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].

3 Reasons Why We Don’t Need Celebrity Pastors

3 Reasons Why We Don’t Need Celebrity Pastors

 

2 Corinthians 4:5

For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.

 

We live in a day and age where we probably have the best communicators ever in the pulpit. Men who can make you laugh one moment and cry the next. After listening to their teachings, I find myself both emotionally engaged and creatively entertained. However, I haven’t learned much. I have a few “one-liners” and a lot of hashtags, plenty of Instagram posts and Facebook live videos to show their great hair and large crowds. But I’m lacking something more: depth. Spiritual power. After their “message” I feel like I’ve just gotten home from the carnival: a lot of noise and fluff without a lot of substance. And both my stomach and head hurt.

 

Part of the problem is that these men have inadvertently (and some more intentionally) made themselves celebrity figures. Their names headline on their speaking tours, in bold font. Their websites (and I’m guilty here as well!) conveniently feature their first and last name, with a .com at the end. Their podcasts and video clips plug up our newsfeed, all with the notion of ever-increasing fame. Most dangerously, their personalities drive the pulse of their churches. Just recently I read of another celebrity pastor resigning and someone who attended the church admitted that he was “the heart of the church”.  Maybe that’s the problem.

Here are 3 reasons why we don’t need celebrity pastors anymore:

 

  1. They create a cult of personality, rather than a culture of discipleship.

 

Paul reminded the carnal Corinthians, the same church who preferred a cult of personality over spiritual fathers (1 Cor 3:1-4, 4:15), that he did not choose to preach himself, but Christ. Pastors don’t own their churches; they are stewards and undershepherds who must give an account for how and why they ministered to the flock. And that flock belongs to Jesus. So we must be careful to preach not ourselves, but Jesus.

 

Spurgeon said: “The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and Him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”

 

  1. They tempt the church to put man’s authority above Scripture. 

 

At the end of Paul’s life, he tells Timothy to:

Preach the word!…For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

 

There are over 30 references to the true gospel in 2 Timothy (Paul’s last known writing) and around 15 references to false teachings. Paul made this a high priority in his last correspondence to his young protege in the faith. He tells him to “preach”, which means “to herald.” The herald was the king’s messenger who relayed the king’s message to the people. He wasn’t free to make up his own message or interpret it the way he liked. He was limited by what the king had to say. His job was simply to proclaim faithfully the king’s message so that the people understood it.

 

Often when a pastor becomes exalted to an imbalanced place of authority, recognition, and fame, his words can become misunderstood as infallible. People can be fickle; often we will look for direction from a sermon or teaching and will not want to sit through doctrine or sound teaching to receive application. So we exalt teachers who tell us what we want to hear.

 

The word Paul uses for “Sound” doctrine means healthy (we derive our word “hygienic” from it). Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke as well as Acts, was a medical doctor and uses this term often to describe someone being in good health or safety, who was ”well” or “sound”. Sound teaching results in healthy Christian living. Note that such healthy teaching is set in contrast to what people prefer, which tickles their ears. That means sound teaching must be endured. The word “endure” means literally to put up with, to bear with, endure, forbear, suffer.

 

People won’t want to endure healthy teaching but will instead turn their ears away to listen to fables. What is a fable? A short story with a moral ending. Or, like most teachings today in churches, a narrative with a moral imperative. So when a pastor of celebrity status communicates a personal preference on a passage, it can often be taken by the congregation as “gospel”. Rather than being Bereans and investigating his words to see if they are Scripturally sound, many will assume that the pastor is well-known and loved by all, so he must be right!

 

 

  1. They set men up for failure and detract from the Gospel

 

When a pastor falls, there is always fallout. There are hurting people. There are shattered lives. There are detractors who scoff from afar and look with derision on our faith and message, with increasing frequency. Too often these falls are public because the pastor was a celebrity figure.

 

Many pastors will surround themselves with an entourage. They arrive at events and conferences with an entire cloud of people, who are all acquaintances and not truly endearing friends. The accountability has closed off because he is “untouchable”. There are multiple layers of padding to “protect” the pastor from the church body, which actually means he is isolated, and thus endangered.

