The Church That Releases Supernatural Life

This teaching and the chart connected to it are the second in the series. Please read “The Five Basic Purposes for the Church That Jesus Is Building” before reading this article. This is really part two…

 Although Scripture clearly sets out that the Head of the Church – Jesus – had set forth five basic purposes for His Church; in most cases the local church focuses on one or two of these purposes often to the neglect of the other stated reasons for their existence.

There are five purposes for the Church that Jesus said He would build. These are found in the Scriptures and are not negotiable. As it is Jesus who is the Head of the Church and who is building the Church He has determined and declared these five purposes. Read more

Biblical Outline for a Testimony    

Based on: Paul’s testimony found in the Book of Acts, Chapter 26:1-29

When giving your testimony or teaching others to give the story of the night-and-day difference that Jesus has and is making in their lives there is a great testimony to follow in the book of Acts. Paul the apostle is giving a defence for what he believes. These beliefs have brought him to the situation he finds himself in. He is defending his faith before a ruler of the Roman Empire who will determine his fate – freedom or a free ride to Rome under guard to appeal his case to the highest court – Caesar himself. Read more

From Hibernation to Every Nation

The Church is often referred to in Christainliterature as, ‘The Sleeping Giant’.She is depicted as living below her potential, not accomplishing her task or purpose of touching lives with the love of God, and not walking in the ressurrection power that lives within each born again member.

Prophetically my sense is that the sleeping giant is waking up and recognizing that it has allowed itself to get off course. It has become another religion and is no longer a life-force changing the society that it finds itself in. In fact, often it does not relate to or is even aware of the society that surrounds it or the culture it is suppose to impact. It is simply doing it own thing and using gimmicks and worldly things to attract people to attend and then join. Statistics prove this – and that many joining are truly unaware of what the basic beliefs of the faith they have joined really are.

Read more

The Kingdom Advances Through Weakness

The Bible states:This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6) In other words the Kingdom of God advances through weakness, not through human strength and activity. The Church advances on its knees trusting in the leading and empowering of the Spirit of God. Maybe it is time to unplug the Church as we know it.

To look at the Church today with all of its programs, guest speakers, conferences, media ministries and specials you would think that we do not believe God’s Word. You could be led to believe that we build strong and powerful churches and ministries by ‘human activitiy.’ And, if you were to study the largest and fastest growing churches in North America you would find that the vast majority of them are led by a powerful personality. Powerful leaders and multi-faceted programming with the latest technology appears to be what it takes to build a successful and growing church in this day and age. Just plug it in to all the latest “bandwagons” and people will flock to your services.

But is it the Church that Jesus is building? Good question. Just as there are wheat and tares growing up side-by-side in the same assembly (Matthew 13:25-30) I believe there are “wheat” churches and “tares” churches exisiting side-by-side in the world today. And, like wheat and tares believers they are certainly hard to tell apart when simply looking at them from the outside or even when first becoming involved with them. And, as happens in my garden, the tares often grow faster and taller than the wheat. The true Church of Jesus Christ may be a lot smaller than the visible church.

The prophet Isaiah warns us not to trust in what man has as resources and in what looks good and powerful. He states: “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!” (Isaiah 31:1) Yet, when I finished reading a major 100 page report on the 100 fastest growing churches in the United States just the other day -with interviews with some of the lead pastors and numerous indepth articles about programs and approach you would wonder if the Lord is not saying “woe to those…” once again.

In a book I have just finished reading whose theme is the common mistakes made by new church starts and by church planters (non-biblical term referring to those called to begin new works for the Lord)… there was nothing about the personal prayer patterns of the planter and no reference made to the spiritual life of the key leader or leadership team. Oh, there is passing reference to being a healthy leader but 98% of the book (and it is a good book) dealt with programs, policies, finances, approaches, mistakes, strengths needed, personality issues, team dynamics, timing, critical mass needed to be successful… “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help…”

The Bible clearly warns us about trusting in human power and wisdom to achieve our goals. We are to be total dependent upon the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. To reach the point where we are totally dependent we need to be totally broken. Heard a teaching lately on brokenness? Doubt it very much. Doesn’t fly! Not a popular topic! Will not draw a crowd! Does not keep the believers happy! Doesn’t sell any CDs!

