We Are To Have the Attitude of Christ! P5

Did you know after over 30 years of conducting church growth research, one of the primary ways a church grows is because of its fruitfulness demonstrated by “Hospitality?” 

How does the fact that the great news of Christ gives us the ability to have Hospitality  to take you through your community connections? How can it better keep you from being distracted from the real call and the precepts of our Lord Jesus Christ?

The Quintessential way to Grow your Church is to Understand and Implement Hospitality!

Key Passages: Matthew 25:34-43; Luke 10:30-37; Acts 4:32; Romans 12:13; 16:33; 1 Timothy 5:10; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:7-11; 3 John 1:5-8

However, as a “spiritual gift,” some Christians will have a specific call and empowerment to do this. People in the world may be more concerned for their own needs and agendas than they are for God’s clear doctrine and purpose, but as Christians, we are called to go beyond ourselves to serve others well (Titus 2).

How do we know this is at work? “Kindness” is the proof of authenticity (Rom. 2:1-4; 12:4-21; 16:1; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:16-23)!

If your church is personality driven, that is the pastor is the center stage, a hipster or megalomaniac personality, what you have is not a church, but at best a motivational speaker club. Thus, there is no real reason a person will be at your church except to have their ears tickled and with such a shallow pool, no real ministry will commence or people helped effectually. A true pastor must teach, lead, coach and disciple and point the church leadership to Hospitality foremost before any wants of the leadership come and not the needs of anything that disrupts or distracts peoples from Christ.

What does this mean in a church?

As Christians, we are to typify faith and reason together so we can exhibit the maturity needed to make the fruit of the Spirit and its byproduct of Hospitality, by also making wise decisions and have a purpose in life and put it in play as a community. This also means directly caring for those in need, such as the sick, infirmed, and poor.

 

 

We Are To Have the Attitude of Christ! P4

Read and study, 1 Peter 4: 1-11

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”1 Peter 4: 9-10

Does Hospitality cover your church? Do you use it to help others? 

We are to be fueled and empowered by God’s love, and this includes its fruit of Hospitality, for those who come to our church. If not, we are not getting it. We are not getting what church is about, we are not getting what God’s call is or our purpose in the community.

Let’s look what this means. “Hospitality” specifically refers here to taking in travelers with generosity-not grudgingly or with complaining. In general, since we have Christ’s love flowing in us, it should flow to others around us.

This means we are to be willing to give preference to others, to look out for and look after one another, and to share, with discernment, what God has given us, including our family, home, finances, and food. In the church setting, this means we get beyond “the church is mine” mentality.

“Hospitality” is an attitude of stewardship where we do not own anything because we are merely the caretakers for the real owner, God. He desires us to share His stuff, and we comply out of reverence and gratitude to Him. Thus, as we come along side others, we are to welcome them and act out our faith in real, helpful kindness, generosity, and deeds. This includes providing help and lodging to fellow Christians, helping those who are being persecuted, and helping out in our community (Matt. 25:34-43; Luke 10:30-37; Rom. 12: 3-8, 13: 16:33; 1 Cor. 12:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; 3 John 1:5-8).

“Use whatever gift” means to practice your spiritual gifts, and realize that the diversity we have is beneficial for one another. It also means being charitable or generous to others with what Christ has given you, and to serve Him without being held back by fear, time, or lack of talent.

“Very words of God” refers to Scripture, the words that God has spoken to us. This means to be careful how you speak and minister as we sometimes speak for God as He uses us!

Hospitality is the turning of our backs on our ‘ownership’ of the church, thinking it is mine and just my self-concerns and facing our neighbors. This will take the surrender of our will to Christ’s. If Hospitality does not take us beyond our pride and ownership mindset, then we have only a club of pride, not a real church infused with God’s love.

Hospitality must be our model for church life. It must flow into us from Christ, and in return, flow out from us to those around us. God’s love is the ultimate power for the Christian. Love is more than a feeling; it has segments and characters to it (John 13:1; 15:13;1 Corinthians 13:3; 1 John).

Love is also a choice, a decision that must be perused and worked on!

 

Being Loyal to Christ and His Bride

Read Revelation 17-18

What is the Bride?

As we know, the “Bride” is the Church. This is Christ’s identification with His people and an image of our Redeemer’s intimacy and the community between God and His children.

