Kingdom Effective

 

bad church
In most ‘good’ evangelical churches, people are encouraged to accept Christ, make a profession of faith, or be baptized. Then, they are congratulated, put on the membership role, and then quickly forgotten. Sadly, these churches have become warehouses, holding Christians to numbers as a testimony and perceived success, and, as a whole, forsaken discipleship for cheap, contemptible programs with no real teaching or meaning. These programs may seem great on the surface because they attract people, but they do not keep them. In doing shallow programming with little teaching or discipleship has left its members to figure out these ‪‎spiritual ‪growth things on their own.

 

Therefore, the back door of the church is as big as the front door! Or the church is not really Kingdom effective!

All that you do in life as a leader of Christ’s church must be a reflection of a life surrendered to Christ. If you are so self-willed there can be no room for the living Christ, this may mean that others will use you, take advantage of you, get mad at you, ignore you, go around you, ridicule you, and persecute you!  But remember, what they do to you, they do to Him!  Make sure you are not the one persecuting the Lord!

And how do we persecute our Lord in the church today? When we become in breach of his mandates, like to Disciple!

There are many Bible teachers and so called preachers who turn the gospel of Jesus Christ into some kind of “easy-believe-ism,” where repentance is not necessary. However, as you can see, the Bible has something different to say. I would go with God’s Word and not self-proclaimed prompters. John reminds us of the need to bear fruit in keeping with true repentance (Gal. 5)!  Are you showing true acceptance of Jesus as your Lord? You can know this by doing what He says (Luke 6:46; John 3:30).

Let our Lord be LORD, He is to be more; you are to be less. Be willing to learn about Him, to grow by His example in our obedience and be willing to go through times of waiting, confusion, discouragement and even suffering. And as leaders we pass this on!  See these as opportunities for personal growth, faith building and strengthening.

 

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Summarizing What God Calls Us to Do

 call of Christ

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8

God calls us to distinction and to Himself. There is nothing we could ever do to earn our grace or place in heaven. There is no program, ministry, outreach, or person saved that could ever earn or add one tiny immeasurable amount to His love for us. So, does this mean we sit in our chairs and do nothing? Well, lots of people think so, or at least they act like they think so. Our faith may not have a price tag attached, but there must be a response that shows the fruit of what He has done.

We need to wake up to our call and our responsibility, to give a response and reason for our faith. Yes, we can just sit in a pew and do nothing, receiving our heavenly award in the afterlife to come. But, will we receive a “well done, good and faithful servant,” reasoning for our election, a response of love to His love for us?

Did you know that God calls us to be a lover?

Not like the lovers we see portrayed on TV or in the movies or in romance novels. God calls us to real love that is a response to who He is and what He has done in us. We are based and rooted in Him so we are able to respond to those around us as our Lord has responded to us. So many Christians will see their faith as a self-centered journey that involves them and God alone, even though the Scriptures say otherwise. Our faith may come as an individual choice to receive His election and grace, but we are still in community with one another. It is like going up to a person who was just in an auto accident, and saying, “gee, you are hurt,” and then just walk away. “No need to bother to call for an ambulance.” “They are not my responsibility.” “It is just God and I.”

That individualistic thinking is imaging a God who is different that what is revealed to us in Scripture, and replacing Him with our selfish inclinations and laziness. We are not “Lone Ranger” Christians. We are part of a posse, part of a community all working, learning, and serving the same Lord and God together. Remember, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto, and their focus was to help others. He did not ride alone. Our faith must be in community, as we are the body of Christ, and not parts to ourselves. Are we responding to the privilege we have in Christ by honoring Him? Or, do we try it alone, our rationalizations serving as our “savior?”

There are too many churches that neglect their call, ignore their neighborhood, and burrow themselves away from the call that Christ has given to all of us.

There are even churches who target a specific audience or demographic, that is, only the people with whom they are comfortable, and ignore the call of our Lord to reach all people.

We have to reform, to get beyond ourselves, our prejudices, and our desires so we can go beyond our felt needs and plans and seize the opportunities to be our best for His glory. We have to see the church as what it was designed and destined for, a haven of rest, a place of worship, a place of discipleship, and a place of fellowship, not merely a place of self-interests and misplaced piety.

