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Missing Part

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Something missing

We returned to the US after fifteen years in the Philippines, and I sensed something was missing in the church in America. I wondered what happened, but after a while realized it was more about what didn’t happen.

In the early days of the Jesus People Movement, young people were disenchanted with the status quo and shallow life of middle class America. Social unrest, fueled by issues that ranged from civil rights to anti-war protests, helped accent an emptiness that cried out to be filled.

Great interest in eastern philosophies and religions, coupled with a surge of psychedelic drugs and “love-ins,” intensified this emptiness. The political scene and economy also contributed to it.

God’s Spirit began to flow into a broken and lost generation, to fill up this emptiness.

A generation found and filled

No specific leader started the Jesus People Movement or headed up the Jesus Generation. It was a sovereign move of God’s Holy Spirit.

Some people did have influence in this move of God, but because of God’s favor, not their expertise at leading. Young people began to gather in public and private places, as well as in many churches. They were hungry and sought to be filled with the truth of God and God’s power.

A generational revival began to grow across the nation, which led to the raising up of evangelists and disciple-makers. They had no special training and needed no prompting to spread the gospel. This was not the product of a well designed program.

Simple, but mighty

Simple Bible study, often led by non-seminary-trained teachers, was a core element of the movement. Pastors and teachers who did have training were also swept up in the movement. My first pastor, Chuck Smith, was one of those teachers, but he was one among many solid teachers of God’s Word.

The gospel was preached and the Bible was taught in a simple way. Theology was simple in the early days, mostly born out of an organic biblical framework. Praise and worship was typically a blend of folk and rock music led by young people with long hair and buckskin. It was simple and genuine, and seemed innocently spiritual.

Even prayer had a simple power to it. People were set free from their brokenness and bondage.

Communal life and mindset

In much the same way as the early church, communities began to spring up where everything was shared. Communal life seemed to thrive off the flow of people being set free. Houses, ranches, and even apartment buildings became homes to people who had fulfilled lives with broken pasts.

These communities were inclusive, non-discriminatory, and often had strong leaders. It was a shared life with shared resources. My wife and I lived a few blocks from one in our first year of marriage. It was called Mansion Messiah located in Costa Mesa, CA.

They became models of biblical discipleship. Because Bible study was a core value, it spawned young people who were grounded in the truth of God’s Word, filled with God’s power, and released to share their faith with others.

What changed?

In much the same way as the radical activists of the 60’s, the Jesus Generation became more and more mainstream. Where once they were anti-establishment, they became the establishment. Once shunned by society, and many churches, the blended with the culture of the times.

When Christian believers don’t seem very different from the culture around them, something gets lost. But what was that something?

The missing part

In a word discipleship—intentional, relational, organic discipleship led by the Holy Spirit. In the past several years, even the last decade, discipleship has once again become popular. But I wonder if it’s just the next thing to catch people’s attention. I hope I’m wrong about that.

The difficulty with intentional, relational, and Spirit-led organic discipleship is that it’s hard to package. So, it is by nature hard to control. It also takes considerable time to do well, and requires genuine commitment. Commitment not to the task, but to the person discipled. Commitment is also needed on the part of the one being discipled.

Do you see the dilemma? Genuine commitment isn’t very popular nowadays, not in this distracted ADHD-culture of ours.

We can’t go back

It’s easy to long for the good old days, but that genders useless nostalgia. We need to look forward, not backwards.

God hasn’t stopped being God. He’s supernatural and sovereign. He alone is the one who stirs up a revival that produces something like the Jesus Generation. But believers do have a part in what God does upon the earth. He’s chosen us for such things (Eph 2:4-10).

 

About Trip:

With Trip Kimball’s permission this is a repost from his blog, Word-Strong. Along with his family, Trip planted a Calvary Chapel in 1978 and in 1990 took them to the Philippines as missionaries. There in Asia he was used by God to not only establish Rainbow Village for abandoned babies, but serve in equipping hundreds of national pastors and church planters. Currently Trip serves from his Florida home as a mentor with CCPN, as an integral part of Poimen Ministries and continues to equip leaders in the States as well as in missionary settings.

“The Perfect” Argument For Continuationism

Coming from a strong cessationist background, I assumed that the sign gifts in the early church had died out soon after the apostolic age.  But in my college years I had some occasions where I observed a vitality of faith in those claiming to have a charismatic experience. Their lives showed that Jesus Christ was very real to them. I began to be troubled with 1 Corinthians 14:39,  “Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.”  A straightforward, literal interpretation of the verse would indicate that even today we should not discourage people from using the gift of tongues.

The Perfect Text

The controversy regarding tongues involves the interpretation of the word “perfect” in 1Cor. 13: 10, “but when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” There are several interpretations of this term. One of the main views is eschatological, a view that sees the “perfect” as referring to the second coming of Jesus Christ or to His Kingdom.  Another view states that the word “perfect” refers to the completion of the biblical canon.  The first view is held by many, if not most, cessationists as well as continuationists. The completed canon view is very recent and seems to be held exclusively by cessationists.  The earliest source I could find advocating this view was  W.E. Vine in 1951.  (W.E. Vine, 1 Corinthians [London: Oliphants, 1951], 184)”

A Case for Continuationism

Though many arguments support the term “perfect” as referring to the revelation of Jesus Christ at the end of the age or to His Kingdom, the brevity of this article causes me to limit it to a few of the considerations that could receive more attention in this debate.

