As I write this – the day before its publication – we are into our second day of strong winds and snow, a blizzard. All roads and highways into and out of the city are closed. Visibility has improved but is still not good. Drifting snow and terrible road conditions. On the bight side – lots of exercise shovelling the snow from the last 36 hours. So, no need to fight the conditions to get to the gym. I do have to be out and about later in the day however. Hopefully by then conditions will improve. Welcome to winter in my part of the country.
As the weather seasons change I believe the natural is speaking to us about the spiritual or supernatural. There seems to be a change or a shift happening in the Church and thus in the Kingdom. In fact, a number of shifts
1> We are seeing the church move from being an organization to being more organic. Organic means being built on relationships and not programming. It also means more people involved in the life of the church buying into the fellowship, connecting, committing. With each member becoming actively involved in the life of the Body (1 Corinthians 12:14-31). Body ministry as expressed in 1 Corinthians 12 must become a reality.
2> We are seeing a shift from big to small. As a result of Covid we have been meeting in smaller, house-centered groups. Many of the larger churches have not been meeting but the life of the Body of Christ has continued and, in fact, improved because of the increase in house fellowships and personal face-to-face contact. This will continue even post-Covid as it is a move and a change directed by the Spirit.
3> We are shifting from cognition to emotion. We are needing to alter the way we teach. For decades we have been teaching to impart information. We have been aiming our teachings at the head, knowledge. The result is informed believers. The new shift will take us to transformation as we teach to touch the heart and thus bring immediate change into the lives of believers as the Word does its work (Hebrews 4:12). Transformation, not information. Heart not just head.
4> We will be shifting from asking “What?” To asking “What If?” In other words, we will become much more imaginative and will be stepping out in faith and making many changes to way we do life together. We will no longer just ask “What is happening?” We will be thinking and feeling through the question “What if we…?” And we will begin to, once again, step out in faith and see what the Spirit can accomplish through us.
5> For many years our emphasis has been on building a decent sized church. So, assembling a crowd as numbers have determined success or failure. We are seeing a healthy shift to building disciples and not just focusing on numbers. So, focusing on making strong and mature disciples for the Kingdom and not just more members for the Church
6> We are having to face a new reality and so there is a shift going on from the old to the new reality. This shift includes a much stronger on-line presence and using the technology that now exists to reach people for Jesus. On-line church services, small groups, and personal counselling will become a necessity in the new society and culture now being formed due in part to the Covid pandemic.
7> We need to shift gears from go to stop. This means we need to be somewhat less active and a bit more contemplative. As leaders and as believers we need to be in touch with our heart or spirit. We need to take the time to know how we are doing and what might need some realignment. We need to develop solid, in-depth relationships that allow us to be seriously accountable. We need good friends. We need to have a daily time with God and regain the discipline of journaling. We need to slow down enough to have a time to exercise daily. And, we need to develop and maintain a growing hunger for more of God in every aspect of our lives. This means we will need to say no more often so that we have the time needed to regain and maintain our health. We need to shift gears from constant go, go, go to taking the time to stop ministering as much and as often and invest in our our own health – physical, spiritual, mental, and relational.
8> We need to shift from direct to indirect influence. As leaders we often lead directly touching and changing hearts. However, there is a shift to a more biblical form of leadership where we invest the majority of our time discipling and mentoring future leaders who will influence the next generation. Thus, we continue to directly influence those who are our peers but through others that we disciple and mentor into leadership we indirectly influence many more that, on our own, we would never reach.
9> A shift from town to region (local community to complete cities and beyond). The Bible states that Jesus went throughout all of the towns and villages” in Galilee (Matthew 9:35). The northern region of Israel where Jesus ministered was, at that time, estimated to have a population of three million. Jesus ministered to therein and not just one town or village.
Paul followed this regional influence method by planting churches in major population centers and then working from there outwards to the whole region (trading district). Acts 19 sees Paul planting a church in the city of Ephesus which then shared “the word of the Lord” with every household in the entire district of Asia Minor (Acts 19:10) within two years.
10> A shift from addition to multiplication. So, instead of planting one church and watching it grow and continue to develop we shift our thinking and thus our spiritual DNA and “plant to plant”. Think of your church plant or current mature church as the first of many that will be planted. And immediately upon planting begin training and raising up teams to plant other new churches out of the current plant. A modest goal of one new church a year would be a good start.
This new church would then also plan to plant a sister church and thus in year two there would be two churches planting two new church… and so on year after year. Thus we shift our thinking and planning from an addition mentality to a multiplication mentality.
11> A shift from discouragement to encouragement. The church must become a place where everyone can find encouragement. A place where believers and non-believers can be built up and encouraged in the Lord. The early churches were oases of encouragement.
- Barnabas was called the son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36)
- Barnabas encouraged believers in Antioch (Acts 11:23)
- Two prophets in the early church, Judas and Silas “said so much to encourage and strengthen the brothers” (Acts 15:32)
- After being released from prison in Philippi, Paul and Silas went to the home of Lydia, “where they met with the brothers and encouraged them” (Acts 16:40)
- When Paul was about to enter into Macedonia, Luke writes: “Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-bye and set out for Macedonia. He travelled through the area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people (Acts 20:1-2)
- On the way to Rome, Paul the prisoner met with believers, where we read, “At the sight of these men, Paul thanked God and was encouraged” (Acts 28:15)
So, there needs to be a major focus shift where we stop dwelling on how hard something is or how difficult people can be and start seeing difficulties and problems as challenges that with God’s help we can meet. We need to focus on what will encourage people in good times and bad.
12> Shift from mundane to joyful. Life with Jesus should never be boring or mundane (ordinary, unexcited, uninteresting, dull, monotonous, tiresome). Neither should ministry. So, we need to see that we are joining with Jesus in His work and actually completing what He started.
In the Gospels Jesus began His work and ministry. In the book of Acts Jesus continues to do what He began now working through His servants (leaders and believers). Acts 1:1 states, “In my first book Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach…” Luke recorded in the Gospel of Luke what Jesus began to do. In Acts he continues to record what Jesus continued to do but this time through His Church. And, we join with Him in this continuing ministry.
The Book of Acts is the only New Testament book that never draws to a close and didn’t end… So, we are writing Acts, chapter 29 and this should always excite us and bring great joy. Working for and with the Lord should never be mundane. Planting churches and winning the lost should always be exciting and bring great joy – just as the angels in heaven rejoice each time even one lost sinner meets Jesus.
Some of the many changes needed as we enter a new season in the Church and the Kingdom.