The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Twelve

When Jesus was planning His Church – the one that He is currently building – He made some powerful and phenomenal statements. One of them is found in John 14:12

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

This is a specific time when Jesus was talking with His disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would be sent after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. He would be “another Comforter,” Jesus being the original Comforter or Great Shepherd of the sheep. 

We read verses like the one quoted above and slide right past it often without giving it much thought. However, Jesus is speaking to His future Church leaders and is laying a foundational understanding of the Church and what it will be able to do and accomplish. So, what did Jesus mean?

Was He saying that the anointing of the Holy Spirit on us would be stronger than it was on Him? Yes! But the key is why it would be stronger.

The Spirit’s anointing on us is not stronger in quality than it was on Jesus. After all, He was sinless. And, as a result, His relationship with the Holy Spirit of God was totally unhindered. So how will the Spirit’s anointing on our lives enable us to do greater things than Jesus did?

We will do greater things, not because of the quality of the Spirit in select ones among us, but because of the quantity of the Spirit spread throughout all of us. Remember, Jesus is talking to and about His Church – the people of God. The Spirit of God does not rest on just one individual, as we observe in Jesus. No, the Spirit of God rests on every disciple of Jesus who has been born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit. And, because of this empowerment of the Spirit (see Acts 1:8) all across the community of faith, we can see greater things than anyone ever saw in the ministry of Jesus. 

Let’s speak for a minute about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (Father, Son, ad Holy Spirit). He was released upon the Church on the Day of Pentecost – the birthday of the Church at the very beginning. This story is told in the book of Acts, chapter two.

But, let’s step back a bit. When a person is born again the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us. We say, “would you like to receive Jesus and be born again?” We say, “Jesus now lives in your heart” after a person becomes born again. Neither of these statements is true. When we are born again it is the Holy Spirit who comes in to live within us. 

Jesus appears to His disciples post-resurrection. The story is recorded in John, chapter twenty. The Word states, “…when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” This was the point in time when the original disciples were born again. Until this time Jesus had not died and so there was absolutely no way to be forgiven and born again. There had been no shedding of blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). After His death and resurrection there is now a way to be forgiven and receive eternal life. This was their born again experience. 

Jesu, at a later date, says to His disciples, “I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) This promise was made through the prophet Joel (chapter 2). This would be when the Holy Spirit comes upon them on the Day of Pentecost – the birthday of the Church as we read in Acts, chapter 2. So, the Holy Spirit is “in” us when we become born again and then comes “upon” us and empowers us when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit. They were to wait for that second encounter with the Spirit before heading out into “all the world to make disciples.”

The purpose of this empowerment and enablement is that we can the be a witness for Him in every nation in the world. Acts 1:8a states, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses…” As we – the Church – move in this power “great and greater things will you do.”

This is the meaning of Jesus’ comment to His disciples in John 14:12 …“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

The Church is an amazing organism that is to take the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14)  to the ends of the Earth and demonstrate that this Gospel is true by doing powerful miracle, signs, and wonders (see 1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

This is the Church that Jesus is building.

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Eleven

Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciple…” (Matthew 28:19)

This was His last command to His people before ascending into Heaven and sending the Holy Spirit to empower us to do what He has commanded (Acts 1:8). 

Jesus said, “If you love Me you will obey My commandments…” (Matthew 14:15)

So, we can say, as individual believers and as a church family, that we love Jesus. We can raise our hands in worship during a service and tell Him how much we really love Him… But, words are cheap and we are deceiving ourselves. If we are not obeying His command to “go into all the world and make disciples…” then we really don’t love Him. We are deceiving ourselves and really not fooling anyone.

The Church – the people who call themselves disciples of Jesus – have only one task. Want to guess what it is?

It is not coming together to hear a good teaching from God’s Word.

It is not to pray for the needs of people.

It is not to minister to the needs and hurts of those who come to our local church.

It is not to sing with others as a love offering to the Lord.