One consideration is the idea that miracles do not run uniformly through all of Scripture.  While we find occasional miracles, such as the great fish with Jonah and the angel with Sennacherib’s troops, most miracles occur in three separate time periods.  The first is the period of Moses and Aaron; the second is with Elijah and Elisha, and the final period is that of Christ and the apostles.  Each wave of miracles denoted a major turning point in biblical history.  The signs of Moses and Aaron marked the time of the transition from the pre-Law era to the time of the Law.  The signs of Elijah and Elisha perhaps designated the time when God was going to leave Israel to face judgment.  The signs of Christ and the apostles signify the turning point from the time of the Mosaic law to the time of the church.  (We might note that those who most strongly resisted Christ’s miracles were the Pharisees, the most ardent students of the Old Testament.)

We have intimations that with the second coming of Christ we will have a new season of miraculous signs.  This will  include the raising of the two witnesses from the dead in the book of Revelation and the resurgence of prophecy according to Joel 2:28-32..  Therefore, it should not be surprising to discover a new round of signs anticipating Christ’s return.  Many use an historical argument that sign gifts died out at the end of the apostolic era, but the fading away would be consistent with the way miracles have come and gone in the rest of the Bible.

Another consideration is the order of the three gifts mentioned in verse 10: prophecy, tongues and knowledge.  The text states that prophecy and knowledge will be brought to an end and tongues will cease for themselves.  Since the gift of tongues comes between prophecy and knowledge, it would seem that these three gifts all end at the same time.  If the cessation of the gift of tongues occurred before the others, then it should be first.  The change in wording seems to be purely stylistic.

A third consideration is the idea that the function of prophecy and knowledge, as well as tongues, seems to be different from that of canonical Scripture.  The Bible was given as truth to benefit the entire body of Christ.  Since the close of the canon, we have no normative material essential for every one.    The prophetic and the knowledge gifts seem to be designed to minster to individuals and to groups, but not the whole church. They encourage, rebuke and give specific guidance, while never contradicting the standard of the Word.  We find God speaking all the way through the Scripture.

We find God speaking all the way through the Scripture.

Tongues serve a different purpose.  They do not communicate to man.  Paul specifically says that they are addressed to God. “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God…” (I Cor. 14:2).  “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful”  (1 Cor. 14:14).  The reason that tongues is assigned a lesser role to knowledge and prophecy may be that the knowledge and prophecy gifts are communications from God to man, whereas tongues are a Spirit-prompted response from man in worship and praise to God.

Just reading Bible will not fulfill the specific functions of prophecy, knowledge and tongues.  If God has become mute since the Scripture is complete, then all we have is a recording. It is the difference between getting a letter and talking with someone face to face. When Christ returns, we will have direct access to Him and the intermediary gifts will not be needed.  The function of the spiritual gifts is only temporary and partial compared to what it will be to have that full experience of being in the presence of God. This is expressed in the phrase “face-to-face” in 1 Cor. 13:12. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” This verse uses the explanatory sense of  “for” to link the “then” back to the term “perfect.”  This “then” anticipates something much more than the imperfect knowledge in the “now.”  Our communion with God lacks completeness until we are in His presence, when the Perfect comes.

The function of the spiritual gifts is only temporary and partial compared to what it will be to have that full experience of being in the presence of God.

A godly Lutheran lady ran a retreat center in the community where I pastored.  On different occasions when she hosted charismatic groups, she would say,  “There is something about their experience that makes Jesus so real.”  We may know about Him, but it is another thing to know Him in His dynamic power working in our lives.

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Carl Westerlund wrote this article. He is a pastor at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

located in Costa Mesa, CA. Carl is married to Barbara.

Strange Fire – Friendly Fire | An Interview With Pastor Brian Brodersen

Pastor John MacArthur recently held a conference in California called Strange Fire, where he addressed the gifts of the Holy Spirit and his opinion on their use in churches today. He also had some remarks to say about Calvary Chapel and our emergence during the Jesus Movement of the 60s and 70s. This 22-minute interview is a response by Pastor Brian Brodersen (Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa) about John MacArthur’s comments…

Reflections on a Church Plant Pt. 2

Ed Compean pastors Calvary Chapel Githurai, in Nairobi, Kenya. For more info, go to the church website at calvarygithurai.org. This is Part 2 of a 3-part blog series as Pastor Ed looks back on church planting. Make sure to read Part 1 here.

