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Little Boy Soldiers

Pastor Bill Walden pastors Cornerstone Ministries of Napa Valley. You can find out more info about him on his blog at pastorbillwalden.com, and about his church at cmmv.org.

God calls His people to different tasks, and He gives them different gifts by which they may serve Him, but gifting is only one side of this equation.  God gives the calling and the gifting, but we must grow into these callings and develop the gifts He has given us. We must also grow in the grace of God.

Let me offer a hypothetical example.  A young man is called to be a leader in his church.  Even as a young teen, the sense of it is strong, and he is sure of it. But with that calling, the young man must grow spiritually.  He must respond appropriately.  There must be self discipline and growth.  Most importantly, he must learn to live in the grace of God for himself.  His victories must be tempered with the knowledge that God’s grace has enabled him.  His failures must be met with a sureness that God’s grace pardons him because of Jesus.

Let me offer an illustration.  A young boy wants to be a soldier.  He is intelligent, and a committed patriot.  He studies weaponry and battle tactics.  Because the army (church) is short on soldiers (servants), he is enlisted and outfitted.  He is committed, but he hasn’t grown enough (matured enough) to be effective.  His boots are too big; the gun is too heavy; and the fatigues make him stumble. Not only can he not do his job, but he endangers his fellow soldiers who have to constantly rescue him.  They may even begin to resent him; not because they don’t like him, but because instead of helping, he actually makes warfare (ministry) more dangerous (difficult).

The proof that he is not ready is that he is not effective in battle (ministry). He talks like a soldier, dresses like a soldier, thinks like a soldier, and likes to spend time with soldiers, but he is not ready to be a soldier.

What will he do next?  There are three possibilities.

1) He will go home, maintain his patriotism, eat well, exercise, and grow into manhood.  This will require patience, but he sees that it is essential.

2) He will try to force the issue by joining another platoon (church), and insist that he is ready for battle.  Because the warfare is intense, and the volunteers are few, the next platoon (church) readily welcomes him and puts him to work.  He feels approved of, and is proud of his uniform (ministry title), until he starts lagging behind in battle (service), and the scenario repeats itself, and the young man’s frustration builds. The cycle can continue to repeat itself many times over.  Either the young man will mature, or he will become so embittered that he loses his patriotism (Christian calling), and jettisons the whole idea of serving and leading.

3) He will start his own army of little boy soldiers.  They will dress like soldiers, talk like soldiers, and believe that they are on (a) mission, but will accomplish nothing, and mislead others.

In Christian service, there is no substitute for maturity.  In this instance, I define maturity as follows:  Having a healthy self image in regards to who and what you are and aren’t.  Knowing what gifts you do and don’t have.  Not needing ministry to validate your worth.

In Christian service, there is no substitute for maturity.

Christian service is indeed a type of warfare.  (2 Timothy 2:1-7).  The church desperately needs leaders who have grown into the stature required for the position.

It is a good thing to desire to serve and lead, but maturity is also needed.  May I suggest that you re-visit the comments of people that have released you from ministry.  Re-think the times when you have been ineffective, or made big mistakes. Don’t blame your fellow soldiers or officers. Take a personal inventory of your maturity.  Ask trusted friends to tell you the truth about yourself.  If there is criticism, and if growth is needed, be willing to grow into the position of leadership instead of just expecting or demanding it.

Someone has said that it takes a crucified man to serve a crucified Christ. Let God do more work in you, so that He may do more work through you.

Let God do more work in you, so that He may do more work through you.

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Remembering Pastor Chuck Smith

Early this morning, Pastor Chuck Smith went home to be with Jesus, after a nearly two year battle with cancer. In thinking about Pastor Chuck, a few thoughts come to mind.

In about May or June of this year I tasked one of our staff members at CCEsco with clearing out an onsite storage area that had become nothing more than an archive of Bible teaching cassette tapes. With more than 32 to years as a church, you can probably imagine that there were quite a few archived tapes. A couple days into the process I walked into my office to find a cassette sitting on my desk. It was a teaching from Pastor Chuck Smith at a Calvary Chapel youth camp at Green Valley lake, from July, 1996. The guys who were clearing out the storage area had no idea what that camp and that teaching series by Pastor Chuck meant to me; it was no less than God’s sovereignty that the tape ended up on my desk.

I remember that youth camp very well. It was the first time I’d attended a Calvary Chapel youth camp. When I, as a sophomore in High School, journeyed up to Green Valley Lake that July I honestly had no idea that Calvary Chapel was any larger than the Calvary Chapel I attended (Calvary Chapel of Escondido), nor did I know the name Chuck Smith. The camp that year was themed “In Christ” and was based completely in the book of Ephesians.

As the sessions opened on Monday, July 22, 1996, Pastor Chuck Smith came to the pulpit and 400 high schoolers sat almost completely silent—aside from occasional laughter at his jokes—through three, 1-hour long studies in the book of Ephesians. One of those teachings (unfortunately not the one on the tape the guys found) I still remember to this day, for it was a defining moment in my life. No, I didn’t give my life to the Lord that day, I had done that many years before, but I am completely certain that I first sensed a call to ministry on that day.

Pastor Chuck, speaking from Ephesians 1, exhorted the room full of 15 — 18 year-olds to not waste their lives. He challenged us to not “meander through life,” but to follow and serve the Lord. I remember wrestling with the thought of what it was that he was teaching. I distinctly remember thinking, “If I do what this man is encouraging me to do, then God is going to call me to do something crazy or send me somewhere I do not want to go.”

Quite honestly, I resettled with that thought and that teaching for 2 more years through High School. But looking back, 17 years later, I’m absolutely convinced that that 1 hour teaching by Pastor Chuck, in Ephesians chapter 1, on Monday, July 22, 1996, completely changed the course of my life, and for that I will always be extremely grateful to Pastor Chuck Smith.

One more thing…

In my lifetime I think I’ve had no more than 5 or 6 personal interactions with Pastor Chuck. I’d like to share about two of them.