The prophet Jeremiah states: “…Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5) Much to ponder there.

Paul the apostle in writing to the Corinthians comments on his approach to ministry as one of the main leaders of the early Church and a ‘church planter’… “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” We would do well to do likewise.

Here’s my point: It is time to examine our personal walk with the Lord. It is time to examine our prayer life … not what you do in your devotional time (read your Bible, study His Word, devour a good Christian book, journal your thoughts and prayers…) but, examine the time you spend on your knees seeking the Lord, His plans and purpose, His heart, His agenda. How much time is spent actually “being still and knowing – I mean really knowing – that He is God” (and thus concluding we are not). Allowing Him to have total access to every area and aspect of our lives (Lordship). Being broken before Him so that we come to rely on His Spirit, His strength, His power, His wisdom, His guidance, His direction, His plan for His Church – the Church that you attend.

Want to know if your local church is one that Jesus is building? Examine how much time you spend with Him and the quality and focus of that time. Then have a look at the real prayer life of the leaders of the church that you are part of. Now you know!

Experience or Explanation

Rick Richardson wrote, “Mystery is very attractive to people today. People want an experience more than an explanation.” The problem is that we, the believers, have majored on answers (explanation) when what today’s generation really want and need is an experience.

Over the past few years I have witnessed the gospel becoming more political (at least here in North America) and more palatable. That means it has become less radical and life-changing. The gospel is being watered down so that it appears less offensive and more acceptable. We don’t want to rock the boat or appear intolerant. Yet, in fact, our message is offensive and does appear narrow-minded because the truth is there is only one way to Heaven and one way to be right with God the Father – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

God created us in His image and so we are trans-rational. Everything does not need to be explained away or understood in minute detail. Some things can remain a mystery – and simply received in faith. There is an attempt today to normalize Christianity. To make it so normal that everyone can understand it. But God’s ways are past finding out. “His ways are above our ways; His thoughts above our thoughts.” There are aspects of God and the way He functions that I still cannot fathom and probably never will. Any God that can be totally understood becomes something less than God – it becomes a figment of our imagination.

God wants our faith to be experientially based on more than what we can figure out. Paul said, “Our gospel didn’t come to you with wise and persuasive words but with the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Biblical faith rests upon the power of God and does not rely simply on words and explanations.

To fully preach the Gospel we must move in what we do not always understand – the supernatural. This is “above the natural” and thus often above understanding. It is grasped by simply believing – by faith. Paul, in writing to the believers in Rome about his ministry said, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:18-19).

For us to win this generation we need to be walking in “signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit” so that we do more than explain the Good News but also demonstrate it. This way it is not only explanation but experience. So, it is not one or the other – explanation or experience – but both together.

So, as we go about our daily chores and activities – having asked the Lord to keep us sensitive to the moving and prompting of His Holy Spirit before the activities of the day began – we look for opportunities to touch a life with the power of God. We look for someone to speak to, selected ahead of time by the Lord, and then listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us about that person. Begin a simple and friendly conversation by being neighborly and let it move naturally into the supernatural. Speak what you have received for that person (experience) and then, having shown them that Jesus is alive and that Christianity is more than a religion of rituals, regulations and rules – that it is a living and dynamic personal relationship with the living God – you will have an open heart wanting to hear what you have to say (explanation).

It’s time for believers to walk in the fullness of the calling and commission that is ours – to “go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel” and to do it with miracles, signs and wonders. Words are no longer enough! Experience and explanation is the Bible way.

Are We Actually Communicating and Connecting?

