Commending What We Cherish

4 lessons on evangelism
part of the ARP Synod emphasis on the free offer of the gospel

ur o om ge g fr rita in e arn sh H Le i Scott

Commending What We Cherish
4 lessons on evangelism
Introduction
Welcome to this four lesson series on evangelism that draws on our evangelistic heritage in the ARP Church. Do you realize that freely offering the gospel to sinners is one of the leading characteristics of our founders? As Stephen Myers writes, “In its earliest days, the group that would become the ARP Church was known nation-wide as the evangelistic wing of the Church!” At the 2009 meeting of General Synod, Outreach North America (ONA) proposed, and Synod approved, a yearly emphasis on our “free offer of the gospel” heritage. Christian Education Ministries (CEM) joined with ONA in producing these four reproducible lessons as part of that emphasis for 2011. It is our prayer that these lessons will not only strengthen our appreciation for our history, but that the example of our founders will once again move us to be a pacesetter in our outreach to all kinds of sinners who need the gospel. The outline for these four lessons is simple. The first two lessons focus mainly on Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine’s conviction that the gospel must be offered freely to sinners. The second two lessons focus more on the Church’s equipping of those sinners who respond to the gospel offer that they might become growing, mature, and multiplying Christians. Jim Corbitt asks, “Could God work in our own century the way he worked through the Erskines in 18th century Scotland?” Keep that question in mind as you use these lessons in your church. For the sake of the gospel, Outreach North America Christian Education Ministries

ona
Outreach North America

reproducible • please photocopy!
Part of the emphasis on the free offer of the gospel approved by Synod

Meet the Authors
Dr. Stephen Myers is a native of Concord, NC, and a son of Coddle Creek ARP Church. After
his seminary training, Stephen and his wife Lisa moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he received his PhD in the Theology of Ebenezer Erskine. Stephen, Lisa, and their three children (Quinn, Cale, and Mae) now live in Statesville, NC, where Stephen serves as pastor of Pressly Memorial ARP Church.

Dr. James T. Corbitt is a graduate of both Virginia Tech (Chemical Engineering) and Re-

formed Seminary. He was the founding pastor of Grier Memorial Church (now Devenger Road) where he served for 18 years. He then became the Director of Outreach North America and served there for 12 years. He retired in 2004 and he and his wife Nancy continue to live and serve in Greenville.

Dr. Nathan Frazier is married to Sara. They have been blessed with two sons, Ethan and Titus. Dr. Frazier earned a PhD in Ecclesiastical History and Theology from the University of Edinburgh. His work traces the development of covenant theology in Scottish (ARP) history. Nathan now serves the Lord as a pastor and church developer in Charlotte.

Dr. John Kimmons is married to Carol and they have two married children (Jennifer, who has

two children and Rob, who is a linguist in Chad, Africa). His degrees in Theology, Elementary Education, History, and Counseling have influenced his teaching and church planting. Teaching evangelism comes from his love for Jesus, the lost, and sharing the gospel.

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Guidelines for Teachers
Congratulations! You have been given the wonderful task of teaching on evangelism. Your love for, and dedication to, the task of proclaiming the gospel to the world will determine the enthusiasm and interest of the group. One of the goals of Christian Education Ministries is to help students develop a concern for truth and serious discipleship. This series is designed to facilitate relating the gospel to more people more effectively. It can be used for group study in Sunday School classes, homes, churches, college studies, men’s or women’s Bible studies, circles, etc. It is written in such a way as to be easily understood while still being scholarly. Your preparation for each lesson should begin with prayer followed by a thorough study of the lesson. Study each Scripture reference carefully, using commentaries and other references as needed. Answer the questions in the lesson. Note the application feature included in the lesson and think of ways to encourage the students to relate what they have learned to their lives today. As you prepare how much time to spend on each part of the lesson, remember to save time for the discussion questions. You will also need to use discretion in selecting the questions you will use. Keep in mind the level of understanding of your group. Be prepared to answer questions that may come from the group. There are a few pitfalls that teachers should avoid. In the book Understanding Biblical Doctrine, (Crown and Covenant Publications, p. 3) there are some guidelines that might be helpful to remember: a. b. c. d. e. Assuming too much Antagonizing the learner Improper pacing Going off on tangents Answer too much too soon

Enjoy this privilege God is giving you and your students. As you travel on this spiritual journey may God bless you and keep you grounded in truth, strengthen you in courage, and mold you in love.

