The Weekly Feeding – Part Four

Over the past centuries, the teaching gift has been in a place of dominance in the body of Christ. We can look at any part of the church and see that this is true. How are leaders prepared for serving in the church? By learning doctrine in an academic institution of higher learning – a bible school or seminary. How are leaders ordained? By passing a doctrinal ordination test. How do we select pastors? By hearing them teach and choosing the one who teaches ‘the best.’ Even our buildings stand as evidence. Which of the five-fold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11 would design a meeting place with rows of seats facing a pulpit in the front? A shepherd (pastor) would put some couches in a circle within a smaller, more intimate, room. An evangelist would prefer a stadium. A prophet would prefer a cave up on a mountain somewhere. An apostle would much rather borrow someone else’s space. Only a teacher would design a meeting hall like the ones we typically call “church.”

As the intended balance of the five-fold ministry team (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher) gifts was lost and the teachers became the predominant leaders in the Church, the other gifts shrank to the margins and virtually disappeared. The teachers taught that the apostles disappeared with the completion of the New testament. Prophets were redefined as “forth tellers of truth,” which is another way of saying t’teacher.’ And the pastors (shepherds) were absorbed into a composite pastor-teacher role, based on an errant interpretation of the Ephesians 4 test. But as churches grew in size beyond the scope of a single shepherd, the term pastor become more synonymous with teacher than with shepherd. That left only the evangelists, but they eventually left the church (or should we say teaching hall?) to start parachurch organization so they could continue to reach people without all the complications wrought by various church committees.

Today, it seems the church believes that the worst thing that could happen would be the teaching of heresy. Through heresy is a bad thing, it is not the only bad thing. Teachers have instructed us that sound doctrine fixes everything and that every problem is a result of false doctrine. When all you have is a hammer, you see every problem as a nail.

So, if this is the case and we need to see less emphasis on the teaching of doctrine and the role of the teacher in the church – how do we handle heresy in the church today. After all, if teachers today are discipled and mentored by practicing pastors and teachers – how do we guide against heresy when we don’t have credentialed teachers? Good question. However, think about it for a second. How many people do you personally know that have taught heresy and started a cult? However, how many of us know of a Christian leader who has fallen into immorality? Heresy is not our biggest problem, it seems. But, we have been convinced by the church run by ‘teachers’ who have monopolized all the leadership roles in our churches, that heresy is the only problem and solid teaching our only remedy.

We must allow for the other gifts and callings to reemerge. This is not to say that we don’t need teachers. We need teachers to equip successive generations to teach, and we need to shift the balance in our training so that the other gifts have equitable preparation time, resources, and validation.

I have singled out teachers as impediments to the proper implementation of the five-fold ministry and the interaction of all the five-fold ministry gifts. But that is the current reality in much of the church. We all have far too much experience living under the leadership of solo teachers. Perhaps that will change in the near future, and perhaps one day we will see longer shadows cast by the other gifts. But at the present moment in church history, the five-fold ministry model is out of kilter, and we need to begin to push in the other direction in the hope of finding a more balanced approach to church ministry.

The Weekly Feeding – Part Three

Following up on the previous two blogs…

Certainly, God communicates through His written Word, but He can also speak to us in other ways. He speaks through His indwelling Spirit (Galatians 5:18). He speaks through dreams (Matthew 1:20-21) and visions (Acts 16:9-10). He speaks through angels (Luke 1:26-38). He speaks through other people (Acts 21:8-14). And there’s no reason to think that He can’t speak to us in an audible voice if He so desires (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). He has spoken in all of these ways – numerous times – in the Bible we study with such veneration. Why then are we so afraid to let Him speak to us in other ways today?

The Bible we hold with such reverence describes all these ways of communicating and never once says that God is no longer able to communicate in these ways. He is fully capable of leading us beyond written instruction. He even spoke through a donkey (Numbers 22:28-34). He led people with a pillar of fire and smoke (Exodus 13:21-22), a star (Matthew 2:1-10), and teleportation (Acts 8:39-40). And if the need arises, even rocks can begin to speak (Luke 19:40).