 

Honestly, ’Celebrity Pastor’ should be a contradiction in terms. A pastor should be content ministering to the flock God has entrusted to him, even if that means being anonymous. The lure of fame has drawn many young pastors to be dissatisfied in simply serving the Lord where they are called and doing it as unto the Lord. Instead the desire for recognition, notoriety, and status drive their vision and purpose.

 

Joe Thorn says, “Celebrity Pastors do not simply build themselves. They are built with the help of fans. It’s not wrong or idolatrous to get a photo with a person you admire. Nor is it dangerous to love the preaching or teaching of a particular leader. But at some point admiration turns into allegiance, and allegiance gives birth to adoration, and adoration, when it is full grown, produces idolatry.

 

My brothers, may we heed this with great fear and trembling, and seek to make Jesus alone famous. I intend to write a follow-up post giving 3 ways to avoid becoming a celebrity pastor. If this is beneficial to you, comment below!

 

Pastor Pilgrim Benham


Pastor Pilgrim Benham is the lead pastor at Shoreline Calvary Chapel, in Bradenton, Florida. He only has around 400 followers on Twitter, well below celebrity status. But who’s keeping count? You can read more at pilgrimbenham.com.

No Non Complete Clause

No Non Complete Clause

By Trip Kimball

My recent travel overseas reinforced, once again, what I’ve known for many years. A huge disparity exists between the church in North America and most of the rest of the world.

When a person leaves a company with vital information of a company’s products or operation, they’re often required to sign a non-compete clause. The same goes when a startup company is bought out.

In the Kingdom of God and the church, this should never be a concern.

Rich in resources

Far more energy and emphasis is made getting people to come to a church service, than equipping and sending them out with the gospel.

“Is your church concerned with getting people into it, or sending them out with the gospel?”@tkbeyond

And yet, we—the American church—hold incredibly rich resources that an impoverished church needs in much of the world (MOTROW).

This was reinforced in each of the five places I visited in the Philippines and Thailand this past month. It reminds me of what Jesus told his disciples after telling them two parables—

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48b NIV)

Time to get honest

At some point, we—the church in North America—need to get honest with God and ourselves about the responsibility we have to the church worldwide.

“The American church has a shared responsibility with the church worldwide” @tkbeyond

I have several missionary and pastor friends who share this same burden, but we are few in comparison to the vast need that exists (Matt 9:37).

Sadly, the trend is going the opposite direction for the church immersed in our present iCulture.

Who builds the church?

Jesus said He would build His church (Matt 16:18). Does He need our help? Not our help so much as our cooperation.

We are to partner with Him to equip His church for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16).

“We are to partner with Jesus to equip His church for the work of the ministry”@tkbeyond

 

What is the work Jesus calls His church to do? The primary objective remains the same as it was in the beginning. It’s called the Great Commission found expressly in five places in the New Testament—

  1. Act 1:8– to go into all the world as living testimonies (witnesses) to the ends of the earth
  2. Matthew 28:19-20– to make disciples of all nations (peoples) and teach them what Jesus taught
  3. Mark 16:15– to preach or proclaim the gospel to all people in the world
  4. Luke 24:47– to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations (peoples)
  5. John 20:21-23– to go out as Jesus went out with God’s power to extend His forgiveness

The need

Even in America, we only reach a small percentage of the population. In 2014, the number of unchurched and unengaged in the US was about 156 million people. When it comes to the world at large, it’s a few billion.

“Millions in America & billions in the world are unchurched or unengaged” @tkbeyond

If you’re called to plant a church in North America, do it with new growth, not borrowed from other churches—people who are unchurched, unengaged, or even the de-churched. This is what the apostle Paul said about this—

My goal was to spread the Good News where the name of Christ was not known. I didn’t want to build on a foundation which others had laid. (Rom 15:20 GW)

But don’t stop there!

Each church needs to equip their believers as disciple-makers, not just to serve the existing church. We need to prepare them to know and share the gospel message and to disciple others with the truth of God’s Word.

