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GUEST POST: How to Ask Good Questions in Discipleship

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Jesus is our model for disciple making.  In the following article, Matt Dabbs, an experienced disciple maker and church planter, shares what he has learned about a crucial component of discipling people, and that is, asking questions. 

We often think of discipleship—which is the state of being a disciple—as something that leans heavily on bible education.  But Jesus shows us that there is so much more, especially the way he asked good questions.
          – Bobby Harrington

In John 5:6 Jesus asked a paralyzed man, “Do you want to get well?”

The answer doesn’t take a masters degree to figure out. Of course a paralyzed person wants to get well. However, there is more to this question than that. Does this man want to take on a life that is required of him when he is able and has full agency? More will be expected of him on the other side of healing. The truth is, some people would rather stay with what they already know than get better. Health can be far scarier than paralysis for some. It is important that he owns the answer to Jesus’ question before Jesus heals him.

Or, how about Matthew 8:26 where in the middle of a raging storm Jesus asks his disciples, “Why are you so afraid?”

Again, the answer is obvious… or maybe it isn’t. The sentence right before the question is, “You of little faith.” They are with Jesus. They don’t need to be afraid. However, fear is a natural human emotion that is understandable in those kinds of circumstances. Instead of saying, “Don’t be afraid,” he asks them ‘why’ they are afraid, and it is important that they wrestle with their own answer to Jesus’ question. They might not all have the same answer!

Both the paralyzed man and the disciples in the boat have something in common. They are both learning and growing in their faith and Jesus is working with them.

Like Jesus, when we disciple people, we need to use questions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come natural to many of us. Try this–the next time you meet with someone (or a group) you are discipling, take a mental note of how many times you use declarative sentences versus interrogative sentences (periods vs. question marks). The next time you meet with this same group, try to convert some of your statements into questions.

So much of our teaching can be done most effectively when we let people wrestle with things rather than by simply telling them things. When you feel like telling someone who you are discipling something, make sure you aren’t short-circuiting their learning process. Stop for a moment and consider if what you are trying to teach them might best be learned by converting your statement into a question–then work through their answer with them.

When all of our instruction ends in periods rather than question marks, we can create disciples who are far too dependent upon us for the answers. The reality is that it can feel good to have people depend on you for answers and wisdom, but if the goal is for them to learn, then it isn’t about what makes you feel good as their guide, but rather, what it takes to grow them closer to Jesus. We can also feel like we aren’t a successful teacher if the person you are discipling doesn’t get it right away. We can buffer that anxiety a bit when we ‘tell’ rather than ‘ask,’ because it is much harder to determine if those being discipled get what we have taught when we tell rather than when we ask.

Here are ten questions to add to your disciple-making repertoire:

  • What is the Holy Spirit trying to teach you in this moment?
  • How do you navigate this decision in a way that upholds your integrity?
  • How can I really help you? (Matt 20:32)
  • What do you need most from God right now?
  • What is keeping you from doing what you know you are supposed to do (obedience)?
  • What good thing is God doing in your life today that we can celebrate together?
  • What is on your mind/what are you thinking in your heart? (Luke 5:22)
  • What is one thing you are going to do with what you just learned?
  • Who is someone with whom you can share what you learned?
  • What is God doing in your life right now?

These are a few questions that can work in concert with your learning to convert your statements into questions. This allows the person you are discipling to have some investment in and ownership of the conversation and the process they are walking through. Questions allow people to turn from passive recipients of a disciple-making process to active and engaged participants. The level of growth and maturity you can see through shifting from declaratives to interrogatives can be huge!

For King Jesus,

Matt Dabbs

 

 = = = = 

This article is one segment of "Mini-Course" 101: ReimagineDISCIPLESHIP...

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#ItSeemsToMe...forgiveness is a command because it is the only path to healing.
 
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Comment by Susan Goldbeg 
National Georgraphic 03.2021
 
 
Martin Schoeller has been taking photographs, close-up portraits, of two groups of people.
 
Elderly survivors of the holocaust.
180 men and two women who have been "freed from death row after being found innocent of their crimes for which they were sentenced to die.
 
He's found that the two groups have something important in common.
 
He told me: "They are able to forgive."
There are so many reasons that you can be hateful and mad at people, but you have to have the ability to forgive. Otherwise it just eats you up...The people who can't don't make it."
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GUEST POST: #REIMAGINE...Systems to Move Forward

 

 8 Systems you will find essential moving forward

New blog post from Bob Logan

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Where do you go from here? It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone, and that’s certainly also true of the church. You have been thinking for some time about the new normal—about moving forward on mission to share the love of Christ with a weary world. But where to start? What needs to be dropped? What essentials are needed moving forward? How might they need to be tweaked in order to not just survive but to thrive in the coming years? 

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Moving forward, you will need these 8 Essential Systems

These 8 systems are essential to a thriving ministry. You likely already have them in place. However, the methodology with which they are implemented may need some rethinking in order to thrive in the post pandemic world. As you read through, think about how the system is related to moving your mission forward, how it is currently organized in your ministry, and how effective it is in its current state.

1. How you empower leadership

You need a leadership structure that empowers others. If there was any doubt that a top-down leadership structure where the professionals do the work of the ministry wasn’t a good idea, that ministry approach has now been thoroughly debunked. When the congregation is separated from the lead pastor, we now see and experience the absolute importance of lay leaders. One pastor cannot effectively shepherd 300 people. The ratio needs to be about 1:10. Even Jesus only did 1:12.

A highly relational, high touch, high contact kind of leadership really helps people grow in their faith in personal, meaningful ways. Find ways to make your leadership structure as flat and as grassroots as possible if you want to be ready to reach the world as it emerges from Covid. Moving forward, consider how you can empower others through: 

  • Modeling 
  • Vision-casting 
  • Mobilizing and equipping 
  • Coaching 
  • Multiplying 

2. How you help people develop their spiritual gifts and empower their use

You need relentless focus on developing and ministering out of spiritual gifts. Everybody needs to be doing the ministry, not just the paid staff. Fortunately, this is how the Holy Spirit set things up in the first place at Pentecost: by giving spiritual gifts to every man, woman, and child with faith in Jesus. I have written quite extensively on my blog recently about developing spiritual gifts in people. It’s more essential than ever in today’s world.

Consider: if the main ministry of the church is producing an online service for viewing, who is reached? Possibly someone new may tune in and watch it, which is wonderful. But what about if every single person in that congregation made use of their spiritual gifts every week in some small way. Who might be reached then? You see the difference, and it’s stark. Imagine your church’s impact if you provided a way for everyone to: 

  • Understand spiritual gifts 
  • Discover their own spiritual gifts 
  • Confirm their giftedness through practice 
  • Become a part of a ministry-wise gifts mobilization system 

3. How you help people experience God everyday

You need to consider the practice and presence of a passionate spirituality in daily lives of each person in your congregation. Connection with God can certainly come from watching or participating in a worship service, but it needs to go beyond simple church attendance.

How can we help people experience God as part of their everyday lives? Most people have no church-based activity 5 to 6 days out of the week. What about those days? How can they experience the presence of God? That’s especially important in times of social isolation, fear, and hopelessness… which is where many of us have found ourselves lately. We each one of us need ways to anchor ourselves in Christ, ways that work for us uniquely. That means: 

  • Finding ways to love God with your whole, heart, mind, soul and strength
  • Developing a personal passion for God through a variety of spiritual disciplines or practices
  • Worshipping God alongside others in sometimes creative ways
  • Embracing the mission God is calling us toward, both individually and corporately 

4. How you help people do what God has called them do to

You would do well to revisit and re-examine the actual structures built into our congregations. Consider… during covid, which structures collapsed? Which structures did you need to rely on even more? Which needed to be revamped completely? This area of basic structures in the church is one we need to reexamine periodically anyway, but at the same time one we are most likely to forget about.

Structures matter. Ineffective structures that no longer accomplish their intended purpose can actually serve to prevent and restrict ministry. They become blockages. Structures are the ‘hows.’ How do you determine vision for the new year? Or how do you safeguard church finances? What is your decision-making process? How do you handle conflicts? Make a list of the often-unspoken systems in your church, and then evaluate them in the following ways. Does this structure: 

  • Support the church’s values, vision and mission? 
  • Accomplish the intended results? 
  • Promote ministry more than hindering it? 
  • Have a positive effect on the people and the culture of the church? 
  • Make use of a wide variety of people’s giftedness? 
  • Contribute to reproducibility? 