None of this diminishes in any way the truth found in our Bibles. It is divine revelation that is inspired, complete and cannot be replaced. Everything God says to us outside of Scripture will always be verified by Scripture, not contradict it. But if our faith is solely an exercise in studying a book and modifying our behaviour to the commands of the laws we find there, we are no better off than the Pharisees (John 5:39).

Because we often evaluate teachers based on their accumulated knowledge, rather than by what they actually do with the knowledge, immature teachers who are able to communicate well are able to advance quickly in our current church culture, even if they are not well advanced in character and humility. Age and experience are not necessarily good indicators, because immature teachers can accumulate knowledge and sit in some pretty influential places, even through their character and their ability to equip others (the real task of the teacher) are not as advanced as their learning.

In academic circles, a teaching gift can thrive, but it is also easy for the authority of the teacher to reside in degrees, published works, and academic credentials, rather than in application of the Word of God. Teachers who expect people to submit to their authority simply because of their credentials or academic accolades will undermine the health of the body and can even corrupt the church environment. A secondary side effect is that gifted and sound teachers who lack the same academic credentials may be undervalued or even disregarded entirely. Humility is a necessary requirement for those with degrees and those without. It is a matter of character in the teacher…

The Weekly Feeding – Part Two

Teachers (and apostles whose ministry has a large teaching component) can become enamoured of all the fascination little things they uncover in their study. Teachers get bored unless they are constantly learning, and they can get frustrated if they don’t have an avenue for sharing their newfound knowledge with others. Unfortunately, many people are happy to hear what the teacher has learned, but they are not necessarily committed to internalizing that knowledge or putting it into practice. In the church, this leads to congregations that are educated beyond their obedience. Unless the teacher is committed 100 percent to the teaching role (see Part One) the church will become a place where people gain information but not go through the process and journey of transformation.

The Western / Hellenistic manner of teaching has plagued the church for too long. Teaching that is linear, formulaic, and conceptual, rather than obedience oriented, separates truth from the way life really happens – which is far more of a mosaic pattern.

Knowledge of facts is a shallow form of learning and insufficient for the truths of God’s Kingdom. We are commanded to teach people not just to KNOW, but rather to OBEY all that Jesus commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20). For too many years, we have simply passed on information to passive audiences and called that teaching. But faithfulness to Jesus’ voice is what we need to see before we can truly say someone has learned anything. Unless people have made what they have learned such a valued part of their lives that they own it on a deeper level, the teacher has not truly facilitated learning. And because we learn more by teaching others than by being taught ourselves, perhaps the true test of learning is only when we pass along the lessons we have learned to others. But if teachers allow their lessons to simply accumulate each week in the minds of the people, doctrine soon becomes something to KNOW rather than something to PRACTICE.

Teachers can be so enthralled by Scripture that they begin to see it as the only solution to every problem – the all-purpose tool in the teacher’s toolbox. This same love for Scripture has caused some teachers to assume we no longer need apostles or prophets today because the completed canon of Scripture is all we need. In fact, the apostolic and prophetic gifts are wrongly seen by some teachers as a threat to the Scriptures. They would say the Bible is all we need, and if we simply follow it to the letter, everything will be great.

In an overreaction to cults that have embraced “other revelation” to add to the Bible, many evangelical teachers have cautioned their congregations to avoid all channels of revelation apart from the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible. This extreme response also accentuated the role of the teacher as the most important gift in the church, and God is left with no other avenue to communicate His truth, revelation, and guidance than through the written revelation of Scripture and the teaching of that revelation by the ‘teachers”‘ in the church. As a result we are told that the ministry of apostles and prophets ended when the canon of Scripture was established – but, for some reason, the ministry of the teacher, pastor, and evangelist continues.

More next time…

The Weekly Feeding – Part One

In many churches the main emphasis at a worship service is to “teach” God’s Word to His people. I do this on a regular basis. The goal of teaching is that believers will become more mature in their faith as a result of knowing more. This maturity would lead to a change in the way life is approached and lived as the Christian comes to know, through God’s Word, God’s will and God’s ways better. But, as I look around I don’t see this change we are teaching for. We have well informed and even well educated believers but not transformed believers. It seems we teach to impart information but not to see transformation. This needs to change.

