social-media-seo-tips-and-tricks

The Modern Pastor

May and June have been an interesting months for me.  I apologize for my absence in posting,  but we ended up buying a new house and moving on May 5.  The was a blessing, but a bit overwhelming at the same time.  It wasn’t scheduled and this presented a problem because May was already booked with a conference in Cleavland at Alistair Begg’s church, a wedding in San Luis Obispo, and my Spanish pastor had a heart attack resulting in a 5-way bypass (he is okay). Did I mention that my wife is about 36 weeks pregnant?  Minor detail. Oh well, we would push through this busy month trying to rest in Him while pushing with all our might.

In the midst of this craziness, my wife and I discussed the idea of not setting up the Internet at our house until June 1.  We thought the idea of unplugging would be a great spiritual fast.  The only question we had was, “Could we survive such an extreme fast?”  I of course created a bunch of disclaimers such as: my iPhone was okay to use (but the reception is HORRIBLE at my new house) and we could still use the internet off site as I need to receive and send emails, etc, etc.  This was very inconvenient given my setting and that my office is at my house.

The first few days were very rough.  I came down with a bug and I literally felt like unplugging was making me physically sick.  I doubt it.  I’m sure it was just stress.  Through this month I was struck with how much pastoring I do through the Internet and other nontraditional methods like sending text messages.  I was sort of shocked to hear people say they felt disconnected from me and the church after about a week without Internet in my home.  I am sure this is accentuated because I don’t keep office hours and do most of my admin/study time from my home office.  But as I finish have finished my fast, I have come to conclude there are some very positive ways in which we can pastor–that come with very real pitfalls.

In many ways, I feel like the apostle Paul was one of the greatest pastors.  The epistles reveal his great heart for the people he shepherded.  He wrote letters.  Sent greeting through people.  And of course ministered face-to-face.  He had no email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blog, text message plan, Skype, and certainly the great Cross Connection Blog did not exist then.  Does that mean he would not utilize these inventions?  I doubt it.

Positive Elements…

Texting, Facebook, and emailing are very quick and easy ways to connect with people.  I often send out blast through whatever medium is most convenient for the recipient.  As people come to mind, I try to say a prayer for them.  I will often follow up the prayer with text, note on Facebook, or an email saying that I appreciate them, am praying for them, and ask them how they are doing.  I haven’t formulated any method to my madness, but have done this more as the Spirit leads.

Facebook is an interesting tool as you are able to read about people and how they are doing.  I have noticed that Facebook has become a method for tracking people’s highs and lows.  I don’t always catch everything, but I do appreciate that when something is worthy of following up on I am often notified by a third party that I should check in with the person in question.

Skype.  The main way I used Skype is for keeping up with missionaries.  I am blessed to serve at a body that support me in traveling to visit with our missionaries for the sole purpose of encouraging them.  Through these trips, my relationship with them has deepened.  While away from them, I have found that Skype is an AMAZING tool for having a heart-to-heart conversation with someone around the world.

Pit Falls…

I believe the greatest pitfalls in the new technology is that they have the propensity to replace face-to-face people time to pseudo relationships through social media and text messaging.  I believe this is sort of a shift within society which makes finding the sweet-spot a little tricky.

Another problem is that between computer and smart phone these mediums can be very habit forming and can disrupt some of the most intimate relationship we have–our families.  I have heard more than one pastor’s wife complain about the invasion of the iPhone into their family.  We must guard ourselves from the additive trap of our smart phones.

All in all, I am thankful for the resources we have through technology.  The ease of communication has raced forward in the last twenty years.  We have the ability to “ping” many people throughout the day to stay in people’s lives.  But the reality is that the blessing comes with a curse.  We can have many shallow relationships that lack depth as a result.  If anything, this last month reminded me to unplug daily, to read more, to focus on building real relationships while simultaneously really appreciating how easily I am able to connect with my people through these various mediums.

 

strongholds

Pulling Down Strongholds

I live in Santa Cruz County, CA. Our church meets in Scotts Valley, less than fifteen minutes from Santa Cruz, the largest and most well known city in the county. Santa Cruz is known for being an extremely eclectic community, one that values diversity, embraces multiculturalism, and eschews absolutes. It’s a challenging place to minister, but still there are hungry souls in need of Christ.

Recently while reading in Proverbs I came across this passage:

Proverbs 21:22  A wise man scales the city of the mighty, and brings down the trusted stronghold. (NKJV)

Proverbs 21:22  A wise man attacks the city of the mighty and pulls down the stronghold in which they trust. (NIV)

I thought about the strongholds that exist here where we live. I reasoned that if we clearly understand what they are, we can more ably pull them down.

So I wrote to our church mailing list, asking them to respond to the following question:

“Re: the following verse, what do you think is the stronghold of the unconverted people of Santa Cruz? Send your responses to me at [my personal email address].

Thanks!

“A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.” (Proverbs 21:22 ESV)

So the folks got busy thinking about the question. I’m listing the responses below. Some are very insightful, in my opinion. Perhaps this discussion will be of help to you in your communities. Jesus told us that the strongman must be bound in order to spoil his goods. That’s what is needed wherever we may minister.