5. How you worship God together

You need to rethink corporate worship. That is the area we have most visibly needed to change during the pandemic, and it’s worth considering what worked well and what didn’t. Obviously, many services went online. Varying attempts, with varying success, were made to make the online experience interactive.

Moving forward, as we can in many cases meet in person again, what new practices would be helpful to take with us? What other pre-pandemic practices can we re-embrace? Areas to especially consider are participation and interactivity, music and singing, and communion. We can also consider worship as part of our weekday lives, and worship in smaller group settings. The era of experimentation is upon us. Everything we evaluate and try can be measured against the following categories: 

  • alive to the presence of God
  • cultural appropriateness
  • worship modeled by leaders
  • a clear theme and response goal
  • effective transitions and flow
  • maximum participation
  • meaningfulness to both regular attendees and newcomers

6. How you meet everyone’s needs

You really do need holistic small groups. Small groups have become more important than ever before. In many times of difficulty and persecution, the church has found refuge in small groups of people meeting together. We do not actually need a full corporate worship service to be the church; everything we need is found in a small group of people. God has provided spiritual gifts to be used, a means of corporate prayer, community support and encouragement, and a forum for reading and discussing the scriptures.

Consider what happened when the pandemic began: those who were already part of a small group often found themselves drawn closer to that group of people for support, being a part of text threads, sharing and praying together virtually, connected to some kind of support system bigger than themselves or just their own household. Those who were not a part of a small group may have watched church services online, or they may not have. And often no one noticed they had left the church until after in-person services began again. It’s time for a full reexamination of the essential role small groups of people play in the life of faith and worship. Moving forward, be sure to consider the following elements: 

  • integrating small groups into the rest of the church 
  • implementing a functional small group ministry
  • training and coaching leaders
  • starting and multiplying groups
  • including children and youth 

7. How you connect with the community

You need to engage with your wider community in fresh ways. If the church is only focused inward, it has lost its mission and even its reason for being. If we are not helping the world, reaching the world, and serving the world, why are we here? For decades I have been preaching that we as believers need to come outside the walls of the church and meet people on their own turf, where they are comfortable, out in the world of work, home, and recreation. This is the public sphere, the great marketplace and town square of our times. Today, if we reach out at all, we have no choice but to do it in the public sphere.

The whole concept of “inviting people to church” has fallen by the wayside in the last couple of years. The ways the church has been decentralized during the pandemic are many… and that reality presents opportunities. Look for those opportunities. How can we serve? What needs can we meet? Not only spiritual, but emotional emotional, and physical as well? How can we communicate the gospel relationally? Who needs to experience God’s love? How can the church facilitate that experience? It’s time to find new ways to reach out… ways that: 

  • communicate the gospel in a culturally relevant manner
  • serve to meet real needs of the community 
  • empower others in the congregation to reach out 
  • assimilate newcomers into the life of the church
  • establishing new Christians in loving obedience

8. How you connect to each other

You need healthy relational connection. How connected are we relationally as a congregation? Pre-pandemic we would often track attendance at events, socials, worship services, or small groups as a means of tracking relational connection. But how accurate is that as a measurement? How else might we assess true relational connection? To what degree do people feel part of the community, noticed, cared for, and reached out to by others? What was your system like for keeping track of your people during the pandemic? How would you know if someone was struggling? Did you rely on self-reporting? Or did others who were connected relationally take notice first?

How well the church fosters healthy relational connection is a telling litmus test for the health of the church. The love we have for one another is to function as a practical demonstration of the love God has for us. Moving forward, the relational connection at your church must address these elements: 

  • Close relationships rooted in honesty 
  • People who are a part of each other’s daily lives 
  • An intentional spurring on of one another toward love and good deeds 
  • A cultivation of authentic Christian community 
  • The development of health interpersonal relationships 
  • Reflecting God’s love to the surrounding world 

Moving forward

Spend some time this week thinking through each of these areas as they relate to your congregation. What is currently working well? Which areas are not functioning well? What have you learned from the pandemic about this area? Moving forward, what do you want to see change? How might you take the first steps in doing that?

Resources

The Leadership Difference– If you are running up against barriers that aren’t specifically theological but are more about how to lead people and get along with them as you work together, this is the book for you.

Leadership Skills Guides- Develop your people into leaders by meeting them where they are at and helping them take the next appropriate step. This download covers 37 skills across 6 topics and includes a leader guide and a participant guide and is meant to be worked through in a nonlinear fashion.

Leadership Multiplication Pathway- This series is a power system to identify your purpose, focus your ministry, become an effective leader, and multiply your mission. This is great to walk through with a coach!

Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash

The post 8 Systems you will find essential moving forward appeared first on Logan Leadership.

Copyright © 2022 Robert E. Logan, All rights reserved.

 

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GUEST POST: Risking Love for Neighbors, Strangers, Enemies

10401596287?profile=RESIZE_710xA Conversation With Catherine McNiel

Author Of Fearing Bravely: Risking Love For Our Neighbors, Strangers, And Enemies

 


Q: Explain the title of your book. We may not get over all of our fear, but we can live and love bravely. 

While He was on earth, Jesus was teaching His followers to not be afraid, even while He was being pursued to death. Something about living through Jesus’ death and resurrection helped His disciples see that God’s love was powerful enough to not give in to fear. They lived in a time which could have been very fear inducing, but they knew the power of God. Jesus is inviting us to do dangerous and scary things, in His name, for the sake of neighbors and strangers. 

 


Q: You use the phrase “discipled by fear” in your book. How can we be discipled by truth instead of fear? 

We often lack awareness of how heavily our culture is forming us each day. Through the media we consume and the messages we repeat, we can be shaped into people who are afraid. So, the first step is to gain awareness of how we are being shaped by the voices we let into our lives. Then we need to be so immersed in the words of Jesus that the Holy Spirit can prompt us to test what we are hearing against God’s truth. 

Q: Each section of the book includes suggestions of art and music to reinforce your themes. Why was this part of your application in the book? 

The creative aspect provides another angle to influence our hearts and minds. They can give us practice using a different “muscle” to focus on God’s love instead of giving in to fear. The practical steps in each section are best done in community. We need to work together to change our mindset and live in love. God invites us to create a new kind of community and world, to reflect His love. 

Q: You go beyond neighbors and strangers, to call us to love our enemies. You acknowledge that this is a hard teaching of Jesus. How do we move toward love of enemies? 

First of all, we can’t dispute that Jesus included this in His teaching. So, we can skip the debates about whether or not it is okay to hate certain people. Jesus doesn’t give us any loopholes. And it isn’t easy if we are honest. The solution is to flood ourselves with light. If I am filling my mind with God’s lovingkindness, which is abundant toward me, then I have more capacity to love. I can’t love from my own triggered, wounded place. The root of my love has to be God’s love, which actually can overcome fear, hate, and evil.

Lovingkindness Exercise: 

During a time of quiet prayer, remember the loving, nurturing heart of God—the same lovingkindness the Bible teaches and Jesus embodies. Imagine a space filled with this love, then picture yourself in it. 

Once you have grown comfortable in this spacious place of love, bring to mind others that you love. Begin widening the space to include them. Then, recall people you don’t know well, or have neutral feelings about, and allow the space of God’s grace and love to cover them too. 

Finally, bring to mind enemies, one at a time. Don’t begin this process with the person who has harmed you the most; choose instead someone who frustrates or annoys you. Then, bit by bit, day by day, expand this circle a bit further in your mind. If the process becomes too traumatic, seek the help of a pastor, spiritual director, or therapist. 

God’s love already covers us all, but practicing these prayers day after day allows God to renew our minds and change our hearts. 

Want More from Fearing Bravely?

Loving like Jesus is important for any social circle: family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, etc. Fearing Bravely, by Catherine McNiel helps to name the obstacles that keep us from loving this way and take the next steps to remove them. Click the link below to download your FREE PDF sample of this book. DOWNLOAD HERE

Adapted from Fearing Bravely. Copyright © 2022. Used by permission of NavPress represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

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#ReimagineCHRISTIANITY...Start with Good Friday

10394357668?profile=RESIZE_584xGOD SO LOVED THE WORLD," John writes, "that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." That is to say that God so loved the world that he gave his only son even to this obscene horror; so loved the world that in some ultimately indescribable way and at some ultimately immeasurable cost he gave the world himself. Out of this terrible death, John says, came eternal life not just in the sense of resurrection to life after death but in the sense of life so precious even this side of death that to live it is to stand with one foot already in eternity. To participate in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ is to live already in his kingdom. This is the essence of the Christian message, the heart of the Good News, and it is why the cross has become the chief Christian symbol. A cross of all things—a guillotine, a gallows—but the cross at the same time as the crossroads of eternity and time, as the place where such a mighty heart was broken that the healing power of God himself could flow through it into a sick and broken world.