Handling Traditions in the Church P 8

Dealing with Bad Traditions 

Jesus does not attack a tradition as being intrinsically bad within itself; He attacks the religious leaders’ inconsistency, insincerity, and their practice of hypocritical legalism. For the most part, I like traditions in the church. I look forward to them and if they work, I try to do them again, even better. Evangelism campaigns, Easter celebrations, and such are sometimes sacred cows in our churches, and, more often than not, for good reason. However, when the traditions become the focus, such as when the Easter service becomes more important than Whom and what the service is about, or the evangelism campaign becomes more about the mobilizing and rallying than the focus of reaching our neighbor, we have missed the point, and have become “Pharisees.” I have been a “Pharisee (they are not fair you see)” with traditions in the past. I had to learn not to be a Sadducee (they are sad you see), but to wake up and see His glory rather than what I wanted to do or redo. If you still are not sure you have a good or bad tradition, look at it this way: a good tradition glorifies our Lord; a bad tradition glorifies its founders, leaders, and/or participants. These are replete with power struggles, gossip, bickering, and the point is often missed in the chaos of dissention. 

What can your church do to prevent, or at least inhibit, hypocrisy?  Why can external rituals not replace the inward condition of the heart? 

As far as the “sacred cows” go (programs that people cling to so much they are unwilling to review or improve them), remember that we are to honor the past and embrace the future! “Sacred cows” are best tipped by encouraging their founders and leaders that their time and energies can be better spent in a more useful direction, one they may not have considered. Allow them to brainstorm and help you do the “tipping.” Share the vision; let them visit other programs. Never follow a suggestion or do anything without their input, for “cows” may come at and crush you!   

Jesus told His disciples not to worry about the Pharisee’s power. How can this truth maintain our focus so we do not worry? 

If you are struggling with this, sit down with the leaders and powerbrokers, be in prayer, be encouraging, and restate with love the purpose of your church. (This is another reason why a good, God-honoring purpose and vision is so important—what we are about and what we are doing about it, affects everything that is done in a church.) It gets people on the same page and should be all to God’s glory!  

Look over the tradition or program and evaluate it. Meet with the parties involved, and with encouragement, start and end with prayer. (for more help, see How to Start, Develop, and Evaluate Programs)                                                                                                                                                                        

1.     Ask how can you/we get this lined up better so it glorifies Christ and not just please personalities? Pick their brains for ideas.

2.     What has currently been working well? What has not? (Get them to see the big picture; What do you all need to do?)

 3.     What should you have avoided?

 4.     What were the past successes and failures? How can things be made better?

 5.     Now, map out the successes and failures during the past year. If no evaluation has been done before, go back five years, regardless of leadership changes.

 6.     Do not put people down; rather, use this time to lift up and encourage! Make it a comfortable time. Be open, listen, support the idea or premise of the program, and encourage the people being evaluated to do the same. Condescending attitudes of the leadership will cause more destruction that not having a program at all!

 7.     Now, brainstorm ideas for changes. Be honest and do not feel you have to make changes if nothing is wrong. If it works, don’t fix it! Investigate small things that can be done to make improvements. If it is in shambles, at worst, you may have to start over or even “can” it. At best, it might just need some tinkering and encouragement or new leadership! If so, have a banquet or do something to honor the ones who have served, and make sure they are not out of the loop. (Keep it open for their return when they are ready.) It is easier to sew on a patch than to buy a new coat!

 8.     List the steps toward achieving the goals you came up with. 

 9.     Make sure you honor the people who have worked hard, and encourage them to seek to be better by mutual faith and cooperation. If they refuse, then you have a fight on your hands. (At that point, handle it in prayer and as conflict, and follow our steps on our conflict channel.)

 10.  Write this all down so you have a record to go back to, and keep in mind any good program or tradition must have benefits for the church and community and must glorify our Lord!

  

Handling Traditions in the Church P 7

How do we go before God?

Jesus asks, hear and understand; so do we? Jesus is not talking about the biochemistry of bacteria and disease with this hand washing custom or any specifics or whys of a tradition. Rather, He is indicating the spiritual. How do we go before God? How is He honored? How does this benefit the faith of the people in the church or show Christ outside of it? Do we use repetitive, meaningless traditions that have no foundation? Or, do we seek Him in truth, worship, and devotion for His glory, and not ours? The key question to ask about any program, outreach, ritual, or tradition that your church does or may do is this: How is Christ honored and displayed?

