Five Healthy Meals for a Church Planter

“Five Healthy Meals for a Church Planter”

By Ed Compean

Consider the meal. The second statement God made to humanity was about food. Eating was an element in the fall of humanity. Food is was made an Intrigal part of the Passover and Levitical offerings. Jesus dined with sinners, provided thousands of meals and instituted His New Covenant with a supper. We all eagerly await another supper with Him.

 

Food is fellowship and an important part of church planting. This is played out in numerous ways, but there are at least five healthy meals church planters should partake of.

 

Community Leaders

Once a core group is established and discipleship is happening, make appointments to break bread with the mayor, high school principal and other civic leaders. You will be surprised how many will be willing to at least meet for coffee. Share the vision of the church plant, ask how you can serve the community and be sure to ask how you can pray for them personally.

 

View this meeting is similar to getting an annual physical from your doctor. You may not have anything wrong, but when there is a need you already have an established relationship. When a civic leader is looking for spiritual leaders, they will already know you.

 

Other Pastors

Unless you are working among an unreached people group, most communities have some type of pastoral alliance or fellowship. If possible, seek them out and eat together.

 

These men, and sometimes women, will not all have the same philosophy of ministry as you. That’s okay because the suggestion is not to partner in ministry as much as join in prayer for your community. These people will have incredibly valuable insight into the spiritual strongholds and challenges of your community.

 

Leaders in the Church Plant

Beginning as soon as possible and continuing as often as possible, share meals in homes with the church leaders. Don’t eat out or meet at coffee houses, but make it a point to break bread in homes.

 

A restaurant is a missed opportunity for true fellowship that is usually only found in a home setting. Being in a potential leader’s home allows interaction and observation family dynamics which will never happen in a restaurant.

 

The Church

Two goals are being reached in having food and beverages after every church gathering. The first is creating an entry point for people to exercise their spiritual gifts as they serve others in hospitality.

 

The second goal is a simple pause. As people pause to enjoy a coffee or baked good, you and other leaders have an opportunity to engage them before they get into their vehicles. It’s a time people can share a moment and hopefully plan for more time together.

 

Jesus

As often as the church plant takes communion they join together to remember the importance of our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. As soon as the first baptisms are held and the church is formalized, it is time to eat of the Lord’s Table on a regular basis.

 

It’s important for the church plant to early on understand the language of 1 Corinthians 11 explains the communion meal is to be taken together. It will not only unite the body together with each other, but with Christians around the world and, of course, with Jesus Christ.

 

Digest

Psalm 34 tells us to taste and see the Lord is good. The post resurrection appearances of Jesus always included meals. At the birth of the church they broke bread from house to house. It follows that eating together is strategic in establishing of fellowship and worshiping communities.

 

 

You are Transitional

You are Transitional

By Ed Compean

A church planter can be overwhelmed with developing a core team, meeting with people and raising volunteers. These immediate based commitments, and numerous others, can make it difficult for a church planting pastor to even consider  who will follow him in the pastorate.

 

My experience until now has been planting churches and helping others plant churches. While the progress sometimes felt glacial, the focus had been to establish, raise up and turn over. In a series of events which can only be described as God’s sovereignty, things have changed. As of six weeks ago, I am the new pastor of a well functioning, almost 25-year-old church full of wonderful people and rich history. It is from this experience I hope to make three points for the planter to consider for the benefit of the church and the next pastor.

 

You Are Transitional 

A few days into my new pastorate,  a man wept deeply in my living room, not in a counseling session or in a time of confession. Instead, he was deeply moved to sobbing tears because the Lord had brought a new pastor to his church. His joy was not for me specifically, it was joy for God’s faithfulness to bring an under-shepherd for the church he loved.

 

Church Planters would do well to encourage the people of the church to care for the church with a view touching  eternity. Bill Holdridge with Poimen Ministries was instrumental in the pastor search and in my transition into the new church. He explained the importance of the long-term view by telling me, “We are all transitional pastors, there will be another.”

 

Church planters will do well to encourage people to love the Head of the church, honor His bride and appropriately respect the office of pastor. Of course there will be a generation in which there is no transition, but until Jesus returns, one day we will all be replaced. It is best to pray and plan from the beginning.

 

You need to Communicate 

The previous pastor had done an excellent job of preparing the church for transition. He had similarly done an excellent job in helping me understand how the church was functioning and how the small staff was operating. The assistant pastor was completely supportive and provided a great sense of continuity. We all knew sheep could be restless in the transition, so effort was made to communicate as much as possible.

 

Before final decisions were made my wife and I met and broke bread with the elders for a time of testimony and dialogue. Similarly, the outgoing pastor arranged for time with key staff members where many questions were asked of all. All the church volunteers were invited to a luncheon where we again gave our testimonies and answered questions.

 

To keep the church updated, the elders asked me to preach and after each service opened the church up to questions for my wife and I. While the final decision was made by the elders, it was an opportunity to communicate to the body. It allowed inquiring, involvement and investment by the body as well as to the body. In the weeks since becoming the lead pastor, several people have mentioned how they felt they understood the process and appreciated not being left out.

 

It Is Not About You

The verses the Lord gave me for the transition is Psalm 23:1-2.

 

The Lord is my shepherd;

     I shall not want.

     He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

     He leads me beside the still waters.

 

Though my wife and I are making another radical change in our lives, these well known words are not for us. They are for the Lord’s sheep in His pasture.

