The Church that is Happening Now

Whats Happening

This is what our research has gleaned of the church that is happening now:

  • We have a lack of Biblical imperative. We may say we are committed to God’s Word, but our spiritual formation, loose doctrine and behaviors show us a to be in breach (2 Tim. 3:16).
  • We have an empty faith, so concerned with what feels good and not what we need by God’s Word (1 Pet. 2:2)!
  • We have a too low view of God’s Sovereignty, we belittle to Him as a mere ‘friend’ and forget His Holiness and our need for repentance (Rom. 11:22-36).
  • We have too much pride and selfish motives and not enough Christ impacting our hearts and minds (John 3:30)!
  • We do not have our people discipled, so they are ignorant of Biblical precepts (Hosea 4:6)!
  • We do not trust in the power and purpose of Christ and His Truth, instead we cater to personalities, political correctness and trends (1 Tim. 4:6)!
  • We spend too much time with entertainment and not enough time of expository preaching (Rom. 10:16)!
  • We have a lack of the power of the Holy Spirit, or too much of it is faked (John 6:63)!
  • We do not teach, exemplify and motivate a radical transformation (Rom. 12)!
  • We are too worried to offend, thus, we end up trying to block the conviction of the Word and Holy Spirit (John 16:8)!
  • We do not have good unity or a Kingdom mentality, so we have apathy, gossip, discord and strife (Rom. 16:17-18)!
  • We have a lack of the Fruit of the Spirit of love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, …. (Gal. 5:19-23)!
  • We do not have much in the way of real consistent outreach and missions or work on social justice (Matt. 5:13-16)!
  • We have a lack of a realization that our time, talents and treasures are His, and view our monies only for our preferences (2 Cor. 9:7).
  • What happened to prayer (Matt. 21:13)?

We may need to rediscover what Christ calls us to when we lead and manage His Church. We may need to reconsider what we do and how we do it. Is it biblical? Is it what Christ calls success or what the world calls success? Maybe we just need to get beyond ourselves, past our perceived needs and desires and repent. To seek Christ first and foremost. Then, we may be able to really lead His people properly where we all need to go. Closer to Him. Closer to one another. Nonetheless, authentic heartfelt surrendering to Christ as Lord, real discipleship and action of faith needs to take place or what are we doing (Matt. 6:33; 13; Rev. 10:8-11)!

 

Does your Church have Love or Relevance at its Core?

 church loveThe principal factor that grows our churches and glorifies the Lord is not chasing a numbers paradigm or the latest trend. Rather, it is all about how we love with the impacting Gospel of our Lord that is preached uncompromised with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then we bring it with the conviction of the true Truth of God’s Word, and the clarity of the reverence and relevance of our Lord moving in our lives. These are the precious items we bring to build our church in God’s Way!

Love is. The primary Greek word is Agape, which means “self-giving” and “sacrificial,” that is more concerned with others than self. It was used in Classic Greek literature to refer to someone who was generously favored by a god. It conveys the idea of a person giving all his or her love, or favor, to someone else rather than to self. It is a love that is not earned; in contrast, it is relational and given freely. The word “Love” also refers to parents giving all of their love for their child.

In the New Testament, agape love was used to make a similar point, as God gives to each of us all of His love.

Real love goes deeper and further, as a deep adoration that is bestowed without expectations of a response from the other. Agape love is also the most common word used both as a noun and a verb in the New Testament. The greatest example of agape love is what our Lord Jesus Christ did when He died for our sins.

Consequently, God’s agape love gave us His forbearance and rescue from the punishment that we deserved. Rather than receiving what we should have, we received His favor without earning it.

(Deut. 6:5; Joshua 24:14 -15; Isa. 44:9-20; Mark 12:28-31; John 3:16; 21:16; Matt. 22:34-40; John 3:16; 13:1, 34-35; 14:1; 15:9; Rom. 1:31; 5:8-10; 8; 12:10; 13:11-14; 1 Cor. 7:32-35; 13; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5 Gal. 5:5; Eph. 2:4-7; Phil. 2:2; Col. 1:1-6; 3:5, 12-14; 1 Thess. 1:3; 2:8; 3:6; 12; 4:9-10; 5:8-13; 2 Tim. 3:3; Heb. 10:24; 1 John 4:7-12).

