Youth – Part One

God is interested in young people. And, in my ministry I work with young people between the ages of 16 to 36 everywhere that I go. In fact, many of the team members now coming with me on overseas trips are in their late teens and early twenties. They are an amazing asset to the ministry and I enjoy working with them immensely.

Young people today are looking for acceptance in the Church. Often they don’t feel accepted because they are treated as “kids.” Teenagers today are much more mature and wise in the ways of the world than previous generations. They see life and engage with life at a level that previous generations never did and, in many ways, still don’t. They are looking for meaning, purpose, and something to invest their lives in. And, the Church needs to notice them, work to understand them, and integrate them into the life and finer of the Church in a meaningful and challenging way.

God has always interacted with young people … and there are many examples of this in the Scriptures. A few include:

Joseph (the guy with the coat of many colours) who received two prophetic visions or dreams of his future role for God. He became a leader in Egypt and saved his people from starvation.

Joshua was just a young man when first chosen by Moses to be discipled and mentored and eventually released to lead God’s people into the Promised Land after the death of Moses.

Daniel was used by God as a teenager in the Babylonian Empire as he interpreted the dreams of the ruler and as he received many visions regarding the end times – viewed now on the same level as John the apostle’s Book of Revelation.

Jeremiah was chosen before he was conceived in his mother’s womb and became a prophet while still very young – a teenager. God even had to remind him, “Do not say, I am only a youth…” (Jeremiah 1:7a)

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was in her middle teens when she became pregnant through the work of the Holy Spirit. She was used mightily by the Lord and was a vital part of the early Church.

Timothy was a young man discipled and mentored by Paul and he became an apostle and did some amazing work in the city of Ephesus and elsewhere in his early years of life.

The list could go on … but, my point is that God used and uses young people and we need to not neglect the amazing asset that young people are in the Church today.

And, the young people need to not let the Church and church leaders just brush them off, ignore them, entertain them, or keep them from being a part of the ministry and the leadership of the Church. Young people need to stand up and be noticed.

Paul’s comment to Timothy bears repeating: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

More next time….

 

Such a Precious Gift – Time

Maybe it is because I have reached 70 years of age but I have been valuing my time more and more recently. I feel great, am in good health, still keep active, and work hard in a variety of ministries that the Lord has called me to. But, I must admit, I don’t have the strength nor the stamina that I use to have 40 years ago when I first met Jesus and was born again. I am thankful to have reached this age and to be in decent health and still actively engaged with God’s people and reaching out to the lost on a daily basis.

However, I realized many years ago that there are three things I can do with my time – with every day that the Lord gives to me to live for Him. I can waste it, I can spend it, or I can invest it. I can’t “save time” keeping it for later in the week or later in my life. I can’t “create” more time as the Lord has numbered each person’s days. I can either waste it, spend it, or invest it. I have, in the past, done al three. Over a decade ago I decided to no longer waste time. Now, I am at the point in my life that I am no longer willing simply to spend time. I want to invest the limited time that the Lord is blessing me with.

I work in many nations and in many places in North America. I am involved in many ministries and do a lot of discipling and mentoring. This involves face-to-face time with people and ministries as well as much computer time working on communicating through various channels now available to us. It is amazing work that I am honoured to do for the Lord. But, I digress.

Within the wide range of ministries and churches there are believers who are doing great things for God. They are wrestling with concepts and ideas about the Kingdom and the Church. They are moving forward in their walk with the Lord. They are ministering to the lost. They have open hearts and obedient wills and follow the Lord with great zeal and passion. They are investing their time in the Kingdom and in the plans and purposes of God for their lives, ministries, and local church. They are a joy to work with. They are responding to what the Holy Spirit is doing today and together we invest time – their’s and mine – in things that are important and eternal.

There are others, however, who are parked and not moving forward. They want to spend time with me. They want me to spend time with them – teaching them and ministering to them. They love the Lord but they love their comfort and security even more than the Lord. Yes, I can bless them. Yes, I can teach them. But, if what they are learning does not change them and does not influence and impact the way they are living – challenging them to change and engage more and more with the lost, the least, and the last … then I am just spending time. Enjoyable. Looks somewhat beneficial. But, really very self-centered and non-productive for the Kingdom.

I have recently decided that I am not willing to simply spent time ministering when there is no return for the King and the Kingdom. When the ministry and time spent does not result in change – individual and corporate – then I am simply spending time with believers. And, I am not interested in fellowship and teaching for the sake of fellowship and teaching. My call, as an apostle, is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” So, if they are not changing and growing, reaching out and ministering to the lost then what we (and I) are doing is very narcissistic and self-centered. And, recently I have come to conclusion that I need to remove myself from these situations so as to no longer simply “spend time” ministering … when really the ministry is actually maintenance. And, I have not been called to maintain but to advance the Kingdom.