 

There was strong agreement that the former pastor and his family were called to a new work, but there is also strong grieving as a dear part of this community of believers is missed.

 

Even if his leaving had been from disqualification or division, as the new pastor I would want to honor and help the grieving of the sheep. They hurt, and that is okay. Grieving is good and honoring of the relationship. The better the grieving, the sooner the sheep are lying down in the Lord’s pastures and drinking of His waters. Their missing of the former pastor has nothing to do with how they view me as the new pastor. It has everything to do with missing a friend. You want to minister to and with people who feel the depth of relationships.

 

Pray and Prepare

Praying for and preparing the church for the eventual transition to the next pastor should be on the minds of all church planters. Some will transition soon, like the apostle Paul, others after many decades, like Pastor Chuck Smith. In either case, until Jesus returns, we are all transitional and should pray and prepare for the inevitable.

 

Finally, let me take a moment more to make another callout to Poimen and Bill Holdridge. They are a great wealth of information for the times a church planter moves on to do what church planters do.


Ed Compean is a former church planter in Kenya and the current lead pastor at Shoreline Calvary in Morro Bay, CA.

Four Reasons to Love God and Your Neighbor

Four Reasons to Love God and Your Neighbor

By PB

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

People are generally likely to appreciate the connection between loving God and loving their neighbors [Matt. 22:37-40]. Yet, most of us would have to agree that we tend to focus on one element to the neglect of the other. Those who appreciate the importance of social justice are likely to emphasize the “love your neighbor” aspect. Those who recognize the importance of sound doctrine tend to lean towards the “love God” command. In Jesus’ words, everything God had said up to this point (the Prophets) and every command God had ever given (the Law) hung on these two things: love God and love your neighbor.

Here are four reasons why we are to love God and love our neighbor:

  1. The Great Commandment: We are to love God supremely, because this is the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” [Matt. 22:37-38, Deut. 6:4]. The critical work that reflects love for God is faith in Christ, “This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He sent” [Jn. 6:29]. We are frequently reminded in the church that our faith in Christ is manifest by an attitude of dependence upon Him, and actions of obedience to Him. Similarly, we are focused on certain behaviors and spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, prayer, worship, serving, tithing, sharing your faith, and being involved in a small group. In essence, the implied message is, “Do these things and you demonstrate that you love God.” While these are undoubtedly good attitudes and behaviors, they may unintentionally neglect what Jesus pointed to – love your neighbor. Nevertheless, you will not do what He has called you to do unless you love God.
  1. God inspires love: The idea of loving God solely out of duty (commandment) doesn’t seem to inspire. Similarly, God’s divine attributes should inspire worship, reverence, and awe. We marvel that God is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, and able to create from nothing. But worship, reverence, and awe are distinct from love. I would suggest that God’s attributes alone do not inspire love. I believe (apparently along with the Apostle John) that our love for Him is inspired by His love for us, We love Him because He first loved us [1Jn. 4:19]. His love is certainly demonstrated in a host of ways, but the most compelling is the cross [Jn. 3:16, Rom. 5:8]. This is the pinnacle of love. Never before, and never since has such love been displayed. God gave His only Son to experience His wrath on our behalf, even while we were in rebellion to Him, so that we could be reconciled to Him. This completely sacrificial, unconditional, and incomprehensible display sets the bar so amazingly high. It not only assures me that God is worthy of my love, but provides the only true litmus test to measure what I might describe as love. If I want to know whether an attitude or behavior is “love” then the standard to measure against is revealed by God. Because God is worthy of my love, and has inspired love, I’m compelled to contemplate, “God how can I love you better today?”
  1. Loving my neighbor proves my love for God: Jesus revealed the second greatest commandment, “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Matt. 22:39, Lev.19:18]. The lawyer asked Jesus, which was the greatest commandment (i.e. singular). Yet, Jesus volunteers the second. Jesus reveals that these two commandments are so united that they cannot be separated. Furthermore, we are to demonstrate agape love to God and to our neighbor. It is my love for my neighbor and others that proves that I am His disciple [Jn. 13:35]. The connection between loving Godand my neighbor is so clear and simple that it is humbling to honestly consider the implications. I confess that I am often too busy to befriend and build relationships where I live, work (or go to school), and play. I’m alarmed by the thought that a life filled with activity that is actually seeking to advance God’s kingdom can demonstrate love for God in the absence of love for my neighbors. How humbling it is to consider that we can be so busy doing our religious activity that we have no time to love neighbors. Because my neighbor is worthy of my love, and loving my neighbor proves my love for God, I’m compelled to contemplate, “How can I love my neighbor better today?”
  1. Loving my neighbor reveals God’s love to others: We should consider loving our neighbors where we live, work (or go to school) or play. Many of us who declare our devotion to Christ would humbly confess how poorly we love our neighbors. We may not even know their names. We are unlikely to know much if anything about their life, marriage, or family. We probably haven’t discovered their challenges or rejoicings. A neighbor is not a project. Certainly we want to see all come to faith in Christ, but when we make that the objective then our neighbor feels exploited by our overtures. They are likely to feel like a cog in our program. Loving your neighbor is not a program, but an attempt to reveal God’s unprecedented love. The display of God’s love through human instruments is often a bridge to revealing Jesus and His gospel. But that work, as inspired by His Spirit, will likely hinge more and more in a post-Christian culture upon loving our neighbors.

