Supernatural Words and Actions – “The Church of My Dreams” Part 6

The church of my dreams would be one built upon the five-fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher (Ephesians 4:11). The key leaders would be the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). It would be a living organism and not an organization. Because a local church is a group of believers meeting together it will, of course, have some organization. However, structure must support life for it to be a part of this local church and the structure is removed as soon as it is no longer doing that.

The leaders of this church of my dreams would equip the believers to do the work of the ministry. This is their job description according to Ephesians 4. The believers would be ministers of the Gospel and every believer would be released into the ministry they are best gifted to accomplish. Again, this is according to Ephesians 4:12-16. This ministry would be in the world and not in the church. This would be supernatural ministry to unsaved people who have yet to hear about and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Obviously this would be a team approach to ministry with every part of the local church fulfilling its calling and purpose. It would be a church in the world and for the world but not of the world.

This church of my dreams would be one that is not program centered but whatever activities did exit would have only one purpose – to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. The ministry is reaching the lost at any cost. It is going into all the world … each one-reaching one. The time the saints spend encouraging or comforting one another is maintenance and not ministry; it is not growing the church but simply maintaining what is already there.

This church of my dreams would be supernatural. Anything less and it would simply be another cultural group, social or community club. The church would walk in the power of God at all times.

The apostle Paul stated:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)The church of my dreams would walk in “the Spirit’s power” at all times. And the message proclaimed would not be some self-help message disguised as Bible truth but the basic gospel of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

The church of my dreams would be able to declare, like Paul, that:
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done — by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:18-19)

And, it would not just be the apostles and prophets who would be involved in these “signs and wonders” but the whole church actively winning the lost by ministering supernaturally on the streets and in the marketplace.

We would truly have “rivers of living waters” (John 7) flowing out to the surrounding community.

Bury the Sucker – “The Church of My Dreams” Part 5

As I preach here and overseas in Eastern Europe I often say that we should stop praying for revival. To revive means to breath life into that which is dead. If the Church is dead – do what you do with dead things – bury it. And, in this case, then pray for a resurrection. We don’t need a revival – we need an honest-to-goodness resurrection from spiritual death. Jesus said, “If a grain of wheat is planted and dies…”

To resurrect a spiritually dead church so that it becomes the church of my dreams three things need to happen according to Bill Easum…
1> The church needs a new pastor – either the current pastor experiences a personal resurrection or the church actually gets a new pastor.
2> Next is the resurrection of the leaders of the church either by transformation or replacement.
3> Finally, the church itself is resurrected and turned around through some tactical change.

Looking at all of that and both the time and the work it will take to resurrect a spiritually dead church (see my main web site – resources section – for what a spiritually dead church might look like) makes me wonder if it is simply not easier to walk down the street and start again. You know, get a few people born again and begin to work with people who have never known “church life,” “church as usual,” and are open to doing whatever the Holy Spirit tells them to do regardless. People willing to dream God’s dream.

This dream church would have the following main features:

1> The church would have an outward focus with its people spending more time with non-believers and in the community than going to church meetings and events
2> Jesus, not the institution, would be the object of affection for those who belong to this group
3> The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) would be the mandate or marching orders and they would measure everything they do by how many new converts they make rather than whether the finances were in the black
4> Membership in the Kingdom will be more important than membership in the church
5> The leader will cease being a chaplain of pastoral care and will become a modern-day equipper of the saints to do the work of the ministry (Ephesiand 4:11-15)
6> Those who try to control the church or intimidate the church at every turn of the road will be shown the door immediately

But then again this too will be hard work because this flies in the face of basic human nature which is selfish and self-centered. But, it appears to me to be less work than trying to resurrect a dead church unless it really wants to enter into new life.

Either way I would need first to focus on myself and my own spiritual walk with the Lord. If this is not renewed, refreshed, revived, resurrected and brimming with God’s life then neither resurrecting a spiritually dead church nor working with a group of new converts is going to be effective. The church of my dreams will never happen until I have had experienced a personal resurrection.

The Greenhouse Effect – “The Church of My Dreams” Part 4

The Church of my dreams (that is what we are talking about these days on my blog) would not be something out of this world or ‘other worldly.’ In fact, just the opposite. It would be something very real and very much in this world. It would be centred in the life of the community it would be serving and relating the gospel to the various aspects and expressions of that culture and life. In other words, it would be “in the world” and serious connecting to that world so that it could share the good news that Jesus saves in a way that those listening could understand and receive. This is not a compromise with the ways of the world. It is simply wise behaviour of those who are going to be “missionaries” (old word) or “apostolic” (new word).