So, I am changing what I am doing, where I am doing it, and with whom / for whom I am doing it. I have determined that in these latter years I will no longer waste time with people who don’t want to change and grow. I will no longer spend time with those who are not moving forward with the King and the Kingdom reaching out to the lost as demanded and commanded by Jesus. But, if people want to grow, be equipped, and are interested in changing so that they can truly impact their communities and the nations I am certainly willing and eager to invest time in them.

So, much of the current ministry that I am involved in is coming to an end. By mid-October into the early part of winter in November (2017) I will have gently but in a very definite way removed myself from any and all current ministry engagements where equipping is not happening; where believers are not growing, developing, changing; and where disciples are not reaching out to impact the least, the least, and the lost with the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is time to tighten up the ministry and use my time – invest my time – wisely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You May Not Be A Leader

Being called a leader does not make you a leader. In the church there are many leaders – some called elders – who are not leaders in the least. They have simply been asked to be a leader; appointed as a leader; have always been a leader as long as anyone can remember; assumed leadership because there was a vacuum in that realm.

Leadership is influence and if you are not influencing the direction of the local church then you are not a leader. You may have a few ‘groupies’ following you but that does not mean you are influencing the future of the church. In fact, it may be that you are simply hindering the local church from reaching its future. A leader is someone who can turn around and see the people they are impacting and that their labour among the saints is actually making a difference. If you think you are a leader and no one is following – you are simply out for a walk.

The Bible states that leadership (rulership) is a gift given by our Heavenly Father to some (Romans 12:8). That means many do not have this calling and gifting. And, if they don’t, then true disciples will not follow them as they are known b y their gift and leadership / leading is just not there.

There are too many self-appointed leaders within the church today and thus it often does not move forward and never achieves God’s desired future and plan for the local body of believes. People are given or assume the title of leader but have no spiritual gifting – and thus no spiritual authority – to lead. It is prevalent in many places where I work.

A leader needs to be able to see the big picture of the Kingdom while at the same time seeing the smaller picture of the role of the local church within that big picture. A leader needs to be able to see the “final product” that Jesus is building – the glorious church – and so be moving in tandem with the Lord of the Church. A leader needs to be strong and able to gather facts and opinions and, after consulting with others, make a decision and stick to it regardless.

A leader does not need the approval of the people but seeks for God’s approval. A leader can take a hard stand for what is right and handle, with the grace of God, the blowback from that stand. A leader has a strong personality and is able to make decisions on behalf of the people they lead without always defaulting to their own desires and opinions. A leader seeks for unity among the leaders team and the church in general. A leader is future looking and not enamoured by the past always wanting to repeat what was … and holds what was in such a high regard when really it was not all that great to start with. A leader is not afraid to express his own opinion and to confront those who are causing disunity and simply hindering progress. A leader is not looking to “keep the peace” because Jesus calls us “peacemakers” and not “peacekeepers.” A leader is apt to teach God’s Word – not their opinion, their preferences, and not strange “other gospels” that are so prevalent in the Church today.

It is time for many who call themselves elders / leaders to step down, resign, and stop hindering the movement of the Spirit. It is also time for those with a genuine call to leadership to step up and lead.

 

 

 

God’s Design For HIS Church

Jesus said He would build His Church (Matthew 16:18) and yet people want to do things their way. I have been working with a specific leadership team for many years now and once every other month the conversation and discussion turns to the need for a full-time pastor to be in town and functioning on behalf of the local church. This small town has no resident pastors as all functioning churches are connected to larger parishes and share their priest or minister with other congregations. But, we need a “pastor” because back when we had one…

Well, he was not full-time. He was retired and so willing to work for very little. He drove a school bus to make ends meet. The church did not grow during his time even though he lived in the town. But, we need a pastor. Why? Resident, full-time, paid pastors leading churches is really not a biblical model. It is a manmade system often used to control people. It creates a clergy-laity split among God’s people when God has always wanted a “priesthood of all believers” and not a professional clergy class. It allows the people of God to sit back and do nothing because they pay the professional to do the ministry. And, over the many centuries that this has been a model in many nations the church has been pathetic and powerless.

The Church was never meant to be pastoral. God called the Church to be prophetic and to walk in supernatural power. Every true believer can hear the voice of God for themselves and so can receive all the pastoral help they need from The Great Shepherd and the One He sent to be with us – the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. And, the church hears the voice of God for direction and the many aspects of her life through the ministry of the fivefold, ascension gift ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Specifically, the apostle as they are the Master Builders and can “see” the way that Jesus is building His Church and how that Church is to function.