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Known for the Gospel

Is your church known in your community for its evangelism?
By Dr. Stephen Myers

lesson 1
Is your church known in your community for its evangelism? That can be a hard– and perhaps embarrassing– question! Very often, people do not think of ARPs or other Presbyterians as being particularly evangelistic. However, in its earliest days, the group that would become the ARP Church was known nation-wide as the evangelistic wing of the Church! Of course, the nation in which our forefathers had this reputation was not America – it was Scotland, where the foundations of the ARP Church were laid in the early 1700s. At that time, there was really only one denomination in Scotland; there was a national church, the Church of Scotland, and practically every congregation in the nation was part of that church body. The process of events that would lead from this one national church to the ARP Church would cover several decades and two continents, but an important part of that process came in the 1710s and the 1720s, when the Church of Scotland was troubled by what is known as “the Marrow controversy;” a controversy in which several of our forefathers solidified their reputations as committed evangelists. The Marrow controversy was sparked by the republication of a book – The Marrow of Modern Divinity – and it involved many issues and arguments. However, one of the key questions in the entire controversy was simply this: to whom can a Christian sincerely say, “if you believe in Jesus, there is salvation for you”? Most often, this is referred to as the issue of the gospel offer- to whom can the gospel be offered?” Many men within the church said that in order to be offered the gospel in this way, a man or a woman must first show some level of repentance and faith. Generally speaking, the reasoning of these men ran like this: God intended to save only those men whom He called by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in order for the gospel offer to be sincere and effective, it would have to be accompanied by the work of the Holy Spirit. This necessary activity of the Spirit meanwhile would also produce repentance of sin and some level of general faith in the gospel. Therefore, since repentance and faith were evidence that the necessary work of the Spirit was active in a particular man, their presence became prerequisites for a legitimate offer of the gospel: “If you believe in Jesus, there is salvation for you.” In this way, repentance and faith became requirements for someone to receive an offer of the gospel. Consequently, any evangelistic effort must focus on convincing a man of his sin and describing Christ’s redemption in general terms until the man showed the repentance and faith that qualified him to be offered the gospel. Other men within the Church of Scotland disagreed with this majority position. One of the leaders of this small group was Ebenezer Erskine, a founder of what would become the ARP. In Erskine’s opinion, simply being a sinner qualified a man to be offered salvation in Christ, because Christ came to save sinners (I Timothy 1:15). As Erskine argued, the Scriptures command Christians to offer the gospel to all sinners (see “Scripture Study” section). If that gospel offer falls on the ears of a woman whom 4

God has chosen, God will use it to lead her to the Christ who is offered; but if the gospel offer falls on the ears of a man whom God has not chosen, or whom God does not intend to bring to faith at that time, then the offer will be rejected. Either way, the responsibility of the evangelizing Christian was simply to offer the gospel and trust that God would use that offer for His purposes. In fact, to expect men to repent and believe before offering them salvation in Christ was futile, because it is through the gospel offer that God leads men and women to repentance and creates faith in those whom He has chosen. Understandably, these different views of the gospel offer led to two very different approaches to evangelism. Many men within the Church of Scotland became quite cold in their preaching – talking about repentance and faith without offering the Christ who leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and who authors our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Meanwhile, Erskine and his associates focused on Christ and boldly offered salvation to everyone; telling everyone that if they believed in Jesus, they would have salvation from their sin. This approach of Erskine and his friends was known as the free offer of the gospel because the gospel was offered freely – free of requirements and free of limitation. These men not only preached this free offer in their own congregations, but they also travelled around Scotland, sometimes preaching to thousands of people at a time, offering salvation in Christ to all sinners. While the Marrow controversy did not single-handedly lead to the formation of the ARP Church, it was through this controversy that Erskine and several of our other ARP forebearers cemented their reputation as the evangelistic wing of the Church.

Scripture Study
Read John 6:22-59

Two of the Scripture passages that Erskine most commonly cited to support his free offer of the gospel were John 6:22-59 and Acts 2:38-39.

At this point in John’s gospel, Jesus has fed 5000 people (6:1-14) and walked on the Sea of Galilee (6:15-21). Starting in verse 22, some of the people whom Jesus had fed in verses 1-14 have tracked Him down in the synagogue in Capernaum (6:59) and they begin to ask Him questions. As Erskine pointed out, Jesus is speaking to a crowd composed of many different types of people. On the one hand, some people in the crowd are Jesus’ disciples (we learn this in 6:60-71) including both false disciples (6:60-66) and true disciples (6:67-71). On the other hand, there is the much larger crowd that has found Jesus at the synagogue. Within this crowd, there are men interested only in finding more food to eat (6:26-27); men who thought they could satisfy God with their obedience (6:28); men who doubted Jesus’ authority even though they had seen His miracles (6.30); men who continued to misunderstand Christ in spite of being instructed by Him (6:34, 52); and even men who pointedly contested Jesus’ claims to be sent from God (6:41-42). Clearly, it was a mixed group; it included Jesus’ closest disciples, His bitterest enemies, and everyone in between. Nonetheless, in the very strongest and most personal of terms, Jesus offers Himself to the entire crowd (6:32). The gospel offer is for everyone.

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Questions

1. How does Jesus explain the fact that He can offer Himself to the entire crowd and yet have only some believe in Him? Consider verses 35-37 and 44-45. _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 2. Clearly, something is expected of those who will be saved. They must labor. . . for the food which endures (verse 27); they must come and believe (verse 35); they must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood (verse 53). Where does this process of coming and eating begin? Consider verses 37, 44. _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

Scripture Study
Read Acts 2:38-39
Acts 2 records the sermon that the Apostle Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, when the promised Spirit was poured out on Christ’s disciples ten days after His Ascension. On that day, 3000 people were converted (2:41). Acts 2:38-39 is the last words that we have recorded from Peter’s sermon (evidently he said much more; see 2:40). In these verses, Peter speaks of the promise; in the context of his entire sermon, this promise is God’s promise of salvation through His Messiah. The men and women hearing this sermon already had been convicted of their sin and were asking how to be saved (2:37). Therefore, even Erskine’s opponents would not have been surprised for Peter to say that the promise was to them (2:39). However, Peter immediately extends this promise to their children (who may or may not have been there), and even to all who are afar off. In this, we see that the Apostles’ preaching offered salvation in Christ to everyone, making no distinction in that offer between those who were showing evidence of the Spirit’s work (the crowd listening to Peter) and those who were not (those who were afar off and perhaps even the children of those present).