Here is what I believe; It is not my job as a pastor / teacher / apostle to feed the saints. A good shepherd leads his flock to green pastures so the sheep can feed themselves. But what happens in many of our teacher-centric churches is that gifted preachers, who derive great satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment from teaching God’s Word, and who measure their success by how many people come to hear them on a given Sunday, perpetrate a dysfunctional, codependent relationship with their congregations, who come week after week to receive their neatly packaged carton of milk. The Church will never grow to full maturity as long as the church is filled with immature lambs, sucking milk from their pastor week after week, year after year.

Maybe we need to redefine what it means to teach. Here is one possible working definition: Teaching is facilitating the learning of others so that they KNOW, DO, and PASS ON TO OTHERS relevant and meaningful truth. We cannot say that teaching has occurred unless the following four pieces are in place:
1> We get the message right
2> We communicate the message in an understandable way
3> We see to it that the content is applied in the lives of the students
4> We equip and release our students to teach others what they have just learned and applied

Organic multiplication – the thirty, sixty, one hundredfold return of Matthew 13:23 – can only happen when teachers carry out 100 percent of their role as seen above.

We in the Church are educated well beyond our obedience. More information and education is not the answer; we need more obedience. It is God’s design for teachers to ‘teach’ others in such a way that they can then ‘teach’ others so that the Word of God is consistently passed on to succeeding generations. Parents teaching their children, teens teaching their friends, and so on. ‘Teach’ here being defined by 1 to 4 above….

And, we all know that when the goal is to learn so as to teach that the student who will need to soon teach the new truth that has been applied learns so much more than the potential student. Thus everyone will be learning more, applying more, and growing more – not just the pulpit teacher/preacher.

This teaching approach has many benefits:
1> Everyone LEARNS the truth on a far deeper level
2> Everyone UNDERSTANDS the truth, rather than merely remembering it
3> Everyone is better equipped to PRACTICE the truth they have learned
4> Everyone OWNS the message, rather than simply knowing it
5> Everyone SPREADS the core message to others, who in turn LEARN it, UNDERSTAND it, PRACTICE it, OWN it, and SPREAD it.

That’s how the Kingdom of God multiplies into a movement. So, it is time for the way we teach to change. The teacher-pastor needs to lead his sheep into the pasture and allow them to eat, digest, and grow through the Word so that they can then be truly healthy and reproduce…teaching others!

A Biblical Principle

Here’s a biblical principle we can take to the bank: If we sow sparingly, we will reap sparingly; if we sow the gospel abundantly we will reap abundantly (2 Corinthians 9:6). Some believe this is why evangelists are so effective in leading people to Christ – they sow abundantly. I believe there is some merit to the idea. The Good News itself is powerful because the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). And, the more often it is shared, the more often it will bear fruit.

Peter, one of the original twelve, states that we are “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God.” So, obviously, the more ‘seeds’ we plant the better the harvest we will reap. Sow seldom – see little fruit because you are planting very few seeds. Sow regularly and often – you will reap a harvest from some of the seeds that you planted – some of the times that you shared the Gospel.

Our job is to share Christ. Not to bring people to Christ – that is the job of the Holy Spirit. Our task is to take Christ to the people. In case you have not noticed, unbelievers are not flocking to the church where they can hear the Gospel. So, we are to take the Gospel to them. Then the Holy Spirit works with the seed we planted and convicts them of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-10). As hearts become warm towards God people respond and we see a harvest of souls for the Kingdom. The Holy Spirit is the true evangelist who convicts people’s hearts, opens their spiritual eyes, and points them to Christ. He resides in all of us, not just in the evangelists (one of the five-fold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11-12).

This is the task of all true disciples. Some excuse themselves from the work of winning the lost by saying that they don’t have the gift of evangelism. There is no such gift in the Bible. Every true disciple of Jesus is called to “follow Him” (Matthew 4:19) and, as we do, He “makes us into fishers of men.” So, if we are not fishing we are not following. And, we are not “becoming.” We have traded ‘safe,’ ‘secure,’ and ‘comfortable’ for exciting, risky, and an adventure.