My original intent was to simply pass on a list of things I wish I had done better in this church plant. The list is far from exhaustive and though it is not in any particular order, I am noticing that it there are some rough groupings. The first post included, 1) unjam and unhook areas of ministry that are bogging down growth,  2) following up on delegation, and 3) purposely identify and disciple young leaders. In this second post I can see a slight theme based around the maturing of the church…

Endeavor to Pray More

We prayed. We prayed a lot. I wish I had wanted to pray more. Do not misunderstand, I have a deep passion for God, His glory among the nations and His church. I cherish times with God and love to be with Him for the purpose of interceding for what I already know He’ll do. It is only that I sometimes found myself busy with the tyranny of the urgent and actually thought I did not have time to pray. Looking back, I think if personally and corporately we doubled, or tripled, our time in focused prayer we would still have desired more time in the presence of the Lord. My point is not developing discipline, but cultivating a desire for more intimacy.

My point is not developing discipline, but cultivating a desire for more intimacy. 

Establish Systems

We launched with a group of about 20, of which the vast majority were unchurched. It was mostly bunch of new friends that were learning to be God followers and God worshippers. Unfortunately I discovered we could not grow without some basic systems in place, even before it would appear we needed them. It seemed God would bring the people only after we had structure in place rather than adding to His church and then waiting for us to catch up with systems. This gave me a deeper insight into God multiplying the disciples in Jerusalem after the apostles established deacons and systems to care for the widows (Acts 6:7) and encouraged me to establish structures and systems in anticipation of what I wanted God to do instead of waiting.

Emphasize the Baptism of the Holy Sprit

We began as a Bible teaching, Christ exalting and Spirit filled church, but to a visitor the church looked like a reformed and cessationist church. My fears of the excesses of much of Pentecostalism had quenched the Spirit of God and the pendulum had swung too far. Certainly that there is a healthy church in Githurai when there had not been one before is a testimony of the empowering of the Spirit. I wonder what could have happened corporately and among the individuals if we would have emphasized the empowering of the Spirit and allowed for Godly correction rather than quenching before the fact.

Exhibit God’s Faithfulness

Today it is common to hear testimonies as part of the normal worship service at Calvary Chapel Githurai, but I wish we had begun earlier. The testimonies, sometimes as sermon illustrations, have created a climate of expectation. God’s people expect God to save and they expect to be used in bringing people to Him.

God’s people expect God to save and they expect to be used in bringing people to Him.

Some of these challenges are much more complex than the space I am giving them. It is my desire that those involved with church planting will similarly reflect on some of the challenges they are facing.

Strength for the Battle

Chuck Musselwhite pastors The Village Chapel in Lompoc, CA. He shares wisdom with us after dealing with the hardest challenge he’s faced as a pastor…

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Church Planters are by nature entrepreneurial, strong willed, and resourceful people which serves them well as they forge new territory with their church. These strengths can also be our greatest stumbling blocks as rely too much on ourselves and do not let Jesus sustain us. We push, push, push until we are ready to collapse. This can be dangerous and unhealthy.

I am just coming off the craziest year of ministry ever in my life as a pastor. The past twelve months have been nonstop activity. Over the summer I almost crashed and burned with all the weight of responsibilities. Only by the grace of God was I able to get away for a bit and recharge.

I was looking forward with optimism towards the Fall ministry season as we were experiencing new growth, had a full slate of initiatives beginning, and construction would be completed on our recently purchased buiding. There was an expectancy in our church and it seemed there was a unity of spirit and purpose. I wasn’t prepared for what was to come.

As we turned the corner from Summer to Fall our church was hit with spiritual attacks like never before. Many families came under attack through issues at home and they started to drop like flies. Individuals struggled with personal and professional issues like never before. Marriages were struggling. Add on top of that a government shut down which affects over two thirds of your church (we are less than five miles from a Air Force Base and a Federal prison). That led to a drop in our givings like we have never seen. Our building was, and still is delayed, by the permit process. I was tapped and then I had to deal with the most difficult issue I ever had to as a pastor. It consumed my time day and night for close to a month. It hit our church hard and is still effecting many of our families.

What was amazing was how God sustained me through it all. It was truly not by my might, nor by my strength, but by the Holy Spirit. Generally when the stress is going through the roof my mind wanders to getting away for some down time. I dream of vacations that will be fun as a family or as a couple. Typically my energy is drained and I just want to take a nap all the time. In my most difficult stretch as a pastor none of that happened. There was a supernatural strength that sustained me. In the midst of that battle it wasn’t me that was fighting it but God.
2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

The people of my church told me that they were praying for me and literally for the first time I could say that I was feeling their prayers because I had no physical strength left in me.

In the midst of that battle it wasn’t me that was fighting it but God.

When there is great expectation expect great opposition. Our church experienced true spiritual warfare but we are seeing God prevail. We didn’t respond correctly all the time but God has done a new work in the hearts of our people. The expectation is still there but it is clearer and more dependent upon God. As church planters our will might be strong and our vision huge but we must remember that we are working in a realm that is much bigger than ourselves and if try to do it under our own strength we will get knocked down. If we rely upon Jesus for our strength we will be sustained.

As church planters our will might be strong and our vision huge but we must remember that we are working in a realm that is much bigger than ourselves and if try to do it under our own strength we will get knocked down.