20 November, 2015 § Leave a comment
There is a lot of misinformation within the Church when speaking and writing about being Missional. Christianity Today has been running articles written by Ed Stetzer defaming the majority of Missional Churches as being rather unguided and silly, claiming that to be missional in these churches is paramount to reading chaotic ink blotches (See Rorschach Test) and making inferences about the world around us without the Scriptures. I’m reminded of Romans 3:7-8
“ 7But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.”
If what Stetzer says is true, than his condemnation is just, but is seems to me that he lacks any basis for his allegations, he makes no reference to the churches based around the fallacies he is denouncing. But the reality is that for a Church to be truly missional, it must first be repentant of the way that we have turned the body of Christ into the Business of Christ. It hits us first in our pocket and is revealed most evidently in the way that we go about expanding the Kingdom of God as if they were franchises of a Fortune 500 Club business. In order to move forwards, the body of Christ must first breath in and examine the roots of Christianity. We have one foundation, one feast and one function and when we stray from these three we cease to be missional. Let me be clear. A missional church must first be a repentant church. Let’s examine our foundation.
When Jesus left the original disciples on the mount of Olives, He did not leave them as a foundationless, unorganized people with commands to obey but no foundation or blueprint with which to build His church. Earlier in His ministry He established the foundation of the Church as the fact that He is the Christ the Son of the Living God.(Mtt 16:13-18) He acknowledges this from His disciple Simon whom He gives a new identity to, because God had revealed this to him. Jesus changes his name from Simon, meaning, “like the grass,” to Peter which means, “Rock”. This is pretty basic, most Christians have no issue confessing that the foundation on which we build is Christ. But our confession doesn’t match our practice. If we are under the impression that God left the design of His kingdom in the hands of a bunch of fishermen and tax collectors, and zealots to come up with a brilliant, reproducible, interdependent organization with which to continue the ministry of reconciliation to the world, then we need to read our Bible again.
Our practice reveals our belief in a God whose sol purpose was to dictate what we believe about Him, but the end justifies the means. I have heard teachers waffle about what the teachings of the Apostles were to the church that they were continuing in along with prayer and breaking bread. I tend to think that they were obedient to Jesus when He commanded them to make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything that He had commanded them. (Mtt 28:16-20) I also tend to think that they were listening to the Spirit who was reminding them continually of the things Jesus taught them. (Jn 14:26) We, however, are under the impression that they immediately came up with their own gig. That right out of the gate they built on Jesus as the foundation but that the structure itself was man made. We proclaim this to the world by the fact that the only thing that links some of our churches is what we believe about God (some of it). We have white towered the truths about who God is and what He has done and not let it define who we are and as a result where we live, what we drive, where we work, who we marry, how we parent, how we do business and ultimately how we structure the church. For us to move forward we must repent of building with wood hay and stubble and repair the breach in our practice that exists because the fiery darts of the devil keep burning a hole in our defenses. In order for people to be the living stones that the Church is built out of, they must actually be be built up in the gospel (Eph 4) otherwise they’re only bundles of kindling and hay bales masquerading. The way that we return to our foundation is through repentance of wrong belief in God. I won’t say that I have completely repented because there are still areas that God pulls me on but here are a few that started me down this path.
Repent of my unbelief in who God says He is.
Repent of believing that God’s blueprint for the church won’t work in the 21st Century.
Repent of decentralizing myself from the mission.
Repent of centralizing my belief in God around a location instead of His people.
Repent of making church a mere Bible Study, Support Group or Activist Group.
I’ll work on bringing Feast and Function in the coming days. In the meantime don’t forget to comment.
14 September, 2015 § Leave a comment
I don’t believe in locational, or vocational callings from God. The 10 pound theological term for this heresy would be “The Secret Will of God,” I don’t think it exists in scripture in the way that we have perverted it. The long and short of it is that location and vocation are byproducts of our calling to reach people with the gospel.
There is a disconnect between what we see in the world and what we read in the Bible about God’s will and I believe that it comes from the wrong belief that God must operate for our benefit or for the benefit of our enemies.
