“If you teach it, they will go!”

With my last post of 2011, I feel compelled to briefly provide an answer to a question that I’ve been asked a number of times in a number of ways over the years.  The summary version is this:

“Jackson, why do you filter every aspect of life  and ministry through a “missions” lens….why is “missions” such a big deal to you”?

In a post a while back I gave an introductory, bible-based answer using questions about a number of texts from the scripture.  In this post, I’d like to share a few quotes about “missions” that might provide better answers than I can come up with on my own.  And then, before I close, I’ll share a couple of observations that might bring a bit more clarity.  Here are the quotes:

“I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light” John Keith Falconer

“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed”.  Hudson Taylor

“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions.  The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become”.  Henry Martyn

“The Bible is not the basis of missions; missions is the basis of the Bible”.  Ralph Winter

“Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist”.  Oswald J. Smith

“If ten men are carrying a log–nine of them on the little end and one at the heavy end–and you want to help, which end will you lift on”?  William Borden

“The reason some folks don’t believe in missions is that the brand of religion they have isn’t worth propagating”.  unknown

“Someone asked ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?’  It is more a question with me whether we–who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not–can be saved”.  Charles Spurgeon

“You can give without loving.  But you cannot love without giving”.  Amy Carmichael

“Only as the church fulfills her missionary obligation does she justify her existence”.  unknown

“We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God”.  John Stott

“The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity”.  Mike Stachura

“People who don’t believe in missions have not read the New Testament.  Right from the beginning Jesus said the field is the world.  The early church took Him at His word and went East, West, North, and South”.  J. Howard Edington

“Missionary zeal does not grow out of intellectual beliefs, nor out of theological arguments, but out of love”.  Roland Allen

“If you takes missions out of the Bible, you won’t have anything left but the covers”.  Nina Gunter

“Missions not the ‘ministry of choice’ for a few hyperactive Christians in the church.  Missions is the purpose of the church”.  unknown

“The average pastor views his church as a local church with a missions program;  while he ought to realize that if he is in fact pastoring a church, it is to be a global church with a missions purpose”.  unknown

“If missions languish, it is because the whole life of Godliness is feeble.  The command to go everywhere and preach to everybody is not obeyed until the will is lost by self-surrender in the will of God.  Living, praying, giving, and going will always be found together”.  A. T. Pierson

“To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map”.  William Carey

“God is a God of missions.  He wills missions.  He commands missions.  He demands missions.  He made missions possible through His Son.  He made missions actual in sending the Holy Spirit”.  George W. Peters

“The best remedy for a sick church is to put it on a missionary diet”.  unknown

“The church must send or the church will end”.  Mendell Taylor

**And finally, a few things that I find interesting:

1.  The greatest theologian in the New Testament was also the greatest missionary, (Paul).  Is that a coincidence?  Or, does plunging deeper into who God is inevitably lead to actual participation in making Him known to all of the ethnic and linguistic groups that He has created for His glory?

2.  The greatest theological mind America has ever seen, (Jonathan Edwards), was led to personal participation in reaching the unreached tribes that lived nearby, (the Stockbridge Inidans).

3.  I can’t count the number of God-glorifying and life-impacting pastors I’m aware of that truly wrestled through with God why they should NOT leave their churches and head off to the nations for direct participation in assisting Rev. 5 and 7 to become a reality.

4.  Not long after the movie “Field of dreams” came out, a number of Calvary pastors put a spin on the signature line of that movie.  Here’s the line with the spin:  “If you teach it, they will come”.  That stuck in my craw the fist time I heard it–and it still does.  Here’s the spin that should be put on it:  “If you teach it, they will go”!  (Anybody want to help me put out the T-shirt?) :) If we really do faithfully teach the fullness of God’s Word, might He not call as many to go as He calls to come and learn about Himself?

Finally, close to 2,000 distinct ethno/linguistic groups have never had the gospel presented to them in their own language and in a way they can understand.  I pray that every pastor in 2012 informs his flock of the situation, leads them by example in praying for God to send workers to those groups, and then participates with finances, other resources, and even sending their own members to move things a little closer to what Rev. 5 and 7 describe that WILL be reality at some point in the future.

