Devastatingly Poor Theology (Apostolic P2)

Somewhere over the centuries of church history, an idea was birthed that has a devastating impact on the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  What’s that idea?  The theological term is called ‘Cessationism’ which basically means that all of the supernatural elements that we see happening in the New Testament ceased after the death of the original apostles.

Actually, this worldview also proposes that the function of apostles and prophets also ceased when the original 12 apostles passed from the scene.  Evidently, God did something very extreme and special only for those who walked with Jesus, while he was here on earth.  And now, all of that is over and can only be remembered and celebrated through the stories of the scripture.

Why is this so tragic?

  1. First of all, it is not Biblical. No where in the Bible is there an indication that these things are now over.  Jesus never taught that.  Paul never taught that.  In fact, Paul gives us instructions as to how to use ‘spiritual gifts’ and told us that we are to eagerly desire them.  (1 Corinthians 14:1).  Paul also teaches about the role of apostles and prophets as well.
  2. Second, it is short-sighted.  God uses miracles to prove to people that Jesus is alive.  We need the power of God in our world today more than ever.
  3. Third, it is defeatist.  My opinion is that these kinds of beliefs grow up as a way to explain why so many christians live powerless lives.
  4. Fourth, it eliminates from the equation these two extremely important gifts to the church.  Both the prophet and apostle are somehow to be no more.

If I was the devil and was making a strategic plan as to how to limit the church and its impact on the world – there could be no better strategy than to strip from the church the expectation of the power of God and the Ministry Gifts that help the church to experience more and breakthrough into more of what God has for them.

As you read this last paragraph, you might be shouting amen on the inside!  You may totally agree that we need miracles!  We need the power of God!  We need the gifts of the spirit!  You are in no way a cessationist when it comes to the power of God or the work of the Spirit of God.

And yet, one of the bleed-overs from this cessationist influence is the lack of understanding and/or emphasis on two of the five Ministry Gifts described in Ephesians 4.  We believe in the ministry gift of the Teacher today.  There is no controversy or lack of focus upon that gift.

We believe in the ministry gift of the Pastor today.  In fact, we call just about everyone who has a  ministry call, ‘Pastor’ because this is the gift and function most common and most appreciated in the church world right now.  We even believe in and appreciate the ministry gift of the Evangelist.  We understand how badly we need to win souls.

But what about the other two?  There are some who believe that miracles are for today and that we should expect the power of God in our generation, who tend to think that the ministry of the apostle and prophet is somehow something reserved for Biblical times.

Again, this is devastatingly bad theology.  It limits so much in how effective the church can be in the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  We desperately need to BRING APOSTOLIC BACK in our world today.

In fact, this is one of the strategies that the devil uses.  He does not want the body of Christ to be mobilized so he has proposed an idea that holds back the revolution of what can happen when these gifts do their work.

Bringing ‘Apostolic’ Back!

Those who know me, know that over the years I have worked fairly hard to be non-controversial. My gifting leans toward ‘wisdom’ and my skill set lends itself toward ‘peace-making.’  So I have tended to be a bit filtered in talking about subjects that might make others squirm or take issue with that is being said.

Maybe its because I am growing a little older?  Or maybe it is the realization that some subjects, while provocative, have to be talked about directly.  In fact, if some things are not addressed in a very plain and pointed fashion, the value or meaning in what needs to be said can get lost in the soft mushy center.

One of those topics has to do with a person or function that the New Testament calls ‘apostle’.  Ephesians 4 provides the context for what this gift is and how it functions.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… Ephesians 4:11-12

#1 – THE REVELATION  – These verses describe five ministry gifts given to the church.

Each of the five gifts mentioned here are INDIVIDUALS that serve as Christ’s GIFTS to the church to EQUIP the people of God to do the work of the ministry.  These gifts equip and mobilize ministry which helps the whole church become grounded, mature, unified, and effective.

#2 – THE FUNCTION – There are five different purposes mentioned.

  • TEACHERS  = equip people to LEARN MORE.
  • PASTORS = equip people to CARE MORE.
  • EVANGELISTS = equip people to WIN MORE.
  • PROPHESTS = equip people to EXPERIENCE MORE.
  • APOSTLES = equip people to BREAKTHROUGH INTO MORE.

#3 – THE DEFINITION – there is a specific meaning given to the word.

