I picked up this book without reading the sub-title, so it is a very different book to what I was expecting.
Having said that, this is an excellent exploration of the roles that women have been forced to play in churches because of faulty readings of Scripture. Using both a detailed examination of some key bible verses together with some historical cases of strong christian women, Kris exhorts the church to allow women to take up their God-given roles in leadership, in ministry and in service in the church.
This book is easy to read and written passionately and personally.
Bill Yount: God's Mysterious Ways: When The Lion Roars His Call Is Not Tame
A lion roared inside our mothers' wombs: "I have called you to be a prophet to the nations." Think of it. God calls us to be a prophet to the nations. Nothing in me to this day can get a handle on that. This awesome thought puts me into a fetal position from the start. Most of my life has been uneasy with this call. Who am I that a King would bleed and die for and think of me in this way? Revelation like lightning flashes before me at times, but not on most days. And yet on my worst days the call rings true blue. It's who God says I am.
When you know what God has called you to do, nothing can stop you but yourself. I still never quite get used to ministering to people or typing out a message. But the butterflies are fewer. My knees are not so weak. The call of God reminds me: I can do this. This is what I was born for. And the greater One is in me. The roar of an untamed lion is in our call.
The Roar Will Interrupt Your Life
Check out Moses, Abraham, Jonah, the twelve disciples, and anyone walking with God today. You will see the divine interruptions that plummeted their lives.
At twenty-one years of age I began working in a steel mill near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My goal was to save money to get married one day. Within a short time things were looking up. A new car paid for in cash. Everything was coming into view except someone to marry. After several more years of accumulating a sizable bank account for my dream, a voice spoke to me: "Lay down your nets and follow me."
I was certain that was not God. He would have known it takes money to get married. Besides, I was sure the Lord blessed me with this good paying job with great benefits and a secure future. As time went by it became clear, however, it was God knocking on the door of that factory.
"Son, lay down your nets and follow Me." I dragged my feet on those words for two more years, knowing that call could greatly hinder my dream from coming true. One day while eating lunch in the work yard I saw, in the spirit, Jesus walking past the factory. He didn't stop but kept walking as He pointed to me and said, "Son, I'm calling you for the very last time!" I knew it was now or never. I could stay where I was and be a light in that factory. But I knew I would miss knowing Jesus the way the disciples did when they left their nets and followed Him.
Two weeks later I gave in my resignation. The guys I worked with thought I was crazy for leaving a good paying job. They kept asking me, "What are you going to do when your money runs out and you do find someone to marry? I didn't have an answer. All I knew was God was calling me out of the factory and not telling me what my next step in life would be. All I could say to my co-workers was, "God is calling me to leave and He promised He would take care of me."
Thirty days after I left the factory, it began to shut down and never reopened. I knew then the Lord didn't call me because I was so spiritual. He was looking out for me. What I thought was my security wasn't. He saw the hole in the bottom of my boat. Will the call of God interrupt your life? Definitely! If necessary, it may close down a whole factory, business, or even your present ministry when the call comes knocking on your door. It often comes roaring like an untamed lion. The call can be wild.
Last night, in the middle of church, we received a phone call from some people in Moree. They are christians who own a house in Narrabri which is rented out. Their tenants have been very disturbed by some weird stuff in their house. At night they have been hearing noises, their little boy has become terrified at times, doors that latch firmly open themselves and there is lots of fear. The most weird thing is that they put powder on the carpet in one room to detect if there really was something there and footprints that might belong to a child appeared overnight.
After praying together in the church, Margaret and I accompanied the owners to the house. We found nothing like what we expected. The house was small, humble, but immaculate (apart from the room with powder on the floor). The couple are very young with two small children. The house felt open and comfortable and spiritually light. But the fear on the woman was think enough to touch.
We prayed for the peace of God to come to this family and for any curses or witchcraft to go. We shared about God's great love for them and how He is bigger than any evil spirit. They had some Bibles that they had left around the house, but they were being used like magic charms to ward off the spirits. The young man had been involved in a church, had read much of the New Testament and had prayed a bit when younger.
We left, encouraging them to come around any time that they felt they wanted to talk or needed help. I think they may fo that. We will continue to pray that they are set free from this attack by the evil one.
There is a reason why God tells us we must love one another. It's because other people can be so annoying!
The people I find it hard to deal with are those who are so adamant that not only are they right, but that there is no other way of even thinking about an issue.
