The Gospel of the Kingdom

We preach a gospel of salvation where we have people pray a Sinner’s Prayer and thus become born again or saved. Of course, the Bible states that there is no salvation without repentance so we hope that before we have a person say a Sinner’s Prayer that they understand the true Gospel and have been convicted of their sins, experienced godly sorrow with repentance and thus are true converts to the faith.

However, the gospel of salvation usually leads to someone thinking only about themself. Afterall, salvation is a personal matter and they did receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. This leads to their faith and religion being a private matter between them and God. This means they work out their faith in daily life as best they can and add some necessary tools to help them do so – Bible reading, prayer and going to church on Sunday.

However, this is not what the Lord planned nor what the Bible teaches. The gospel of salvation is, in many ways, a man-made gospel which has led many to thinking they are saved when they are not. Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and not the gospel of salvation. The Gospel of the Kingdom is much bigger than and has a different focus than personal religion and the salvation gospel.

When a person responds to the Gospel of the Kingdom and becomes born again it involves a lot more than simply a personal relationship with the Lord. It includes:

1> A commitment to and active connection with the body of Christ, the local Church. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 talks about each believer being a member of the Body and that each one has been placed in the Body where Jesus wants them and where they can experience their ministry and fulfill the call of God on their lives. You see, God deals corporately – and calls a people and not a person. A Christian without a serious connection and involvement in a local church is unheard of in the Bible and is simply not possible.

2> A commitment to being a true disciple of Christ and not simply a Christian in name only. A follower of Christ and not just a fan of Jesus. Jesus told us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19) and we can’t do that unless we ourselves are true disciples of the Lord. This is a life-time commitment and involvement with the Lord as you follow Him and become more and more like Him.

3> A commitment to and involvment with The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) to go into all the world and share Jesus as you go. Jesus spoke right up front that those who followed Him would need to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) and so we need to be out there involved in the lives of non-believers and seeking and saving the lost as Jesus did and still does (Luke 19:10). Afterall, we are ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)

4> A commitment to being trained for and involvement in your own ministry for the Kingdom in the world (not just to believers in the church). Every member of the Body of Christ is a minister (1 Peter 2:5) and every joint and supporting ligament must do its part to build the body up in love (Ephesians 4:16). So everyone must be willing to be trained and equipped…even mentored in the ministry.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is much bigger than the personal gospel of salvation that allows people to think that they are born again and thus safe even through they never become part of an active and alive Bible church or picked up their ministry as they follow Jesus and become His disciple.

It is time to peach the true Gospel and do away with this false gospel that has been preached for so long. Let’s end easy-believism and start asking for true commitment to the cause.

Day One of Apostolic Roundtable

>Day One of the Apostolic Roundtable and we have gathered together in Elkhorn, Indiana after worshipping with the believers at New Life Church in Celina, Ohio. It is a 2.5 hour drive between Celina and Elkhorn and a great opportunity to begin fellowshipping even before getting to the roundtable. Check-in at the hotel where we stay and where we meet, a brisk walk down the main street to stretch the muscles, and then into our first meeting followed by supper and a complete night of fellowship.

This time we have a topic we are dealing with. The presentation paper is on-line at the main web site under “apostolic roundtable” as is the outline of other things we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us to discuss, pray through and come to some conclusion about. It will be a busy two and a half days. Of course, worship, prayer and prophecy also play a part in the daily work of the roundtable. For me personally the fellowship is also sweet and very important.

I stay in regular touch with three or four of the men who attend these roundtables regularly. Emails, Skype, Tweets, and phone calls allow for a constant stream and exchange of information and ideas as well as any prophetic sense we are receiving from the Lord. Resources are exchanged and ideas are discussed and sorted out as we talk and write back and forth. But, most importantly, the fellowship deepens and becomes more precious as I invest time and effort in getting to relate to and come to know these great men of God who serve in various places in the Kingdom.

Your prayers for today – Sunday – through Tuesday supper would be greatly appreciated. That each and every man in attendance would be seriously touched by and ministered to by the Holy Spirit.

Equipping the Saints – A New Insight

I had a new insight into Ephesians 4:11-16 the other week. Not had time to discuss it with you yet so will do so today. The book of Ephesians states that my job as a member of the five-fold ministry and as an apostle is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry for the building up of the Body of Christ...” But, this task of “equipping” assumes that several others things have happened and several other stages of development have gone on ahead of the equipping process beginning.