In the Greek the word is ‘apostlos’ and it means ‘to be sent or to send’. Something apostolic happens when someone is sent into something that God designed/called them to do.  Those who are apostles help identify who needs to be sent, into what, and when.  They then mobilize the body to accomplish that purpose, and they do so with breakthrough authority.

It seems that God uses apostles to help equip, mobilize and set into place the other four ministry gifts (Teachers, Pastors, Evangelists, and Prophets).  By their nature, apostles are necessary to all of the ministry gifts being maximized for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

#4 – THE CONSEQUENCE – when the apostolic gift is not recognized or encouraged to function.

  • Sending activities slow down and everything becomes stationary.
  • The focus becomes on maintaining rather than on moving ahead.
  • Every gift starts to function independently of the others.  Silos develop.
  • New territory goes untaken.
  • Church planting slows to almost nothing.
  • The vision grows more inward.
  • Potential leaders sit on the shelf waiting for someone to activate them.

This is why it is so essential that we bring APOSTOLIC back.  As a church, we cannot afford to lose this gift and minimize this function.  One of my passions is to give a voice to this need.  I believe there are many leaders out there who have an apostolic gift and call, but don’t know it yet.  I want to help activate you.

There are some younger leaders who are dreaming of what they can do with their lives.  I want to share with you a vision for an enormous role that you can play in the Kingdom of God.  There are other leaders who have been burned by this subject matter in the past, or by some abuse of this gift or definition – I want to help rebuild in you a confidence for how this can function Biblically, humbly and effectively.

Let’s bring apostolic back!

 

Should Every Church Be A Church Planting Church?

This is a question that I get asked quite often…’should every church be a church planting church?’

I am often asked to share our story in pastors meetings and conferences.  When I start to talk about the numbers of churches that have been planted out of Allison Park Church over the last twenty years, and how we have put such a huge priority on multiplication, there is a multi-faceted reaction.

#1 – IDEALISM – some will say, ‘this is what every church should be doing!  Every church should be planting churches.’  One statement that is made in this idealistic reaction is that ‘the church is an organism, and therefore when healthy, healthy organisms always reproduce.’  So the implication is that if you are not reproducing (in the form of new church planting) then you must  be disobedient or unhealthy.

#2 – GUILT – others will comment, ‘I know we should be doing this too.  One day, when we get into a better position with our staff or our finances (or whatever) we will do what you are doing, we just can’t do that right now.’

#3 – PRESSURE – many will walk way feeling a sense of obligation to do more.  It’s often the case in hearing someone else’s success story that we shift into comparison mode, and as we measure ourselves against what we have heard – we feel we come up short.

#4 – REVELATION – of of the great things that happens when our story is shared, is that God will speak to future church planters and or multiplier pastors about specific calling to move in this direction in the future.

#5 – REJECTION – I guess the final reaction is one of total rejection of church planting all together.  Some find it unnecessary, or threatening, or intimidating somehow.

Maybe you are wondering?  What is the answer that you give to that question, ‘should every church be planting other churches?’

Most are surprised when I say, “I don’t actually believe that every church should plant a church.”

  • I believe every church can invest in church planting both financially and prayerfully.
  • I believe that every pastor can reproduce himself by making disciples and raising up leaders.
  • But I believe that church planting churches tend to be led by leaders who have an ‘apostolic’ gift on their life.
  • When a church is led by someone with that apostolic capacity, there will be very natural tendency for that church to be a reproducing church.

Now, I realize that this answer is controversial on many levels.  First of all, it is against the grain of the idealistic view that I presented above.  But even more than that, the whole concept of apostles and prophets is one that is both misunderstood, misrepresented, and potentially harmful if not properly applied.

And yet, if we do not understand what the Bible teaches about these gifts, we can overlook one of the most powerful principles of the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, over the next several weeks I am going to go public with my thoughts on this issue.  I hope to add some light on the subject and some value to a discussion on is very important issue for the future of the church.

Are You Successful In Ministry Or In Life?

 

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1 Corinthians 11:1 – Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

We live in an age that loves to measure external results. I have to admit that I am a ‘results-oriented leader’. I set goals: Numbers of churches planted, total amounts of dollars given, numbers of new small groups launched, guests who attended, etc, etc.

Actually, I think it is extremely important to measure. Organizationally, it helps motivate action and change. It clarifies the problems that need to be addressed. It assists us in determining if we are taking the proper course of action. We can see if we are deploying people, finances, gifts, time and energy in the right places or if there needs to be some type of change.