All men will know that you are my disciples. When we love one another, we prove and exhibit Christ!

This is our “mark,” the prime characteristic that makes us friendly and connectable to others, and how we are to be known-by what Christ does with us and calls us to. We are to love one another-period! No strings attached! This is the mold for the form that we use to display God’s love to the world (John 13:34-35; 15:13-17; 2 Cor. 5:20; Gal. 5:22; 1 John 2:10; 3:14-16)!

How do we know if this is working? This is exhibited in the form of the example from Whom our Lord is being lived out in the leaders lives. Then we can examine our practice with this question, “do you use people, or do you serve them?” Remember, Jesus was God, who came to this earth to love and to serve (John 13-14; 18:15-27)!

Thus, we do not aim at our people with numbers or manipulate them to whatever the latest business model or schema, we present the Gospel of God’s true Truth in love by teaching it and by living it out. Then we grow our churches, God’s Way.

What is real love? How is it shown by the fruits of it, like humility and service?

What is a Harlot? Hopefully not you and your church!!

 

Read Revelation 17-18

Harlot? Yes, there are far better ways to make a point than to use the word “harlot’. But this is how God used to get people’s attention; does he have your attention? However we may feel, this is the word God uses, and it may wake us up to our dysfunction and the predicament we have in how we lead and manage churches these days.

If not, if we dare to go to our pulpits, boardrooms, small groups, classes and families with what I want to say and ignore Him, we are in fact being disloyal. If we dare teach what is false, give only half truths and merely feel good messages, like “sermonettes for Christianettes ,” we are in fact being prostituting His Word and Truth.

Let’s look at this upfront, close and personal. Let us be challenged with the Word of God and be humble to see what we may be doing wrong.

First off, do you know what a harlot is? Also called whore, it is not a fun, happy word. You might even be offended by the use of this word. It is from the Greek word, “porne,” from whence comes the English word “pornography.” It means promoting and/or partaking in the grievous sin of fornication that hurts, steals, and destroys relationships and families. But, it means so much more (Lev. 17:7; Is. 1:21; 26:16-18; 57:3; Jer. 3:1-14; Ezek. Chaps 16 & 23; Hos. 4:15).

This is an image used in the Old Testament to mean the abandonment of one’s covenant to God or the unfaithfulness and faithlessness of Israel. Also, this means the seductions of the world and that we have to be on guard as Christians, so they do not corrupt us or the church we are called to steward. This is also about people being lured into sin, yet knowing it is sin and being able to resist even as people seek to disobey God and/or to serve evil–like deliberately teaching what is false when we have God’s Word right in front of us for correction. And, this word applies to how we lead and manage His church. Remember, Revelation is a book to churches first, how to lead, be loyal, handle persecutions and so forth.

In the very early church, when John was penning these words from God, there was trouble, struggle and conflict–just like we have in today’s churches, in your church, in my church, the struggle of loyalty to self and trends or loyalty to Christ as LORD.

This is all about betraying God by committing not only acts of immorality, but disrespecting His Word and ignoring or failing to teach and pass on His precepts-the prime responsibility of a church leader and pastor.

The majority of people in John’s day had no reservations or protests to following an evil empire and being used by them. Their belief was that one has a license to sin; thus, one does not need to be obedient to God, His precepts, civil law, or any moral standards, and many Christians felt as they do today, they do not have a need to bear fruit. God says this is evil as it portrays evil as being good. This can also be practicing and promoting trends that dilute God’s truth, using it as an excuse for extreme immorality and wickedness (Judges 17:6; Jer. 2:31-37; Rom. 6:1-2; 14-15; 13:8, 10; Gal. 5:14; 6:2; Gal. 5:22-25; James 2: 14-26; Jude 4; Rev. 2:20).

The point? This means to choose sin is a deliberate choice, one that God hates passionately. Or use the pulpit for personal gain, false teaching, amusing the goats and not feeding the sheep. Harlot was also a term used by the early church for Rome (Lev. 17:7; Is. 1:21; 26:16-18; 57:3; Jer. 3:1-14; Ezek. Chaps 16& 23; Hos. 4:15).