On that same Monday night in July of 1996, as Pastor Chuck walked to his car, following the eking Bible study, I followed him out the door and asked, “Pastor Chuck, will you sign my Bible?” Yes, it makes me laugh a little now. Yes, it was a little odd. In my defense (although I don’t need one) I wasn’t the only one who asked. Chuck, with the smile I don’t think he ever was without, kindly took my Bible and pen, sighed his name and a verse reference. Of course I immediately looked up the verse, which is likely the answer for Chuck’s enduring smile.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

— 3 John 1:4

The second interaction happened two and a half years later, as I was attending Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California. Following Pastor Chuck’s weekly Friday chapel session, I was talking with a few of my friends in one of the patio areas at the Bible College, when Pastor Chuck pulled up in a golf cart, jumped out, grabbed a broom and dust-pan from passenger seat and greeting us as he passed by us, he began sweeping up some leaves and dirt 5 feet from us. Several of us asked Pastor Chuck if we could help, he of course said “No, no,” and continued on his way.

While it is certain that Pastor Chuck was a huge heavy-weight in 20th and early 21st century, American Christianity, he never carried himself as such. Over the next several weeks I’m sure a lot of stories, like this one, will be told about Pastor Chuck, as he was exceedingly humble and walked in such a way as though nothing was below him. Truly, if anyone could say it, Pastor Chuck could declare, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

 

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Keys to Successful Pastoral Ministry

“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, {19} having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck…” (1 Timothy 1:18-19)

In my own ministry as a pastor, I have often turned to this passage to strongly remind myself of the call of God upon my life. I do not think I’m alone in this … we pastors have great need to build upon the foundation that Jesus Christ has laid down for us, and in us.

The passage includes four critical criteria for effective and God-honoring ministry.

1.      We must accept the charge or command of God concerning the focus of our ministry. 

In the context of 1 Timothy, the command of God had to do with the proper interpretation and application of the law of God (“the law is good if one uses it lawfully”), as well as the instructions concerning the nuts and bolts of pastoral ministry found in the letter.

1 Timothy 3:15 …but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

2.      We must conduct our ministries in view of specific prophecies that came to us as part of our calling. 

Every pastor I have ever asked about their call into pastoral ministry has a story to tell. There were Bible verses, there were words of knowledge, there were direct words from God in times of private prayer, there were prophetic words that were often unsolicited.

What Paul is telling Timothy here is that he must call to mind these words from God, and use them for courage, for authority, and for specificity in serving our Chief Shepherd.

3.      We must exercise faith. 

No one can fulfill the ministry of pastor-teacher without faith. Sometimes the faith is the actual gift of faith … the supernatural ability to believe God for supernatural things in a specific situation. Sometimes the faith is visionary faith. The pastor knows the Lord is leading, and trusts God to guide and provide for what He is doing. At all times the pastor is to believe what he believes … about the Bible, about God and about sound doctrine.

4.      We must work hard to maintain a good conscience. 

No doubt this is a difficult task, especially because the enemies of all true believers are also the enemies of the pastor. We deal with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The devil uses these realms—the world and flesh—in his attempts to destroy us. Only through Christ will we emerge victorious.

Thankfully, the pastor has access to all the means of grace … the word of God, the Spirit of God, Christian fellowship, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, confession of sin, sanctifying grace enabling him to repent when necessary. He must be diligent to apply these means of grace in order to live a life pleasing to God and fruitful in His work.

The prize of a good conscience makes the effort worth it. Continued fellowship with and closeness to God are of inestimable value.

The success of our ministries cannot be measured by numbers, budgets, or programs. Success can only be measured by the degree of faithfulness to our calling. God is faithful, who will also bring it to pass if we allow Him.

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A Few Thoughts on Calvinism

Dear reader: the following article was impressive to me, so I decided to pass it on to you. I hope your love for and trust in the Lord increases as you read; that’s the effect it’s had on me. ~ Bill Holdridge

A Few Thoughts on Calvinism

By Pastor Doug Hileman

First Christian Church of Marysville, CA

In the churches I have attended through the years, Calvinism has been viewed with suspicion and even scorned (“Once saved, always saved.”)  Consequently I have never been exposed to more than a brief mention of the subjects of election and predestination in sermons or Bible studies conducted in a non-Calvinistic setting.  As these two doctrines are major recurring themes in the New Testament, I view their virtual dismissal by those of my persuasion as misguided censorship.  I suppose this should come as no surprise—once you have developed a loyalty to a doctrinal point of view you tend to lose a measure of objectivity—viewing any “opposing” texts or concepts through the filter of your own settled convictions.  This tendency cuts both ways, of course. Calvinists exhibit their own reluctance toward thoughtfully considering the other point of view; I think it is fair to say that within their ranks their own conclusions are rarely examined with fresh eyes.

My intention in writing these thoughts out is mostly to help me sort through my own frustration with the knee-jerk responses associated with this area of study.  Obviously, I do not write from a neutral position— I strongly disagree with Calvinistic teaching.  However, I have had good fellowship with a number of Calvinists, and have accepted that we will probably have to agree to disagree.  And so in my musings here, I really only intend to pursue a single question—why would an interpretation of scripture that seems to me to be so unreasonable have such a strong appeal to people who seem to be at least as reasonable as I am?

To begin, I consider the probability that there are motivations on both sides of the issue in addition to simple love of the truth.  From an insider’s point of view, it’s fairly easy to understand the lack of enthusiasm for Calvinism which is held by most non-Calvinists, as well as virtually all non-believers. Calvin’s view of predestination is a maddening thing to consider:  A view that says that in spite of the soul’s desire to be at peace with God, and to enter into a relationship with Him; no matter how willing one might be to fulfill whatever conditions are required of them to draw near to God and believe the gospel and thereby receive mercy; unless they are the object of a divine election that has no reference whatever to anything they might say, do, or believe, they are lost— without remedy, hopelessly and eternally.  Such teaching is acknowledged by Calvinists to be—“hard”.  James Black, a Calvinistic pastor from a previous generation authored a book that is a classic on the subject of preaching.  But along with some wonderful insights regarding the art of creating and delivering sermons, the book also provides some valuable insight into the mental workings of a faithful Calvinist.  I will have occasion to quote from Rev. Black a couple of times in these notes, first of all regarding the hardness of Calvinistic doctrine. 

