Notes from Peter Wagner's Dominion Eschatology Teaching

These are notes from C. Peter Wagner's talk on Dominion Eschatology, given on 4/22/16, at Glory of  Zion International.

Introduction:

  • Times and seasons change, and times and seasons change by the hand of God.  
  • We have seen many:
    • New paradigms.
    • New wine.
    • New wineskins.
    • New comfort zones.
  • The Second Apostolic age began in 2001.
  • This was necessary to open the door to what Bill Hamon calls:
We have had a lot of paradigm shifts:


  • "Dominion" + "Eschatology"
    • What do these words mean?
      • Eschatology = the doctrine of the end times.
        • An interest of most Christians.
        • One of the "fuzziest" areas in scripture.
          • To understand Eschatology, we need to understand this important aid to use to understand the Bible.
            • There are three circles, going from center, outward:
    • A I D:  absolutes, interpretations, and deductions.
      • In the center are "absolutes".
        • The diety of Christ is an absolute.
          • To be a Christian, you must believe in the diety of Christ, which cults do not believe.
      • Next, there are "interpretations".
        • Baptism is an example.
          • Different Christians believe in different ways of baptism, including not at all.
      • Next and finally, there are "deductions".
        • That speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is a deduction.
          • The Bible does not clearly say this, but it is a deduction some have made.

    • Eschatology is mostly an assortment of interpretations and deductions.
      • Don't try to put Eschatology in the "absolute" category.
        • Scripture is just not that clear.
        • One thing in eschatology is an absolute:
          • Jesus is coming again!
        • But the:
          • How?  When?  Where?  Details??
            • Are fuzzy.
            • Suggesting that we should hold eschatology loosely.
              • Take the advise of lee Grady: "Don't get infected with last days fever."
Dominion
  • One of the most radical paradigm shifts in the Second Apostolic Age.
  • Wagner never considered changing his eschatology, until he understood and committed to the Dominion Mandate:
    • And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis  1:28 (ESV)
      • Adam had authority.
        • Satan succeeded in stealing it.
          • He became "God of this age", "Prince of the Power of the Air."
            • Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy, and continues doing so today.
        • Jesus came as the "Second Adam":
          • Came to "destroy the works of the devil."
          • Came to "seek and save that which was lost."
            • "Was", not "Were"
          • Came to reconcile the world back to God.
            • Fact: The human race is better off now, that it was before Jesus came.
            • Jesus gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).
              • Don't just ask him to do it.
              • He is in us to do it.
              • Jesus left us.
        • Jesus gave us the Great Commission: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
          • This is the Dominion Mandate.

    What does this then mean for eschatology? 

    Starting point:
      
  • Most Evangelicals are what is called: Pre-tribulation, pre-millenial. 
    • The idea is, "Jesus is coming soon and we are going to go." 
    • The Left Behind Series. 
  • Historical roots are not too deep: 
    • End of 1800's: 
    • John Darby, O. Scofield, Clarence Larkin: 
The "futurist" view.
  • Most of us Evangelicals have been brought up in this view: 
    • The world is getting progressively worse. 
    • The church will be raptured! 
    • Antichrist and The False Prophet will take over. 
    • The Great Tribulation will last for 7 years. 
    • The Battle of Armageddon erupts - Jesus wins! 
    • Jesus leads us into a Millennium of peace. 
    • Satan rises up again. 
    • He and the demons are cast into the Lake of Fire. 
    • We all go to the New Jerusalem forever!
  • But, what about Jesus prayer (He taught us), "Your kingdom come, your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven."?
    • Futurists look at that and say, "that is all future", and "we just wait."
      • They say, "we have faith and we have hope that Jesus will come and take us away."
      • Question: Do you see the disconnect with this futurist view and the Dominion Mandate?
        • We're discipling nations!
        • Ministry of reconciliation!
        • We're not defeated - we're victorious.
        • We're not escaping - we're engaged.
        • The world is actually getting better, not worse.
        • The world is less violent than it was in the past.
      • Question: Do we change The Dominion Mandate or our eschatology?
        • Answer: Change our eschatology!
          • The Dominion mandate is closer to the "absolute" inner circle, than eschatology.
            • Our eschatology must change to fit the Dominion Mandate.
          • Harold Eberle's book: Victorious Eschatology (2nd ed. 2007).
            • Most Christian leaders in history have held to a victorious eschatology, writes Eberle.
  • The two most detailed scriptures (on eschatology) are:
    • Matt. 24-25 - "Olivet Discourse" & The book of Revelation
      • We previously (as futurists) thought Matt 24 was all future.
        • But what about Matt. 24:34, where Jesus says, "This generation will by no means pass away, until all these things are fulfilled."
          • This was addressed to his original listeners.
            • "This gen." means those at that time.
              • That is what "this" means.

      • Matt. 24:1-2 sets the context.
        • Not about the future.
        • Jesus tells them about the destruction of the Temple.
          • Matt. 24:3: "When will these things happen?  What will be the sign of your coming?  What of the end of the age?"
            • Jesus answers (24:4-26), that these things will happen in your generation.
            • With the signs of this destruction explained (24:27-34)
              • Including 7 years of tribulation.
              • Nero
              • Temple destroyed
            • But Jesus' second coming and the end of the world is future .
              • vs. 35, Jesus changes the subject: Second coming and end of the world are future.
              • vs. 36, There are no signs: No one knows except Father.
    • The book of Revelation:
      • Most important issue: When was it written?
        • During Nero, before 70 AD
        • During Domitian, after 70 AD
      • Most of Revelation was fulfilled by 70 AD
        • Scholars argue for both the earlier and later date for Revelation.
        • Wagner is convinced of the earlier date, before 70.