This is beyond a mere metaphor as it is about the life, love, and joy that a first century marriage celebration represented that Christ shares with us and calls us to share with one another in our covenant of Grace.

And in Revelation, this is also a contrast to the divorce of the harlot and a stern warning to John’s people in his church, to not to cheat on our Lord by way of our pride, false worship, false teaching, or our apathy or arrogance, or anything that gets in the way of us pointing His Bride to the Redeemer (Ex. 22:16; Is. 54:5-7; Hos. 2:19-20; Matt. 9:15; 22:2; John 2:1-3; 3:29; 22:2-14; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-32; Heb. 2:5; 6:5; 1 John 1:3-10; Rev. 19:7; 21:1-8 ).

The passage goes on to say that evil is judged and condemned while true spirituality in Christ is eternally rewarded and beneficial. This is also about our own vindication, and all the benefits we have when we are in Christ. We are a part of His Kingdom that is being showcased in this passage, so we who are in Christ can sing a loud and clear Hallelujah!

The imagery of Rome in this passage is “Babylon” and may be referring to the persecution and martyrdom the early Christians faced in life under Rome, perhaps as illustration for some of us and reality to many others today and the principle point to his churches. In addition, this is a template for how evil and its power operates in the past, present, as well as in the future. This is about how pastors and church leaders go wrong by chasing themselves and not Christ. This is about how evil does not always know it is evil, because it is blinded by pride and self will, in the church and in society. This is also leading to its future–its self-destruction.

Here is a simple test to see if you or the pastor is loyal is this. Does the teaching and character point to Christ or point to themselves or something else? Does the first response and vision showcase the Lordship of Christ or the way I want things? What does Christ call us to do and what betrays Him?

Rome gave away food to appease its citizens while they enticed them with sins and heinous amusements of people being slaughtered in arenas. Placating to Rome gave one privileges; standing up to it gave one death or the loss of land and rights. The issue before the Church was compromise and loyalty–would their allegiance be to a prostitute Rome, to Christ, or to what?

Some theologians have suggested that “Babylon” referred to apostate Jerusalem, but there is little Jewish evidence for that. Jerusalem has already fallen. Also, the principle arguments against Jerusalem as the subject matter of this passage is that it does not sit on many waters nor did it reign over other nations at this time!

The bottom line for us in church leadership is, how is evil affecting and effecting your ministry, your vision, you perceptions and your church?

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PVIII

Incarnational Churches are aware of their Eternal Covenant  

Because of Christ’s incarnation, work, and sacrifice, He takes the place of our debt of sin and fulfills the old covenant and the blood sacrifice, which was temporary and flawed, to atone for our sin. Now, we can go directly to God, person-to-Person. God renews His relationship with us, His people, and gives us an age of grace in Christ by faith alone (Ex. 24:8; Deut. 30:11-14; Psalm 37:31; 40:8; 119:11; Isa. 51:7; 55:3; 61:8; Jer. 31:31; 32:40; Ezek. 37:26; Rom. 6:9; Heb. 8:8-13; 9:11-22). 

A Name for Jesus in the Hebrews text is our Great Shepherd, meaning He is the One who leads, equips, and guides us—as we all desperately need. It is our call to hear His voice and obey as a good sheep does in order to be fed and not be eaten by predators. And who and what are our predators? Our wayward ways of all infighting by our pride, and the fact that when the sheep go unfed, they bite each other. For us to be in the safety of faith, we not only need to be in Christ, we have to obey Him. This is a result of our intimate relationship with Him that is synergistically touching all those who come into His Home. We know Him, He knows us, and we do what He says. We are concerned with what concerns Him, and we act accordingly. Like sheep, we can’t lead others or ourselves without being forever lost and unfed (Psalm 23; Isa. 63:11; Jer. 23:1; 31:34; Ezek. 34:6-16, 31; Hos. 6:6; John 10:1-8; 16:13-15; Rom. 10:7).  

For our church to work well, we need to be taught and encouraged to grow so we can be our best, to reach out and to worship and function in humility and encouragement.  

In so doing, we support and remind one another to remain in Christ and not fall away. We do this as we honor the superiority of Christ and hear God’s call so we can venture into Christian maturity. The bottom line of an Incarnational Church is that we are not just the means of the communication of the Message of God; we are also the message to those who do not know Him. Because we are His work, we are His Gospel in action as an example that communicates far more than any book, program, or speaker or evangelist. We present and demonstrate not just the Jesus who lived, but also the Jesus who lives in us (Col. 1; Phil. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:3).  