It was for this reason that of all the possible words they could have used to describe the day of his death, the word they settled on was "good." Good Friday. 

-Originally published in The Faces of Jesus

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#Easter

What's the best question to ask about #easter? #easter2022 #eastersunday #easterbunny #eastereggs #easterbasket
 
"Is it true?" makes sense to persons who already believe the biblical story.
 
"Is it right?" might be a better place to start for persons who are not certain if it is true.
 
#ItSeemsToMe...
 
by Phil Mgilioratti @ The Reimagine.Network
 
 
"True" indicates the claims of the Bible about Jesus of Nazareth correspond to reality; the story is correct.
 
"Right" indicates the claims of the Bible seem "in accordance with what is just, good, or straight;" In other words, it sounds plausible.
 
Rather than asking me to first believe the story really happened in history, ask me to consider the reasonability of the basic tenants of the story:
  • If a just and righteous God exists, is it reasonable God would do something to rescue humanity of our brokenness, the scourge of evil, the finality of death?
  • Even though all religions ask for human sacrifice to God (infant sacrifice, good works, vow of poverty, etc.), is it plausible for God to decide to make the sacrifice? ("Here is the way God loved the world—God gave his only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life." John 3:16)
  • If God is the initiator of and subject making the sacrifice, is it credible to consider the claim "that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world" (2 Corinthians 5:19) when Jesus was crucified?
  • Could Jesus of Nazareth be human but also inhabited by God at the same time? Could that be a one-of-a-kind expression of personhood, beyond simply being inspired by God or appointed to speak on God's behalf (such as a prophet)?
  • If God created humanity with a plan for life after death, is it reasonable for the resurrection of Christ to be real; the foreshadowing of the eternal (endless, limitless) life?
 
I believe the story of the Gospels is true (accurate and authoritative) but it is not true because I believe it. It is reliable because it is straight, right-in-line, with a rational explanation of what we would expect to take place based on a reasonable description of how God might act on behalf of the world God created.
 
People may choose to reject the biblical descriptions but not because it could not have taken place.
 
I think I will #SayALittlePrayer...
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GUEST POST: #ReimaginePRAYER...Pray for a Business in Your Community

John Piper, theologian, pastor, and author, tells how George Muller, the prayer legend of the 19th century, said that for years he tried to pray without starting in the Bible in the morning. Inevitably, his mind wandered. He said his prayers were weak and powerless. 

 

Then he added the habit of using the Bible in prayer, and turned the Book into a prayer manual as he read, and for 40 years he was able to stay focused and powerful in prayer. 

 

Piper then notes, “I have seen that those whose prayers are most saturated with Scripture are generally most fervent and most effective in prayer. And where the mind isn't brimming with the Bible, the heart is not generally brimming with prayer.“ 

 

Our first Wednesday email of the month has a focus to help facilitate prayer that you can use for your business, community, city, and country. 

 

1. Begin with Thanksgiving and Gratitude to the Lord for being our Protector (Psalm 100:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Psalm 18:2; Psalm 127:1).

 

2. Pray that Jesus will revive His believers and His church to His Beauty, Love, and Supremacy (2 Chronicles 7:13-15; Psalm 85:6; Habakkuk 3:2-3a; Acts 2:37-41).

 

3. Pray for unity between believers in every sphere of culture. Pray that walls of theology, doctrine and practice will come down. Pray for offenses to be forgiven. Pray for love to grow and flow in us and through us making us one with Christ (John 17:21-23; Psalm 133:1-3; Acts 4:24).

 

4. Pray for those that are unbelievers, or believe but have wandered away, or have been offended by Christians, to be visited again by the love of God whether through dreams, visions, friendship, or something they see, hear or read (Acts 26:18; Romans 10:1; Galatians 4:19; 2 Peter 3:9).

 

5. Pray for relationships. Pray that Jesus will heal, restore, and strengthen every God-designed friendship, partnership, and family (Romans 15:5-7; Malachi 4:5-6; Joshua 24:15).

 

6. Pray for your local, state and national government that they will honor God and be given wisdom and serve with integrity, justice and mercy (1 Timothy 2:1-2; Romans 13:1; Micah 6:8).

 

7. Ask God to bless your city as you pray for its peace, welfare, and prosperity (Proverbs 11:11; Jeremiah 29:7,11; Acts 3:26). 

 

May the Lord bless you as you partner with Jesus to be a house of prayer for all nations. 

 

Your prayer partner in Christ’s love,

 

Bob Perry 

Workplace Prayer A Ministry of A.C.T. P.O. Box 1649 Brentwood, TN 37024 United States

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GUEST POST: Thirving Churches Are Intentional Churches 

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INTENTIONAL CHURCHES ARE THRIVING CHURCHES
Keith Doornbos
 
A U.S. presidential candidate in the last election cycle replied to most questions with, “I have a plan for that.”  When asked about ministry and mission few churches can reply, “We have a plan for that.”  Churches with plans (e.g., intentional churches), however, tend to be thriving churches.  To be more precise, those thriving churches would prefer to say it this way, “God has a plan, and we are working, every day, to bring our plans into alignment with His.”
 
THRIVING CHURCHES ARE PARTICULARLY INTENTIONAL ABOUT THESE THINGS:
 
INTENTIONAL ABOUT CALLING
Thriving churches know why they exist.  They are clear about God’s mission in the world and have developed a clear, shared and compelling vision. This vision names how they will live out God’s mission in their neck of the woods.  Their mission/vision is understood and owned by all.
 
INTENTIONAL ABOUT LANGUAGE
Thriving churches use the language of hospitality.  One thriving church pastor begins every service with these words, “We are a Christian church and because we are a Christian church everyone is welcome here.”  Language is never “us vs. them” but “us together on a journey.”
 
INTENTIONAL ABOUT BRIDGE BUILDING
Our society is becoming disconnected from faith and faith family.  Most have a limited faith memory and a limited experience in Christian community.  Thriving churches build bridges to the disconnected by regularly walking across that bridge to meet, serve, connect and invite.
 
INTENTIONAL ABOUT ON-LINE MINISTRIES
On-line ministries, including live-streaming, informative podcasts, life resources, and discipleship training, are central to most thriving churches.  They are the new front door (the first connection for seekers) and new side door (the way for congregants to stay connected).
 
INTENTIONAL ABOUT ON-BOARDING
In thriving churches, when someone steps into the building for the first time, visits a streaming worship service or participates in a bridge building event, it is as if they’ve stepped onto a moving sidewalk that intentionally onboards them into faith and faith family.
 
INTENTIONAL ABOUT MATURITY
Thriving churches are intentional about helping members grow.  They help them develop the daily disciplines of Scripture and prayer.  They also provide practical training for a deeper life in Christ, and they insist that everyone live deeply into a life marked by the fruit of the Spirit.
 
INTENTIONAL ABOUT HOPE
Paul wrote, “Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Thriving churches nurture hope.  No matter the challenge in front of them, they believe God is greater than the challenge and will provide a way through.

______________________________

Join us on
Thursday, April 7, 11am (ET) on Zoom for the next
Church Now Conversation
with Ed Stetzer
Engaging a changing community and world.
 
 
Copyright © 2022 Center for Church Renewal, alll rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
224 W 30th Street, Holland, MI  49423

keithd@churchrenew.org

http://www.churchrenew.org

 

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GUEST POST ~ Reorient Your Despair Over Our Culture

Despairing Over the Culture? There's Still a Reason to Get Out of Bed Tomorrow

 

strange-new-world.jpg

Giving in to Despair?

One of the questions that Christians ask repeatedly at the moment is whether there is any hope or should we simply despair? Is the world so intent on dismantling what it means to be a human being that society is doomed to collapse, or at least committed to shunting Christians and Christianity to its far margins? The obvious answer is that yes, hope springs eternal for Christians because we know that Christ wins in the end, that the gates of hell will not ultimately prevail, and that the marriage feast of the Lamb will take place. Yet, while all true, there is a certain glibness to such a response if that is all that is said. For the question of hope is not simply one that asks about the ultimate end of history but one which typically has a more immediate, personal dimension for us: in asking about grounds for hope we are also asking about how we might find the motivation now to avoid despair and the personal experience of hopelessness that our present context often brings to our lives as individuals. The end of history is a long way away; the need to find a reason to get out of bed tomorrow morning has a more pressing urgency.