“Our Scottish Calvinism may have been a hard, unbending, even logically cruel thing: but what gave the Calvinistic church its unfailing dignity and power was its prostrating sense of awe—wonder at the decrees and sovereignty of God and wonder at His unmerited mercy.”  (The Mystery of Preaching, pg. 130)

Again, I can easily understand why the average non-Calvinist shrinks back in apprehension from Calvin’s view of predestination, but I remain mystified by the behavior on the other side of the aisle:  what is it that compels Calvinists to embrace such a “logically cruel” notion, and reject out of hand the idea of full access to a salvation offered freely to all men?  Aside from their obvious answer—“That’s what the Bible teaches” (an answer I would contest)—I am inclined to look further than that.

Certainly there is an appeal to being one of the chosen ones, the “in” crowd so to speak.   But that does not seem to be the motivation behind the attraction, for Calvinists seem to be as humble regarding their own lackings as they are suitably awed by the glory of God. No, I feel the issue is more fundamental than that.   Lately, as strange as it might sound, I have begun to wonder if the awe-stricken worship referred to so often by Calvinists might be where the “hard and unbending” nature of this system has its roots.  I have heard and read professions of fear and awe from Calvinists many times before.  It is striking how much more frequently that type of sentiment is expressed in Calvinistic writings when compared with the works of others.  I had always assumed such statements were the spontaneous, personal expression of their reverence for God, and thought I would do well to learn from their example.  But through the years as I have read more of their material, I have begun to wonder if this is an acquired sensitivity, perceived to be obligatory;  not an affectation, but something along the lines of a theological tradition or culture, passed down from one generation to the next.  This mindset of fear and awe is not improper, of course—far from it.  But along with the teaching in Scripture to relate to God in that particular way, there are other biblical examples of individuals who had a degree of relaxed familiarity with God; not from presumption or disrespect, but of an “Abba Father” nature.  The “Calvinistic Awe” that James Black refers to smacks more of Sinai than of Zion.  The Israelites— including Moses himself— were certainly shaken by fear and awe of God at Sinai.  But that is not the pattern which we have been given to follow in this present age.  (Hebrews 12:18-24)  The view of God at the foot of Sinai contrasts dramatically with the perspective gained on the slopes of Zion.   And needless to say, so do the covenants they represent.

Consider the concept of God for a moment—what is God like?  Christian thinking in the first several centuries after the Apostolic Age leans very heavily on Greek philosophy, especially in regards to the nature of God in His perfection.  The view of God held by virtually all Christian leaders at that time mirrored the Platonic one.  As a perfect being, God was untouched by emotion, passion, or change.  Based on this assumption, one view of Christ developed as having a “compartmentalized” dual nature, because His divine nature would by definition be incapable of suffering.  With this non-Biblical model of divine nature at the headwaters, the understanding of everything downstream became subject to a nagging, polluting influence, which causes confusion to this day.

So what if, in a parallel fashion, Calvin embraced a narrow view of God; while ostensibly based on the Scriptures, it is a view that is inconsistent with the full revelation of God as recorded in the narrative of Scripture. For the picture he draws of God in the exercise of sovereign election seems to be one of unfeeling intellect—His is a merciful intelligence to be sure—but of a cold and detached sort.  For in Calvin’s estimation, all that really matters is God’s sovereignty expressed through His decrees.   The eternal bliss or misery of humanity are not really considered for their own sake, and are viewed only as a means to an end—to glorify God.  Now, when examined as individual components, each of the aforementioned concepts would be considered orthodox to most Christians. There is nothing of higher value than the glory of God, His sovereign will is the ultimate good, both heaven and hell will be used to demonstrate His glory, etc. But something is missing in the overall picture when we view these particular teachings in isolation from the narrative of scripture: the revelation that the Bible gives us of the personality of God. Calvin attempts to give something of the machinery but nothing of the heart; and Calvinism has a very mechanistic feel to it. Could it be that, having embraced a one-dimensional view of God as the whole, (in terms of election and predestination, at least) Calvin’s theology in all its “hard, unbending, cruel logic” is the inevitable outgrowth what seems to me to be theological tunnel vision?

There is much to be said regarding what might be termed “the reasonableness of God” in the Bible.  That emphasis seems to be entirely absent from the Calvinistic perspective.   God demonstrates this side of His nature rather frequently in His dealings with men, and appears to respond to their perceptions of justice, explaining Himself and even reasoning with them on occasion.  Some examples:

  • Cain, and his appeal that his punishment was too hard to bear. (Gen. 4:13-15)
  • Abraham, and his attempt to bargain for the lives of the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah. (Gen.18:20-33)
  • Moses, interceding for Israel when God wanted to destroy them and start over.  (Ex. 32:9-13) (This case is especially notable, as God exclaims to Moses at one point in the conversation, “Leave Me alone!”)
  • Jonah, pouting about God not destroying Nineveh, and God gently reasoning with him so he would see His perspective on the matter.  (Jonah 4:9-11)
  • And in the New Testament—The Gentile woman who came to Jesus and asked for deliverance for her demon possessed child.  Initially Jesus refused, but she won Him over with her reasoning.  (Matt. 15:22-28)
  • Throughout scripture, God is revealed as possessing a willingness to talk things over and reason things out.  He makes a distinct offer through Isaiah along these lines. (Is. 1:18)

My point is this: much of the “hardness” in Calvinism seems to emanate from the unswerving reliance on the teaching in Romans 9 alone to absolutely define the nature of predestination and election, without reference to other passages of scripture.  This is where Paul is defending God’s right to make one person a vessel of mercy and another a vessel of destruction—any way He sees fit, no questions asked.  (Or no reasoning allowed, if you will.) And so the conclusion is drawn that everyone’s eternal destiny is determined on that basis alone.  Now pause for a moment and consider that there are several examples of biblical teaching that initially appear to be contradictory to other scriptures.  When two such views seem to be at odds with each other, we generally look for the balance between them.  As an example, the doctrine of the Trinity when viewed alongside the submission of the Son to the Father.  Or the view of justification by faith in Romans in conjunction with the same doctrine in James.  I submit that Romans 9 taken alone will give an imbalanced view of the workings of predestination and election.  Let me quote once again from James Black as he instructs his students on the function of isolation in preaching:

