The Voices Outside the Church

I work with young people a lot and I really enjoy that part of my ministry. Focusing on young people keeps me young and gives me great hope for the future. There are many terrific young people committed to Jesus and willing to give their lives for the cause. They are, however, a little more cautious when it comes to the church as they know it.

According to David Kinnaman’s research for his book “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith” there are 6 main reasons regular churchgoing teens disconnect from the church after age 15.

1> Christians seem overprotective
2> Teens’ and 20-somethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow
3> Churches come across as antagonistic to science
4> Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
5> They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
6> The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt

I believe that the church needs to address these issues and make some changes – not in what we believe but in the way we are perceived and understood. We have done a very poor job of explaining ourselves and speaking in a way that others can understand our positions in relationship to the gospel of Jesus we are to share with others.

Seth MacFarlane, creator of the animated TV series “Family Guy,” in his October 15, 2011 speech accepting the Harvard Humanist of the Year Award said: “There are religious folks who acknowledge science, [but] the rest live by what believers call “blind faith.” What these believers are demanding is more like Helen Keller faith. “If you don’t understand your world, you just moan and throw [stuff] at it.”

Maybe it is time we paid closer attention to the voices outside the church.

Now ministering in an Armenian Church

Yesterday and today I have been ministering in an Armenian church located here in the city of Moscow. It is my first time in the church and it is a referral from my time in a major church in Yerevan, Armenia just two months ago. It is a good group of believers who are hungry for the Lord and wanting to move forward in their walk with Him as a body or believers.

The pastor is a young man who is excited to have the opportunity to minister and hold another job down while ministering in the evenings and on the weekends. This is called being bi-vocational and many pastors are needing to have a second job to meet the needs of their families. Every pastor I have been ministering for since the start of this trip has been bi-vocational and had other means to earn an adequate income. Please pray for them as this is not an easy task -to juggle two completely different jobs each and every day. and still be properly prepared for ministering so that it is done with excellence.

The picture above in from a Tuesday night service where a young 22 year old was prophesied over and called out to be an apostle. He has been a Christian about a week and has, of course, much to learn. But he has been told some fantastic things about his future and is humbly receiving them and will walk them through with the help of his pastor who is also an apostle-in-training and whom I am mentoring. Please pray for Igor – Kick-boxing champion of Russia and an apostle-in-training. Pray for my connection to him as I also build relationally into his life. Thanks for holding him up in prayer.

The Sea in the Ship

God tells us that we are in the world but not of it; that we are different – very different from the world. He states clearly that to be a friend of the ways of the world instantly makes us enemies of His (1 John). He is clear that we are in the world to influence it and to rescue as many as we can from the world so that they become part of His Kingdom. Thus, He states clearly that we are His ambassadors in the world (2 Corinthians 5). I believe we have a problem in the Church today – there is too much of the world and the ways of the world. We rely on the ways and wisdom of man instead of the power of God.

A simple illustration provides a deeper understanding of the problem.
A ship in the sea is alright. The sea in the ship is all wrong. In the same way, the Church in the world is all right; the world in the Church is all wrong. If there is too much of the sea in the ship it will sink. I believe the ship of today’s Church is so near sinking that every individual who becomes a believer and accepts Christianity is set to bailing water with everyone else to keep the Church afloat – thus, no one is focused on winning the lost and building new boats to sail the seas and rescue those who are drowning.

Many of us come to church with needs. If we focus merely on our needs, we will never come to the end of them; rather, we will live with them forever. Something must release us from a myopic focus on our own needs, drawing us beyond the realm of “I need, I want, help me, pray for me, bless me.” As long as we dwell on such things.we remain enslaved by them. We need to press past a self-centered focus to acquire the wisdom of God and begin to see things from His perspective.

His perspective is that people matter to Him and that no cost is too great to keep them from going to Hell for all eternity. In fact, this is so important that He sent His Son to die for them so that there would be a way for them to enter into a relationship with Him and spend eternity with Him after they die. And, this is so important to Him that He then commissioned and empowered His people to go out and win the lost as well. However, with water in the boat we are not sea-worthy and so have lost the ability to do what the Church (the boat) was originally designed to do.

It is time to make some seriously changes.

