Church Unity Is More Important Than ‘Being Theologically Correct’?

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“Father…I do not pray just for these disciples only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word. I pray that they all may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one with us. This way the world may believe that you have sent me.” ~ Jesus (John 17:20-21 Paraphrase)

The Christan Post came out with an article quoting Andy Stanley, “Church Unity Is More Important Than ‘Being Theologically Correct.‘” Using the verse from John 17 where Jesus prays his disciples would be one, as he and the Father are one, so that they may one together.
Stanley said it is significant Jesus prayed for unity for his disciple above other things, for example, being theologically correct. But I am wondering if Andy Stanley has read the previous verses where Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in your truth…” I think Andy Stanley massively downplays having the right doctrine here. Each church needs to strive for the right teaching of Jesus and to continuously reform to achieve it. Even though I thinking Stanley goes a little too far, I do understand his sentiment.
What usually divides us is not the core of the faith. It is usually peripheral doctrines concerning baptism, communion, the work of the Holy Spirit…etc. Others are divided by worship styles, liturgy, and style of preaching.
I am not saying we shouldn’t have diverse practices or even diverse beliefs. What I am saying, is, these should not divide us when it comes to our mission in this world.
Notice Jesus’ prayer. He says in essence, “Father, I pray my disciples will be united in us so that the world may see and believe in me.” In other words, our unity should be a sign to the world of Jesus’ ministry and kingdom on earth.
I’ve often heard from skeptics about the plethora of churches that exist in our culture. Which one is right? Who is wrong? Why does this church belittle that church? Why are Christians always fighting?
Our disunity has damaged the image of Jesus in our churches. When we no longer live out the unity that is found within the Godhead, we no longer bear the image of that Godhead. Our witness falls apart.
My suggestion for churches that differ in the secondary doctrines of the faith, that we agree to disagree, charitably, and work together to rebuild the image of the unity God in our communities.

Test For Revival

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 (ESV)

If you haven’t guessed from my posts I am a Charismatic, or better, a continueist. This means I believe the gifts and the signs of the kingdom of God can still be practiced and seen today; for example, healings, miracles, prophecies, and those “nefarious” tongues.

But, just because I am a continueist, does not mean I cannot learn from my cessationist friends. These friends don’t believe these gifts and signs are for today, rather, they ceased when the last Apostle died almost 1900 years ago (some believe the gifts ceased when the canon was completed).

I came across this article, “Jonathan Edwards and Why I am a Cessationist,” written by Jeff Robinson. Though, he does not really describe why he is a cessationist, other than him being creeped out by a Charismatic service he attended. But, he goes on to describe how Jonathan Edwards handled the revival he encountered, and the working of the Spirit upon men and woman.

One of the “neutral signs, as Edwards put it, is bodily effects. Our body can do some strange things when encountering the Spirit of God: fainting, shouting, tongue talking etc… But, because these bodily effects happen does not mean they are evidence of the Spirit. The effects can happen without the Spirit. One only has to visit a sporting event to know this.

But, there are five things that Edwards lists that are marks of true revival. I’ll list them here without comment – I want to comment on Jeff Robinson’s comments.

1. A deep and aiding love for the person and work of Christ.

2. A desire to kill sin and break the bonds of worldliness.

3. A deep love for and desire to feast on God’s Word.

4. An unshakable conviction of sound doctrine.

5. An increased love for God and man.

These are positive signs that God is moving in the heart of people when revival comes. Edwards was no continueist, but, what he gives us here are tools for us to use to “test the spirits” when the Spirit does come.

The author of the article does on to ask, “How might Edwards advise us to approach today’s claims of revival?” He goes on to list out 4 items for us to consider.

1. We must beware of accepting everything as from the Lord. The fault of my tradition is the fact we have not tested the spirits. We have not filtered our experiences, and our prophecies, against the Word of God. We went with whatever happened because of tradition, leadership, or because we saw bodily effects as a sign of God moving on people.

2. Not all spirits are holy. This is very true, especially when there is a move of the Spirit of God. The enemy is always outside looking in, seeking how he can penetrate into the kingdom to do damage. He will enter through unsuspecting people willing to grasp hold of any spirit that will give them the experiences they are witnessing. Without sound doctrine to guide us, and to guide the people, they can fall into error and seek the experience instead of the Spirit behind the experience.

3. We should be skeptical of any movement that draw attention away from the local church and its preaching ministry. I believe the goal of a Spirit initiated revival is to make disciples of people. While parachurch organizations, revivalists, and traveling evangelists may be involved with a revival, they cannot replace the local church.

