Building the Kingdom is a Group Effort

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Last week there was an excellent article written on The Exchange. It spoke to the heart of the work I do here in my home city Lapeer. The goal has always been to see the churches work together to evangelize the large unchurched population in our city and county.

I’ve written about the loss of opportunity when churches act and work as if they are the only church in the community. They ignore, or even out right criticize, other churches and their ministries. We lose credibility among the the community when they see us in disunity and competing against each other. The gospel is not owned by one single church. It is the good news of what God has done through Jesus, the story that every church should be telling.

Jeff Christopherson writes, “There are numerous geographies where the harsh reality is mutual antagonism and distrust amongst spiritual leaders…For whatever reason—either botched ecumenical experiences or deep personal pain—some pastors find it difficult to align for broader kingdom purposes.”

When we distrust each other in our common mission we will fall short. We will miss the mark time and again. When we align ourselves together for the common mission we will see our city, our county, our communities, come to know the living God.

What will it take to unite our churches to see the kingdom advance? Is there pride we need to repent of? Hardness of hearts towards our follow workers? Favoritism towards people groups or traditions?

Christopherson ends the article with this: “If we hope to move forward in the evangelization of North America, kingdom collaboration will to have to become the norm.” Amen, and amen.

If we want to see God move in our people, if we want to see people come to the faith, if we want to see the kingdom of God advance in our community, we need to unite together.

My Life in Posts

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If you were ever on Google+ you got an email recently announcing they are shutting down their platform. Back when it was implemented both Twitter and Facebook had been around for a number of years. Google wanted to be all things to all people and jumped into the social media market. They had a snazzy app that I loved but a small community. It stalled and never grew up to be the force that Twitter and Facebook is today.

I went to my profile today and perused my timeline. The last time I posted to Google+ was August 1, 2016. The first time was July 29, 2011.
It was interesting to see the progression of my life during that time. I posted about workouts, diets, movies, and vacations. I also posted links to my writings that no longer exist in the blogshpere.

I found it fascinating to see the subjects that I wrote about and what interested me. Many of my first posts involve apologetics with titles like, “My Gut Feeling: God is Out There,” and “The Euthyprho Dialog.” Later I wrote about the ministries that I was involved in like Abide, a 20s and 30s group I was pastoring in my church. Also, First Mission, a mission organization that I had started in 2012, one that I recently retired.

Around about 2014 I started to write more about peace and mercy ministries. I started to search out how a follower of Jesus seeks out to live his life according to his teachings. The titles of some were, “What About Self-defense?” and “The Dogs on the Border.”

Looking at my life in these posts I see a progression regarding my thoughts and beliefs through these years. People change, they grow up, and my posts attest to my maturing in life and theology. My 38 year old self is not the same person as the 28 year old I was.

Now, add to this the diverse individuals that are around you in your community. Many of whom you’ve known for years. Are they the same people when you first met? Or did they also grow, mature, and change. It makes you rethink keeping grudges and holding on to resentment.

Knowing people change, knowing we are diverse, and knowing we all are different in many ways, we can approach people with a little more grace, and little more mercy, a little more forgiveness.

Church As Family

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Krish Kandiah writes for Christianity Today, “It’s time to reclaim the church as something we belong to rather than just an event venue.”[1] He argues our churches have become places you go to instead of a community to belong to. We have made our churches another consumer product that is marketing to the public.

He says, “…the American church is fundamentally shaped by free-market capitalism…Church leaders frequently act as salesmen, and evangelism strategies often resemble marketing campaigns. Churches end up competing with one another for attendees just like business compete for customers”

The competitiveness between the churches has been one of the major barriers to church unity. It has stalled many attempts to bring churches together to reach out to the community as one.

The solution Kandiah gives is changing our mentality when it comes to the Church. We need to see the Church more like a family. The Scriptures are filled with familial language calling people in the Church brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. The Church is something that we belong to, something to BE. It is not a place we go to. The Church is family.

Sure, families are messy. We don’t always get along. And we certainly don’t choose our family members. But, we show grace, mercy, and love especially to our family. Let us learn to do the same for our Church family.

Galatians 6:10 (NIV): Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

 

[1] Kandiah, Krish. Church as Family. Christianity Today, January, February 2019. Print. 67

Conviction + Freedom = Denominations

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Dr. Albert Mohler answers the question, “What about denominations?” The skeptic and church critic wants to know. [2]

He begins by quoting Sydney Mead, a church historian. He says, “Theological conviction plus religious freedom equals denominationalism.” It is a simple math formula that describes why we have so many different denominations in the world.