Before I can equip the saints for the work of the ministry it is imperative that they are first discipled and trained. When someone is first born again (or even now years later) a believer needs to be discipled. Afterall, Jesus told us to “go into all the world and make disciples...” and so each believer needs to be discipled by someone. In this process they will learn about all the basic disciplines that will enable them to grow and mature in their walk with the Lord – prayer, Bible reading and Bible study, fasting, witnessing, tithing, worship, and so on.

Then, once the believe has been discipled they need to be trained. This is where they are taught the basic doctrines of the Christian faith from the Trinity to the resurrection. The believer needs to know what they believe and why they need to believe it. At this stage they become firmly rooted and grounded in biblical truth and doctrine.

Then, they can be equipped … this is where a well rooted believer who has a mature and solid personal walk with the Lord and knows the basic teachings of the Christian faith learns how to walk supernaturally and flow in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here they learn to minister and become sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit in their life. They begin to become effective in touching non-believers supernaturally with the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Of course, to move on into leadership of any kind this believer who has been discipled, trained, and equipped will then need to be mentored. This is where a more mature believer and leader will invite the believer into their life to share both life and ministry together. This is absolutely essential for all those called to be leaders and this is where apostles really work best. This is called being a spiritual father (mother) to someone and opening your heart and home as well as ministry to this person.

Discipling, training, equipping, mentoring … and it is very frustrating to attempt to equip the saints (Ephesians 4:12) when they have yet to be discipled and trained. More than frustrating – imposible.

A Flight Into the U.S.A.

Well, I have been home for two and a half weeks since my 21 days in Ukraine and Russia and now I am back in another airport on my way from Regina to Minneapolis to Dayton, Ohio for my fourth apostolic roundtable. This is a three day gathering (Sunday to Tuesday) where apostles from a number of countries gather to pray, worship, fellowship (we eat a lot), and discuss various issues being faced by the Church worldwide and our individual apostolic ministries.

This is a great three days with some great people and I enjoy everything about the event each time I attend (twice a year). Each time we meet new people join us and so my relationships with other apostles continue to grow and now touch many nations. And, there is a stable group of young and old apostles who never miss (like me) and we are growing together and growing closer and helping each other even when not at these events. I keep in touch now with a good five or six different men on a regular (almost weekly) basis by Skype, emails and text messages and so it is more than two meetings a year – it is a year-round support group for those who put the effort into building and maintaining relationships.

I will be spending an extra day in Ohio after the event to meet with several of the senior apostles who head up these roundtables as well as to spend some time with a young medical student whom I am mentoring as he has a call on his life to be an apostle and to minister internationally. He is planning to be a part of one of our teams later in the year and travel with me overseas. It will be good to be able to speak with him face-to-face as we have been building a relationship through electronic means only so far – a daily event when I am in my own country. (He is pictured in this blog).

Your prayers for the travel, the roundtable and the mentoring day as well as myu time with a host couple for the night before and after the roundtable (George and Linda) would be greatly appreciated.

Working From the Bottom Up

Jesus did not try to influence the rich and the powerful. If He had this would have meant that the changes would have begun in the rich and powerful and trickled down from the top to the people at the bottom. This is the world’s way – change the government or the ruler and this allows change to happen in the country or the kingdom. Rather, Jesus worked with those at the bottom – the outcasts and the undesirables. And, as a result the changes were from the bottom up … from the grassroots upwards and often did eventually influence those at the top.

In the evangelical church world today in North America there is a “Kingdom” mentality where we are trying to influence those who are in power economically and politically. This was not and is not the way of Jesus. In North America there are those who teach that we are to take over the culture, the economy, the political world, the customs … and it goes by various names including Kingdom or Dominion theology. And, regretfully, this teaching is spreading around the world through mass media and the internet. Again, this was not the way of Jesus. He did not even directly address the basic social issues of His day – the rights of women and slavery.

Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world…” and we need to stop trying to make the world into His Kingdom and stop operating His Kingdom and His Church by worldly standards and in worldly ways. I honestly don’t believe we are to be trying to change the world – but we are to be simply rescuing people out of the world and thus we need to stay focused on seeking and saving the lost. Transformation of society – if that is even to be a goal – will happen as believers go about their regular tasks in life and influence others. We simply need to follow His example and work with the poor, the destitute, the forgotten, the outcasts and those who are not handling life as it comes at them and bring them into the light and life of Jesus.