The ability to verbalize the Gospel in words that your listener can easily and readily understand is of the utmost importance if we are hoping to win anyone to the Lord. But, most believers, although they understand the Gospel and are born again – they do not “know” it well enough to verbalize it so that others can understand what Jesus has accomplished through His death and resurrection and what the listen must do to receive what has been accomplished. Don’t believe me? Then ask two or three mature believers to tell you the Gospel! If you are not seriously confused by the time they have finished – I would be very surprised. I have asked close to a hundred mature believers over the last 16 months to tell me the Gospel. Two have spoken it in a way that it was understandable and actually told me what I needed to believe and what I needed to do.

So, here’s a challenge – one I placed myself under. Every day think of a fresh, new and creative way to word the Gospel. Find a new and dynamic way to share the basic Gospel of the Kingdom. Talk to people about spiritual issues and what’s going on right now in their lives so that you can think of new ways to relate to them and then to present the Gospel to them as well. As you read the Bible underline verses and stories that emphasize the Gospel and work at finding a way to present the Good News using those Bible stories and verses. Become “fluid” in your understanding of and presentation of the Gospel that is power of God unto salvation as well as knowledgeable of your potential audience.

Communications has always been important to the human race – but never more so than today in a season of instant text messaging, emails, world-wide access to information for any and every country. Statistics prove that communicating today – staying in touch with friends and family – is very important.

Read some of the current statistics:
96 -the number of text messages teens send or receive in a typical day (The Nielsen Co., June 2009)
47% – teens who say their social lives would end or be worsened if text messaging was not an option
(CTIA – The Wireless Association / Harris Interactive, September 2008)
61% of 13 to 17 year olds have a personal profile on social media sites such as MySpace, Friendster or Xanga. Half have posted pictures of themselves online. (Cox Communications / National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, May 2006)
More than half of teens (52%) listen to online radio in 2008, up from 34% in 2007 (The NPD Group, 2008)

As noted these are older statistics and all media reports that the numbers – percentages – are even higher today than when the surveys were originally taken.

So, we need to learn how to communicate and connect in today’s mass media and technological world and how to do it effectively. And remember – no Christianese. Don’t use too many Christian or Bible terms unless you are able to explain them in a simply, street-wise manner. Find the dynamic equivalent so that unchurched people can understand what you are working so hard at communicating. Ask yourself where you’re saying words that don’t mean anything to the world. We must make sure that we are communicating in ways that people can understand. We must move towards them and not expect them to move towards us. It is our task to speak in a way that is clear, concise and understood. Not easily done!

Revivalist Charles Finney said, “God’s revelation to people does not usually suspend laws of the human mind and human audience, but occurs through those laws.” In other words, speak to be understood even if this means practicing to share the Gospel numerous ways after coming to understand it thoroughly yourself first.

Church father, Augustine, recommended that the Christian minister “plunder the Egyptians for their gold,” implying that we should learn secular communication to better communicate our Gospel. God is a God of creativity and He can give each of us a strategy and approach that is fresh and anointed and understood.

However, it would help if we would apply ourselves and do some reading on the subject of connecting and communicating cross-culturally today. You are needing to learn to express truth that is held close to the heart in the Christian sub-culture expressing it in words understood by another sub-culture – teens, skateboarders, musicians, drug addicts, whomever. I am constantly reading books on connecting, communicating, culture and society, preaching, public speaking, and networking. There is a lot out there that is well worth investing time reading and studying – both secular and Christian.

J.B. Phillips who translated the New Testament into modern English back in the 1960’s long before the Living Bible or The Message Version stated, “If words are to enter people’s hearts and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped to pass defences and explode silently and effectually within their minds.” In other words, as one author said recently, “We need a new sound – words that hit home, words that achieve deliverance of hearts and attract people to come under the sound of the Gospel.”

The message has not changed but the way we need to connect with people and then communicate truth certainly has.

Risk-Takers or Undertakers

Michael Simpson states: “I believe that Christ being less attractive…is a by-product of a diluted Christianity.”