“In this connection may I add—do not be afraid of exaggeration.  Isolation of any kind is exaggeration: and when you isolate a text or subject from the whole coherent body of truth, you exaggerate it in the very process.  State your main truth, in the distinct and even limited aspect you have chosen, and trust to the correcting influence of your whole ministry.  There is nothing so futile as aiming at a foolish completeness.”   (The Mystery of Preaching, pg. 51)

In a nutshell, he says that examining one aspect of a doctrine in isolation may give a false impression of sorts (imbalance or over-emphasis), but you can and should supply the balance over the course of your ministry.  He says it is often quite impossible to give the whole picture within the framework of one solitary sermon.  This wonderful advice for preaching the Bible seems to be overlooked by Calvinists when it comes to interpreting it.  Rather than look for a balance between the teaching in Romans 9 and other portions of scripture that strongly indicate man’s free will and a universal opportunity to come to Christ, it seems to me that Calvinists firmly shut the door of further inquiry with these familiar words—“ But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? ” (Rom. 9:20) In doing so, they believe they contend for the faith, and take a firm stand in defense of God’s sovereignty and glory.  But I contend that Calvin taught a view of God that is not wholly biblical.  As a result he unwittingly ended up with a duality of his own—the God of love revealed to us in the Person of Christ, and the God of ancient mysterious “wisdom”, that predestined some to glory, and the rest to damnation.  This second side of God is not talked about openly, especially to non-believers.  It is a thought too terrible to consider at length. Martin Luther alluded to it, but did not like to ponder it himself. The Calvinists will never state the doctrine of election in all its stark reality to a congregation.  They will focus on hope.  On the “lighter side” of God, if you will.  But in the background, under the surface, in the darker corridors of theological imagination lurks this image of an inscrutable and severe Intelligence in eternity past who determined to cast millions and millions of humans into hell—why?— because it made sense to Him.

Calvinism has an overarching design to it—to “protect” the doctrine of God’s glory and sovereignty.  The urgency and zeal which Calvinists exhibit for this mission remind me of the man named Uzzah who lived in David’s day.  (II Sam. 6:1-19) The Ark of the Covenant was being transported on an oxcart on one occasion, when the cart hit a pothole and the Ark began to tip.  With the best of intentions, Uzzah reached up to steady it, and was struck dead instantly.  David “was afraid of God” that day, and immediately put a safe distance between himself and the Ark.  He later discovered through a study of the scriptures the reason for this God’s behavior—the Ark was being transported contrary to the pattern given by Moses, who taught that it was never to be touched by any man who was not a Levite.  Using the oxcart to transport the ark seemed logical enough, but it was a mimicry of the unbiblical method adopted by the Philistines when they returned the Ark to Israel just prior to this incident.

David’s fear on this occasion was based on what David perceived as unpredictable behavior on God’s part.  It is also significant that David was, “…angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzzah.”   I don’t think it is stretching things to say that at that moment David thought God was unreasonable, and anger is a very logical reaction to unreasonableness. However, once David understood and practiced the teaching of scripture (I Chron. 15:1-15), God wasn’t so scary after all.  He understood God’s actions and intentions and felt safe enough to draw near again.  David began to worship with tremendous joy, and God’s presence at last came to rest in Zion.  One of the many lessons contained in this account is this: every time the church relies on the wisdom of the world to interact with God, it causes problems—in particular, problems with man’s perception of God. It seems to me that most of the difficulties Calvinists have with their interpretation of predestination and election have more to do with logic than with scripture.  They pose questions like, “If God doesn’t control all this absolutely, how can He really be considered sovereign?”  Or, “How could Christ die for someone and that person still end up lost? Wouldn’t that mean His death was in vain? Wouldn’t that mean that the purposes of God are subject to the will of man?”  Nevertheless, the Scripture seems pretty clear on these two points;  that God has given man a free will, and Christ died for the sins of the whole world. Logic notwithstanding.

Having shackled themselves with presuppositions that have no mandate in Scripture, Calvinists have embraced a system of theology that is neat, tidy, marvelously logical, and paradoxically, quite unreasonable.  They have fallen prey to the same temptation as the early Church Fathers—leading with logic rather than scripture.  As a consequence, they have ended up with a similar dilemma.  I must conclude that when Calvinism is embraced there is an unavoidable tendency to compartmentalize God.  He is eternally loving toward us, and eternally not towards the non-elect.  The contemplation of God’s love for the elect is cherished and gratefully viewed from every conceivable angle by Calvinists, as it should be.  His supposed lack of love for the non-elect, however, is stated flatly, and then for all intents and purposes, promptly ignored. This is understandable, because if Calvinistic theology is pursued relentlessly to its logical conclusion, the serious hindrances posed are inescapable (despite the denials of its adherents).  Calvinism produces a sense of hopelessness in potential converts; while seeking to defend the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, it holds forth a twisted, monstrous view of His heart toward mankind.  Christian workers are affected as well, for the good news of the gospel has been replaced with a formula that is fatalistic, logically reducing the efforts of the church for the evangelization of the world to little more than posturing.  All that work is to be done, it seems, to glorify God through obedience, but not really for any actual effect on the eternal destiny of others.  Here is the bottom line: if any effort of individual believers or the church can be said to the slightest degree to have any bearing whatever on the outcome in an individual’s response to God, then the whole system of thought erected to protect the sovereignty of God comes crashing down.  It seems to me therefore that to be a Calvinist one is forced to live in a “pretend” world.  You must pretend that your efforts actually make a difference, and you must pretend (at least in front of others) that everybody has a chance to be saved.  The whole system is so unnecessary, and so unnecessarily complicated, that I wonder why it has gained as much acceptance as it has. No doubt the attraction is “the security of the believer.” But that is a topic for another time.

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You Need a TSP

your pastor left

 

You Need a TSP.

We’re not talking here about Trisodium Phosphate, Telecommunications Service Provider, or a Touch Screen Panel.

We’re actually talking about a Transitional Senior Pastor.

The following article by my friend Dr. Mark Platt has helped shape my ministry with Poimen Ministries (www.poimenministries.com).

Since I left Calvary Chapel Monterey Bay in 2006, I have been directly or partially involved in this sort of role in four different churches. I have discovered that it’s a hugely important and often unrealized ministry that could save the lives of many churches, and propel them on to greater fruitfulness in God’s kingdom. Other men working alongside of me with Poimen Ministries have done the same thing, with the same outcomes. Glory to God!