“Leaders need to equip believers as disciple-makers, not just to serve the church” @tkbeyond

As I’ve shared before, this isn’t rocket-science, and it’s not a cognitive skill to develop but a way of life. Making disciples takes commitment, and needs to be intentional, yet relational.

Take-aways

My personal take-away from this past month of ministry overseas is to continue to do what I do well—what I’m gifted in, called to, and have done for many years.

I want to continue to assist churches to set up practical ways to equip believers to study, understand, and share the truth of God. I’m also committed to equip pastors and leaders to do the same, whether overseas or here in America.

What is your take-away from what I’ve shared in this post?


 

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

Book Review: Spurgeon’s Sorrows

Learning to preach, evangilize, mobilize volunteers, encourage staff, is a huge party of being a pastor and planting a church. However, one aspect of church planting I didn’t account for was the emotional and spiritual toll that it was going to take. Zach Eswine wrote a short book tackling the subject of depression and offering hope: Spurgeons Sorrows, Realistic hope for those suffering from depression. However, he chose to do it in a fascinating unique way.

Charles Spurgeon has been one of my favorite pastors since I became a Christian. I’ve read most of his books, sermons, and almost anything else I can get my hands on. By all accounts Spurgeon was doing what most of us church planters want to see happen. He had a mega-church, wrote books, spoke at conferences, and in many regards was a celebrity pastor. However, even with all the “successes” Spurgeon had in ministry, one of the most consistent threads of his life was depression. Consistently , or occasionally, most church partners will deal with depression and that is why Eswine’s look at how Spurgeon dealt with depression is important.

I would encourage every planter, potential planter, or pastor in general to read Eswine’s book. It is not only going to be a helpful resource for you and your own personal life but, It will also be invaluable for you as you minister to people in your church who are going through despair. I want to highlight three aspects of the book that were insightful and helpful for me.

1. Depression and despair comes even when there is “nothing” bad happening in life: Most people associate depression with traumatic experiences . Which to be sure can be a cause of depression. Yet, that is not always the case. Surgeon says this: “Quite involuntarily, unhappiness of mind, depression of spirit, and sorrow of heart will come upon you. You may be without any real reason for grief, and yet may become among the most unhappy of men because, for the time, your body has conquered your soul.” Andrew Solomon in his book The Noonday Demon, “Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance, while depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.” Therefore do not discount in yourself or your congregation that despite everything going well you may still be afflicted with despair and depression.

2. Spiritual depression is real and powerful: Spurgeon says “Spiritual sorrows are the worst of mental miseries.” Eswine says this on the subject, “We feel in our heart that He is angry with us, or we have done something to forfeit His love, or He has toyed with us and left us on a whim. Either way, He exists for others, but not for us. He punishes us with silent treatment. He laughs at our pain when he gossips to others about us. The irony of desertion is that God’s absence feels overwhelmingly close to us. We stare the void in the face. According to Charles, when a person knows that God is with them, he or she may bear great depression of spirit, but if we believe God has left us in our miseries and hardships, there is a torment within the breast which I can only liken, Charles says, to the prelude of hell.”

3. Jesus suffered from depression: Spurgeon says this, “Personally, I also bear witness that it has been to me, in seasons of great pain, superlatively comforting to know that in every pang which racks His people the Lord Jesus has a fellow-feeling. We are not alone, for one like unto the Son of man walks the furnace with us.” Later in the chapter Eswine says this, “…Instead, what we need to know for ourselves in our hearts is that Jesus is ‘the Chief Mourner’ who above all others could say, ‘I am the man that hath seen affliction.’ To feel in our being that the God to whom we cry has Himself suffered as we do enables us to feel that we are not alone and that God is not cruel.”

This is a fantastically helpful book that will encourage you, give you hope, and like for me, give vocabulary to what I have been feeling but unable to articulate. There is hope to be had even in the worst of times. We must as pastors passionately provide that hope to ourselves and to those who we have the honor of ministering to.