Ironically, the feeling of impotence and despair that many Christians feel in the face of the dramatic social changes we are experiencing is itself a function of the kind of self-hood that has led to those changes. If the sexual revolution is rooted in a notion of the human self as unencumbered with obligations towards others and as free to create its own identity and pursue its own pleasures as it sees fit, then this is also the reason why so many good Christian people are so despondent at the moment. It is not that we have forgotten our obligations to those around us—indeed, it is the frustration of our ability to fulfill those obligations (the protection of the unborn, of children, of the most vulnerable in society) that fuels our anxiety and despair. Rather, it is that we have forgotten our obligation to those of generations to come. Modern men and women—whether secular or religious—think too much in the short term. We want results now. We forget that we work today not just for the present but for the long-term future.

Strange New World

Strange New World

Carl R. Trueman

Carl Trueman identifies the historical, philosophical, and technological influences that have shaped present-day identity politics and teaches believers how to shift their modern understanding of personhood to a biblical perspective.

A Short-Term Mentality

The contrast with earlier generations is instructive. Take, for example, Cologne Cathedral, perhaps the single greatest example of medieval Gothic architecture that Europe ever produced. Building work started in 1248 but was not completed until 1880. Now, a significant delay was caused by the various wars that tore western Europe apart from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, but, even so, one thing is true: the original architect and the first masons hewing the first stones knew that they would never live to see the building completed, to enter through its magnificent doors, or to worship in the austere splendor of its sanctuary. And yet they still considered the task worthwhile. All of the hard work, and indeed the immense physical risk, involved was a small price to pay for constructing something they themselves would never live to enjoy.

That is incomprehensible to most of us today. The idea that we might work for something that not even our grandchildren might see come to fruition is a profoundly alien concept to our culture. We are children of an age of instant gratification with reference to the deep and worthwhile things in life as well as to the consumerist ephemera with which we surround ourselves.

It is worthwhile asking why that is. The answer is that the men and women of the thirteenth century saw themselves and the world they inhabited as embedded in something much bigger: a cosmos that was itself embedded in God and therefore had a meaning that transcended both the raw material from which it was made and the present moment of its existence. Thus, they built things like Cologne Cathedral because they knew the world was not about them and that they had obligations not simply to their own day and generation but to generations to come. That they could build fast enough to see the final fruit of their labor was of little account. They were building for future generations, that they might have a glorious building in which to offer praise to God.

We want results now. We forget that we work today not just for the present but for the long-term future.

Reorienting Our Perspective

That medieval mentality, whereby the individual found significance and purpose precisely in seeing themselves not as the center of the universe but as part of a larger whole with responsibility to future generations is something that should animate us today. To return to the question, Is there any hope or should we simply despair? The response should be: there may be no hope that our culture will be different by this time next week, next year, or even within my lifetime. But that does not mean we do not work here and now for the benefit of those future generations to whom we have an obligation. We may not live to see them, but that does not free us from our responsibility towards them.

And so, today we are called to be faithful, not because our work will come to fruition in the near future. Rather, we do it because it lays the foundation upon which our spiritual descendants can stand and then build. Hope lies not in the day after tomorrow but in the generations to come, and we must not allow the setbacks of today to discourage us from fulfilling our obligations to them.

The New Testament model of the Christian life points to precisely this kind of thinking. We are to hold fast to a form of sound words, we are to follow the teaching of the apostles, and through faithful worship and witness we are to pass the faith on to future generations. Paul knew this well, and thus he was able to see all of the personal setbacks and suffering of his ministry as a light, momentary affliction compared to the eternal glory that is to come. All of us need that future orientation if we are to fight today’s battles without losing heart. We need to relativize our present, and indeed ourselves, in the context of the larger divine plan of which we are privileged to be a small part.

Carl R. Trueman is the author of Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution.



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7 Reflections on the State of the Evangelical Church

on Discipleship.org
 

I am writing to you to share some pastoral reflections on the broader evangelical world. These observations were highlighted during Discipleship.org’s participation at the recent Exponential Church Planting conference in Florida last week. My reflections also come from my home church and the numerous church leaders I have been training and coaching recently.

Here are my reflections.

  1. Evangelical Beliefs are Fracturing in North America.

For almost 200 years, there was a basic Protestant consensus in America when it came to some basic worldview questions. That consensus was shared by Southern Baptists, Churches of Christ, Assemblies of God, and the other churches. That consensus focused on six key items:

  • The reliability and authority of Scripture
  • The necessity of salvation through Jesus Christ
  • The vital importance of evangelism of all people
  • The vital role of the local church for Christian life
  • The morality of the Bible, especially in sexuality and the 10 Commandments
  • Serving others and helping those in need

That consensus is breaking down.

The first item is the most influential. A high view of Scripture leads us to embrace the other elements of evangelical Christianity: the necessity of salvation in Jesus Christ, an emphasis on evangelism, the vital role of the local church, etc.

Yet the reliability and authority of Scripture is being undermined in more and more churches by progressive Christianity.

This movement used to live primarily within mainline, liberal denominations. But it is now gaining a foothold in the evangelical church. Here is a concise definition of the heart of progressive Christianity: the willingness to compromise or reinterpret Scripture to fit in with the progressive ideals of our culture.

Progressives think they are building an on-ramp to Christianity for people immersed in the culture, but, in reality, they are building an exit-ramp for Christians to embrace the views of the culture.

The alternative to Progressive Christianity is biblical discipleship and is characterized by the willingness to uphold the Lordship/Kingship of Jesus as taught in Scripture – regardless of cultural pressures. This rootedness in Scripture’s authority shows why biblical discipleship involves standing against the impulse to force Scripture to fit cultural ideals.

One’s view of the reliability and authority of Scripture is key in navigating this cultural moment. Whereas progressive Christianity is more of a theological movement, there are political movements, both rightist and leftist, which would co-opt and conscript our historic faith to serve as lapdogs to give religious legitimacy to their platforms. Whether the temptation is coming from those on the right and on those on the left, the kingship of Jesus through Scripture is our higher authority and demands our ultimate allegiance.

More can be said about this point, but the key for us is that we are called by Jesus to uphold the primacy and reliability of Scripture.

Much is being lost from the historic Christian consensus in churches today because of the combination of strong progressive cultural pressure and a low view of Scripture.

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The Gospel Coalition and RENEW.org have resources that show a better way on a daily basis. I recommend looking to those two sites for regular guidance.  Additionally, here are four key resources (there are so many) to help you respond to progressive Christianity:

Two Key Books

Two Key Podcasts

  1. Evangelical Christians Do Not Know Scripture Like They Did in the Past.

A big part of the reason why the progressives are winning over more and more evangelical Christians to their beliefs and worldview is that fewer and fewer evangelical Christians are regularly reading their Bibles and actually know the teachings of Scripture. For the last several decades, the typical evangelical church has dropped much of its programming that focused on Scripture (such as Sunday school and Wednesday night services) and they are relying just on Sunday morning sermons to get their people into the Bible. And the sermons are often dependent upon inspiration, personal stories, and practical applications—without a steady diet of biblical teaching.

The sermons inspire people, but too often they do not teach people how to read and understand God’s Word. The net result is that people are spending less and less time in the Bible.

At the same time, individuals and families tend to be reading less and less Scripture at home.

Into this environment, the dominant voices of social media, the university, and entertainment are speaking progressive values. They are discipling the minds of more and more people into ideals built on other worldviews (such as the ideology of intersectional feminism, which you can see played out in many Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity trainings).

Although many of our Western ideals (e.g., the equal value of all people; all ethnicities being of the same family) arise from Christian influence, many newer secular and intersectional ideals do not fit in with the teaching of the Word of God, and many actually work to inflame tensions and divide people into tribalistic camps.

————

The church must point to a better way. We must provide a genuine countercultural alternative to what is happening in the world. We recommend a strategy to disciple everyone in Scripture and what it teaches. Here are six specific recommendations that come from my experiences as the lead pastor of my local church.

  • Make sermons primarily expository, teaching through books of the Bible.
  • Make Scripture the primary curriculum for small groups (not just books about Scripture). Get everyone to regularly apply Scripture to life.
  • Develop supplemental discipleship groups (small, I’d recommend 3-5 people only) where Scripture engagement and memorization become the norm.
  • Develop Scripture reading plans that encourage individuals and families to be in the Word daily (e.g., reading through the entire New Testament in 2022).
  • Provide in-depth Bible study classes that require extra reading and Scripture memorization for those who are willing and able to join.
  • Provide special 1.5 to 2-hour in-depth seminars grounded in Scripture at least six times a year.