How can traditions be a good way to honor our Lord? Is this possible?

When Jesus tells them, the Pharisees were offended—oh really? Perhaps it was as many of us are when we are challenged with truth or better ideas. We might say, “oh well, too bad,” but consider that it would be like offending your top denominational leaders and your top government leaders all at once today! The Pharisees had no real political power under Roman occupation, but they had considerable influence amongst the people, so the Romans used the Pharisees to keep the people under control. Just as many of the power brokers and workers—good and bad—in a church may not be in official leadership, but they wield influence. When we challenge the bad sacred cow, they may take their ball (money) and go home. We must allow them to do so, as honoring God is more important than pleasing petty people and the risk of losing capital. You have to know this and respect the people, but at the same time be “peace makers” and keep the Truth as truth.

You have to care enough to confront, to model the Christ to whom we lead others. Jesus was not afraid of confrontation because His focus was God’s Truth. Because Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, He frees us from the bondage of legalism and false doctrines into the freedom of hope and rest (Col. 2:16-17). Jesus also frees us from the bondage that misguided, evil people place on others for personal gain. But, we must remove our attention and Will from such wrong paths, and place our focus upon Him. We must not see our traditions as a yoke to keep our eyes off His wonders and call.

What would happen to you if you offended your top church elders, denominational leaders, and your top city and state government leaders all at once? What kind of boldness and confidence would this take? How do we get such confidence? Remember, there is a line between boldness and recklessness!

In a healthy church, we are to honor the past, but we are not to live in the past. We are to live in the present and embrace the future with our call and gifts, and take hold of His opportunities, serving and trusting in our Lord. We are to be in His freedom and rest, as He is the God of love and delight, not the God who burdens needlessly. And, we are to embrace the future and the wonders still to come (Heb. 4:9). Bad traditions and bad personalities are forms of legalism, and this is a yoke that will distract us from His wonders and call. We will not see Christ; we will only see the yoke and its stranglehold upon us. Lest we put it on others to distract them, we must take it off and embrace our real Lord. As the last passage in Matthew 11:29 tells us, we need to take off our old, heavy burden, and place ourselves in His strength. Allow Christ to be your strength—not your thoughts, ideas, aspirations, or Will—as they will lead you astray. He will lead you to rest (Psalm. 55:22; Neh. 8:10; Isa. 40:29)!

What can you do to prevent robbing yourself of the opportunities God gives you?

Jesus told His disciples not to worry about the Pharisee’s power; He placed the focus on Truth and away from falsehoods (Matt. 3:10). External rituals cannot replace the inward condition of the heart because what we are to do is all about aligning oneself either with Him or with self and other false belief systems and sin. This includes bad programming and bad traditions, as they represent bad stewardship of His precepts and call. Even be a good program, or social gathering can be bad if it takes the place of and draws our attention, especially away from our worship and devotion to Christ. The heart is purified by our faith and obedience, not by our service; our service is a Fruit of our love and obedience to God (Isa. 1: 10-20; 29:13; 59:13; John 10:34; Acts 15:9; Rom. 8:14; 1 Cor. 10:33; 2 Thess. 3:6).

How do we come before God? Is it with repetitive, meaningless traditions that have no foundation, or do we seek Him in truth, worship, and devotion for His glory and not ours? Why is this so hard for some?

 

Handling Traditions in the Church P 6

How are your Traditions? 

Perhaps you had a tradition that started out great but evolved over time, and what it was supposed to venerate or honor got left out. I was in charge of a wonderful tradition in my first church as a youth minister, one that I looked forward to that had been practiced for decades. It was an English Christmas dinner and a fundraiser for the youth. The women coordinated, the elders cooked, and the youth served. We had prime rib and all the fixings, a play to reenact the birth of our Lord, and it was all set in a traditional 19th century English theme, complete with the appropriate decorations and type of dress that was worn by the servers and hosts. It was fun and eloquent. However, as the years went by, it became skewed. It developed into who got to do what, whose spot was where, whose role was what, who got the money, where did it go, and so forth. Details over planning, over purpose, and what the dinner was supposed to be about were all hidden by our expectations and pride. We ended up canceling it for a few years. When we restarted it, we had a better, more God-fearing mindset. But in the wake, people left the church in disgust over how things were handled and how it was not right. Looking back, I realize I was as much a part of the problem as the solution. Oops. 