For these people, there is a model of action, a way of doing things, that is so obviously the only way to do it that thinking outside of the box is not an option because there isn't even a box.
This afternoon we were talking about evangelism in a school context. The other person could only see that this means Scripture lessons. One on one personal evangelism, talking to students and staff about their lives and how God fits in- just not on the agenda for this guy. To make matters worse, he could not see the effectiveness of a ministry that has worked well for a decade.
Anyway, I've got to love him. I'm sure my way of thinking frustrates him too.
Messed up Scripture class this morning. I forgot it was Thursday until my computer popped up the alarm: Scripture is happening in 10 minutes. Aaagghh! I prepared yesterday so I grabbed my stuff, put on some shoes and headed across the road to the school. No time for a quick run through of the lesson- I'll have to wing it.
At the school I learned that the classroom change that was originally going to happen Monday of this week and then was put off until next Monday actually happened this morning. The computer was off, the whiteboard was off and the teacher was still sorting her things out. We turned the computer on and waited for ever for it to get going while I played a game with the kids. Finally the computer was going and I was able to use the visual aids on powerpoint .
Another crazy Scripture lesson navigated and I trust that at least one person heard me say "God loves you very much."
It's an awesome thing when a congregation becomes a community that ministers life to one another rather than relying on the "professional" ministers.
Of course, this is like an iceberg- so much remains out of sight. Occasionally one gets glimpses of what God is inspiring people to do.
Sometimes I see people praying for one another after the celebration service on Sunday or after cell group.
Sometimes I hear of people giving generously to our appeals for development projects in India or to aid groups such as Compassion or Samaritans Purse.
Sometimes I hear of people exhorting and encouraging one another to move higher. Just recently I heard of someone who was talking to a person who struggles with tithing- not in the sense of disagreeing with the concept or being too poor to spare the money but rather they find it hard to part with the money every week. The discussion ended with "Come on. I'll take you to the ATM now and you will have the cash to put in tomorrow."
Sometimes I have people call me and say, "I'm just sharing this Bible passage with someone and I'm not sure about this. What does it mean?"
This is what Paul wrote about when he described the church as the Body of Christ. Every member is carrying out a ministry as the Holy Spirit leads them.
That is powerful. Nothing can overcome that kind of faith which is lived out in everyday living.
New Life is a church based on the Cell Church model. That is to say we are radically committed to ministry in small groups or cell groups as they are called. Rather than having all ministry take place in the large gathering our church emphasises small group ministry. Rather than one person doing all the ministry, we encourage all people to engage in ministry.
In this book, Randall Neighbour gives some solid practical advice about ministry in cell groups- what it means to be a cell leader, the personal requirements etc.
What this book did for me was to again emphasise three important things:
Personal evangelism and the need to continue to relate to non-believers
The importance of mentoring and disciple-growing
The Encounter Weekend retreat where a mixture of teaching and prayer counselling are used to help people get breakthroughs in their spiritual lives.
This book was a huge encouragement for me as a pastor to again become pro-active in leading my church in growing closer to Jesus.
Just lately I have been hearing lots of people talking about building retreats for pastors and their wives. Their concepts usually involve a cabin in an isolated location where stressed out pastors can unwind and get close to God for several days or even weeks without being interrupted by people and phone calls.
Personally I would rather be somewhere like a resort where there are nice facilities and opportunities for recreation, as well as the space to draw near to God. I understand that some people find wilderness to be a great place to find communion with God, and being out of a mobile service area means that they don't have to have the discipline to turn the phone off themselves.
The fact that many people are discerning a need for pastors to be spiritually regenerated suggests that there is a real problem in the church that is being recognised. Unfortunately that only deals with a symptom and not the real disease.
The real problem is that we have a toxic church culture which needs to be born again so to speak.
Toxic Culture These are the factors that churches and pastors need to address.
1. Success in ministry is about faithfulness not about numbers. There is such a huge emphasis on numbers these days that just kills grace. Businesses need to be profitable and measure sales and customer numbers. The church is not a business.
When people ask me is my church growing, they are asking if I am being successful in making converts or enticing people from other churches to join my group. Nobody ever asks me if my people are becoming more prayerful or more generous or more Christ-like.
A pastor who is deeply obedient to God may still find his church not growing in numbers and yet will earn God's reward.
Let's stop playing “Mine is bigger than yours.”