We all need to remember that one day we will be held accountable by the Lord Jesus as to what we did with what He commanded us to do. He was not joking when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). And, it was not an option that we can choose to become involved in or choose to let others do it while we stay safe and secure. Of course, we will become involved in other areas of ministry – caring, hospitality, worship, leading … but, Jesus will still bring us back to the basic and foundational calling that is upon every believer’s life – the “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) as He did.

So, time to learn to share the Gospel so we can plant these powerful seeds of Good News in the life of people that we know and the hearts of total strangers. Of course, this will mean having the learn how to express the Gospel as most believers know the Gospel but because they have never shared it – really find it hard to express the Good News of salvation in a way that makes sense of this powerful message. And, we need to learn to share it in a way that today’s generation can understand it. We live in a post-Christian society and so we need to learn how to communicate the message in new ways to those who do not have a Christian consciousness.

Remember, every one of us will be held accountable for what we have done with the gifts that He gave us – and the greatest gift is the message of salvation – the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Another Gospel…

Written by: The Rev. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. 09/10/14 – Reprinted in Charisma News

The evangelical world, joined by no shortage of secular observers, has been abuzz about the latest soundbite of note from the Pastors Osteen—this time offered by Victoria Osteen as her husband Joel beamed in the background. It is a hard video to watch.

In her message, Victoria Osteen tells their massive congregation to realize that their devotion to God is not really about God, but about themselves. “I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we are happy. … That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy.”

She continued: “So, I want you to know this morning—Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. … When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

As you might predict, the congregation responded with a loud “Amen.”

America deserves the Osteens. The consumer culture, the cult of the therapeutic, the marketing impulse and the sheer superficiality of American cultural Christianity probably made the Osteens inevitable. The Osteens are phenomenally successful because they are the exaggerated fulfillment of the self-help movement and the cult of celebrity rolled into one massive megachurch media empire. And, to cap it all off, they give Americans what Americans crave—reassurance delivered with a smile.

Judged in theological terms, the Osteen message is the latest and slickest version of Prosperity Theology. That American heresy has now spread throughout much of the world, but it began in the context of American Pentecostalism in the early 20th century. Prosperity theology, promising that God rewards faith with health and wealth, first appealed to those described as “the dispossessed”—the very poor.

Now, its updated version appeals to the aspirational class of the suburbs. Whereas the early devotees of prosperity theology prayed for a roof over their heads that did not leak, the devotees of prosperity theology in the Age of Osteen pray for ever bigger houses. The story of how the Osteens exercised faith for a big house comes early in Joel Osteen’s best-seller, Your Best Life Now.

According to Osteen, God wants to pour out his “immeasurable favor” on his human creatures, and this requires a fundamental re-ordering of our thinking. “To experience this immeasurable favor,” Osteen writes, “you must rid yourself of that small-minded thinking and start expecting God’s blessings, start anticipating promotion and supernatural increase. You must conceive it in your heart before you can receive it. In other words, you must make increase in your own thinking, then God will bring those things to pass.”

There is nothing really new in this message. Anyone familiar with the New Thought movement and later books such as Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich will see a persistent theme. The important issue is this: Prosperity theology is a false gospel. The problem with prosperity theology is not that it promises too much but that it aims for so little. What God promises us in Christ is far above anything that can be measured in earthly wealth—and believers are not promised earthly wealth nor the gift of health.

But to talk of the promises of God to believers is actually to jump outside the Osteen audience. The Osteen message does not differentiate between believers and unbelievers—certainly not in terms of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In their sermons, writings and media appearances, the Osteens insist that God is well-disposed to all people and wills that all flourish, but there is virtually no mention of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No reference to sin as the fundamental issue. No explanation of atonement and resurrection as God’s saving acts; no clarity of any sort on the need for faith in Christ and repentance of sin.

Instead, they focus on happiness and God’s “immeasurable favor” to be poured out on all people, if they will only correct their thinking.

As a thought exercise, let’s just limit the consideration to those people who have identified as Christians throughout the centuries. Does the Osteen message come close to their experience? Would it even make sense?

Just consider the fact that most Christians throughout the history of the church have been poor, and often desperately poor. They were not hoping to move into a suburban mini-mansion, they hoped to be able to feed their children one more day. That picture is still true for millions upon millions of Christians around the world today.

