Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SHARE ~ The Right Question May Not Be A Good Question

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What Questions Are People Asking?

Wednesday August 12, 2009 ~ 9 Comments

For decades, the phrase, "If you were to die today, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?" was associated with evangelical attempts at sharing their faith. My guess is that millions of people have been asked that question over the last few decades-- and I would not be surprised if God used such a conversation and question and many many became followers of Christ.

But, the question itself always intrigued me. And, one of the great things about my job (as a researcher), is I get to say, "I wonder..."

And, in this case, I wondered how many people really ask that question. In other words, how often to people wonder if they were to die today would they go to heaven. My first assumption was that only a few people really would think about their eternal destiny and, thus, thought the question might be less helpful today if few asked that question.

So, to test my informal hypothesis, we commissioned a poll.

About three years ago, while I was serving at the North American Mission Board's Center for Missional Research (now led by my friend Richie Stanley), Richie and I did a poll on that very subject.

Interestingly, "Will I go to heaven when I die?" is not a question most Americans ask themselves with much frequency. The North American Mission Board's Center for Missional Research conducted a survey that give some insight into what Americans are really thinking.

goingtoheaven.png

There are a good number of people who ask that question and do so frequently, but most do not.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SHARE ~ Old & New Paradignms

5 Kinds of Christians
"The old paradigm of evangelism was a transactional sharing of the gospel," says Ken Fong, senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles. "I would try to get people to intellectually agree with me. But the new paradigm is different, an approach in which I invite you to walk alongside me, examine my life, and see evidence of the truth, and hopefully there will be something compelling that you see. It's a no-strings-attached invitation to enter my life as I follow Jesus."

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SHARE ~ Full CIrcle Evangelism by Ché Ahn

Ministry Today

...as we teach our members how to wisely win souls, we must also convey to them the importance of seeing new believers grounded in the right local church. This doesn’t always mean encouraging the convert to attend our church. Certainly, that is a great option—the person who shared salvation can then share relationship.

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Changing The Culture

Ministry Today

Co-opted by the Wrong Culture

QUOTE:

"While the megachurch has some unique dynamics, most medium-sized and smaller churches in America are not that much different in demographics. It's not as if no young people attend smaller churches, or as if every member of a smaller church is an active volunteer! And many a smaller church chases after 'strategies and programs' that can 'meet spiritual needs' and 'multiply effectiveness.' As it turns out, the megachurch is like a megaphone. It is not so much an aberrant form of church as a large, flashing icon of the American church. It's no secret that too many evangelical leaders are captivated more by business culture than biblical culture, spending more time absorbed in strategies and effectiveness and relatively little time in prayer. No, it doesn't have to be an either-or situation, but let's face it, it often is. This is not the first time in history that a church has struggled with the insidious effects of culture. Maybe we should stop either cheerleading for the megachurch, as if it's the answer, or pointing fingers at it, as if it's the problem. Each American church in its own way has been co-opted and fallen short of the glory of God. Once we all admit that, the Spirit can start working with us to create a gospel culture in our churches."

—a Christianity Today editorial on how America's business-minded, numbers-driven culture has negatively affected both large and small churches [christianitytoday.com, 8/6/09]




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Friday, August 07, 2009

Where Collaboration Goes Haywire

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Spiritual Authority and the Things We Love, Part 1

By Francis Frangipane
(En Español)

While the doctrines of Christianity can be taught, Christlikeness can only be inspired. By their humble and holy lives, this next generation of leaders will inspire multitudes. They will truly walk in Christ’s love; they will be granted great authority.

The Church has many administrators, but few examples of Christ; many who can explain the doctrines of Christianity but few who walk as Jesus walked. Indeed, while many stand in leadership today, not many function in the higher realms of authority that Christ purchased for His Church. However, a new badge of authority is coming to the Church. It will bring deliverance on a scale unprecedented; in some cases, entire cities will be turned toward God.

What is spiritual authority? It is nothing less than God Himself confirming with power the word of His servant. Moses exemplified spiritual authority when he warned unrepentant Pharaoh. The Spirit of God confirmed Moses’s judgments with power that broke the pride of Egypt. Jesus manifested spiritual authority when He confronted demons in people, silenced storms, healed diseases, and then fulfilled redemption in resurrection power. The Father let none of Christ’s words go unfulfilled.

The Bible provides us with many examples of those with spiritual authority. Every example tells us the same underlying principle: those who are raised up by God are backed up by God. They will "decree a thing, and it will be established" (Job 22:28). Such is the nature of spiritual authority.

The Source of Authority
Obviously, as pastors, leaders, and intercessors, we need to operate in greater authority. Yet while we enjoy a variety of graces that add to our personal edification, God gives us authority for one specific purpose: to fulfill His purposes on the earth. What are God’s purposes? One main unveiling of the divine purpose is seen in the Great Commission. Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:18-19).

Christ gave the Church authority to make disciples. We have been much more successful in making converts than disciples. In our day, many are believers in Jesus, but few are truly followers of Christ. If the goal is discipleship, how do we accomplish this? We are to take our converts and teach "them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded" (v. 20). When the Church returns to teaching all that Jesus taught, our disciples will have authority to do all that Jesus did.

