Robin J Johnson
Here are three simple words to consider as we move into the new year of 2021, which I believe are fundamental in our journey through the coming year. As we embrace them may they take us into the much more that the Lord has prepared for us; to walk in victory, be over-comers, effective and influential servants of Jesus Christ.
2021 must be a year of expansion.
The expansion of the Kingdom of God is paramount and our expansion must of course come through evangelism resulting in people’s conversion and consequent discipleship. In these unstable and shaky times people are ripe for harvest. While the future still looks unsure people need to hear a message of hope, that there is an answer for them, a way to face the future without anxiety and fear. Intentional and consistent witnessing of the grace of God needs to be the goal and practise of every believer. The Good News of the Kingdom of God, with Jesus at its centre, is still the only answer for mankind’s ultimate need — reconciliation to their creator.
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12 (NASB)
I urged both Jews and non-Jews to turn from sin to God and to have faith in our Lord Jesus. Acts 20:21 (TPT)
The environmentalists are propagating their fantasies, end of the world predictions and the conspiracy theorists are spouting their delusions. Where are the messengers of life?
- The bold proclaimers of truth
- The witnesses of Jesus Christ and His coming Kingdom
- Men and women with a testimony of grace, freedom and transformation
If evangelism is not the churches first priority then we will be no more effective or important than some other community service organisation of good living people. Transformation of lives as a result of enthusiastic evangelism cannot be neglected or substituted with anything else.
On a recent occasion I met with some (very nice) folk from a local Rotary Club. They were passionate, enthusiastic, and dare I say it say it, evangelically and unapologetically zealous in their promoting the very worthy work of Rotary and the invitation to join them.
We cannot, we must not, lose our zeal, enthusiasm and priority for evangelism!
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:42 (NASB)
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)
Though the Kingdom message is paramount and fundamentally the first and only message of hope, when we speak of expansion it must also include personal growth and development. It is because we have embraced the grace of God that we can face a certain future, one that should never cease to expand in the knowledge of Him who saved us.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 (NASB)
While focusing on evangelism and church growth we must not lose sight on the fact that if we are going to build and multiply strong and influential churches, then we must first build strong and influential believers.
2021 must be a year of equipping believers.
The expansion spoken of above will only come when every believer is a witness for Christ. Our expansion is not going to come from the pulpit, though it may help, but it will only come when the training and raising up of every member to be witness where they live, work and play is the focus and practise. Only 1% – 2% of all believers are in vocational leadership/service. The statistics speak for themselves, the ‘professionals’ will not accomplish the task of world evangelisation.
Discipleship must be intentional and practical with applicable teaching to equip each believer to be an effectual witness of Christ, to live a life that glorifies God and displays His Kingdom. Without this nurturing the Body cannot grow or be effective.
And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers. 12 And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12 (TPT)
After being moved by the great crowd of people lost and wandering, Jesus told those who were working alongside Him that they should be praying for more workers. To pray for and train more workers has always been the Jesus model and priority.
When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’ heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd. 37 He turned to his disciples and said, “The harvest is huge and ripe! But there are not enough harvesters to bring it all in. 38 As you go, plead with the Owner of the Harvest to thrust out many more reapers to harvest his grain!” Matthew 9:36-38 (TPT)
The apostle Paul simplified and outlined the basics when writing to Timothy.
So until I come, be diligent in devouring the Word of God, be faithful in prayer, and in teaching the believers. 1 Timothy 4:13 (TPT)
Small groups, cell meetings, whatever you name them, are essential in this process. Believers discover together the depths of the Word of God, encourage one another and form a unified front for evangelism. It also provides a place for the multiplication of leaders, it gives people the opportunity of meaningful involvement and participation in their weekly meetings while preparing them for outreach to family and friends and beyond.
We must also be mindful that “equipping believers,” discipleship, goes further, it entails more than just teaching them Bible verses and learning to having a positive outlook and confession. It must entail training them for everyday life, learning to be discerning, walk in righteousness and to be able to deal with the issues they face in their communities. Equip them to live godly, over-comers in this world, lives of influence, reflecting God’s goodness, and display His glory.
Live honorable lives as you mix with unbelievers, even though they accuse you of being evildoers. For they will see your beautiful works and have a reason to glorify God in the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12 (TPT)
2021 must be a year of greater encounters.
For the equipping and expansion to be effective, both must flow from our own power encounters with the living God. Every encounter should lead to the next. We cannot be satisfied with yesterday’s experience, but we all need a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit everyday. We cannot work the works of God without His power flooding our lives. Proclaimers of the Kingdom of God must also be demonstrators of His Kingdom’s power.
And as you go, preach this message: ‘Heaven’s kingdom realm is accessible, close enough to touch.’ 8 You must continually bring healing to lepers and to those who are sick, and make it your habit to break off the demonic presence from people, and raise the dead back to life. Freely you have received the power of the kingdom, so freely release it to others. Matthew 10:7-8 (TPT)
Areas of personal expansion are also imperative and this too must come as a result of ongoing encounters with our God. To move on and press in is always the plan, no going back, no standing still. We certainly need to experiencing the more that Jesus has prepared for us. This needs to be our desire, the motivation throughout the coming days, to hunger for the Lord and His glory. The apostle Paul, even after all that he had experienced and his depth of revelation talks of pressing into the more the Lord had promised.
I admit that I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose that Jesus Christ has called me to fulfill and wants me to discover. Philippians 3:12 (TPT)
Our pursuit of the Holy Spirit and His manifest presence has to be a priority. The more we taste, the hungrier we become, urging us on. This is our life blood, the presence we cannot live without, that which reveals Jesus in every moment and His transformational power that we all need.
His presence, as Moses was well aware, is the defining element which distinguishes us from all others.
Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:15-16 (NASB)
2021 offers us great opportunities.
We may need to adjust our thinking and some of our practices, but one thing is for sure, the Kingdom of God, unshakable and secure, is the Rock that we are building on. With faith and a godly expectation let us move forward seeking fresh and new encounters enabling us to be Spirit filled believers, equipped and committed to the expansion of the Kingdom of God, speaking the Word of God with boldness.
Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you. Ephesians 3:20 (TPT)
(NASB) New American Standard Bible – (TPT) The Passion Translation