These people thought they did not need Christ and that they would escape the judgment of God! (Does the deceptive thinking sound familiar?) Such people and thinking is contemptible and self destructive, because nothing can challenge God.

Are you being “harlot” with His Church?

 

Read Revelation 17-18, and forget about the end times nonsense theories and be in prayer and ask God if this is you…. And if you will not then you have a bigger problem, pride….

To see if my premise is correct, let’s take a look at this passage in Revelation–a passage that a lot of misguided Bible teachers use to amuse and shift the meaning away from the truth and point of it.

The theme is this great ‘harlot’ blasphemes God and puts her trust in materialism and immorality and leads others to do so, too. In so doing, she is not ashamed, but rather boisterous and proud of sin.

Our first thought on this, well, that will happen in the last days, I do not need to fret. I certainly do not do that! But, we need to pray and think this through. Perhaps it is so. Read the passage, and seek Christ in humility, is there an application, am I being loyal to Christ or to myself and trends that would ashamed our Lord?

What is going on with the Revelation 17-18 passage?

John is clearly writing to the seven real churches and, consequently, to people in extreme hard times, then being persecuted by Rome. He was dealing with infighting, disloyalty, false teachers, church members being cut off from their families, social circles, and trade guilds so they could not work, this, starving out his people and preventing them from functioning and others forms of persecution. The main enemy from outside of the church was Rome. It was a blood-thirsty, pagan empire that oppressed its people, especially Christians, who were considered criminals and slaves and used for sadistic entertainment. Rome was extremely corrupt and fell because of it.

Yet, the enemy from within, which was even more dangerous, was false teaching and being treacherous to Christ by distorting His precepts and call.

Look at it this way. If you want your church healthy and lined up to God’s call, commands and precepts, you have to be loyal! That means being trustworthy, faithful and devoted to Christ as LORD and His Truth! That means more than just placing Him first or ignoring the relativisms in our society.

It means a defining quality that I am fully engaged to be in Christ, to follow Christ and lead others to Christ.

In contrast, if we are not loyal; then, we are betraying. As a pastor, my first and foremost job is to point people to The Shepherd. So, the point of this message is simple. We have to recover our churches from the desires of what I want, from the false trends, away from betrayal of Christ’s Lordship, to turn back to the true Truth of Scripture that glorifies Christ as LORD!

 

From our research we are seeing that, we got trouble in our churches–a lack of loyalty. A tough question needs to be asked of ourselves, are we being “harlots” with His Church?

Give them a Break!

How to grow a vibrant God glorifying church idea…..

 

To all those who are planning on gracing the Bride of Christ this Sunday… And … Who like to or are planning on gossiping or spreading falsehoods or treating others by the “fruit of the flesh” and not the “Fruit of the Spirit.”

 

I have good news for you! 

 

You can turn your clocks backs 2 hours Saturday night. And for 24 hrs, you can rest, rewind, refresh, perhaps read Galatians chapter 5. Then, Sunday pm, return your clocks to the correct chronometer reading. And, in so doing, you will give your pastor and the faithful a break! 

 

 

How come none of the other church growth gurus ever thought of this?!~

give a break

The Problem with most Church Growth Paradigms V

God wants his lost sheep found? Of course, He does. However, if God is sovereign, and is truly God, are His sheep lost? This is of theological debate, but this is a Biblical and right emphasis for motivating the church. So far, so good!

Our choices of method must be based on fact. Yes, it is. However, what are the facts? Usually it is in the following of categories and not in His Word! Not so good!

Pour your resource into winning channels. What is working in one church must also work in yours. This is not true, because most churches fail under these principles! Numbers tell us that God is with us, but this is not true either! This is also not Biblical! Numbers can be misleading, and what we may see as a winner, God sees as pathetic and foolishness. Read the book of Proverbs! God looks for faith, devotion, love, and obedience, which are all missing from this church growth model! Strong leadership never means a strong willed personality, but a servant’s heart after God’s heart, which is contagious to others. That is God’s winner!

People like to stay with their own people: This is as far from the Bible as you can get without setting up alters to Satan! Yes, we do like to stay with our own people, but this is part of our fallen sinful nature that we are to change, not encourage! This is very bad!