2. Pastors are not employees. Churches often have expectations of how pastors should perform their ministry. If they don't meet those expectations, if they see that the goals of their ministry can be met through different methods, then there may be trouble, Pressure will be brought to bear.
Many pastors are caught between the call of the Lord and the demands of their boss.
Churches need to learn to let their pastors be free to lead them under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
3. Not every pastor is a celebrity A very few pastors get to have mega-church celebrity status. The trouble is that they are the ones who set the standard that everyone else should aspire to in terms of numerical success. They are the ones who write the books and speak at the conferences. They also make it seem that it is so easy and if you follow some basic steps every church can grow to 20,000 people.
This sets unrealistic expectations in the hearts of pastors and churches that will lead inevitably to disappointment and frustration.
The Solutions The one thing that was truly remarkable about Jesus' ministry and which was replicated in the early church was relationships. Jesus hung out with his twelve closest friends pretty much full time for 3 years.
In our institutionalised and depersonalised churches genuine friendship is rarely experienced. This leads to burn out and destruction.
By the grace of God I have discovered two factors which will revert the church to true community over time.
1. Cell Church I am deeply committed to this style of church life. It is a vessel for developing the church into a true body, a real community of faith. It releases people to serve one another, to share lives together and to be Christ to one another.
The pastor of a cell church does not have to be the solo minister, the expert on praying, comforting, exhorting and encouraging. Cell leaders and cell members share the load. The church becomes the church as people transition from consumers of religious products to disciples of Jesus.
This is not about having small groups as a part of the church programme, but ditching the programmes in order to help christians to grow in the Holy Spirit. This is a radical change for many churches, but it brings life. People like Joel Comiskey and Ralph Neighbour have written extensively on this topic.
My own cell group provides an example of how nurturing cell groups are. Last night was a crazy night. We had been away from home all day and had got home in plenty of time to get ready for cell group. As we arrived, a friend turned up and we chatted for well over an hour. There was barely time to microwave some food for dinner before the crowd descended. I felt led to abandon the topic for the evening and change direction somewhat. What was interesting was that we had an awesome time of laughing and joking together, followed by some prayer for serious issues. There was some real healing received in that meeting that is not possible in other contexts.
2. Apostles and Spiritual Fathers. I used to be a cog in a denominational machine. I did not respect those in the hierarchy, much less love them.
Then God called me to start a new church outside the structures. Now I was king of my domain!
But the Lord led me into a relationship with an apostle, a man with the grace of being a father in the faith. Now I know I am loved for who I am. I submit myself to his directions out of love and respect not out of rules and by-laws.
My church remains autonomous, but we have someone who loves us and who has been called by God to that ministry.
There are many people around who call themselves apostles but aren't the real deal. They are just on a power trip.
A true apostle will bring freedom and grace to the churches and ministers they oversee.
Rather than authority being based on structures and traditions, apostolic authority comes from the Holy Spirit and is based in relationships.
These two factors, cell church and apostolic grace keep me in a place where I never feel over-stressed or on the edge of a breakdown. I enjoy a holiday, but I don't hang out for the next vacation or conference.
I am free to be the man of God that I was designed to be, in relationships that God has designed for me and loving the church God has given me.
Since we started New Life back in 1996, we have believed in the cell church vision. In this model of the church, both large group celebration and smaller home-based cells are considered equally essential to christian growth. This is the pattern that was adopted by the early church. In Acts 2, for example, we read:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-48
They "met together in one place" and "met in homes."
In his book "Reap The Harvest" Joel Comiskey describes how cell churches operate and he presents the results of his research into the fastest growing and biggest cell churches in the world. It's an excellent book and I really recommend it to everyone involved in ministry. Comiskey says there are 16 practices that are common to these churches:
1. Dependence on Jesus Christ Through Prayer
2. Motivation for Cell Ministry is Evangelism and Church Growth
3. Multiplication: The Goal of Each Cell Group
4. Designed for Reproducible Quality Control
5. Emphasis on Goal-Setting
6. Cell Ministry Is the Church’s Backbone
7. Importance of Both Cell and Celebration
8. Senior Pastor’s Strong, Visionary Leadership
9. Established Leadership Requirements
10. Required Leadership Training
11. Leadership Developed Within the Church
12. A “Jethro Model” Care Structure
13. Leadership Promotion Based on Success
14. Cell Groups Meet in Homes
15. Cells Follow-up with Visitors, New Converts
16. Cell Lessons Based on Pastor’s Sermon
Some of these terms, such as "Jethro Model" are not commonly understood, but Joel explains the concepts well in his books.