It is not to fellowship with other believers.

It is not to live perfect lives – a high standard of ‘holiness.’

It is not to give our tithes and offerings for the continuing work of the Church.

It is not to have our own needs met by others – especially the pastor.

It is not to be seen so as to maintain a good image in the community of faith.

It is not to have a ministry and/or be recognized for your ministry.

The Church has one task and one task only – to go into all the world and make disciples; baptizing them; teaching them; and releasing them to become the labourers in the many nations that need workers in the harvest field. 

Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 9:37-38 “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

All the other things may help us to become mature, strong, and reproducing believers. But, they are just a means to an end and should never be considered an end in themselves. We have only one task – Go as workers into harvest fields around the world and make disciples; work with them until they are strong and are themselves released into the world to make more disciples. It really is simple – reproduce ourselves in the nations of the world.

Let’s note something. The Church – that is you are I – are called to “go into all the world.” Yes, you are to build relationships locally in your neighbourhood so as to show the love of Christ to non-believers. Yes, you are to share God’s love with people you meet at home, at work, and at play. But, God has also called you to “go into all the world.” So, you must also plan to take what are often called “mission trips” to areas where the Gospel of the Kingdom has never been heard and the Name of Jesus is not known.

Oh, it is good to go to another nation and help building projects reach completion. But, this is not what changes lives – your life or that of non-believers. You are called to build people and not build buildings. So, you need to regularly “go into all the world” and share the love of God and the Gospel. Otherwise, you have not obeyed the Great Commission – the commandment that Jesus left for His Church to obey. You may rationalize that you are doing what He said to do but your neighbourhood and city (town) is absolutely not “all the world” and building buildings is not “making disciples.”

We need to change what we are doing as the Church. We need to focus on the expansion of the Kingdom and reaching every people group (ethnicity) in the world today that have yet to hear and embrace the Gospel of the Kingdom. Nothing less will do if we truly are Christians and belong to His Church. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Ten

Last time as we spoke of replanting the church we briefly talked about the need to involve an apostle as they are essential and foundational to the effective and successful replanting of a local congregation. 

Paul the apostle wrote, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”   (1 Corinthians 12:28)

With an apostle as the lead in the replant (or a new church plant) you are working biblically and beginning to pour a new foundation for the replant or repairing the old foundation if it is still  viable and functional. 

In the church replant I am involved in (In the United States) as soon as the replant began we rewrote the constitution so as to remove the non-biblical governing structure as well as other elements and approved the new apostolic structure. With this major change and a number of other important but more minor changes we are working to repair the old foundation upon which we can then replant.

In a major Canadian city where, as an apostle, I am planting a new work for the Lord we are slowly considering what the foundation should look like as we build relationally and see new people come to the Lord. We are not in a hurry to pour the foundation. We are simply relating to young university and college students working to find the “lay of the land” and sort through who we are and who God wants us to be. Then we can begin to determine the foundation. But it will be apostolic.

In neither of these two cases is there a functioning pastor. Please note, the term “pastor” does not appear in 1 Corinthians 12:28. In the early Church the lead in the team was never a pastor. In fact, in each of the many churches represented in and written to in the New Testament, none of them were lead by a solo ‘pastor.’ They were all led by apostles, James in Jerusalem, Timothy in Ephesus, Apollos in Corinth, and on the list could go. Paul clearly states, “First apostles…” and then the apostle builds the teams that he needs. The first team are usually other fivefold ministers from outside the local assembly. This way, right from the start, the church can have the fullness of the ministry of Christ (more on that in a minute). And, as people are brought into the Kingdom, the apostle can raise up a local leadership team of “elders.”

The outside, trans-local team consists of five different ministries. When Jesus was ministering in Galilee before His death and resurrection He fulfilled five different ministries. He was the apostle of our faith; He was a prophet without honour in His own hometown; He was an evangelist as he shared the Gospel with people like the woman at the well in Sycar; He was the Great Shepherd of the sheep; and He went about teaching everywhere He went. Upon His ascension into Heaven He gave these five ministries to a number of different people. 