I would not use the word “relevant” to describe this church. I would simply say it would be “real.” There has been too much religion that is disconnected from the culture it is trying to reach. Churches that come across unreal, unrealistic, and flakey – thus phoney. This church of my dreams would be relational and connected. It would be, to give it another descriptive word, “sticky.” It would not be a place unsaved people came to but a place that believers were sent out from to “stick to” others they are already connected to at work and in the community.

When the church of my dreams meets it would not seeker sensitive, sinner sensitive, user-friendly, or whatever the latest fade happens to be. I would not be focusing on the fruit – I would be focusing on the environment that produces the fruit. I would run the church of my dreams like a greenhouse where a believer can be planted, grow, develop, be discipled, trained, equipped, mentored, released … Then, each week, applying what they are learning (always practical, hands-on, interactive) in the greenhouse as they rapidly grow into maturity (a real key for this church – a failure for most today) they then “go into all their world and preach…” bringing the new converts (not the sinners) into the greenhouse environment where these spiritual babies can be fed and watered and sent out – with a terrifically short turn around time. The church of my dreams would not be a place where people came to get saved. It would be a place where believers come to grow and mature and rise up to change their world.

In this new church our focus would not be on the fruit – how many are being saved and brought into the Kingdom. Nothing wrong with counting numbers and recognizing the harvest for all the labor you are doing. And, really this is necessary because we need to know if we are still being effective and efficient and that is best determined by the number of new converts and the number of people who were baptized and entered into a discipling process. I would be focusing on the environment that produces fruit – not the fruit. I would let someone else do the counting.

Of course, this will mean changing the leadership culture of the new church. Just in passing – leaders (elders, deacons) would not be chosen for the first two years of public services – most likely 4 to 5 years into the work of building this new faith community. However the leaders chosen to lead would need to people of character. Thy would need to be tried and proven. And, they would need a number of disciplines… I will list them and maybe someday write individual blogs about them.
1> The discipline of self-awareness
2> The discipline of self-management (includes time management)
3> The discipline of self-awareness
4> The discipline of mission
5> The discipline of decision making
6> The discipline of belonging
7> The discipline of aloneness (solitude)

As you study the life of Jesus in the four Gospels these are the self-imposed disciples He had built into His life that allowed Him to accomplish all that His Father sent Him to do. These same qualities need to be found in and seen in each person who aspires to be a leader in the church of my dreams.

So, I would go into my world, get some people saved, meet to disciple them, building the group to a critical mass (numbers). While doing this I would be watching for those the Lord is pointing out are potential leaders (prophetic gifting – showing people’s potential and the opportunity the Lord is offering to them). I would begin (in year three) to focus on these “potential” leaders teaching them these seven disciples from the life of Jesus and do this to the best of my abilities. By year four or five, as they continue to grow in these diciplines and public services begin then they can begin to work with me in a leadership team as they learn the leadership skills necessary to lead people in this day and age.

And, I don’t believe I am day dreaming….and I and not from outer space or out of this world – or my mind for that matter.

Gospel Planting – The Dream Church – 3

In the past those of us interested in seeing new churches happen in a city or subdivision would start with a group of people who became the “charter members” and then open up shop and hold services expecting people to come. We called it church planting. I planted a number of them this way.

Several problems with this way of doing things…

1> We are called to “gospel plant” and not “church plant.” We need to do what we are called to do – “…go into all the world and preach the gospel…” Jesus will do what He said He would do – “I will build my Church.” (see a three part article on this under “Prophetic Sense” on my main wed site – coming soon. Or email me at ralph@ralphhoweministries.com with “Gospel Plant” in the subject line and I will send them to you be return email).

2> People will soimply not come. You may have a great product (we do – salvation) and a tremendous format to present that product – great worship, good preaching, wonderful children’s ministry. But, when you open your doors people will not be arriving in droves – in fact, next to no one if anyone will come.

So, you have a vivid imagination if you believe this is the way to plant a Church or even replant one that has been slowly getting smaller and smaller… It will end up a day dream and not a vision from God. In fact it will more likely be like something out of a science fiction movie of life from another planet. Not real but definitely “out of this world.”

To plant the “Church of my dreams” will take a totally different approach. It is not ‘top down’ but ‘bottom up’. You can no longer come in with a predetermined format, charter, by-laws and programming and hope people will come. It will require a ‘bottom up’ approach. You begin to relate to people in the area you hope to impact with the Gospel, as a trust level is built and people open up and begin to discuss spiritual issues with you – then you have opportunity to lead them to Jesus and disciple them. You continue to do this, meeting in a small group that hopefully continues to grow, until you have a critical mass to launch a local church. This can be as long as two to five years after you initially begin relating to your chosen target area.

