Sphere’s of Gospel Sovereignty

Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch Prime Minister of the 19th Century, developed a concept known as Sphere’s of Sovereignty. The idea is that different principalities hold different authorities in different areas in different ways. Last week in our Sunday gathering we were considering the Great Commission as presented by Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 28:18-20). Jesus says to his disciples in this passage, “ALL authority is given to me.” This would have seemed a radical statement to make to a group of marginalised peasants out in the sticks of the Roman Empire. But it’s true.

We live in a society that has authorities in different spheres. People go to work under their employer’s authority. They live in a nation under government authority. They live life in familial structures, in contexts of social authority. We are all dominated by authority structures and these are not a bad thing. Authority is God-given, but some authorities over-step their mandate. There is an authority that reigns supreme. All these domains of authority exist within the realm of Christ’s authority. It all belongs to Jesus. Kuyper, in speaking about spheres of authority says this, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry ‘Mine!'”

Gospel Spheres

The fact of the matter is Jesus trumps all authority claims. The work place assumes authority that says, “you can’t mention Christ here.” Families assume authority that say, “Christ doesn’t have dominion over the skeletal closets, and familial practices.” Governments assume authority which says, “There is no place for your God here.” Society assumes authority that says, “Don’t talk about faith, that’s a private matter.” Religiously assumed authority says, “Every faith is equally valid, your faith is no more valid than mine.” But there is an over-riding all-legitimate authority. Jesus says, “All authority is given to me… Go…”

The Great Commission is about responding to a higher sphere of authority. Paul was subdued by political authority being placed in chains, but he said the gospel is not chained (2 Timothy 2:9).


There are other spheres of authority though. These are the spheres of our idols and fears. Sometimes, it is the unnamed things that wield the true weight of authority in our lives. The authority of approval says, “If you tell me about Jesus, I will no longer accept you.” The authority of comfort says, “To make disciples of Christ is work, and you will no longer be able to maintain your comforts.” The authority of control says, “If I make it clear that I’m a Christ-follower, I will no longer be able to control people.” The authority of superiority says, “This person doesn’t deserve to hear the gospel. I do not want to see them as my equal.” What fear or idol is assuming the authority in our lives and the lives of our church families? These are forces to be reckoned with. But here’s the answer. Jesus has all authority over every sphere. He is Lord of all.

The Great Commission is responding to Jesus’ All-authority, over all peoples, to obey all Jesus’ commands, recognising his empowering presence at all times and in all places.

Progressive Revelation: “Do The Next Thing”

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God dried up the Jordan for them, and they crossed over on dry land.

God then told them to set up Memorial Stones in Gilgal, so that when their children asked about those stones, they would tell their story of God’s faithfulness to them.

I want to share some of my story regarding my experiences in Mexico.  Some of you have heard this a few times.  If that is the case, skip forward to the latest photo album, courtesy of Pastor Sam Scotti, of Genesis in Upland.  Sam has posted images of our latest Leadership Conference.  Thanks Sam.

The images are under the “Vizcaino Conference 2008″ folder and if you double click on the photos they will enlarge.

FYI…current photos can be found at

The Story…

I was on staff at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa from 1989-1991.  During that time, I was singing in a band called The Mirrors.  The Iron Curtain fell, and Eastern Europe opened up to the West.  We traveled with Brian Broderson (then pastor of CC Vista, CA) to Yugoslavia and Hungary, and sang and shared about Jesus.  Lots of young people got saved, and churches were birthed.

I traveled back to Yugoslavia and Hungary for a number of years, speaking at conferences that those young churches held.  Eventually, I also taught some in Austria.  Eastern Europe was my mission field for a time.

One year while serving at a conference in Budapest, I became increasingly uncomfortable with my involvement in Eastern Europe. Nothing was wrong, and I loved the people, but I felt out of place.  As I prayed one night, the Lord spoke to my heart, and gave me the impression that my new mission field would be in a Spanish speaking country.  There were no more details than that.  I immediately planned to not re-visit Eastern Europe and participate as I had done for a number of years.

I began asking around about missions opportunities in Mexico.  I was directed to La Posada in Rosarito, Baja.  I felt like I had found my place regarding foreign missions. We visited La Posada three times a year for a number of years.

One year, Victor Mayoral, former director and pastor at La Posada, invited me to go with him to Vizcaino, Baja Sur (South).  It’s 500 miles south of the U.S./Mexico border. He said that not a lot of outreach was happening there.  We went, and a few months later, took a group of pastors to tour the area.  During that first pastoral tour, I was impressed with the need for us to offer a Leadership Conference for pastors in the region.  We talked with them, and discerned that they needed encouragement and support.  The Municipality of Mulege takes 5-6 hours to drive across.  Vizcaino is located in the middle of the municipality.

Long story short: We bought 3 1/2 acres there, and are currently building a missions base with the help of other Calvary Chapels.  We have hosted 8 Annual Leadership Conference, with pastors and leaders from many different denominations.  We have planted a church which is pastored by a Mexican national.  We have two full time missionaries living on our property.  As many as 10 churches are now or have been involved in ministry in Vizcaino.  God has added many workers to this effort.