Here are some simple ideas to help us love our neighbors better:

  1. Simplify church life and life generally to create margin to spend time with neighbors where you live, work (or go to school), and play.
  2. Befriend and build relationships with neighbors by asking, “How are you doing?”
  3. When your neighbor is struggling ask, “Can I pray with (for) you?”
  4. Ask, “How can I help?” If the request is reasonable and you are able then seek to help.

What ways have you discovered to love your neighbors?

What We Believe About Systematic Theology – Part One

What We Believe About Systematic Theology – Part One

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page 

1. What is a Dispensational system of theology? We follow a dispensational system of theology, which is contrast below with the reform or covenant system. Dispensationalism is a system of theology that has a consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, especially Bible prophecy, and a distinction between Israel and the church in God’s program. Dispensationalists claim that their principle of hermeneutics is that of literal interpretation, which means giving each word the meaning it would commonly have in everyday usage. Symbols, figures of speech and types are all interpreted plainly in this method, and this is in no way contrary to literal interpretation. Even symbols and figurative sayings have literal meanings behind them. There are at least three reasons why this is the best way to view Scripture. First, philosophically, the purpose of language itself seems to require that we interpret it literally. Language was given by God for the purpose of being able to communicate with man. The second reason is biblical. Every prophecy about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament was fulfilled literally. Jesus’ birth, Jesus’ ministry, Jesus’ death, and Jesus’ resurrection all occurred exactly and literally as the Old Testament predicted. There is no non-literal fulfillment of these prophecies in the New Testament. This argues strongly for the literal method. Third, if literal interpretation is not used in studying the Scriptures, there is no objective standard by which to understand the Bible. Each and every person would be able to interpret the Bible as he saw fit. Biblical interpretation would devolve into “what this passage says to me…” instead of “the Bible says…” Sadly, this is already the case in much of what is called biblical interpretation today.

Dispensational theology teaches that there are two distinct peoples of God: Israel and the church. Dispensationalists believe that salvation has always been by faith—in God in the Old Testament and specifically in God the Son in the New Testament. Dispensationalists hold that the church has not replaced Israel in God’s program and the Old Testament promises to Israel have not been transferred to the church. They believe that the promises God made to Israel (for land, many descendants, and blessings) in the Old Testament will be ultimately fulfilled in the 1000-year period spoken of in Revelation chapter 20. Dispensationalists believe that just as God is in this age focusing His attention on the church, He will again in the future focus His attention on Israel (Romans 9-11).Using this system as a basis, some dispensationalists understand the Bible to be organized into seven dispensations: Innocence (Genesis 1:1–3:7), conscience (Genesis 3:8–8:22), human government (Genesis 9:1–11:32), promise (Genesis 12:1–Exodus 19:25), law (Exodus 20:1–Acts 2:4), grace (Acts 2:4–Revelation 20:3), and the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6). Again, these dispensations are not paths to salvation, but manners in which God relates to man. Dispensationalism, as a system, results in a pre-millennial interpretation of Christ’s second coming and usually a pre-tribulational interpretation of the rapture.

2. What is the difference between Covenant vs. Dispensational theology?

Dispensational theology essentially sees the Scriptures unfolding in a series of “dispensations.” A dispensation can be loosely defined as the means through which God governs his actions with man and creation. Dispensational theology views the revelation as progressive, i.e., in each dispensation, God reveals more and more of His divine plan of redemption. The thing to remember with dispensational theology is that there is a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church. They are two different people with two different destinies in God’s economy. The Church is seen as a ‘parenthesis’ between God’s dealings with national Israel. The restored kingdom promised to Israel will be fulfilled in the Millenium. Until then is the Church Age—the time of the Gentiles.

Covenant theology is effectively the polar opposite of dispensational theology. While both agree that Scripture is progressive, the overarching principle of covenant theology is the covenant. Covenant theology sees two theological covenants in Scripture—the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The covenant of works was introduced in the Garden between God and man in which God promised mankind life for obedience and judgment for disobedience. The covenant of works was re-introduced at Sinai as God promised Israel long life and blessing in the land upon on the condition of their obedience to the Mosaic covenant, but expulsion and judgment in the event of their disobedience. The covenant of grace was implemented after the fall and represents God’s unconditional covenant with man to redeem and save the elect. All of the various biblical covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and the New) are out-workings of the covenant of grace as God works His plan of redemption in human history. So where dispensational theology saw a discontinuity between the various dispensations (and in particular between the Old and the New Testaments), covenant theology sees a great deal of continuity. This is especially evident in the fact that covenant theology does not see a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church. Both entities are seen as one continuous people of God with one ultimate destiny. All of that serves as the backdrop to view new covenant theology. New covenant theology is a middle point between the two. It shares a lot in common with classic covenant theology, in particular the continuity between the Church and Israel as being one people of God. However, it also differs with covenant theology in that it does not necessarily view the Scriptures as the unfolding of redemption in a covenant of works/covenant of grace framework. Instead it sees the Scriptures in a more promise/fulfillment paradigm.

3. What is New Covenant theology?

New Covenant theology is best described as a hermeneutical principle, or an interpretative grid through which one reads and interprets the Scriptures. As a hermeneutical principle, it stands as a bridge between dispensational theologyand covenant [reform] theology. That is not to say that new covenant theology has intentionally set itself up between dispensational theology and covenant theology, but that new covenant theology shares things in common with both dispensational and covenant theology. As such, we cannot say what new covenant theology is without reference to dispensational theology or covenant theology.