  • Another theological term:
    • Old view = "Futurist"
    • New view = "Partial Preterist"
      • "Preterist" = fulfilled
        • "Partial Preterist" = partially fulfilled
          • Ministry of reconciliation is ongoing.
            • We have work to do.
              • What we do can hasten Jesus return (2 Peter 3:10-12).
          • Jesus' return and the marriage feast of the Lamb are future.
      • Aside: The Full Preterist view is being taught today, by people like John Eckardt, and it is not a means for division.  I Come Quickly, by John Eckardt.
Conclusion (Wagner): These are interpretations and deductions:
  • I believe in the Dominion Mandate.
  • I do not expect to escape or be defeated.
  • Satan will lose more and more ground more and more rapidly.
  • The nations of the world will be reformed.
  • The bride of Christ will be victorious.
Mark Pfeifer's book, Dominion Eschatology, is recommended by Wagner. 
"the church is not sitting around waiting for the return of Jesus.  It is working for the return of Jesus.  It is the job of the redeemed sons and daughters of God to Make disciples of every nation and prepare the earth for His return." (Mark Pfeifer)
Rev. 19:7, "Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory,because the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His wife has prepared herself."

An Invitation to Revelation

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.
-Jeremiah 33:3

Photo: Pixabay
Have you heard the call to prayer, from the Lord?  The Bible, from cover to cover, and Jesus himself, calls us to pray.  Jeremiah 33:3 is a great promise verse about prayer.

Most translations start the verse with "Call".  We know that call means contact or talk to.  Only a few translations say something different:

  • "Ask me" (NLT, CEV)
  • "Let your cry come to me" (Bible In Basic English translation)
  • "Cry out to me still (Ronald Knox)
I always like to review various translations to see if that helps to understand the meaning of the original language.  These three variations on "Call to me" do help me understand that God is saying, "Petition me".  The picture is an urgent asking for revelation.

God is saying, to the Prophet Jeremiah, and today, to Christians, "Ask me for a prophecy".  All Christians can receive prophecy and prophesy.  Read 1 Cor. 12-14.

Prophecy and a prophetic word is a foretelling or forthtelling, revealing the mind of God in a particular situation.  And prophecies or prophetic ministry and the words given are for edification, encouragement, and consolation (1 Cor. 14:3).  This is what prophecies do for us.

Some Christians think about the end of the world and judgments when they hear the word "prophecy" and that is not what Jeremiah 33:3 nor 1 Cor. 12-14 is about.  The church is meant to be a prophetic people who prophesy often, as part of our birthright, inheritance, or DNA.  Every Christian should be receiving guidance from God, until the second coming of Christ. 

God always has more in store.  We see our limits and we pray from our place of limitation.  But, when we pray, God shows us the something more, that goes past and beyond, the overcomes the limitations.

We often pray small, asking for symptomatic relief, while God desires transformation and a whole new ball game.  We feel stuck and it is real.  God comes and encourages us to ask him to show us the more, the beyond, the "what He would like things to be".

God's invitation to prayer is that he wants to show us 'remarkable secrets' (NLT).  God has a vision for things, a plan.  God wants to do stuff and God has insight to give us.

God is The Living God.  God is active.  God is on the move.  God is The Father who cares for His children.

God is in control, but not controlling.  God wants us to ask him, call out to him, for help.  And he says that he will show us things.  He might show you in a dream or in a vision, with a prophetic word, or a word of knowledge, or a word of wisdom.  God might speak to you through circumstances or through wise counsel.

The first step is to call out and ask for help, for guidance, for insight, or for revelation.  Say it, pray it, in your own words, like, "Oh God show me..."  The invitation from from God is that if we ask, he will answer us and show us things we did not know, secret things, things that were hidden from us, and things that are beyond our comprehension.  I get the idea that if we will ask, God says he will show us things that were previously out of our sight.

You see doors, closed doors.  Pray and ask God to show you what is on the other side of the doors in your life.  Intentionally call to God.  Let God speak to you.

If we call to God, he will make things obvious.  That is what the "I will tell you" part of this verse means.  You will say, "Oh, I did not see that, but I do now".

God will make something easily seen, that you did not see before.  God will let you perceive and discern.  What you need to see or need to know will stand out to you.  You will say, "I see it now". 



Anger

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold.

-James 1:19-21, Matthew 5:21, Ephesians 4:25-27 (NIV)

Photo: Pixabay
Are you angry?  Did you get angry today or yesterday?  We have opportunities to get angry all the time.  

Is anger good, bad, healthy, or unhealthy?  Is there righteous anger? Do I have a right to be angry?

The Bible mentions anger many times and James has a word on anger.  He shares a piece of wisdom about anger: that our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Behind this admonition and the hearers of it must have been folks who had an angry style and thought they were on the path to righteousness.  We use the words "self righteous" as a negative description of someone who has religious pride in themselves and in their spirituality including lifestyle and knowledge.

This is a word to Christians who have anger mixed in with their Christian lives.  Irritability is a sign of weak spirituality and not of Christ's life in your life.  Quick anger is also a sign of immature self-contentedness.

We can also have anger in our spirituality that goes above and beyond anything God calls us to.  From the first century, up to today, there have been people who kill others, because of doctrinal differences.  This begins with words and words come from an unrighteous heart.