Mohler adds the caveats that the differences in theological conviction is not about the authority of Scripture, the nature and work of Jesus Christ, or the creeds and doctrines of the universal church. This is how we make a distinction between churches that claim to be Christian, i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints.

Though there are many denominations with different theological convictions we do have a foundation upon which we all stand: Jesus Christ. Through him we all can come together, work tougher, and see the kingdom of God in our world. Our diversity actually helps us in bringing the kingdom of God to our world. Our different perspectives, different strengths, and our combine resources will go far in advancing the kingdom of God.

Bob Ekblad says, “It is urgent that people from diverse sectors of the global body of Christ humbly learn from one another and partner when possible. God’s kingdom will break in sooner and with more power to a desperate world as people serve each other in unity.” [2]

Working together will only bring about the good for the Church, good for our neighbors, and good for the kingdom. The time is now to begin to work together in unity to see the kingdom of God come.

 

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZURPJvyXFc
[2] Ekblad, Bob A New Christina Manifesto: Pledging Allegiance to the Kingdom of God. Kindle. Loc. 179

Schisms in the Church

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Schisms are nothing new to the church. There have been many throughout history. Most Protestants know of the Reformation where Luther posted his 95 thesis to the doors of the local church. But, what most people don’t know is most schisms throughout history have largely been a political schism and not a doctrinal schism.

The Great Schism of 1054 is often sited to be about the filioque, a Latin term that was added to the Nicene Creed. It describes the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father AND the Son, instead of just the Father. The church in the East disagreed with the church in

the West. Though this is one issue among many. The real issue was authority and control.

In 1054 Pope Leo IX declared that all spiritual authority and rightful head of the church is the pope in Rome. The Eastern church did not take to kindly to such decrees. The pope died shortly there after, but, he had sent his emissary Humbert of Silva Candida to negotiate with the Eastern church. But in the end the Patriarch Michael Caerularius was excommunicated by the pope’s emissary to the East. In turn the Patriarch excommunicated the pope’s associates! He rejected the claim of the papal primacy. This is when the church split between East and West.

It also didn’t help the West sacked Constantinople, the center of the Eastern church, in 1204. The Eastern church became known as the Orthodox Church and the Western the Catholic Church.

Fast forward to today and we see the same issue of politics disrupting church unity. On January 5, 2019 the Ukraine Orthodox Church gained its independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. Issues of politics, nationalism, power, and control, all played out and eventually led to the split of this great church.

I don’t know enough to say this is good or bad on the part of the Ukrainians or the Russians. I do know this is not the church that Jesus had called us to be.

The politics of this world are not the politics of Jesus Christ. The more we blur the two, the more we will be divided. The more we allow the politics to determine our practices, the less we will love our neighbor. We are to be IN the world, influencing it like leaven in bread. We are not to be OF the world having it influencing our practices and faith.

The church in the US will do well to learn this lesson.

2019 & Beyond

It has been a while since I posted any content on this site. I assure you, this is not because the issue of church partnership or the gospel means any less to me than before. But, the reason is largely in part BECAUSE of my love for church partnership that I have not written on the subject for a while.
Last September my wife and I accepted a position to manage the local homeless shelter called The Refuge.

The Refuge is a rotating shelter. We have no formal building to which we can house the homeless at night. We instead rotate the guests from church to church each week. Every night of the week the guests are fed and sheltered during the cold winter months here in Michigan. And it takes church partnership to do this.

The Refuge is the largest volunteer organization in our county. We help the local churches work together to give the homeless in our county food, shelter, and the love of Jesus. We are equipping churches to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

I’ve been with The Refuge since 2014. I have always been impressed with their work and ability to get the churches together for one cause. It is the best program I have seen that has brought churches together to make the world a better place. I am honored to be working with such a great organization.

That being said, this is why you have not heard from me in a while. But, this not to say you won’t hear from me going forward. I will be stepping up and writing more about church partnership and other subjects as I feel led. Also, I foresee doing some videos concerning bible study, current events, and discussing books that I have enjoyed.

The best way to keep tabs on my writing is to subscribe to this blog. Or follow me on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll post links when I post to my blog.

