Later this morning Bob MacDonald from Saskatoon will be joining me as we participate in the ordination service for Sharon Kuhn. This celebration will take place at the morning service of Way of Wisdom Church, part of Way of Wisdom Ministries International serving the Prince Albert area, areas to the north, and reaching into many different corners of the world with the life-changing Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Please pray for Sharon and her husband Ed; for the members of Way of Wisdom Church as they take this great step forward recognizing the call of God on this pastor’s life; for the ministry of this local church and the church’s many outreaches and ministry opportunities.

Pray for Bob and myself as we minister and teach together (we are each doing a part of the “sermon”) and for God’s guidance in several other meeting we will be holding with people while in prince Albert. Also pray for safe travel as we both return to our home cities later tonight.

Thanks for caring and praying!

Discipleship By Program And Preaching

Another insight the Church will need to grasp regarding discipleship is that we cannot program discipleship and it does not happen through preaching.

We do try to program discipleship and in the Church that Jesus is building this will need to come to a stop. Discipleship is not a six-week course. It requires both the pursuit of knowledge AND intentional action. Too many offer a book or a class when what is needed is a life.

When Jesus made disciples, He brought them along as He ministered to people. When I am discipling someone we actually do ministry together – instead of me just telling him about it. The good news is that research and surveys taken tell us that this is what people want. In fact, a recent LifeWay Research study found that a large majority of those who previously have attended a small group of some kind, but who are not attending now, would consider attending a new group, but they want to meet with their group more often than just once a week for Bible study. People are looking for meaningful, shared-life relationships, not just discipleship classes.

We often think, as well, that discipleship is happening as people listen to the preaching on Sundays. Again, a survey by LifeWay Research indicated that 56 percent of pastors believe that there weekly sermon, or another one of their teaching times such as Sunday evenings / Wednesday evenings, was the most important discipling ministry in the Church. Time to move beyond such arrogance and to stop thinking that our preaching is the best discipleship strategy.

Discipleship is a daily process. So, the Church needs to develop more robust discipleship plans than just a weekly message from the main pulpit. Discipleship is not a Sunday event; it is an interactive, daily commitment of walking out the Christian faith in committed, long-term relationships with others and becoming more like Jesus in the process.

So, our understanding and practical implementation of a discipleship process must move beyond thinking programs and preaching.

Planning the Fall trip to Kazakhstan

I am on the road – on my way to the city of Prince Albert where I will be ministering on Sunday. I am stopping in the city of Saskatoon for part of the day to talk with team members who will be going with me to Kazakhstan in October of this year.

Ralph Howe Ministries goes every fall (and sometimes again in the spring) to the wonderful nation of Kazakhstan. On most of these trips we are honoured to connect with the leaders of Bob MacDonald Ministries as we travel and work together ministering to the wonderful people in Kazakhstan and, at times, surrounding nations. This October both Bob and Irene MacDonald will be going to Kazakhstan and so we will be planning some of the details of the October apostolic ministry trip in the afternoon as I drive through their city on my way to prince Albert.

Please pray for these precious hours together as we fellowship, share, and plan. Pray for the nation of Kazakhstan and those being persecuted fro their faith who remain faithful in proclaiming the life-changing Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The actual trip is October 15 to 30 – of course, with preparation time beforehand and jet lag and catch-up time afterwards. So, pray for everything involved before, during, and after the actual ministry times.

Also pray for Sunday’s ministry in Way of Wisdom Church in Prince Albert where Bob will be joining me as we minister together as an apostolic team and part of the Life Builders Network of leaders.

Trying To Be More Like Jesus

In the Church today we equate discipleship with religious and biblical information and knowledge. Of course, no one can grow without seeking more biblical knowledge – but discipleship cannot be reduced to a process that states, “Read this. Study this. Memorize this. Good to go!”

Discipleship is to help us become more like Jesus. Christ-like transformation is the goal, as we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29) The point of discipleship is not information, but Christ-like transformation. And that means it is not about knowledge in general, but about knowing Jesus better.

But let’s admit – Trying to be like Jesus, without the power of Jesus, dishonours Jesus and frustrates the disciple. So, a basic ingredient of true discipleship will be to learn to receive and walk in the power of God. This power is received when a believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” (Acts 1:8) and so we need to have this second encounter with God that follows upon salvation if we truly want to be His disciples and undergo this Christ-like transformation.