By far the biggest difference between new covenant theology and covenant theology is how each views the Mosaic Law. Covenant theology sees the Law in three ways: civil, ceremonial and moral. The civil aspect of the Law was those laws in the covenant of Sinai which governed the theocratic nation of Israel while they live in the Promised Land. The ceremonial aspect of the Law governed the worship of God by Israel while in the land. Finally, the moral aspect of the Law governed the behavior of God’s people. It should be understood that the Law, in and of itself, is one cohesive whole and that the Jews did not delineate between civil, ceremonial and moral; these are just terms used to help identify the three areas of Israelite life that the Mosaic Law governed.

According to classic covenant theology, Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). He did so by satisfying all of the ceremonial, civil and moral aspects of the Law. Jesus Christ is the reality behind the shadows of the Old Testament sacrificial system and thereby fulfills the ceremonial aspect of the Law. Jesus Christ also bore the penalty our sins deserved and thereby fulfilled the civil aspect of the Law. Finally, Jesus Christ lived in full accordance with the moral aspect of the Law and fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law. Now the moral aspect of the Law represents the essence of the covenant of works. As such, it transcends the Mosaic economy. In other words, God has always required holiness from humanity. The covenant of works was not negated due to the fall, nor was it negated even though it was fulfilled in Christ. The moral aspect of the Law still stands as the standard of morality for mankind because it is reflective of God’s character, and that does not change. Therefore, covenant theology still sees the Mosaic Law (especially the Ten Commandments) as prescriptive for the Church, even though the ceremonial and civil aspects have been rendered obsolete in Christ.

New covenant theology sees the Mosaic Law as a whole and sees it all fulfilled in Christ (so far in agreement with covenant theology). However, because new covenant theology sees the Mosaic Law as a whole it also sees the moral aspect of the Mosaic Law as fulfilled in Christ and no longer applying to Christians. Instead of being under the moral aspect of the Mosaic Law as summarized in the Ten Commandments, we are under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21). The law of Christ would be those prescriptions that Christ specifically stated in the Gospels (e.g., the Sermon on the Mount). In other words, the entire Mosaic economy has been set aside in new covenant theology; it no longer applies in any way to Christians. So while new covenant theology sees a continuity between the Old and New Testaments in regards to God’s people and the way of salvation, new covenant theology draws a rather sharp line of distinction between the Old and New Testaments when it comes to the difference between the old Mosaic covenant and the new covenant mediated by Christ. The old covenant is obsolete (including the moral aspect of the Mosaic Law) and replaced by the new covenant with the law of Christ to govern its morality.


 

Pastor at Calvary Nexus, Camarillo, CA. Bruce has been an ordained pastor for over 20 years. Bruce planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, Ca. in 1996 and continues to serve as the lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books. He has previously been a trial attorney, and helps direct the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN].

How Jesus Taught

How Jesus Taught

By  Trip Kimball

Our family moved to the Visayan region of the Philippines, in the summer of 1990. I joined an existing ministry that trained pastors and leaders how to study the Bible inductively. My wife had vision to care for abandoned babies and children, which became Rainbow Village Ministries.

Although I planted and pastored a church in Southern California for twelve years prior to our move, I learned how to teach in the Philippines.

Learning to teach

I was challenged to reexamine how I taught after several months in the Philippines, while traveling and teaching seminars. How I learned to teach before wasn’t wrong, but it seemed less effective than in my pastoral experience in the US.

I stumbled into a new way to teach without any strategy for learning it. This pretty well sums up my learning style for most everything I’ve done in life, including marriage and parenting.

All I know is, the more I became engaged in the learning process, the better I learned to engage others in teaching. At the same time, I developed a passion for simplicity. The challenge was finding a way to teach in a simple way without compromising the depth of truth in God’s Word.

Little by little, I learned how to teach in a more simple, effective way. Studying and teaching through the gospels was critical to my learning process, as I saw how Jesus taught.

Jesus’ style of teaching

How did Jesus teach the crowds, His followers, and even those who opposed Him?

Yes, of course, the Holy Spirit empowered His words and enlightened the people. But even when the people and His disciples didn’t understand what Jesus taught, they marveled at it. Even those who opposed and challenged His authority had to marvel at Him (Matt 22:15-22).

So, what was it about His teaching that carried so much authority?

If we look at the greater context of Matt 7:28-29, we see Jesus taught on many subjects. It’s called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chaps. 5–7). Much of this teaching seems to be a reframing of the covenant law to its original intent. Jesus would say to the people, “You have heard… But I say to you…” (Matt 5:21, 22).

It’s a great example of what’s commonly called exposition.

Some basic observations

Two things stand out to me about Jesus’ teaching—He told a lot of stories (parables), and taught in an interactive way with His disciples.

A friend shared an article with me that sums up what I learned in the Philippines, and what I see in Jesus’ teaching.

“Jesus provoked thought so that truth could be understood and internalized.”@tkbeyond

I’ve come to value biblical storying for its simplicity and power. Two sources helped me gain this insight—a Filipino pastor whom I’ve mentored for many years, and ministries connected to the International Orality Network.

My Filipino brother is planting churches and training leaders using the training he received from Simply the Story. This pastor trains people who are well-educated and those without education.

One of his students, who is an oral learner (non-literate), pastors a church he planted in a remote mountain area. My friend trained two other leaders to be missionaries in Hong Kong. Their method of evangelism and discipleship is biblical storying. I could go on, but you get the picture (I hope).