But metrics that evaluate external or numeric progress can never be enough for the spiritual leader, the follower of Christ. Ultimately, the goal of every Christian spiritual leader has to be conformity to the character, nature, and lifestyle of Jesus. In a sense, it is possible to reach external ministry and organizational goals and yet fail in the greatest aim which is becoming more like Christ.

We have seen that story play itself out over and over again. Ministry success does not necessarily indicate spiritual success. Remember the warning that Jesus gave in Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.'”
Actually, I see two extremes that I want to personally try to avoid:

#1 – Tendency To Excuse Poor Ministry Results – some who are ineffective, lazy, or negative carry an attitude that, ‘if something is big, attractive, growing, and successful – it must be impure and somehow be compromising the gospel. Because everyone who is truly holy is defeated and small like me.’

#2 – Tendency To Equate Growing MInistry Results – some who are doing well numerically, and growing in every way can assume, ‘I could not be doing all of this if somehow I was not leading the way in the way that I follow Christ. My success must sanctify my arrogance, greed, and compromise.’

I think the goal has to be this:

First of all, to be a passionate imitator of Jesus in our character. We want to model humility, meekness, honor, joy, diligence, and passion for God’s presence.

Second, we want to be an obedient leader who displays a desire to be the best we can be. Evaluating and being ruthless when it comes to evaluating ministry effectiveness and performance. Refusing to be negative, lazy, or excuse-oriented. Trying to win as many as we can for Christ.

But if I have to choose, I choose the first. I would rather fail in my pursuit of ministry growth and succeed in imitating Jesus, than succeed in ministry success and fail as a follower of Christ.

Philippians 4:9 – Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What Makes A True Servant-Leader?

I love the statements that Jesus makes about what makes for greatness is the eyes of God!  “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’  (Matthew 23:11-12)

servant leadership RSM Insight article Sept 2011So what exactly does a servant-leader do?  I heard Bill Kirk describe the four aspects of a servant based on the Greek words ‘doulos’ and ‘diaknonos’:  A servant-leader…

#1 – Advances others at the expense of themselves.

#2 – Doesn’t care who gets the credit.  In fact, they work to share the credit and give God the glory.

#3 – Doesn’t need to be thanked.

#4 – Is willing to take up the cross, and die to self, without complaint.

So how do you stack up against those definitions?  One way you can tell, and I am not sure who said this first.  ‘You can tell if you have the heart of a true servant by how you react when someone treats you like one.’

Ten Things To Do When Fasting

During this 31 Days Of Prayer – we are all adopting several personal challenges.  First, to pray 20 minutes a day every day throughout this month.  Second, to fast and pray at least one day (24 hours each week) – most of us are fasting on Wednesdays.  Finally, to join together with your church family in some type of corporate prayer and worship.

Fasting is one of the most difficult disciplines to apply.  So let me give you ten tips to help make it easier.

  1. Fasting-black-and-whiteRemember it’s about fasting and PRAYER.  So make sure you schedule extra time to pray.  Otherwise it becomes a day of ‘not eating’.
  2. Drink lots of liquids, especially water.
  3. Use your meal moments as seasons set aside to be with God.
  4. During at least one of those meal moments – spend time on scripture meditation.  Read a promise or passage slowly.  Consider what God is saying to you through those verses.
  5. Agree with someone on your fasting length (for accountability) and regarding your prayer requests.  Pray with them in person, over the phone, and in agreement for something specific.
  6. Get enough rest.  You will feel some degree of fatigue. So make sure you get some sleep the night before, or even take a nap during the day.
  7. Use your hunger pains as prayer prompts throughout the day.  When you feel hungry, let it remind you that you are really desperate for God to move.
  8. Remember that fasting does not earn an answer.  God answers prayer because He wants to and because Christ has made a way for us through the cross.  Fasting simply focuses us to pray more effectively.  It also raises our levels of spiritual discernment.  We pray and listen clearer.
  9. When you feel too tired to pray or listen–WORSHIP.  Praise and worship also is a practice that brings spiritual clarity.
  10. Remember, it’s more about PRAYER and less about not eating.