The Incarnational Church produces a fellowship filled with real purpose and inspiration because we are rooted in the life of our Lord. As a result, people are treated in the parameters of Fruit and by people of character, as maturity is sought so everyone feels loved, appreciated, treasured, and encouraged because they are so—discipled and involved by mentoring before they are deployed in ministry. This is what a “Christ life” looks like before “Church life” is fully engaged. Thus, the leadership top down is producing a church authentic in spiritual maturity by its involvement in Christ so that the people are inspired to be devoted, as in caught up in Christ and with one another to be more worthy in and for the faith. In so doing, we are all making Him known in the world too. The key to making this happen is how people are cared for before they are deployed; the equipping and encouraging must always continue. The antagonist to this is our pride, apathy, or manipulation, seeking to connive, posturing ones agenda over others, and/or absent from God’s precepts, call, or love. The Incarnational Church shows the kind of direction that sees Christ glorified as our tempers and temperaments come in line with His guidelines. So our church—your church—is a collection of imitators of Christ so we go in the direction of the possibilities of His lead. And, we can indeed do this if we dare stretch beyond what we think we can do or where we can go, and seek where and what Christ has for us, even with our limitations and frailty (John 14:21-22; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Colossians 4:2-5; 1 John 1:2). 

Hebrews ends with this final exhortation: pray and live honorably so God may produce even more in you. Remember your fellow Christian workers and pray for and support them. May the God of peace who saved you continue to equip you. May you produce effectual fruit for the glory of Christ, our Great Shepherd. To God be the glory!

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ P VII

Incarnational Churches live as a response to what Christ has done for us!

If you love Jesus, then you are to love others too. Hebrews is almost written as a letter of recommendation to encourage the hearers to continue in the faith and not give up, and to obey their leaders, because if they do not, they will face dire problems. What they were going through then was nothing like what would come later. The author, inspired by God, advised them (and us) to “shape up” so we could grow through it with joy and not melt in bitterness. Our living faith, that God gives and builds on along with our efforts, has more of a purpose than most of us will ever see or realize. Take God’s warning about negating your spiritual development or neglecting what He gives or where He calls. If we refuse to allow His work, then our faith and the future He has for us will not be received. We will limit our sanctification and cut ourselves off from God’s reward for being faithful and fruitful; we may even fall to bad or natural consequences for refusing His guidance or the fellowship of others. Just think about how many churches in the U.S. close each year—over four thousand. Thus, we have to see our call to be responsible for one another so each can encourage and equip others, helping them when they slip or are about to slip (Psalm 137: 5-6; 147:2; Isa 62:5; Rom. 12-14; Gal. 4-5; 6:24; Eph. 4-5; Heb. 10:10; Rev. 21: 2-4, 9-27). 

With responsibility comes obedience and listening—a call to obey your leaders.

This may not be popular in a day when we are conditioned to challenge and even disrespect authority, but here we are called to respect authority and to care for and keep careful watch over the people as shepherds, because leaders will be held to account. So, to make our church incarnational, make a group effort with some top down leadership, so we can heed the call and submit to those in authority with value and respect. In this way, we can thrive, enjoy orderliness, and learn from others. In contrast, a person with a lack of faith will not respect others because the emptiness where faith is supposed to be is filled with pride and even self-destruction, worry, and stress that lead a person nowhere good. This, of course, does not mean we submit to dictatorial or dysfunctional leadership (Isa. 21:8; Jer, 23:4; Ezek. 3:17; 33:6; 35:7; Hab. 2:1; Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:2-4; 3 John 9-10). 

Christianity is community; we are all mutually dependent upon one another and must act accordingly with goodness to one another so we can show Him effectively. 

As Christians, we are all priests to one another as we collectively rely on Christ and minster to one another. In the desire to pursue Christ and His precepts, we must be careful that we honor Him and not cause others to stray from Him. This must include our devotion and surrender to Christ, for only in Him—by Word and Prayer—and being held accountable by others will our conscience be clear. Even in the face of struggles and hardships, we can live honorably, by our mutual respect and focus on God as comfort! In contrast, if we just live our lives with the attitude of how things affect “me” and not “others,” then we are living with the devil, and not with God (Rom. 15: 33: 16:20; 2 Cor. 1:12; 13:11; Phil. 4:9, 18; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 3:16; Heb. 4:16; James 1:27)!