Tonight at our Cell Leaders' meeting I ran quickly through these 16 qualities, with a little explanation on each one. I asked them to rate our church on each one on a scale of 1 to 5.
As you would expect, we excel at some and need to do some work on others. The overall pattern was that we need to develop our prayer life and our ability and desire to evangelise.
It was great to get these priorities so clearly delineated for our leaders.
Now we just have to act on these insights!
The book is "Reap THe Harvest" by Joel Comiskey, published by TOUCH Publications. It's available as an e-book through Amazon
For the last twenty years thousands men from across America struggling with sexual sin have come to our intensive counseling workshop. Over half were pastors and missionaries.
I wish our experience was unique.
Several years ago a seminary professor told me: “We no longer ask our entering students if they struggling with pornography, we assume every student is struggling. The question we ask: ‘How serious is the struggle?’”
One missions agency told me that 80% of their applicants voluntary indicate a struggle with pornography, resulting in staff shortages on the field.
Pornography is just one level of sin, a form of visual sex, or heart adultery. Physical adultery includes an affair, multiple affairs, prostitution, and homosexuality. Other sexual behaviors within the ministry are such heinous “unfruitful works of darkness . . . it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret” (Ephesians 5:11–12). To face the crisis we must correctly understand the nature of the problem, ask God to search our own hearts, and be committed to restore each one caught in sexual sin “in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1).
I have pondered long and hard two questions: Why do people repeatedly return to sexual sin and why do people turn away from sexual sin?
The Lone Ranger: the popular comic hero of mid-western USA. Cutting a rugged and imposing figure in the pale moonlight, calling his beautiful horse, “Hi ho Silver, away!” Behind him was Tonto, the faithful American Indian buddy who appeared from time to time to assist him. The Lone Ranger was exactly as his name suggests – a singularity, an anomaly, alone.
“The bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all... No man is an island, entire of itself.” John Donne (1572-1631)
It is my observation that, by and large, Christians tend to be loners. We may attend church together, we may sit in a building facing the same way together but we rarely work together in the Kingdom. Ministers, itinerant preachers, crusade evangelists and prophets all tend to be loners. Is this really the Biblical pattern? Is this God’s best for the body – each to his own? I don’t think it can be.
“Your watchmen shall lift up their voices... together for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD brings back Zion” (Isaiah 52:8 NKJV)
Do you see the call – especially in the prophetic? We are supposed to be lifting up voices together (both in unison and in harmony). We are supposed to be singing the same song, praising the same God, facing the same direction together. But where have you ever seen a team, a choir, a chorus of voices speaking for God? Seeing eye to eye means looking one another in the face with honesty and integrity; speaking what we hear. There is no solo here, there is no overarching rock-star ministry. It is no singularity, nor even the “four tenors” of famous men. It is an entire body – a company.
Australian, New Zealand and American culture is fairly “frontier” minded. We sing songs like, “I did it my way,” and we admire the self-made man. Our heroes are singular supermen (or little bands of highly specialized “few good men”). We have almost no team spirit at all. But that is not so with all of us.
By contrast the Aboriginal, Indian, Maori, Inuit and Islander culture is fairly “community” minded. This was brought home to me very strongly when Mario and I established an Indigenous Food Garden concept in Cootamundra. After seven years of research and development we invited local Wiradjuri tribe leaders to come and see. We hoped to learn and also to impart what we knew. That day we sat down on the lawn in a learning circle – where everyone was treated as equals – and shared our knowledge of bushfood. Learning together; acting together.
Old Testament style
Of course I am not throwing stones at any particular leader here. I only write and speak of this subject because it is in my own heart. I was saved into a hierarchical denominational church – with one clear leader. As I grew in the prophetic I had stellar, individual examples to follow like Paul Cain (who was without peer) and as it turns out, friendship might have helped him later. As I reflect on many of the conference topics and preaching examples I was being given at that time I see that they were stand alone, “saviour” types.
We admired Micaiah, Malachi, Ezekiel, Joseph and Daniel. Our modern day heroes were men like Reinhard Bonnke, William Branham, Billy Graham and Ted Haggard. But really, how realistic is that modeling? How useful (indeed how Biblical) is it? Does God have in mind a bunch of caped crusaders, a wild and unaccountable group of stellar individuals like the Lone Ranger who will whisk in and save the day?