We want to encourage everyone to personally learn the teachings of Jesus—and put them into practice.

  1. There is a Crisis in Family Discipleship.

It was about a year ago that I first met a senior pastor from a huge church in Austin, Texas. This leader and his church with 6,500 in pre-COVID attendance have a great reputation for adhering to Scripture, leading wisely, and planting churches. The senior pastor told me how, based on the cultural realities revealed during COVID, they pivoted to a focus on family discipleship. They made this the central question they would wrestle with: How could they disciple families to disciple their children so that the children could arrive into adulthood being faithful to Jesus in a culture that would persecute them because of their faithfulness to Jesus?

I met up that same senior pastor at Exponential last week, and he and his team have not lost their resolve or focus. He pointed out several books and trends that describe the strong and ungodly influences gaining ascendancy in our culture. I may not have his words exactly verbatim, but he told me something I found chilling: “Once a child is over 11 years of age and they have been in the public school system, it is becoming harder and harder to disciple that child to uphold the counter-cultural teachings of Jesus.” “We are struggling to effectively help those families,” he continued. “We think it is probably best to focus our energies on the families whose children are at a younger age.”

Wow.

As soon as he said those words, my mind raced to the comments of a thirteen-year-old girl who has been attending our church recently. In a sermon, I mentioned that we have to resist cultural pressure from both the right and from the left. In describing the pressure from the left, I had simply mentioned the pressure from transgender ideology and from those who advocate a LGBTQ agenda in general. The young lady came up to me after the sermon and told me that I was homophobic for what I’d said. Her parents explained to me later that she had learned that at school. Another pastor told me last week of a father he is discipling. The father can no longer have civil conversations with his twelve-year-old son because his son so strongly disagrees with his father on LGBTQ issues.

The Barna Group makes this point: “In some ways, the church is not preparing young disciples for the world as it is. Cultural discernment is about teaching them not just what to think but also how to live. We must prepare them for the world as it truly is, not as we wish it to be.”

—————

 Our churches must be laser-focused on helping parents with family discipleship. Here are three key resources:

  1. Many Pastors/Leaders are Confused About the Best Direction.

As you can easily guess from what I have written, it is a difficult time to be a pastor/leader in a church. Old models and systems seem no longer sufficient for the times in which we live.

Many pastors were mistreated during the two years that COVID dominated our country. They were beat up by those on the right who did not think they were focused enough defending conservative political values and causes. They were beat up by those on the left who thought they did not do enough to support government vaccine and mask mandates and that they did speak out enough on racial issues.

They are now weary with the realization that some 20% of those who attended church pre-COVID are not returning, unless there is revival in the nation. They are fearful the percentage in their church might be even higher. They are not sure how to navigate the current cultural landmines.

We do not yet have established road maps for how to deal with the current challenges created by ever-present social media, anxiety, outrage, and tech monopolies.

—————

In addition to serious thinking on methods for navigating this brave new world, we strongly advocate that we must also return to our essential roots and focus on the basics.

  • We have to go back to Jesus,
  • We have to go back to Scripture (as our core curriculum),
  • We have to go back to the gospel, and
  • We have to go back to Jesus-style disciple making. 
  1. Many Pastors are Shifting Their Focus to Disciple Making.

COVID has devastated many churches and shown weakness in all our churches. In many churches, attendance is just getting back to 60% of what it was, with some having an attendance of just 50%. Many Christians have gotten out of the habit of going to church altogether.

Finally, some good news: Almost all church leaders that I talk to are now speaking of the crucial need to focus on disciple making. We’re seeing so much negative fruit of non-biblical thinking and beliefs in many who claim to be Christians—because Sunday mornings are simply not enough. Most realize that if people are not in discipling relationships outside Sunday morning, too many will be lost to the culture.

  1. Focusing on Disciple Making is Easier Said Than Done.

It was over 12 years ago that we first sought to re-focus my home church on disciple making. We switched our focus from Sunday mornings and attractional programming to a focus on discipling relationships. We then also developed what we call “T-Groups” (transformation groups of 3-5 people). We now have around 80% of our members in small groups and T-Groups.

We have not arrived, but we have made good progress.

All of our elders and leaders are on the same page with this focus. And that is a big deal. But we are an anomaly among churches. Most churches talk about discipleship and disciple making, but they don’t have a plan and they are floundering.

Again, we must keep doubling down on our focus and keep working on it with God’s help. But we can thank God for the progress we have made. My hope and prayer is that there will be countless churches to progress beyond my church and others that I know who are focused on creating a disciple making culture. Every day I am learning of churches who are surpassing us in various ways. Let me say it as clearly as I can: a focus on Jesus-style disciple making is the most biblical and important focus your church can possess as it faces the winds of our culture. May God bless you in your efforts.

————

At Discipleship.org we have multiple partners who can help you to shift your church to a disciple making focus. Check them out at https://discipleship.org/partners/. 

  1. We Must Double-Down on Becoming People Who Fast and Pray for the Holy Spirit’s Power.

I am convinced that we have great power amid the challenges that we face. In the words of Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” We come from a long line of disciples of Jesus going back through twenty centuries who have faced greater challenges than what we face. They endured.

They were strong because they relied on God.

They found power through personal reliance on the Holy Spirit through prayer and fasting. There has never been a better time to become experienced in the spiritual practices of prayer and fasting. Jesus made us a promise in Luke 11: 9-10: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

It’s time to reclaim this focus.

There is no time that is better.

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#Pastors Identify the Role of Prayer for Their Life, Ministry

More than 7 in 10 pastors (72%) say consistency in personal prayer is important, which also makes it one of the top needs of pastors overall. Similar percentages of pastors say it’s vital in their lives to invest in friendships and fellowship with others (69%) and to focus on consistency of Bible reading not related to sermon or teaching preparation (68%).

Spiritual_needs-1024x759.jpg?profile=RESIZE_710x

Around 2 in 3 U.S. Protestant pastors say it’s important for them to trust God (66%), invest in relationships with other pastors (64%) and practice consistency in taking a Sabbath (64%). More than 3 in 5 pastors (61%) say they need to invest in confessing and repenting from personal sin. Few (4%) say they don’t consider any of those issues important investments for their life as a pastor.

“Some churchgoers may be surprised to find that spiritual disciplines don’t always come easily for pastors,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Yes, they know how to do these things, but achieving consistency takes time and effort. It is not automatic.”

Younger pastors, those between the ages of 18 and 44, are among the most likely to say many of the spiritual needs are areas in need of attention in their lives. They are the most likely to say they need to invest in friendship and fellowship with others (79%) and relationships with other pastors (73%). Pastors under 44 are also more likely than pastors over 55 to say they need to focus on consistency of Bible reading not related to sermon or teaching preparation (75%) as well as confessing and repenting of personal sin (69%). They’re also more likely than those over 65 to say it’s important they invest in consistency in personal prayer (78%).

Read the complete article here>>>

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GUEST POST ~ Redemptive Prayer of a Righteous Person Changed A City

by Francis Frangipange

God's Response to Redemptive Intercession
When Abraham was confronted with the possibility of Sodom's destruction, he did not immediately jump on the "Destroy Sodom" bandwagon; instead, he went before the Lord and prayed for mercy for the city. Abraham's prayer is an amazing study on the effect a mercy-motivated intercessor has on the heart of God. Indeed, my objective here is to gaze into the heart of God as it is revealed in the discourse between the Lord and Abraham.

When we look at Abraham's prayer, we discover an amazing power granted us in intercession. And what is that? God is looking for a mercy reason that would justify Him delaying or canceling wrath. We must not belittle this principle, for in it is great hope for our land as well. The mercy reason for delay is found in the compassionate prayer of an intercessor.

Let us consider the Lord's initial response to Sodom's sin. First, He revealed to Abraham, His servant, what He was about to do. Why? Wasn't the evil so dark that it deserved to be destroyed? Yes, the wickedness in Sodom fully deserved divine wrath. Yet that is not why the Lord revealed to Abraham the pending judgment. The Lord informed Abraham of what was coming not so His servant could criticize, but so Abraham would intercede for mercy. Remember, God delights in mercy (Mic. 7:18) and takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezek. 33:11). The Lord always seeks for opportunities of mercy. Therefore, let's take note of how Abraham approached the Almighty:

"Abraham came near and said, ‘Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?'" (Gen. 18:23-25).