Ephesians 4:10-12 “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

So, to have the fullness of the ministry of Christ in a local church plant or replant we need to bring these five ascension ministries into the local church to minister to the church from within their calling and anointing. If we have a solo leader we do not and cannot have the fullness of Christ’s ministry.

The word “pastor” appears here in Ephesians 4:11 and no where else in the New Testament. And, this reference is to a fivefold ministry team member who is a pastor. It is not referencing a local pastor as God’s plan for His Church never included a local pastor. The word “pastor” simply does not appear in 1 Corinthians 12:28 or anywhere else except here in reference to the fivefold ministry.

When a church is planted or replanted with an apostle as the leader – the church will be apostolic. The people will be taught to win the lost and “… go into all the world and make disciples.” The pastoral care for these new believers will be done by the believers themselves. The fivefold pastor will come in and teach the new believers how to love, care, accept, forgive, and love one another. There are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament and no one person can fulfill all 59 for each and every member of the church. However, as Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 12, the body can minister to the body. So, the fivefold pastor comes in and teaches the people how to be pastoral and they then care for one another.

Meanwhile the main emphasis of the local replant is not “pastoral care” because they are not led by a pastor. The main emphasis is apostolic- the sheep are cared for and ‘pastored’ by each other (with a local elder in oversight) so that they are healthy and strong as they “go into all the world.” They will be the “sent ones” or an apostolic people as God designed the Church to be and not a ‘pastoral people’ who simply sit, receive and maintain what already exists. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Nine

For a replant to work the key leaders must be strong. There are many historical and traditional forces at work in a local church. There is a theological foundation upon which the church was founded. There are cultural and relational issues that need to be considered. So, a strong leader or leadership team will be needed to face the reality that the local church has reached the “retire” stage and is well into the downward decline towards death. 

However, with strong leadership and a sensitive and proper understanding of what was and what is change can happen and the church can once again become healthy and start to grow. As well, the leader needs to have a new vision of what can be. These are the ingredients that we have to work with as we replant the local church. We build on who we were, we take an honest look at who we are right now, and we cast the vision for who we can be with God’s help and guidance. We do not abandon our heritage and theological tradition. We build upon it recognizing God’s faithful over the previous decades and  aware of His guidance in the present.

The key ingredient in all of this is outreach or evangelism. For a dying church to become healthy the members must take their eyes off of their current situation and look to the community in which they are located. This is not always easy as the main focus of those remaining is usually to “man the ship” and keep it afloat. So, they focus on internal matters and ministering to each other. If this remains the key emphasis then the church will continue a slow but gradual decline into the grave. 

The leaders must refocus the members of the church so that they come to understand that the church exists to serve and win those who do not know Jesus. The reason they are in the death cycle is that they have ceased to relate to and interact with their surrounding community. And, they have lost their love for the lost. This focus and love must be reestablished as quickly as possible in the replanting process. 

So, in a replant the emphasis must be The Great Commission. The believers must come to understand that they are ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of the Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5). They must come to see themselves as people who can influence and impact their community one life, one person, at a time. They must begin to reach out to their unsaved neighbours, friends, and family members with the Gospel of the Kingdom by building relationally with them. Only as this passion for the lost – based in love for Jesus and obedience to His command – is reestablished as an important part of the DNA of the local church family is there any hope that the replant will be successful. As long as the focus of the people remaining is inward the replant will not be successful.

What this means is that the local church must stop being pastoral in its approach and become apostolic in its basic nature. The word “apostle” means ‘sent one.’ So, the church needs the foundational ministry of the apostle so that the church becomes apostolic.