Mike Bickle says: “God is going to change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.”

I believe that in the next few years we will first see that the way people- especially young people – live out their Christian faith is going to change dramatically and drastically. Then, as a result, people looking at the Church from the outside will perceive a different Christianity than what anyone sees right now. This will lead them to see a different Jesus – the real, biblical Christ. Read more

I’m Building a Bridge Not a Body

As someone who works with Christians and for Christians I have to make a conscious effort to go where non-Christians are to reach them with the Gospel. One place I go frequently is the local gym. I do so for health reasons – to keep a strong heart and maintain my weight. At my age I recognize it is not for looks or to impress anyone. And, I am careful with what I do and what machines I use. Exercising regularly makes you feel good about yourself. My goal is not to look like some of the young fellas who exercise at the same time – my goal is to live a healthy life and thus extend my days upon the Earth for as long as possible. There is still much that I want to accomplish and do.

But, I am there and working hard and building a sweat for another reason. I need to meet people who are non-believers and then connect with them. This is much more than merely associating with them – it is connecting with them, identifying with them. It is letting them know by my lifestyle, actions and words that I am just like them with needs, opinions, and interests. Revealing that I can relate to and actually live in their world and go through similar things that they are struggling or dealing with. Yes, I have a different worldview but that is not seen immediately but it will come out in my conversations with them once I have built a bridge. However, here’s the point: the more closely you identify with your hearers, the more it’s going to help the weight of your words. So, two issues here – identification and your words.

The ability to identify with those with whome you are wanting to share the Gospel with – and for them to identify with you – is so very important. This does not mean you have to do something immoral or unethical if they are. It simply means they have to view you as someone who shares the same world they live in. This is a world of conflict, misunderstandings, pressures, financial stress, work-related incidents; too many demands, family concerns, and health issues. The list can be, and often is, endless. If they see you as weird and different (and many Christians come across like this) then they will not listen to what you say because how you behave is speaking so loudly.

Let’s be honest here. Many Christians come across as superior, victorious, better, separated, different, strange, and so-heavenly-minded that they are no-earthly-good. Time to be real and “normal” letting others know that being a believer does not solve all our problems and remove all the issues that life throws our way – but simply gives us Someone who adds meaning and purpose to life and solutions and insights to the problems we all face as human beings.

In other words, people want to see that you are ‘normal’ and actually live on and relate to the same planet that they do. Then and only then will you find them open to the Gospel because you will have built a bridge and connected with them – THE IDENTIFICATION FACTOR. They need to be able to say, “Yes, this person is just like me but they have something that definitely makes them different.”

There are three factors that influence people today – and that we need to be aware of if we hope to come across as real people and build the bridge necessary to then communicate the Good News with words that can be understood (see tomorrow’s blog – Saturday). Three factors that determine if they will feel that you can identify with what they are living with and going through.

1. Logos (reason) – There are valid and basic reasons why someone should believe in Jesus Christ and give their heart and life to Him completely. There are excellent “arguments” for the existence of God; explanations about the meaning and purpose of life; insights into why evil exists and a loving God allows it to continue seemingly unabated. You need to know what you believe, why you believe it and how to adequately “defend” it (the Bible calls this “earnestly contending for the faith”). The target here is the HEAD.

2. Pathos (emotions) – People are emotional creatures and every person you meet has a combination or mixture of often conflicting emotions going on inside them at all times. We need to openly share feelings with others with whom we are hoping to identify. They need to know what you are feeling and how things are going (emotionally) for you. This does not mean sharing on a deep level or speaking of things that are better kept to yourself. It just means being real – if you are having a bad day, you are feeling a little down emotionally, you are mad at something … then let them know in general terms. They can relate to each and every issue you could and should share briefly and they will reciprocate sharing their feelings with you. When they share how they are feeling – don’t try to fix anything. Just listen and let them know you identify with them. The target here is the HEART.