Jesus makes the connection in Matthew 5, that murder stems from unrighteous anger.  We don't have a right to that kind of anger.  Specifically, Jesus equates calling someone an "idiot" (you fool or good for nothing), as equal to murder.

In other words, calling people 'idiots' is not ok.  Calling yourself an 'idiot' is also not ok.  When we are tempted to do so, it is time to be reconciled to God and to be reconciled to that person.

When I think of anger, my mind goes to James 1:20, which says that our anger does not produce the righteousness of God.  I want God's righteousness.  I don't want to be self-righteous, but I want Jesus' life in me.

James does not say that we don't get angry.  We do get angry.  He says not to fool yourself that anger is part of the Jesus style or God's life in your life.

Then, we have Paul's words, in Ephesians 5, that tell us, "In your anger, do not sin".  The literal translations say, "Be angry and do not sin".  How do we do that?

We do have things that happen to us, just about every day, that can and do spark us to anger.  With both small and large offenses, we do feel the "Ouch!", which is the natural reaction to being hurt.

We "ouch", or we "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUCH!!!"

After the experience or expression of hurt is the crucial step to take so that we do not sin.  

Are you ready?  

You experience anger, which is irrational: it is just a feeling or emotion.  It is actually a secondary emotion: a reaction.  The primary emotion is the hurt.

Beneath the anger is something and we need to feel and express that.

If we do not feel it, then we are disconnecting from it and disconnecting from God, others, and ourselves.  I can tell you all about what they did to me or how I was ripped off and it is all true.  I critique, level charges, accuse, judge, and make sure I get my story out there; but in so doing, I am disconnected from my pain and there is no redemption for me and no reconciliation.

There is another way of telling your story and telling it truthfully and for healing.  And that is to express the loss, the sad and the bad, the shame and the fear, the hopelessness and the emptiness.  That is honestly, transparency, and authenticity.

In the moment, in the midst of the feeling of anger, we must turn away from criticism, blame, and judgement.  We must not yield to the temptation to set ourselves up as judges and mete out punishment.  We must not take on the role of "prosecutor" or "accuser" of the other party.

You might say that there is no way I can not do that, because what was done to me was so bad, so hurtful, and so grievous.  I would say, I understand that you feel pain.  Passing judgement through criticism and blame, just reacting to the offence will not heal you, but make it worse.

We need to experience the pain, the loss, the sadness, and shame; with God.  We need to open the door of our hurting hearts to God.  That will heal you and bring wholeness.  

We might need another believer to be a priest to us in these times, helping us connect with the hurts and open our hurting hearts to God, and find a deeper connection, for healing.

When you "vent", which is a term we use (venting), are you expressing criticism and blame, making the case against your offender?  Or are you connecting with your sadness, loss, pain, and even shame; and expressing that to the other?

When you have a loss, an injustice, or a person in your life that seems to be standing in your way to God's best for you; you have a bad feeling.  You have to steer that feeling towards God and surrender the hurt, the confusion, the loss, the disappointment, to God and let God into that space.  You have to choose to turn away from anger, from judgement, criticism, and blame.

When you do this, you get yourself free and you allow God to move, to bless you, to compensate you.  If you choose anger as a place you live, you are choosing stuck-ness.  It is a cul-de-sac that you stay in, until you choose the "feel it and heal it" way of getting better instead of bitter.


Household Faith

So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
-Acts 16:31

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Some of us are very troubled about the lack of faith or unbelief of some people in our families.  Our brothers or sister, mothers or fathers; who do not believe in Christ.  Funerals are hard enough when the deceased is a believer.  What do we say when they were not?

The truth is that the love of God remains.  The truth is that we love them and God loves them and salvation is God's work.  These are our anchors.

In the years leading up to the end of my grandmother's life, just like some people I know today, I was very concerned about her salvation.  When we were younger, she told us she was an atheist, and I never forgot that.

But sometime, and how it happened I do not know, she joined the neighborhood church, a few blocks from her home.  Unfortunately, I always assumed it was a "liberal church" that did not embrace or teach the gospel.  I was wrong.

It is funny that I was earnestly praying Acts 16:31 while God had already been working in my grandma's life.  It was a case of, "before you call, I will answer".

Everyone's stories are different, but that is part of my story.  I have a brother who is a believer and my wife's brother is a believer.  But I know people who have siblings who do not believe, and who are the only Christians in their families of origin.

The New Testament also speaks to the possibility of being married to a non-believer.  Marriage is hard enough when your Christian spouse is not very mature in Christ, but the Bible addresses the scenario where they don't even have Christ.

Jesus was raised by loving parents, who were told who he was; but that revelation did not get passed on to his siblings.  When he left home, at age 30, and began his ministry we read about, his family thought he was crazy (Mk. 3:21).  When they stood outside where he was teaching and called for him, Jesus said that his family (brothers and sisters) are like these who obey God (Mk. 3:31-5).

Later, his brothers did get saved; and we have Jude and James, the authors of those two books of the Bible.  If Jesus was misunderstood and rejected by his brothers, it might happen to you.  Jesus warns of betrayal from the family of his disciples, because of their belief in him (Lk. 21:16), and seems to say that it will be more common that not, for his disciples to leave family and their homes because of him (Mk. 10:29-30, Matt. 19:29).

Then, we also have the hard word from Jesus, that we will hate our families of origin, compared to how much we will love him (Lk. 14:26).  In the NT epistles, "brothers and sisters", means other Christians.  But, there is counsel and instruction about one's immediate family.  For example, we are to take care of our parents (1 Tim. 5:8).