And that is just the start of it. What about all those who are even now suffering persecution for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? What about the loved ones of the martyrs in Mosul? What about the Christians forced out of their homes and threatened with genocide by the Islamic State terrorists? What about the children of Christians slain in Iraq and Syria just in recent weeks, or those martyred by Boko Haram in Africa? How does prosperity theology work for them? Can anyone look them in the eye and say that God’s plan for believers in this life is to know “Your Best Life Now”?

In her recent work on prosperity theology, historian Kate Bowler traces the shift from what she calls the “hard prosperity” message of the early Pentecostals to the “soft prosperity” message of modern preachers like Joel Osteen. As Bowler explains, the new “softer” version of the prosperity message has “become the foremost Christian theology of modern living.”

Well, maybe. Prosperity theology certainly sells books and draws crowds in the United States, but what does it possibly say to a grieving Christian wife and mother in Iraq? How can it possibly be squared with the actual message of the New Testament? How can any sinner be saved, without a clear presentation of sin, redemption, the cross, the empty tomb, and the call to faith and repentance? Prosperity theology fails every test, and fails every test miserably. It is a false gospel, and one that must be repudiated, not merely reformatted.

Victoria Osteen’s comments fit naturally within the worldview and message she and her husband have carefully cultivated. The divine-human relationship is just turned upside down, and God’s greatest desire is said to be our happiness. But what is happiness? It is a word that cannot bear much weight. As writers from C.S. Lewis to the apostle Paul have made clear, happiness is no substitute for joy. Happiness, in the smiling version assured in the Age of Osteen, doesn’t last, cannot satisfy, and often is not even real.

Furthermore, God’s pleasure in his human creatures centers in his desire and will that they come to faith in Jesus Christ and be saved. The great dividing line in humanity is not between the rich and the poor, the sick and the well, or even the happy and the unhappy. The great divide is between those who, in Christ, have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s glorious light.

Mere happiness cannot bear the weight of the gospel. The message of the real gospel is found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That is a message that can be preached with a straight face, a courageous spirit, and an urgent heart in Munich, in Miami or in Mosul.

If our message cannot be preached with credibility in Mosul, it should not be preached in Houston. That is the Osteen Predicament.

Start and Go, Stay and Grow

The Bible speaks of the five-fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher (Ephesians 4:11) whose task it is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Jesus gives these gives to His Church – the Church that He is the Head of and that, as Matthew’s Gospel states, the Church that Jesus is building. These are also known as the ascension gifts as they were given to the Church as Jesus ascended. He had fulfilled all five of these roles during His three years of ministering while training His future leaders – the twelve disciples that He called apostles. So, as He ascended to the right hand of the Father He gave these roles to the Church and those who are called to these ministries within the Church today fulfill His complete ministry as they functioned together as a team.

The apostles and prophets are those whose main role or function is to start churches. They go, as did Paul the apostle, where the Gospel of the Kingdom has not been preached and they plant the seeds of the Gospel. They are wise to work with those who are called to be five-fold evangelists as the gift and skills of an evangelist are very important in the Start and Go stage of Gospel planting. As these seeds grow and believers are welcomed into the Kingdom the Church is founded and raised up by Jesus. He stated that He would build the Church. The apostle and prophet preach and share the Gospel, the Gospel is verified by miracles, signs and wonders as the Lord works with them (Mark 16:20), and the Church gathers starting with as few as two or three. The Lord promises that when two or three gather He will be there (Matthew 18:20). That is certainly what we all want when Church happens.

At this point the apostle and prophet will decide that it is time to “go.” The apostle and prophet are the “start and grow” part of the five-fold ministry team. They will stay in touch and continue to build relationally with those they have been working with and especially with the leaders of the new church. But, it is time for them to move on and begin again to plant another church for the Kingdom in an area that is spiritually dark. The evangelist will most often stay longer and work with the team that is now going to grow the Church and establish it as a world-changing force to be reasoned with. At this point we are still seeing a great deal of evangelism going on and the saints are being trained in evangelism because the middle of the five-fold ministry team (the evangelist) is very active allowing the church to be evangelistic.