After my current TSP role is completed in American Canyon, my wife and I remain open to doing it again (and possibly again and again) in years to come. I love the ongoing blessing of seeing these churches grow and do well after I leave. (Finally! We got rid of the bum!” — LOL)

My hope is that the concepts in Mark Platt’s article will spread to many places. The church needs organic leadership like a TSP can provide.

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You Need a TSP!

by Dr. Mark Platt 

A few years ago, I met with the chairman of a church where the long-term pastor had just announced that he was leaving. I began to explain to him how important it would be to hire a TSP (transitional senior pastor). This man who was a very successful businessman interrupted me in about my second sentence.  Confidently, he told me “we got it covered!” As a denominational worker, I thought I should explain the wisdom of a TSP to him so I tried again. But he interrupted me again: “Our church is different. You don’t understand!” As I left, I politely told him that if they needed any help I would be happy to help.

In the months that followed, it became clear that they didn’t have it covered. They tried get a permanent pastor within a month of the long-term pastor’s leaving.  The church voted him down. Then they quickly put one of the associates in as the “interim.”  It turned out that he wanted the job but didn’t have enough votes. Some people wanted him and others didn’t, which divided the church. When the interim was done, the church had lost people, lost money for missionaries, and lost a lot more.

Sadly, many churches think just like this man. They think they can just jam a new pastor in right away. Others think all they need is pulpit supply so they recruit a parade of para-church people, retired pastors, and seminary professors in to preach. Then they put an associate in charge of the staff as the “interim” and share the pastoral duties among the staff. Sometimes churches bring in a person who went to seminary but either has been an unsuccessful pastor or never been a pastor. This can be a disaster as the church declines. Once in awhile, churches get someone who is a stealth candidate who gets the inside track on a job that he should not have. The worst scenario is making one of the associates the TSP because this divides the church or insures that the associate will not be able to stay. While these plans might work occasionally and might save the almighty dollar, they are, at the least, ineffective and at worse, do great damage to churches.

After watching some transition tragedies as well as some glorious successes with TSPs for many years now, I have become convinced that churches need to hire a “transitional senior pastor,” (a TSP). In fact, when God led me to leave my denominational post after twenty-six years, He called me to help churches as a transitional senior pastor. I have seen first-hand how a TSP can greatly help churches in the interim time after a lead pastor leaves and until the new permanent pastor arrives.

I call this the work of a “transitional senior pastor.” I use this term and not the old name “interim” on purpose. I think “interim” connotes someone in-between who hold things together and marks time until a new permanent pastor arrives. After years of watching this from a very close vantage point, I can see how a church can either go through the interim time or they can grow through it. That is the difference between whether a church gets an interim or intentionally chooses to get a TSP.

A TSP has all the authority and responsibilities of a senior pastor: teaching the Bible. persuading people to live God’s way, loving, caring, leading, building unity, serving, helping the church reach out to their community with God’s love, mentoring leaders, guiding staff, diagnosing and treating problems, organizing, and getting a church ready for a new pastor. A TSP is part-foster parent, part-coach, part-teddy bear, part-warrior, part designated hitter, part-peacemaker, part-mentor, and a few more things.

When a senior pastor leaves, every church needs a TSP. I know I sound pretty bold and emphatic about this TSP thing. But I have seen enough to be convinced. When your church is without a pastor, you need a TSP! Here are 10 reasons why:

1. A TSP can be a stabilizing force. When a pastor leaves, some people in a church will see this as the time to go church shopping. Vision is very fragile and can dissipate very quickly in the interim time. A TSP can prevent drift and decline. If there is a parade of pulpit supply and no leader, the church will lose people. Seeing the same face in the pulpit gives continuity and comfort to a congregation. In my denominational work, Pastor Glennon Culwell did 14 TSP assignments for us. Several of these churches told me about the steadiness and stability that this veteran brought to their church. If you pick a good TSP, it will quiet the folks down who want a quick pulpit search and a shotgun wedding so the church can make a prayerful and methodical search that will honor God.

2. A TSP can deal with deferred maintenance. Every pastor has a style and a way of doing things. Pastors only have enough time, energy and political capital to deal with certain things. And just like a typical homeowner, most of us can’t see the things that need to be fixed. A good TSP will have “fresh eyes” to see the things that need to be fixed. The Apostle Paul told a TSP named Titus (1:5): “straighten out what was left unfinished.” If a TSP is doing his job, he can marshal the forces to move and improve the neglected ministries of the church.

3. A TSP can minimize conflict. A vacancy in the office of the senior pastor is one of the times when churches often fall into conflict. Frequently, there has been some element of conflict or disagreement as a pastor leaves. Conflicts often center on music, staff, budget, vision, and other issues. These days there are often diverse theological views in churches. The permanent senior pastor may have been the boy in the dike holding back warring factions. So, when the pastor leaves, these opposing points of view often think it is time to get their way. A transitional senior pastor can be the traffic cop who guides the church through this peril.

4. A TSP can preserve the power of the senior pastor. Whenever a senior pastor leaves, lay people, staff, the church board, and others will instinctively work to fill the void left by the departing pastor. This is very dangerous because these same folks will guard their new turf and can prevent a new permanent pastor from leading. That is why it is important to put a TSP in place almost immediately. A good TSP will keep and strengthen the power of the senior pastor. A good TSP will fill the leadership vacuum until the new pastor arrives. This is vital because strong pastoral leadership is a key element in a church’s health and growth. Proverbs 29:2 says: “When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order”.

5. A TSP can get the church acclimated to change. When a pastor leads a church for a long time, a church gets accustomed to doing things the certain way. This can be disastrous because every pastor is different. We want pastors to be themselves and be led of the Holy Spirit. So the job of a TSP is to prepare the church for change by making changes so the new permanent pastor can lead in the way God has wired him. If the TSP has made some changes, the new pastor can make needed changes easier.

6. A TSP can deal with hard and dangerous issues. He can be the one who takes the blame. There might be incompetent or disloyal staff members that need to be dismissed.  Quite often, the former pastor did not have the political capital to deal with who those who need to go. Since the TSP is there for a short time, it gives him the freedom and even courage that the permanent pastor might not have. A good TSP should have a thick enough skin to deal with systemic and persistent issues of the transitional church so the new pastor won’t have to. This is a crucial ministry a TSP can perform.