In the fivefold ministry there is the role of “pastor.” But, this is not the local pastor but a member of the translocation fivefold, ascension gift ministries. Their task is to come in to a local church and teach the people how to care for one another – how to be pastoral. There are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament and if believers actually fulfilled these verses then there is nothing for a full-time paid professional” to do. People, the priesthood of all believers, do the ministry.

The Church Jesus is building is different than what is. The current church is a man made organization and not to God-directed organism that Church was meant to be. It is based very much on a top-down, business model and not on a grass-roots up model of ministry. The way the current church functions has no room for the true fivefold ministry and so the local church is able to eliminate this God-given team ministry and settle for a paid, professional clergy (priest, pastor, minister) who cares for the people and is expected to run the church and even bring growth to the church. And, of course, it is not working because it is not the way that Jesus is building His Church.

So, unless there is a change in heart leading to a change in leadership and thus a definite change in the way we are approaching the future of this specific church I am working with – I will simply be offering my resignation and go elsewhere … investing my time and effort in something that will actually bear fruit and be something that God can truly bless and prosper.

 

Building According to the Plan

It seems that often there are three groups in any given local assembly. Those who want to go back to how things were “back then” in what they view as the glory days. The second group consists of those who are comfortable right where they are and don’t want to grow and move forward because it is simply too much work. They feel safe and secure and comfortable. Don’t rock the boat. And there is a third group, usually the smallest, who are not satisfied with what is and can envision what should be. They are willing to move from here to there regardless of the cost.

The first group who want what use to be are often totally out of touch with both where God is going and what God is currently doing. They want what use to be – the way it use to be. Never mind that this would make the church even more irrelevant than it is currently. And, of course, the past is never as good or as glorious as we now make it out to be. These people are not only out of touch with what God is doing but also with the people among whom they live. But, their focus is not their neighbours as Jesus intended. Their focus is simply what they want and their drive to take the local church back to the “good old days.”

Thom Rainer in his book “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” states this as one of nine reasons churches die. They start a downward slide that glorifies the past when things were different and ignores the present and the future. I always want to ask those who are looking in the rearview mirror, “Well, how did that work out for you?” because we would not be in this situation now if that, back then, had been healthy and whole.

Those who want to maintain the status quo and not change are simply those who are not wanting to move into the future and become actively involved in what the Holy Spirit is currently doing. They do not have a vision of what the Church should look like and don’t want to know. They are having their needs met, they have friends in the church, and we may be struggling a bit with the budget, building, and number of bodies but we are survivors and we will simply hold down the fort until the Lord returns. It is a very self-centered, the church is about us, focus. And, is again, a sign of a deceased or rapidly dying church.

There is a third group who are wanting to be involved in what Jesus is building. After all, if we build the church then it is not the church Jesus is involved in. He states clearly that He is building His Church (Matthew 16:18). So, this group is seeking God’s plan for the local church and are willing to move forward into His future for them regardless of the cost and the effort involved. And there will be both. They are forward-looking and are willing to move from “here” to “there” and are in motion towards the future. In their hearts they are moving forward. In the natural realm of planning and every day functioning of church life they are moving forward. They are committed to His cause of “seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10) and are willing to sacrifice what is to grasp and hold what is to come. This group is usually the smallest of the three in the life of the local church.

I understand each of these three group. I can even emphasize with each group. But, the key is to remember who’s church it really is. The Church is the Body of Christ and He is the Head of the Church. So, what He wants and is planning for His Church is more important that what we want – be it to revisit and live in the past or to remain where we are – safe, secure, and comfortable … even though complaining most days. If we are truly helping Him build His Church then we will most certainly be forward-looking and willing to pack up and move into His future for His Church no longer content with things as they are.

It is this third group I am willing to work with – no matter how small, unpopular, or misunderstood they may be. I want to invest my time, not just spend it or waste it.

The Slow Drift Away From the True Gospel

I was in a lengthy and, at times, heated meeting of leaders of a Christian Church yesterday. And, we were working to understand the vision of the local church and how to take people from where they are to where God seems to want them to be. The issue of theology came up as it often does. The church works with a teaching team and so there are three, at times four, teachers preaching. And, there are some major differences in what several of these teachers believe.

As we worked our way through some issues that arose one of the leaders kept saying that he didn’t care what our theology was and that it was alright to disagree on our theology. This means it is alright to disagree on what the Scriptures teach about various topics because it is not important. And, no one challenged him on the comments. I was amazed and even a bit shocked. But, because of where we were working to get to and the limited time available I let that one slide, for now.