At month end I head to Kazakhstan and will be spending a good deal of the two weeks working in rehabilitation centers with recovering drug adicts and alcoholics. I am excited to be working with these men and women – as I believe that this is where Jesus would head to if He were a member of my team – and He is. I sense He is pleased with this plan and the investment we will be making financially and time-wise into the lives of these people and their centers. And, I know that as He changes them through His power and His prophetic words that they will go back into their world to seek and save the lost and offer them the same help Jesus has given to them.

The change is happening from the bottom up – this is the way of His Kingdom.

Pictured above – a number of men from a local rehab center being ministered to in a powerful service in the Village of Arna, Kazakhstan in November, 2010.

Ambassadors in a Foreign Nation

The Bible states that we are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). We are a nation within the nations. We are God’s people among a pagan people. As Jesus said, we are the light of the world and shining out in the spiritual darkness. We are different; we are anointed to preach the gospel; we are empowered to be witnesses, not just to ‘go witnessing.’ We are leaven in the bread and like a mustard seed we are to continue to have an ever increasing presence and influence. We are – each one of us is – an ambassador for the Lord in a foreign nation (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Ambassadors for the Lord in a foreign nation must embrace the external forms of the foreign culture while remaining faithful to living and sharing the beliefs and values of their own kingdom. They are to understand that they are in that foreign nation to influence the people by sharing the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom and to do so in way that is not an afront to the existing cuture or social values and lifestyle.

Remember that the Christian faith is not about how people dress, what they eat or how they live their daily lives. It is about an internal reality of knowing God and being in relationship with Him. As the Bible states, “God does not view people as man does, by his outward appearance – but He looks to the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) And, so must we.

Too often I have seen the judgmental side of people who travel to or even live in a foreign nation and are ministering for the Lord. Heck, I see it here right in my own nation and city. I have watched as they wrote people off because of what they were wearing, what they were doing, their lifestyle, their addictions, their whatever. They write off others who are living differently than they do, have piercings or tattoos, or are living in a way that is certainly not acceptable if you are a believer – and many of these people who are just “written off” are actually Christians and followers of the Lord – just different. And, we have a cultural Christianity that is man-made and requires people to reach and maintain a certain standard. But, God is not asking for or demanding this from people.

I believe we often reject or write people off because their freedom to be different than what we consider to be the norm (often a cultural thing and not a Christian thing) threatens us and would actually cause us to examine our judgmental attitudes and our wrong beliefs and expectations should we not hold these people at arm length and in a nice Christian way reject them.

Jesus never did this. He was always face-to-face with people who did not share His values, His lifestlye, His beliefs, and did not understand or share His mission. However, He acted as an Ambassador of Heaven among the people of the Earth; a representative of another nation in a foreign nation. He set the example that we, as ambassadors, are to follow. He simply loved, accepted and forgave. He looked to the heart and not to their outward appearances. He included people and never excluded them because of their lifestyle or their beliefs.

It is interesting that even His disciples still did not understand the Kingdom that He represented as is evident by their question in Acts, Chapter 1, about when He was going to re-establish the Kingdom of Israel. They had failed to understand the King and the Kingdom He came to establish. But, they soon afterwards became the leaders in that Kingdom. Jesus did not judge – He simply loved.

We are to do the same as ambassadors of Christ, light in the darkness, a holy nation of people among and within the worldly nations. Love, accept and forgive – don’t judge by outward standards and what you see… simply love, accept and forgive. Jesus did that for you and calls us to do the same for others.

So, next time you are about to pass someone you are uncomfortable with or would rather not notice – embrace that person as an opportunity from the Lord to speak to them about the love of God as found only in Jesus – the first Ambassador from Heaven who came not to judge but to save (John 3:16-18).

A Church Gathered and Scattered

Today people are looking for relationships. They are finding a form of relationships on such social networking sites as Facebook and Twitter. However, face-to-face relationships are still in high demand as seen by the number of coffee shops like Starbucks that now exist where a decade ago you would have been hard pressed to find a coffee shop and especially one that functioned all night. People want to relate even though that no longer translates into an open door to a person’s home and the functioning of the gift of hospitality. Relationships now form outside of the privacy of one’s home.