When do church traditions turn bad, such as into legalism? 

The Pharisees were supporting these heinous acts and bad traditions by creating legal loopholes for those who wanted to get around their responsibilities while claiming they were pious. They did this by focusing on what was trivial, such as this hand washing ritual, which also has no Scriptural foundation and not what God wanted! Their dependence was on commentary without substance; Christ was the Substance of the Word. This tradition may have come from Roman influence. The Pharisees considered their oral and written traditions equal to the Torah—God’s Law—just as some Christians today see their ministry or role as more important than honoring Christ or following His precepts such as Fruit and faith! Maybe it’s not overt, but many times it is expressed in our attitude and behaviors. This collection of writings, The Mishnah, which was formalized in the second century, is still in use today. In fact, every Jewish sermon I have ever heard uses the Mishnah over the Torah (first five books of the Bible). There are a lot of good insights and sayings in it, but it is not the Truth of the Word. It would be like a Christian preaching out of a bestselling Christian book, but not referring to the Bible. (Oh yes, many do that; very, very bad!) 

What is the difference between a good tradition and a bad tradition? How can you evaluate the traditions you and your church observe? 

Traditions can be a good way to honor our Lord if they come from the right place—from sincere devotion to Christ and the desire to give Him the glory. I personally love many of the traditions that churches where I have been on staff have done, from Reformation Day and Blessing of the Animals to a Lutefest Festival. Yet, we have to beware of the bad ones; traditions and the theme, “we have always done it this way” can hide the purpose of the church and neuter the gospel very effectively. If we become over- devoted to our traditions and rituals, we will surely miss out on the possible intent of those rituals, which is to glorify God. All too often, rituals become the worship focus of a church so that all of the energies are upon this thing or that program, and discipleship, teaching, learning, and spiritual growth are absent, as in reaching out to the neighborhood and the world. 

How can the focus of God’s Truth give you confidence to face challenging situations? 

Even in the Old Testament, this is dealt with and quoted here; Isaiah’s prophesy (Isa. 29:13) was about confronting leaders who focused on traditions and negated God’s Law, which was His Word. This is the classic problem that crosses culture and time, elevating traditions over Truth, which is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It was then and is today one of the biggest problems in the Church! The leaders kept the traditions in the public eye so they could control and have power over the people. Makes you wonder about the causes and motivations of some of our church leaders and behind the scenes powerbrokers today, does it not? 

How can misguided traditions and the theme, “we have always done it this way,” hide the purpose of the church?  

Handling Traditions in the Church P 5

Are Traditions Robbing your Church?  

To the Pharisees, Jesus robbed their bank and stole their possessions. And, to a point He did, as He took away their presumptions and false ideas and replaced them with the Truth and the true intention God had for them (Hos. 6:6; Micah 6:6-8). They did not want the truth or what God had; they only wanted their postulations and the power to rule from their self-importance. The questions we have to ask ourselves are, are we robbing God of the opportunities He tries to give us?  Do we mix them up with habits, pride, and traditions?  Do we make grandstanding pretences, showing off our faith while we have a heart full of soot? Do our passions line up with political agendas, or the precepts of His Word? Passion is paramount, but it has to be grounded in God’s Truth, not the ideas and desires of man. Seek initiative and inspirations from Christ, not from traditions. Do not adhere to your faith and practice though the filter of traditions or habits. Rather, filter everything through the clarity of God’s Word!  

What can you do to make sure your passions line up with the precepts of His Word, and not with your political agendas, traditions, or habits? 

In Mathew 15, we are called to not be defiled by hypocrisy or allow our traditions to trump our purpose. Jesus confronted, head on, the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who had elevated their traditions over honoring and knowing God. This infuriated our Lord who called them to task and “gave them up” to themselves by saying, let them alone, which means, let their own evil ways bury them. It was total condemnation (Rom. 1:18-32)! They had their chance to repent, but the hardness of their will and the focus of their pride alienated them from the very thing they said they were honoring! Their traditions clouded them and their people from knowing the real God! Why such a strong stance from our Lord? Because, rituals and traditions can easily become equal to or even have more authority for men than God and His Word. They can elevate what is not important over what is. This is what many of us do today! 