But the key leaders at this time are those who are pastoring and teaching – the shepherds and teachers. These are the “Stay and Grow” part of the five-fold ministry team. They begin to work hand-in-hand with the evangelist as the local church enters the next life stage.

Maybe the evangelistic call and this the evangelistic gift is mentioned in the middle of the Ephesians 4:11list because it is the bridge between the foundation layers (Start and Go) and the church ‘builders’ (Stay and Grow), and is capable of working well in both contexts. The evangelist is, of course, valuable in the start up stage of the Church because of their zeal for seeing the lost saved. Seeing the lost saved is essential in the start up stage of the Church. But, they are still seriously valuable during the Stay and Grow stage because of their focus and emphasis. With its emphasis on growing the church by the addition of new Christ followers, the evangelist is essential for the ongoing building of the church. Evangelists provide the church with a tender heart for lost people, Without that gift anchored in the growing body of Christ, the entire ministry might become inwardly focused and self-serving.

We simply cannot leave the development of the church to the pastors (shepherds) and teachers alone, whose hearts are consumed with helping Christian become better together, but might neglect the lost and broken world if left to themselves. We must draw upon the compassion of the evangelist and their gift to ensure that compassion for the lost remains a core value in the Church.

So, if we need the evangelist to stay and help the local church to continue to build and grow. But, we also need the evangelist to move forward with the apostle and prophet into new territory to plant the Gospel and raise up another church – it seems that we are in desperate need of many more five-fold evangelists. Not just evangelistic people but true give-fold evangelists who not only evangelize but equip the saints to do the work of seeking and saving the lost. In my experience there is a tremendous shortage of five-fold evangelists in the Church today. I am sure Jesus is calling them – I just not see many young people rising to the challenge and accepting the call. This should be a matter of urgent prayer for al those who love the Lord and are involved in the growth and expansion of the Church that Jesus is building.

The Church’s “Lost and Found” Department

William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, said: “If I thought could win one more soul to the Lord by walking on my head and playing the tambourine with my toes, I’d learn how!”

C.T. Studd, a famous British cricket player turned preacher, said: “Some wish to stay within the sound of the church or chapel bell, I’d rather run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”

Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher of the 1800’s, stated: “I question whether the defences of the gospel are not sheer impertinences. The gospel does not need defending. If Jesus Christ is not alive and cannot fight His own battles, then Christianity is in a bad state. But He is alive, and we have only to preach His gospel in all its naked simplicity, and the power that goes with it will be the evidence of His divinity.”

These men were in touch with the heart of God who will that “all men be saved.” They were not ‘playing church’ nor were they attempting to escape from the real world. Rather, just the opposite. Thy jumped right into the middle of real life and preached Jesus who is the only One who can change a life. They had each personally experienced a powerful change in their lives when they encounter God through Jesus Christ and so were convinced that Jesus would change the lives of others who heard the Gospel. So, their main task throughout their lives was to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the lost. They did this in church buildings, in the fields or rural areas and the streets of the cities, and one-on-one when talking with the unsaved. Evangelism was not something they did – it was a way of life for them.

We should not write this off with thoughts such as: “Well that was then and this is now;” and “They were professional preachers and I am not.” The truth is they realized that they were saved by grace through faith in Jesus and His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead (Ephesians 2:8-9). Then, as the next verse states: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). These men realized that the good works that the Father had planned for them to do involved doing just what Jesus did – “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). They understood that every believer was “to go into all the world and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19) and, as believers, they obeyed this command known as The Great Commission.

So, the Church should not have a lost and found department. The church should be the “lost and found department” for the Kingdom of God. That is how God designed it to function and that is the call of God on the Church that Jesus is building. This is the only task that Jesus left us and everything we do within the Church should be training and equipping, encouraging and motivating, the saints to do what God left us here to accomplish for Him – winning the lost to Him. To do anything else is to ‘play church.’ And, to fail to do this is disobedience at best and rebellion at its worst.

God is looking for loyal hearts that want to fulfill His plan and His purpose for their lives and for His Church.