This encounter with the Holy Spirit and the power of the Living God that is known as the baptism in the Holy Spirit should be followed by a daily experience of the Holy Spirit as we fellowship with Him (2 Corinthians 13:14). In tis fellowship time we learn better how to walk in the power and work with the power. This power of God will first bring transformation to our hearts and lives – and then equip us to walk in the power to minister to others. But, we must be careful not to get the cart before the horse. The power will first transform us from the inside out as we fellowship with the Holy Spirit and then we are healthy and whole and thus able to minister with Him (fellowship means, in the Greek, to partner with) to others flowing in supernatural power.

But, a new understanding of discipleship is the key. It is about us being transformed and becoming more Christ-like and not just a program imparting information or something that might happen by accident if we listen to enough preaching.

More tomorrow…

The Museum Mentality

Our choices determine our future. Things we do today determine what we will become tomorrow. This is true for an individual as well as for our local churches. And, from my observations we are like the Corinthians of old. Our choices are reflecting human nature rather than God’s nature. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 states, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ…For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?”

Whether knowingly or not, the people in our churches are fighting for their values rather than God’s. They are acting as if the church is their kingdom rather than God’s. Instead of reflecting God’s love, acceptance, and hope, they are reflecting the world’s selfishness, rejection, and condemnation.

To overcome this, leaders in the church need to recognize and fight it, and lead God’s people away from this tendency. We need to teach the difference between human nature and God’s nature.

Human nature tends to shut out those who are different. it establishes insiders and outsiders. it’s what Jesus fought against. Luke 15:1-2 tells us that the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear Him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”

The reason our churches start failing is because over time the church tends to turn inward – to focus on pleasing and keeping those on the inside. They stop reaching out to the lost and disenfranchised. As a result, the church becomes a comfortable museum of what God once did rather than an example of what God is still doing.

God’s nature is the opposite. God’s nature leads Him to open the door to all people (John 3:16). The result is always positive. It led Jesus to leave heaven and give His life for us, the lost and broken of this world. It led Him to open His arms to all people and invite them to come.

The Church’s future begins today. So for our churches to be working right, we as leaders must make the right choices today. (see the blog before this one). We must make the decision to lead our people to genuinely follow Jesus. We must value what God values and lead our people to do the same. And we must do whatever it takes to hold our church doors wide open.

We must get more excited about people finding Christ than anything else. After all, God does. Luke 15:7 says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

The Church’s future begins today.

The Right Choices

For the Church to be healthy and to grow in the future – worldwide and locally – we need to make the right choices today. What our churches are going to be tomorrow begins today – with our choices. To make the right choices today, we need to remember we already have the resources we need:

The Church’s promise was given in the past. Jesus said: “I will build My Church. And the gates of hell will not overpower it.” (Matthew 126:18b)

The Church’s purpose was given in the past. The Bible records, “So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to do everything I have commanded you.”

The Church’s power was given in the past. Jesus promised, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8a)

The Church’s potential was given in the past. Paul wrote, “Therefore, you don’t lack any gift as you wait eagerly for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” (1 Corinthians 1:7)

The Church’s proof was given in the past. On the first day of the Church’s existence it is recorded, “Those who accepted what Peter said were baptized. That day about 3,000 people were added to the group.” (Acts 2:41)

In any culture, at any time, with any people, the Church can be the hope of the world. History proves it. And, we have been given all that we need to accomplish what God has called us to do. So, the prospect of our local churches rests with us.

What are we going to do with the Church’s promise, purpose, power, potential and proof? It is in our hands. Our choices today will determine what our churches become tomorrow.

What You Might Not Hear on the National News

A 46-year-old pastor living in a Detroit neighborhood was shot and killed this week after confronting his partying neighbors. Tim Kirby left his apartment at approximately 11:30 pm Monday night in response to loud music and people screaming in the street. When Kirby tried to confront the partygoers, a man attending the party shot Kirby three times.

According to local media, Kirby was a father of four and was known for his work in the community and his “fiery” sermons. He was looking forward to beginning ministry in a new church building.