[Elsewhere on the main web site there is a series of articles being posted daily on “The Dangerous Church” which will give you further insights into this issue in today’s church]

How to be Ready for the Sabbath…

1> Before the meeting

  • You need to prepare for Sunday
  • More than clean clothes and something decent to wear
  • We need to get our hearts ready
  • We should not expect a rich spiritual experience on Sunday if we are not willing to prepare our hearts and minds
  • Before you play sports – you warm up your muscles
  • Before a presentation – you review your notes
  • Before a major test – we study

Read more

Just Another Day in Russia

It is Wednesday in Moscow and I am meeting today with an Armenian pastor and some of his leaders for a lunch and then some time to minister to them prophetically. Tonight I am teaching and ministering prophetically at a public service in his church. This is a door that has opened due to my visit to Armenia several months back. The church I worked with there immediately recommended my ministry to this pastor and arrangements were made to come here at the earliest possible time. So, I scheduled three days with this new contact during this trip into Russia.

This is a young church but one that has begun to grow and they are hungry for more of God and willing to pay whatever it costs to walk with Him into the future for their local church. Hungry saints always make for a good meeting and powerful ministry. Please pray for tonight’s service and the next two days of ministry in this Armenian Church located in the capital of Russia.

It has been a good two days leading up to this since I first arrived in Moscow on Monday. I have been working with a local Presbyterian church which I have worked with many times in past visits. They too are moving forward in a steady way into the ministry God has called them to. They are led by a man who is called to be an apostle (picture) and who is not afraid to step out and take a risk doing new things and walking where others are not yet walking. He is a pioneer in his own right. Please pray for Pastor Alexander and his people as they work to reach out to the lost in Moscow and as Alexander’s apostolic ministry continues to increase. I am mentoring him and he has begun to see much fruit in his ministry as he travels around Russia impacting churches apostolically.

Your prayers for this trip and each day’s events are greatly appreciated.

Members and Not Disciples

I do not think that the Devil really objects to most churches. You might think I am being cynical, but I think Satan sees churches as an effective way of keeping most Christians harmlessly and fruitlessly occupied. I believe that as long as we think of Church as a gathered group of believers or Christians who come together to worship God – the Devil will not even look in our direction or be concerned with what we are doing. But, wen we become disciples and gather to be equipped in practical skills that will help us impact our community, friends, and neighbors as we seek and save the lost – then the Devil will take notice and the oppression will begin.

A major problem in the church today is that our churches are filled with members who are not disciples. They have yet to be confronted with the need to be committed to the cause. They are not following Jesus and so are not becoming “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). They are simply nice people living a slightly better moral life style (sometimes) than those who do not claim to believe in Jesus.

Jesus said to His disciples: “Go into all the world preaching the Gospel to every creature, and that signs will follow those who believe (enough to do just as He commanded). They will lay hands on the sick so that they recover, cast out demons, speak with new tongues, and so forth (see Mark 16:17-18). I have heard many people say that signs do not actually follow them or many other believers, and this is why: the signs do not follow because the people do not go where God wants them to go. The signs follow those who go, and they have not been promised to any other group, especially a stationary people.

As the saying goes, “It is hard to follow a parked car.”

Two Baptists

In the middle of last week I prophesied in a disco club over a young man – late teens – who is a Baptist. He attended the service because his friend invited him. I picked him out immediately and gave him a lengthy and powerful word from the Lord. I had no idea how he reacted to what I said as I was immediately off to another part of the congregation to grab Alexander and minister prophetically to him. I told you his story last week.

The next night this young Baptism man found us in another part of the city where we were holding a public service and bought his friend along with him. Of course, like a magnet I was attracted to him and prophesied over him as well. In fact, the word for him was so strong that I actually interrupted my teaching to prophesy over him. He and I chatted at the end of the service and I made sure he was alright because he too was a Baptist. He was not sure.

Just yesterday, as I was being driven to another spot to minister I had a call from one of the leaders of the congregation where this all took place and both these young men had just been baptized in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues and prophecy (See Acts 19:1-6 for a similar story). I was so excited for them. And, it was because they received prophetic words that they went searching in the Scriptures to find validation of their experiences and thus grew in hunger for all they had seen and heard. God showed up – always does when we are hungry for more of Him. I am seriously pleased and excited for them.

Every day I hear stories like this – from my current visit to Russia and from past visits as people come up and share what has happened for them since they received their prophetic word. God encourages me each and every day and it certainly helps to keep me moving forward even when tired or even weary. Your prayers are also an encouragement. Thanks for supporting this work with your prayers.

Picture: I am sensing God changing the message and direction of the service during a powerful worship time.