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We Blew the Trumpet for You

Bill Waldens’ post of last week (We Played the Flute for You) got me to thinking about the pastoral longevity that is tied to spiritual sanity that is anchored in Biblical vision.  I can’t recall the stats, but it appears that many men are leaving the pastorate and, in addition, there is a sizable number who would do so if they could.  Undoubtedly,the vast majority of those who do leave the pastorate succumb to discouragement after a long, drawn-out struggle.   (Some would suggest that, if you are really called of God, you’ll endure – it’s only the ones who are called by man who eventually step out of the pastoral ministry.  Sadly, such is not the case.  Calling from God doesn’t, in and of itself, bestow perseverance.  And beside, many who are called by man or who are ‘self-called’ endure to the end.  I wish that some of today’s pastors would get discouraged and quit and stop their theological nonsense.)

The discouragement that waylays so many of us is a combination of two elements – confusion and insecurity.  A confused and insecure pastor is a disaster waiting to happen.  If you are a pastor and don’t know what to do – that’s a problem.  But there is help for you – yet  this help often comes with a price tag.  With so many voices telling us ‘how to do it’, ‘what our generation(s) need’, ‘the cultural mandate’, ‘the church of the 21st century’, ‘reinventing the church’, etc., with so many trumpets blowing and signaling the direction in which the church is to make its way in the 21st century – it’s easy to become confused.  It’s easy to become disoriented and to begin to wonder if you’re on the right track, going in the right direction, pursuing the correct ministry course.  Confusion and disorientation breed insecurity.

I know all about insecurity.  My church has never been big enough or cool enough or influential enough.  Big enough, cool enough, or influential enough for what?

It’s never been big enough, cool enough, or influential enough to take away my insecurity.

An insecure pastor is dangerous to those he serves and can be either uber-stubborn and closed to any counsel or uber-impressionable and be open to all counsel and advice and a sycophant of the latest and the greatest.

There was a time when I was desperate to have a large church so I would be able to hold my head high at pastor’s conferences and be considered a somebody.  For the longest time, I felt like a second tier member of the pastor’s guild.  When others spoke of the hundreds and the thousands who attended, I could only speak of the dozens and the scores.  When others spoke of their staffs and assistant pastors, I could only speak of my part-time volunteers.  When others spoke of the hundreds coming to Christ with regularity, I could only speak of the ones and twos coming sporadically.  I was clearly falling behind.  Many uber-pastors were blowing the trumpet and so I collected a number of tunes during that time – how to: grow a church, turn visitors into members, grow a staff, have global impact, influence a community… all were neatly laid out.  Various melodies would attract my attention and then I would lost interest.  I was confused AND insecure – the formula for discouragement.

After all my years and all my praying and all my reading and all my thinking and all my striving and all my wounds I have come to a conclusion – I don’t have a clue how to grow a church.  That’s right, after pastoring in the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the ones (is that what those are called?), up until now, I am clueless as how to grow a church.  It was a conclusion that was a long time in coming and one that didn’t emerge into my consciousness without resistance – both emotionally and intellectually.  But it finally surfaced and I came to grips with it at long last.  And here’s the amazing thing that utterly floored me – in the recognition and admission of my inability, in the face of my insecurity, the peace of Christ flooded my soul.  The security I looked for in accomplishment came to me from Christ in the moment of my greatest vulnerability.

I have come to the place where I don’t believe it is my job to grow the church (i.e., numerically).  The Lord will add.  It is not my job to increase the size of the church, but it is my job to insure the health of the church.  When I read the letters to the seven pastors of the churches in Revelation 2-3, I see that the Lord never scolds or corrects the pastors for the size of the churches they serve – His concern is for the health of the churches.  He doesn’t say, for example, to the pastor of Ephesus, “I have this against you, that you should be running 300 in worship by now.”  Instead, He thunders out, “You’ve left your first love…”  And so on…

I don’t read where Paul advises Timothy or Titus how to increase the numbers of the churches they pastor.  His concern is with the health of these churches.  Can you have a small(er) healthy church?  Of course.  Can you have a large(r) unhealthy church?  Of course. (Of course, this begs the question: what is a healthy church?  I guess that’s a post for another time.)

I still hear the trumpets (and I don’t disrespect them by any means).  But they are not nearly as beckoning as they used to be.  My security isn’t in the size or the influence of the church I serve – my security is in Jesus.  He is the One who called me, He is the One who has given me my assignment, and He is the One to whom I will give an account.  I have a real sense of spiritual sanity that is anchored in Biblical vision.  I have peace.