The Church is a place of relationships. Significant relationships formed on the foundation of a shared common belief and lifestyle. The Church was created by God to be an organism, a living body, a dynamic body of people interacting, connected, belonging to one another. It is called the Body of Christ and like our physical body every part needs to be in significant relationship with all the other parts and functioning correctly, doing its part to keep the body healthy, whole, and reproducing. The Christian faith is more than believing something – it is belonging as well.

Read Paul’s writing and the Holy Spirit’s Words in 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 and see the dynamics of a healthy body. Then read Ephesians 4:11-16 to see what a healthy body can do when led properly and built upon the correct foundation (see Elphesians 2:20).

Every church needs significant relationships. But, we need to realize that they simply don’t happen by themselves. We, as believers, need to be proactive and create a body life and culture that encourages relationships. We need to not over-program a church so that people don’t have time for relationships – and certainly not significant relationships. We need to be careful that we are not always gathering our people together – the Church is more than God’s people gathered – it is also to be God’s people scattered. People need time to build significant and meaningful relationships with non-believers as well. Otherwise, a church will not grow nor remain healthy.

Here is a profound truth: If people don’t have significant relationships within the church, they’ll eventually respond to it like customers instead of family members. Then when a better program or deal comes along, they’ll be gone … finding what they need elsewhere. And, of course, if they come to have a need met – as soon as that need is met they will be on their way. Your church will have successfully ministered to them but they will not stay to now be a healthy part of the body. No, they came because of a need and left because that need was met and they did not build any relational bonds to keep them connected after they regained their health.

This does not happen when there are signifcant and long-term relationships being built. People will find their needs met in the relationships instead of by some program or other. This means a healthy, long-term commitment to a local church because they are inter-connected and truly belong to the body and are not just attached through a temporary program or need.

Again, don’t assume this just happens. The truth is that each and every believer in a local church needs to spend time creating opportunities to form these important and lasting relationships. This is the true, healthy Church functioning the way God designed it to function.

Svetlana and Sasha

We would like to thank you for inviting us to the apostolic and prophetic school which took place in Lvov, Ukraine. The experience we got there was like our world started to turn upside-down. As Ralph said on the first day of the school, that each of us needs to experience a fresh encounter with Jesus, so it happened to us when we arrived home. After the school and the encounter with Jesus we realized that everything has changed – our attitude to our church, to ministry, to pastor, to God and to the Great Commission. Even our pastor noticed it and was also glad that we were to the school in Lvov.

We started to share with everybody the knowledge and insights that we received as well as apply it in our life. Svetlana received her healing of eczema that she was having for two years. And Sasha was so moved by what God has done in their life that said is willing to pay two or three times more just to be able to come and learn and stay close to such anointed men like Ralph and Bob. Read more

Dmitry Nazarov

Greetings to you brother Ralph!

Thank you for your email and for the apostolic-prophetic school in Lvov, Ukraine.  In deed I received from God certain directions and inspirations for my life and ministry which I should carry on. Also I want to let you know that I was chosen in our union of churches (named “The Russian Pentecostal Church of God”) to be the leader (a bishop) for two years. I wanted you to know that we will be glad to keep relationships with You and Your ministry in Russia.

Blessings to you in all you do for God’s glory!
Dmitry Nazarov

Alexander and Svetlana Bolshakovy

Greetings to you, Ralph!

We want to thank the Lord and also you for your ministry, especially for the opportunity to study at the school in Lvov. On the first day of the school you taught that we need to experience a fresh encounter with Jesus and it has happened. We sensed it when we returned home. Our life was turned upside-down. We realized that everything has changed: the Word became alive for us, our attitude to God, to Scriptures, to pastor and to our church has changed. Our pastor also noticed that we came back different and was glad that we were able to go to the school. At this point we study from materials that Miroslav sent us and listen to mp3’s of you previous schools. Every teaching is like revelation to us. Now we have lots of questions … Thanks to you…for instructions and wonderful example that we’d like to follow so we can grow in faith … We pray that the anointing that is upon you would also be on us.

We pray for you and thank you,
Alexander and Svetlana Bolshakovy