New Translation of the Old Testament – How to Read the OT

I highlight some of my favorite passages of  John Goldingay’s new translation of the Old Testament called The First Testament.

Also, I discus a recent article in Relevant Magazine where Andy Stanley says,

“Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Article: https://relevantmagazine.com/god/why-do-christians-want-to-post-the-10-commandments-and-not-the-sermon-on-the-mount/

Uniting Is Needed More Than Ever

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“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Heb 10:23–25 (ESV)

This verse is famous for its use in sermons encouraging the people to not neglect their church attendance. It is an exhortation to not neglect to attend a fellowship of like believers where you can learn from each other, be encouraged from each other, and not lose hope. By fellowshipping together we “hold fast the confession of our hope.”
But this is not the only application.

Recently I wrote about persecution and my belief that it is coming to the West. It is on the horizon. The one thing that I believe will help us weather the storm is by being in unity.

“The faithful Underground Church…In formerly Communist Russia, no one remembered anymore the arguments for or against child or adult baptism, for or against papal infallibility. They were not pre- or post-millennialists. They could not interpret prophecies and didn’t quarrel about them.” ~ Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ.

Persecution has a way of bringing the body of Christ together. During Communist Russia, many Christians were imprisoned for their faith. In the prison, there were no denominational lines that separated them. They came together as one, preached to each other, shared scriptures, and sang hymns to one another.

Should we wait for the persecution in order to come together as one body?
Hebrews tells us to “not neglecting to meet together.” This is not just for your local church, but for all local churches. This is meant for the whole body of Christ, all the local churches, to meet together. This is how we will encourage one another. This is how we will build each other up. For when the storm comes we will lean on each other and our love will get us through.

Prepare for Persecution?

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“ Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” Jn 15:20. (ESV)

Is the American Church ready for persecution? Some people scoff at the idea Christians will see persecution. Some say persecution will never come. We have the Constitution to protect us. There is no way our rights can be violated.

Recent history has shown us the gap that is between this world’s religion and our own faith, Christianity. Several cases have come up that have pitted Christian faith against the laws of this land. And many times the cases have gone through the courts siding on the side of the law and special interest groups against the religious freedom of the defenders. It wasn’t until the case went to the Supreme Court did we see some respite.

The Gospel Coalition has an article that comes out of Australia. The events there are not dissimilar to our own. Campbell Markham argues, in light of certain people losing their jobs over their faith and their beliefs regarding marriage, the church needs to prepare itself for more persecution. He is calling all churches in Australia to prepare their people for persecution. I’d suggest you read the whole article. It paints a picture not only of the grim reality we live in but also of the glory of keeping the faith even during trials and persecution.

I expect, within the remainder of my lifetime, that Christians will be legally restricted in their ability to speak out and live out their faith in the public sphere. ~ Campbell Markham pastors Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Hobart.

Even though Markham is speaking to Australia specifically, I think he speaks to all the Church in the West. We’ve not seen the persecution that the Church has endured in its history. The promise of Jesus is we will see persecution. We in the West have been blessed not to see what our forefathers witnessed and endured.

Will this blessing turn into a curse? Will we bend to the will of our state, our tormentors, when they demand we turn away from our faith, the teaching of our Lord? Will we endure losing our jobs for our faith? Our homes? Our church buildings?

The Church’s Ups and Downs

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Habakkuk 3:2 says, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.”

“The history of the Church has a history of ups and downs. It is there to be seen on the surface. When you read the history of the past you find that there have been periods in the history of the Church when she has been full of life, and vigour, and power. The statistics prove that people crowded to the house of God, whole numbers of people who were anxious and eager to belong to the Christian Church. Then the Church was filled with life, and she had great power; the Gospel was preached with authority, large numbers of people were converted regularly, day by day, and week by week. Christian people delighted in prayer. You did not have to whip them up to prayer meetings, you could not keep them away. They did not want to go home, they would stay all night praying. The whole Church was alive and full of power, and of vigour, and of might. And men and women were able to tell of rich experiences of the grace of God, visitations of his Spirit, a knowledge of the love of God that thrilled them, and moved them, and made them feel that it was more precious than the whole world. And, as a consequence of all that, the whole life of the country was affected and changed.” Martin Lloyd-Jones in Revival (Crossway, 1987), 26

Father, we remember the great miracles you’ve done in the past. Repeat those same miracles today!