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Lessons as a Pastor

It was one of those nights that I will never forget.  I had spent the evening with a wife who had lost her husband to a very extended battle with cancer.  We sat there next to the body of her husband until the mortuary could come pick up his remains.  We prayed, we cried, we drank tea, memories were shared and we laughed.   There is something very intimate about these moments in the calling of a pastor.  To give a hug to a widow, or mother, or friend while the remains of their loved one’s remains lie there in your presence is an intimate experience that exceeds my ability to articulate.

Driving home that night in the wee hours of the morning was surreal.  My thoughts raced and I began to decompress the emotions of that night’s events now that I was “off duty” and heading home.  All was quiet and the streets were empty.  As I reflected on life a thought dawned on me, “I was not there tonight because I am a pastor, but I was there because of my love for this family as a Christian.”  This thought struck me and has stuck with me ever since.  Pastor, have you come to realize that you are involved with ministry not because you are a pastor, but because you are a follower of Christ?  As I read my words, I feel like this is a simple truth that shouldn’t  hit me so hard–but it does.

I wasn’t raised in the church and I was sort of grafted in as an adult.  I find the more I grow in my relationship with Christ and knowledge of the Word, the more I see how far off base I was early on.  Today, I fully understand that ministry is for Christians.  But early on I felt that it was something reserved for pastors and those who were called.  I longed for ministry, but always felt unable to serve as I served in the military.  This feeling grew and I served as I could, ultimately feeling that God was calling me to serve full time in the vocational ministry.  Don’t get me wrong, I am so blessed and so privileged to serve in this capacity.  I love that God provides for me to do what I love to do!  But I laugh at myself realizing that it took my becoming a pastor to realize what it was to be a Christian!

In being a pastor, the greatest lesson I have learned is what it is to be a Christian.  This may seem silly to you (it does to me), but I think this is an area that the church has missed the mark in many respects.  I have no intention in being critical of the church at large, but I think this point is important for us as pastors to hammer home to our flock.  Namely, followers of Christ are designed to serve.  Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Paul continues to share our role as pastors in this in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And He gave some as…pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service [ministry], to the building up of the body of Christ.”  Clearly followers of Christ mature through service.  The pastor’s calling is to enable Christ’s followers to this end.

Pastor, encourage your flock to serve Christ by following your example as a Christian (this is what Paul did 1 Cor. 11:1) and through your teaching as a pastor!  Keep your heart in check.  I would caution you if you actions are done because “this is your job.”  We love and shepherd not because we are professionals, but because we are followers of Christ!

As a post script:  Since I wrote this, I had another such incident at  3am on Christmas morning.  You can read about my additional thoughts here: SEALPastor.Blogspot.com

Is Jesus Coming … Soon?

When I began seriously walking with the Lord in 1973, there was much talk about Jesus coming back. Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth had been out for a few years by that time, and had created quite a stir among many Bible believing Christians. The signs seemed to be everywhere. Matthew 24 prophecies (generalized signs) were being fulfilled. Israel was back in the land (miraculously) and was an independent state. The nations of Ezekiel 38 and 39 were being identified as current countries with a common agenda: wipe out Israel. At Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Pastor Chuck Smith would sometimes bring newspaper clippings into the pulpit as a commentary on the prophetic passage that we were studying that day. On the back wall of the Calvary Chapel bookstore was the statement, Jesus Is Coming … Soon!

I remember clearly the Yom Kippur war (October, 1973). Egypt and Syria opened a coordinated surprise attack against Israel on Israel’s holiest day of the year. On the Golan Heights, approximately 180 Israeli tanks faced an onslaught of 1,400 Syrian tanks. Along the Suez Canal, 436 Israeli defenders were attacked by 80,000 Egyptians. At least nine Arab states were involved in the attack in one form or another. Somehow, in spite of direct assistance from the Soviet Union, Israel fought back and survived the onslaught, but not without major losses (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/73_War.html). So much was happening on a global scale that confirmed the prophetic word (Daniel 12:4, 6-10). But obviously it wasn’t God’s time for the rapture and the eventual tribulation period to begin.

Every day I lifted my eyes and looked up (Luke 21:28)—certain that I and millions of others would be snatched up into the clouds to meet the Lord Jesus in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18). In my mind, the Lord’s coming was imminent. There was no way that I would live to be as old as I am now. Jesus was coming back—soon and very soon we were going to see the King. Yet here it is … almost 40 years later … and we’re still here.