3. Ethos (experience) – Of course, you are sharing experiences with them. In my case in the gym I change clothes, I work out, I shower and change back to street clothes, I have good days I want to be there and other days I come only as a matter of discipline – all of which are simple “shared experiences” as they do the same and often at the same time as I do… In conversations (brief though they may be) I talk about the latest sports scores and events, political and social issues, anything that is happening here in my city or district (the weather is always a big topic of interest here as it is often so severe), upcoming events – all of which means I need to be serious about knowing what is going on in our world. There must be mutual experiences if I hope to build a bridge and communicate the Gospel. The target here is the BODY – shared experiences because we are both humans living on the same planet.

Here is the key: These happen in the opposite order. There must first be mutual experiences (we both work out at the same gym at the same time most days). This is the EXPERIENCE level. Then there must be some sharing on an EMOTIONAL level even if it is as basic as, “I don’t feel like being here today.” Only when we have share experienced and have touched each other’s heart in some simple way will we find an opening to be heard and taken seriously so that we can share the Gospel. This is the head level where we begin to REASON with them about the truth and share our worldview with them.

Not difficult to do – but different than what we usually do. We often try to give them the Gospel (head – reason) before sharing any feelings that might help us to build a bridge and earn respect and trust (heart-emotions) and often we don’t take the time to be a part of their world (body – experience). Totally upside down to what works today. Lead with experience and not reason. Get involved in their world.

Back To The Gym

Ah! My pulpit. Yes, a gym locker room is one of the places where I “preach the Gospel.” Jesus said, “as you go into all he world, preach...” (Matthew 28:18) and part of my world most days is a local gym. And, in the change room (locker room) I manage to get into some really neat conversations about Jesus.

I have ben a member at a number of different gyms over the years and although the location each time is different they are basically the same. I recently took out a membership at a different gym as the one I had been going to for almost two years switched locations and purposes at the same time. It is now a place for those referred there for physiotherapy. So, out of necessity, I had to locate a different place to go. This one has an added advantage – a sauna … ah! more opportunity to share the Gospel.

Now, when sharing at the gym I have discovered that there are a number of things I need to overcome. These would be the same for everyone no matter where they were sharing the good news that Jesus saved. These are not the normal things such as make sure you have prepared the way by being friendly, being polite, listening to find out where the person you hope to share with is currently struggling in their life, is there enough time to make adequate progress, and so on. Those are very important and always need to be considered. But, let’s talk about what I refer to as points of personal resistance.

1. FEAR – this is the most common spiritual snag that trips people up. This appears in your personal life as ‘nervousness.’ This can defeat you in your “locker room” location before you actually get started. This dark spirit (as some refer to it) which attaches itself to soul winners, results in short-circuiting prophetic leadings and the ability to bridge the relational gap and properly relate to the person.

Remember that God has not given to us a spirit of fear but He has released in and around us His power and given us a sound mind based upon His Word to help us to conquer the fear. And the best way to conquer fear is simply to override it by obeying the Lord and following the prophetic leading of the Spirit. Fear is natural and usually does not go away with time and experience. So, you simply step out in faith and follow the prophetic sense that you have at the time and watch God move in spite of the fear.

2. BEING MISUNDERSTOOD – Often when you are working under the direction of the Holy Spirit and moving prophetically you will be misunderstood. Perception is reality today. Those who are spiritually confused can misinterpret and misconstrue your attempts to rescue them. Peter and those in the upper room were misunderstood on the Day of Pentecost as they were accused of being drunk.

When moving prophetically to evangelize in your ‘locker room’ you will need a tough skin and you will need to keep your eyes on your calling to win the lost and the goal of this command – the salvation of souls. Remember, Ezekiel was told that his forehead was made like “adamant stone, harder than flint.” The answer for clay feet is a flint forehead. God also spoke to Ezekiel and told him not to be disappointed or frustrated by people’s looks. You will be misunderstood.