The sad fact of moral failure by so many of our leaders led to some hard introspection for me, and a re-evaluation of the leadership models I found in Scripture. Now I see other examples there like: * Moses – who appointed seventy elders to judge with him; * Jacob/Israel – who had twelve sons; * Samuel – who visited five cities each year, worked with local elders and raised up schools in every place; * Elijah – who fathered four schools of the prophets;
“If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Old African Proverb
New Testament style
The New Testament is also full of teams. John deferred to Jesus when he showed up. Jesus raised up twelve (and the seventy two who went out two by two). He promised, “I will send you apostles and prophets (plural) some you will persecute others you will kill” (Luke 11:49) and established the church on the team foundation of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). The early church raised up and sent teams like Paul and Silas; Barnabas and John Mark.
Consider the prophets (plural) who came down from Jerusalem to minister at Antioch (Acts 11:27). That’s mind blowing right there. The prophets (plural) of a city knew each other, prayed with each other, flowed together and as an entire group went together on itinerant ministry! I cannot think of even one city on this planet that can say that about their prophets!
And don’t quote Kansas City to me. As amazing as KCF was in raising up prophets, each and every one of them are stand alone ministries. Indeed as David Pytches points out in “Some said it Thundered” there was often division among the prophets there. He cites “duelling prophet Sunday” as a prime (but not the only) example. “Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it.” (1 Corinthians 11:17,18).
Here’s another thing I have never seen: the embodiment of Paul’s experiences at Corinth. He writes, “When the prophets speak let the others weigh what is said.” (1 Corinthians 14:29). Now I have seen a conference at which “prophets speak” (usually two or three visiting dignitaries). But in that case no one stops and weighs what is said. There is no discussion, only affirmation. I have also seen local prophets made to write down their revelation one by one and submit them to the pastor (who presumably weighs what is said?) But never have I seen a plurality of prophets speak for God and a plurality of people corporately weigh that utterance. Never.
Just think of the harm that could be avoided if we walked together – weighing our words together – holding each other accountable. Travelling from one city to another together with the camaraderie and fellowship, the strengthening and encouragement. Together we would have a stronger witness.
As Solomon points out, “Two walking together is better than one who walks alone. When one falls, the other can pick him up and carry him on.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Again this power was highlighted to me recently at a Board meeting for Storm Harvest in December last year.
The full board (minus one) was there and after we had worked our way through the admin/accounting/legal agenda we turned to spiritual matters. The board as a whole was uneasy about our relationship with a certain outreach. They had raised this with me two years before and asked me to address certain failings and oversights in that ministry (which I had done).
They said, as one, “Robert we want you to consider shutting down our ministry work and partnership in that nation – altogether. We feel that it is time they stood on their own. They are not us, we are not them and we cannot allow this to go on.” It was not a command, it was the gentle request of brothers and sisters. It’s sad that it had to come to this (not because of the misbehavior of the staff overseas) because of my own blindedness to the situation and my previous unwillingness to end our work there.
Such is the rescue or working together, such is the safety of walking together.
When I started ministry many years ago my concepts of the pastoral ministry was fairly well shaped by the institution of denominational churchianity- visit people, teach Sunday School and Scripture, run special interest groups and basically keep the show on the road. If you do that well you get to go to a bigger church or a head office job.
When we started New Life, the expectations were no longer there. I found myself doing less administration owing to the fact that there were no longer layers of bureaucrats to answer to. No visitation, because the people with us were closely knit anyway and didn't need a pastoral visit to feel included. Lots of time for much needed prayer and for listening to the Holy Spirit.
We decided in the early days that our church was to be a cell church. We weren't sure of what that meant exactly except that it involved developing community in small groups. It's taken a while for all of the implications of this to work their way into our collective belief systems, but God is changing us. We are learning how to be God's people at mission all the time, reaching out in love to our neighbours.
What I've lately come to realise is that much of what I do now, at least in terms of my thinking and planning, is based around mission and cells. I teach scripture to children- evangelism. I run a cell group and I'm developing a "curriculum" for on-going training of new believers through to mature discipleship. I meet with other cell leaders to encourage them. I assist with a children's cell. I preach also.
So much of my time is now dedicated to cell ministry! And I love it!