Interactive discipleship

We gain insight to how Jesus trained His disciples within the narrative of the gospels. Sometimes He explained parables to them (Matt 13:10-17), other times He used situations and simple illustrations (Matt 18:1-6), and chided them when they lacked understanding (Mark 8:14-21).

“Jesus interacted with people, He didn’t just lecture them.”@tkbeyond

This became a major change point for me. I began to be more interactive with students, whether in a seminar, classroom, and in more informal settings. I probably learned more from my mistakes than my observations of Jesus’ way of teaching.

Several years ago, a missionary friend shared another valuable piece of my learning process. He shared on several things, but one stuck with me—how Jesus learned as a young man.

The example of young Jesus

Let’s go back to the time when Jesus was young. In Luke 2:41-52, we find Him in the temple with the Jewish teachers. They were all amazed at His understanding and answers. What does it say He was doing? He was “listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46).

“Early on we see the foundation for Jesus’ interactive style of teaching.”@tkbeyond

A few weeks ago, I shared something similar with some alumni from the Bible college I founded nearly 20 years ago. How did I do it? Interactively, of course—I asked questions! They were familiar with that, but then I shared something else.

I asked them, “How do you think I develop my questions? How do I ask questions that engage people so they will answer?”

Then I told them that I need to listen to those whom I’m teaching. I need to see if I’m connecting with them, and if they are understanding what I’m trying to explain.

It’s my responsibility as a teacher to communicate the truth so those who hear it can understand it.

Are we listening?

I have a couple of questions for pastors, leaders and teachers to consider. Are we listening to the people we are serving, or are we too busy speaking? Are we asking questions only to answer them ourselves?

These are questions I had to ask myself, and still do.

In last week’s post, I expressed the concern that something was missing in spite of all the resources available for Christians. I don’t know that it’s just one thing, but I’m concerned that inner, personal transformation is one thing that’s missing.

I believe that intentional, personal, and interactive discipleship is essential to meet this need. And, it’s how Jesus taught and discipled people.

 


 

trip_0Trip disciples and mentors in several small groups in Jacksonville and beyond. He travels within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders whenever possible.Trip has written a book, training materials, and Bible studies for leaders and missions. He posts 3 times a week– an article, short devo, and simple Bible study at Word-Strong.com

Teaching Like A Pharisee or Like Jesus

Teaching Like A Pharisee or Like Jesus

By Trip Kimball

When Jesus walked the earth during His time of public ministry, people sought Him out. They were amazed at His teaching, and likewise, by the miracles.

No placards or banners were set up to announce His coming, in fact the opposite was true. People would go out to wherever He was, whether in a town, a seashore, or a remote field—even when Jesus tried to be alone. No one persuaded them to come. They were attracted to Him.

Today, much is made of the distinction between attractional and missional ministry. Jesus was on a mission, but He also attracted people. So, what’s different today?

Real authority

People marveled at the way Jesus taught, because He taught with real authority, not like their religious leaders (Matt 7:28-29). What made the difference?

They drew from the same Scriptures, which would be our Old Testament, so it couldn’t be a Bible version issue.

What caused the crowd to see a difference between the professional teachers of their day and how Jesus taught? Was is it the miracles? Perhaps to some degree, but it was more the way He taught them.

What caused the crowd to see a difference between the professional teachers of their day and how Jesus taught?

What about us?

Yes, of course, Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, but He said we (His followers) were to teach as He did—with His authority (Matt 28:18-20). But are we?

Do people throng to mega-churches because of the authoritative style of the pastor? Certainly, many fine teachers can be found. They write books, speak at conferences, and offer podcasts.

But do we see the same passion in their followers as seen with the followers of Jesus in His time?

Are believers so stirred by the truth that their lives are radically transformed? This is what we see in the Book of Acts with the first followers of Jesus and those they discipled.

Are believers so stirred by the truth that their lives are radically transformed?

Resources galore!

Incredible resources are available today—in print form, online, mobile apps, and more. There’s no shortage of Bible knowledge these days, not in America. But are all these resources, and all the teaching that takes place in churches, conferences, books, DVD’s, and podcasts, transforming people?

trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: ©Time Inc.

Are we penetrating and transforming the culture, or are we just trying to keep our heads above the cultural tide of the world around us? It doesn’t seem like we’re making a lot of progress at present.

Are we penetrating and transforming the culture, or just keeping our heads above the cultural tide around us?

I came to faith during the Jesus People Movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Yeah, I’m old. I remember how much impact the movement had on the culture of that era. It was enough to make the cover of Time magazine. It was a phenomenal time.

But that was then, and this is now. Something is missing, even with all that we have.

What’s missing?

I have my own thoughts on what is missing, but how about you? I’d like to hear from you on this subject.

I’d like to ask some questions to get the discussion going, are you game for that? If so, I’ll do it the way I’d ask my students in class.

First of all, I want you to answer in your own words (IYOW), not Christianese. Second, don’t just quote Bible verses or give pat answers, do your own thinking and reflection on these questions. And third, give answers based on your own life experience, this will make it less theoretical and more practical.

Questions

Why do you think people saw Jesus had greater authority than the Jewish leaders in His teaching?

When has your heart been stirred by the truth? What were the circumstances?

If someone was teaching, what do you remember about how they presented their message?

What do you think is important for effective and authoritative teaching?

Remember… no Christianese and no pat answers!