Notice, Abraham did not pray from a place of anger. He never said, "God, it's about time You killed the perverts." There was no finger-pointing vindictiveness in Abraham's soul. Somehow we have come to believe that non-compromising Christians must also be angry. Abraham never compromised with Sodom's depraved culture, yet he was above fleshly reaction. In fact, throughout his prayer, Abraham spent almost no time at all telling God what was wrong in Sodom. He appealed, instead, to the mercy and integrity of the Lord.

This is vitally important for us, because Jesus said, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham" (John 8:39). One of Abraham's most noteworthy deeds involved his intercessory prayer for Sodom, the most perverse city in the world!

Abraham first acknowledged the Lord's integrity, then he spoke to the Lord's mercy.

"Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty?" (Gen. 18:24).

The Lord knew that it would be unjust to slay the righteous with the wicked; Abraham's prayer did not enlighten the Lord of some unknown fact. But God in the process of determining future reality always prepares a merciful alternative, which is unlocked by the persevering prayer of a mercy motivated intercessor.

In other words, urgent, redemptive prayer shoots straight through the mercy door and enters God's heart. This door is never shut, especially since we have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, ministering at the mercy seat in the heavens (Heb. 8:1). It is open each and every time we pray.

Listen to how the Lord answered Abraham's prayer for mercy: "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account" (Gen. 18:26).

How the truth of God's mercy flies in the face of those so eager to judge their nation! Incredibly, the Lord said He would spare the whole of Sodom if He found fifty righteous people there. Now keep this in mind: the Hebrew word for "spare" means more than "not destroy"; it also means "to forgive or pardon." This is a tremendous revelation about the living God. He will minimize, delay, or even cancel a day of reckoning as long as Christ-inspired prayer is being offered for sinners!

Time and again throughout the Scriptures the Lord proclaims an ever present truth about His nature: He is "slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness" (Exod. 34:6). Do we believe this? Here it is, demonstrated right before our eyes in the Scriptures. He tells us plainly that a few righteous people scattered in a city can preserve that area from divine wrath.

Abraham knew the love of God. He was an intimate friend of God's. Abraham, in truth, had a clear view into the heart of God based on his own experiences. This interceding patriarch had seen the Almighty bless, prosper, and forgive him, so he pressed God's mercy toward its limits.

"What if there are forty?"

The Lord would spare it for forty.

Abraham bargained, "Thirty?"

He would spare it for thirty.

"Twenty?"

He finally secured the Lord's promise not to destroy the city if He could find just ten righteous people there. On God's scales, wrath is on one side and mercy on the other. Put the entire city of Sodom with all its sin and perversion on one side. The scales tip toward wrath as the weightiness of advanced wickedness runs rampant through an entire city. Let's assume that there were two hundred thousand evil people in Sodom. It is weighed heavily on the side of evil. Yet on the other side, place just ten righteous individuals. As the ten are placed on the scale, the spiritual weight of the righteous, with just ten, tips the scales toward mercy!

In God's heart, the substance of the righteous far outweighs the wickedness of the evil! Herein we discover what we are seeking in the heart of God through prayer: the Lord would spare (forgive) sinful Sodom, with its gangs of violent homosexuals, because of the influence of ten godly people who dwelt within it!

How About Your Community?
Now, let's think of your city: Are there ten good people among you? Consider your region. Do you think there might be one hundred praying people living within its borders, people who are pleading with God for mercy? What about nationwide? Do you suppose there might be ten thousand people interceding for your country? God said He would spare Sodom for ten righteous people. Do you think God would spare your nation for ten thousand righteous?

I lived in a metropolitan area in the United States that has about two hundred thousand people. I can list by name scores of righteous individuals, including pastors, intercessors, youth workers, black folks, white folks, Hispanic folks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Christian business people, moms, dads, godly teenagers, praying grandmothers, secretaries, policemen, and on and on who live there -- far more than the ten righteous needed to save a place like Sodom. There are many who care about this city.

Think about your church and the greater church community in your city. Aren't there at least ten honorable people who sincerely care about your community, who desire that God would bring revival? Remember, the Lord said He would spare Sodom for the sake of the ten.

My plea in this message is that you would see yourself as one who is standing in the gap for your city. See if there are others in your community who will pray with you. The power of prayer can release a tsunami of mercy that can topple strongholds and set captives free in your region.

Finally, let us not give up our communities to the influences of hell. God is able to raise up a standard against wickedness. In fact, He says He looks for a man who will stand in the gap, that He might not strike the earth in His wrath. Will you be that one? You see, the true measure of spirituality is not how angry we become toward sinners, but how Christlike; our mission is not to see men destroyed, but redeemed.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for devaluing the power of prayer. Forgive me for underestimating how passionately You desire to reveal Your mercy. Lord, give me grace to be one who never ceases to cry out to You for mercy. Lord, let me not base my obedience on what my eyes see or my ears hear, but upon the revelation of Your mercy; let me build my life on Thee. Amen!

 

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Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book,The Power of One Christlike Life available at www.arrowbookstore.com, on the topic of prayer. Francis Frangipane's In Christ's Image Training course devotes six weeks on the topic of prayer. We encourage you to consider enrolling in the upcoming Level I class.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

In Christ's Image Training

Sign up today for our next
In Christ's Image Training.
Online course begins April 1, 2022

Registration closes March 24, 2022

icit_termlogo_150.jpgIn Christ's Image Training is a six-month, online course developed by Pastor Frangipane. These are proven truths that break chains and lead to power in our Christian walk.

The course comes right to your home via email and audio messages and is designed to lift one's focus toward the actual presence of Jesus Christ. The full course not only includes 48 lessons and 39 audio messages (sample audio), but the discerning student will actually find the Lord using the weekly lessons to stage opportunities to deepen the truths found in the training.

For those with limited funds, the entire text is free by email. Just enroll in the Free Lesson Plan (new students only please).

Enrollment overview:

1) Go to our overview page and read through the Level I page, FAQ page, Level I Syllabus page and Tuition page.

2) Choose an enrollment plan.

3) Next, complete and submit the Level I Registration form before the end of the day, Thursday, March 24.

4) Class begins April 1, 2022.

For more info, please see www.frangipane.org/icit-overview.html.

 

Training also available in Spanish / Español

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Visit Arrow Bookstore to order
resources by 
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GUEST POST ~ Scot McKnight

 

Churches, through its pastors and leaders and volunteers, can form into a culture of success. Such a culture then forms the pastors, leaders, and churches to fit into that culture. That is, the various measures of victories, winning, achievements, progresses and advances – getting caught up in these measures creates a culture of success.

   

Photo by Mark Neal on Unsplash

Pastors can get snagged in the pull of success, prosperity and fame. That pull is formed by comparison with other pastors and churches, comparisons give birth to competition, and competition gives birth to expectations, and unmet expectations – they are inevitable and eventual – give birth to frustrations, and frustrations to denigration of other pastors, churches, and fellow workers, and denigrations turn into personal and church depressions, and together these are the treadmill to  disillusionment.

When a pastor with such ambitions gets snagged he or she discovers the thrills of glory and acclamation, but such glories are themselves a never-stopping and rarely slowing-down treadmill. Losses, declines in giving and attendance spur the pastor to work harder and to “get back to where we once were.” That past is past; the present doesn’t return to the past. Yet another treadmill of going forward while looking back.

What to do?

I’ve talked to enough pastors in the last two decades to put forward a kind of “Wisdom of jumping off the treadmill of success.” Pastors, especially during Covid, have been run ragged. As they come out of this long winter of discontents, may they find the tranquility of what they were called to be and do.

Three commitments transformed the pastors I’ve talked with, and in most cases such pastors have had to sit down with the elders, deacons, co-ministers, boards — whatever — for a talk about stepping back to core commitments. Mind you, some of them have been hard conversations. All of them have yielded wiser pastoring.

Faithfulness

Instead of the ambitions of success, wise pastors commit their days, their homes, their work, their gifts, their pastoring, their preaching, their teaching, and their walk with the Lord toward being faithful to God, faithful to Jesus, faithful in the Spirit, faithful to the Scriptures, faithful to the great traditions of the church, faithful to their own calling to pastor people (not run the world), and faithful to themselves. And, yes, faithful to their spouses and children and family.