Why and how did the Pharisees infuriate our Lord? How have you and your church perhaps done this in the past? How does your church do this now? What do you need to do? 

The Scribes and Pharisees relied on the repository of the wisdom of the people who came before, and those who discipled and taught them. This developed into the classic Jewish writings, and became their traditions and mindsets. Over the centuries since the captivity, commentary and the insights of another had become the norm in understanding God and the faith. Thus, the dependence was on traditions, not real faith or what God had plainly revealed. Perhaps the Scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus to evaluate whether He was a false teacher. What irony (Duet. 13:13-14)!  

Jesus pronounced total condemnation to the hypocritical Pharisees. Why? Was that fair? How about when church leaders today do the same? Should they also receive such reprimand? 

They had good traditions—or at least, they started out good. What Jesus confronted, the washing hands, was not about cleaning oneself before dinner or eating with filthy hands; rather, it was a specific ritual that the Pharisees followed but Jesus and His disciples did not. This tradition was meant to prepare one before God and give thanks for the meal, but as time went on, it mutated into legalism which consisted of how much water, how many rinses, the proper prayer, and so forth. It had no Scriptural basis, and was a perfect illustration of the pious, fraudulent Pharisees versus the Righteous Christ. 

What does your church need to do to seek the initiative and inspiration from Christ, and not just focus on traditions or personalities?

Handling Traditions in the Church P4

Who or What is Sovereign in your Church?  

Read Matthew 12: 1-21 and 15: 1-20, as Jesus deals with this Himself! 

The tradition of the Sabbath had a great start and purpose that got skewed; it was supposed to be a symbol of God’s sovereignty and Lordship (Ex. 20:8). It was also meant to be a reminder of the redemption to come for the people under the Law, the redemption that we now have in the work of Christ (Duet. 5:12). The Law had strict guidelines pertaining to the Sabbath—how it was to be observed, and not to be violated. These laws were intended to lead the people to understand and know God as well as to keep the peace and not allow people to corrupt or ignore it. Unfortunately, the religious leaders corrupted it by adding so many countless, additional ordinances that the people were too tied down to the extra laws to ever look up and embrace God’s Lordship. These extra laws became restrictions and, ironically, violated God’s law and intent. Think about it; how often do we do this today? 

Jesus reminded them of this and used Scripture to prove His point just as we are to do. It is ironic that the rules of the Pharisees were very precise, and if someone proved a point using Scripture, they had no recourse but to acquiesce to that point. Jesus obviously won the argument, yet they still plotted! Keep in mind: when you win the day by logic and reason through Scripture, even with kindness and tact, the war may not be over. It takes prayer and patience. Allow the Lord to work and make sure the parties causing the disruptions are being cared for too. 

Jesus’ argument, although sound and righteous, would have been appealing to the Rabbi or true follower of God. However, it may not have swayed a pretentious leader steeped in his pride and traditions. This is the same reason the Gospel influences so few today, or why a wise pastor’s counsel is met with hostility. Jesus’ message is blocked by the inclinations of people and their refusal to surrender to His Lordship. Jesus’ message will only persuade those who are impacted by the Spirit, and where His Will replaces theirs. 

Jesus withdrew from the Synagogue, and a great many people followed Him! Since first century Judaism was so diverse, taking a lot of people away probably did not devastate the Synagogue, as others would join in with those who held the same views as they did. This also happens with some churches today. The Scriptural quote in this passage in Matthew is from Isaiah 42:1-2, and is sometimes called the “Servant Song.” It referred to the nation of Israel when it was written. There are four Servant Songs (Isa. 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12). Israel was God’s servant, yet she failed Him, disobeying by chasing after false gods and immoral practices. God called the people to be restored, while others took the punishment in behalf of the others, so not all would be destroyed (Isa. 44:1-4; 21; 42:18-19; 49:3-7; 52:13-53:12). Our goal in handling any conflict is restoration and learning so people can grow in faith and be better servants. Jesus came as the servant replacement. He is our substitute, and takes God’s wrath in our place (Rom. 1:18‑3:20; 2 Cor. 5:21). He is the ultimate Servant!