7. A TSP can help the search committee. Most people on search committees know precious little about how a church grows, how pastors think and lead, or how to conduct a God-honoring pulpit search. In fact, my experience is that most search committee members have never been on a search committee before. A good TSP will be able to guide them with the mechanics and intricacies of a pulpit search. He can point out the dangers and save them from making tragic mistakes. He can show them how to do background research, due diligence, a congregational survey, demographics, and develop a profile of the pastor that might fit. Many TSPs are well-connected to sources of potential candidates in ways that most search committees are not.

8. A TSP can help them in the grieving process. Grief is often the result of the exit of a long-term pastor or an adulterous pastor. It is vital to make time for healing within the congregation and to put the service of the former pastor in perspective. There must be a time of letting go of the former pastor and for discarding old expectations, wounds, patterns, and baggage of the past. Only when the congregation has let go of the former pastor can a new pastor be fully accepted. If this period is rushed or neglected, the new pastor will be viewed as an intruder and an interloper so that the new pastor will not last.

9. A TSP can help the permanent pastor succeed. I will never forget hearing Lyle Schaller speak at a seminar for denominational executives. This wise consultant to churches said: “Churches need to have an intentional interim pastor. If they don’t they will have an unintentional interim pastor (the Biblical term is ‘sacrificial lamb’).” A TSP can be the buffer after a beloved pastor leaves and whose legacy no one can match.  Recently, Chris Collingsworth became the successor to John Madden, the legendary sportscaster who is retiring from Monday Night Football. Collingsworth said something like this: “it’s better to be the person who follows the person who follows the legend, rather than be the person who follows the legend.” A TSP can follow the legend so the new pastor won’t have to and that is critical in the succession process of a church.

10. A TSP can save the church money. I have watched churches try to “go on the cheap” with their transitions and end up paying dearly when 20% or more of their people leave and their tithes with them. Other transition plans may work occasionally and may save a few bucks. But in the long run, not hiring a TSP can be very costly. A veteran TSP can help preserve the church. When Dr. Roy Kraft retired from Twin Lakes Church in Santa Cruz, California after 43 years, he was asked to help Arcade Church in Sacramento in their transition after Dr. Lee Toms retired. Dr. Kraft led Arcade for over a year. This church did well with Pastor Toms but it grew and flourished with Dr. Kraft as the TSP.  New believers and new members who began to support Arcade’s budget were the by-products of his TSP ministry. A good TSP will pay for himself and will help the church honor God!

What should you look for in a TSP? Now, a TSP is not a miracle-worker. He will need your prayers, your support, your alliances, your cooperation, and your willingness to follow his leadership. If you pick a godly and gifted TSP, it will greatly benefit your church in transition. So, pick someone who will not allow himself to be considered for your permanent pastor. Pick a veteran who has been a pastor with distinction. Pick someone who promises to be with your church the entire time until the new pastor arrives. Pick someone who can build on the church’s strengths and fix some of the church’s weaknesses. Pick someone who is seeing his ministry as a calling from God to help church through transitions. If you do these things, I believe God will move your church toward growth and blessing as you honor God.

If I have convinced you that you need a TSP, The Goehner Group is a great resource for finding a good TSP to help your church or para-church organization to navigate through your transition. Call them. My last church used The Goehner Group in their pulpit search with great results and satisfaction. I pray that God will help your church in honoring God in your transition.

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mark-platt-picDr. Mark Platt is a graduate of Lincoln High School in Seattle and Shoreline College. For 26 years, Mark worked for a denomination helping churches grow, pastoring pastors, and leading a new church ministry. Now Mark helps churches in the interim time between permanent pastors. Mark’s passion is honoring God and helping people know Him personally. Mark is a graduate of California State University in Fresno and Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He earned a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. For many years, Mark was an adjunct professor at Western Seminary, Bay Area campus. Mark and Margaret like to travel, hike, and drive the back roads. Margaret teaches high school in Cupertino, California.

looking forward

Looking Forward…

The New Year.

New years are a gift from God. They allow us to separate one section of life from another.

In that separation, we evaluate what has been, and we anticipate what may be. We also put behind us that which we cannot change, while remembering acts of God’s faithfulness that made the year what it was. There is significant spiritual and emotional benefit that comes from such reflection. As we have walked with the Lord in faith, we will have grown in appreciation of the ways of God, and in love with His unchanging character.

New years also give us a very welcome and predictable new start. I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but I always am glad for the hope and anticipation that each new year brings. Personal change can and will occur. Opportunities to significantly serve the Lord do and will arise. Our ultimate salvation will be nearer for us than when we first believed.

New years also remind me that life, in essence, is daily. I often think of the Lord Jesus, sent by His Father on a mission which lasted 33 years. The overall plan was clear to Him … the Father had prepared a body for Him, a body of complete sacrifice. He would live sinlessly, be the Anointed One, would suffer and die; and then rise out of death into life. He would ascend back to His Father in heaven. All that was clear. The day to day plan was communicated to Him in times of communion with the Father, according to Isaiah 50:4. For Jesus, life was daily. Life is also daily for us … Matthew 6:34.

I could not have predicted most of the events of 2012 on December 31, 2011. Neither will be able to predict most of the events of 2013. But that is no worry, the Lord knows the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Jesus has called us to a life of trust, a life of faith. He has called us to believe what we believe.

I have no New Year’s resolution, but there are two things I would love to see happen in my life in 2013. I want to pray more than in 2012.

I also want to drink more water.

Blessed New Year to each of you. May God bless us all, every one.

Battle-exposed servicemen receive it, why not missionaries?

My final post of 2012 will be brief, very brief.

In fact, as you’ll see, it is actually the posting of one long, complicated question that I am personally trying to find an answer to as the new year begins and I continue in my efforts to encourage and equip the leaders and the members of local churches to care for their own members who serve as missionaries.

If the government of the U.S. and a large segment of the U.S. population have begun to take seriously the need to provide specialized attention and care for service men and women who have served in battle, (and no one seems to disagree, including pastors and leaders of local churches), then why don’t those same pastors, leaders, and church members recognize that their fellow church members who have gone to live and serve in various places around the globe and have been engaged in the battle for the souls of men and women, might also need some special attention and care?