Pastor Trevor Gavin has been used of God to plant Nexus Portland. You can follow Trevor @tgavin811 andfollow the Gavins in their journey on their blog

The Benefits of a Spiritual Exercise Plan

I’m no authority on the subject of physical exercise but it seems to me that the people who seem to benefit most have an exercise plan. Exercise in the physical or spiritual realm requires intentionality and tends to be more effective when done with another. People who want to develop in the physical realm determine the various options such as weight training, cardio, flexibility, etc. and then seek to create an exercise plan that is right for them. The plan is designed to help you grow from where you are to where you want to be. An exercise partner ideally encourages you and creates accountability in a way that helps you to implement your plan. Creating a culture of intentional growth is great for the individual and the community.

In the spiritual realm we need to be careful to avoid reducing a relationship with Christ to a spiritual workout or creating any impression that doing more spiritual exercise makes you more right with God. If you are in Christ you are right with God because of the work that Jesus did and by receiving that gift from God by faith when you submitted to Christ. Nevertheless, I’ve discovered through the years that a spiritual exercise plan and an accountability partner have helped me to grow in Christ. Similarly, I’ve seen that a spiritual exercise plan has been helpful for new believers, mature believers, and Christian leaders. So how do you create a spiritual exercise plan?

Consider the list below and set personal goals for your spiritual development. Don’t worry about comparing your list with someone else’s plan it is not a competition, but a personal spiritual growth plan.

1. Bible reading: for example consider a Bible reading plan to read through the Bible in a year. Perhaps you want to create a plan based on a certain amount of time (e.g. a half hour) for a certain number of days each week, or any plan that works for you.
2. Prayer: plan to set aside time to pray alone or with others. Consider a list of prayer requests to help you.
3. Reflection: Take time to journal or for some quiet time to reflect about God and your life with Christ.
4. Sharing your faith: How often would you like to share your faith with an unbeliever or unchurched person?
5. Authentic relationships [community]: What is your plan to be involved in a community group?
6. Serving others: How would you like to serve God by serving others in the church in this coming season?
7. Generosity: How do you plan to give of your financial resources to advance God’s kingdom through the church in the coming year?

Once you have a plan share it with a friend who will help to encourage you and keep you accountable. I try to meet with my spiritual exercise partner every couple of weeks to talk about life in general, any challenges we are facing and to encourage one another to keep growing in Christ. These times are far more than reviewing a checklist. Sometimes we don’t even talk about our spiritual exercise plans, and these meetings are some of my favorite times of life.

Remember the purpose of a spiritual exercise plan is to help you to grow in your relationship with Christ and others. It is a flexible plan and you can adjust it whenever and however you choose. I suspect that the last thing that Christ desires is you feeling guilty that you are not doing enough. Instead consider the plan as a tool to help you be intentional about your growth.

Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZacahry.

The Value of Celebration and Commemoration

Holy Week is an amazing time of celebration and commemoration in the local church and universal Church. At Calvary Nexus in Camarillo we traditionally enjoy a Passover Seder attended by several hundred guests. It is a unique event to connect the Old and the New Testaments. The Passover was given to the Jews as an everlasting ordinance [Ex.12:14, 24]. As long as the old covenant was in existence the epic story of God’s deliverance and redemption would be retold. As the Last Supper transitions to the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of Jesus’ words in the Upper Room, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” [1Cor.11:25]. There is value to commemoration and celebration.

​We move rapidly from the Passover to Good Friday. The mood is relatively somber and reflective at the thought of Jesus’ suffering and the cross. Nevertheless, there is a sense of not only commemoration as we remember what Jesus did, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” [Lu.22:19], but also celebration that the dominance of sin has been defeated and the way to communion with God has been made. This year is extra special as we contemplate Jesus’ seven statements from the cross as six of our teaching pastors share. As we reflect on that day when Jesus gave his life for us, and His encouraging words from the cross, we appreciate why we know the day as Good Friday. There is value to commemoration and celebration.