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Questions

1. What do you make of the fact that Peter singles out the children of those hearing his sermon? Why not just mention those men and women who were present (the you of verse 39) and those who were not (the all who are afar off of verse 39)? Does this imply that the gospel promise is particularly pressed upon the children of believers? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 2. While Peter does not make any distinction between those who are showing signs of the Spirit’s work and those who are not, he does make an important distinction in verse 39 regarding the offer and reception of the gospel. What is that distinction? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

Overview

1. In both John 6:22-59 and Acts 2:38-39, we have seen salvation being offered to those who did not seem to show any sign of the Spirit’s work in them. The gospel is being offered to those who seem to be spiritually dead. Can you think of other Scripture passages that speak of Jesus coming to save those who have done nothing to deserve that offer? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 2. Many people today say that if you believe in the doctrine of election, it will destroy your evangelism. Yet in both John 6:22-59 and Acts 2:38-39, we have seen a free offer of the gospel practiced alongside a clear articulation of God’s sovereign choice in who will be saved (election/predestination). In these Scriptural presentations, how are the free offer and election held simultaneously? Is either belief weakening the other? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

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Application
Erskine’s opponents insisted that there were certain qualifications that a man must have before he could be offered the gospel, specifically the qualifications of repentance and faith. While most of us would reject the suggestion that a man must display repentance and faith before he even can be offered the gospel, do we, in our own ways, establish other qualifications that a man must possess before we will offer him the gospel? If we only evangelize at church-sponsored outreach events, are we not making a willingness to attend church events a qualification for being offered the gospel? If we only see people of our own socio-economic group or our own ethnic group are we making likeness to ourselves a qualification for being offered the gospel? If there are people we ostracize because of certain sins they commit, (homosexuality comes to mind as one of several examples), are we not making a certain level of respectability a qualification for being offered the gospel? If there is anyone to whom we would not offer the gospel or anyone to whom we would be prevented from offering the gospel by our normal habit of life, we are doing what Erskine’s opponents did, establishing qualifications that a man must exhibit before he can be offered the gospel. Erskine would have none of this. He insisted that the gospel was for sinners and took the gospel wherever sinners could be found. In fact, while Erskine would gladly preach the gospel to anyone, he seemed more drawn to groups that were clearly defined as being sinners than to groups of seemingly righteous individuals. In our evangelism do we draw near to sinners? Given a choice between talking about Jesus with a clearly defined group of sinners or with a group of seemingly righteous people, which group would you choose? Do the habits of our lives and the regularity of our evangelism testify that we believe in a gospel for sinners or in a gospel for qualified individuals?

Discussion

1. We have seen the restricted view of the gospel offer that was held by Erskine’s opponents. As well, we have seen Scriptural support for Erskine’s position from John 6 and Acts 2. How do you think Erskine’s opponents read passages like John 6 and Acts 2, holding to their interpretation of the goespel? Can you find themes or meanings in these passages that may have been distorted? How would you correct that distortion? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

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2. While Erskine’s opponents were wrong about the gospel offer, they did have some valid points. For example, the same Spirit Who makes a man receptive to the gospel also brings repentance for sin. As a professing Christian, do you see yourself growing in that repentance, growing in the holiness to which repentance leads? Is there evidence that the Spirit who led you to faith is still at work in you? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 3. What are some of the subtle qualifications that you have allowed to keep you from telling someone about salvation in Jesus? What are some of the qualifications that keep your congregation from offering people Jesus? Put another way, what must a man do to hear about salvation in Jesus from you or from your congregation? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 4. Let’s make question three a little more pointed. Who are some specific people in your life who have not qualified for the offer of salvation? Are there some specific groups in your community who have not qualified for the offer of salvation? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 5. In light of question four, what are some concrete things that your congregation can do to bring the gospel to those people in your community who have not been reached because of their lack of qualifications ? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

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6. Erskine insisted that simply being a sinner qualified a man to be offered the gospel. A man’s only qualification was his unworthiness. If you are a Christian, do you truly realize that the only qualification you had for salvation was your sin? What does that say about your lack of merit? How does that inspire greater reliance upon God’s grace? How should this impact your worship of Christ? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 7. What can your congregation do to recapture the reputation of Ebenezer Erskine and his associates as being the evangelistic wing of the Church? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

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Taking the Gospel to Your Community
learning from Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine
By Dr. James T. Corbitt

lesson 2
What can we learn from Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine? What can the founding fathers of the ARP Church teach us? They can teach us much about ministry in North America in the twenty-first century. There are parallels between Scotland 300 years ago and our situation today. Here is the way Ebenezer Erskine described the spiritual state of the church in 1735. “Nothing but dead ministers and dead people, dead preaching, hearing, praying, and praising; the generality of ministers and people sitting down with a form of godliness while the life and power of it are quite gone.” He was describing himself as a pastor until he came to his first clear understanding of the mystery of the Gospel. Then everything changed. He became a lively preacher of the gospel and his church became alive. People started flocking to the churches where Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine preached. The Erskines preached multiple services, and even preached outdoors in the fields. Could God work in our own century the way he worked through the Erskines in 18th century Scotland? In this lesson, we want to consider four things that God used in the ministry of the Erskines: Committed Ministers, Gospel Preaching, Personal Spiritual Growth, and Members Spreading the Word.

Scripture Study
Consider I. Committed Ministers

Read Galatians 4: 21-31 “Whose child are you?” Matthew 22:41-45 “What do you think about the Christ?”