In Joshua 5:14, Joshua, the newly appointed leader of the people of Israel meets the preincarnate Christ outside the camp overlooking Jericho and he poses this question to what he sees as a battle-ready soldier, He asks ““Are you for us, or for our adversaries,” and Jesus says, “neither,”. This is a classic false dilemma. God says, “I am for me,” He builds His own kingdom and is third party to our meanderings. It isn’t that He doesn’t care, because otherwise He wouldn’t legislate that all things should be done in love and for His glory. It is that He is not about building our kingdom or anyone else’s kingdom, He is about building His own kingdom. This is why He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. The proud person thinks more of himself than he ought and so is out to build his own kingdom. This is why we understand that we do not war against flesh and blood as if two nations were warring. God pulls our attention from the natural to the supernatural and presents His own dichotomy that is justly in place which is that if we are not building His kingdom, we are building a kingdom arrayed against Him. God’s will remains the same, it is that His glory should be spread over all the earth as the waters cover the sea.
With this in mind, I refute that God calls us specifically to a vocation or location, the one vocation that God has given us is to be disciple making disciples the location He has called us to is the whole planet. He specifically made it impossible to do without Him or without other believers because otherwise we would think that it was our kingdom which we are building. This is not to say that God has not given the church certain disciples to be over us in order to edify and equip us to do the work of the ministry, it is to say that the diversity that exists in the church is due to each one being at his own level of growth in his sanctification process. The work God gives us to supply our physical amenities is of little importance and of great importance because it involves the people whom we are to be making disciples of and it is on the earth which God wills to cover with His glory.
2 September, 2015 § Leave a comment
“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?“
The world says, “hate your enemies, boycott those who curse you and begrudge those who persecute you,” Jesus says, “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who persecute you.” We are steeped in a comeuppance culture; a culture of fate, karma, revenge, ostracization and boycott. We are obsessed with our own sense of justice to such a degree that if I were to pay attention to every microagression campaign that is in vogue right now, I would live off-grid in a grass hut eating locusts and honey for the rest of my life (or at least until teachers get a fair pay). But my abode, diet and other various and mundane facts will have to wait for another article. The point is, I don’t boycott.
As a believer I field calls to action against immorality and injustice every day. Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t drink Starbucks, eat Ben and Jerry’s Icecream, shop at Target, support Sin Fein, be found in a pub of any sort, be seen smoking in any context, vote democrat, mow the grass on Sunday or grow my hair over my ears or past my collar–all of which go against someone somewhere’s biblical principles. This is where I give an answer for why I do what I want.
As a society, we have developed a tradition of cleansing which rivals that of ancient Israel, but at the same time have ignored God’s commands as mentioned above.
Here is the hope that is in me:
Romans 5:6-11 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
While I was still an active enemy of God, Jesus died for me. I campaigned by my lifestyle against everything He stands for, and yet He served me in such a way that for me to not buy a coffee from Starbucks for an opportunity to share the gospel with my fellow customers or with my barista would be a shame to his name and to his work on the cross. He served his enemies, so I will serve mine.
Matthew 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For those who would say that I am only supporting the moguls at the top to be more wicked. I say that I am only being like my Father by giving custom to the righteous as well as the wicked, praying for their souls and taking every opportunity to share the gospel.
Those are two basic tenets of the gospel that apply to this. Do you have any others? Maybe you disagree. Tell me about it in the comments.
29 August, 2015 § Leave a comment
Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2 (ESV)
- Do not love the world
- Do not be friends with the world
- Do not be wise like the world
|Worship music as separate from the World’s Influence.||
1980’s-Present Contemporary Movement
Spoiled by Worldly Influence
Worship Based on Biblical Principles
|Undefiled Holy Worship based on Biblical Principles|
24 August, 2015 § Leave a comment
Discipleship precedes Church Structure. You might think that this an anti-authoritarian model for church growth, especially in light of such ministry philosophies as, “Churches plant Churches,” and the like, but I’m here to tell you that the scriptures are clear on this point. I am going to cite 2 biblical principles that we are currently ignoring and what I believe to be the gospel approach to making disciples and lighting another lamp post. Let’s start with the principles.