Of course, we’re convinced that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty in God (for the pulling down of strongholds)—2 Corinthians 10:4. We use the weapons of believing prayer, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Word of God directly aimed at human consciences (2 Corinthians 4:2).

God bless you.

                                                                                                                                                           

The stronghold of the unconverted people of Santa Cruz is their Lack of Righteousness.

                                                                                                                                                            

Proverbs 21:22 is telling me that wisdom is far better than Strength.  The unconverted people of Santa Cruz are more interested in Pleasure than gaining wisdom.

                                                                                                                                                           

Stronghold applied to David’s hiding places. While David had the anointing of God, he did not have a detailed map of his future. He had to trust in God for the things he could not do. The verse reminds me of the secret places with the Lord. He who sees you in secret will reward you openly. Go to the secret places with the Lord pray for the lost souls of Santa Cruz. Also we don’t battle with flesh and blood but with principalities against powers against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The unsaved in Santa Cruz we need to pray fervently for their souls. Asking the Lord to save. The battle is the Lord’s. That is my answer.

                                                                                                                                                            

It is easy to see the stronghold of Santa Cruz is evil, sin, blasphemy, witchcraft, Satanism. They are blinded to the Truth. They believe all ways lead to God, in fact most believe they are gods.  How does one bring down that stronghold? Only by the Power of Jesus. As followers of Christ we can lift them up to the Lord God Almighty. I don’t even think Jonah could reach Santa Cruz.  Am I missing something?

                                                                                                                                                            

If a video of a fetus will keep (young) women from aborting their child, perhaps a radical explosion of the rapture might give insight to what really is to come. But God has tarried and nobody believes He will really come.

                                                                                                                                                            

My husband & I are in agreement that the University is the stronghold of Santa Cruz. It teaches and promotes Socialism/Marxism. It is the power behind the government of Santa Cruz.  Atheism is rampant there. I knew an Orthodox priest who once tried to teach a class on Christian theology and was all but run out. The old adage applies that “the inmates are running the asylum … i.e. Angela Davis was/is a professor among other extremists. Satan really has a hold on that place & it filters to all of Santa Cruz.

God is mocked in that place.

                                                                                                                                                           

By my observations, the stronghold that keeps people from Christ is the same across America: self.

P.S. I should add the devil to that. “There is nothing new under the sun.”
                                                                                                                                                            

Is the stronghold of our city (county) the lust of the will to be under the influence
of something that obfuscates reality (truth)!!!!???
                                                                                                                                                            

Hmmm … Perhaps idolatry … e.g. of our SC subcultures: music, TV, Hollywood, pop culture, outer appearance…

                                                                                                                                                           

Great question. I suppose in a physical sense you could consider UCSC a stronghold of the unconverted people of Santa Cruz. Although I don’t know if any residents of Santa Cruz (outside of those attending or affiliated with the university) consciously consider UCSC a stronghold for their belief system, I do think the philosophies, teachings and agenda of the faculty (example: Angela Davis) have filtered down to the community at large in the same way those areas surrounding the Cal Berkeley campus have been molded throughout the last 50 years. Truth is now relative and what was once considered extreme is now main stream.  Sadly, the debate is not even about freedom of lifestyle choice, but instead has become a civil rights issue akin to the struggle of the African American community in the 50’s and 60’s. Those who dare hold a divergent viewpoint are closed minded at best, bigots at worst.

                                                                                                                                                            

I pondered your question and I think that one of the strongholds for the unconverted of S.C. is that they pride themselves in their idea that they must have “tolerance.” They hold onto the idea that they must accept everyone and everything. However, they close themselves off to Christians and the gospel, never understanding that what they really need is Jesus.

                                                                                                                                                            

Interesting question to ponder, Bill!

It is hard to narrow things down to one stronghold… but “self” comes right to mind– and all that “self” encompasses:  pride; self interest; it’s own socio/political vision and culture (of individualism); …  very narcissistic!

                                                                                                                                                            

I think that the “stronghold of the unconverted people of Santa Cruz” is the thought (and actually the presence) of Santa Cruz’s diversity and multiculturalism. This person has this god, that person has that god, while this other person has no god at all … only himself to try and make it through this life. The person with this god says; “My god is a god of love, only love! Your God, the God of your bible was a cruel God, He was angry,  mine is good and kind and allows me to be free!” And that person who has that god says; “My god is many many gods in one! He is everything to me, especially when I need him to be this or that. He is also in everything, he is in the tree so I worship the tree. He is in the moon, so I worship the moon. He tells me that if I don’t get this life right the first time, not to worry, I can do life again, and I don’t even have to do it in this body, I’ll have a new body to do it in. While yet the other person says; “I don’t believe in God! It’s just me, myself, and I, that is true freedom to me. I am my own god, I decide when and how I will live and die.” or they might say; “I’ve tried that Christian God thing! Too many rules, it was too hard to keep trying to be good, nope, it’s just me, I will determine my own destiny.” This person’s thinking is the saddest of all I think, he’s missed the truth about redemption and salvation, he’s missed the whole concept of surrender and that we can do nothing in and of ourselves.