Has my belief in the 2nd coming of Christ left me? Not a chance. Have I altered my eschatology to adjust for the delay? No way. I’m as convinced as ever. Jesus is coming … soon!

What I have learned over the years is that I/we must be patient, and wait for the Lord’s perfect timing. This is not only true of the 2nd coming, but also of all of life. Patience is a requisite virtue. “Wait” is an important command. Difficult to obey, but vital to observe. God possesses unsurpassed wisdom. He knows what He is doing. Always.

The N.T. book of James speaks directly to this issue of the 2nd coming and our need to wait. (I love this passage.)

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. {8} You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8, NKJV)

The following is taken from my devotional on the book of James. I hope its application will be a blessing to you today.

With the anticipation of God’s righteous judgment (James 5:1-6), there is also the hope of Jesus’ return. We want the Lord to set the record straight and end all the pain and oppression of man, but we also know, as Bob Dylan once sang, that “He’ll replace wrong with right when He returns.” We view the Second Coming as our blessed hope (Titus 2:13; John 14:1-3). All will be well when King Jesus shows up!

But we must be patient. Jesus will come in the exact proper time.

How do we prepare for the return of Christ? We watch, we pray, we stay busy with His work, we abide in Him, and we also wait patiently. It’s not always easy to do this, as we so deeply long to see our Savior’s face (Psalm 17:15; 1 John 3:1-3).

The farmer is a perfect example for this. He waits patiently and is entirely dependent upon the seed, the land, and water from heaven. He doesn’t waiver in his hope that a rich crop will result. So we are to consider the farmer as we learn to wait for our Lord!

James Application Questions

1. How would you describe the intensity of your hope in Christ’s Second Coming? Rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. If it’s a low number, why is that so in your life?

2. In what ways will waiting patiently for the Lord’s return help us in relating to people, especially difficult people? Perhaps John 3:16-18, Matthew 7:1-2, and 1 Corinthians 4:5 will help you with your response.

3. Find, discover the meaning of, and pray the last prayer of the Bible to conclude today’s devotional.

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The Joy of the Law

For the last 6 weeks I’ve been teaching a series at Calvary Escondido entitled “The Key to Unlocking Joy.” We’re finishing the series this Sunday, Christmas morning, with a message called “Joy to the World.”

My main thesis over the last 6 weeks has been that Jesus has opened the way into fullness of joy, but not all Christians experience increasing joy, unto it’s fullness, in their daily Christian journey.  Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).  Evidently God desires that our joy would be full [in Him], for our fullness of joy in Him, is glorifying to Him.  In other words, God is passionate about our joy, because He is zealous for His glory.  So then, how does the believer promote the increase of joy in their life?

The scripture is replete with exhortations and encouragements to this end.  We have in our series looked at three promoters – if you will – of our joy in God; gratitude, giving and serving.  Since I won’t be able, in our series, to cover another important promoter of our joy, I thought it good to post an appendix here at Cross Connection.

Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law does he meditate day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

The word “blessed” in Psalm 1:1 could also be translated “happy.”  We could therefore literally read this verse, “Happy is the man who walks not…” Thus, we can promote the increase of our joy in God by avoiding the way of ungodly sinfulness in our lives.  Further more, God’s law becomes our joyful delight as we meditate in and upon it day and night.  It is incredibly important that we not fail to recognize that all of God’s commands in the bible are ultimately promises for our joy.  Important, as it is difficult for us to actually believe that His law can become our delight.

Prior to conversion many people see God’s law as the killer of joy, not the promoter of it.  Our flesh is convinced that happiness is found in sex, and drink, and whatever other means that has pleasure as it’s end.  When a sinner is saved by grace and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, their [wrong] thinking is not wholly reformed at conversion; not at all.  Some carry into their Christian life the view that God means to remove all those things which bring happiness, because “all of those things are sinful.”  Don’t get me wrong, many of those things, in the wrong context, are in fact sinful.  The problem is that we quickly buy the lie, which the enemy is happy to sell us, that those things actually bring us [lasting] happiness.

There is pleasure in sin, but it is quickly passing and ultimately ends in joyless guilt.  Continuing in sin as a Christian bears this truth to reality in our lives; if you want to be a joyless disciple, persist in sin.  But, if we will reject the wisdom of the world, in favor of the wisdom of God, we will find that His law promotes our joy and therefore it [the law] becomes our delight.

Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.  Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.  Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Joshua 1:6-9

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A Text – It’s Meaning and It’s Significance

As we are almost at the Christmas holiday, I have found myself teaching at a number of different places. I taught a midweek service at Cornerstone Napa (Bill Walden’s church). I taught this past Sunday at Crossroads in Vancouver, WA (Bill Ritchie, and soon to be me). Finally I will teach this Christmas at Calvary North Bay here in Mill Valley. What is fascinating is that I have taught the exact same text (Luke 2:1-7) all three times. But although teaching the same text, I have taught three different messages.

You may be saying, “How is that possible?”. Let me explain it to you. I have been highly enamored with what E.D. Hirsch described in his book “Validity in Interpretation” as the difference between the meaning of a text and its significance. The meaning of the text is what the original author wanted the original hearer to understand and was thus attempting to communicate. This speaks to the original intentionality of the author. The significance of a text would then be what the text means to the hearers in our present context. This is the Spirit’s intentionality in applying the text to a specific and local congregation. This drawing out of the significance for today is something that Eugene Peterson calls Contemplative Exegesis (on a side note, if you have never read Peterson’s books specifically on the pastoral ministry, boy are you missing out! He has 5 books specifically on pastoring and they are rich, searching and disarmingly personal). John Stott spoke of the same idea by saying “We need to find both what meaning of the text is and what it means for us today.”.

What I have been realizing is that Biblical exposition should be equal parts meaning and significance. We need to explain what the text meant from the author to the original hearers AND how these concepts speak prophetically into our current context. I have found a usual leaning in most Bible teachers to one or the other position. There are teachers who think that the only way to teach is to give the meaning (and unfortunately often malign those who focus more on the other position). They say that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to make application (which is true of course). Or there are those who only explain its significance for today (and never even think to do the socio-historical work to understand a text in its original context). I have sought to find that proper middle ground where each message is an explanation both of a text’s meaning and its significance.

So, now back to my three different messages on Luke 2:1-7. At Cornerstone in Napa, Luke 2:1-7 was explained both in its meaning (about the sovereignty of God (in getting Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem) and the humility of God (in the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth). But its significance was about doing ministry in an incarnational way. Allowing the radical identification of Jesus with humanity to be an example for us on how we out to interact with those outside the church. At Crossroads in Washington, I explained the same meaning of the text. But that message was about ‘The Calvary Road to Bethlehem’ and how the circumstances of Jesus’ birth mirror our experiences as we travel the Calvary Road of discipleship. Each verse had its own application. My teaching at Calvary North Bay (which will be on Friday, December 23rd) will have the same explanation of meaning. But the significance will be different seeing that it will be my last teaching at the church before I move north. So the significance of that text at this moment for the precious folks at Calvary North Bay will be unique to our collective experience.

Leadership Multiplication 1

MULTIPLYING LEADERSHIP

“Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”[1] ­– Luke speaking of Jesus


“I also look at the men God gathered around me and I sort of chuckle as I see the ones that God has used…The whole purpose of God is to choose those who really aren’t qualified, but then to anoint them with His Spirit.  Then, when the results are forthcoming, it’s an amazement and wonder to the world.”[2] – Chuck Smith


One of the most interesting things about the ministry of Jesus is that He selected leaders to train who would one day lead His people before He began gathering followers.[3]  He called men to Himself.  He called them to spend long seasons with Him away from their families.  He called them to leave their former occupations and come after Him.  And as you read of the ministry of Jesus in the synoptic gospels you see that these men hardly left Jesus’ side for three years.

Jesus and Leadership Multiplication

What’s all of this about?  It was about training the future leaders of His people.  In addition to spending lots of time praying alone with the Father, preaching to large crowds, and being available to serve individuals He came across who were in need, Jesus spent a ton of His time training leaders.  The twelve apostles were constantly sitting at His feet learning.  Generally speaking, Jesus would spend time formally teaching them in a small group settings.  This would be followed by giving them opportunities to serve.  He would send them out to preach, baptize, and work miracles by the Holy Spirit.  After these field trips the apostles would then come back to Jesus and He would give them more instruction, and the whole thing would begin again.[4]

As the story of the New Testament unfolds, Jesus spent three years teaching these men, testing these men, and allowing them to watch Him work.  At the end of that time Jesus died for our sins, was buried three days, and rose from the dead.  He then spent forty more days giving the apostles the last bits of information and training they needed before ascending back into heaven from where He came and pouring out the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost.  From that moment when they received the power of the Holy Spirit those men began to lead Jesus’ people in His physical absence, under His leadership, in accordance with the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The Apostles and Leadership Multiplication