Ephesians 2:19-20 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…”

The ministry of the apostle is to teach God’s people to be outwardly focused so they become ‘the sent ones.’ The apostle will be in touch with the people in the community whom the church is working to reach. Knowing what they believe, how they think, and their perspective on life and the church. He will be aware of what the Holy Spirit is currently doing in a local community and how the people of the church can plug in to the community ‘where it is at.’ He will train them in living a life that is focused and centred on others who do not know Jesus. As a result, he is a foundational ministry to the replant. The Scriptures even state that he must come “first” in the planting or replanting of a church. 

1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”

The apostle will equip the saints for the work of the ministry. The ministry of the church is to the unsaved. He will lead them in becoming Great Commission minded and active. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Eight

There is such a thing in Christian leadership and church life as replanting a church. In the western world there is a need for new churches. In some cases existing churches must multiply and plant new churches from scratch. In other cases, existing churches must and should be revitalized – in essence, they must be ‘replanted.’

The work of replanting or revitalization an existing or dying church is very challenging. Maybe even more challenging than planting a new church from scratch. In a replant the leader is often confronted with mounting debt, falling attendance, a damaged reputation in the community, spiritual lethargy, and long standing turf wars that have distracted the leadership from the true work of outreach, care, and evangelism. 

To replant a church requires a strong leader with vision, steely conviction, and foremost patient reliance on God’s faithfulness. 

It is undeniable that churches evolve over time. Over the life of a church, neighbourhoods can change, leadership can expand and even fail, theological trends can take hold, unity can be lost, and splits can occur. Throughout all of this turmoil, congregations (local churches) frequently become inward-focused and often obsessed with maintaining the status quo. If not dealt with this will lead to the death of the local church. 

Well-meaning members lose sight of their roles as servants and become increasingly focused on controlling the very church they are called to serve. When a serving heart is replaced by a controlling heart, division is bound to ensue. And, when selfish division lies unchallenged, areas of ministry and service become turfs to be defended, and brothers and sisters in Christ become opponents and obstacles to individual accomplishment. This would describe accurately a church I am currently working with in the United States that has now reached the point of needing to be replanted.

When a church reaches this stage in its history and life-cycle it is time to either shut the doors and walk away or it is time to replant. 

The typical life-cycle of a local church is as follows… A replant would need to begin between “retire” and “old age.” Any later and it is too late. Note the key describing the letters beside each stage…

 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Seven

During a visit to Ohio a week or so ago the pastor of the church I was working with spoke on the Sunday morning about apostolic ministry and the life of the church. In the midst of his excellent teaching he mentioned the stages in the life of the local church. His reference was a church growth expect of years past by the name of Lyle Schaller. I have been giving some thought to these stages as well as the full teaching by the pastor who is also an apostle.

The following are not Dr. Schaller’s stages but they are the stages of the life of a church as I understand them – close to his but slightly different and named differently I am sure. 

So, how to Know the Life Cycle of Your Church

And, do you know the life cycle of the church that you are a part of?

Church health and church growth (or lack of it) is an interesting area to study. Even more interesting to apply and be on the front lines of the life and growth of a local church. 

The church is not an organization; it is a spiritual organism.  It has a life somewhat like that of a human being.  There is a life cycle that every local church goes through. This is not an original idea that I came up with. However, as I have studied what others had to say about the growth and life of a church, I am discovering that many Christians ignore the life cycle of their fellowship.

Some congregations will cease to exist this year.  Some fellowships will not live for another five years.  Why is this the case?  To understand the Life Cycle of a Church here are a few points that may help you out as you examine your fellowship.

Timeline

The best place to start in understanding your local church is to understand the timeline of your church.  When was your Church born?  How long has it been around?  Do you have any statistical information on attendance, membership, conversion rates, loss of members, finances, etc..?  This information will be necessary to have a clear understanding of the “life of a congregation.”

Life Cycle of Churches

1.  Birth Stage

When was your congregation started?  Why was your congregation started?  Was your church a “split” from another church?  Was your church a mission?  Was your church a new church?  Understanding why your church was started will give you a great idea as to what made up the character  and DNA of your fellowship.