The weapons used against such strongholds is The One true and living God, His Word which is sharper than a two edged sword, His Word which is the “sword of the Spirit”… His Gospel of peace that leads to life eternal. His Oneness! His message of love and protection, but also His message of righteousness and justice. His obvious history, tangible, provable, not only to those of us who believe, but also to those have no clue who He is, but have only heard stories of what He has done.

                                                                                                                                                            

I am responding a little late but I just wanted to say that I think the stronghold of Santa Cruz is what was once the stronghold for all of us which was bondage to sin and blindness to the truth of the gospel. I believe as one person said that this stronghold can only be brought down by prayer. What God has shown me lately is that I have grown bitter and hard hearted towards the people of Santa Cruz. I ask that God would soften our hearts so that we would have compassion for these people so that we can pray effectively for their eyes and hearts to be open to receive the gospel message. We need to love these people as Christ has loved us and not give up hope. There are souls to be won in this city otherwise God would have not called us here.

                                                                                                                                                            

It was interesting to read all the responses. I thought this was a great question to ask. I know I’m a little late to the game, but here’s my two cents. This may be more of a foothold than a stronghold. But, if I were the enemy, knowing that followers of Christ have the life changing message of the gospel – the power to free and save, I’d try to get them to keep it to themselves.  I’d try to sow disunity in the church as a whole in Santa Cruz, I’d try to pervert the truth in the church, I’d try to keep the church frustrated with, and disconnected from, the culture rather than engaging it with the message of the gospel. I’d try to keep the church in it’s own little Christian-bubble subculture rather than on the front lines of the battle. I’d try to lull the church into a sense of apathy and hopelessness about reaching the community for Christ (I’ve seen this a lot). And maybe most importantly, I’d want them to be in a state of prayerlessness for the community.  There’s power in the name of Jesus to break every chain. The “strongholds” of the enemy in Santa Cruz are nothing for Jesus…

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT)                                                         

                                                                                                                                                           

Great email, missed my chance to respond: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

                                                                                                                                                           

The stronghold is BLINDNESS.  2 Cor. 4:4 says. “. . the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”

The key to the blindness is the LIE which has  not changed at all over time. Just as God is unchanging so is Satan and the earth that he dominates. The lie, of course, is that we can all be gods and that if there was a God he certainly is holding back on your JOY as evidenced by all the bad stuff going on in the world.

The god of this world works with the natural urges of men — natural things given by God for a purpose — and twists them for destruction and discouragement. I believe that the real stronghold today is found in our obsession with FREE SPEECH. I see speech as a gift from God given to us to build up and encourage others. Like God we have the power to create as well as destroy. Encourage or Discourage, our words are powerful and that is what we see being displayed in our media. Words used for evil, calling people names, demanding tolerance and speech that does not offend. The fact that we get offended at all is the problem. IF your purpose in life is to follow the will of God for your life then nothing that comes your way is outside of that plan for you and thus should be accepted with joy.

The problem is that Biblical thought has lost its original Hebrew nature that honored action and pursuit of godliness or righteousness powered by the provisions and purposes of God as the aim or purpose of Life. Life is 100% living for God and trusting that in every circumstance and in every relationship that He places us in is a way for us to grow. Our purpose is to bless others with the gifts that God has given us. The world has fallen for same Greek worldview that Jesus and Paul battled. This world view places knowledge above all else. It places SPEECH a right and not as a tool for blessing. It honors strength and beauty and seeks to find and control anything that causes discomfort in life. This world view leads to everyman doing what is right in his own eyes which is really just natural desires out of control in what we should call selfishness but the world defines as special interests.

So the stronghold is the LIE, just as it always has been. The lie has, like the way of Baalak, has overcome the church leading to arguments, selfishness, complaining, and division rather than unity in the faith. The world looks at the church and its history over thousands of years and sees nothing of interest. There is no difference between the church and the world because the glory of God is no longer seen in lives separated and dedicated to living fully with all of our heart, mind and strength (100%) living in the will of God.

 

 

 

 

Is anyone asking?

A few posts ago I made an attempt to share and explain an analogy that I use to describe what’s taking place in the United States.  Suffice it to say here that I believe the two separate transparencies that have been overlapped since the founding of our country are now being separated and it’s the Lord who is behind the separation.

As this painful but needful separation continues to take place and probably even increases in speed, there will surely be consequences that will impact every almost person living in this blessed country.  Economics, politics, social unity and many other areas will be effected, and the vast majority of the people will view the changes and consequences as completely negative and will long for things to go back to “the way things used to be”.

But these changes, again, as painful as they are, will provide an amazing opportunity for those who follow Jesus to demonstrate what “life” is really all about.  Because we know the things that really matter and where ultimate satisfaction, fulfillment, and hope are really found, the contrast between our lives and those who don’t know Him will be greater than its ever been. 

And as difficult as it to come to grips with, the reality is that the majority of those who have been “born-again” and who claim to love and follow Jesus aren’t walking in the newness of life in a way that declares there’s really any difference between them and those they live among who could care less about Jesus.  In many, if not most cases, followers of Jesus have placed their hope for a satisfied and fulfilled life in the same things that every other American citizen places their hope in.