Pragmatic research & Scientific research: Yes, we should look to good research so we can be the best at our programs and outreach (this is what we do at the Schaeffer Institute). However, let this never distract us from Biblical precepts. Always consider what God calls us to, not just what people want!

People movements: Go where the people are, yes, we are! However, we are to be the salt and light without being taken in and affected negatively by those people. We are to never take the philosophy and trends of the culture, rework them, and put a Jesus stamp on them when they are against Jesus’ teachings and character!

Social networks: This is one good aspect. We need to strive to be better at being a people, at modeling Christ-like behaviors, so we can be the people of God in the world!

Receptivity: YES! Christians can be cruel gossipers and filled with hypocrisy, and who do a much better job at turning people away from the gospel than a legion of demons. This is also a good aspect, one on which we have much work to do! 

Priority: Whose priority? This is perhaps the biggest problem in the North American Church. Our priorities are all skewed, chasing trends and ignoring our Savior and call! Are we being poured out to Christ, or to our way of thinking? Are we in church leadership roles to glorify God or make a name for ourselves? What are our true priorities and are they what God has directed?

Purpose:

…..Whose purpose? Is it God’s or yours?  

Did you notice what is missing? It is God and His purpose! Do you see what is emphasized? It is mostly unbiblical, slap-in-the-face-of-our-Lord drivel! Yes there are some good ideas and place we all need to grow. However, you cannot build His church by your means! All that you will accomplish is what a dog accomplishes when he chases his own tail. It may be fun and amusing for a while, but nothing is accomplished. It is good for a dog, but detrimental for a church! While we need to realize that God does want His church to grow, growth is found in spiritual maturity and in contagious obedience, sharing our Christian faith with others around us. Good research is essential as it can help us make our programs and paradigms better, but these are to be useful tools, not the point of our devotions and emphases. Of course we are to make people feel comfortable and at home, but do not forget that it is all about building the Kingdom of God and glorifying Him! This prime directive is absent from most church growth principles!

As a church growth consultant, I also propagated some of those principles for many years. I glanced over Scripture and conformed God’s Word to my ideas and those of others instead of really bowing to His Word. I shutter to think I asked questions to church boards such as, “Is the pastor a leader and not just a teacher? If not, you have to get rid of him because you must have a leader.” “Does the pastor really want the church to grow? Is he willing to pay the price for it?” I did not ask questions such as, “Is the pastor growing in his faith and practice, spending quality time in the Word for himself outside of sermon and teaching preparation?” “Is the pastor surrendered to the Word?” “Is the pastor following the precepts of 1 Timothy 3:1-9 and Titus 1:5-8?” What is real church growth? I believe Campus Crusade for Christ nailed it, as we will see in a bit.

 

The Problem with most Church Growth Paradigms IV

Do you have a hard time with what I am saying, does it go against what you have been taught or have presumed? Then, see for yourself.

What are the Premises and Principles of Church Growth?  

The premises that have been the heart of the church growth movement are four;

….that God wants his lost sheep found;  

…that our choices of methods must be based on fact;  

….we must pour our resources into winning channels,  

….and people like to stay with their own people — within cultural identities.  

The principles are sevenfold: pragmatic research, scientific research, people movements, social networks, receptivity, priority, and purpose.”

(quoted from, “Church Growth Principles at a Glance” which appeared in Ministry Advantage, Vol.7 No. 4, the hallmark and flagship newsletter of the church growth world)

Most of the principles seem sound – or do they? I used to think-so. Look carefully at each of the principles. Can you honestly see Christ teaching them? Can you find them in Scripture? 

Good luck with that!

The Problem with most Church Growth Paradigms III

Having studied under McGavran and his protégés, I was amused on how often they would passionately express their theories, then a few years later radically change them and passionately extort them, and then change them again and so forth, while the truths of the Word remained stable. I followed their folly, as I changed and kept up with the latest church growth jargon and theories, only to see the churches that applied them fail. We changed the theories while ignoring the Word. The Bible was used as a mere buffet as we chose passages out of context to fit our thinking instead of going to Scripture and defusing what God calls us to do.