Answers are welcome and will be taken very seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bagging on a “Para-church organization”? Don’t make me “Go Mordecai” on you!

Rant warning…..rant warning……rant warning…..rant warning…..rant warning…..

The next time I see a pastor raise his eyebrows or roll his eyes or cock his head and then with a smirk say something like, “that’s a PARA-CHURCH-ORGANIZATION”, with disdain in his voice, I’m not sure I’ll be able to restrain myself from going “Mordecai” on him.

So in order to restrain myself, I want to “Go Mordecai” in this post and get it out of my system.

First, my guess is that compared to most pastors, I spend a large portion of my time swimming in the sea that is dominated by Para-church Organizations, (PCO’s).  By and large, the vast majority of what’s taking place in the missions world is being accomplished by PCO’s.  And not just the missions world, but also the campus ministry world, the prison ministry world, the bible translation world, and so forth.

When I went into pastoring full-time more than 27 years ago, I didn’t really know what a PCO was.  But it wasn’t long before I began hearing what other pastors thought about PCO’s.  And honestly, very little, if any of those opinions were positive.

When I asked some of the pastor-friends why they seemed to be so critical of these obviously God-used entities, I was told things like this:

1.  PCO’s aren’t really biblical.

2. PCO’s exist to exploit local churches for their people, their money, and their connections.

3.  PCO’s divert church member’s attention, loyalty, time, and gifts away from the ministries of local churches.

4.  PCO’s are too agressive about marketing their vision and raising the funds that enable them to accomplish their vision.

5.  PCO’s say they encourage their workers to be a healthy part of a local church, but then operate in ways that actually undermine the very ingredients necessary to be a healthy part of a local church.

And you know what?

Over the years, I’ve learned that many of those criticisms, in many cases, are actually somewhat accurate.

But the reality is this:  PCO’s exist and are doing amazing things.  And God is not just tolerating their existence or  begrudgingly permitting them to do what they do.

He’s blessing them and the work they do in amazing ways–almost as if He Himself had something to do with their actual creation.

He did.

I believe He did so for many reasons, but at least one of those reasons comes from what He revealed about Himself in the book of Esther.

If you’re one of those pastors or church leaders or whoever, that believes God’s plans and purposes in this world would be better served by PCO’s making an exit from this world, I will now “Go Mordecai” on you by sharing some of my observations from the book of Esther:

God had sovereignly placed her in a strategic position in the midst of an unGodly environment…..kind of like the church.

And yet in the midst of the unGodliness, the Lord blessed her with incredible privilege and a degree of power and access to resources that few others in the kingdom possessed….kind of like the church.

But God had a specific purpose for her being there.  His plan and purpose was not just to bless her and make sure her needs were met.  She was there for a purpose larger than her own interests.

Eventually, God used a pressing, life or death type situation in the lives of others,  and her uncle Mordecai’s wise perspective on the whole situation, to unveil His invitation to her to now become part of that larger purpose that He had always had for her.

Here’s what Mordecai, outside the palace, told Esther, inside the privilege of the palace, by way of Hathach, a Eunuch that the King has assigned to her as her servant:

Esther 4:13,14  And Mordecai told them to answer Esther:  “Do no think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews.  For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Here’s what bugging me:

1.  The church, comprised of those who are His people, who have been “saved”, especially in America, is an incredibly privileged position and possesses an incredible amount of resources.  Those resources are amazingly diverse, (money, business expertise, vocational expertise, educational expertise, life-experience expertise, family-raising expertise, medical/dental expertise, and so forth).

2.  We have His Word and we know that His desire is for all men to be saved, (1 Tim 2:4).

3.  We know that Jesus commissioned His church to GO and to make disciples from among all of the ethnic groups that He has created and scattered around the world (Matt 28:18-20, Act 17:26).

4.  And we know that He will accomplish His “end game” and that He WILL receive worship from every ethnic group that He has created, (Rev. 5:9, 7:9,10).

I don’t believe that I’m stretching it when I say that Esther and local churches today have some sobering things in common:

–Both are in a privileged position, even in the midst of ungodliness–in a sense, living the “palace life” while the majority of the rest of the occupants of the world, including other people of God, are struggling to find food and clean water on a day to day basis.

–Both have daily access to incredible resources that few others could ever dream of.

–Both have all of this BY GOD’S DESIGN.

–Both have been given an opportunity by God to be an integral part of the “relief and deliverance” that He is going to accomplish for His people, (those that know Him already AND those that are His even though they haven’t heard the gospel yet, whose deaths are imminent).  See Acts 18:10

–Both need to know that they have been placed in the privileged position they occupy for “such a time as this”.

–Both need to know that He will accomplish that “relief and deliverance” through other people that do recognize and seize the opportunity He has placed before them to be part of this amazing work that He is going to do.

–And both need to recognize that there are serious consequences for NOT participating–their own imminent deaths.

I believe that God meant what He said when He told Esther that He’d bring relief and deliverance for His people from some other place.

We don’t know what that other “place” that God would have used actually was because Esther, after seeking prayer and knowing the risk to her own life, actually seized the opportunity.

But we do know what God used–that “relief and deliverance from another place”, when the leadership of many of His local churches balked at getting on board with His plans and purposes.

He created PCO’s.

It reminds me of Acts 8:1,4

Those that knew Him the best and were the most equipped and that heard from His own lips the commission to take the gospel to the whole world, couldn’t be budged, even by persecution, from the comfy confines of the area around Jerusalem.

So what did God do?  He used others, probably brand new believers to take and preach the gospel across geographic and cultural boundaries.

With all of the above as the back drop, here’s what I’ve observed:

Leaders of churches tend to be overly critical of the very things that God has brought into existence because those leaders  haven’t taken seriously the things that God says His people should be interested in and participating in.

I spend a large majority of my time trying to help pastors and church leaders see the importance and the value of being an integral part of God’s heart for the world that He has so clearly revealed in His Word.

And the vast majority of them not only ignore me and the other churches and PCO’s that are participating substantially, they actually go a step further and question the need of PCO’s to even exist.

The dots don’t seem to connect for many of those who have this attitude.