One of the most encouraging trends so far this year is that people are starting to grasp the whole concept of cells as a means of evangelism as well as nurture. We are going to see significant growth in our groups over the next 12 months as we grow in confidence in this.
I am so excited about the way God is changing our focus. I'm sure that people are far more engaged in their own ministries and in seeing themselves as able to be servants of God in their daily lives. In the past we used to talk as if that was the goal but everything always remained pastor-centred.
I have rarely been as excited as I am right now about the way our church is going.
Quite regularly we have significantly powerful worship times, even when there are just a few people present. At Leaders' Cell tonight, for example, we had half a dozen or so people and we just sang 2 songs- from recordings. Then a prayer time that was so intense with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Awesome!!
There have been so many reports of people receiving dreams or visions from the Lord. I can tell as I hear the descriptions of the experience that these are supernatural events not just people going a bit weird.
People are meeting together in pairs to pray. Families are worshipping together regularly.
From time to time people stand up in church to testify about how they have experienced God's grace.
The strength of relationships in our fellowship is deepening. We have a more genuine love for one another than ever before, I think.
This isn't revival- far from it! It is clear, though, that God is renewing the church.
Of course as this is happening there is subtle undermining from the enemy.
Sometimes people get disappointed because this isn't happening the way they think it should. satan stirs others up to try and hijack God's programme, diverting the flow of energy and activity into things that God has not ordained for us to do.
You've probably heard of the expression "damning with faint praise." The idea is that we can often use words that sound like they are positive, but we express our praise in such weak terms that the emphasis is on the failings of the person rather than on the strength.
Post-war Prime Minister Robert Menzies was once reported to have said in Parliament of an Opposition member, "He has the brains of a dingo." When called on to withdraw this unparliamentary insult, Menzies said "I withdraw my previous comment. The Honourable Member does not have the brains of a dingo."
When I was younger and knew everything, I was able to judge ministers on their performance. Some made the dizzying heights of "Not bad."
When we lived in Wollongong, it was generally agreed that one particular minister was a "lovely man, but so boring in the pulpit."
What we don't realise is that such faint praise reflects on our attitude not just to those in leadership but to God.
Rather than genuinely thanking God for sending such men and women to our faith community to provide oversight and protection for the church, we sit in judgement over them and over the God who sent them.
Not every Pastor is the brilliant preacher, marvellous people person, amazing faith pray-er that we would want. In fact none is, becasue no human being can ever meet all the demands of all the people in any congregation.
But God has established those people in the church and given those gifts to the church for the equipping and maturing of the church.
Instead of faint praise, we need to be enthhusiastic in our thankfulness to God and in praise of those who serve in our midst. We don't need to pretend they are perfect, but we do need to lift them up in our hearts and in our words.
Who knows, our honouring of them might actually spur them on to being even better,
So having come under conviction of my attitude to a multitude of pastors, past and present, I am asking for grace to also uplift my friends and colleagues who minister in the church.
I've just spent a few days away from home conferring with a small group of senior ministers about how to improve the way we help to mentor and help new ministers and congregations coming into our apostolic network from denominational backgrounds.
I've got to say it was a truly wonderful time. We talked and had fellowship with one another and encouraged one another in our respective ministries. We did a lot of talking, listening and laughing together.
I love the way Apostle John Alley tackles these subjects. He actually had a list of issues that he is wrestling with, but we focussed on just one. He talked about the issues then we prayed, asking God to show us the way forward, and then we just listened to what the Holy Spirit might be saying.
Right at the beginning of this time, I had the words "brain cells" come into my head. The thing about brain cells is that they don't "think" as such, but rather they communicate with one another. Brain cells actually make as many connections as possible with their neighbours and it's the process of communication between those cells that we call thinking.
The brilliance of the way the brain works is that if connections are damaged, new connections can be formed. If a part of the brain is damaged, or cells die for some reason, often the damage can be mitigated by the healthy brain cells forming new connections with new healthy cells. So it is often the case that people who have minor strokes and are partially paralysed they can, over time, re-learn how to use their limbs. In fact all learning involves the formation of new connections in the brain.
If apostolic christianity is all about relationships rather than institutional structures, it follows that our processes need to be organic rather than concrete. It also means that the network needs to function in this multi-relational structure rather than a traditional hierarchic pyramid. Following the analogy of the brain cells, the more connections or relationships that we can make within the network the healthier and smarter it will be.