“When I received the news it was like wow, unbelievable that a preacher, a pastor, someone would do that type of thing to him,” Kirby’s longtime friend Pastor Berry Loston Jr. of Prophetic Corner Deliverance Ministries International said in an interview with The Christian Post on Monday.

“I’m trying to really grab hold of what has transpired because it’s just like mind-blowing, seriously. And it’s like really what can you say? It’s a lot of emotions in the air,” he added.

Right now, explained Loston, “the family is heartbroken and looking for answers.”

Family members said an autopsy will be performed, and the funeral will be held in Nashville.

Two Barriers

The two greatest barriers that keep people from fulfilling their God-given purpose are envy and people-pleasing. God has a plan for your life and works that He wants you involved in once you are born again (Ephesians 2:8-10) and there are two things that often prevent people from finding and successfully fulfilling God’s plan and doing those things that God has called them do (John 14:12).

The first barrier is envy. ENVY is the idea that “I must be like you in order to be happy.” If I’m envying you, then I am going to miss God’s purpose for my life. Envy is a trap where we end up caught in a competitive cultural of today trying to be like someone we admire or someone whom others notice.

The other barrier is people-pleasing. PEOPLE-PLEASING says, “I must be liked by you to be happy.” Of course, everyone wants to be liked, even admired. No one goes out of their way to be rejected and scorned. But when this is the driving force in your life you will not accomplish God’s will for your life not reach your divine destiny.

How do you not fall into one or the other of these two major destructive traps? Become rooted and grounded in God’s love. Know deep in your heart and soul that God loves you just as you are. Understand in your heart and not just with your head that His love is not conditional; it is constant and forever. It does not change according to your behavior. When a person encounters the love of God as found and received only through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ; when a person is secure in this love and experiencing it on a daily basis – then they no longer envy others or try to please others. They can simply accept who they are, not envying others. They are then out to please God and will no longer be caught in the trap of people-pleasing.

To reach your divine destiny and fulfill God’s perfect will for your life you need to overcome the two things that trip so many up – envy and people-pleasing. Knowing and experiencing God’s love is the only way to break through these two barriers.

Are We Biblically Illiterate?

I read a report on biblical literacy the other week. It is a little frightening to say the least. In a world saturated with good teachings in the pulpits, on radio and television, in books and movies, on the internet we are still basically biblical illiterate. Let me give you some cute examples…

Question: Who was Joan of Ark?
Answer: The wife of Noah.

One in ten believe Moses was an apostle
One in three can’t name the speaker of the Sermon on the Mount
One in two adults can name only one of the four Gospels
75% of Christians believe that “God helps those who helps themselves” is in the Bible
81% of Christians believe that spiritual maturity results by following biblical rules
79% believed they are knowledgable about the Bible – but 54% were unable to correctly identify the first five books of the Bible
(American Bible Society / Barna Group, “State of the Bible 2012” survey)

Several comments:

First of all, when we get to Heaven there will not be a Bible quiz that we will need to pass to enter in. We are saved by grace through faith and enter into Heaven because we have an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. So, let’s not worry about the details of numerous stories. Are we grabbing the big picture?

Secondly, maybe we need to look at the goal of preaching and teaching – is it to impart information into a person’s head or is it to touch a person’s heart. Is it information or transformation. Obviously, if it is to impart information we are failing miserably. If it is to touch hearts and bring about transformation, agin we are failing – because 81% of those surveyed believe that spiritual growth and maturity comes from following a bunch of external rules and principles.

Thirdly, if our task is to engage people with the story of the Bible – God’s interaction with the human race – then we need to retrain and retool many today who teach and preach. They were taught to impart information. We need to teach them how to tell the story of redemption and engage people in what it means that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

Fourth, for the “truth to set us free” we need to apply it. So, application needs to become a larger part of every teaching. Paul, in the Book of Romans, gives us tremendous teachings with great theological depth in a few chapters and then switches to a few chapters on how to apply those truths – so that half of the book is information and half is application. The Book of James is all application… So, we need to focus much more on applying the truth as this is what sets people free.

The survey was insightful – but really nothing to panic about unless there is a final exam ahead that Jesus didn’t tell us about.