The reality is that PCO’s obtain a portion of their reason for existence because of the unwillingness of local church leaders to seize the opportunity that they and their churches were created for.

Like Esther, they are in the position they’re in “for such a time as this”.  But they don’t recognize it.

Instead of bagging on PCO’s, maybe they should follow Esther’s lead and pray diligently and then take a risk that might cost them their very lives as they mobilize their resources for those that God is going to deliver with or without them around the world.

Ahhhh, I feel so much better.  I’m now one more step away from having to “Go Mordecai” on a fellow pastor or church leader.  :–)

 

 

 

 

 

 

codex

Maintaining A Vibrant Faith At Seminary


God has graciously provided for me to attend seminary part-time. We’ve already had a little banter on Cross Connection about the ‘semantic range’ of the word seminary, specifically whether or not cemetery is in the gloss. All humour aside, a relevant issue is keeping your faith vibrant in seminary. This statement does not imply that seminary kills our faith. I want to get a little more personal. My wicked heart is what kills my faith. The question of how we maintain a vibrant faith is valid for all areas, but I want to zoom in on the unique environment of seminary. Here are some things that I do to keep my faith not only alive, but flourishing in an academic environment.

1.) Remember that it is the Word of God that you are studying. Remind yourself that you are not performing an autopsy, but rather discovering life. This is not a dead word that is being dissected, but rather a Living Word to be applied. A danger for any student (seminary or otherwise) is to approach God’s Word as a mere text. If you put latex gloves on your heart so as not to be affected by the content of your study, then you’re detaching yourself from God’s Word. You need to remember (and be reminded) that this is the Word of God.

2.) Don’t let God fall into the 3rd person. Watch and make sure that your conversation doesn’t become consumed with speaking about God, but remember that you speak to him. Prayer needs to be part of your theological study. We study to learn more about God IN ORDER TO know Him. If my conversation stops at the third person and it never moves into my personal fellowship with God; faith gets divorced from theology.

3.) Pursue humility. Guard your heart against thinking certain things are below you. Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but it is also extremely dangerous. Be sure that you are still willing to serve people and love people where they are at. What you learn is NOT for the purpose of impressing people. If you find that you are unable to listen to a sermon from someone who doesn’t know what a hortatory subjunctive is or who cannot pronounce pericope, then you are in danger! Even more, if Joe Christian is too simple for you to fellowship with, then knowledge has puffed you up and you have begun to view your acceptance before God on the basis of works of an intellectual nature, rather than grace. Pride is how the devil fell… not a very good role model.

4.) Repent of sin. If what you are learning is not sanctifying you, then you are hardening your heart. How do you know if you are learning? You are repenting of sin. If your study causes you to see the shortcomings of others (academically or theologically), instead of your own personal need of a Saviour, your faith will become head faith without heart.

5.) Eat! A chef can be in the kitchen all day cooking. A farmer can be handling fruit from dawn to dusk. This doesn’t mean they are eating. Your own soul needs God’s word. Read the Bible for yourself, not just for your syllabus.

A great book for those who are considering seminary, Bible college, or any other intense regime of study is by Helmut Thielicke, and Charles Taylor called A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978).

One last thought, if you are looking to pick a seminary, pick one where the teaching faculty are committed Christians holding to the faith once delivered to the saints.

fruit

Missionary, you’re chosen to go, bear fruit, and ask!

Just hours before His arrest and brutal death, Jesus shared some final thoughts with His closest followers. One of the sentences that He spoke to His apostles contains applicable truth that every missionary needs to have spoken to them on a regular basis.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

– John 15:16

Jesus had gathered His apostles in an upper room to celebrate the passover meal. He knew that in a few hours He would be arrested, given a trial that was a complete mockery of justice, beaten severely, and then crucified. Because He knew these things would be happening, He used their final meal together to reconfirm some of the truths He had already taught them, along with teaching them new truths that they were hearing for the very first time.

And even though He had already shared with them at different times and in different ways what was about to happen, what actually unfolded over the next few hours and days caught the apostles and most of His other disciples completely by surprise.

Although everything that He spoke to them during the meal was important, I would like to zero in on what I believe are crucial truths that every missionary should not only understand but also internalize and then be encouraged by.

(And I’d like to challenge you to insert your name every time you see the word “missionary” below, as if you and I were face to face over a cup of coffee or tea or a big glass of lemonade, and I was taking you personally through these life and ministry transforming truths.)

FIRST–Missionary, understand the reality that you did not choose Him. Oh you did make a choice but that choice was only in response to having already been chosen by Him. You have been chosen by your Creator and Redeemer to be in a real, personal, and interactive relationship with Him.

SECOND–Missionary, He not only chose you, but He appointed you, He assigned you, He SET you apart so that you should GO! You were chosen to GO! And you actually went. Be encouraged, this is no small thing. Your obedience to His appointment of you TO GO is a huge proclamation of His worth and value–He has been glorified through you.

THIRD–Missionary, be confident that you were not only chosen and appointed to go, (which you’ve obediently done), but that you are also bearing fruit. The fruit that your obedience is enabling to happen is diverse. For example, the Godliness of your attitude in different situations has increased, your righteous behavior is expressing itself in new and God-glorifying ways, and you have played a significant role in others coming to know and love Jesus.

FOURTH–Missionary, contrary to what you’ve experienced or what you might be feeling, trust Jesus when He tells you that your fruit will remain! The fruit that He has produced in you and through you because of His choosing and appointing you go, and your willingness to obey, will endure the test of time. Your efforts have borne fruit in time that will continue on into eternity.

FIFTH–Missionary, take seriously the final instruction that Jesus gives to you in this verse. Because all of what He just said is true, and because you have taken Him at His word and have moved forward and are living as if it’s true, then be assured that whatever you ask the Father in Jesus name, the Father will give you.

Join with me in amazement at the reality that Jesus encourages you to ask the Father “whatever” you desire and to ask it in His name.

Apparently, He has seen enough of Himself in your life and through your obedience to Him and His calling on your life, to trust you with bringing “whatever” is on your heart to the Father, and to bring it IN HIS NAME.

Please don’t hesitate to take advantage of His trust in you. Go ahead and ask the Father “whatever” Jesus has placed upon your heart and ask it in Jesus name.