So, on the one hand, we have the declaration, "You shall be saved, and you whole household", which I personally applied upward, to my grandparents and have applied to my parents, wife and child; and I believe in it.  I wrestled with that verse and believed it and prayed it.  I claimed it.

But, I have had many friends with unbelieving siblings or parents.  What about them?  We can draw some comfort from Jesus.  His family (brothers and probably sisters) did not believe in him, until after his resurrection.

We have a savior who can identify with our suffering.  He was perfect, did nothing wrong, and was obedient to Father all his life.  Yet, to this day, people reject him.

My advice would be to lean into him.  Walk close with your savior.  That is who he is and he cares about the salvation of those you love, more than you do.

Keep caring, keep loving, keep praying, and keep believing.  Even while someone we love is unsaved, in unbelief, resisting and rejecting the good news; we can rest in God, surrendering to him as The Almighty, continually sharing our broken heart with him and keeping fresh.

The alternative is aggravated grief, bitterness, and lack of faith on our part that will morph into deception and delusion about God's goodness, where we question God and drift from our faith in the Lord's faithfulness (Heb. 2:1).

The Bible says that the Lord is close to and heals the brokenhearted  (Ps. 34:18, 147:3) because our hearts do get broken in this life.  So, you have loved someone and your heart is broken.  Take your heart, open it to the Lord, over and over and over.  

Jesus wept.  It wasn't fake.  God weeps.

When I was in rebellion, God wept over me.  Someone who loved me wept about me.  They wept with God.  Their prayers, when I was lost, were tears.

And I found my way back to the Father.

Have you wept lately over the lost?

A Great Salvation

How will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.
-Hebrews 2:3

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Like all the letters, Hebrews is written to believers.  Believers are people who have believed in the gospel and become saved.  They are Christians, people now in Christ.

Hebrews has that name because it seems to be written to Hebrew or Jewish Christians.  The backdrop may well have been the collapse of Judaism, with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem around 70 A.D.  Besides the Jewish flavor, the context of the letter is suffering and the subject is Christ.

The author is bridging the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, and pointing out the continuity between the two, while the New comes from the Old and the Old looks to the New; the Old no longer carries life and should not be fallen back to as a way of life.  For, Jesus, whom we see now (2:9) has opened a new and living way to God.

Jesus is the climax of God's story.  Not just his death, but his person.  Hebrews lays out the facts that Jesus is Messiah, the one who is the way.

Jesus came to save.  This salvation is great because Jesus is one with Father, The Son, Son of Man and Son of God.  The incarnation and the revelation of God in Jesus makes this salvation so great.  God, Son of God, God's only Son became a man and saves up.

The writer of Hebrews is reminding readers how great this salvation is.  It is greater than everything that Judaism is all about.  God is the author of the Mosaic Law and Jesus is the fulfillment of that law.

The author and finisher has now come and fulfilled and fully brought about salvation.  We now find our righteousness wholly in him.  He now comes into us and lives God's life through us.

This is the great salvation and the message of the gospel.

The question that this verse asks, "How will we escape if we neglect such a great foundation?", is a rhetorical one.  We can't escape.  A famous poet said, "You either have faith or unbelief.  There's no neutral ground."

If we neglect the message and revelation and the call of Christ, it is to our peril.  In other words, it's not ok.  It is like being instructed or taught or commanded, as a general contractor, that you must build on rock or pour cement to certain specifications, when you build; and there is no escaping destruction, if you build on sand: the shifting under the load will collapse the house when the storms come.

In other words, you can not hear the message of Christ and not change your life.  When the tax man, Zacchaeus, encountered Jesus (Luke 19), he immediately made changes in his lifestyle and Jesus exclaimed that salvation has come to this man.  Others heard Jesus and made no changes or tried to co-opt him for their plans or rejected his message.

Let's imagine that the readers of Hebrews were Jewish Christians who had come out of Judaism and to one degree or another, continued Jewish faith and practice, centered on the Temple in Jerusalem.  Then, in 70 A.D., the temple was destroyed and they had to flee the Jerusalem area, and leave everything behind.

They had to process all this and they may have been told the words of Jesus that predicted the sacking of Jerusalem.  At some point, the letter we have, to the Hebrews, comes to them.  My point is that these folks who had a very rich heritage might have been confused, disappointed, suffering, and in grief.

This word, that I am discussing, comes to them, "Do not neglect this great salvation".  In other words, it can be neglected and rather than neglect it, cultivate it, celebrate it, draw life from it.  For salvation is a person, Christ.

He came, telling us that he is the way.  Those who experienced him told the next generation or folks who did not see and hear Jesus, the message of salvation through Jesus, who is God's Messiah.

What was the message of salvation Jesus spoke?  Jesus taught, preached, and announced the kingdom of God.  Salvation is tied into the kingdom, the gospel of the kingdom.

Born anew life, born from above life; "thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven", life.  That is the great salvation.

The salvation and the life (the way, the truth, and the life) is the message of Jesus.  The message is the kingdom.  God is king and we are citizens.

Christians are not just people who believe something and who may or may not gather in one way or another for worship and other traditions.  Christians are people who have salvation.  And salvation does not mean intellectual ascent or a box checked off.

Salvation means a saved life, a life of continual deliverance and break-through.  Salvation life is a life of endurance in suffering a growing and growing into Christ forming in us.  Salvation is a life where we not only believe in his cross, but carry our own individual cross and die daily.

Salvation in a life where we live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, where we are continually committed to learning his ways and following him on the best adventure ever.  Salvation is a life lived, loved by Father; where we learn his ways of loving others.