2.  Growth Stage

This is a time in the life of the church when changes and expansion are taking place.  What have been the growth patterns of your fellowship?  Have you been growing numerically?  Have you been growing spiritually?  Have you been growing as a missionary church?  Have your visions and your goals for your fellowship shown a definite purpose?  Are you growing at all?

3.  Comfort Stage

This is when things seem to settle down for the church.  This is the stage where a congregation has lost their desire for new visions and goals.  Everyone seems happy with the way things are.  This is the starting point for church decline.

4.  Plateau and Decline Stage

This is the stage where a church finds themselves in trouble.  In a declining congregation attendance begins to decrease, the vision has been lost, and surviving is what it is all about.

5.  Survival Stage

This is a time in the life of the church when “keeping your head above water” is a well-known phrase.  How much longer will it be before the fellowship turns the light switch off for the very last time? Or, puts the “for sale” sign up on the front lawn?

6.  Living Dead Stage

This congregation is dead, and they don’t even know it.  They have become spiritual zombies.  Even if a strong pastor with great vision and an energetic personality comes along, it is vertically impossible to bring this fellowship up and out of their grave.

7. Decision Stage

At this point you have to make a decision. De we bury the church? After all, if the horse is dead, dismount. Or, do we start with a fresh vision and a new dream and replant the church?

More on replanting next time…

It is not impossible for the Lord to do great and amazing things in any fellowship.  After all, the scripture teaches us that the Lord Jesus gives sight to the blind, heals the leper and gives life to the dead.  

The key for a church to have a vibrant life is when Jesus is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is driving the church to a healthy future.

What is the life cycle of your fellowship?

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Six

The Church that Jesus is building will not look much like the church we now see functioning in our local neighbourhood. So much of what happens in most local churches – especially on a Sunday – is not biblical and is often not even godly. So much of the world’s way has slowly crept in to the life and structure of the church over the centuries – even recently. And, even elements from the domain of darkness have entered in to our Corporate Christian life and are accepted as normal and correct. 

As the Bible states, “So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quiet plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.”         (Hebrews 12:25-27 The Message Version)

The problem, of course, is that we are comfortable and very familiar with a lot of this clutter and religious baggage. And, as a result, the foundational truths are often buried deep underneath and no longer thought about or even noticed. And, as a result, we have accepted many teachings that are not in line with the buried foundational basics. And, change is never easy for any of us because it means we have to “change.” Change is hard work and throwing out things we thought were biblical and right can be painful to say the least. But, we are in a season of “purging.” 

One of my daughters regularly “purges” her home. She says that if something has not been used in the past 6 months then she tosses it. Maybe that is a bit extreme for some people but it does bring you back to the basics and the things that are needed to have a healthy home and family. It allows a person or a family to “travel light.” And, travelling light emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually is essential if we are going to move into the next season coming upon the Church. Of course it is much easier to purge a household of physical baggage and junk that is no longer used or needed than it is to purge your own heart, soul, and mind. But personal purging is so much more essential and important.

Purging as a person means searching your heart and soul to see what is in there that should not be. You know, things like unforgiveness, resentment, offences, bitterness. Two big ones not always looked for because they are part of our normal life and the way we operate – judgmentalism and rejection. We judge and reject people who do not fit our mould. We judge and reject thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that make us uncomfortable or nervous. We judge and reject lifestyles that we are not comfortable with or disagree with. Clothing that others wear, tattoos, piercings, sexual preferences, lifestyle choices (alcohol, drugs, smoking), and on the list may go. 

And, needless to say, purging of wrong beliefs is even more difficult because often the ‘error’ is harder to find. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit who guides us into al truth it is more than possible and doable. It means going through (in your mind) the things that you believe and assume are biblical. Then checking your beliefs and values to the New Testament to see if they truly are biblical – tossing what is “historical and religious junk.” The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and a mature believer or two can help you with this task.

As you change the Church changes – because you are the Church. 