​Then we gather for the greatest commemoration and celebration on the Christian calendar – Resurrection Sunday. The overwhelming evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Christ rose from the dead as foretold by the prophets provides us with a living hope and sure inheritance. We can know that we are saved through faith in Christ and the same power that raised Christ from the dead is available for us to live for Christ while we wait for His return [1Pet.1:3-5]. In Camarillo we are blessed to live in a part of the world with amazing weather. We are able to experience an epic outdoor service at a spectacular venue with thousands gathered to celebrate and commemorate the truth of the resurrection. Nevertheless, the glory of the event pales with the glory of the truth that we contemplate that day and ideally everyday. There is value to commemoration and celebration.

​As I spend time today reflecting and contemplating Holy Week I’m feeling especially grateful to Christ for who He is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. And as I reflect, I must pause and express heartfelt appreciation to the community at Calvary Nexus. Your love for Christ and for others, your desire to love God and live His word is praiseworthy, and I’m blessed to serve with you. Your heart to reach our local community for Christ and to reach the globe for the gospel through foreign missions and the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN] is remarkable. So, as I contemplate what God has done, is doing, and with confident expectation will do through Calvary Nexus and CCPN I rejoice. There is value to commemoration and celebration.

Thanks to all of you for letting me share the experience with you!

Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexu in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZachary.

Three Common Misconceptions About Church Planters

It is said that the greatest distance between two people is misunderstanding. And church planters, of all people in ministry, may be the easiest to misunderstand. In listening to many podcasts and conversations on the “church planting discussion,” I have discovered these three common misunderstandings. So here’s an honest attempt to clear things up and shorten the “distance”.

1. All church planters need to be entrepreneurs.

First, let me clarify that church planting is not for the faint of heart. At any given moment, you are pastoring people but also wearing about twenty-five other various hats. Church planting may require you to have a bit of marketing prowess, an understanding of processes/procedures, business savvy, website and graphic design knowledge along with a broader set of social skills, just to name a few. The actual ministry work may be preaching/teaching and prayer, but the organization of the church still needs organizing!

While it’s certainly true that having an “entrepreneurial spirit” is important, God is calling those who are obedient, not just those who are entrepreneurial! It’s more important that you obey Jesus than forsake your calling. Robert Murray M’Cheyne says “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” God can grow you in your leadership and abilities, but are you willing to trust Him and take a step of faith?

So if I’m not a gifted entrepreneur, what do I do? The church leaders in Acts 6 solved this quandary by raising up capable people to oversee practical ministry. Rather than bussing tables they focused on what they alone could not delegate. We don’t use titles at Shoreline but I delegate almost every practical task to capable people after I’ve invested the time to communicate our philosophy of ministry to them and outline the purpose for why we do what we do. This allows me to focus on the three “P’s”: prayer, preaching, and people.

2. All church planters start churches because they aren’t willing to submit to their senior pastors.

While some men have impure and selfish motives to plant churches, most church planters are aware of the needs in their city and experience a “holy discontent” before God calls them to plant out from the ministry they are associated with. Church planters understand that we can’t be everyone’s pastor. Some ministries will never reach a particular people group, and this is why we need more churches.

Peter Wagner reminds us that “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” Audrey Malphurs points out that “It is easier to have a baby than to raise the dead.” We must put new wine into new wineskins and sometimes that means stepping out by faith to start a new work.

If more churches would work together, we could fight the war on a united front. Every week at Shoreline we pray in the service for another local church in town and seek to build up the kingdom by working together for the Gospel. It isn’t “my” church, it is Jesus’s! And He promised to build it, to be with us in our scattering abroad to make disciples.

3. All church planters are pastors of the church they plant for life.

When God called us out of Reality Church Tampa, the church we had planted four years prior, I felt incredibly guilty. I knew God had called me to plant, so why was He calling me to leave? If you plant a church, doesn’t that mean you die in the pulpit there? The truth is, not everyone has the same calling!

Speaking of the Apostle Paul, Acts 18:23 says “After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.” Paul didn’t plant a church and remain, but raised up qualified men to continue the work, then moved on to plant more churches. It is important to know our calling and to fulfill it. Some are called to plant, others to water, but it is God who makes the ministry grow. And when God is speaking to us to step out and keep planting, we must be obedient. May we heed Ephesians 4:1,

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…”

God may have you pastor at your church in a stationary position until you die, like Peter in Jerusalem. Or, like Paul, God may call you to be a serial church planter. So whether stationary or serial, you must fulfill the ministry He’s called you to!