Pastoral Care

Instead of the ambitions of “bigger is better” and “more is magnificent” wise pastors commit their lives to pastor – catch this fave of mine – who they’ve got not those they’ve not got. In other words, they care for those in their care – parishioners and co-ministers and staff and family – instead of striving for more people and more givers and more filled pews/chairs and more buildings and more of this and that and here and there. Such persons care for those they know instead of looking through them to the newest visitor and the next big giver.

Personal giftedness

Instead of the ambitions of being everything to everyone, which can mean preacher, teacher, leader, entrepreneur, visionary, manager, chaplain, overseer, community worker, networker, conference attender, book reader, DMin-er, PhD-er, author, conference speaker, Zoom yacker, blogger, Substack-er, columnist – and, oh yes, husband/wife and mother/father, brother, sister, daughter/son, neighbor, friend, fellow pastor…. let’s start this sentence again: Instead of the pull of being everything for everyone, the wise pastor commits her or his life around what she or he is called to do, gifted to do. Yes, working on weak areas, but only because those areas are areas in need of shoring up for the calling. Wise pastors know their limitations and renounce the temptation of “no limitations.” They know their time constraints, their body, their psyche, their family’s capacities and health. They know their gifts enough to empower others to do their calling, to do what that pastor can’t do well, and to be given credit for their contributions to the Body of Christ.

Someone needs to hear this today. Hear what the Spirit is saying to you.

Thank you for hearing me out.

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GUEST POST ~ #ReimagineCHRISTIANITY...In America

What Is an Evangelical?

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Are you an evangelical? It’s complicated. I thought I was until someone told me that since I was, I was also a white supremacist. This is what happens when theological terms are defined by the broader culture. So let’s clarify what it means.

The Complexity of the Modern Term

“Evangelical” is a contemporary grouping of Protestant Christians that have their roots in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century revivalism. They generally share four characteristics, the well-known Bebbington Quadrilateral: biblicism (the centrality of the Bible), conversionism (the individual acceptance of Jesus as Savior), activism (the requirement for evangelism and mission), and crucicentrism (the atoning work of Jesus on the cross). While some of these characteristics may be shared with other Christian traditions, evangelicals are also further located in the context of the twentieth-century debates between theological liberals and conservatives. These three ideas—Protestant Christianity, revivalism, and Bebbington’s Quadrilateral—triangulate the social identity of evangelicals in the United States today.

The term is not used the same way in other parts of the world. In Europe, for example, it refers to an ecclesial identity that is not Roman Catholic. In the UK, it shares some similarities with the use in mainland Europe; however, it is also used as a subgroup identity for low-church Anglicans, as well as for those not attached to the Church of England but still identified by the above three ideas. This suggests that “evangelical” is not simply a political identity, as it is all too often presented in the early twenty-first century, though it is a contested and somewhat malleable term.

The New Testament Root of “Evangelical”

The term “evangelical” draws from the lexical setting of the New Testament Greek noun euangelion, which can have a contextual meaning such as “good news” or, as some English translations of the Bible translate it, “gospel” (Gal. 1:11; Rom. 1:1, 16). The rationale for this group label is that those committed to biblicism, conversionism, activism, and crucicentrism may properly be understood as those who have aligned their patterns of belief and embodiment with the aims of the gospel. It is the message that God has acted in Jesus of Nazareth in order to redeem humanity, establish the kingdom, and restore creation. The ecclesial communities who identify themselves as evangelical understand their mission as the proclamation of this good news throughout the world. While there is significant debate as to the social implications of the gospel, there is agreement on the centrality of Jesus to the message.

When the diverse ecclesial label “evangelical” is attached to the term “theology,” it raises a perennial challenge: How does one define evangelical theology ? It is a theology that has its focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ from beginning to end. Several implications may be detected from this. Evangelical theology is fully Trinitarian, orthodox in its Christological teaching, and animated both by Christ’s atoning work on the cross and by the centrality of the Christian community of faith, gathered for worship and mission.

Twin Components: “Protestantism” and “Revivalism”

Two terms mentioned in the opening sentence of this post need further definition: (a) Protestantism and (b) revivalism, since evangelicalism is a nested social identity within these two movements from church history. Protestantism is a sixteenth-century movement of protest concerning the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, itself a branch of Christendom that resulted from an earlier split with the Orthodox Church in 1054. The material principle of the Protestant Reformation—what made it possible—is that justification of sinners occurs by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The formal principle—its unique shape—is Scripture alone. Scripture formed the doctrine that made possible a movement to reform the church for the glory of God alone. Since a protest movement is inherently unstable, though, Protestantism quickly branched into four streams: Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and Anabaptist. As these grew, further movements developed: Baptists, Methodists, and eventually Pentecostals.

The second movement important for understanding evangelicalism is revivalism, a conversion-and-renewal movement in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Its roots were in the Reformation’s Lutheran stream in Germany that developed into pietism—an approach to the Christian life emphasizing holiness and personal experience in contrast to the dry orthodoxy that had overtaken much of Europe. A shared spiritual ethos also developed with Puritanism, especially in England and America, along with the Great Awakening and eventually the Pentecostal outpourings. Revivalism was characterized by (a) longing for repentance, (b) confident expectation for revival, (c) gospel proclamation, and (d) renewal of ardor and scripturally based worship and mission practices.

Recent Movements Around the Evangelical Label

Why does this matter? In the last several years, there has been a move to give up on the “evangelical” label, with some referring to themselves as “ex-evangelicals.” It has also, no doubt, been co-opted by political leaders and has drifted from its original gospel orientation. Labels matter, though, and sometimes we need to revisit what they indicate. When my evangelical identity reconnects the gospel with my theology and the church, it is functioning the way it should. But when it only connects an inward-focused subgroup, a condition referred to as koinonitis, then an intervention is needed—one that requires more than Dr. Phil.

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GUEST POST ~

GUEST POST ~ Mike & Terri Higgs, with Francis Frangipane

"This is without doubt a “kairos” time for us all to seek God. The world around us is anything but routine, and God is raising up a remnant that will not just survive, but thrive as they advance the Kingdom of Light against the encroaching Darkness."

sondancing

Our Tent of Meeting
 
While we have never met Francis Frangipane, his writings have mentored us in profound ways. Mike in particular has been significantly impacted by his books, which reflect an author for whom Christlikeness is a singular goal. This is a selection from his book, Holiness, Truth and the Presence of God. We include it for several reasons. This is without doubt a “kairos” time for us all to seek God. The world around us is anything but routine, and God is raising up a remnant that will not just survive, but thrive as they advance the Kingdom of Light against the encroaching Darkness.
 
The selection also resonates with us in that our home here in the Idaho mountains has become a sort of Tent of Meeting for us. As you will read below, Moses pitched the Tent of Meeting “a good distance from the camp” of the Israelite nation. God pitched our tent, so to speak, a good distance from the “camp” of comfort, familiarity, and friends in Oregon, and even a shorter but not insignificant distance from our current ministry focus in the Sun Valley area of Idaho. While at times it has been a quite challenging adjustment, we believe God knew what He was doing. 
 
May we all “choose to leave the camp of familiarity – whatever that may be for each of us - and place our tent in the presence of God.”
 
 
The Tent of Meeting

"When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, O Lord, I shall seek'" (Ps. 27:8).

     There are certain times when the Lord calls us out of the routine of our daily lives. These are special seasons where His only command is "Seek My face." He has something precious and vitally important to give us that the familiar pattern of our daily devotions cannot accommodate. During such times people are often delivered of sins that have plagued them for years; others discover a depth in their walk with God that leads to greater effectiveness in ministry and prayer; still others experience breakthroughs in their families and are used by God to see loved ones brought into the kingdom. 
 
     Yet here we are not seeking God for things or even for other people. We are seeking God for Himself. Maturity starts as we break the cycle of seeking God only during hardship; holiness begins the moment we seek God for Himself. A touch from God is wonderful, but we are in pursuit of more than just an experience, more than "goose bumps and tears." We are seeking to abide with Christ, where we are continually aware of His fullness within us, where His presence dwells in us in glory. 
 
     How do we enter this sacred place? If we study the life of Moses, we will see how he sought God and lived in fellowship with Him. 
 
     "Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp" (Exod. 33:7).
 
     Notice that "everyone who sought the Lord would go out.” If we are going to truly seek the Lord, we must pitch our tent "a good distance from the camp." What camp is this? For Moses, as well as for us, it is the camp of familiarity. 
 
