Global Consequences

Culture, Missions, The Gospel

Oil HandsOver the past five years, my life has been increasingly intertwined with the nation of Nigeria. Each year I spend more time in Nigeria and continue to build deeper relationships with people who have become some of my closest friends. I am thankful for the work God is doing through us in Nigeria and I pray He will continue to bless our efforts.

One of the things that I’ve learned more about while keeping a keen eye on Nigeria is the global consequences of decisions that are made at a national/federal level in each country. I have a vested interest in the value of the US Dollar in Nigeria, so I watch the exchange rate on a regular basis. Over the past two months the US Dollar to Nigerian Naira exchange rate has fluctuated significantly, and it has raised great concern in my heart for my friends — my brothers and sisters in Christ — in Nigeria.

As the United States has become more energy independent, there has been a significant pull-back from the purchase of crude oil from other nations. One of the nations that has been hit the hardest is Nigeria. While previously importing tens of millions of barrels of oil from Nigeria each month, the US is no longer importing any (Read – Needle on Zero: Nigeria’s Economy Tanking as US Oil Exports Dry Up). As a result, in the US we have seen some dramatic reductions in fuel costs while the Nigerian economy suffers more and more. This is, of course, how a free market works, and I’m not opposed to it. However, my personal philosophy of economics and political principles are challenged when I have to look the consequences in the face and see it all first hand.

I pray regularly for the prosperity of Nigeria (Jeremiah 29:7), but recognize that with a collapsing economy that is 70% dependent on crude oil exports and is depleted another 10% by corruption, true financial prosperity is a far reach from their current status. Currently, Nigeria is 24th in the global economy in terms of GDP. How will that change over the next 10 years? As the largest nation in Africa containing one of the 10th largest cities in the world (Lagos), Nigeria has a booming population with tremendous resources and potential. How will it be utilized?

Far more serious than the economic poverty in Nigeria is its spiritual poverty. Of the 10 richest “pastors” in the world, 6 of them are in Nigeria! Some of these men have a net worth of over $125 million while the majority of the nation lives on the equivalent of less than $2 per day. One of the positive outcomes in my mind that could come from financial collapse is the exposing of these charlatans. How long will men be able to justify their lavish lifestyles with private jets and designer suites while some people will literally starve to death?

This is a prime harvest field for true gospel labors. While Nigeria is bombarded with a false gospel, it is our time to infiltrate the enemy’s territory with the pure, unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ. Many people will continue looking for answers, and when their false religious systems fail and the false promises of prosperity pimps never come true, where will they turn? May God be pleased to raise up His church in Nigeria to preach the truth. May He be pleased to continue to strengthen our efforts to train men for gospel ministry who can plant faithful, biblical churches all throughout the nation. And may God be pleased to receive glory from all that happens in Nigeria. What nations and corrupt politicians intend for evil, surely God intends it all for good.

(By: Nick Kennicott)

Nigeria Bound

Ministry, Missions

I am writing from the Frankfurt, Germany airport on my way to Nigeria. This is my 4th trip to Nigeria, but a very different trip in many ways. If you would like to pray for us, I will share a few details:

  • The first leg of my trip begins in Lagos, the southern port city and former capital of Nigeria. Lagos is the 10th largest city in the world. I will be meeting with the only 2 Reformed Baptist Pastors I know of in Nigeria. They have not met each other, so I really look forward to not only meeting them myself, but introducing them to one another. Nigeria is heavily dominated by charismatic teaching, the prosperity gospel, and various cults in addition to about 50% of the country being Muslim. These men have a very difficult time with Reformed doctrine in Nigeria, so I hope I am able to encourage them in their work.
  • From Lagos I will travel to Egbe, which is South-Central Nigeria. This is the city I spend the majority of my time in each year. In the past I have preached at a pastor’s conference, but have been dissatisfied with the long term fruitfulness of the conference approach. Last year I decided it was time to start a more long-term training program for men who are considering pastoral ministry. Thankfully, Ephesus Church has raised a significant amount of money along with several other sister churches, and we have received tremendous support from the Reformed Baptist Seminary and were able to put together a 3 year training program very similar to a seminary education in the United States. This year we begin the Institute for Pastoral and Theological Training (IPTT) in Egbe, Nigeria. Each year I will teach a week-long intensive course, and provide the resources necessary for a year’s worth of classes (books, lectures, assignments). We are hand selecting 10 men who will interview for the program and begin classes next week. I will be delivering 24 lectures on the Doctrine of God.
  • I praise God that 4 members of Ephesus Church will be coming at the end of this week to join me. They will be working on various projects in support of the ministry we partner with in Egbe, primarily focused on agricultural and educational work. Please pray for Josh, Tris, Melissa, and Jessie.
  • At the end of the trip I will be in Abuja for a few days. Abuja is the capital city of Nigeria. We will have several meeting with denominational leaders and well as government officials. Nigeria is one of the most politically and religiously corrupt countries in the world, so wisdom and discernment are vey important in our interactions.