It’s easy to misunderstand church planters. One of my favorite commercials was an Apple commercial called “The Crazy Ones.” It reads this way, and always reminds me of church planters when I hear it:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Pastor Pilgrim Benham is the lead pastor of a brand-new church called Shoreline Calvary Chapel, in southwest Florida. He is currently building a church planter residency/internship for potential Calvary Chapel church planters. For more information, visit thisisshoreline.com.

Speaking Out: When to Break from a Series to Address Current Events

Aside from celebrating Thanksgiving and venturing out for super black Friday deals a couple weeks ago, we all watched as riots broke out in Ferguson, Missouri following the grand jury’s decision to not bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown earlier this year. Events such as these sometimes cause pastors to wonder whether or not they should address the issues from the pulpit. In thinking about that question I recommend five points to consider for when to speak out.

1. If the President takes time to address the nation, you should consider addressing the issue. 

A national special address by the president typically only comes in response to a serious event or issue in our nation. Such events affect many, if not all in our churches in some way or another. People rightly look to the Pastor to have something to say at such times.

2. If Monday night football gets preempted for a special news report, you might want to address it.  
If there is an event or issue serious enough for broadcasters to preempt “regularly scheduled programing” and the ad dollars that fund it, then it very well may be serious enough for you to take a moment and preempt week 87 of your study on the Gospel of John.
3. If #Ferguson is trending above #Bieber, it may be something to address. 
To some people this may make no sense whatsoever. By “#” of course I am speaking of a social media hashtag. I’ve heard a number of pastors (typically this in their mid-40’s on up) speak negatively of social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etcetera, but more and more people engage in the national discourse through such platforms. Trends of major topics, like “Ferguson” (which had been tweeted more than a quarter million times in the days following the announcement) give insight into the current ethos or discussion of the day. If people are talking about an event or issue, it might be a good thing to address from the pulpit.
4. If an event or issue directly impacts your local church body or the community in which you serve, you ought to speak to it. 
These issues are often smaller in scale, but may effect your congregation to a greater degree. If there’s been a death of a well known person in your church, or an accident in your community, it may not make even the local news, but it’s newsworthy for the people you pastor.
5. If the Spirit stirs you to speak, then make sure you obey. 
 
This is a given, but it may also be somewhat of an intangible too. Be sensitive to the prodding of God as to when you should break from your plan to speak to an issue. Sometimes we who have a teaching schedule laid out in advance (I have nearly all of my teaching schedule planned for 2015 already) may have a tough time breaking from the plan, but be prepared to do so if should God direct you.
With all these things in mind, let me throw out 10 quick bullet points for how to discuss such issues.
  1. Address issues Biblically and not politically 
  2. Get your talking points from the Lord and not the DNC, RNC, MSNBC, ABC, or FOX.
  3. Direct people primarily to the Lord for their actionable next steps.
  4. Seek to being hope and not despair. 
  5. Don’t add to the noise, bring clarity.
  6. Be more angry with sin, evil and the devil than the world of men.
  7. Remind people that the world is broken and that Jesus will one day bring restoration.
  8. Remind people that there are political and racial problems that man cannot fix or answer but Jesus can. 
  9. Remind people that true justice will never come until Jesus (the Just One) does.
  10. Remind people that there will be no peace until the Prince of Peace reigns. 
 
 
Pastor Miles DeBenedictis is the Senior Pastor of Cross Connection Escondido. Besides having a passion to equip and train leaders in the local church, Pastor Miles is one of the founders of the Calvary Church Planting Network and has taught the church planting class at Calvary Chapel Bible College. You can follow Pastor Miles on Twitter.

The Gospel – How You Say It, Matters

I could never have imagined being as blessed as I am. I live in a great community. I serve an awesome church. I’m married to a beautiful wife, and we have four incredible kids. It truly is a wonderful life. One of my favorite times of the day

(I think most parents of young children can relate) is bedtime, and one of the highlights of bedtime is putting our two-year old, Evangeline, down to sleep.