Jesus message and his command was not, "remember the cross", but, "love one another".  On the cross, Jesus loved us and  loved his Father in obedience, so save the human race.  We are also called to radical love and sacrificial generosity, letting him live his life through ours.

The last supper is where Jesus tied together his life with us, his death for us, and his resurrection life now in us; to his disciples.  The Eucharist or Communion is not magical or mournful, but is Jesus call to us to live his life together, in love; which is Christianity or the great salvation that the author of Hebrews is referring to.  The salvation is a person.

We must not neglect the person of Christ who works through us for the salvation of the world.  We gather together in his name and love each other, sharing life, his life.  This is the great salvation that saves the world because the door and the table is open.

Deliverance and life is through a person.  His faithfulness.  My little faith says "yes" to that and then I add obedience to that trust and cultivate his life in mine.

Christ is always on my mind, how I can please him, and how much I adore him.  Worship is a life of continual thankfulness, cultivating his life in mine.

And suffering is part of the package, but he compensates me and comforts me and always has a plan and me his love never fails.  Oh how He loves us.  I will not neglect his saving life in me.


Principles of Christian leadership: Notes from Green’s “Thirty Years That Changed The World: the Book of Acts for Today”

Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you.
-1 Thessalonians 5:12 (CEB)

Picture: Pixabay

My notes and Green's quotes:


Principles of Christian Leadership:

Leadership is a gift from God

-Leadership is a gift of God to his church.  Leadership is not some office you train for, but a leader is someone God raises up.  Divine
charisma is a prerequisite for anyone exercising effective leadership.  Divine enabling precedes human recognition (ordination).

Leadership is shared

-Leaders do not operate solo.  They work in teams.  Elders is always plural in Acts and in the rest of the New Testament.  Plurality of leadership preserves the church from imbalance and undue dependence on one individual leader.  Plural leadership preserves the individual leader from megalomania and from burn out.  

(pp. 209-11)


Qualities in Christian leadership (Acts 20)

Do they walk with God?

“Unless there is a fundamental dedication to the Lord, all Christian leadership is a sham…There is only one reason that will bear the weight put upon it.  And that is a call from the Lord, a deep love for him, and a passionate determination to serve others for his sake.”

Do they believe in shared ministry?

“There is no room today for the ‘one man band’.  Nor was there in the first century… In our situation, we place enormous pressures on people by expecting them to exercise a one-person ministry, or at best, ministry with one assistant.  This is fundamentally unbiblical and misguided.  I would want to ask any applicants for Christian ministry today whether or not they believe in shared ministry.  And this includes shared ministry of men and women.”

There are no women presbyters (elders) in the New Testament, but there are many examples of women ministering.  Jesus set the example of being accepting or affirming women as equal before God.  And we do find women as deacons and in a variety of ministry roles and functions in the NT.

Can they inspire others?

“The function of leadership is proistasthai, ‘to go out in front’.  It may mean going out on a limb.  It certainly means to inspire and challenge.  Leaders need to lead.  If that is not your gift, do not aspire to leadership.”

Do they pray?

We are fond of quoting Paul, but do you follow his example in prayer?  Paul was steeped in prayer.  Paul prayed with and for other leaders.  Are you steeped in prayer? 

Are they humble?

Humility is not about self-denigration but recognition that any gifts you have come from God.  Humility says that all our enabling comes from the Lord.

Are they enablers (of others)?

“The essence of NT leadership is to be an enabler of others… This is not a notable characteristic of today’s leadership.  There are too many stars around, and not nearly enough equippers… The supreme privilege for anyone in leadership is to  equip others to make their offering of ministry to the Lord and his church.”

Do they care about people?

“Modern pastors must love people – more than books.  If not, we will fail comprehensively.  Christian ministry involves the application of the grace of God to real people.  And if you do not (really) love them, that is something you cannot do with any real credibility.”

Are they examples?

“It is very sad when a work of God shrivels away because of the poor example of the appointed leaders.  What we are does in fact speak louder than what we say.  There is nothing a church needs more than the holiness and example of its leaders.

What do they believe?

Do you believe the faith of the New Testament?  Will you preach, tell people, the whole council of God and call them to repentance?  Are you willing to ruffle feathers and take on contentious and painful issues?  Real leadership is not afraid to do so.

Do they make the scripture their guide?

Do you take God’s word with the utmost seriousness?  Do you study the word so that you can open it up for yourself and to others?  Do you believe the scriptures contain God’s ideas about man and his salvation? 

Can they teach?

Leaders must be able to teach.  There are three ways of teaching.  Number one, we teach by the example of our lives.  

People will do as we do far more than do as we say.  Do you have children?  A minister who says a lot of right stuff but lives badly is called a hypocrite, like the Pharisees.

Number two is public teaching.  Do people learn when you teach?  Do you maintain people’s attention and is what you say memorable?  Do you have a passion for studying something in order to present it to others, like a good cook serves a delicious meal?

Number three is visiting.  Are you comfortable mentoring people in their homes or in another comfortable and close up setting?  Are you comfortable being a leader in person?  This is essential.

What is their attitude to money?

“Paul left a considerable fortune when he became a Christian minister.  As such he had no regular income apart from what he earned in tent making.  He might well have been tempted to avarice… His own industriousness provided enough not only for his own necessities (not luxuries) but for those who accompanied him and who presumably did not have skills that could be put to use in almost any location, like tent making (Acts 20:13).”

Avarice: insatiable greed for riches; inordinate, miserly desire to gain and hoard wealth.
 Scriptures that meantion avarice:
But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.

