The Second Greatest Commandment

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29–31 (ESV)

Every follower of Jesus knows these two commandments. They are the foundation of the whole life in Jesus. But what happens when the second commandment gets in the way of the first?

What I mean is what do you do when loving your neighbor would mean not loving God?

In this world we are told to tell someone their sins will keep them out of the kingdom of God is unloving and uncaring. Especially when they love their sin or even identify themselves with their sin. We are branded as hateful and bigots. Therefore, they say we should accept them for who they are, what they do, and that only God can judge them.

But our love for God must come first. Being the “greatest” commandment supersedes all other commands. We must love God first before we can begin to love our neighbors.

In loving God we come to find we are called to warn our neighbors of the coming judgment fo God. He will judge the living and the dead by Jesus Christ who was sinless. Those that continue to practice sin with unrepentance will not be part of the kingdom of God. They will find themselves outside the city walls separated from God and his protection.

Really the most loving thing we can do is warn people of their sin and its consequences. The most hateful thing we can do to our neighbors is not warning them of sin and judgment. To keep quiet is hateful, bigoted, and selfish.

We cannot truly begin to love our neighbors until we have come to love God and his Word.

Unity By The Spirit

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph. 4:1-3

Are you “eager to maintain the unity fo the Spirit”?

We all need to ask ourselves this question. I’ve always heard unity preached through the years. But I wonder if we really want unity in the Church. Do we really want unity with those brothers and sisters we disagree with?

I want to note the translators of the ESV version chose to capitalize the word “Spirit” in verse 3. Most every modern Bible translations follows suit. In other words, verse 3 is referring to the Holy Spirit. This means, the unity of the Church is brought and worked out by the Holy Spirit.

What makes this interesting is the fact many churches are divided when it comes to the Holy Spirit and his work today. How is it that the very means of unity of the Church now has become the means of division?

A recent article on The Exchange speaks of a time after WWII where there was an explosion of missionary agencies that brought together different traditions in hopes of reaching the lost in our world. This brought together Charismatics with Cessationist in efforts to reach the world.

“Mission agencies of all kinds became new voices – InterVarsity, the Navigators, Youth for Christ, Young Life, and Campus Crusade, to name a few – bringing young people together in new kinds of missions and understandings. This generated inter-church activity, mixing those from Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal communities, breaking down walls.” – Brian Stiller

The Holy Spirit brought together people hungry to see lost people saved. Because of their faithfulness God moved in a huge way. A way that many said did not happen and could not happen. People’s doctrines were shook up.

“Into that mix came missionaries returning home and giving accounts of healings, deliverance from demonic oppression and miracles, this often to churches that assumed such manifestations had ceased. Deeply divided churches were about to discover what they had in common.” – Brian Stiller

What they had in common was the power and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.

It is said, there are no atheist in foxholes. In other words, in the midst of war, in the trenches where the battle is most fierce, everyone begins to pray. When it seems all is lost many being to pray to the god they don’t believe in.

It is the same in the mission field: there are no Cessationists in the front lines of the mission field. In the mission field you will find out you are praying healing and miracles. When faced with a real enemy you will be praying to cast out demons. You’ll want to see God move in a miraculous and supernatural way. In the mission field there are no Charismatics or Cessationists. There are only people of God living out the kingdom in a powerful way.

Paul tells us humility, gentleness, and patience, as we all strive towards unity.

Are you eager for the unity of the Spirit?

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

Photo by Olga Delawrence on Unsplash

“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.

Who Are We?

Photo by Ruslan Valeev on Unsplash

“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.

Let Your Light Shine

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

“Let your light so shine before others so that, seeing your good actions, they will praise your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (paraphrase)

I am studying the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. In my studying, I came across a commentary by Scott McKnight. In it, he says, “…reading or teaching or preaching the Sermon on the Mount is evangelism.”[1]

This struck me as an interesting topic, one that keeps coming up in my studies on evangelism.

When we think of evangelism we usually think about preaching the cross, how Christ died to save us from our sins, and those that believe in him will not see the judgment of God but will receive eternal life. This is a very different message than the Sermon on the Mount. What we see in this sermon of Jesus are commands and exhortations about how to live life. But, could living the life we find in Jesus sermon help us to shine our light on the world and draw people to Jesus Christ?

Scott McKnight illustrates a story about a Hindu student of his that warmed up to Christianity in his class. He said, “This Hindu student of mine was attracted to Jesus because of the Story of Jesus she read in the Gospels.”

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the same idea. He says, “I suggest to you [the Sermon on the Mount] is the best means of evangelism…The world today is looking for, and desperately needs, true Christians…If only all of us were living the Sermon on the Mount, men would know that there is a dynamic in the Christian gospel…” [2]

What these two authors, published in different two centuries are saying, is, if the Church of Jesus Christ started to act like it followed Jesus Christ, the world would see and believe, and they two will follow Christ.

[1] Scott McKnight, The Story of God Bible Commentary: Sermon on the Mount, (Zondervan, 2013) Kindle Location: 841
[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1960) pg. 18-20

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

Two Heads Are Better Than One

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

The old adage, “two heads are better than one,” is true in most situations. Unless you’re trying to decide what restaurant to go to. But in ministry, this truth runs the whole of Scripture.

God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone.

Moses sought out leaders from the people to help him judge the people of Israel.

The kings of Israel would surround themselves with “wise men.”

Jesus sent out the disciples two-by-two.

Paul never worked alone. And when he was alone he didn’t want to be.

You can see over and over again, in Scripture and history having many advisors often leads to success.

So, let’s take a look at the current monochurch culture that we live in. We have many different churches, with many different types of services, with many different types of organization, leadership styles, and administrations, big churches, small churches, different worship styles…etc.

We live in a culture where you can find any church that will suit your style. You can find whatever flavour you want. The consumer-driven culture as gave us cool churches, cooler churches, and the coolest church to choose from.

And yet, much of the population remains unchurched, unreached, and not interested.

If the church is to succeed, maybe we should look to Scripture (Pr. 22:15). Maybe, the “two heads are better than one” adage can be used to succeed in reaching the lost in our communities. If we put our collective heads together, with our years of experience in ministry, it is possible we could reach our communities with the gospel more effectively.

A multichurch culture brings together multiple perspectives about how to meet needs, reach goals, and solve problems. A multichurch provides alternative views that can be more insightful, and deeper than a monochurch culture offers.

 

All Things In Common

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Ac 2:44–45.

As I have said before, the passage in Acts 2:42-47 moves people today to ask the question, ““Why does the Church today look so different than the Church of Acts?”

I think verses 44 & 45 are the ones that make people believe the First Church is very different than our churches today.

Today, the only thing local churches have in common is the fact many of them have a building, with a pastor, who comes together every Sunday morning to sing songs, listen to a sermon, and then go home.

The monochurch culture has lead to many weak, poor, and ineffectual churches in our communities. Church buildings are in disrepair. Fellowships are scraping by just to pay the bills. Even within our congregations, there are people who struggle to feed their families.

This is where I believe the multichurch culture can shine.

Imagine people selling possessions to give to the needy, not just in their own church fellowship, but to help others in other churches – the homeless would have shelter, the hungry fed, the naked clothed.

Imagine if a larger church set aside resources in order to help a smaller church – buildings could be repaired, technology updated, and resources shared for the gospel.

Ask yourself, what would it look like for churches to have all things in common?

A multichurch culture involves more people, which brings together more resources, ideas, and energy than would monochurch culture.

“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?