Five Recommendations To Grow Your Devotional Life

In just a few short days, we will begin a brand new year. An oft made resolution, is to tune up, launch, and improve a daily time with God (which includes spending time in prayer and in Bible Study). As with any other healthy habit, you need three things to make it work.

  1. You need a PLAN – some kind of pattern to follow that has been proven to work.
  2. You need a COACH – someone who is ahead of you in their skill who will provide input and advice.
  3. You need a COMMUNITY – people who are in it together with you.

These three keys are important in any healthy change:  exercise, diet, athletic development, musical development, and especially spiritual development.

As we start this new year, many of us are joining together in 31-days-of-prayer.  If you join with us, you have already tac41TbaSqHWQLkled #3 on the list. You will have a ‘community’ that is on this journey with you.  Now let me recommend some aspects of the plan.

For me personally, I have found five resources to be incredibly helpful.

#1 – THE ONE YEAR BIBLE – You can purchase this or use it free online (visit oneyearbibleonline.com or use the plan in the youversion.com Bible app).  In just 15 minutes (approximately) a day, you can cover the entire Bible in a year.  Every day you get a few chapters in the Old Testament, a few in the New Testament, and a Psalm and Proverb.

51sQNUjKk4L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_#2 – PRAYING WITH CONFIDENCE – the book that I recently wrote, I originally wrote for myself.  These are 31 biblical prayer patterns so that you can have some content to your prayer life and also have variety in your approach to prayer.  This book helps you pray more consistently, just like the One Year Bible helps you read the Bible more consistently.  You can order the book at prayingwithconfidence.com.

#3 – S.O.A.P Journal – Wayne Cordeiro teaches a fantastic method for scripture meditation in his book entitled THE DIVINE MENTOR.  He teaches how to do basic journaling through a simple four step process.

#4 – Scheduled Times Of Fasting & Prayer – every good discipline needs an appointment.  You need to decide when and where you will pray and for how long.  Fasting days also adSOAPd great momentum and clarity to your spiritual life.  During the 31 days of prayer season, we are encouraging everyone to fast on Wednesdays (from Tuesday after dinner until dinner on Wednesday) and to use the time when you would normally eat to spend extra moments with God.

#5 – Corporate Worship & Prayer Gatherings – the finally thing to add some juice to your walk with God is to get into the presence of God with a group of others who are passionate to worship.

All five of these practice will help take your spiritual life to a whole new level!

Praying Prayers Of Agreement

There is a line in the Lord’s Prayer that for years totally bothered me!!!

Results-Guaranteed “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Here was my question: “if something is already God’s will, then why do I have to pray for it to happen?  Is God able to do His will on earth without my effort involvement? He is God. He can do as He pleases!”

But this idea of praying God’s will is found over and over in the Bible.  1 John 5:14-15 says,This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Maybe this is why so few people have CONFIDENCE in approaching God in prayer?  Most times, we approach God as if we are making our wishes known to a God that has to be convinced to hear and answer us.  We think of God as reluctant to respond either because He is too busy, indifferent, or perhaps just feels that we are unworthy to receive what we need.

But God is not at all reluctant to move in our world!  Nothing could be further from the truth! He is always active, always working, always attempting to break into our world to bring healing, salvation, restoration, and provision for our needs. He longs to see his will, which always happens in heaven, be released to happen more completely on the earth.  Our prayers join with him to bring heaven down to earth.

Here are some observations that I will make about the New Testament teaching on prayer.

  1. Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, it is tapping into His willingness.
  2. Prayer is most effective when we start with His agenda, and not with ours.  We pray for what He wants when we ask for His will to be done.
  3. How can we confidently pray the will of God?  God’s will is contained within God’s Word.
  4. Where do I begin praying God’s Word?  We start by agreeing with God’s promises.  We find that 2 Corinthians 1:20 declares this, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
  5. God has said ‘yes’ to every promise. This is His expressed will and desire. He is waiting for us to say ‘Amen’ (which means I agree or so be it).
  6. My agreement with God’s promise triggers the release of what God has willed to release from heaven down to earth.
  7. Prayer is less about asking for things, and more about agreeing with God for the things that He wants to do – to be done upon the earth.

You can begin to pray prayers of agreement by using the PRAYING WITH CONFIDENCE book which is available here.

Does Your Attitude Need An Adjustment?

