from Abusive Churches (2d. ed.: Chattanooga, Tenn.: Control Techniques, 2000).
5. Certainly, the Reformed faith is biblical faith, but sadly, even good things can become idols for a Christian’s fallen heart, and thus a delight for “being the most Reformed” can replace a zeal for delighting in Christ.
6. Ernest C. Reisinger, Today’s Evangelism—Its Message and Methods (Craig Press, Phillipsburg, N.J. 1982), xv.
7. Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1971).
8. See Warfield’s important article “The Propitiation for the Sins of the Whole World.”
9. This is not to deprecate the importance of “sheep rescuing” as opposed to “sheep stealing.”