As just one of many examples of this, I’ve had a number of brothers and sisters in the Lord tell me that because of the challenges with our economy their plan for retirement at the age of 65 is no longer a reality and that they now must continue working for another 5-7 years or maybe even longer.  And as they’ve shared this with me, their discouragement was clearly evident.  The retirement aspect of the American dream that they had placed their hope in has vanished….and sad to say, a large portion of their joy went with it.

My response to those who have shared these things with me produced some interesting facial expressions  and conversations.  I basically asked them a few questions:

–Do your co-workers know that your plan was to retire at 65?

–Are all of your co-workers also followers of Jesus?

–Are some of your co-workers who don’t follow Jesus being forced to continue working past the age of 65 too?

–Is it possible that the God who called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light is keeping you there beyond the length of time you planned on being there so that you can continue to proclaim His praises to those you have relationship with?

–Is it really possible that the company you work for and your fellow employees will be better off WITHOUT the salt and light that you are in their midst?

–And, up till now, how many of your co-workers have come to you and asked you “a reason for the hope that is in you”?

–Is it possible that your continuing to work with a joyful and thankful spirit inspite of the hope of retirement at 65 being removed might actually provoke some of them to ask?

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that’s in you, with meekness and fear.

Clearly, as so many ministries and individual pastors and teachers have taught, every believer must be able to give a defense for what they believe and why they believe it.  But in the context, Peter is clearly writing to those who have suffered because they follow Jesus. 

My perspective is that the changes taking place in our country, (retirement age being messed with and so forth), and the contrasts that will result will actually cause the original intention of this verse to become part of our lives.

To me, in this verse and in their context, Peter is saying that people should be coming up to us, (not us going to them), and asking us “the reason for the hope that is in you”.  In other words, people will be amazed that we have hope when everything in their own lives and worlds has crashed and left them hopeless.  And although we should never neglect going to people without hope and sharing with them, Peter is actually saying that if we are living in a hopeful way when everything around us seems to be crushing hope, then they will come to us and ask us the REASON for our hope.

Are we living hopefully?  If we’re not sure….the way to find out is simple.

Is anyone asking?

 

 

Mission Minded

Last night my family and I along with our small group served dinner at the local homeless shelter. It is something that my wife and I have been wanting to do for several months now and the planets finally aligned and it was a great experience. It was really cool! Four families from our small group along with ten children (four of which were ours) stormed the place. We served BBQ hamburgers to 35 homeless or transitional people in Lompoc. The people were so nice and appreciative and seemed to enjoy the “life” that our group brought. It is something our group is going to do a monthly basis and our church does on a weekly basis.

Now my city doesn’t have a large homeless population. We are twenty miles off of the nearest freeway and kind of secluded. To be honest that is that way that most of the people in my town like it. They want to remain a small town (even though there are 65,000 people in the area). That presents a problem of inward focus. People, like most everywhere else, tend to look after their own and are almost vigilant about not exposing themselves or their families to anything that might adversely affect it. They use excuses like business or such but in reality, in their gross fear, they don’t want to be bothered. I find this most apparent in my church which is located in a upper middle class bedroom community right next to a country club. Here the focus is on forward advancement and anything of service must serve that cause. Sadly, because of so much inward focus, there is a lot of hollowness and exhaustion.

We are doing things to change that. We have created a campaign that is focused on reaching the lost and hurting of Lompoc. Do I expect the whole church to jump on board? No, but I do want to take that core group of people in our church who are being moved by the Holy Spirit and have a hunger to reach people and give them an opportunity. In the process I also think that those who are on the fence might give it a try. I am not worried about consensus or even who is not there, but out of the conviction that God is putting on my heart, ministering to those God is giving us.

To augment this process of making our church more mission minded I started teaching through the Gospel of John last Sunday. You can’t teach through this book without realizing your role in reaching your community. Even in the prologue of John he mentions “light”, “witness”, and “believe” several times. In fact the whole purpose of John is wrapped up in John 20:31 which says “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John wrote the whole book with the purpose of reaching the lost Jews in the Diaspora.

While I would not join what is called the Missional movement I am trying to lead our church to be more missions minded. I have always had a heart for the lost and hurting and that got lost in my attempt to disciple and equip the church that God has blessed me with. I don’t think you can come to a complete balance but I definitely want to correct the lopsided wobble. We are all called as Christians and churches to reach those who don’t know Jesus. The question we need to ask is “How mission minded are we?”

GS2

Pastoral Ministry Practice #2

In John 17:4 Jesus refers to the work He has already accomplished.

I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.

Suffering a sacrificial death and rising in power were not the only assignments given to Jesus.   In John 17:6-13 He lists out the work He accomplished before going to the cross.   These verses serve as an outline of the pastoral ministry of Jesus Christ.  These verses set before us the four essential practices of pastoral ministry.  What Jesus exampled in His ministry and reviews in prayer here before His Father are the essence of being a shepherd to the flock of God.

The first essential work of pastoral ministry is given in 17:6 –

I manifested Your name to the men You gave Me out of the world.