Ralph Erskine pointed to Galatians 4 and exhorted all his hearers to consider these kinds of questions: To what family do you belong? Whose child are you? For believers, as children of the promise, this would inevitably strengthen their faith and point them to Christ. As a minister, Erskine recognized the difference between a legal strain of doctrine and a gospel-strain of doctrine. “A legal strain speaks as if all depended upon our obeying a command; a gospel-strain speaks on the contrary, as if all depended upon God’s fulfilling a promise. As the law gives man all the work, and the gospel gives grace 12

all the work, that it may get all the glory; so the legal strain leads a man to himself, the gospel-strain leads a man out of himself to Christ for all.” So Ralph Erskine would have a minister first ask himself, “What do you think about the Christ? Is he the Son and Lord of David, the eternal Son of God? Surely we cannot think, or speak, or preach too much of Christ. It is our honour, if we can say we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord. . . But, while we speak of Christ to others, what do we think of Christ ourselves? To be sure, if we do not think of Christ as we ought, we will not speak of Christ as we should. Christ in the heart, and Christ in the mouth, make right preaching. . . so they would do well to consider the question is not, What preach ye of Christ? But what think ye of Christ?” According to Joel Beeke in Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine: Their Lives and Their Preaching, Ebenezer Erskine was ordained in 1703 but he was not converted until 1708 when he experienced the true grace of God. When he was converted everything changed. He went from a dull, lifeless preacher to one who was alive both in his preaching and his ministry. The result was a transformed congregation whose lives were changed and people from outside the church started attending to see what was happening. He was truly a committed minister. That is a great need in our day. There are too many ministers who are not that concerned about the spiritual state of their congregations. There are too many ministers who are more concerned about not upsetting people than telling them their need of Christ. The result is that churches hear more about having a comfortable life than their desperate need of Christ. Ministers can become lazy or focus on many things that will have no real impact on the true needs of their members. The Erskines would not be happy with many ministers today. Our churches need men going into the ministry that have a genuine call to gospel ministry. We can learn from the Erskines what it means to be committed ministers. They were ministers who walked with God, whose lives had been transformed by Christ’s death and resurrection and who were amazed by the wonder of God’s grace. They were ministers who were totally immersed in Scripture and prayer. Pray for transformed ministers in our day that will lead to transformed congregations.

II. Gospel Preaching
The emphasis on our identity in Christ as children of the promise, and the importance of right thinking about Christ carried over into the Erskines’ preaching. Their preaching had great impact, not only on their congregations, but also on their communities. They included the free offer of the Gospel in every sermon. In fact, they argued that to preach anything from the Bible must include Christ. “Oh! Powerless praying, powerless praising, powerless preaching, powerless hearing, powerless communicating without Christ.” (Ralph Erskine) They understood the gospel as a promise, and all the promises of God are focused in Christ. “What is it to believe the gospel? Why, it is just to hearken to a promising God, and to welcome a promise into the heart. . . Take away the promise out of the Bible, and you take away the gospel. . . But the gospel itself is God in a promise: it is compared and made up of promises, whereof Christ is the sum total; the Yea and Amen.” (Ralph Erskine)

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Along with the promise, they also stressed the love of God seen in the gospel invitation. “O sirs, what is Christ, but just the love of God wrapped up in flesh and blood. O sirs! The love of God is broad; His heart is wide and capacious: you need not fear as if there was no room for you: no, no, for the innumerable multitude that His love has grasped, there is yet room for you, room for me, room for all the world to come to Him through Christ.” (Ebenezer Erskine) Thousands came to hear their preaching and there were hundreds of conversions. Such was the power of their gospel preaching and we should strive to follow their pattern. If we did so, the Lord might be pleased to transform our congregations and our communities. Joel Beeke quotes Ralph Erskine as saying this of the work of the preacher: “Their work is winning work, seeking to win souls to Christ, compelling them to come in; and their work is filling work, that their Master’s house may be filled; and that every corner, every seat, every chamber, every story of His house may be filled. As long as the gospel is preached, His house is filling; and as long as there is room in His house, there is work for the minister; his work is never over, so long as His Master’s house is empty; compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”

III. Personal Spiritual Growth
The people in the Erskine’s churches did not just believe. They were expected to grow in their faith. Ralph Erskine preached that the question, “What do you think about the Christ?” comprehends all other questions of religion. “After the Pharisees had done with asking their difficult questions about the law, Christ proposes a question, which swallows up all their questions, and comprehends all that is necessary to be known.” Yet Erskine insisted that these thoughts about Christ must be applied, “To think of Christ without applying him, is like a man thinking of meat and drink without taking it in; which does no good.” He also said that thinking of Christ without applying those thoughts to your life is like a sick man who receives a medicine from his physician but fails to take it. To make sure people were growing in faith, it was the Erskines’ practice to visit every member once a year for spiritual examination and instruction. They would question the adults in the house about their spiritual state. They would also examine and encourage the children of the household. They would meet with the children of the church each Sunday to instruct them in the catechism and go over the sermon to see if they understood it. There was a great emphasis in bringing up children in the faith. In 1714, Ebenezer Erskine wrote guidelines for praying societies and every member of the church was expected to be part of one of these societies. Prayer became a vital reality in their churches and people would often meet together and pray after the evening service. The story is told that one member got up and went outside to pray at 2 a.m. and found so many of the town people on their knees that the countryside “hummed like a gigantic hive of bees.” Our churches have many groups and children’s ministries today. Do we teach children the catechism and seek to ground them in the faith? Do our adult groups deal with spiritual issues or are they social groups with little emphasis on the Scriptures?

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We might want to examine our programs and equip our people to deal with their own spiritual issues as well as those of others.