Out of this meeting, we have decided (among other things) to work harder (or smarter) at developing the relationships, so that when people enquire about apostolic covering or about the network, then they can be referred to several people, spreading the load but also increasing the potential number of relationships or connections with us.
That is so brilliant, you could almost say it must be God!
Our church has just completed, as a part of its 13th birthday celebrations, a weekend of prayer. The idea is that for a 36 hour period from 9 pm Friday to 9 am Sunday we have the church open and we ask people to sign up for an hour or more to come to the church and pray.
I was really blessed when it turned out that we were able to cover every hour of that period in prayer. With a few people away, I knew that it might be a challenge, but we got there.
I was really blown away when I discovered that nearly two thirds of the prayer coverage was by men. I often hear pastors say that it's hard to get men's ministry going in a church. Well my answer to that is get the men to do the ministry. Give them a challenge, an important- even heroic - role and they will rise to it. Get them to commit to coming to church at 3 am just to pray alone and you will have a men's ministry happening right there!
Part of the challenge of this weekend was to bind the spirit of lawlessness that is being manifest in our community in dozens of ways at the moment. I believe that we did that by taking on a challenging discipline and being victorious in it.
We've often said, as have dozens of visitors, that there is an anointing of peace on our building. I experienced that powerfully this morning as I was praying. At one stage as I was praying with Troy, we suddenly both became silent and sat down and we felt this wonderful blanket of peace descend. The presence of God deeply restored our spirits as we sat there and received from Him.
It's been a great weekend. There have been many prophecies, drawings and a song written over this time.
The personal restraints that God places
By G D Watson
If God has called you to be really like Jesus He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other people do things which He will not let you do.
Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it, and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their successes, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence upon Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.
The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious He may let others get credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.
The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting your time, which other Christians never feel distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an Infinitely Sovereign Being, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you, but if you absolutely sell yourself to be His love slave, He will wrap you up in Jealous Love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.
Settle it forever, then that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life., then you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.
Jared Wilson talks about the divisions being promoted by one group in the church.
I guess some half-wit will call me homophobic again.
Division Begins with the Heterodox
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has voted to allow congregations' appointing of homosexual clergy in non-chaste same-sex relationships.
I am not wringing my hands.
This is not a rant about homosexual behavior (which I believe is a sin, in case anyone's wondering). It is about what happens in evangelical discourse when these sorts of things are discussed.
When concerned folks raise voices of protest and warning, when they say adamantly "This isn't right," they are accused of singling out the sin of homosexuality for special treatment, laser-focusing in on the homosexual as a sinner above all sinners, worse than the rest of us.
But I actually think it's sort of the other way around. It is the proponents of gay clergy who single out homosexuality. It is they who are pressing us to respond to this issue. Nobody is pushing for resolutions on the allowance of adulterous clergy, of gossipy clergy, of alcoholic clergy, of p()rn-addicted clergy, or what-have-you.
It is not those who protest who are singling out this sin. It is the proponents of the sin as normative -- or at least, passable -- who are singling it out.
This reminds me of where we got our creeds -- the original stands for normative truth -- in the first place. They were subsequent to heresy. It took heretics to promote their particular heterodoxy for the Church to say, "Supposing we summed up orthodox doctrine as a standard of sorts?"
And so it wasn't the crafters of the creeds who were being divisive. It was the heterodox. Just as it wasn't God who was being divisive when he said, "Don't eat from this tree," but it was the serpent who introduced the option of disobedience.
And it isn't those who believe the Bible when it says homosexual behavior is a sin that are being divisive; it is those who are introducing the idea that it isn't. If you push a decision on something that innovates on the Bible's testimony, you're creating the division. But, sure, many of us will oblige in parting ways with you. If pressed -- as when votes like this go the way they did -- we will cooperate in division.
The man wants to borrow the pulpit provided by the church, but without paying the church its most basic due:
Richard Holloway says the worldwide Anglican Church has made room for “happy clapping” evangelicals, bells-and-smells Catholics, women priests and, in the United States, openly gay clergy and even practitioners of other faiths. So surely, he argues, it can find room for people like him - Christians who don’t believe in God.
Holloway, contrary to popular belief, has not left the Episcopal Church, as Scottish Anglicanism is known. He may have taken early retirement as Bishop of Edinburgh but the writer remains an ordained priest and consecrated bishop, who still preaches from the pulpit, performs baptisms and weddings and even presides at communion.