Another big mistake made was the concentration and overzealous adoration of numbers over discipleship. A bigger church meant a better church.

This is far from true. A better church is based on the spiritual maturity of its leadership and members and what they are doing with their call. A good church base is in the solid teachings of God’s Word, spiritual growth, and the response to both our Lord and to people. I have been to many mega churches that attract people because of the dynamics of the pastor and the entertainment of the service, but they were immature and undiscipled, a very sad sight. On the other hand, I have been to small churches that are on fire with the Word and their call from the Lord, growing in their faith. There are many reasons a church can grow that may not be from God’s blessings.

The perceived success and result of most of the church growth drivel in my 20 years of experience was in “sheep swapping.” People would flow to the “church of what was happening now (comedian Flip Wilson),” unconcerned with personal growth and obedience to Christ. As a result, these churches were not growing in the Biblical sense. I have seen churches that did not apply our methodologies, yet grew huge and influential like Calvary Chapel, the Friends movement in Southern California, and Saddleback (in its early years). Thus, the church growth community considered it a success when a particular church grew under their influence; yet, it was usually an ignominy and an anomaly to those who grew without their influence.  

Most of those churches grew because the neighborhood grew and they were in the right place in the right time amongst disease-ridden churches that had isolated themselves.

The surrounding churches were not growing because they did not want to, and the people were not growing spiritually. They then flocked to the growing church, even though that church may not have been doing things God’s way. These have been successes in church growth, but only because the other churches were doing nothing. There are also those churches that were stagnating, and God used the church growth concepts to awaken them and cause them to re-examine themselves. If the big successful churches were not planted in massive growth areas, but rather in sections of the country where there was little to no population growth, they may have not survived. If Saddleback was planted in Huntington Beach or Pasadena, or anywhere in northern California instead of the massive growth areas of southern Orange County and Northern San Diego County, where the churches already in that area were mostly dead, then we would have never heard of it! A better wake up job can be found in Romans 13:11-14 rather than a CEO business approach. Incidentally, most of the church growth originations went under in the 90’s and most of those assumptions then dissipated. Only now are they reprising their ugly heads.

 

The Problem with most Church Growth Paradigms II

A Brief Overview of Church Growth  

In 1955 Donald McGavran (1897-1990), a third generation career missionary, wrote The Bridges of God. His basic assumption was that God wanted His church to grow, which, of course, He does. McGavran noticed that most churches were somehow opposed to this thinking. So, he focused his life on teaching the church that God indeed wants His church to grow. He was a great visionary, and father of the modern church growth movement. He founded the distinguished School of World Mission at Fuller Seminary in 1965. He also passionately woke up a complacent American church to see the vital role of evangelism and missions, saying, “We must evangelize out to the fringes.” Which meant we should not leave anyone out, even those in the very far off and rural places of the world. In the area of church growth he asked and then applied two basic questions, which laid the basis for the church growth models: Why does the church grow in some situations, and not in others? What lessons can be learned from Scripture and contemporary experience to help churches to grow?

These are two great questions that we all must ask and seek. His questions were correct, but his error was in his methods. Instead of doing careful exegesis on Scripture, he spent most of his energies researching trends, and comparing churches to other churches. He came up with some very unbiblical ideas such as the “Homogeneous Unit Principle” which states a church is to focus on its own culture and race, and ignore the others. One of his primary followers went so far to say, “Segregation is a desired end. (Wagner)” A very arrogant and prejudicial stance. He was a great man, but he was a missionary and not a theologian, and he did not have a good working knowledge of Scripture, which we can ascertain by examining his writings.

He based his observations and theories on observed paradigms regardless of Scriptural precepts. People who came after him furthered his error by applying business principles and comparative reasoning over Scripture and what God calls us to do. We cannot always compare one church to another, because God may have a different call and purpose for them as opposed to another church (1 Cor. 2:9). Nor, can you compare human reasoning over and against Scripture; we are instead to compare our research to see if it is on par with Biblical precepts. McGavran and others would have been far more successful if they had placed the emphases on Scriptural principles and not on comparative thinking.

I am not attacking what they are trying to do, but how they are going about it!