 

Next week I’ll do a follow-up post with observations I’ve made of how Jesus taught. Hope to hear from you!


 

trip_0Trip disciples and mentors in several small groups in Jacksonville and beyond. He travels within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders whenever possible.Trip has written a book, training materials, and Bible studies for leaders and missions. He posts 3 times a week– an article, short devo, and simple Bible study at Word-Strong.com

What We Believe About an Attitude of Grace

What We Believe About an Attitude of Grace

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page 

There is a tension as local churches try to effectively carry out the mandate to see people restored in their relationship with God. There are some local churches that seem very harsh, inflexible, legalistic, and create apparent roadblocks to repentance and restoration that go beyond the Scriptures. On the other hand, there are some local churches that seem to be very loving but are liberal and lack standards so that restoration is offered without a clear biblical understanding of prerequisites. We want to balance the tension by being a church that manifests an attitude of grace. All our doctrinal orthodoxy and understanding of Scriptures are of no value without love [1Cor. 13:1-8]. If we love one another as Jesus loves then the world will know that we are His disciples [Jn. 13:34-35]. Biblical grace manifests Christ’s love as follows:

If we love one another as Jesus loves then the world will know that we are His disciples.

1. Compassion without compromise: Grace is more than politeness or some nebulous emotion. Grace relates to an attitude of unmerited favor that flows from recognition of God’s grace towards us as sinners. Compassion without compromise requires you to avoid legalism and liberalism. This is the example of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” [Jn. 8:11]; and Peter’s restoration following his denial of Jesus [Jn. 21:15-17]. It is also the attitude we are to show one another in light of God’s forgiveness of us [Eph. 4:32]. Compassion and grace help to reduce hypocrisy and create authenticity, as people will be less afraid to receive restoration.

Compassion and grace help to reduce hypocrisy and create authenticity, as people will be less afraid to receive restoration.

2. Restore with a spirit of gentleness: We are to restore others with a spirit of gentleness and humility [Gal. 6:1-3]. The whole message of Scripture from Genesis 3 to Revelation is God’s desire to restore fellowship between God and man. Minister grace by creating an environment where people know that God accepts them in Christ. Once they yield to God in Christ they need to seek to apply the truth of Christ to their lives. Apply the truth as a soothing balm, not an explosive bomb. In seeking to be gracious don’t compromise the integrity of the Word or you’ll bring reproach to Jesus.

Imagine Jesus washing the disciples feet [Jn. 13]. They had engaged in ceremonial baths in Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover but walked in open sandals on dirt roads to the Upper Room. The water was not too hot or cold and Jesus did not rub their feet so hard that He began to remove skin or so soft that He left dirt on their feet. The right amount of heat and pressure for the situation is our goal.

3. Church discipline and grace: Our God is the God of second chances [and sometimes third, fourth, etc.]. Jesus admonished Peter that extensive grace and forgiveness was available so that relationship with God and others could be restored. The rabbinical view of Jesus’ day was to forgive up to three times. Peter thought he was being gracious when he suggested forgiving up to seven times, however Jesus urged seventy times seven. He wasn’t setting a numerical limit of 490 but rather implies don’t bother counting. If someone repents let them be restored into fellowship [Matt. 18:21-22].

a. Grace is balanced by discipline and the need for repentance [Mt. 18:15-18]. If someone refuses to repent of their sin after being confronted by the one they have sinned against and other witnesses then you’ll need to consider informing the church especially if the sin is threatening to the spiritual health of the whole. The ultimate sanction of excommunication or removal from the church [Mt. 18:15-18, 1Cor. 5:1-8] should never be used capriciously and should be used judiciously. Removing someone from the church implies that as a pastor in a position of spiritual authority you are asking God to withdraw His protection from that person until they repent.

b. Grace and restoration of authority: When someone is removed from a position of authority because of moral failure the issue arises as to when and if the one disqualified can be restored. Preliminarily, don’t remove someone without evidence to support the charges, and don’t assume someone is either guilty or innocent without considering the evidence – be impartial [1Tim. 5:19-21]. Once someone is removed, the Bible gives no clear time limit re restoration [any guidelines suggesting 6 months, one year, 2 years or never is man-made and suspect at best]. Paul urges us not to lay hands suddenly [1Tim. 5:22]. In context it appears that the passage deals with restoring authority more than the initial conferring of authority.

I believe the best guideline is uttered by John the Baptist, “therefore bear fruit worthy of repentance” [Mt. 3:8]. In essence, you need to wait long enough to ensure that genuine repentance has taken place as evidenced by the fruit of their life. At some point, you’ll need to make a decision regarding timing and I suggest you err on the side of grace. Certainly, there will be times that you’ll discover that you were wrong but generally you can’t “go wrong” in seeking to be gracious.

c. Grace and boundaries: Grace doesn’t mean an absence of boundaries. Reasonable boundaries are essential to the Christian life and a healthy church. For example, if someone was convicted for a sex crime against a minor it is likely reasonable that they can serve in the church but not with children or youth. Furthermore, the greater the person’s influence the greater the need for caution. Thus, a lead pastor who has committed adultery likely needs to be proven while serving under the authority of others for an extended period.


 

Pastor at Calvary Nexus, Camarillo, CA. Bruce has been an ordained pastor for over 20 years. Bruce planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, Ca. in 1996 and continues to serve as the lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books. He has previously been a trial attorney, and helps direct the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN].