 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.
(Ex. 18:21 & 1 Cor. 5:11)

Michael Green: “There is a terrible danger of being in Christian leadership for money.  Covetousness still accounts for the downfall of many in the ministry.”
  • It is dangerous to require payment for preaching a sermon.
  • Integrity in finances is imperative for a leader’s credibility.


Dare they face unpopularity?

“We love to be loved.  But sometimes, if we are faithful, we have to confront…   For leadership requires courage to do the unpopular thing if necessary.”

Can they endure hard times and suffering?

If you endure suffering, to follow what you believe the Lord is calling you to; then you will have earned authority for people to follow you. (My summary of Green).

Are they wholehearted?

Do not get into Christian leadership for financial rewards, prestige, popularity, or as a “job”.  Only a passionate (wholehearted) calling to serve Christ (and his bride) will suffice.
  • It will be very hard.
  • You will be very disappointed at times.
  • There will be defeats and failures.
  • You will be tempted to give up.
  • You will have sleepless nights.
  • You will cry over people often.
  • You need a burning commitment to your calling.
  • Above all you must be wholehearted toward the Lord.
  • You also must be a person of rest, who knows the value of and how to rest in the Lord.
  • You also must know how to have fun, in the Lord, or the ministry will crush you.


Are they able to receive ministry from others?

  • Admit your need for ministry from other humans.
  • Come down off any pedestal you or others have put you on and admit your failures.
  • When you are honest about your weakness and humanity, you gain respect and authority.
  • Let people love you, the real you, not just ‘the minister’ you.
  • If you are honest with people they will be honest with you (and visa versa).
  • Accept ministry from those around you.


Are they truly open to the Holy Spirit?

“That is the vital ingredient in all great leadership.  We need to be full of the Holy Spirit of God, so that it is not so much our leadership as the leadership of the Spirit through us.”

  • We need to be bound in the Spirit (Acts 20:22).
  • We need to listen to the Spirit (20:23).
  • We need to obey the Spirit.
  • We need to experience the Spirit of God making people leaders.
  • We must lead in the wisdom, love, courage, and power that the Spirit supplies.


“There is no substitute for Christian leaders who are full of the Holy Spirit.... These are some of the leadership qualities set before us in this wonderful chapter (Acts 20).”

(pp. 214-25)











Decision Making In The Church: notes from Michael Green

For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision—and ours—to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things.
-Acts 15:28

Photo: Pixabay
These are notes and quotes from “Thirty Years That Changed The World: The Book of Acts For Today”, by Michael Green (1993: Acts For Today, 3rd Ed., 2004)

Chapter 11: What of Their Church Life? –The decision making of the church:
  
“How should decisions be made in the Christian church?  In many churches, decisions are made by the minister alone, or a group of elders.  The assumption is that they know best; that they are appointed to lead, and that therefore the church would be wise to let them get on with it.  However, this has led to some very bad decisions in many churches, so a strong reaction, coupled with cultural trends, has led to the opposite assumption: the church is a democracy and decisions should be made by arguing a case, by lobbying if need be, and then by voting.  The fact that this leaves a dissatisfied and probably aggrieved minority is reckoned to be just too bad.

The trend in recent years, at all events in mainline churches, has been to follow more closely the way of secular decision making, with its politics, its synods and its powerful standing committees.  The early church did not make decisions that way.  The overall principle they adopted, as we shall see, was to seek the will of God together, and then resolve to follow it.  There is no hint of voting, of powerful groups behind the scenes influencing decisions.  We see them proceeding in a variety of ways.” (p. 199)

Green then gives six ways of decision making shown to us in Acts (pp. 199-205), then writes this summary:

“All of these varied ways of decision making have one thing in common: there was an utter dependence on God to guide them, and an overwhelming desire that their personal preferences should not prevail but that God’s will should be done.  Prayer, scripture, and testimony to the present working of the Lord were all part of the process that led to decisions, and then, with the possible exception of Acts 15:36ff, it was put firmly in the hand of God for him to show his will.  As a result there was growth in fruitfulness.  And because it was done in this way, we do not find a minority of dissatisfied people angry with any of these decisions.

I believe that we have much to learn today from the decision making of the early church.  I have been on many committees and councils where major decisions have been hammered out, and have often missed the love and warmth I see in Acts, the prayer, the reverent wrestling with Scripture, the determination not to push one’s own view but rather seek God’s will.  Certainly these things have sometimes been given verbal ascent.  There has been prayer, maybe, before the room fills with smoke and the gloves come off.  But my lasting impression after many years has been that very often our decisions are man-made.  We seek to run God’s church our way and then ask his blessing on the result, or imagine that the Holy Spirit must be behind the majority.  We ape secular parliamentary procedures in our synods and wonder why the minorities are so resentful of what has been steamrolled through by the majority.  If we want to learn at all from the life and structures of the early church, we could do worse than allow ourselves to be influenced by their ways of making decisions.” (pp. 205-6)

Decision making through prayer, scripture, and testimony; is how they did it in the early church, chronicled in Acts.  It was neither a top-down, nor a pure (voting) democracy.  They discussed, they listened to each other with honor, and they searched the scriptures and prayed together about their decisions.


Listen, pray, go to the scriptures, listen, and pray.  

Your Loss and God's Compensation

Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is good for you that I go away.  For if I don’t go away, the comforter will not come to you.  But if I go I will send him to you.
-John 16:7

Photo: Pixabay
Could there possibly be an upside to Jesus leaving the disciples?   During the last supper, Jesus was saying goodbye to his friends.  Jesus was ministering to their soon to be lost personal fellowship with them.