The second essential work of pastoral ministry is given in 17:7-8

I gave them Your words…

Please note the order of the prayer of Jesus

Jesus says in v8 that He has given the disciples the Word of God, but He did so only after manifesting the Name of God, which means He demonstrated the character of God.  Word follows Name.  This order is so crucial that if you don’t follow it your ministry will ultimately be of no effect.  Gehazi had the staff of Elisha, but he did not have the heart or the power of Elisha.  The staff of Elisha without the mantle of Elisha was powerless to evoke even a stir from the dead child.  If you preach the Word of God without manifesting the Name of God your preaching will be dead.  We all know that it is easier to speak the Word of God than it is to manifest His Name – this is why there is more preaching of Christ than demonstration of Christ.  It is easier for me to tell you to love your neighbor than for me to love my neighbor.  Many have heard of the gospel from preachers who do not live the gospel.  The Word without the Name has driven many away from Christ.

I once lived down the street from a man with whom I became acquainted.  He learned that I was a pastor and began to tell me about his involvement years before in an evangelical church.  From singing in the choir to sometimes working with the youth, he contributed to the ministry and was blessed in return.  He went on to tell me about being in a casino in Reno and seeing a deacon from his church at the roulette wheel.  He couldn’t believe that a leader from his church would be gambling.  (It was OK for him, but not for the deacon – go figure!)  From that time on he hadn’t stepped into a church because he was so disillusioned and disappointed.  In his mind, the deacon was denying and defiling the Name.  Conservative theology wasn’t enough for him, he wanted to see the Name fleshed out in the leadership.  Along with the Truth preached he wanted to see the Life lived.  So many have been grievously wounded and deeply offended by a church with the Word without the Name.  So many have been turned away by the Truth not adorned with the Life.

Truly, we are often the Church of No-Name.

Imagine that you are approached by a 300 lb. man who tells you that he has been on a diet for ten years.  He goes on to tell you that it is the best diet he has even been on and he just can’t say enough about it.  You ask a few questions and then finally ask how much he weighed before he began.  You figure that ten years ago he must have really been big to still be at 300 pounds today.  He tells you that ten years ago he weighed 310 pounds!  You quickly do the math and realize that he has lost only one pound a year in the last ten years.  You ask him again just to make sure you heard right and he confirms what he just said.  Well, to say the least, you are underwhelmed.  You immediately go from mildly interested to perplexed.  All of his talk, his rosy testimony, his enthusiastic endorsement have been erased by one simple fact – that to which he has been passionately committed to these past ten years has made no difference in his life – except maybe a bizarre emotional attachment to that which has not helped him.  How many in the pastoral ministry are like our 300 pound friend whose words carry no weight?  The glowing testimony doesn’t pass the test.

Incarnation and declaration are means of revelation.  The Name of God shows what God is like and the Word of God informs as to what God has done.  Declaration of the Word without incarnation of the Name insures poverty of ministry.  Do we need less Word of God?  No.  But we do need, and must have more Name of God.

Pastoral authority and personal credibility

You’ve been called into ministry and you have responded by becoming a serious student of Scripture, serving in various capacities in your church, and getting a solid education in the things of the ministry – theology, ministry, history, Biblical languages, administration, counseling, etc.  Your gifting and calling have been recognized and you have been encouraged numerous times by various people.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that call + preparation = authority.  This formula is short-sighted.

Your authority is the Word of God you preach, but your credibility is the Name of God you manifest!  We have to make a distinction between authority and credibility – Jesus did.  Consider His advice to the people about the Pharisees –

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.  Matthew 23:1-3

The Word of God has inherent authority, but authority was never meant to stand alone.  The authority of the message is to be accompanied by the credibility of the one who speaks it.  When authority is separated from credibility the power to persuade is eroded.  We can see this in the life of Lot.  Lot heard from the angels that God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and that he was take his family and flee those cities.  He went and told his sins-in-law that the city was about to be judged for its wickedness and destroyed by the Lord.  Here’s how Genesis 19:14 reads:

Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

Lot’s life lacked spiritual credibility so much so that even though his message was true, it lacked spiritual authority and the ability to persuade.  He lived such an unspiritual life that when he does speak of spiritual things, his sons-in-law think that he’s joking around with them – they couldn’t take him seriously.  Is this not the condition of many within the church today?  The word we speak is drowned out by the life we live.  Our lack of credibility undermines the authority of the Word of God.  The world doesn’t see us living the Name and therefore doesn’t respond to us speaking the Word.  We are told that there is a crisis of authority today – in actuality, it is more a crisis of credibility. We are told that if we learn the Word, study the Word, polish the Word, preach the Word that the world will come.  Yes and no.  We haven’t clearly understood the scope of the challenge facing the church in the 21st century.  If those who claim to follow Jesus would truly do so, our message would gain a more respectful hearing.  It’s not so much that they don’t believe the message (and they don’t), but that they don’t believe us, the messengers!