Gospel planting, like any crop you plant, takes time and effort. Success will not happen overnight.
Gosepl planting doesn’t come cheaply. It demands significant sacrifice – difficult decisions, hard work and a lot of rejection.
Gospel planting requires patience and endurance – you need to be in this for the long haul.
Gospel planting requires that you read and study and come to know the people group you are working at influencing with the Gospel as well as coming to know and understand those things that are influencing and impacting their world as well.
Gospel planting means becoming involved in the community you want to serve.
Gospel planting means being in the world and understanding and relating to the world you are in.
Gospel planting is very relational and cannot take place if you are not spending a great deal of time with the people who are not born again.
Gospel planting requires you to work your network of people and be continually increasing the number of people in that network so that you have more and more fish to catch.
Gospel planting requires a very strong relationship with the Lord as well as good, solid spiritual disciplines.
Gospel planting allows the church to be an expression of those being saved and living in fellowship with one another – and not simply an imported McChurch franchise.

The Church of your dreams can become a nightmare if you are not aware from the start that we are gospel planting and that, out of that, a church will begin.

Going, Going, Gone – The Dream Church – 2

The spiritual DNA of my dream church would include ‘making disciples.’ Jesus told His followers – the original disciples – to go and reproduce. He told them to “go into all the world and make disciples...” (Matthew 28:19). They were to reproduce who they were so that the Church, as an organism, continued to grow. The disciples who followed Jesus in the pages of the Gospels knew right from the start that this was what the Church was to be about – winning the lost and discipling them in the faith. When Jesus called them to “follow Me” He told them right up front that He would mold them into “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). No doubt in their minds what they were to do.

In my dream church, if I were to plant it, every believer would be a soul winner. Every believer would be trained in and actively fishing. Every believer would be building relationships with the lost – talking to people, building trust, working at opening doors so they could talk about spiritual matters with others in the hope of leading them, in time, to Jesus. Every believer who attended the Church. They would be trained and equipped to do so from day one. Not interested in doing this – go find another church as this one is not for you. They must also be able and willing to disciple the new converts into the faith and to train them in evangelism as well. Duplicating themselves – making disciples.

For this to be a reality in the church of my dreams every new believer would need to be following Jesus. Sold out to the Master. Radical and ready to “go into all the world.” He is the Master Fisherman. Every believer would need to be allowing Jesus to make and to mold them into His image – a soul winner. Afterall, Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and commissions us to do the same with His authority (Matthew 28:18). He also empowers us to do the task He has established for us (Acts 1:8). He is reproducing Himself in us – and we are to reproduce who we are (disciples) in others. This would never be a matter of feelings – just simple obedience.

For this to be a reality I believe every believer would need to do the following:

1> Going to God and stay there until His heart becomes their heart. They need to share the heart for the lost that God the Father obviously has. “He so loved the world that He sent His Son…” (John 3:16) and every believer needs to experience that heart for the lost – that passion and focus. Their heart need to be broken with what breaks God’s heart – and that is the lost and the fact that thousands every minute go to hell for eternity.

2> Going into all the world doing what they always do daily in life but making every opportunity to share the Gospel and the night-and-day difference that Jesus has made and continues to make in their lives (1 Peter 2:9 The Message Version). This means they have taken the time to study the way Jesus evangelized and then personalized it for their own life and witness. This means reading about and understanding the culture in which they live and are trying to reach. This means being involved in the community and taking an interest in the lives of other people. This means connecting, building bridges, earning trust and respect, and being in the world but not of it. Not spectacular or spooky – just naturally supernatural. This will need to be daily and intentional.

3> Gone into ministry – every member of my dream church will need to understand that being a disciple of the Lord means that they are in ministry. Ministry is not something the Pastor does – it is something every believer is involved in. No spectators in my dream church. Every member is a minister. It is the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:9) that we became a part of when we are born again. And, the disciple would need to understand that their mission field is where they go every day to work and play and that they are being sent there by the Lord to be salt and light – an influence for the Kingdom and the King.

Going – going – gone!

However, here’s the problem and why this is part of my dream for my ideal church plant … Christian in the West have largely neglected what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The vast majority of western Christian are church-members, pew-fillers, hymn-singers, sermon-tasters, Bible-readers, even born again believers or Spirit-filled Charismatics, but not true disciples of Jesus. If we were willing to learn the meaning of true discipleship and actually become disciples, the church in the west would be transformed, and the resultant impact on society would be staggering. This is no idle claim. It happened in the first century.

The Church’s GPS – The Dream Church – 1

I have been thinking a bit recently of what I would want a new church plant to look like and how I would start one should I decide to do so. This is not something I do when day dreaming nor is it an academic pursuit. I am involved in several potential church plants and I am also interested in impacting today’s culture with the Gospel and so am studying what a leadership team needs to be like and what it needs to do to begin a local church that would quickly grow and even begin planting churches itself within 12 to 18 months of it’s own beginning.