He is saying that in their loss of him, they will get the Holy Spirit, who will be the comforter.  Jesus promises to personally send the Spirit when he is gone.  And the Spirit of God is called the comforter.

I believe in divine compensation.  The compensation for their loss of Jesus being with them all the time, in the flesh, will be the comforter, the Holy Spirit, being with them.  And Jesus will send him.

Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit by Jesus?  John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matt. 3:11 & Luke 3:16).  After his resurrection, Jesus last words, before his ascension, was that his followers would receive power when the Holy Spirit would come upon them, and they would be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

The comforter is also the power for witness.  Evangelism comes out of rest.  The comfort of God and the explosive power of evangelism are two sides of the same coin.

He comforts us and empowers us to witness.  Witness comes through comfort.  These are inseparable.

The comfort is not so that we cloister ourselves off from others and from the world.  The comfort empowers us to witness to the world and evangelize.  I rest in him and then go in his power.

And this is directed by Jesus.  He sends the Spirit to comfort us and from that comfort we are empowered to witness.  If you only think we have the Bible and each other, you are missing out on the key ingredient for fellowship with God and witness to the world.

A Christian without the Holy Spirit is like a car without gas, a house without electricity, or living without water.  You can’t get anywhere, you can’t see in the dark, and you dry up and die.  The Spirit of God is not just a belief but the key ingredient to the Christian life.

How do you think Christ is in you, so that you are and live as a Christian?  It is by the Spirit.  The Spirit of God makes us like Christ.

This is all true, whether we experience it or not.  But when we do not participate, anticipate, and walk with and in the Spirit; and desire to be filled, we lose out and go our own way.  We can be religious, do all sorts of good things, try to think good thoughts; but miss out on intimacy with God, from the comforter who comforts us and empowers us to be Jesus’ witnesses.

Earlier I mentioned the principle of divine compensation.  With every negative, there is a gift attached.  This is from Isaiah 61.

When bad things happen to you, God compensates you:

-A crown in place of ashes.
-Oil of joy in place of mourning.
-A mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
-Rebuilding.
-Restoration.
-Renewal.
-A double portion instead of shame.
-Rejoicing instead of disgrace.
(Isaiah 61:1-7)

If you just lost a love one, God is comforting you.  The comforter is here.  God will compensate you for your loss, because that is what Father does.

The bigger your loss, the bigger your compensation.  Wait for it, look for it, receive and open the gift.  Unpack it, thankfully receive it from the Father (James 1:17).

Loss is loss.  We grieve and mourn.  But God brings something good afterwords.

In our losses, God has something good he will bring after it.

By the way, God does not cause all loses, but does allow them.  Many loses are not God’s will, but they happen.  This does not mean God is weak or does not care.


Identity: God's and Your's

Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.
   But Moses said to God, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?
   God said, “I’ll be with you. And this will show you that I’m the one who sent you. After you bring the people out of Egypt, you will come back here and worship God on the mountain.”
   But Moses said to God, “If I now come to the Israelites and sat to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they are going to ask me, ‘What’s this God’s name?’ What am I supposed to say to them?”
   God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” This is my name forever; this is how all generations will remember me.
-Exodus 3:9-15 (CEB)

Picture: Pixabay
Do you have an identity?  I mean a way that you identify yourself.  We might say that we are a self-identified _____.

Moses did not identify himself as a deliverer or even as a leader.  He was just a shepherd, had a family, and lived among a group of people.  In the very distant past, he was in Egypt and had a sort of career and lifestyle that did not work out.

When Moses is confronted by God and called, he asks, "Who am I?"  We might ask the same question.  Perhaps our identity puts us at odds with others and we don't know how that opposition will work out.
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Moses is perhaps coming from a place of humility when he asks, "Who am I?"  God is restoring him to his calling that did not work out and that Moses had probably given up on.  Instead of saying, "What took you so long?", or, "You bet I'm your man", Moses says, in a sense, "Who me?"

I reluctant leader is better than someone with a puffed up idea of themselves.

I don't see God coddling Moses and explaining how he is the one to lead, to go, to confront Pharaoh.  What God does say is, "I will be with you".  Your identity will come from God being with you.

That is the key to your identity.  Wherever you have come from, whatever your weaknesses, struggles, or disqualifying traits; your identity is that God is with you.  We get too wrapped up in or tied down with notions of this or that being our identity, and so we say we can't be with these people and those people are opposed to us.

Like Moses, we might say and others might say of us, that we are  not qualified.  But, God's says, "I will be with you".  Imagine being 'qualified', but not having God with you.

So, I think that we get too caught up in identity that is outside of just being God's vessel.  Only God qualifies and disqualifies, ordains and denies.  We need to view others with a spiritual point of view, instead of a worldly perspective (2 Cor. 5:16).

"Who am I?", is the wrong question.  The real issue, is, "Is God with you?"  And I don't mean, "God on our side."  I do mean, "Are you coming in your 'sent-ness' by God?"

The better question is, "Who is this God?"  Is God your idea, your explanation, or your 'teaching'?  Or is this God, the living, being, real God who is.  Not, 'was' or 'will be'; but is.

God is "I Am" because God is being, God is, and God is active.  This is especially important to realize in situations where we have suffered long, and where we assume things will never change and will stay crooked.  It is not true, because of God; who is "I Am".

God is always alive, always actively involved and knowing what is going on, and always attentive.  God today is the same God who did things in the past.  God does not change and is the same as when he was faithful in the past.