From Nizhny Novgorod to the city of Ivanovo

[Picture: discussing a point of a teaching with my interpreter during a site seeing tour of the old walls that protected the city of Nizhny Novgorod in the 1400’s]

I have been driven from Nizhny Novgorod to the city of Ivanovo. It is a distance of 240 Km and took 4.5 hours due to the condition of the roads. I use the word “roads” lightly. However, when I arrived I met with four pastors and their spouses for a supper and a discussion. They belong to three different unions of networks and so we had four networks represented if you count the one I belong to. So, in the discussion, we had a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints as well as opinions. I was in the city for only the evening and the next day – Sunday.

The topic was stated this way: “How to enter your calling revealed by a prophetic word?” OR Why are there so few who are willing to take responsibility?” Do you think there might be an issue or two in this church? Do you believe that the leader may just be a bit frustrated? Well, you might be right. However, in four services (3 for the seminar and a free, open Sunday evening service) there is no way to fix the problem or problems. After all, three one hour teaching slots is really 3 – 30 minute teaching slots because everything I say needs to be translated into Russian. Not much time to work with large topics such as these. Welcome to my world. I did the best I could with the times I had knowing I would hardly address the problem – which is not only here but everywhere in the Church.

I am now in Moscow – 6 hour ride and the roads did get better the closer I got to the city. And tonight I meet with the leaders of the main network of churches that I work with frequently. More planning, praying, and pushing forward into a bright and powerful future. I also meet with them all day tomorrow. Tuesday night I meet with the youth of one local church that is a local church here in Moscow pastored by one of the network leaders (always fun) then Wednesday I begin work with an Armenian church here in the capital of Moscow (my first visit and it came as a result of my week in the nation of Armenia and the good reports received by them from those they know in that nation.

Please continue to pray. Prayer is vitally important to the ministry here.

How Can You Be So Stupid?

I love Galatians 3:3 “How can you be so stupid! Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

When God changes someone, He does not start with the exterior, giving commands to remove not wear certain clothes, keep your hair a certain length, no tattoos or piercings. Instead, He starts with the interior, changing the way people feel and think. Once He changes our thinking, He does not have to worry about our conduct; it will align naturally with our thinking.

Colossians 2:13-15 states: “You, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

What was the written code, or the “handwriting of requirements,” with its regulations? The law. If you study the book of Galatians, you find that because the Christians in Galatia had lost sight of the cross, they went back to abiding by the law (or at least trying to). Paul asked them, “How can you be so stupid? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”

This is what happens to Christians who lose sight of the cross. it describes every denomination or network (union) in the Church. They began in the Spirit, lost sight of the cross, ceased to believe in the supernatural, and returned to a system of rules and regulations made by man.

I fear that the majority of Christians around the world do not realize that Christianity is not a set of do’s and don’ts or a set of rules and regulations. They have no idea it is mainly dealing with a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ. How has this happened? The cross and what it achieved has been obscured. Once we lose sight of the cross, we have lost everything, really. We may not lose our salvation, but experientially we lose the ability to enjoy what God has provided for us.

Prophecy – God Presence Manifested

Prophecy is really a manifestation of God’s presence. I long for the day when prophecy is so prevalent in the Church that Jesus is building that everyone will be aware that God is present, moving, touching lives and speaking to people. I long for the day when believers are so obviously bearing God’s presence that unbelievers are magnetically drawn to us. And, I believe that one of the main ways they will know we are bearing God’s presence is through the prophetic.

Prophecy, according to Paul, is a manifestation of God’s presence. It is a sign to believers that God is pleased and that God is present. At the same time, it shows unbelievers that God is not above us or again us but rather among us. This will make believers contagious. In fact, Zechariah promises prophetically that ten unbelievers will grab hold of one believer because of this sense of the Lord’s prophetic presence.

Though I do not necessarily equate fruitfulness with numbers, I do like the idea of every believer having an impact on ten unbelievers. If an increase in prophecy will make us this fruitful in witnessing, then that is a great reason for getting started with prophetic evangelism and seeing it flourish in the church today and through the church into the market place, the main streets as well as the highways and lanes of our cities.

If you are reading the blogs being published daily reporting on the highlights of my current apostolic trip into Russia you have heard about the young man names Alexander. I pulled him out of a crowd at a service being held at a disco bar and took him up front and prophesied over him. After the service I spoke with him about the Gospel and about his need to get saved. Then the next night he attended another service where I was ministering and at the end I spoke with him personally and shared the Gospel of the Kingdom again and he repented and prayed to be born again and became one of God’s children. Prophetic evangelism drew him to the Gospel and the Holy Spirit did the rest. God’s presence was made evident through the prophetic and God touched a lost soul and brought him to salvation through manifesting His pleasure and His presence through the prophetic.

I am excited – and the Bible states that “you can all prophecy.” (I Corinthians 14:31, 39)