IV. Members Spreading the Word
How did the churches of the Erskines go from a few hundred nominal Christians to churches that had thousands of members? It happened by what today we might call networking or word of mouth. Ralph Erskine preached, “New thoughts of Christ will bring in new words and new actions; the words follow the thoughts. You may then turn the question, ‘What think ye of Christ?’ to another, ‘What speak ye of him?’ for, Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Later in the same sermon, Erskine advises that if you esteem Christ in your thoughts, there should be evidence in your life of that esteem. One such evidence is “that you would do all that you can to make others think as much of him as you do.” Erskine then gave three suggestions as to how to do this: 1) By commending him verbally, telling of his beauty, 2) By walking worthy of him so that your life matches your profession, and 3) “Let your light so shine before men, that others, seeing your good works, may glorify God,” and think much of Christ. People became transformed through the Erskines’ gospel ministry and these transformed people impacted their communities. They started talking to their friends and neighbors about what was happening at their church and how it had changed them. They started to witness and the result was changed lives. The word spread and soon people from the whole region were coming to the church. Many of them were also converted and they started testifying to their friends and relatives. People came from miles away because they heard that God was in that church and they wanted what those people had.

Application
What would it look like today for the ARP Church to see people respond to our ministry the way people responded to the ministry of our forefathers? The Erskines became evangelical in their preaching and their churches were transformed. Half empty churches became full and could not accommodate those wanting to attend. Hundreds were converted and thousands were renewed. The people in the churches became people of prayer seeking to reach their communities with the Gospel. The impact was felt all over Scotland. Since we find the Church in a similar condition today as when the Erskines began their ministries, we need to see God’s Spirit poured out today in a similar way in our churches. We can learn from the Erskines the importance of: Committed Ministers A Steady Diet of Gospel Preaching Personal Growth in Faith and Prayer Members Spreading the Word.

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Questions

1. What can we do in our churches to ensure that our existing ministers continue to grow in their commitment to Christ, and to foster a new generation of ministers who hear God’s call to gospel ministry? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 2. How do members of your congregation encourage gospel preaching from the pulpit? How can your members enhance their listening to the sermons in order to know Christ and to apprehend the promises of the gospel? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 3. What methods are you using to grow in your understanding of Christ and of the promises of the gospel? Describe the practical application of what you are learning to everyday life? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 4. What traditions or lifeless practices in your church’s ministry are taking your focus off of Christ and the promises of the gospel? What practices, if any, should be examined? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 5. How much do you esteem Christ? What can you as individuals and as a congregation do to help those outside the church esteem him as much as you do? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 16

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Growth in the Body of Christ
reflecting on the vision of our forefathers
By Dr. Nathan Frazier

lesson 3
The past two weeks we have been learning about evangelism. We now consider the role of the body of Christ in cultivating spiritual growth once people become followers of Christ. How do Christians grow? How does a church go about encouraging spiritual growth among its members? Spiritual growth or spiritual renewal seems to be popular church lingo these days. Many in our denomination seem to want it, but do we know how to pursue it effectively? Many view spiritual growth as a sort of second phase to our spiritual journey with Christ. First, a sinner through the call of grace on his/her heart embraces the gospel. Next, leaders in the church somehow mentor or equip that new believer to live out the Christian life. Unfortunately, many feel that it is up to the Christian to do his or her thing: get involved in the church, have daily devotions perhaps, or read a popularly marketed Christian book on occasion. Such a view is not without merit, but too often places the burden of spiritual growth solely on the individual. We wonder why Christians seem to stagnate in their faith, fail to grow spiritually, much less feel any sense of renewal from regular worship. Church worship seems mundane and routine, so believers begin to search for something to jump start their Christian growth, perhaps attending another church or a small group. Too often we look for innovative tactics while overlooking the means of growth that are plainly ordered by our Lord and that have had astonishing success historically in seeing churches grow. Perhaps some churches shy away from the whole idea of growth in grace or spiritual renewal because it sounds too intimate, too intense, or too newfangled to be useful in our old ARP congregations. After all, it is easier to surmise our church has been around several hundred years and has been doing all right, or has it? Our denominational pedigree may just offer us some insight into encouraging spiritual and church growth. Our Scottish forefathers, Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine, along with many other godly men felt called to step outside the national Church of Scotland because they believed their country’s spiritual life was in jeopardy. They yearned for God to bring revival. They believed the churches in Scotland were dying because of a spiritless and lifeless religiosity that some today might call churchianity, dry bones as they called it. They believed this spiritual decline was because the Church of Scotland had abandoned her foundations. A key foundation was that God nourishes His people through the covenant of grace. Our eighteenth-century ancestors, both the Reformed Presbyterians (sometimes referred to as Covenanters) and the Seceders (Associate Church of Scotland) long believed themselves to be people of the covenant much like Old Testament Israel. They were enthusiastic in emphasizing that both God’s salvation of His people and the means for spiritual growth came through the covenant of grace. They believed that God’s covenant of grace, centered in the glorious biblical promise that “I will be your God, and you shall be my people,” conveyed the outworking of God’s gracious redemption and His 18