4. Such movements often foster what I call a “lightning-bolt spirituality.” I haven’t seen what Robinson describes here. What he describes are revivals that are person centric that promotes encounters where you are “struck by a spiritual lightning bolt and become instantly more sanctified.” He goes on to say that sanctification is a progressive through God’s grace. While I agree with him, I do believe one can surrender more to God, so much more than they have before, in one life changing event. The revival can be such one event. What Robinson does say is any revival needs to point people to Jesus, and not an event or certain teachers at the revival. The goal is for people to become followers of Jesus Christ – saved, discipled, and working for the kingdom.

Who Are We?

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“How will they call on Jesus, the one they have not believed. How will they believe in him when they have not heard? How will they hear without someone to tells them? Who will go tell unless they are sent?” Romans 10:14-15a Paraphrase

I had the opportunity to be trained and to be a part of an evangelistic team this past Saturday. It was an interesting experience, one that I will not forget.

The day began with worship and prayer. Then we went through training for street evangelism, something I have never done before. After, we split up into groups and went to different areas of the city to pray for people and speak about the kingdom of God.

I was partnered with a within a group of three: two people who have done street evangelism before, and me, a novice observer. We went to a local “big box” retail store to do our evangelism. As you can imagine, doing a “cold” approach to someone at the store to pray and speak to them about Jesus is way out of most people’s comfort zone. I was moving into unknown territory.

We had a few hits and misses as we moved through the store. Our time was running out so we went for one more approached. In came a woman on a motorized cart.

We approached and asked if she would like to pray for her. She gladly said yes and took our hands! I could tell this woman knew God and believed in the power of prayer. What she asked us to pray for was her pain. She has fibromyalgia, a disease that causes pain all over the body. So we prayed.

Now, I don’t know how you feel about healing, whether healing is for today or not, nonetheless, we ALL still pray for God to move in our lives.

So we prayed.

And her pain went away.

She stood up out of her cart and walked around it pain-free, walking like she has not walked in weeks. Tears came to her eyes as she walked around astonished.

Then, she asked a question I won’t forget, “Who are you guys? Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

The question made me chuckle. But in hindsight the question saddens me.

You see, this woman had prayed for Jesus to take her pain away earlier that day. She did not plan to come into the store that day but decided on a whim to come in. Then out of all the people walking into the store we approach her to offer prayer. This woman believed in prayer. Believed Jesus could heal her.

But, she thought we were Jehovah’s Witness.

Why?

Because, as a Christian, she knew this is not what Christians normally do. Christians don’t go out of their churches to pray for people, to speak to people about Jesus. WE don’t do that. WE let the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons do all the one-on-one, public evangelism.

I believe this needs to change. When we read the book of Acts we see that everywhere the Church went it turned the city upside down. In some cities there were riots!

But now, we are content to live our churchy lives, comfortable, not “rocking the boat,” and allow other pseudo-Christian sects to do the work that Jesus Christ has called his Church to do.

Who will go tell unless they are sent? I tell you, we have been sent my friends.

Praying in Unity

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“After Peter and John had been set free they went to their fellowship and told them what the chief priests and the Jewish elders had said to them. All who heard their story were moved, and in one mind prayed together…When they had finished, the place where they were together was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to tell God’s message fearlessly.” Acts 4:23-24, 31 (paraphrase)

Peter and John were arrested by the Jewish religious leaders. God had done a miracle through them in healing a lame man. All the people who saw were amazed and were eager to know how this could happen. Peter and John went on to preach Jesus Christ, who not only has the power to heal but to save. They were arrested for preaching Jesus Christ. Finding no way to keep them or punish them due to the public miracle they let them go.

After hearing the story the people, having one mind, began to pray. They praised God for his works, they prayed the Scriptures, they prayed about their situation, and they prayed for boldness to preach the message of the gospel, and the power to heal with signs and wonders.

We read the books of Acts in one of two ways. Either we read the book of Acts as history seeing all that God had done in the past through the apostles and disciples. We see all that happened as being in the past and “not for today.” The book of Acts is only information about what happened and not a mirror to compare our lives, or our churches, to. As a consequence, many churches remain dead and powerless.

Another way we read the book of Acts is with a longing for God to work like he did before. We sit in our pews and wonder why God is not moving like he did in the book of Acts. Why people aren’t being saved. Why we see no miracles, signs and wonders. Why we remain in disunity, faithless, and powerless. Why are our churches empty. The consequence of being “pew sitters” is the same as reading the book of Acts as history: dead and powerless churches.

Our acts don’t match the acts of the disciples in the book of Acts.
Peyton Jones said, “If we want to witness kingdom expansion like the apostles did, it’s not enough to know what they knew. We need to do what they did.” [1]

From our passage today we see a glimpse of what the disciples of the early Church did: they prayed.

