Monday, December 25, 2006

Handel's Messiah

One of the Christmas traditions I used to have when I lived in Baltimore was to go to the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Meyerhoff. The conductor, Edward Polochick, would always do a spectacular and fresh job with his interpretation. I will never forget the thrill the first time I heard him present For unto us a Son is Given and the joyous shout of “wonderful” by the choir, or the hushed and somber singing of “and He laid on Him the iniquity of us all” after the frolicking “all we like sheep have gone astray,” or the exhilaration of the final Amen chorus. I have great memories of those concerts.

A few years ago, after moving to the Atlanta area, we went to hear a “Christmas portion” performance by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and chorus, conducted by the great Robert Shaw. He was in his eighties and actually died a few weeks later. I think it was his last performance in Atlanta. I always feel ripped off when they don’t do the whole thing, and to be honest, it wasn’t so great. But it was the Messiah and it was better than nothing.

I have three complete recordings of the Messiah on CD and two on DVD. My favorite, by far, is John Eliot Gardiner’s version with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Solosts. I prefer period instruments and smaller, more articulate choirs.

For those of you who also enjoy the Messiah, I would like to direct you to the interview Hugh Hewitt did with David Allen White about Messiah. Dr. White teaches at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, another location where I have heard the Messiah performed. I think you will find it fascinating, as I did. You can access the interview here:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Paul's Philosophy of Missions Applied Today

Based on last week's post concerning Paul's missionary philosphy found in the Book of Romans, there are several general principles that ought to guide the philosophy of missions in our churches today. Here are a few that are worth noting:

1. The prospective missionary must be called by God. We should note that the Holy Spirit calls those whom He has equipped and prepared. In Paul's case, the Holy Spirit called an established and faithful teacher for the task of performing pioneering missions work (Acts 13:1-2). Training for missionary work involves more than just schooling (although academic work is very important); it should include practical ministry experience in an established church as well.

2. The prospective missionary must be qualified for the task. While we do not have missionaries today who hold the office of an apostle, we do have "sent ones" that function as pastor-teachers in their church planting duties. As such, we should expect missionary candidates to meet the requirements for a pastor found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. They must also possess the inward heart attitude of a servant, following the lead of the Paul (Romans 1:1; cf., Phil. 3:17) and, of course, Christ (Phil. 2:5-7).

3. The prospective missionary must have goals for his ministry that are aligned with the goals of the local church. There are many good works out there but not all of them qualify as cross-cultural church planting ministries. To fulfill the Great Commission, we must do more than just win souls to Christ. As important as that is, our task is not complete until we have made disciples of all the nations and taught them all that God has commanded (Matt. 28:19). Since God in this age has ordained the local church to build up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13), missionaries must be involved in some aspect of church planting.

4. The prospective missionary must have an effective strategy for
evangelizing an entire region.
Paul's method was to plant churches in several strategic cities, allowing nationals to take over each work and evangelize the surrounding area. Missionaries can utilize this same strategy today to efficiently evangelize large portions of the world.

5. The prospective missionary must be grounded in theology. It is
common today for many to suggest that missionaries do not need theological training. Paul did not have that mindset. He made a point of presenting his doctrinal positions and theological understanding to the church at Rome. Missionaries must be skilled enough in theology to train nationals for the position of pastor. They must have a solid working knowledge of soteriology since their mission directly involves the evangelism of lost souls.

6. The prospective missionary must spend time at potential supporting churches so that the church can properly evaluate the candidate. It is unlikely that a single service is enough time for a church to gain mutual edification from a prospective missionary's visit, let alone properly enjoy his company (15:24, 29) or see fruit from his labors. Ministry takes time and a prospective missionary ought to approach his visit to a potential supporting church with the idea of ministering to that church's spiritual needs. Churches, on the other hand, need to commit to praying for the prospective missionary and see that he gets sufficient rest during his visit (15:30, 32).