command to us to pursue holiness. The covenant of grace applied individually to believers; it also had a corporate dimension. After all, according to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 26, “Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace. . . to represent Christ, and His benefits; confirm our interest in Him: as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word.” Our Scottish forefathers believed that God had brought revival to Scotland on several occasions from at least the latter decades of the 1500s and especially into the 1600s. In each of these revivals the Lord had revived His fledgling Scottish Church and nation through biblical, covenantal means. Thus, they placed careful emphasis on the ordinary or regular means of grace: heartfelt prayers, powerful preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, including catechizing the baptized children of the covenant. If God was going to revive His Church in Scotland and renew the wearied spiritual lives of the faithful, it would come through the covenantal means of spiritual growth. Men like the Erskines were faithful men of the covenant who fearlessly endeavored to cultivate holiness within their congregations, maturity in Christ among new converts, and Church growth through what God had ordained for that purpose. They were faithful to the Lord, and the Lord was faithful to His Church. What sparked revival in Presbyterian Scotland during the eighteenth century may have been mocked by those who were unwilling to pursue the tried and true methods prescribed by our Lord in the Bible; however, the faithful and vibrant use of ordinary means of grace established incalculable spiritual growth among believers and unprecedented church growth. The Erskines and many others set about their task of building up the Church by being faithful to what God had called them to do as the Church: faithfully preaching the whole counsel of God, lively worshiping through the Sacraments, and frequently calling down the heavens through prayer. The faithful, vibrant expository preaching of the Word of God came to life for many Scots—it was Spirit filled. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper was no longer routine; it nourished believers and became the most joyous of occasions—they became seasons of grace. Prior to Sunday schools, baptized children were educated in the Scriptures and instructed by catechisms. It became a parental priority for children to know the Lord. Prayer, both corporate and individual, established a passionate nearness to the Lord as ordinary folks asked God to transform hearts and enliven worship—prayer accessed the power of God. Worship and fellowship became sweet because men and women yearned for God’s grace. The Lord blessed His Church in Scotland. Perhaps now is the time for us to pursue His means of growth in grace in our own churches, and to do so with vibrant passion and expectation!

Scripture Study

Read Hebrews 10:25 and 12:18-29 (See also Exodus 19-24)
God has given the means of grace to be utilized by every Christian. They are not extraordinary gifts parceled out to a few individuals but rather are special means for growth to which every true believer has access. As believers we respond positively to the amazing salvation God has given us by committing ourselves to worship Him and by seeking to glorify Him in all that we are and do. In a 19

sense, all of life for the Christian could be described as worship. Today, however, our society has over emphasized individualism and it has filtered into our churches. God has ordained for us to worship corporately. This is why Hebrews 10:25 instructs us not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together in worship. Early in the history of Israel, God required His people to meet together at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-24). This is why the writer of Hebrews refers back to it and indicates that we on this side of the New Testament have come to Mount Zion to worship. Here we meet with our Lord, the angels, and Jesus Christ the Mediator of the covenant of grace (Hebrews 12:18-29) as a preview of that great day in heaven in which all creation will gather before the throne of God to worship (Revelation 4-5). In his sermon The Mediator’s Power in Heaven and Earth, Ralph Erskine made it clear that the power and effectiveness does not reside in the means of grace themselves, but in Him whose power is revealed through the means of grace, the one who has all power in heaven and on earth. Heaven would be but darkness if the Lamb were not the light of the place, and surely all ordinances on earth, without Christ, would be sapless, feeble, empty, insignificant, and ineffectual things. The Scripture without Christ is but a dead letter, a letter of death; sermons without Christ are dead words and empty sounds; the sacrament here without Christ will be but a dead work, an empty table; yea, God himself without Christ is nothing but fire, and fury, and flames of wrath. Oh! Powerless praying, powerless praising, powerless preaching, powerless hearing, powerless communicating, without Christ, who is the substance, the life, the soul, the ALL of his ordinances; yea, All in all! O sirs, look for power from him, who is the storehouse or all power.

Questions

1. How does regular worship encourage your growth in Christ? What makes corporate worship so special for you? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 2. How is grace communicated in corporate worship? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

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3. In what ways do you seek to meet Christ in worship, in the Word, in the sacraments, and in prayer rather than merely seeking to get your practical needs met? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

Scripture Study
Read Psalm 119:9-16, 105-112
The Word of God is the most important means of grace (Romans 1:16). One cannot grow spiritually without it. It is the means by which we grow in our knowledge of our Lord. It is where our Lord speaks directly to us through His Spirit. When we read the Bible we should do so with expectation that God will speak. We must memorize it and meditate on it. We should pray through passages of the Bible. When we hear it read, preached, and taught we pray that God would open its truths to us. We should anticipate that each time we hear God’s Word preached that His Spirit will transform us by renewing our hearts and minds. Our hearts should not be mended but totally overhauled! We should expect blessing from God’s Word. The Erskines spoke of the Bible as a love letter from God full of his promises to us. A consistent daily diet of the Scriptures will build fellowship with the Lord. Reading the Bible is not optional. Christians should also listen to the Bible being read. Biblical, expository preaching (verse by verse teaching) should bring alive the logic of God’s thought. It should showcase the Divine plan of redemption in human history from Genesis to Revelation. Preaching should be alive because God’s word is alive (Hebrews 4:12). It should highlight how all of Scripture points to Christ as our Redeemer. Although preaching has garnered negative connotations, God tells us that through its foolishness the gospel will be proclaimed so that the lost might be saved (1 Corinthians 1:21-25) and believers edified (Romans 1:16). It should leave us gripped by His grace and his promises and not strangled by empty moralism. It is God’s ordained means of spreading the gospel to the lost and of strengthening His Church (2 Timothy 3:15-17). We must never stop a regular intake of the Word. To grow in grace is not just to be a Bible believer but to become a man or woman who applies it and who seeks to live faithfully unto it (James 1:22).