3. DISCOURAGMENT – Discouragement can also take away physical, emotional, and spiritual energy needed to continue witnessing to others on a daily basis. Elijah got discouraged after the miracle on Mt. Carmel, when Ahab and Jezebel weren’t convinced nor consumed.

This feeling can be overwhelming and suffocate the flame of evangelistic enthusiasm and commitment. The key to dismissing discouragement is to look to God for your for encouragement and not to your current level of success or results or even to people’s reactions. You are “playing to an audience of one – God” and your focus is very important at times when you are feeling discouraged.

4. DOUBT AND UNBELIEF – If you are feeling like you are wasting your time talking to a specific person; if you feel as if you have done all you can and you are not sure what difference your next conversation will really have; strong feelings of uncertainty and feeling as if the person is unlikely to respond to your words – can kill your evangelistic initiative. If we give up when we are feeling doubtful about the outcome of the time and effort we are investing we will not do much witnessing nor will we ever be effective.

The twin thieves of doubt and unbelief rob us of a precious harvest and create in us watered down expectations. Touching Jesus is the only antidote to doubt and unbelief. As we touch the presence of God and allow Jesus to touch our hearts during our daily time set aside to focus on Him we will defeat these twin enemies of witnessing enthusiasm.

5. THE DEVIL – We don’t want to focus on the enemy but we do need to recognize that he does not want us doing what the Lord told us we are to do – win the lost at all costs. He stands to lose the most as souls are won to Christ. Remember, when witnessing there are visible hindrances and invisible hindrances, and what you don’t see can be the most lethal.

Remember that we are the ones with authority and power and know that the devil has limited authority and power. His work always involves deception and can be easily overcome by walking in the calling we have and the enabling power that ever believer has received. One author writes: “When we bring light and Christ’s authority to trapped hearts, Satan’s deceptive powers dissipate and we can multiply our converts by dividing the spoil. God is going to ultimately crush Satan underneath your ‘beautiful feet that bring the good news.’

Enough for today – time to grab the gym back and head out to my daily exercise routine – exercising both physically and spiritually – keeping both my body and spirit strong.

The Only Thing Worth Doing

R.A. Torrey, a great man of God and tremendous preacher and soul-winner said, “My one ambition in life is to win as many as possible. Oh, it is the only thing worth doing, to save souls.”

I agree. And, I spend a good amount of time in coffee shops and restaurants talking with people about their relationship with the Lord. Really, I have discovered that there are only three types of people in the world:

1> Those who are truly born again and are following the Lord and being obedient. Those who are walking beside Him and are close to Him. These people often need encouraging and training when it comes to being soul-winners which must be the end result of following Jesus if what He said was true and it is – “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Not fishing – not following.

2> Those who are born again but for whatever reason are walking behind the Lord and keeping what they believe is a “safe” distance between themselves and the Lord. They are not as involved in the things of the Lord nor are they allowing the Lord total access to every area of their lives. These people need to tighten up their relationship with Jesus. And they need help in learning how to “draw close to God.”

3> Those who are not following the Lord and thus have absolutely no relationship with the Lord and, should they die, will go directly to Hell having condemned themselves to that eternity because they did not believe (see John 3:16-18). These people need someone to love and accept them as they are – but love them so much that they will share the Gospel with them and answer any questions the person may have. This can be a long term commitment.

But it is worth it for those of us who have been walking with the Lord and have made soul-winning a priority and do it intentionally. I have learned that if we are not intentional about talking to others about Jesus we simply never do it. So, it needs to become a priority – no, a passion. When it becomes a passion we will then take the time and make the effort to learn how to be effective soul winners and how to disciple and equip those who receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior through out efforts. And that is an adventure and a topic for another blog.

Keith Green – author, singer, evangelist – once said: “This generation of believers is responsible for this generation of souls.” So, it is time to move forward in this colossal task which, with God’s help, we will accomplish.