- Priesthood of the Believer
This is a classic Baptist distinctive and I use this principle namely because I believe that the Church does ultimately plant other churches, but the distinction that I am going to make is that most people don’t agree on the identity of the church. I believe that each individual believer is possessed by the Holy Spirit to an equal degree and is made a priest of God of the order of Melchizedek. Now, if I was a good baptist I would take this doctrine to its ultimate end and claim Congregational Rule but there isn’t a C in baptist and neither is there sufficient proof in scripture, besides for the choosing of the deacons in Acts, that would make me believe that the normal rules of submission to the Elders who watch over your souls doesn’t apply in a church business meeting (we’ll get to that). Quite apart from this, we are never told how many believers it takes to light a lamp post, but we are also never given a model for Church growth besides for what Paul, Silas, Barnabas, Mark and Peter did, which sounds like a lot, but basically they all did the same thing–disciple complete strangers and set them free to make other disciples shortly thereafter sending a more mature disciple to implement church structure i.e. Timothy or Titus. The bottom line of this doctrine is that we are the church, individually and collectively and therefore each and all of us bears the whole weight of the great commission to make disciples, baptize sed disciples and teach them everything Jesus commanded us. Take note that nowhere in the great commission are we told to “Go therefore unto all the world and implement church structure”. That brings us to our next Biblical Principle.
- The Church is a People, not a Building (or a Business)
It is well established that the church is not the building, which is true, but the mindset that we have replaced it with is equally false. The church that exists today resembles the world in its structures and divisions. We look to the business world instead of the Bible to see how we ought to think about ourselves and those around us and then how to govern ourselves. Consider two companies in the same market. For familiarities sake, take Apple and Microsoft. Both make much of the same products, both are very successful in their model for growth and self governance but they are distinct in their practices and ultimately their products are very little alike each other. This is exactly the way that we have approached Church planting. We say that the church is the people, but unfortunately this has turned into much the same as a business being the people, in the same way Apple or Microsoft would exist without the people we refer to the church as some sort of a corporate body that exists quite apart from its people. An organism that can be interacted with via the law of the land yet protect the people inside it, that it is bigger than each individual member in that it is made up of brilliant minds that differentiate in function. We are so steeped in this view of the church that even as I am writing this, I am asking myself, “Isn’t that the way that is supposed to be?” no. We put business philosophies into christian terms and accept it hook, line and sinker as biblical principles this is the epitome of heresy. At a church business meeting (why do they even exist!?), we throw submission to the Elders and to one another out the window (along with other widely held doctrines). Sadly, instead of seeing the problem as a gospel problem we see it as a church (read: business) model problem and become more authoritarian in nature, and thereby throw out equal submission to every member of the body.
A Gospel Centered Approach
I believe that in order to regain our footing as distinct from the world we have to return to the basics of Christianity. Each of these next points could be an article in and of themselves so I will address them briefly. But before that I will give an introduction..
When Jesus ascended into heaven He did not leave His disciples without a model for the Church. He gave them a gospel centered model with three facets: 1. One Foundation 2.One Feast 3.One Function.
- One Foundation
This is in reference to Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ the Son of the Living God in Mark 8 which Jesus cites as the rock on which He will build His Church against which the gates of Hell will not prevail. This one is pretty straight forward so I won’t expand on it for the sake of space because it is so widely held. Let’s move on to the food.
- One Feast
At the time of the ascension of Jesus the Jews had amassed a load of feasts and festivals that were both divine and man made but much in the same way as Jesus ends all sacrifices with His sacrifice Jesus implements communion at the last supper fulfilling all of those feasts including the passover and institutes a single feast for His church that covers everything. We’re talking Christmas, Good Friday and Easter all rolled into one and Jesus says “Do this in remembrance of me.”
- One Function
This is where we get caught up in our business model fiasco. Matthew 28:18-20 lays out the great commission quite clearly,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
There it is, plain and simple. The only thing I will say is that I was sharing this with a brother one time and he flatly denied that the great commission was our one function as the Church and opted instead for the great commandment which is to love God and love others. He has a fair point here, but in light of the teaching of 1 John I think that it can be said that if the great commandment isn’t being met then you don’t have God anyway which, if you read the great commission and 1 John, is a prerequisite for obedience.