Need-To-Grow, Need-To-Know

By now things are settling back into a routine – the kids are back to school, the weather is turning cooler, summer travels are over, and the new fall television shows are being advertised and we are now able to program our recording structures to catch the new programs that have caught out attention as they begin their attempt to gain a viewing audience. Hopefully this means you are also back to a daily routine with your time with the Lord. As I have spoken to many believers during the summer it has become obvious that the season we call summer does have an impact upon our devotional life – either we use the warmer weather and slower pace to spend more time with the Lord or we find ourselves drawn to the many specific summer activities and thus lose some of the time we would normally spend with the Lord. Time to establish the pace of the fall and winter – at least until the Christmas rush of events crashes in upon us.

Thinking about spiritual growth. It seems to be that the regular daily time with the Lord – Bible reading and prayer – are more of a ‘maintenance’ activity. Our reading and study of the Scriptures and our speaking to and listen to the Lord simply maintains the level of relationship we already have. My thought is that spiritual growth really happens on a need-to-grow or a need-to-know basis. As life happens, we are suddenly confronted by the need for personal growth or more biblical information in an area of life that up to now has not seemed all that important.

So, as a result, I purposely place myself in situations where I will need to know and grow … I step out in faith into a new venture for the Lord and find myself needing to know new information, new skills, new understanding… and this begins a flurry of reading, studying, seeking others who can help me to know and grow. I say yes to things that are really beyond my current skill set because I know it will cause me to grow as I come to know more of God’s ways and see more of His Kingdom. These challenges and intentional cutting edge experiences are what keeps my Christian faith fresh as they stretch and challenge me in so many ways. However, when there is no need-to-know or need-to-grow experiences happening I find I stagnate and simply return to maintenance mode. So, I continue to look for that next exciting opportunity to grow.

I believe this is one of the reasons that Jesus commanded us to “seek and save the lost” as we “go into all the world and make disciples.” He knew that we needed to be challenged finding ourselves in situations beyond our abilities and knowledge base. Thus, in the need-to-know and need-to-grow situation we are challenged and find ourselves developing new skills as needed and accumulating more knowledge, wisdom, and insight. It also makes for a great journey with Jesus because no day is ever the same as another. And that builds faith as well.

So, if your Christian faith and belief in the Lordship of Jesus is not stretching and challenging you so that you are finding yourself in need-to-know and need-to-grow situations … reach out to the lost and watch how quickly you are challenged and how much new life you will be experiencing on a daily basis. The Christian faith was never meant to be boring or routine – and neither should your relationship with the Lord be static and repetitive. It should always be “new every morning.

The God We Worship

In a series of teachings I am currently writing and teaching one of the points is learning to be totally dependent upon God. In a nation (maybe even the world) where we are taught to be self-reliant and independent from an early age it is often difficult to grasp the concept and actuality of total dependence upon Someone else. However, until we achieve this breakthrough we really have not understood the God we worship and serve and have not experienced the “abundant life” that Jesus spoke about.

As I have personally wrestled with this concept of total dependence upon God (and thus total and absolute trust) I have realized that it is really much more than a concept or principle. It is foundational to everything in the life of a Christian and disciple of the Lord Jesus. It is the ‘first step’ in our walk with God. it is not theory – it is extremely practical and applicable to every day life. And, this ‘total dependence’ is actually based in knowing the true character and nature of God the Father as revealed by and through the life of Jesus.

In my journey researching and writing this series of teachings I have been reminded of God’s character. God is…
Too mysterious for me to define,
Too obvious for me to deny,
Too great for me to manage,
Too loving for me to mistrust,
Too mighty for me to dismiss,
Too powerful for me to battle,
Too fatherly for me to forget,
Too kind for me to ignore, and
Too right for me to go wrong.

So, the only thing I can do is trust Him and learn to depend on Him. I have learned, as well, that we can only change, grow, and have life to the full if we are willing to become dependent upon God and turn to Him in every detail of life. As we do this we are growing deep roots as we become ‘rooted and grounded in His love’ and will find ourselves “abiding in the vine” and bearing fruit for Him and His Kingdom.

Remember, God is more interested in how deep we grow our roots than how big we grow our branches. After all, the quality of a tree’s fruit is more dependent on the health of its roots than the height of its limbs.