The order of the ministry essentials that Jesus highlights in John 17 is so crucial – Name before Word.  And here’s why –

Like the legs which hang down from the lame, so is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Pr. 26:7 

A lack of credibility results in the loss of authority.

michelangelo

Theology and Anthropology

In the 1993 film Rudy (named after the main character), Rudy has a conversation with a priest named Father Cavanaugh, in which the priest says,

“Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and I’m not Him.” [1]

In this statement, Father Cavanaugh reveals his dependence on theology, “there is a God,” and anthropology, “and I’m not him.”

Is anthropology as important as theology for a cross-cultural missionary? This is a hot question being asked by many. Where theology is the study of God, anthropology is the study of man. There is no doubt that both are important, but are they of equal importance? To answer this question I will look at theology as the goal, and anthropology as a means to that goal.

For brevity’s sake, I will assume that my reader holds the view that God is the source of all life and God is the goal of all life. To quote the first answer of the Westminster Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”[2] Since this is why we exist, knowing God (theology) is of utmost importance, and to know him is to worship him. Herein lies the missions mandate as John Piper explains,

“Mission exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not mission, because God is ultimate, not man. [Mission] is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore is the fuel and goal of missions.”[3]

God is to be known, yet the knowledge of God comes to us through anthropological means. This is exemplified in that God himself has chosen to communicate with people. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”(Heb 1:1-2). God chose to speak to people through people. Theos (God) spoke through anthropos (man)! The chasm between God and mankind cannot be bridged by mankind. God had men write Scripture, which has faithfully been communicated again and again to various cultures through various languages. To read the Quran, people must learn Arabic, but to read the Bible, God’s revelation, people can read it communicated within their own language.

Concerning communication, David Hesselgrave, a missiologist, draws on Aristotle’s Rhetoric identifying “three points of reference: the speaker, the speech, and the audience.”[4] He points out that a message must also be encoded and decoded (see below).[5] There can be multiple messages coming across at the same time. What the source says may not actually correspond with what the respondent hears creating misunderstanding. Several years ago, an American pastor came on a short-term ministry trip to London. While speaking with a young woman, he noticed her trousers fit his wife’s taste and commented, “I like your pants.” He communicated a message, but the message decoded by the respondent was quite different. I quickly interjected in the conversation to clarify that pants for Americans means trousers. In this case, the misinterpretation is within a common language. Yet cross-cultural ministry must often times cross significant linguistic and cultural hurdles.

Source > Encode > Message > Decode > Respondent

In Hebrews 1, we are told that God communicated to mankind about himself through mankind. The means God uses to communicate, relates to the people to whom he is communicating. Nowhere is this more apparent than God, the Word, becoming man (Joh 1:1, 14). Jesus said, “I am not of this world” (Joh 8:23). Jesus as the logos, the word/message of God was communicated within a linguistic and cultural framework. As missiologist Sherwood Lingenfelter said, “God’s Son studied the language, the culture, and the lifestyles of his people for thirty years before he began his ministry.”[6] “The Son of God was sitting in the temple, listening and questioning!”[7] Jesus sets for us the model for cross-cultural ministry. He crossed from a heavenly culture to an earthly culture, communicating theologically in cultural forms and language that his hearers understood.

If God, who alone is wise, chose to reveal himself (theology) by relating truth in symbols and forms that people could understand (anthropology), all cross-cultural communicators should seek to follow the pattern God has laid out.

The challenge for the missionary is he must not only learn of God, but must learn of people. One of the greatest barriers to this is the missionary’s own culture and worldview. If he does not study the people to whom he desires to minister, the hearer can easily decode the message the missionary sent incorrectly. Culture shapes the lens through which life is evaluated; therefore, he must learn to separate his worldview (or lens) from the message that he articulates. The missionary’s worldview is something he may be used to looking through, but not something he is used to looking at. This is what Lingenfelter calls “cultural blindness”.[8] One’s own culture can be easily mistaken as a Christ-culture and the missionary may seek to convert his hearers to become like him, rather than like Christ. It is this mistake that has been made repeatedly in cross-cultural missions. Bruce Olson, recounting his work as a missionary in Columbia realized, he had access to many tribes that others could not access because he studied the people and understood how they thought. Olson attributes two causes for his success amongst the Motilone Indians. “The first is simple: The Motilones were not asked to give up their own culture and become white men… The second was the Holy Spirit.”[9]

As the missionary studies his receptor’s culture as well as his own, he can begin to separate what is biblical from what is cultural. He is then enabled to communicate theologically in a way that can be understood anthropologically. Olson learned that speaking of having faith in God meant nothing to the Motilones. However, if he communicated the idea of faith in God as “you have to tie your hammock strings into Him [Jesus] and be suspended in God,”[10] then they understood. Don Richardson went to the Sawi people of New Guinea. In his book Peace Child, he tells of attempting to tell the gospel story to the tribe. He was confounded when the whole tribe exalted Judas as a hero because he was the ultimate traitor, and in their culture befriending someone only to win their trust then stab them in the back was a prized virtue![11] As Richardson learned more about the tribe’s culture he was able to contextualize Jesus’ sacrifice in terms they could relate to. Within their culture, peace was brought between tribes by offering a son (peace child) to a member of another tribe. Richardson was able to show that Jesus was God’s peace child, and in their culture, to betray a peace child was unthinkable. Judas turned from hero to villain and many received the gospel. Richardson concludes, “The look on their faces told me I had not only discovered a parallel between their culture and the gospel, but I had also scraped a raw nerve as well-the obvious inadequacy of the Sawi peace child!”[12]