The Problem With Fast Growth – Part 2

The Problem With Fast Growth – Part 2

By Pastor Miles DeBenedictis

Growth, of Character, is Needed

The second problem with fast growth, and this is über important, fast church growth tends to hide the need of personal character growth for the one leading the fast growth.

I do believe that slower growth cultivates the pastor’s character as much as the church he’s planting. Quick growth, however, makes it more possible for the planting pastor, and those around him, to overlook or neglect the need for personal growth and development.

I’ve been somewhat disheartened, in meeting a number of high-profile, large church pastors who experienced fast growth in their ministries. Yes, correlation is not causation. But I do think that fast church growth can mask the need for steady pastoral growth. And that pastoral character development is never fast! Specifically, the deficiencies I’ve observed are in the areas of humility, grace and for lack of a better word, warmth.

Perhaps I’ve over-hammered the issue of humility already. Pride is almost never a virtue, hardly ever warranted and pretty much always sinful. Every one of us has the seeds of pride residing within. Fast growth is an amazing incubator for pride. Slow growth is the compost for humility. If lead pastors are to be representatives of Christ’s church, then they absolutely cannot lead from a position of pride; the first on the list of things that God hates.

In the last 10-years we’ve watched more than a few large church pastors publicly chastised for ungracious attitudes and methods of leadership. Honestly, I am ungracious too. We all are, in our base natures (i.e. flesh). When the church grows quickly I believe learning to work graciously with others on your team can be easily overlooked. Don’t misunderstand; small church pastors can certainly lack grace too. But churches that grow on a slow curve, tend to require that the pastor grow in grace.

A Proponent of Grace

Pastor Chuck Smith pastored a massive mega-church for decades, but was a huge proponent and picture of grace. This is likely because he had 17-years of small church experience before the precipitous growth of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Those 17-years were, I believe, essential to his growth as a pastor.

It is somewhat inevitable that as a church grows, the distance between the senior pastor and the larger church body increases. This isn’t entirely a good thing, but it is a thing, and it is a thing that is compounded when a church grows quickly. Which means that introverted pastors remain rather cold and standoffish toward the people they pastor throughout their entire tenure. Slower growth, however, requires that a pastor be forced out of the comfort of introversion. No, that doesn’t mean that he’ll become an extrovert, but he will have to learn to be more of a people-person than he may be naturally. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the most relationally warm pastors I know are former missionaries who served in a context that remained small and a culture that required relational interaction.

I get it. Lead pastors like church growth. But church growth at the expense of growth in Christ likeness is not acceptable. Please, don’t despise the day of small things. 


 

Miles DeBenedictis is the Senior Pastor of Cross Connection Church in North San Diego County, CA, the church he attended as a child and was discipled for ministry by. He can be followed @PastorMiles

What We Believe About Reaching the Next Generation

What We Believe About Reaching the Next Generation

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page 

The problem: Francis Schaeffer observed, “Not being able to change, to change under the Holy Spirit, is ugly. The same applies to church polity and practice. In a rapidly changing age like ours, an age of total upheaval like ours, to make non-absolutes absolutes guarantees both isolation and the death of the institutional and organized church.” Change and transformation are at the very heart of the gospel. Change and transformation are evidence of spiritual growth. Yet, people and organizations resist change. Too many churches yield to the pressure of the change resistors and lose their spiritual edge and ministry. Here are four ways to reach the next generation:

1. Be culturally relevant: How can the church relate to contemporary culture & contextualize the gospel in that setting? Understand the culture you are trying to reach [missional]. The truth of the Bible doesn’t change but how the church communicates and implements the faith must change from generation to generation, and from culture to culture to be effective and relevant. Every church is affected to some degree by the culture of its community. Answer the implied question, “Why would this next generation want to go to church?

2. Continually evaluate the culture and the ministry: To remain relevant and reach each generation with the tools of that generation you must regularly evaluate. The men of Issachar who joined David in his battle against Saul were described as, “Those who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” [1Ch. 12:32]. There is an ongoing need to evaluate in order to understand the times. Similarly, at Corinth, Paul sought to be sensitive to what was happening in the culture for the purpose of winning souls for Jesus [5x “I might win”]. Paul became: as a servant, as a Jew, as a Gentile, as weak -willing to accommodate self to Scripture to avoid stumbling another [1Cor. 9:19-22]. A healthy church is flexible in areas of culture and Christian liberty but does not compromise biblical truth. Be flexible: able to change without becoming an old wineskin, while still maintaining stability.

3. Recognize emerging cultural values: Postmoderns are pluralistic but the 1st Century Roman Empire was much more pluralistic than North America today. Characteristics of today’s post-moderns:

a. Denial of personal objectivity [I do believe in God, but that’s how I was raised. No one can know for sure].

b. Knowledge is uncertain [the government says smoking is bad but who really knows for sure].

c. Absolute truth is replaced by relative truth [if religion works for you … that’s great].

d. Tolerance is the mantra [unless there is a claim of absolute truth].

e. General cynicism [the Bible will not be accepted as authority until they see how it applies to them].

f. Rejection of meta-narratives for mini-narratives [cf. every culture has an ideal of how things should be, that there is a problem(s), & seeks solutions].