Theology is simply the “study of God” and is rooted in the Scriptures. And, I believe that it does matter what we believe. In the situation I mentioned above there are different understandings regarding what the Scriptures teach about healing, prosperity, the role of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit – especially prophecy, women in leadership positions, the fivefold ministry roles and specifically the role of the “pastor,” the role of special guest speakers, and on the list could go. But, “I don’t care what their theology is” kept being repeated.

If we don’t agree on the basic teachings of the faith that are presented from the same pulpit by various teachers on the team then we are simply not being credible leaders. We are not functioning as a team in unity and one accord. And, we are going to cause tremendous confusion and frustration in the hearts and lives of the people attending the church. It is incredulous to me that a leadership team does not challenge “I don’t care what their theology is.”

In the New Testament Church they worked hard to correct wrong teachings and incomplete teachings. Paul teaching the disciples of John the Baptist what the full gospel was. Aquila and Pricilla teaching Apollos the fullness of the Gospel, John writing the first of three letters to sort out some of the misunderstandings regarding salvation countering the teachings of Gnosticism – an early Christian heresy.

Today, because we have not paid attention to doctrine and teachings we have whole denominations that have moved into apostasy (once knowing the truth and no longer believing and teaching it) and heresy (teaching a false gospel). Paul warns the Church about this when speaking of another Jesus, another gospel, and another spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4). But, his warning is not being heeded.

I believe it is very important what we believe that that any and every leadership team must come into agreement with each other regarding the doctrines of the local church. To fail to do so leads to a slippery slope where soon anything goes and we find ourselves drifting quickly away from the true faith (Hebrews 2:1).

After  many years working with this local group I am deeply concerned. I will “earnestly contend for the faith as the book of Jude states we should Jude 1:3b). But, if this drifting continues and the prevailing winds keep blowing it may be time to step aside and invest my time elsewhere.

Staying Focused

As I finished reading the book of Acts in The Message Version late last night I noticed the last comment that Lee the doctor and team member with Paul wrote…”He urgently presented all matters of the Kingdom of God. He explained everything about Jesus Christ. His door was always open (he was under house arrest).”

I believe that today the Church is not focused as it was in the Book of Acts during its early years of its life. The message was simple but profound. Easy to understand but life-altering. It had two main points – the Kingdom of God and the resurrection of the King, Jesus Christ. Paul taught and explained all about the Kingdom and everything about Jesus Christ – the resurrected King of the Kingdom. That was the main message of the early church and because they stayed focused the Church grew at a tremendously fast rate and spread quickly throughout the Roman Empire.

Today, we seem to preach everything except Jesus Christ raised from the dead and the need to repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand. Our topics range from the sublime to the ridiculous. And, they are, in most cases, not in line with the task of the Church, the mandate given to us by Jesus Himself, to “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). In other words, people are not being trained and released to go into their neighbourhood and community and share the message of this new way of life originally known as “The Way.”

Instead of being trained, equipped and released we are teaching them things that are good to know but not life-changing. We are giving people information. but it is not leading to transformation. We are filling their minds with knowledge but leaving their hearts empty of passion for the King and the Kingdom. As a result the Church is weak and almost powerless and definitely seen as less and less relevant to every day life.

Maybe it is time to get back to the basics and stay focused on the simple basics – there is a Kingdom and a King. We enter the Kingdom by being born again (John 3) and as soon as we do we have a personal relationship with the King (Romans 6:23b and John 17:3) which we need to develop and pursue with all of our being. We need to come to know the heart of the King, especially His heart for the lost, the least, and the last. We need to discover His plan and purpose for our individual life and where that fits within His overall plan to constantly expand His domain and Kingdom.

Yes, there is a ministry for each person as part of the priesthood of all believers. But, it is not about your ministry but about using your skills, talents, gifts, and calling to fulfill the vision, plan and purpose of the King as He sees His Kingdom constantly expanding and reaching into every nation and people group on the planet. So, yes you have an important role in the Kingdom (ministry) but it is not about your ministry or calling – stay focused …. it is all about the King and His Kingdom.

It is time for the Church to become focused on what is most important and stop simply teaching information and opinions as we tickle people’s ears.

 

Change and Challenge

God today is looking for a people who understand His message and who are willing to share it with others – locally and around the world. This involves embracing a Kingdom mentality and no longer just thinking local church. This involves embracing a heart for those who do not know Jesus, are not born again, and thus do not have an assurance of His love nor what will happen to them after they die. This involves embracing the Gospel of the Kingdom.
 