In this process there is a danger to be avoided. When anthropology trumps theology, the missionary can begin to make God’s message fit what is culturally acceptable. Even the great missionary Jesus’ message was rejected. It was rejected because people understood what Jesus was saying, not because they did not understand. The gospel is always going to confront the culture of the people to whom the missionary is sent. Jesus warns that since he was rejected, his followers would be also (Joh 15:18). Missiologist Paul Hiebert warns that the Anticolonial Era of missionaries erred in their contextualization. “Contextualization often became an uncritical process in which good in other cultures was affirmed, but the evil in them was left unchallenged…. What is sacrificed is the uniqueness of Christ and his salvation, because this is an offence to non-Christians.”[13] Darrin Patrick in his book Church Planter says contextualizing the gospel should be coupled with contending for the gospel. If theology is loosened to fit the culture, in which the missionary seeks to minister, he loses the very reason for which he is sent into that culture.[14] “Contextualization is speaking to people with their terms, not on their terms.”[15] Patrick quotes Timothy Keller on the issue,

“Contextualization is not ‘giving people what they want’ but rather it is giving God’s answers (which they may not want!) to questions they are asking and in forms that they can comprehend.”[16]

God is the message (theology), but his message is for people (anthropology). The missionary’s pursuit is to communicate theology powerfully and accurately to people. To do this he needs to understand those people. In this way, anthropology is critical, because this is the means whereby the truth of God can be understood as it is presented to every tribe, tongue, people, and ethnic group for the glory of God and their forever enjoyment of him.


[1] Dir. David Anspaugh. Perf. Sean Austin, Jon Favreau and Ned Beatty. Rudy. (Tri Star Pictures. 1993). DVD.
[2] Frame, J. M. The Collected Shorter Theological Writings. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing. 2007). N.P. Logos Electronic Edition
[3] Piper, John, Let the Nations Be Glad. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 2003). 17
[4] Hesselgrave, David J. Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally: An Introduction to Missionary Communication. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1991). 40
[5] Hesselgrave, Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally, 41
[6] Lingenfelter, Sherwood and Marvin, Mayers K. Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships. (Grand Rapids: Baker Accademic, 2003). 16
[7] Lingenfelter, Ministering Cross-Culturally, 16
[8] Lingenfelter, Sherwood. Transforming Culture: A Challenge for Christian Mission. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books. 1998), 21
[9] Olson, Bruce. Bruchko. (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House. 1995), 128-9
[10] Olson, Bruchko, 139
[11] Richardson, Don. Peace Child. (Ventura: Regal Books. 2005), 150-2
[12] Richardson, Peace Child, 187
[13] Hiebert, Paul G. Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books. 1994), 59
[14] Patrick, Darrin. Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission. (Wheaton: Crossway. 2010) 194
[15] Patrick, Church Planter, 195 emphasis mine
[16] Keller, Timothy, “Contextualization: Wisdom or Compromise?” (Connect Conference, Covenant Seminary, 2004), 2, quoted in Patrick, Church Planter, 195,

ccccmhs

Fellowship

This week most of us who write for Cross Connection attended an annual conference for the Senior Pastors of Calvary Chapel. There are many such conferences throughout the year in other parts of the nation, but this one is unique as it is hosted by Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and Pastor Chuck Smith.

Over a 1,000 pastors came to worship and be encouraged together, but more than any other thing I think we gather to see one another. In fact, I’d say that the primary reason I attend is for the blessing of seeing and spending time with good friends who are serving in other parts of the nation and the world. It’s our annual family reunion.

Yesterday morning I was blessed to have coffee with Pastor Tim Brown. I’ve know Tim for several years now. We met through an online email forum for pastors, and all of our interactions for three or more years have been online; until this week I’d never spoken with Tim in person.

It’s strange the “connected” world in which we live in the 21st century. Although we’re separated by [sometimes] great distances, we’re connected virtually. Such virtual connections give a ‘sense’ of community and fellowship, but I am more and more convinced that they do not satisfy our genuine need for connectedness.

Email, texts, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin… virtual social networks abound and make it easier than ever to connect. I can instantly interact with my friend Luke as he travels through the bush of Mozambique. I can see my wife and kids on my phone via FaceTime when I’m in Europe, or even just down the street at my office. But there is no substitute for person to person connection. In fact, seeing them in that context only serves to kindle more the desire to see them in person. In our conversation yesterday, Tim and I actually zeroed in on this reality for a bit.

As I shared a couple of weeks ago, we were created for oneness. Virtual social networks cannot satisfy the inner need and desire. Therefore, I’m thankful for conferences such as the one this last week.

friendship

Spiritual Friendships

As this article is being published, I am traveling back to the Evergreen State (Washington, of course) after spending the last three days at the 2012 Calvary Chapel Senior Pastors Conference. It dawned on me that I have been a yearly attender at these conferences for eight years. There are many draws to this conference. The conference center in Southern California is beautiful. There is teaching and worship. They give you free books and resources.