This is all that the disciples had to go on to build the church. It was everything. People hem and haw over what the disciples teaching was that they were devoting themselves to, but I’m inclined to believe that they obeyed Jesus and taught them “everything that I (Jesus) have commanded you,”! They stuck to their foundation–Jesus, they broke bread in each other’s houses which is the term that they used for taking part in communion which reminded them of their foundation and they made disciples adding daily to their numbers and started the process over and over and over again lighting more and more lamp posts that gave light to all who were in the house. Until they needed people to devote themselves to solving practical problems with the gospel so that the apostles could continue solving people problems with the gospel. Church structure was born out of obedience to their founder Jesus Christ who showed them for 3 ½ years how to make disciples. Then due to persecution and love the normal everyday believer was dispersed into the whole world and lit more lamp posts just for people seeing their light and hearing the gospel as the reason for why they shine so brightly.
And what do we do? We buy into a franchise, rent a building, spend money on advertising, appoint a CEO, CFO and managers and wait for the customers to come to us.
But how many believers does it take to light a lamp post? One–because discipleship precedes Church Structure.
31 July, 2015 § Leave a comment
Recently the elders in my church investigated the goings on at Bethel Church in Redding California, because they were thinking about attending a Worship Workshop they had coming up. Prior to their investigation the only thing we knew about Bethel was that their worship ROCKS! Yeah, there were some conversations about gold dust and angel feathers but it was passed off as “They’re just pentecostals, what do you expect,” but the theology expressed in these anthems is top notch, any church would agree with such praise and adoration to the Father. Needless to say, not long into their investigation they happened upon the supposed Holy Spirit of Bethel Church Kundalini . There are other articles and videos about the goings on at Bethel so that I don’t have to repeat what has has been said. The same goes for Brian Houston’s declaration that Christians and Muslims serve the same God seen through different eyes. Hillsong, Houston’s band, sing some pretty fantastic worship, but what I want to answer in this article is whether or not we should still listen and worship to these anthems when we know that they are offered up to idols. So far as I know, my handling of this issue is unique so if I err, it is your responsibility (as well as the Holy Spirit) to correct me. So here we go.
Pretty much every believer that I know listens to and worships differently in private than they do on a Sunday morning (this may point to an unhealthy dichotomy within the church but that is another article). My point is that in public or private we are the church worshiping God in everything that we do. So, is it possible then to worship the true and living God with an anthem that has been written and performed to a false god? To widen my scope I am going to include in here any song ever written whose lyrics could be rightly applied to God but none the less were written for another purpose.The reason I widen my scope so broadly is that in the past I have heard Christians complain about touchy feely songs sung to Jesus that could be sung to your wife or girlfriend, so I will address that a little later. First let us take a look at the scriptures and try to discern the Spirit of God on this matter.
16 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.
To put some context on these verses, Hosea is a prophet in the Old Testament whom God has commanded to marry the prostitute Gomer. Gomer has it in her head that her prostitution is what paid the bills, bought her food, clothed her back etc… and so she returns to it, time and time again. God says to her and to the nation of Israel, “Don’t you realize that you are spurring the giver of life,” He does not pull punches but goes down through verse by verse detailing their harlotry. By chapter 2 God presents hope for the nation in that they return to the true and living God and attribute to God all that they had been attributing to the objects of their harlotry, namely the false god Baal.
This is the heart of idolatry, to attribute to the creation what rightly belongs to the creator. It is most clearly seen in
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
The first step in dealing with these sorts of issues is to recognize them for what they are, which is acts of idolatry. The truth about who God is, and what He has done never changes, what makes it idolatry is that it is not directed towards the one who deserves it, it is actually directed to a non-being, or at worst a demon which brings us to what Paul says about our response to idolatry.