Not just any type of praying, but, praying together in unity. The Scripture says, “they lifted their voices together to God…” (ESV). They prayed with one heart, one focus, and one mission. They wanted the power of God in their church, not for protection, but for power and boldness to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the act, the first act, any church, or group of churches, should take in winning their community to God.

When the Church comes together in unity there is power in our prayer. Jesus promises his presence, especially when we are gathered together in his name. And when we pray as one, we shake the community, and we become bold to speak his message fearlessly.

[1] Peyton Jones, Reaching the Unreached Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art, (Zondrvan, 2017) pg. 23

A Solemn Assembly is Needed…

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Recently, a pastor friend of mine gave me a document called, “A Solemn Assembly is Needed…”. It was a list of conditions, or symptoms, of a local church that when observed, a solemn assembly of repentance and renewal needs to be called.

Inspired by such a list I’ve adapted my own for the local Christian community. These symptoms point to the need for a community-wide solemn assembly. Read this list and see if you can relate to some of this symptoms. I know I do.

A Community Solemn Assembly is Needed…

  • When we find ourselves walking by sight instead of walking by faith
  • When prayer is the last resort instead of the foundation of our community
  • When events for evangelism are preferred over one-on-one evangelism
  • When our passion to build the biggest church overshadows our passion and pursuit of God’s kingdom in the community
  • When the ministry of God in our community does not include the poor, the widows, and the fatherless
  • When there is a greater emphasis on pleasing people, looking good in the community, and having the greatest influence, than pleasing God
  • When we find ourselves being more excited about building our own church than the health of our community
  • When the pastors of our churches do all the evangelism and discipleship in our community while our people spectate from their chairs
  • When we seem to be producing “converts” instead of “disciples” in our community
  • When growing our attendance is more important than the spiritual health of the community, and the spiritual health of other churches
  • When most growth in churches today is transfer growth
  • When there is disunity among the churches or ministries in the community
  • When there is no community vision, and no cooperation to see that vision through
  • When we see the other churches as competition, instead of partners in the kingdom of God
  • When each church exists as an isolated island unto itself, and we work within the community as if we are the only church

Which symptoms resonated with you? What would you add to the list?

Solemn Assembly

Towards the end of last year, I was burdened for the community of Lapeer. Looking at the demographics of our city and county, I discovered that many in the population do not attend church. A staggering 69% of the people marked they had no religious affiliation.

With 88,373 people in our county, that means almost 70,000 people are unreached. 6,000 unreached souls live within the Lapeer city limits alone. The harvest is huge; the harvest is white. We need to pray and get to work.

So, I met with local pastors and leaders to discuss how we can work together in order to reach the lost in our communities. We felt the need to call an assembly, a solemn assembly. One in which the churches and the people would come together for prayer, for repentance, and for consecration. Just as our Lord has said, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We will pray for God to send laborers. We will pray that He will prepare the hearts and minds of the lost to receive His gospel. We will repent of our inaction in evangelism. We will consecrate ourselves to being fishers of men as the Lord has called us to be.

There will be worship, prayer, and scripture reading throughout the service, all relating towards evangelism.

We are inviting every Christian in Lapeer County to this solemn assembly. It will take place on Sunday evening, March 11 at 6:30 pm. Hillside Discipleship Church has graciously offered their building for this assembly.

HILLSIDE Discipleship Church
4025 North Lapeer Rd.
Lapeer, Michigan 48446

You can find the Facebook event page by going here: www.onechurchlapeer.org

You can download a flyer to print for your church here: Flyer

Seek Kingdom

Opera stars were a thing, believe it or not. John Maxwell told this story:

In recent years, opera superstars Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti have enjoyed singing together. They’ve done it frequently, but prior to their first performance the three world-class tenors had never sung together on one stage.
The November 1994 issue of Atlantic Monthly reported that prior to their performance in Los Angeles, a journalist tried to press the issue of competitiveness between the three men. But they quickly disarmed him. “You have to put all of your concentration into opening your heart to the music,” Domingo said. “You can’t be rivals when you’re together making music.”

What a powerful statement. What Domingo said was essentially, we are too busy working on music, the language of the music, the movement of the music, the beauty of the music, that they could not be rivals if they were to perform the best that music can be. Together, they can bring out the best music the world has seen.

Imagine what the Church could do if it had the same mentality. Imagine, if every church was so busy seeking the kingdom of God, living the kingdom of God, and building the kingdom of God, so much that rivalries are not even thought of. If all the churches were truly working for the kingdom of God, there would be no rivalries amongst local churches.