There is much more to the story, but take note of this: Our walk with the Lord is a journey, a process, and progressive revelation.  There is nothing wrong with planning, but far too often, our plans are only hunches, guesses, and good ideas.  As we obey what God is telling us, and as we take the next step and do the next thing, He shows us more of His plan.  We can never see the 2nd or 3rd step until we have taken the next step, and obeyed the Lord in the thing that is before us.  A favorite phrase of mine, originally coined by Elisabeth Elliot is this:  “Do the next thing”.

Don’t get frustrated or feel defeated if you can’t figure the big picture.  “Do the next thing.”  As you obey what is before you, the Lord opens up a new panorama.  Then share your story with others regarding God’s leading and His faithfulness.

A Fresh Look at World Missions

But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more”  (2 Cor. 7:6-7 NASB).

On June 25, 2007 I had been the pastor of Valley Baptist Church for about one month.  We had grown from about 12 to 20 people at this point, when I invited young missionary family that was heading out to Mongolia to share at the church.  Being married to an “MK” (i.e. Missionary Kid) world missions have become very important me and I want to build world missions in to the DNA of the church.  At the end of the service I made a bold proclamation, “I can’t wait until VBC sends a team to Mongolia in five years!”  I didn’t really know what I was saying, or if this little church would even survive five more years, but the proclamation would ultimately transform my understanding of my role in missions as a pastor.

Fast forward two years.  This statement stuck in my heart.  It kept me up at night.  Would we send a team?  How would this happen?  I didn’t have the first clue.  I started to think, “Man, ‘five years’ is approaching quickly.  Maybe I need to go to Mongolia to take a ‘vision trip.’ I think that is what people do.”  This thought scared me.  As a former Navy SEAL I wasn’t too comfortable with a trip to a formerly control communist country that lies between Russia and China.  This thought was crazy.  I thought I would run it by my wife for her to shoot the idea down and to finally do away with this crazy thought.  To my surprise, she replied, “That is a GREAT idea!  I support you 100%!”  Oh no, I was in trouble.

I prayed.  I Skyped the missionary family to discuss this idea with them.  All the doors were opening all together to fast for my comfort.  Within a matter of months I booked my ticket to Ulan Batar, Mongolia via and over night stop in Beijing–a place where the church has some “friends” serving also.  I ended up taking a man from the church with me on this journey.  As we prayed and prayed about the purpose of trip, it became crystal clear that our purpose was for the sole purpose of encouraging the family who was serving overseas.

The goal of encouraging seemed a bit strange to me.  I do not have the gift of encouragement and wasn’t sure that this goal was legitimate or valued in the eyes of the pastoral establishment.  The idea of a senior pastor flying overseas is normally for the sake of evaluation–if one ever goes.  But the more I prayed and the closer we came to the departure date, the more I realized I was going only to encourage.

I departed for Mongolia on April 19 and stayed there until May 5, 2010.  In my mind the missionary family was encouraged already, but my purpose was to take them up a notch or two.  I wasn’t ready to face the amount of discouragement they were facing.  I spent the two weeks with their family experiencing Mongolian culture and enjoying some American treats that we brought with us–like tortillas, taco seasoning, pancakes, and a variety of other things Americans miss when they are away.  We had a sweet time of fellowship and enjoying time together during my stay.  At one point, the missionary told me, “Last night my wife said, ‘This is the first time I remember seeing you laugh in almost three years.'”  This statement revealed to me how harsh missionary living is on the spirit.

Upon my return the thoughts to the trip lingered.  I wrestled with the thought of missions today in the church in light of Scripture.  It seems today we are about sending people out, giving money (which is great), praying for them (maybe, if we remember), and sending teams overseas a few times a year, but something just seems amiss to me.

Through this experience the Lord has shaped my understanding as a senior pastor concerning my role with world missions.  Maybe these are just new thoughts for me?  I hope they convict and encourage you.  Here are a few things I have learned:

1.  The missionaries we support are a part of my flock and I have a responsibility toward them as a shepherd.  They are not staff that I am keeping accountable, but are saints doing the work of the ministry that God has called them to.  My ministry is to help them on their journey even when they are gone (Ephesians 4:11-13).

2.  Discouragement is real for missionaries.  Look to the top of this post and read the verse.  Seriously, read it.  Paul the apostle was DEPRESSED and how did he get undeppressed?  Titus came to him and spent time with him!  Pastor, I encourage you to make an annual trip to visit a missionary.  Encourage them by visiting, Skyping, email, and by any means that you can!  I am so thankful that my church is on board with me visiting and encouraging our missionaries.  My next stop is Florence Italy next month…

3.  Missionaries are not forgotten if the pastor is in relationship with them.  I can’t tell you how often our missionaries come up in my sermons, or in my prayers on any given Sunday.  They are important to me and so I talk about them.  By being involved with them, I can communicated to the church who they are and what they are doing.  These are seeds that God will use.

4.  God will stretch you through your going, thereby making the church healthier.  I strongly believe the best way to keep you church healthy is by allowing God to stretch your faith.  By going overseas and getting a shot of world missions, you will grow in your relationship with Him.  When you grow spiritually your people will grow spiritually.

I strongly encourage you pastor to get your passport and go overseas and stay with one of your missionaries in the field (if you don’t have one, get one…I can help you).  I guarantee that you and your church will benefit from this!