Overall, I will be gone for 3 weeks, which includes 2 Sundays out of the pulpit at Ephesus Church. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the nations and pray that God would be glorified through our efforts. As I am able, I will post blog updates if you are interested in our efforts. Thank you for your prayers.

(By: Nick Kennicott)

The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson- A Review (Part 2 of 2)

Book Reviews

Part One

Chapter Four: The Cross and Christian Leadership

Chapter four supplements and expands the above discussion by laying out what cross-centered leadership actually looks like in practice.  Entitled The Cross and Christian Leadership, this chapter is full of the sort of practical ministerial guidance alluded to in the introduction of this review.  At this point, Carson’s ministerial advice stands in stark contrast to the sorts of business-driven or pop-psychology models of the pastorate which fill the pages of the books on many Christian bookstore shelves.  Leadership of the church is fundamentally unlike leadership in any other arena, because the church is an utterly unique institution.  Models for leadership can therefore never be plucked out of secular fields and deposited in Christ’s church without serious modification or caveat.  This truth is evident in the role Christian ministers have as those entrusted with the secret things of God (1 Corinthians 4:1).  Carson explains that “the secret things of God” is a phrase which can be read as the mystery of the gospel; once partially veiled but now fully revealed.  While he is careful to note that the difference in the way a Christian pastor is entrusted with the gospel and the way all Christians are entrusted with the gospel is one of degree and not kind, Carson points out several ways this truth defines and orders the Christian ministry.  Christian ministers must be bound to the gospel; both through a thorough and orthodox knowledge of the cross, and by a real and vital living out of their lives as men transformed by its grace.  Their ministry among the people God has placed them must follow this same scheme.  Pastors must communicate to their congregation the truths of the gospel, and shepherd them into a pattern of life which is consistent with the work of Christ on their behalf.

Chapter Five: The Cross and the World Christian

The last chapter of this book deals with 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 and bears the title The Cross and the World Christian.  The stage is set for understanding what is meant by the phrase “World Christian” by noting the parochial landscape of much of the modern church.  After noting the exponential expansion of modern globalization and the breaking down of old barriers it entails, Carson warns that 

Almost in reaction against such globalization, many people are responding with increasing nationalism, sometimes with almost frightening ethno-centrism.  Christians are not immune to these sweeping currents of thought.  They too, can be caught up in flag-waving nationalism that puts the interests of my nation or my class or my race or my tribe or my heritage above the demands of the kingdom of God…they become embroiled with petty priorities that constitute an implicit denial of the lordship of Christ. What we need, then, are world Christians- not simply American Christians or British Christians or Kenyan Christians, but world Christians (p. 116).

A “World Christian” is defined by four characteristics.  First, they hold allegiance to God’s kingdom over and above any national, ethnic, or cultural allegiance.  Second, they are committed to the church wherever it is truly manifest, not just to their own “home turf.”  Third, they consider themselves to be primarily citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom, and citizens of an earthly nation only in a secondary sense.  Fourth, they are “single minded and sacrificial” in the work of evangelism and disciple making.