Questions

1. How can we better use the Word of God to grow in grace both at home and in church? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

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2. How can you develop a longing for God’s Word that overrides your longing for your favorite T.V. show? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

Scripture Study
Powerful Prayer Read Luke 11:1-13
When we think about prayer we should remember that such fellowship is two-way: God speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him through prayer. Prayer is the means by which we praise Him for who He is and ask Him for things agreeable to His will, all in the name of Jesus Christ (John 16:24). Why should we pray? The answer is simple. God has commanded us to do so and He is pleased with our prayers (Luke 11:9; 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). Nowhere in the Bible do the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to witness or to preach. However, the disciples do ask how to pray. They must have felt, much like I, that prayer is difficult! From Jesus’ lesson to the disciples on prayer, we can see that prayers should include adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication—spelling the acrostic ACTS for memory sake. Jesus emphasized that we ought to pray for God’s presence, “Our father who art in heaven” attend to us! Jesus emphasized that we ought to pray for God’s kingdom to come, for His will to be done, for forgiveness of sins, and for protection against our foes: the world, the flesh and the devil. In other words, we pray anticipating God to be at work in and among us.

Questions

1. How do you pray? Do you pray expectantly for God’s work in your church and among its people? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

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2. In what ways do your personal prayers and the prayers of your church ask for God’s presence, for His Kingdom’s advancement and for His Holy Spirit? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

Scripture Study

Joyous Celebrations of the Sacraments Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-31
In addition to the Word and prayer, the Lord has given us Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as means of grace by which He reveals the gospel to us (Matthew 28:19-20; 26:26-30). Both sacraments are observed in connection with the preaching of the Word as they illustrate the gospel. As signs (illustrations) of the covenant of grace, water, bread and wine point to an internal spiritual reality. As seals (promises) of the covenant of grace, the Sacraments confirm God’s promises never to leave or forsake His people. They reveal visually the same message the Word declares, affirming for us the spiritual realities of our relationship with God. In the Old Testament circumcision was the visible symbol of the covenant relationship that needed to be internalized (Genesis 17:12). Now, baptism is the initiatory rite through which a child of believers or a newly professing and repentant believer is received into the visible Church. Baptism does not save. It is a physical sign of an internal cleansing, symbolizing circumcision of the heart according to the Apostle Paul (Colossians 2:11-12). Baptism also symbolizes cleansing wherein, through the washing with water, the cleansing of sin through the blood of Christ is illustrated for us. This cleansing is the washing of regeneration performed by God’s Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Baptism pictures the work of the Spirit as He is poured out to apply the redemption accomplished by Christ to each of our hearts. Those who have been baptized have all the privileges of the Body of Christ, namely regular access to God’s means of grace. Children of the covenant are to be supported by the Body of Christ to fulfill their baptismal obligation of trusting on Christ alone for their own salvation. Covenant children who one day profess faith in Christ must be nurtured to spiritual maturity. The Lord’s Supper illustrates our feeding on Christ. At the Passover meal, Christ did not take the lamb, He took bread and wine. As these elements involve no shed blood, the Lord’s Supper is not a re-enactment of sacrifice or a memorial for forgiveness of sins; it is a commemoration of Christ’s final sacrifice for sinners (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Lord’s Supper illustrates for us that Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience for us, and died the required death to satisfy Divine justice for us. Therefore, the essence of the gospel is celebrated since Christ fulfilled the Law of God for sinners who could not, and died for sinners who were doomed to the penalty of death. The Lord’s Supper promises to the believer the marvelous love of Christ revealed in his sacrificial obedience to his Father’s will. When we feast at the Lord’s Supper we feast on Christ who has accomplished redemption for us. When we gather together the Spirit confirms this to us and the Spirit applies it to our hearts.

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Application

There is no trick or secret to seeing the local church grow spiritually. There is no secret formula because our Lord has clearly revealed to us, through His Word, the means of grace by which we grow. Perhaps we have simply lost confidence in them or made these means of grace humdrum. What we need for spiritual growth today is the same as throughout church history. Our denomination’s forefathers believed that our Lord has provided all the means for Christians to grow and deepen their faith in Christ. They passionately believed that the Body of Christ, the Church, is called to encourage believers to grow in grace and to pursue holiness. They believed that restoring a proper biblical and evangelical emphasis on the means of grace for spiritual growth was crucial for encouraging new believers, growing churches, and planting new churches. Our Scottish forefathers labored to implement their vision of biblically faithful and spiritually vibrant churches that would impact the nation. They travelled around to the Scottish cities, towns, and countryside preaching with boldness and excitement and celebrating the sacraments because they believed that what God desired for Scotland was growth in grace, personal holiness, and a vibrant spiritual maturity within the church. Their churches grew. Men were prepared for ministry, and the cycle of growth was repeated. Their vision, not without difficulties and disappointments, became a reality for the next 100 years in Scotland, but it rooted itself in America. It is time we again capture such vision for growth in grace within our churches and denomination and prayerfully anticipate the Lord to revive us again!

Discussion
What about you? What about your church? How do you effectively utilize the means of grace for spiritual growth? How do you ensure that the focus is on Christ rather than ritual observance? How do you help people know what the Lord’s Supper means, how it nourishes the believer? How does your church help new believers and covenant (baptized) children learn to fear the Lord? How do you teach your children what God requires of them? How do you pray for covenant children to make good their baptism—for their salvation and growth in grace? How does your church demonstrate the value of preaching the God-breathed and inerrant Word to speak truth in lives? In what ways and how often do you pray for lives to be transformed? When your church has its weekly prayer service, when your minister prays throughout the worship service, or when you pray in private or in public, what do you expect to happen as a result? How does faithfulness to what God has called us to do help bring about both individual spiritual growth and growth in His Church?

