I Cor. 16:9 “For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

May 11, 2008

Let us celebrate the Holy Spirit’s work on the 1st Pentecost as well as now.

Centrifugal or Centripetal?

In the March report to the Mission Board I included part of a report that Ziegenbalg and Gruendler sent back to their board from India dated Nov. 15, 1713. In this report point number seven was:
We are not satisfied with an outward change of religion. We insist on complete transformation of the heart in obedience to faith. Therefore we are not interested in increasing the number of converts. Rather, we make sure that those who become Lutherans grow in active knowledge of the truth, holy life, and real Christianity.
This is of course true Lutheran practice and draws from the Scriptures when Paul for instance tells the Ephesian elders, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:27

On the ‘numbers’ angle the missionaries were reacting to practices of others of just giving a minimum of teaching to get converts in. The backdrop though of where these men were reminds us that they were interested in ‘numbers’ in a proper sense. They came all the way from Germany to India to extend the kingdom of God which meant conversions. We also today have to be careful that we do not get sidelined or distracted due to a reaction to improprieties of other churches in their practices, whether it be giving a bare minimum of instruction or of compromising teachings in instruction.

There is a difference between a church which was centrifugal in its outlook or centripetal. The basic dictionary definitions help to explain. Centripetal means “to move toward a center.developing inward toward the center.” Centripetal force is “the force tending to pull a thing inward when it is rotating rapidly around a center.” On the other hand centrifugal is “moving or tending to move away from a center.” And centrifugal force is the “force tending to pull a thing outward.” A master’s degree is certainly not necessary to allow one to see that the radical difference between these two expressions also has application to the church. We are involved in ‘pulling outward.’

The Scriptural and Historical Thrust
As a matter of fact, the wholesome thrust of the church is centrifugal, if we would be faithful to our Lord’s instructions repeated at the conclusion of all four Gospels.
* Mt. 28:19 “Go.all nations.” * Mk. 16:15 “Go into all the world.to the whole creation.” * Lk. 24:47 “.to all nations beginning from Jerusalem.” * Jn. 20:21 “.As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”

The apostles certainly realized the thrust of the Lord’s Words. The record in Scripture and from tradition tells us they ‘went.’ And as we view the centrifugal force the center of Jerusalem was replaced by (Syrian) Antioch, which in turn was replaced by Ephesus. And so it went.

The Value of One Soul
In Lk. 15:10 we read, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” This interestingly is told at the end of the parables about going out to seek the lost sheep and searching diligently for the lost coin. In Acts 8:26f. think of the effort over that one Ethiopian and how the evangelist was sent to him. On the isle of Cyprus that one man Sergius Paulus occupied Paul’s efforts in depth. Acts 13:2f. When we consider a group, it is best to view that as a composite of individuals each of whom needs attention and prayer.

Acts – Centrifugal and Numbers Wise
At the same time as Acts exhibits the church in its centrifugal force, there is also the concern about numbers in the record. Just take a casual stroll with me as we consider what Luke records numbers wise.
* 2:41 “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about 3000 souls.” * 4:4 “But many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about 5000.” * 5:14 “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” * 6:7 “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” And contextually the other two of the three book marks would also indicated growth in numbers. 12:24, 19:20

This idea about pulling outward we see also numbers wise.
* 8:6 “And the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip.” And this was in that vile Samaria. When the apostles hear that Samaria had received the Word, Peter and John are dispatched there. * 10:27 “And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered” Into the house of an unclean, Cornelius, Peter’s goes and a harvest of souls is reaped. * 11:24,26 “.And a large company was added to the Lord.” “For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people.” This at Antioch in Syria was due to forward looking men from Cyprus and Cyrene who went to Greeks, preaching the Lord Jesus. 11:20 * Paul’s journeys were in ever widening circles not just to cover more geography, rather to reach more people.

Pastor Koenig