Fast-forward in the book of Acts and you find the apostles training other men after the pattern of how Jesus trained them.  In the missionary journeys of Paul you often see him traveling with a group of companions who were assisting him and learning from him.[5]  After serving faithfully alongside Paul and being tested in regard to personal gifts and calling, young men like Timothy and Titus were placed as pastors over local churches they had assisted in planting.[6]  The Apostles practiced Jesus’ example of multiplying leaders for the people through apprentice and assistant style training, and placed new leaders over new church plants wherever they went.[7]

Early Church Pastors and Leadership Multiplication

The teaching of the New Testament is that this element of intentionally training leaders in an apprentice style system wasn’t to stop with the apostle’s individual ministries.  Paul wrote as much to his assistant Timothy when he was pastoring the church in Ephesus: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”[8]  Timothy was to see carrying on this method of multiplying leaders, which began in Jesus’ training of the twelve and continued in the apostles’ training of early church pastors like him, as a major part of his duties as a pastor.

 

You, Me, and Leadership Multiplication

I would suggest that the mandate to multiply leaders after the example of Jesus and men like Paul and Timothy is as real for church planters and pastors today as it was in the first century.  In seeking to follow the example of the New Testament in this area I began to pray for a church planting team when I sensed Jesus was going to move us to Utah to start Refuge Church.  The Lord provided a great team for the task.  When we held our first service, though we only had about twelve people in attendance, we had a small worship team, Bible teacher, and Sunday school teacher prepared to serve.  All of these roles were filled by six adults Jesus put together for our church planting team.

In addition to prayerfully putting together a planting team when we started the church, we also started Refuge School of Ministry when the church began to grow and become more established.  The school of ministry is designed to be a church-based context in which men who sense a call to ministry and church planting can get theological instruction, character strengthening, and spiritual gift and calling discernment through practical service opportunities.  Usually our class times consist of our pastors teaching and praying with ten to twelve guys who sense a call to ministry.  The Lord has blessed this venture in faith in huge ways.

A Command to Leaders

We didn’t start the school of ministry to be cool, or because we saw a burning bush telling us to do so.  We did it in response to the example of Jesus, the apostles, and the command of 2 Timothy 2:2.  My challenge to you if you are a pastor is to ask yourself if you’ve taken the command to multiply leadership seriously enough.  If not, why not?  If you are an aspiring church planter, pray that God would give you the right team to assist you.  With a team you can not only do far more than you could on your own, but you will be able to begin training leaders from day one who will be able to assist you, and perhaps even plant more churches in the future.  Hopefully you don’t just want to plant a church, but a church-planting-church.  The fact is that if you don’t pray and work toward multiplying leaders you will never have a church-planting-church in the long-run.  The Lord wants to train others through you.  Let Him.

 

Sending New Leaders

The Lord is fulfilling the vision he gave to us at Refuge Church to be a church-planting-church.  He is training men in our midst.  He is giving clarity on place, timing, and methods for planting new churches.  We believe that as we train men and pray for the Lord’s leading He will continue to reveal specific the men He is calling and gifting to plant more churches from within our local body.  This conviction is born out of what we see in the book of Acts.

“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’  Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands of them, they sent them away.  So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went…”[9]

Exhortation

 Is this dynamic happening in your leadership team?  If you’re looking to plant a church, is the training of new leaders something you’re already praying over as you prepare to step out in faith? Multiplying leadership is a New Testament church planting mandate.  Brothers, let’s do our job.


[1] Luke 9:1-2 NKJV

[2] Smith, Chuck. Calvary Chapel Distinctives. Pages 107 & 108

[3] See Matthew 4:18-25

[4] The Master’s Plan of Evangelism. Is a great resource that explains Jesus’ method of training and discipleship.

[5] Acts 20:1-6

[6] 1 Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:5

[7] Acts 14:23

[8] 2 Timothy 2:2 NKJV

[9] Acts 13:1-4a NKJV

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Consider…

Hebrews 10:24

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,”

 

And how is that done in us? It’s by that same kind of sacrificial, unconditional, and expecting nothing in return kind of love being exercised towards us personally.

CONSIDER, v.t. [L., to consider, to view attentively, to sit by; to sit. See Sit. The literal sense is, to sit by or close, or to set the mind or the eye to; hence, to view or examine with attention.]