1 Corinthians 8
Now concerning[a] food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.[b]
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating[c] in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged,[d] if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Holy-Long-Passage-Batman! Don’t lose the meaning in the example–Paul is not just talking about meat here–he is talking about all things offered up to idols when they should have been offered up to God. We can take a consumer view of this passage in saying that anything and everything that you take into yourself–eyes, ears, nose, taste, touch–Paul says in verse 8,will not affect your relationship with God. This goes totally against all religions that say that what happens in the body affects the soul and therefore can get in between you and God. The Holy Spirit through Paul says that the real humdinger is if you cause your brother or sister to stumble when his or her conscience is weak. He goes so far as to remind us that our brother or sister is one for whom Christ died–meaning, that you will land yourself on the wrong side of the desk of your Dad Almighty. Keep in mind that this is all in the context of what Paul is saying–there is no other God but our God. That covers the non-being side of it, but at worst we could be partaking with demons. Take a look at this.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21
18 Consider the people of Israel:d are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
The real danger, if I might be so dramatic, is that we will end up participating in the world because of what we have ingested, heard, seen, felt, or smelt. I won’t mention names but the thought that we could be missing out on the blessings of God, be it gold dust or angel feathers or whatever made a member of the body of Christ desirous of the end result of Bethel’s worship–indeed they know also of another couple outside of our body who are seriously considering going to participate in Bethel’s fellowship because of these things. Paul warns us not about the meat or the songs but of the community of those who actively present to non-beings or demons the things that rightly belong to God. So now that we have God’s mind on idolatry and and its lack of place in the life of the believer, let’s address whether or not these songs can be redeemed.
I mentioned the scope of this question at the start of the article, that it encompasses not only those songs written for religious purposes but also those written which could rightly be sung to God. This of course presupposes that you know who God is, and what He’s done and who you are so that you can properly worship him. The true worship of God cannot by any means be separated from a right and all encompassing understanding of who God is and what He has done–in other words, the gospel. However I’m not about to lay out a gospel centered approach to worship because that is beyond the scope of this article.
The second step to dealing with the songs of a fallen brother or sister is to interrogate the lyrics.The first question that I would ask of a song being considered for public use (having already listened to it ad nauseum in private) is do I believe it? and if I believe it, does it match up with scripture? If it does, we’re golden, if not I have some repenting to do. If the song clears then I must also ask of myself, why do I want to sing this song? Does it pass Philippians 4:8–honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy? I think, honestly, we set ourselves up for disappointment when after all of these and similar checks we allow through those songs that fit the bill and then we are let down because none of them are from our heart to God’s.
To ask if we can still sing and worship to a song written for a false god is to ask the wrong question and reveal our need for the gospel to reform our understanding of worship.
Can you tell I’m itching to write a different article?
At root this is about the question of whether or not all truth is God’s truth–whether or not all lyrics displaying an accurate understanding of who God is and what He has done are game for use in our public or private worship or if the Devil truly does shank our worship set every time the apostasy of a certain church who publishes their worship comes to light. I think in certain ways it is not one or the other but both and, and that there is a way to beat the devil at his own game, and it is to sing a new song unto the LORD.
There is a reason that we are extolled in Psalm 96 to sing a new song unto the LORD. It is because in all that has been written about God, there is yet more words and combinations of words and exhalations of his mightiness and mighty works and the truth of who He is and what He has done that we need not despair how many songs have been ripped from the songbook of heaven because it is our life’s purpose to bring God the glory that He deserves, and believe God when He says that all men fall short of the glory of God and in bringing glory to God. So, write! Sing! Bring glory to God for what He has done for us! Not for Bethel, not for Brian Houston, for us! Refuse to rely solely on the health of another’s spirit to bring honor and glory to God, but in working out your own salvation with fear and trembling offer to God the glory due His name each and every single day. If we make this our goal, it will not lessen the grief we feel when another falls, but it will protect us from making the same misjudgement of the character of God for the sake of a community built around idolatry.
27 April, 2015 § Leave a comment
I want to do a series on hospitality, and am convinced that the starting point is in a rudimentary grounding in the Holy of Holies.
In the Old Covenant Temple, the place where God the Spirit resided was the “Holy of Holies”. Latin translated this to, “Sanctum Sanctorum,” the Holy place where Holiness dwells.
adjective ho·ly \ˈhō-lē\
1: devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity (The state of the place or person).
2: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness (The Quality God)
To be clear, the high priest of that year was the only one allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum and only then on the day of atonement where he would make a sin offering for himself and the nation for those sins done in ignorance.
Next: New Covenant Temple