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PVI

Incarnational Churches are not led Astray 

Scripture in Hebrews, 2 Peter, and many other places clearly tell us do not be carried away, as in do not be led astray by false ideas, trends, or other things just because they are new. Lusting for something we may think is better, from a bad food to being charmed by a clever preacher, or teaching false doctrines and thinking, hey, that is their interpretation and it is OK, we will fail at being an effective church. We are just as responsible in listening to bad or false or junk teaching as the false teacher who speaks ill of God’s Word is for spreading them. False doctrines are rooted in speculative thinking and whims and not upon God’s clear Word; they kill our growing relationship with Christ and others and dissolve the incarnational approach to church life because they will leave us complacent so we do not reach forward and outward with the Gospel of Truth. What we will have is the emptiness of false ideas, meaningless rituals, and traditions that serve no purpose and do nothing to grow one’s communion with Christ or fellowship with one another. For it is by grace we are saved and we respond to God in and by faith. 

If we get too carried away with our ideas we will miss Christ, so we must be in His Word, be reflective, be in prayer to see what we are really doing and who are we serving (Psalm 31:16)? 

We must go to God’s Word—not to whims; the Bible means what it says and you can know who is false because false teachers will never use discernment or context or real word meanings. They will deceive, and not receive His Truth, thus your church will be resting on a crumbling foundation rather than the strength of Christ’s true Truth. He is our Altar and help; our truth for daily living comes from Him and nothing else—no ceremonies or special practices, for such things do no good and may even hurt us. Only by God’s special favor will we excel spirituality, in life, and in Church. For Christ suffered and paid our debt of sin so we can all live in Him and be there for one another (Lev. 7:11-18; 1 Cor. 10:18; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Peter 2).

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PV

Incarnational Churches show Brotherly Love and it is Real 

In what ways does brotherly love define you? How should it? Francis Schaeffer and others have told us over the centuries; men from Augustine, Kempis, and Aquinas as well as the Reformers have warned that the attitude and trends of the church tend to be the attitudes of the culture. We must heed this warning; for if we do not, this will be a very wrong outcome! We are called higher, to be incarnational so we can listen and put into practice what Christ teaches and gives to the lives of others. We are to be good, fruitful, and faithful as followers, first and foremost, before we can be so as followers and as leaders. We are to care for our souls and watch over and care for others too. This is Christian community and effective leadership in action—the practice and application of our faith in our lives first and then letting it pour over others. For we lead by venturing forward with our eyes upon Christ as Sovereign Lord. This is a responsibility; as we follow our Shepherd, we shepherd others. We do not dictate or lead from behind nor do we connive or manipulate out of our pride; rather, we are in front, forging ahead on His path, being the example, encourager, and teacher, cutting the way of His Way for others to see and follow. We make Him real and visible as we all come to the throne of grace. Let us be fruitful, practical, real, and faithful. If we are not, we will have enormous problems and strife instead of the love of Christ in and through our churches and us. 

As Christians who are receivers and partakers of the incarnation, we are to be in a tighter community together in Christ as Christ-followers. We are to be deep friends who are bonded as family, and take this practice unto others around us.  

The purpose of our doctrine and the study of His Word is not just for the knowledge, (which is very important), but our supreme goal should be what we do with that knowledge. This is the relationship that is growing in Christ, then outward to others around us. Remember: His shed blood paid for us! You have truly dedicated your right to yourself and church to Christ! We give Him our all! It is easy to die for a cause, but are you willing to live for Him in perfect obedience so your life is poured out, your strength is gone, and you must rely on His? Hebrews, chapter thirteen, reveals what happens when we follow the incarnation, placing it into application. This is about keeping our personal and mutual faith real and growing, which means the encouragement, support, and using of spiritual gifts, and everyone working as a team. This is the strength and prime purpose of the Church that comes from our growth and worship; without them, we will fail. Our relationship with the Lord must be transparent and not secretive (unless you live in a closed Muslim country) (Psalm 34:8; Rom. 1:8-17; Eph. 4:15-16)!