Again, change is not easy – but it is essential if we hope to stay in step with the Holy Spirit personally and corporately as the Church that Jesus is changing and building to step into the next season that will soon be upon us..  

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Five

A number of thoughts about the Church I see today in the nations where I work…

1> One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the Church

We are keeping the Christians so busy with all the good things going on in and around the church building that they don’t have time to breath. They are so active that “being still and know that I am God” is simply a verse in the Bible and not a living reality. Believers are so engaged in church activities and relating to each other that they are not building relationships with non-believers in their neighbourhood, where they work, and where they play. 

As a result, they live insulted, secure, and safe lives. As a result, they fail to reach out and share the Gospel of the Kingdom. As a result, people are not coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ – disciples are not making disciples. As a result, we are out-of-touch with the world we are suppose to impact. As a result, people misunderstand who we are and what we stand for in the world today. 

We need to release believers to engage in their world and become light and salt as the Bible states we are to be.

2> The Gospel that saves us from work saves us to work

We are saved by grace through faith and not by any ‘works’ that we might do and accomplish (Ephesians 2:8-9). But, once saved, there is work that we are called to do for Jesus. These tasks are unique to each one of us and have been set out for us since before the foundation of the world itself.  

Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

A believer without a ministry to the unsaved is not a true believer. There is too much that passes as ministry in the Church. Really what we do for one another in the church is not ministry , it is maintenance. Ministry, true ministry, happens outside the church enclave. And every person that is saved needs to pick up a ministry to the lost. 

3> The Word does the work

When I was saved 42 years ago there was a cute but true saying. It was, “The Word works if you work it.” I believed that back then and still do today.

We are saved by the Word of God. 1 Peter 1:23 states, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…”

The Bible also states that the Word of God is living and active working to change each believer. Change them from the inside out. Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

So, my point, the Word does the work. 

4> Building the right church depends on using the wrong people

God chooses some very odd people to build His Church. Paul reminds us of this when he wrote to the Church in the city of Corinth. 

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 “But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all (of no value) is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important.”

God uses ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. God uses people who are very down to earth (natural) to do the supernatural. God uses those who are not super intelligent to confound the wise in their earthly wisdom. 

God rescues those who are losers and makes them winners for His Kingdom.

5> We are living – and longing – for the end of the world

We are living for the ‘end.’ So, we are longing for and praying that Jesus will come back soon…

1 Corinthians 16:22 “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Come Lord, come!”

ASV – “If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maranatha.”

Our lifestyle should indicate that we are living as those who believe the end could be near.

We are not ‘in love with the things of this world’ but live in such a way that our lifestyle shows others our love for the Master and each other – including the lost.

And, we are telling others about the wonderful news of the Gospel of the Kingdom because we know that every person on the planet must hear the good news before the end can come and Jesus returns…

Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

6> We are selfless followers of a self-centred God

We need to decide what life is all about. As believers we should live selfless lives as we worship and serve our loving heavenly Father – our God.

Are we willing to lose our lives or are we busy sipping our lattes?

Will be serve our God – the God who exalts God?

You know, God does not need us 

The reality is: Our God is a self-existent, self-sustaining, self-sufficient God

He does not need me

He does not need this church

He does not need you

He does not need our plans, programs, prayers, love

The truth is that without all that we have created and do – God can still make a great name for Himself upon the nations

God does not involve its in His grand, global purpose because He needs us

He involves us in His grand, global purpose because He loves us. 

So, we are selfless followers of a self-centred God because He created everything for His glory.

1> One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the Church

2> The Gospel that saves us from work saves us to work

3> The Word does the work

4> Building the right church depends on using the wrong people

5> We are living – and longing – for the end of the world

6> We are selfless followers of a self-centred God

I feel a sermon coming on….

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Four

There is such a confusion in the Church today about what we are to believe and why. As I work with young people in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) it is obvious that both believers and non-believers have a lot of confusion about what we, the Christians and followers of Jesus, really believe and why we believe it.