This last chapter contains some of the book’s most timely and challenging material.  We are not called be American Christians.  We are called to be World Christians.  Carson’s treatment of 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 builds a Biblical case for fervent, sacrificial evangelism which will shake the false citadel of complacency to the ground.  His final point makes a fitting conclusion to this review.  Carson points out that in 1 Corinthians 9:23, Paul ties this sort of ministry to his very salvation!  The cross is the heart of the salvation of every Christian, so the cross must be the heart of all Christian ministry.  

…to follow the crucified Messiah means Paul must take up his own cross daily, die to self-interest, and serve the One who bought him.  One cannot promote the gospel any other way (pp. 135-6).

As stated in the introduction of this review, there is no shortage of books purporting to provide ministerial guidance for pastors.  The Cross and Christian Ministry stands in the upper echelon of these available works.  This owes far more to the constant centrality of Christ in Carson’s writing than to any other factor.  Rather than point men to the Potemkin glories of worldly wisdom and secular standards of success, Carson stands faithful and true to the cross of Christ.  It is there that he urges pastors to find their example; it is there that he urges them to build their ministry.

(by: Nicolas Alford)

2012 ARBCA General Assembly

ARBCA

2012 marks the 5th consecutive year that I’ve attended the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches (ARBCA) General Assembly. This year we are gathering in Chickopee, Massachusetts. I am thankful to be a pastor of an ARBCA member church, and I am grateful for the opportunity to not only partner with, but see other ARBCA pastors each year. As I think about what I’m most thankful for each year, 7 specific items come to mind:

1. Encouragement and Challenge

Every year, I am reminded how sinful I am, how gracious God is, how great a Savior I have, and how God has given us godly examples to follow. While we accomplish many wonderful things at our General Assembly, the best part of our gathering is the fellowship. I am always stirred up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25), and challenged to pursue godliness and righteousness more fervently. The fire for ministry needs to be stoked every now and then, and being around like-minded men whom I can only hope to be half as godly as, has a great way of making the coals burn brighter.

2. Reminders of our Global Task

One of the primary reasons Ephesus Church is associated with ARBCA is because of the opportunity it provides us to be involved in the global missionary task in a way that we are not able to do on our own. I am grateful for the opportunity to be reminded each year that we are responsible for bringing the gospel to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and hearing and seeing how that is being accomplished through the support of member churches.

3. Christ-Centered Preaching

Each day of the General Assembly is packed with devotions and sermons that are thoroughly Christ-Centered. I need the constant reminder that Christ is my righteousness, and I am thankful to hear faithful men preach the Word with passion and clarity. Every General Assembly I have attended has made me a better preacher. When I was learning to play jazz piano, every teacher I studied under reminded me, “Jazz is a language, and the only way to really learn it is to hear it regularly.” Preaching is a language, and if I want to do it well, I need to hear it often – and it certainly helps that it’s good!

4. Unhurried Prayer

I am reminded at each General Assembly that I am surrounded by faithful men of prayer. I am thankful for the extended times of prayer when we are able to join our hearts together in seeking the Lord for continued faithful ministry, perseverance, greater affections for Jesus, progress in our gospel spreading efforts, and a growing love and unity with one another.

5. Fraternal Unity

For now, I am officially the youngest pastor of an ARBCA member church at the ripe age of 30, but the men of the association consider me a peer, are genuinely interested in my ministry, and encourage me in incredible ways. It is not lost on me that many of these men were pastors before I was born, and their collective wisdom is a tremendous help. There is a unity among the ARBCA pastors that is rare, and I am grateful to be right in the middle of it. We are serious about the Lord and what He is doing to build His church, and we are serious about having a good time together – I laugh and weep during the GA more than most weeks of my life.

6. Hearing About God’s Work

Missionaries are busy, churches are being planted, and established churches are growing in faith and numbers. Christ is building His church around faithful preaching and serious worship all throughout the world (Matthew 16:18). The ARBCA General Assembly gives us opportunity to hear what God is doing in and through His church, and provides us the opportunity to hear directly from those who are in the middle of the work.

7. Books

I can always count on Michael Gaydosh from Solid Ground Christian Books to have a large selection of reformed books at low prices. Pastors love books, and I’m no exception. I’m thankful for the availability of these wonderful resources.

(By: Nick Kennicott)