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An Equipper of Others
Does a committed Christian have to be an equipper of others?
By Dr. John Kimmons

lesson 4
This lesson is about making disciples and equipping those disciples to make other disciples. Parents have often made the mistake of thinking their job is to raise good Christian children. WRONG. Our job as parents is to raise godly adults who will become mature believers who are able to disciple the next generation of Christian leaders. Our problem in the American church is that we have raised good children who go off to college. They get jobs in far away places and often do not take seriously their responsibility of being multiplying disciples for their next generation. The church in the USA is dying!

Questions

1. In what ways did your parents impress upon you the need to be a responsible adult? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 2. Did they teach you to tithe, use a credit card, and give you a checking account? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 3. Did they teach you to change a tire, share your faith, and how to have a meaningful quiet time? Are these important to you? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 26

In this series, we have learned about two of our founding leaders, Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine. According to the Erskines, the gospel is for sinners, and they insisted that we should take it to the marketplace. 4. Because this is true, how much time do you put in your schedule each week to intentionally spend time with non-Christians? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 5. Do you pray regularly for friends by name who you want to influence for Jesus so they can become His followers? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 6. Does our church really care about the lost outside our doors? How? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

Scripture Study
Read 2 Timothy 2:1-7
Erskine is clear that we are to take the gospel outside our walls so sinners can be converted. He would encourage our mercy ministries to the poor, feeding the street people, blood drives, orphan care, pregnancy care centers, adoptions, youth sport leagues, YMCA Bible studies, and urban ministries of all kinds. The purpose is to interact with the world for the sake of making Christ known and sharing His love. Each time we go we must be ready, as 1 Peter 3:15 says, to share the hope (of Jesus) that we have. Charles Spurgeon says in his devotion for December 8, “Paul’s great objective was not merely to instruct and to improve, but to serve. . . Are we possessed with the same all-absorbing desire? If not, why not? Jesus died for sinners, cannot we live for them? Where is our tenderness? Where is our love to Christ, if we seek not his honor in the salvation of men?” He then asks God to saturate our souls with an undying zeal for the lost! 27

We serve as Jesus served. He cared for and loved the leper, the tax collector, and a lot of sinners. He healed, and His signs and wonders were to point to the fact that a Savior came to seek and to save the lost. Some were blind and now they see, some were thieves and now they help others, and such were some of us. God has called the Church to reach the lost through discipleship so we can disciple the found. If the lost sheep is returned to the flock with no instruction, then he will soon return to his lostness. One of the lost people Jesus reached was the adulterous woman He met by the well in Samaria in John 4:1-26. In his sermon, The Female Preacher, Ralph Erskine explains how Christ helped her discover herself as a great sinner, then led her to discover Him as a great Savior, which moved her to then go and tell the people she knew what Jesus had helped her discover, John 4:27-42. Then, in applying it his congregation, Erskine said, If you have met with Christ, then it will be your hearty desire not only to commend Christ, and speak of him to others, making him the great subject of your conversation, but also to have them taste what you have tasted, and see what you have seen, without resting merely on your report; “Come see a man that told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?” Rest not on my report, might she say; but, O come and see him. Erskine explained that this is a way we can all have a part in preaching the gospel. Hath he met with you, as he did with this woman? O then commend him, and preach forth his excellency. Here is a way how every private Christian may be a preacher of Christ. This belongs not to ministers only, but even you who are followers of Christ, among the female sex, that cannot regularly be preachers of Christ in a ministerial way. . . you may be a successful teacher and preacher of Christ in a Christian charitable way, by your spiritual communion and conversation. O woman, commend Christ to your husband. O man, commend Christ to your wife. O parents and masters, commend him to your children and servants. O believer, commend Christ to your neighbors and friends, and all that you have regular access to.

Questions

1. Is our church growing through our outreach ministries? If not, how can we encourage more evangelism while we seek to show mercy and serve our community? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 2. What happened when someone in your church, or home led you to a clear understanding of your need for a Jesus as your Savior and Lord? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 28

Scripture Study

Evangelism leads toward committed, multiplying disciples. Read 2 Timothy 1:3-15
The apostle Paul and Erskine make it clear that we are to find reliable, teachable, trustworthy people to entrust the gospel. They are responsible to do the same so the church multiplies. When new Christians in and out of the church come to join or be baptized, we are to disciple them. Paul reminds Timothy that he was discipled and possibly converted by his mother and grandmother. Erskine’s understanding of evangelism means that evangelism is helping an unbeliever move from atheist to skeptic to seeker to new believer to growing disciple to committed, multiplying disciple. Paul warns us in this passage that false teachers will lead new believers from the truth. He encourages us to be workers who need not be ashamed by correctly handling the Word of God. As articles in God’s house, we are to be vessels that are useful to our Master. We need training in the use of our gifts and how to produce fruit for the Kingdom.

Questions
1. Where in the process of maturity are you? Of these, where would you say you are and where would others say you are? (circle one) skeptic • seeker • new believer • growing disciple • committed, multiplying disciple 2. Do you want to move to the next level? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 3. Why? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

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4. Consider these as possibilities- what should be added? What should be taught to new Christians? Assurance of your salvation Who is God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and what is their work? What is the Bible? Where do you start to read? How can I help others come to know Jesus? What is the church? The importance of prayer What is a disciple? How can I grow? Personal responsibility of time, talents, treasures What are my unique gifts? How do I get involved in service? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

Application
There is no end to maturity and discipleship
1. What from this list would be most helpful for me to learn? Why? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 2. How can you be intentional about discipleship like Paul was teaching Timothy? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

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3. Who do you need to ask to help you move toward becoming a committed, available, disciple? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ 4. Who will you disciple? __________________________________ Is this an option for a committed disciple? _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________

Pray
Take time now in this group. Pray together that God will teach us to be doers of His Word!

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Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

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Outreach North America

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