A lot of the confusion comes because we are mixing Old Testament and New Testament together as if they were equally important for our walk with the Lord and our maturity as believers. Because of the amount of teaching rooted in the Old Testament we have people believing for things that were only promised to Israel of old – God’s people back then. Christians are being taught to live by Old Testament principles and laws that were for Israel and not for God’s chosen people today – the Church. 

Two nights ago as our church plant met in Toronto I received a message asking me about “blessings and curses.” This, of course, is found in Deuteronomy 28 but is referring to the ground rules that the Israelites were to follow as they lived for their God in the wilderness and then in their Promised Land. It is not something for Jesus followers today because Jesus died on the cross and removed the curse from those who believe. The Old Covenant was completed and fulfilled by Jesus during His brief life on our planet. He stated, “It is finished” as He hung on the cross and died for our sins. The Law is finished – we are living under grace and take our clues for life from the New Testament. 

Believers today are mixing Old Testament and New Testament together and ending up with confusion. The Old is a record of God’s interaction with the Jewish nation. It is the OLD Covenant. We are the Church, God’s chosen people today. And, our Scripture (inspired writings) are the 27 books of the NEW Testament. The Old Testament is good for a historical understand of God’s interaction with the human race. It also contains the prophetic voices that forecast the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus. So, it is important as background and history. And, it is inspired. But, we are living in New Testament times and should focus on reading and living the New Testament writings.

Paul said it clearly when he said, “…but we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and “I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2). If anyone could have preached from the Old Testament it was Paul. He was a Pharisee and well versed in all of the Old Testament writings. But, as a believer and leader in the Church, he chose to preach Christ.

This is our message. And, we need to go back to teaching on the King and His Kingdom; the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14). 

Joshua and the people of Israel walked around Jericho every day for a week. The seventh day they walked around seven times, shouted, and the walls came down. So, now leaders tell us to walk around our city and pray so that spiritual walls will fall and the city can be taken for Jesus. Really! God spoke those specific directions to a specific people at a specific time and place. He did not speak them to the Church. No where in the New Testament do you see the believers walking around their cities.

God said to His people that they were to fast and pray, humble themselves and that He would heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Christian preachers teach on this all the time and have their people fast, pray, humble themselves … But those words were not spoken to the Church. They were spoken to God’s people, Israel, and are not for today. They are not a current promise that the Church, believers today, can glibly pull out of context, claim, and confess as a promise that God made to them. Nope. Not real!

And on and on the example could go. Let’s preach Christ and Him crucified. Let’s live in the New Testament – the book for the Church as it is the New Covenant made between God and followers of Jesus. Let’s stop confusing believers and non-believers alike. Let’s get back to the basics and watch what will happen as people discover the bare and basic resurrection power of Jesus without all the “religious” trappings. 

Rise up Church and be the Church!

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Three

A friend of mine moved to a city north of where I live and took over a struggling Spirit-filled church. He is a good leader and he quickly built a new leadership team to help him as the church began a tough journey to becoming healthy.

He made a lot of changes – the music, the worship, the preaching, the way things function. He dreamed and cast vision and then worked hard to bring things into line with that new vision. He successfully transitioned the church and it began to grow. And, he added a new Saturday night service for the youth. Those that are known as Millennials (born between 1980 – 2000). They are a generation that is less ‘religious’ then previous generations and although interested in the supernatural and often believing in Jesus, they have little interest in or use for the church. See the notes at the end.

As time went on the Saturday evening service began to see substantial growth. Very similar in format and in preaching content to the Sunday morning service. However, a little livelier, a little louder, more informal, with an opportunity to discuss the teaching after the basic content was presented. As this new service began to grow it soon saw several hundred in attendance. It was amazing. New life for an older church; growth where there had been a steady decline in numbers; life and optimism replacing the pessimistic outlook of previous years. Saturday night became the key service for this church as it reinvented itself.