Jesus Said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world…” (Matthew 24:14) This Gospel is good news to all who hear and understand it. And, they won’t hear it if we don’t share it – both in words and in deeds, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And, even then, they will only hear it if we who believe can explain and share it in ways that today’s younger generations can receive and understand it. 
 
This means that those of us who call ourselves believers have to grow, learn, and change. The message we have to share never changes but the methods and ways that we share it must be constantly changing so as to be relevant and vibrant, touching the hearts of people today. Younger people today are not looking for more information. They are looking to change and be transformed. They are wanting to be challenged to embrace something bigger and greater than themselves. They want to experience God and not just hear about Him. 
 
And that is the challenge we face in the church. Leaving our comfort zone, stretching and growing, learning new ways and sharing a timeless message of hope. The hunger is there for the message we have as disciples of Jesus. But, is the willingness to share? 

From Pagan to Prophesying

Paul travels to the city of Ephesus because he has heard that there are a number of disciples of the Lord Jesus in that city. He is hoping to meet with them and encourage them in their journey as believers. He knows that Ephesus is not an easy city to be a believer in and so wants to help them in any way that he can.

In Acts 19:1-6 we see the record of him finding and meeting with the believers. He asks them a question or two and discovers that they are not born again but are really disciples and followers of John the Baptist. So, they have responded to John’s message of repentance and are ready for someone like Paul to show them who the Messiah is and what He has accomplished through His death and resurrection. So, Paul shares the Gospel of the Kingdom and these men – about 12 in number – receive the message, become born again, are baptized by immersion in water, are baptized in the Holy Spirit as Paul lays hands upon them and immediately begin to move in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. It is a powerful and encouraging story about what God can accomplish when hearts are open, hungry, and ready.

The story continues… Paul stays in Ephesus and teaches and leads. And, this local church becomes very powerful and evangelism is a real key to their life and to the expansion of the Kingdom. Acts 19:10 states, “This continued for two years (Paul teaching), so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”

Later, after leaving Ephesus, Paul writes to them (Ephesians – the epistle) and prays that the same Holy Spirit who lives in them because they are born again and is upon them because they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit … that this same Spirit would bring them revelation. Ephesians 1:17 states, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…” So, Paul is praying that his people in this local church would be constantly receiving revelation and wisdom from the Holy Spirit.

He goes on to state that they should also allow the Holy Spirit to have control of their life. Ephesians 5:18 states, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…” So, just as alcohol controls your words, actions, and attitude when drunk … let the Holy Spirit control your whole life every day. This, of course, is key to maintaining a supernatural lifestyle and witness.

Well, obviously something goes terribly wrong a number of years later because this powerful church receives a word from Jesus – the Head of the Church – and it reads: “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:1-7a).
And, in time, the church in Ephesus simply ceases to exist.

Well, there is much for us to learn and apply from the story of the church in Ephesus. So, give some thought to it today as you go about your daily chores. Ask the Holy Spirit if there are some things that need to change in your life and in your church… and then respond to what He shows you.

Making Time To Seek After God

The Bible states, God speaking, “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14 The Message version).

Paul, as he was speaking to those in Athens willing to hear about “the unknown god” says, “…so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find Him, He doesn’t play hide and seek with us. He’s not remote, He’s near” (Acts 17:27 The Message version).

Do we do this? Do we make time to do this? Are we taking the time, making the time, to seek Him? It seems we are always busy – going somewhere, doing something, meeting a friend for coffee, watching the final show in a series we have faithfully watched for the whole season. There is always something yelling for attention. In my life right now it is the work needed in the yards – flower and vegetable gardens. In my study it is preparation for two Canadian trips and an upcoming trip into Kazakhstan. There is always something to focus on; something that absorbs any time we might have away from our job and the basic necessities of life. And so even when we have time we are too tired or too distracted to invest ourselves in seeking Him.

Maybe that is why God told us we needed to seek. The word “seek” involves making the time and investing the effort to actually connect with the living God. He has already made the way through the death of His Son on the cross and His resurrection on the first Easter Sunday from the dead. When we were born again He gave to us the supernatural ability to relate to Him (see Romans 6:23b and John 17:3). All that is needed is for us to want this relationship with God more than we want all the other things that scream for our time and attention. In other words, to make our relationship with God a top priority in our life.

So, as the spring turns into summer – what are your plans for reserving more time to “seek after God?” Gardens, bar-b-ques, family gatherings, friends in the backyard for a chat around a fire on a cool spring night, time at the lake, time to fish, gardens needing weeding … but, in the midst of all these good things, where are you going to find time to “seek after God” and do so with your whole heart?

Remember, God Himself said, “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”