Yet, spiritual authority is not something we possess merely because we strive for it. We cannot buy it as Simon the magician attempted to do (Acts 8:18). The power of authority will not function simply because we copy the methods of another, as the sons of Sceva realized (Acts 19:14-16). Nor can it be attained automatically because we read books about building the Church. We cannot pretend to have spiritual authority. As we focus upon obeying the words of Christ, there are divinely ordained ways for Christ’s authority to unfold in our lives.

From the beginning of our salvation we have enjoyed the Father’s unconditional love. As we mature, however, there comes a time when the Father’s love toward us seems conditional. As it was for Christ, so it is for those who follow Him. He said:

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life.
---John 10:17

Jesus lived in the deepest intimacies of the Father’s love because He laid down His life for the sheep. If we will grow in true authority, we will do so by laying down our lives for His sheep. Have you felt the drawing, the divine working of the Father bringing you into Christlike surrender? Be encouraged: He is equipping you for this next outpouring of His Spirit. But also be advised: your authority will be an outgrowth of your life laid down in love.

As leaders, we do indeed have administrative authority due to our positions in church government; however, spiritual authority transcends administrative authority. Here is the path to true spiritual authority: in full possession of our souls, without fear or intimidation by any outside source, we choose to lay down our lives for Christ’s sheep. Yes, in full freedom, with avenues of escape plainly within view, we fearlessly surrender our souls to God.No one controls us but God, yet our lives are laid down, like Christ’s, in intercession for others. When we could easily fight and win, yet turn the other cheek; when we are unjustly opposed, yet quietly endure---at those moments spiritual authority is entering our lives.

No one has taken [My life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.
---John 10:18

Jesus was not forced to accept crucifixion; He chose crucifixion. Christ’s Gethsemane prayer was not an entreaty to escape the cross, for while Jesus was still in the garden, He told Peter, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53). Jesus had a choice: legions of warring angels and immediate personal deliverance, or death on the cross and deliverance for the world. He chose to die for us. The willful decision to lay down our lives as Jesus did is the very path upon which true authority develops. Jesus said, "I have authority to lay [My life] down" (John 10:18). His authority came in the laying down of His life. Our authority comes from the same source: picking up our cross and laying down our lives for others.

Authority, Not Control
Spiritual authority is the provision of God to transform the temporal with the power of the eternal. It is not something our flesh can imitate, nor is it found in the tone of our words or the gaze of our eyes. Divine authority requires divine sanction. This sanction comes from passing the tests of love.

When authority is administered without love, it degenerates into control. God does not call us to control His people but to inspire and guard them. The outcome of control is oppression, witchcraft, and strife. But the result of love is liberty and the power to build up and protect God’s people.

True spiritual authority exists above the realm of fleshly control. Our lives, and the lives of those who follow us, are laid down on our own initiative. It is a choice we make because of love. Since true authority itself is born in freedom, freedom is what it breeds.

We will walk in either the true authority of love, the false authority of control, or no authority at all. Both false authority and no authority are rooted in fear, and we react to fear in either of two ways. The first reaction, which produces false authority, is to seek to control those around us, thus making the circumstances around us more predictable and less threatening. The other response to fear is to refuse to accept and exercise any authority at all. Many relationships are simply the pairing of these symbiotic needs: the desire to control and the willingness to be controlled. Both are fueled by overreactions to fear.

Scripture tells us, however, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). Since true authority is built upon love, its goal is to liberate, not dominate. Therefore, before one can truly move in spiritual authority, he must be delivered from fear and its desire to control; he must be rooted and grounded in love.

Authority to Inspire Christlikeness
When our teaching about God and our obedience to Him are one, spiritual authority accompanies our lives. Jesus astounded the multitudes, for He spoke "as one having authority" (Matt. 7:28-29). What He taught was consistent with how He lived. Therefore, we also must live and display the virtue we seek to teach.

Dear pastor, if we seek to train our congregations to pray, we ourselves must first be intercessors. You may say, "But out of a congregation of several hundred, only three people join me for prayer." Then with those three develop your intercessor base. Do not be discouraged, for you will win others. But the measure of our success is not the numbers in attendance on Sunday mornings. God has given us people so we may train them, not merely count them. Of this group, those whom we inspire to live like Christ are actually the measure of our success, the test of our effectiveness in the ministry.

Another may say, "But I’ve never been a leader." When anyone lays down his or her life in Christ’s love, others will see and follow. Whether you are a business owner, a housewife, or a teen, such a one can speak with confidence and authority as Christ’s disciple. In truth, if you are following Christ, others are following you. You are, indeed, a leader.

This next generation will not just teach the people; they will inspire the body of Christ to live like Jesus. Their example in all things will awaken godliness in those around them. From true virtue shall the leaders of tomorrow draw true authority, for when the nature of Christ is revealed, the authority of Christ soon follows.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis' book, When the Many Become One (published by Charisma House). For more information on this book, including special pricing for bulk orders, please visit the Arrow Bookstore at www.arrowbookstore.com. For reprint permission, please contact the publisher.



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