4. Characteristics of churches that are effectively reaching post-moderns:

a. Not ashamed for passionate love for Jesus: C.S. Lewis, “the great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it is true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it is good for society or something of that sort.”

b. Promote incarnational ministry: Realize that postmoderns are on a spiritual search and go to them & engage in daily life like Jesus [enter the culture]

c. Engage in service: Community service
d. Participatory & experiential praise: Model vulnerability and awareness of God.

e. Expository teaching: [especially narratives]
f. Connect with tech

g. Live community: Develop trust & intimacy over time; use community groups that stay together for years not months; post-moderns may want to get to know the people of God before wanting to get to know God. Help people experience Christian life as a journey/process in relationship with others.

h. Lead by transparency and team: Authenticity is key. Don’t seek to entertain but to engage, connect with people by letting them know you’re seeking to follow Jesus too and you’re not always successful

i. Casual and fresh style: Casual atmosphere but respectful of God. Things feel fresh: change is welcomed and the organization is loose and flexible.

j. Generation integration: Balance youth and experience to create generation integration. Look for and develop future leaders who display integrity and character and challenge and empower them. Let them make a difference control their destinies and participate. Youth are not simply future leaders but are up front and behind the scenes leading and directing the church.

A Pastor’s Perspective: Preliminarily, there is nothing wrong with focusing on an older generation. Nevertheless, I really value reaching the next generation and so our church invests time, money and vision to reaching youth and young adults. I try to avoid acting like a hipster to try to attract young people and seek to be authentic. Our staff has generation integration, and I’m regularly monitoring the demographic mix of our congregation to evaluate whether we are reaching young people. Nevertheless, I know that there will come a time when I’m unable to reach 20-somethings effectively. By raising up young men as Bible teachers and providing opportunity for them to teach regularly we are more likely to be effective in reaching the next generation. Also, I’ve surrounded myself with leaders who I respect who I’ve entrusted with the responsibility to help me realize when I’m not being effective in reaching the next generation so that my role can change for the good of the church and the kingdom. It’s a scary proposition but I believe it is healthy if we intend to reach the next generation.


 

Pastor at Calvary Nexus, Camarillo, CA. Bruce has been an ordained pastor for over 20 years. Bruce planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, Ca. in 1996 and continues to serve as the lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books. He has previously been a trial attorney, and helps direct the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN].

The Problem With Fast Growth – Part 1

The Problem With Fast Growth – Part 1

By Pastor Miles DeBenedictis

Every pastor and every church planter wants, and internally expects, fast growth. Not just fast growth, exponential growth. Not addition, but multiplication!

They want it, but I’ve observed a problem with fast growth. It’s not my observation alone, and when you see it, you won’t be awestruck by my observation, but there is a problem that comes with fast growth.

The problem with fast growth is that more often than not it leads to pride and allows the one experiencing, or leading, the fast growth to not need to spiritually develop themselves.

First, when fast growth occurs people are invariably buffeted by their fallen nature’s proclivity to pride. This pride generally manifests in thoughts and attitudes like, “Man! We’ve got this thing figured out.” Those thoughts, often with the encouragement of other like minded people, create a syndrome prompting, “Man! We’ve got to package this as a program of growth for others.

Right Time, Place and Thing

Call me a skeptic or cynic, but I’m 100 percent convinced that fast growth (the kind where a church plant has 600 people two-years after launch, or a mega-church in three years –yes, it happens) is most often just being in the right place at the right time.

Both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have admitted as much about their lives and careers. More often than not, being at the right place with the right thing, at the right time is all that’s needed. And if you are blessed with fast growth, trust me, it’s not you! You’re not the “thing” in this equation.

If you’re selling snow cones in Central Park, in January, you might sell one. Don’t count on it. But if you’re selling the same product in the same place in August, you’ll have a line of people until you’re out of ice. The product may be good and the place may be good, but if the timing is off, you’ll get nowhere.

Product Placement and Sowing

I know it freaks some people out when we speak of gospel proclamation and church planting in terms of product and placement. But frankly, there are a lot of similarities. And if you don’t think that preaching is about products, you need to rethink your construct. The scriptures and salvation are great products. That’s why I’m evangelizing them and not iPhones. As much as I like Apple products, I happen to think that God’s Word and what it presents is incredibly more valuable.

One of the greatest of Jesus’ parables was the story of the sower. As Jesus tells it, the farmer had good seed (the word of God), which he went about scattering. That good seed landed on four different kinds of soil: stony, shallow, weed ridden and prepared. Ultimately, only the plowed and prepared soil yielded fruit. On three of the four soils, the good seed (the right thing) landed in the wrong place at the wrong time. Don’t miss the point; the three unproductive soils had the potential to be the right place, with adequate time in preparation and plowing. But as it stood, the sower scattered the right thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. The result was he received no growth from 75 percent of his seed and labors.

I am always amused when someone gets up to laud the amazing thing they’re doing and the phenomenal growth they’ve seen in the “most unchurched place in America.” To date I’ve heard of about 200 most unchurched places in America. That such places have a low representation of good Bible teaching churches is actually helping the growth.

Additionally, stop kidding yourself! These places aren’t always hard soil. I recently heard a church planter praising the work he was doing in the awesomely unchurched city of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Forgive me for snickering. But consider (1) some of the largest churches in America are in Ft. Lauderdale and (2) in the last two years two very high profile pastors of Ft. Lauderdale giga-churches have been removed from their churches for moral failures. The market conditions were RIPE for a church plant. It’s always important to remember that there are reasons for your success that have nothing to do with you.


Miles DeBenedictis is the Senior Pastor of Cross Connection Church in North San Diego County, CA, the church he attended as a child and was discipled for ministry by. He can be followed @PastorMiles