But alas, we are still fallen creatures. We still have pride issues, envy issues. We need to remember the work of Christ in our hearts to weed out these fruit of the flesh and to grow in our spirit fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is a daily sacrifice to live for Christ. It is a daily sacrifice to live in unity in Christ.

Let’s seek out the kingdom of God with such fervency that the lines that divide us blur with our love towards one another.

Pentecostal, Baptists, Independent…We All Need Each Other

A good article from Together for the Gospel called, “Why Charismatics and Calvinists Need Each Other,” speaks of the possible unity between missional oriented Charismatics and theological depth of the Calvinists.

He begins by describing why we are so separated.

This separation has never been more apparent than the present. It’s cause for concern when Pentecostals/charismatics get together in their conferences, read their books, remain in their churches, and never get out of their sandbox… Just as concerning as it is when charismatics stay in their own sandbox, so it is with us Calvinists.

Too often we look at other traditions and believe they are “wrong”, therefore, we cannot work together, worship together, or even converse with each other. We would prefer to die upon our hill of doctrine than to understand the other tradition and see where we have similarities. When we discard whole traditions for past disagreements we can fall into error in our own understanding of the gospel.

As one of my mentors put it, “Charismatics love the fire of God’s power, but sometimes we burn things down with it.” …we Calvinists construct a beautiful fireplace, but sometimes we struggle to get the fire going.

The author is saying that both traditions can learn from each other. We both can strengthen each other’s weakness. Imagine what would happen if we did come together for the gospel?

I am thankful I am seeing more people in the Reformed camp calling themselves Reformed Charismatics.

The goal of this post is not to convince you to be Reformed or Charismatic. The goal is to show you that our traditions should not keep us from coming together as one body of Christ. We need each other! What if the different traditions represent the different body parts of the body of Christ?

Can the eye say to the hand, “I have no need of you”? Or the head to the feet say, “I have no need of you”? Can the Charismatic say to the Reformed, “I have no need of you”? Can the Reformed say to the Charismatic, “I have no need of you”?

“You keep using that word…”

In studying the topic of partnership and working together I found myself writing different phrases that mean the same thing:

Churches that partner together.

Churches that work together.

Partnering churches.

Churches who work alone.

To simplify my writing and note taking I am creating new words: multichurch, monochurch, and cochurch.

These aren’t the only ones I am sure to create in my lifetime. I don’t expect much publicity, or recognition pertaining to these words. Most people don’t remember who coined what word. Who coined the word megachurch?

If there is a megachurch, is there such a thing as a microchurch? Or are there only churches and megachurches? Anyways…

Let me define these terms and how I am going to use them.

Multichurch: an association of churches in an area partnered towards a goal or set of goals. This is different than a denomination in that several traditions will be in the same multichurch. Also, I did not want to use the word “ecumenical” because it tends toward a larger body, a global body. My focus will be more localized within a city, town, or area. I will also make use of “multichurch culture” to describe the paradigm I am promoting: a culture where local churches work together for evangelism and outreach.

Monochurch – a church that does not work with other churches, and may even work against other churches. These churches are sceptical of other traditions. Some may even see these churches as heretical. Monochurch culture refers the current culture within the Church today.

Cochurch – an individual church that exists within a multichurch (much like the word coworker). The church is partnered with another church or group of churches. I may not use this word as much as the others.

Tell me what you think? Do you think these words are adequate? Do you think they’ll catch on?

The First Church

Acts tells the story of the beginning of the Church. The first church grew from 120 people to over 3000 in one day. Reading Acts 2:42-47 we see a mega-church united in body and spirit.

Many read these passages and ask the question, “Why does the Church today look so different than the Church of Acts?” In Acts, they had “all things in common” and no one had need. Looking at the Church today, we are all divided, and we are all in need. The devil has done well to divide and conquer us.

How do we recover from our divisiveness, come together and help each other? I believe the answer lies within these passages in Acts.

Read Acts 2:42-47. Then answer these two questions:

  1. Where is the church building?
  2. Who is the head pastor?

Now, these items are not bad or unbiblical. Buildings and pastors are needed. One point I am making here is this: head pastors and buildings don’t make a church. What makes a church are believers that are devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ, to fellowship, communion, and prayer.

How the First Church functioned was this: meeting in homes to fellowship and being discipled by the Apostles and the other 108 souls that were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were one church, with one message, meeting in multiple buildings. If each house could hold 120 people, that would mean 25 house-churches was required for the First Church.

Incidentally, there are about 25 churches in my home city. Could we be one church, meeting in multiple locations, having the one message of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Can we have all things in common and have no one church, or one family, in need?