It’s at that time, every night, that we pray the same prayer.

“Thank You, God, for this day, and for Ethan, Addison, and Elliott (her brothers and sister), for Mommy and Daddy, for our Grammies and Papas, for Walter and Jack (her doggies) in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Occasionally, we even pray for Mike Wazowski, Eva’s favorite stuffed animal. It’s a simple and sweet prayer, which is almost always followed by her insisting that we sing “Jesus Loves Me” at least twice through, maybe three or four times, if she can get away with it.

If I prayed the same way and sang the same song week after week with the congregation at Cross Connection, more than a few people would take issue with it. I imagine that some might find it cute – once. But to continue to do so for three or four consecutive weeks would most certainly invite some anonymous “comment cards”.

It is easy for us to speak pejoratively of relevance, but the fact is that we need to contextualize, nearly all the time. To speak of substitutionary atonement with Evangeline would be fruitless. But to explain in simple terms that Jesus loved us, died on the cross, and rose from the dead to save us is appropriate and fairly clear, even for a two-year-old.

Illustrated like this, there are few people that would take issue with topics of relevance and contextualization. Still, there are some in Evangelicalism today who are genuinely uncomfortable with it.

Yet, if we are going to reach the lost, we must contextualize the message. Yes, in doing so there are dangers. The opportunity for miscommunication or misrepresentation is real. But the objection that all relevant contextualization is a deviation from the full gospel is, at best, a straw-man argument, and at worst a denial of the incarnational aspect of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

The fact is that we in the church speak a completely different language from those outside of it. To require that non-Christians learn our jargon before hearing the Gospel, disregards 2,000 years of missions history and smacks of a Christianity that would opt for the return to a Latin Mass. Men and women throughout Christian history have died to allow the message to be presented for the common man; it is unfortunate that some are still being “crucified” for doing so today.

Co-Laborers Or Competition? Calvary Chapel & Other Church Planting Movements

Like it or not, when something you’ve done for a long time becomes the mainstream, you are not viewed as the trendsetter, but just another “band-wagoner”.

You may well have been born and raised a Seattle Seahawks fan, but if you wore the hat or jersey while they were sailing through the playoffs toward the championship last year, you were labeled a band-wagoner. It’s just the way it is.

You may have liked Pectoralz when no one knew who the band was. It may have bothered you when they changed their name to Starfish. But once they had hits and toured under their final name, Coldplay, you were just another lame follower.

Calvary Chapel was all about church planting when it wasn’t hip.

In fact, Calvary Chapel didn’t even know that they were identified as a church planting movement, because they weren’t planning to, or trying to be a church planting movement. But they became just that by simply doing what Jesus commissioned His disciples to do!

Today church planting is the cool thing among young American Christians. In the last decade, dozens of books have been written and nearly every denomination or group has their own opinions, positions and conferences on the topic. It’s mainstream. But one of the unfortunate hazards for early followers and fans is they are inclined to become disgruntled when their thing becomes the thing.

In a nation such as ours, given to extreme excesses, there is one thing that America could use a lot more of- churches! We, as a family of churches, cannot succumb to the temptation of being irritated that others are now engaged in the work of propagating the Gospel through church planting. Sadly, in the last several years that has happened among a vocal minority in our fellowship of churches.

Anyone who is not against you is for you.

In the Gospels, both Mark and Luke record that John came to Jesus and said, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group” (Luke 9:49 NLT). So many of us know the rest of the exchange, and our familiarity can sometimes cause us to gloss over the important application. Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50 NLT).

Redeemer, City to City, Verge, Sojourn, Exponential, Acts 29, Triangle, ARC, PLNTD, Kairos, Launch, Sovereign Grace, New Breed, Stadia, and Spanish River are not in “our group”. Yes, some of them baptize babies, others have a less charismatic expression in worship, and nearly all of them hold differing views on eschatology, ecclesiology and polity (i.e. church government). But they’re definitely not against us, so may it be that God blesses them as He blesses us in the work of proclaiming the Gospel through church planting.