But more than anything, the greatest blessing of this conference is the friendships that have developed over the years. I am continually amazed at the number of pastors that I have been blessed to get to know. Some of those relationships are slowly evolving. Other of those relationships are fully formed. But either way, it is the friendships that draw me to the conference year in and year out. Out of those relationships, there are Paul, Barnabas and Timothy types. I am grateful for the Pauls in my life. There are men who have made significant investments in my life as mentors. I had many conversations this week with men who challenge me, teach me, encourage me and sometimes just let me process out loud. I am also grateful for the Barnabas’ in my life. These are the men who are my brothers and co-labors. Like Paul and Barnabas, these relationships are those amongst people who walk through life together. I always enjoy the Timothy type of relationships. These are guys that I can pour into. Realistically, I get to function as a Paul to men who are Timothys to me.

No matter what the relationship is, he reality is that spiritual friendships are essential to our growth. Sanctification does not happen in a vacuum. Instead growth happens in community and relationship. I have many conversations to process through. Many new ideas and thoughts to pray and think through. I just find myself extremely grateful for the spiritual friendships that God has blessed me with.

I also realized that 8 years of continued attendance has greatly fostered these relationships. A good relationship needs to be invested in. True interpersonal intimacy is fostered by communication over time. We are not entitled to deep relationships but we need to make an investment in them with intentionality. I am absolutely blessed by the investment people make in me. I am so thankful to have peers who I walk through life with. I am humbled to get to poor into people’s lives. Overall, I am eternally grateful for the intentionality of all involved to fill my life with spiritual friendships.

Screen Shot 2012-06-05 at 10.13.53 AM

Ponder the Path

“Ponder the path of thy feet,

And let all thy ways be established.

Turn not to the right hand

Nor to the left:

Remove thy foot from evil”

 

Seems a good a time as any, since many are at the Senior Pastor’s Conference in Murrietta to pause and reflect upon the path we are each treading.

Think about the “Path” you are on today. Think about where you started and where you find yourself today. Look back at the amazing faithfulness of the Lord who has called you out of darkness and transferred you into the Light of the Kingdom life of His Son, whom He loves. What power, what love, what trustworthiness, what faithfulness! Words cannot paint a pleasant or fitting enough picture worthy of the One to who it is ascribed. God has taken us from the dungheap of a vain, empty and damned life because of our rebellion against Him, and has redeemed us from the curse of the law having sent His only Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased to bear the curse for us and vicariously nailed it to the cross for all those who would believe on His Name! What mercy, what grace, what peace, what forgiveness!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

Do not turn from the One who called you and set you on the path your on today. Keep your hands in His. Fix your gaze afresh upon the One who loved you and gave Himself for you. Follow His lead, for His rod and His staff are there to protect, guide, and comfort you. His desire is to restore your soul in the path He has prepared beforehand for you to walk along. Do not be afraid of what lies ahead or how you will be provided for.

“Behold the birds of the air. They neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”

Don’t waver, or turn from the path. Don’t meander into the fields of another. Look to the Good Shepherd, let Him know your requests, and you will find the greates clarity and the greatest satisfaction you have ever known.

 

The Machine

What I have written might ruffle some feathers. However, it’s something that many of us church folk are aware of and may be in the midst of. I don’t mean in any way to point fingers but to encourage you the reader to seek a Spirit-led life. If churches aren’t being Spirit-led, then I think it’s safe to assume that those attending most likely aren’t being encouraged to allow the Spirit to lead in their own lives. In my course of ministry I have encountered several churches that I would refer to as “machines.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be organized, to have goals as a church, and to have fresh vision. Those are all great things. The problem is when the church becomes so efficient at running its programs, meeting its goals, and fulfilling the vision, that the church finds itself not relying upon the Spirit’s leading. With service rehearsals, focus groups deciding what the sermons will be, scripted announcements/prayers, and cues becoming the norm, it’s easy to see how the Spirit would not be acknowledged. These churches have it down to a “T.” Production is flawless and they are fluid. All great, but the main issue is that most machines are engineered to fulfill one task. If you’ve ever seen a car manufacturing line there are several robotic machines that assist in assembling a vehicle. It would be redonkulis if the robotic welder malfunctioned so they decided to use the robotic paint sprayer. It wouldn’t fly! When the church becomes a machine it’s good at doing what it does. But when the Spirit comes along and wants to change things up, it’s very difficult for the machine to fall into sync with what the Spirit desires to do in the body.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ‘

Revelation 2:7

Through chapter two and three of Revelations we see, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It’s a scary place when the church is so machine-like that there is no longer an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying. It’s a scary place in our own lives when we don’t have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying. The church today needs to continually surrender to the Spirit’s leading.

Pour out your Spirit, Lord!

 

Phillip MacIntosh was the Director of 1-800-HIT-HOME, the National Youth Crisis Hotline and Senior Pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship UTC, San Diego. Phillip now currently serves alongside his father at Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego. He also serves as a Chaplain for the San Diego Harbor Police, Chula Vista Police and Chula Vista Fire Department. Phillip is happily married with three young children.