     Is there anything inherently wrong or sinful with the things that are familiar? No, not in themselves, but you will remember that when Jesus told His disciples to follow Him, He called them to leave the familiar pattern of their lives for extended periods and be alone with Him (Matt. 19:27; Luke 14:33). He knew that people, by nature, are unconsciously governed by the familiar. If Christ would expand us to reach for the eternal, He must rescue us from the limitations of the temporal. 
 
     This is not to say we neglect our families or that we become irresponsible as we seek God. No. God has given everyone enough time to seek Him. The time is there. Having done what love would have us do for our families, we simply say no to every other voice but God’s. We must redeem the time: cancel hobbies, forsake television, and put away the newspaper and magazines. Those who would find God, find time. 
 
     Sadly, many Christians have no higher goal, no greater aspiration, than to become "normal." Their desires are limited to measuring up to others. Without a true vision of God, we most certainly will perish spiritually! Paul rebuked the church at Corinth because they walked "like mere men" (1 Cor. 3:3). God has more for us than merely becoming better people; He wants to flood our lives with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. We must understand: God does not merely want us "normal"; He wants us Christlike.
 
     For the Holy Spirit to facilitate God’s purposes in our lives, He must redefine our priorities in life. Christlikeness must become our singular goal.
 
     For most people, however, our sense of reality, and hence our security, is often rooted in the familiar. How difficult it is to grow spiritually if our security is based upon the stability of outward things! Our security must come from God, not circumstances or other personal relationships. When it is, the other areas of our lives experience eternal security.
 
     Yet our fears run deep and are numerous. Indeed, most of us pass through life umbilically tied to the world of the familiar. Even people who have been delivered from adverse situations are often drawn back into hardship. Why? Because adversity is more familiar to them.
 
     Humans are cocooned in the familiar and thus insulated against change. When we work all day only to come home, watch television, then collapse in bed, our lifestyle tethers us to earthly things. These things may not necessarily trap us in sin as much as they keep us from God. 

     Moses would leave what was familiar and pitch his tent "outside the camp," where he would then seek the Lord.
 
"Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come" (Heb. 13:12-14).
 
     In the same way that Moses and those who sought the Lord went outside the camp, and as Jesus went outside the camp, so also must we, at times, leave the camp of what seems normal and predictable and begin to seek after God. Here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city that is to come.
 
     This is one reason why Jesus said, "When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray" (Matt. 6:6). Christ desires us to leave the familiar, distracting world of our senses and abide in the world of our hearts, bearing in mind that the highest goal of prayer is to find God.
 
     Every minute you seek God is a minute enriched with new life and new power from God. Give yourself a minimum amount of time -- an hour or two each day -- but do not set a limit, as the Lord may draw you to seek Him on into the night. And continue day by day, and week by week, until you have drawn near enough to God that you can hear His voice, becoming confident that He is close enough to you to hear your whisper.
 
     If we are going to become holy, we must sever the chains and restraints -- the bondage of desiring just an average life. We will choose to leave the camp of familiarity and place our tent in the presence of God.

* * * * *

Copyright © sondance, all rights reserved.

 

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"Quote/Unquote" • #ReimagineEVANGELISM...

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John Teter, author of "The Power of the 72: Ordinary Disciples in Extraordinary Evangelism"
 
 
"I love the biblical model of anonymous but faithful disciples who engage their world with the news -not the advice- of the gospel."10172146678?profile=RESIZE_710x
 
 
"The 72 were the answer to (Jesus') earnest prayers to the Lord of the harvest. But let's be honest. they must have been terrified. Their anonymity allows us to pause and wonder if we could be among the seventy-two disciples; the 72 were unknown rookies just like you and me"
 
 
"The 72 were sent to demonstrate the same explosive power of God that raised Jesus from the dead...They were sent with great energy and zeal to love, serve,and bring new life to the city...operating as a team. Standing alone, the newly appointed evangelists would have had a difficult time embracing and overcoming the challenges. Each evangelist was given an immediate partner. Each two-person ministry team was part of a much bigger thirty-six person evangelism battalion.  Together, there were seventy-two personalities, seventy-two diverse perspectives, seventy-two prayers, and seventy-two voices."
 
 
"My research has identified the benchmark events present in process conversion:
1) trusting a non-Christian;
2) experiencing God and the good news of the gospel;
3) hearing and understanding the good news; 
4) receiving a clear call to follow Jesus."
 
 
"Ministry success is not based on how many come, but on how many go."
 
 
Responding to Luke 10:1-2, you say, "He didn't begin with ministry strategy. Jesus started with prayer."
 
 
"After Jesus taught the 72 to pray earnestly for more kingdom workers...Jesus taught them how to eat with non-Christians while being detectivesinvestigating the spiritual foundation of their new friends." 
  

CONTENTS

Introduction: Welcome to the 72

Part I: Theology
1. Faith Comes First
2. Sent to the Poor
3. Wolves, Bears, and Crushing Pressure

Part II: Application
4. How People Become Christians
5. Earnest and Powerful Prayers
6. Friends: Secular to Sacred
7. Experience: Healing and Hearing
8. Conversion: Rejoice with Me

Epilogue: A Final Benediction

 
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GUEST POST ~ When The Church Becomes A Business

WHEN THE CHURCH BECOMES A BUSINESS
  
1)    Pastors function like CEOs
2)    Members are turned into customers
3)    Other churches are seen as competitions
4)    Evangelism is reduced to marketing
5)    Church planting looks more like franchising.
6)    Numbers are primary measure of success
7)    Prayer and Word study are replaced by formulas
8)    Revival is reduced to a few days fund-raising program
9)    Preaching sounds more like motivational speech. All the people do is shout "I receive, Amen," throughout the concert. I mean the "service".
10)  Praise and Worship is turned into a performance. The best actors are made the worship and praise leaders.
11)  The Spirit of God is reduced to "emotionalism". No real power of God other than hypnosis and sensationalism.
12)  The saints are entertained instead of equipped
13)  Disciples of Christ have become papa's sons, daughters and fans.
14)  The Church, a living Body has now become a lifeless body
15)   A leader's empire is built instead of the Kingdom of God advanced
16)  The pastor becomes the super man and Jesus Christ reduced to just another religious figure.
 
Does any one of these sound familiar in this generation? Beloved, if you are under these pattern of "Christianity" you are already in a cult, not the Church of Jesus Christ. Get out before it is too late!!!
 
THY KINGDOM COME
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Uncommon Church: Community Transformation for the Common Good

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How can the people of God develop churches in ways that help and don't hurt poor neighborhoods? 

Christians too often treat the poor as goodwill projects instead of people. Because of this mindset, many remain unchurched. Healthy, local, urban churches are needed because they combine personal empowerment and community transformation.

Every poor neighborhood needs uncommon churches that will seek the common good of their communities. Alvin Sanders engages hard truths about these neighborhoods and provides a model for how to do ministry in difficult conditions.

The local, urban church is the key to community transformation, as it plays three crucial roles of empowering, partnering, and reaching.

Pastors and church planters interested in Christian community development will find here practical insights into the power of the local church, which is often underrated. Churches can serve their communities and improve the quality of life of every facet of the neighborhood.

Read an excerpt>>>

Check out the book>>>

Foreword by Efrem Smith
Part One: Uncommon Church
1. Advocacy Is Not Enough
2. What Would Jesus Do? Poverty Is a Condition, Not an Identity
3. Jesus Did, Not Jesus Would: Jesus and the Condition of Poverty
4. The People of God: God's Plan for a Broken World
5. Doing Healthy Church: Seven Habits Toward Spiritual Maturity


Part Two: Seeking the Common Good
6. Faith and Works: Eliminating the Tension Between Evangelism and Justice
7. There Goes the Neighborhood: Understanding the Powers That Be
8. Championing the Community: Empowering Grassroots Leaders and Workers
9. Chasing Wild Dreams: Examples of Faith, Hope, and Love in Action
10. The Kingdom Is in Us

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#Reimagine: Set A New Direction

#Reimagine: Set A New Direction

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Why Leaders Who Listen Achieve Breakthroughs

One leader I worked with, frustrated after multiple attempts to get her team aligned on a new direction, finally asked her team members over dinner, “Do you think we should just give up on getting this right?”

She wasn’t suspending her responsibility; she honestly wanted their views. At that moment, her team stepped up to a new level of ownership, outlining what made sense, and where they wanted to modify the plan to get to the goal.

A year later, her highly successful team pointed to this conversation as the moment when their mission caught fire.

 

Copyright © 2022 Leading With Questions, All rights reserved.

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