1. To fix the mind on, with a view to a careful examination; to think on with care; to ponder; to study; to meditate on.

God has sovereignly placed us each in this body of His, and gifted each one of us, by His Spirit, with certain gifts, as He has seen fit, and one of the ways that God is to be glorified and extolled, one of the ways He is to be lifted up in this our generation is by taking heed and putting into practice the very word of God which we now hold in our hands and are considering…

“Let us consider one another…” 

In Fine Art galleries, in front of certain paintings and fine sculptures there will be a bench. Not in front of every single one, only in front of certain pieces. Why? It is placed there because someone thinks that it would be well worth your time to stop, sit down, and really look at this painting, look at the attention to detail, look at the overall canvas…and consider.

This is also a military term. We see the Lord use it in asking satan if he has consideredHis servant, Job.

When the author says, “Let us consider one another,” that consideration should ultimately play itself out in being considerate.

CONSIDERING, ppr. Fixing the mind on; meditating on; pondering; viewing with care and attention; deliberating on.

CONSIDERATE, a.

1. Given to consideration, or to sober reflection; thoughtful; hence, serious; circumspect; careful; discreet; prudent; not hasty or rash; not negligent.

Philippians 2:3-4

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

We are encouraged and exhorted in scripture, over and over, to be intentional in our considerations of others and that consideration should be lived out on purpose, for a purpose. And along the way I think you will find your joy increasing and God being glorified how we are demonstrating the manner of love the Father has given unto us so freely by His Spirit.

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We Played The Flute For You

Sometimes I read too much from the multitude of burgeoning experts regarding this thing called Church.  I am finding sprinklings of truth emanating from many voices, but the conflicting suggestions and accusations from these analysts sometimes get to me.  It is then that I know that it is time for a course adjustment.

I am a pastor.  I am a preacher.  I am a teacher.  Among other things, I am called to explain and proclaim the truth of God’s Word, as I understand it, and then urge people to embrace those truths in such a way that their lives are changed for their good, for the good of those around them, and for the glory of God.

Sometimes, I find myself preaching from a defensive position, or at least that’s what it feels like.

The bloggers, authors, interviewers, and analysts are coming to many conclusions about me and my clan.  They are also offering suggestions or demands about how I/we ought to change.  Some of what they say is true for some of us, but we are increasingly being analyzed in such a way that one is prompted to respond to the analysis in order to prove that “I am not that way”.

This kind of reactionary thinking from the Body of Christ isn’t good.  I think the tail sometimes wags the dog.

By being a Christian and a pastor, it is assumed that I hate gays, that I have an unintelligent faith, that I unilaterally support the nation of Israel, that I am a Republican and a social conservative, that I am closed minded, intolerant, unloving, and don’t have a worldview that includes anyone but my clan.

Those accusations are true about some in the Church, but not all.  Public opinion, however, is increasingly aligning itself with these analysts, and I sometimes feel quite misunderstood.

Anyone else out there feeling it?

The purpose of this article isn’t to whine and say how unfair life is.  What I want to emphasize is this: I cannot allow myself to become simply reactionary in my life.  (You too, if you follow Jesus.)  I cannot respond only to the accusers, the analysts, the “former Christians”, the victims of the church, etc.  There are legitimate complaints to be made, to be sure, but that cannot and must not shape my life or the life of the Church.

I believe that Jesus faced this same kind of “dead end” analysis from his contemporaries.

He said…

Matthew 11:16-19 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Regardless of what Jesus did, He was criticized.  Christians are not unique in this.  Everyone goes through it: politicians, soccer coaches, school administrators, etc.

But my world is Jesus, His Church, and how we are to live in the world, so that is what I sometimes feel.

What is the solution for me and my tribe?  It is the same as it has always been.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Answer the honest questioners with gentleness and respect.  Know when to move on to the next conversation.  Make sure that God is the One we respond to, and not the critics, regardless of their motivation.  Be led by the Spirit, and not just by the analysis of a rock star.  Be counseled by the Word of God, not by an “ex- whatever”.  Follow the leading of the Spirit, not the latest trends.

I do not discount the fact that God can and does use the public opinion to reveal truth to His church.  The problem with public opinion is that it is fickle, changing, incomplete, and biased.  Eat the meat, spit out the bones, and realize that there is only One Voice that leads us.