Ever have one of thoses days!  You know what I mean. You get up on the wrong side of the bed. You have a bad hair day. Traffic is a nightmare. Every line you stand in seems to be the slowest.  Nothing seems to be going your way.article-2718970-205322B700000578-661_964x632

It’s so easy, when momentum seems to be turning against us, to get a bit moody or grumpy. Before you know it you start to gripe and complain. Whatever joy you had seems to leak out of your soul.

What’s the remedy for ‘one of those days’?

A change of circumstances would help! Maybe a few positive changes in those around me. How about some unexpected funds to just show up in the mail?  All of those things would be nice. The most significant alteration that can happen, however, is not changes in the situations around you, but rather changes in the responses to life within you.

Nothing changes our attitude quite like gratitude!  And gratitude is an exercise in context. It’s an intentional decision to treasure the good things that God is doing in our life every day that too often we overlook and take for granted.

In the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ (Matthew 6:9-12), Jesus told us to pray, ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ Every time, I hear that phrase the word ‘daily’ sticks out to me. Before I can ask for what I need today, I need to recognize just how faithful God has been to me all along.  As soon as I start to recount the many ways that God has blessed, protected, and provided for me, I begin to feel the joy pumped back into my soul. Can you imagine if we started every day by choosing to be thankful?  Here’s an exercise that I encourage you to take today:

  1. Make a list of at least 30 things for which you thankful.  Include items that are HUGE:  You saved me from my sin. I am destined for heaven. You have given me the Holy Spirit who lives inside my heart. Include items that are easy to overlook: I can breath. My heart is beating. I have a car. I have food to eat, water to drink, a bed in which to sleep.
  2. Consider those less fortunate than you are today. Think about how families live in third-world conditions. Imagine and pray for those who are persecuted for their faith in Christ around the world today. Think about those who are suffering or in the hospital today. Meditate on the reasons why you are more blessed than you deserve.
  3. Think about the people in your life who have been a gift from God to you.  Consider writing them a note or verbalizing how grateful you are for their role in your life.
  4. Verbalize to God how grateful you are that He loves you and that He has chosen you to be part of His family. Thank Him for forgiving you. Thank Him for His unfailing and unconditional love in your life.
  5. Savor the small things in life today.  You can make it a choice. Enjoy every sip of coffee. Slowly taste and linger on every bite of food. Breath deep and consider the beauty of the world around you. Thank God for every sign of His goodness that you can see or experience.

Nothing changes your attitude quite like gratitude.  For more tools and helps in your life of prayer visit:  prayingwithconfidence.com.

So What’s The Plan?

In just a few short weeks, we will begin a brand new year.  As 2016, launches, we want to lead the way in starting the new year with a season of unified prayer and fasting.  We are calling this effort 31 Days Of Prayer.  So here’s the plan:

  1. Fasting Every Wednesday – every week during this month, I am going to fast from Tuesday 31DOP Instagramafter dinner until I eat dinner on Wednesday night.  I am encouraging as many people as possible to join me in that designated day of prayer.
  2. Praying Declarations Daily – every day during this month, I am going to be praying Biblical promises in the form of ‘prayer declarations’.  We want everyone to be praying these Biblical promises together.  There are two ways to do that.  The best way, is to use the PRAYING WITH CONFIDENCE book.  There are 31 different prayer-patterns based on God’s promises, so people can pray a new pattern every day.  A more basic (and FREE) approach is to use a new prayer declaration sheet for each new week.  You can download an example here..
  3. Fasting Seven Days – toward the end of the month, I am going to fast for an entire week (from Wednesday night, January 20th, through until Wednesday night, January 27th.
  4. Sacred Assembly – on the final Wednesday night of the month (January 27), Allison Park Church will host an evening prayer/worship event we call ‘sacred assembly’.  We base this gathering on the OT practice of the three moments every year that the people of Israel were to gather together and present themselves to God.  The challenge I present for my people is to make this the on event in the year where we have our largest crowd.  Too often people show up for picnics and skip prayer meetings.  This is a time to challenge them to change that.
  5. Weekend Message Series – one way to make the most of the month is to preach on prayer during your messages throughout the weekend.  I am currently preaching through this series at APC.  By the second week of December, all of these resources will be available to you:  message transcripts, graphics, powerpoint slides, video bumpers, prayer declaration handouts, and more.

I will be scheduling a conference call for all pastors and leaders, several times throughout the month of December, to answer any questions that might arise as to how to make this month of prayer most effective together.