I asked a number of Millennials why they attended the Saturday services on a regular basis. Their answer did not surprise me. The stated two reasons: First, they came to be with others their own age to talk and relate. The world would call this building relationships. We would call this fellowship. Second, there was good quality coffee available in a relaxed setting where people could simply drink coffee and talk. No mention of the worship – which was better than good. No mention of the teaching – which was engaging, relevant, and on topic for Millennials. Fellowship with like-minded, same-age group and good coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. Hum! Starbucks with a spiritual overtone.

When pressed about the music and worship they all agreed it was better than good, in fact, some thought it was amazing. When questioned about the teaching of the lead pastor – again, everyone thought that he did an amazing job presenting truth and engaging their hearts and minds. But, they came for the coffee and the fellowship. 

My point: The message we preach does not change. However, we need to be in touch with the current trends in our culture and society. Then, address the never-changing message to them in a viable, relevant, understandable way being sensitive to their understanding and approach to life and the Christian faith. 

If we are going fishing for wide-mouth bass we use different bait then we would use to catch a walleye. So, we need to be aware of who we are trying to reach, what they believe, how they view life, and what the key elements of their social relationships are. Then, we use the right bait – the appropriate methods – to present the never-changing message of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

This is what my friend did when moving to an older church in a mid-sized city and he successfully touched a generation seeing many come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Wikipedia states…  

Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, are the generational demographic cohort following Generation X and preceding Generation Z. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years. Millennials are sometimes referred to as “echo boomers” due to a major surge in birth rates in the 1980s and 1990s, and because millennials are often the children of the baby boomers. Although millennial characteristics vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions, the generation has been generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.

Peter Pan generation: American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labeled millennials as the Boomerang Generation or Peter Pan generation, because of the members’ perceived tendency for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than most generations before them. These labels were also a reference to a trend toward members living with their parents for longer periods than previous generations.[146] Kimberly Palmer regards the high cost of housing and higher education, and the relative affluence of older generations, as among the factors driving the trend.[147] Questions regarding a clear definition of what it means to be an adult also impacts a debate about delayed transitions into adulthood and the emergence of a new life stage, Emerging Adulthood. A 2012 study by professors at Brigham Young University found that college students were more likely to define “adult” based on certain personal abilities and characteristics rather than more traditional “rite of passage” events.[148] Larry Nelson noted that “In prior generations, you get married and you start a career and you do that immediately. What young people today are seeing is that approach has led to divorces, to people unhappy with their careers … The majority want to get married […] they just want to do it right the first time, the same thing with their careers.”[148] Their expectations have had a dampening effect on millennials’ rate of marriage.

Religion: In the U.S., millennials are the least likely to be religious when compared to older generations.[158] There is a trend towards irreligion that has been increasing since the 1940s.[159] 29 percent of Americans born between 1983 and 1994 are irreligious, as opposed to 21 percent born between 1963 and 1981, 15 percent born between 1948 and 1962 and only 7 percent born before 1948.[160] A 2005 study looked at 1,385 people aged 18 to 25 and found that more than half of those in the study said that they pray regularly before a meal. One-third said that they discussed religion with friends, attended religious services, and read religious material weekly. Twenty-three percent of those studied did not identify themselves as religious practitioners.[161] A Pew Research Center study on millennials shows that of those between 18–29 years old, only 3% of these emerging adults self-identified as “atheists” and only 4% self-identified as “agnostics“. Overall, 25% of millennials are “Nones” and 75% are religiously affiliated.[162]

Over half of millennials polled in the United Kingdom in 2013 said they had “no religion nor attended a place of worship”, other than for a wedding or a funeral. 25% said they “believe in a God“, while 19% believed in a “spiritual greater power” and 38% said they did not believe in God nor any other “greater spiritual power”. The poll also found 41% thought religion was “the cause of evil” in the world more often than good.[163] The British Social Attitudes Survey found that 71% of British 18–24 year-olds were not religious, with just 3% affiliated to the once-dominant Church of England.[164]