So not something I am doing to pass the time of day as each day of my life is already more than full. It is something that, for me, is part of my calling as an apostle but also something the Lord has placed on my heart to do. I have been reading widely for almost two years and will continue to do so. I am in contact with some younger men who are already doing what I woud like to do – regretfully none of them from my own nation. I am now wanting to record some of my thoughts on “paper.” They will be written in no particular order but simply random thoughts. Please feel free to join in on my journey – as always there is a place for your comments below.

Some time ago I purchased a GPS for my car. I have yet found the time to install it but I am still planning to do so as soon as possible. Maybe have someone else do it – then it might even get done. It will soon be a priority as I travel more and more as we move into the fall and winter months and my work on the road increases.

Wikipedia: The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides reliable location and time information in all weather and at all times and anywhere on or near the Earth when and where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. It is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible by anyone with a GPS receiver.

If I were planting a new work for the Lord I would want to think ahead of time what “system” I would use to guide this new ‘vehicle for the Lord’ that was being planned. What would the GPS of this new local church soon to be a series of churches (a movement is what they call it officially) look like?

The GPS of my church, I think, could look like this:
G – Grow closer to God
P – Pursue relationships with others
S – Serve the world

The focus would not be those attending the church – their needs, wants, desires, likes and dislikes. I didn’t say that their needs would not be considered or that we would not be ministering to them … this would simply not be the focus of the local church – it would not be one of the guiding forces of the church. The church today is too often all about us and focused on the members already in attendance leaving little time to build bridges into the community. A fatal mistake. And, the people would be equipped to minister to each other (Ephesians 4:11-16) so that the leadership can stay focused on the GPS of the church and what they have been called to be and do for the Lord and the church can grow strong with each “joint” doing its part.

The focus for this church would be God and the need for every believer to be closely connectd to and in fellowship (partnership, social interaction, and participation) with the Holy Spirit. The daily walk with the Lord of each believer would be of utmost importance. Then the Lord can meet many of the needs and heal many of the hurts that will certainly need to be dealt with. And, all members can then minister as they should because all ministry arises out of relationship with the Lord.

The church from its very inception would be focused on the believers actively and intentionally pursuing relationships with their neighbors, friends, family members and those they work with – non-believers who need to come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This means the structure of the local church would be very, very limited as would the programming. This church would not have it’s members so involved in the activities and committees of the body that they did not have time to reach out and build bridges into the community. Reaching the lost through building relationships would always be the prime emphasis of this new church and so Christian activities demanding the attention and attendance of believers every week would be severely limited.

Thirdly – the church would look for places to serve others – places that already existed. The Food Bank, the Rescue Mission … whatever existed locally where they could serve and touch lives. This new church would not reinvent the wheel or set up ministries where similar ministries already existed and were functioning and meeting needs. Members would simply jump in and serve within these other ministries, touching lives and impacting their world – looking for opportunities to share the Gospel and thus win the lost to the Lord so as to then disciple the new believers. Of course, if a believer is being led to do something and that specific ministry is not happening in the city – then they are released to develop that ministry as part of their vision for ministry with the full support of the local church. However, the leaders will not initiate nor plan and organize this new venture.

A quick overview of my “general” GPS structure if I were to begin a new work for the Lord in the world in which we now find ourselves.

The Slow Decline

Today the Christian and the Christian Church is facing a number of social and cultural issues

These are really moral issues that we need to personally understand and even speak into

The Christian Church – you as a believer – should be influencing our society and culture

Impacting people with the truth of the Bible and thus helping guide people through these moral issues

Some of these issues are older ones – others are relatively new to us here in North America

  • Abortion – the worship of the Old testament God called Moloch
  • Legalized marijuana
  • Same-sex marriages Read more

Grace Givers

We have begun to look at grace – God’s grace.
It was the way in which we were saved from the pit of hell and placed upon the solid rock – Jesus

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

This “salvation” brought us into a relationship with God the Father

the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  – Romans 6:23b

John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

 

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Grace is Risky!

YOU KNOW YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND GRACE WHEN YOU:

Worry that your day might not go too well because you missed your morning quiet time

Feel sheepish asking God for something when you’ve just blown it and did what you knew not     to do

Feel guilty and condemned

Assume that 1 John 1:9 no longer applies to you because you’ve confessed the same sin so many times, you’ve used up all your credits

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Blessing Upon Blessing

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day thought they were something really special

Jews – God’s chosen people

They themselves were leaders of the Jews

…Top of a very important pile

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