There is no special dispensation of unfaithfulness.

Every day is a new day and a day of possibilities.  Even if or when it does not happen, God is active.  God's loving, compassionate mercy is always alive and active.

We are broken failures like Moses, but God is that God is, and God is faithful.  Some have given up and believe that bondage is permanent, but God is getting ready to deliver.

The story of God is that God is active and relentlessly alive.  God is always working, being, living; and caring for us.  We can turn away from God, close our eyes, ears, and minds; distract ourselves, delude, and deceive ourselves with things that are not true about God.

But, God is always there, always here, always near.  How close we are to God is our choice.  The cultivation of the relationship is our choice.

God is a living person, the I Am.  God is alive.

Your identity is wrapped up in God.  Each of us have personalities, talents, gifts, and destinies that differ.  But God is the same to each one of us as Father.


Of No Reputation

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
-Philippians 1:27-2:7 (KJV)

Photo: Pixabay
Reputation.  We ought to have a good reputation among people.  But our life's reputation does not qualify nor disqualify us from Christ or his call upon our lives.

Many people God called, in the Bible, had chequered pasts or made huge mistakes while called.  It is also clear that our resumes, pedigrees, or popularity do not get us a 'leg up' with God either.  

Jesus made himself, "of no reputation", meaning that he set aside his divinity, or emptied himself of it.  Jesus being fully human and fully God, yet setting the God side aside, is hard for us to get our minds around, but he did it.  Jesus had the full human experience, and fully redeemed humanity.

We are also called to a life in Christ of "no reputation".  That means humility.  That means not living and representing Christ in selfish ambition or vain conceit.

I believe that the "setting aside" or the lifestyle of "no reputation" also means that our sins or bad things we have done do not define us or somehow hold us back, in Christ.  I say in Christ, because that is the Christian's life.  Neither your accomplishments nor your sins, failures, or blunders are what gives you favor or disfavor with God.

It is completely ridiculous to say or hear, "aren't you the one who did that bad thing (insert scandalous behavior)".  Your so-called "bad" reputation does not define you, and your good deeds also do not define you.  We're called to humility.

It is interesting that people who do beat themselves up or wear shame from their badness are actually not humble.  They are bound to their sin, have not set it aside, have not let that reputation go.  There are people who are both ashamed of their sin, mistakes, failures, or blunders; and are proud of themselves: their race, their social standing, their wealth, their knowledge.

Christians are called to humility.  Christ and others first.  Service.  A life marked by the fruit of the Spirit.

Notes On Baptism From Michael Green

So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
-Acts 2:42

Photo: Luke Addison (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Here are some notes about baptism from Michael Green (b. 1930), in his book, Evangelism Now & Then (1979), pp. 81-3:


They baptized new believers

There can be no doubt that in the first days of the church baptism was administered as soon as possible after profession of faith. Quite apart from the day of Pentecost, the case of the Philippian jailer and the Ethiopian eunuch give a good guide to early practice in the matter. Commitment to Christ, baptism in water, and reception of the Holy Spirit were three sides of the same thing, Christian initiation. In Galatians, for instance, we see that justification by faith or becoming ‘Abraham’s offspring’ comes about through reception of the Spirit, or being baptized into Christ, or believing in Christ (3:2, 14, 29, 26). Ideally, they belong together. In practice, however, one element would come first, sometimes another: such is still the case.

Two second-century developments can be traced back, at least in outline, to the early days of the church. First, there was a growing tendency to postpone baptism, preface it by a period of instruction, and perform it, along with first communion, at the highly significant season of Good Friday and Easter. Scholars have seen many signs in the New Testament itself of a basic catechism leading up to baptism, and many people think 1 Peter was written as a homily for a baptism occasion.

Infant baptism?


Second was the practice of baptizing infants when born into a believing family. This is a divisive subject nowadays, and was to the end of the second century when we find Tertullian discussing is in his Treatise on Baptism. He was advocating delay in baptism when only one parent was a believer: it is clear he wrote against a background where the baptism of infants was common. How could this be justified when originally baptism was the mark of the new birth, and appropriate only for believers?

Well, I doubt if baptism was ever as clear-cut as that. We read in the New Testament of whole households being baptized, and an ancient household consisted of not only children, but the slaves, all of whom were committed by the action of the head of the house (1 Cor. 1:16, Acts 16:33, etc.). You see, baptism was not exclusively the act of man, representing his faith: it was also the act of God, representing his grace. And that free grace of God sent Jesus to the cross to die for us and rise again whether or not we ever respond. It is that once-for-allness of Jesus, his sacrifice and triumph, which is marked upon us in baptism. It should ideally be matched by our total and immediate response. But that sometimes comes later – and sometimes does not come at all. Even if it never follows, that cannot destroy the initiative of God, who gave himself once for us in history: that holds good whether or not we respond – thought of course we cannot make any use of his gift unless we receive it in adoring gratitude. By far the largest part of the Christian church has believed in baptizing not only believers but their children. The Baptist view regards baptism as appropriate only for those who have already responded in faith to God’s gracious initiative. Christians will continue to have differing views on this matter since no clear Biblical teaching clears it up one way or another. And as far as the nurture of new believers is concerned, you will find that some of your converts have already been baptized (generally in infancy) while others have not.

Rebaptism?

I believe that those who have already been baptized should not be rebaptized. It makes no more sense to be baptized again than to be justified again or to enter the Lord’s family again. Baptism emphasizes the once-for-allness of our incorporation into Christ, and by its nature cannot be repeated: communion is frequently repeated and stresses the ongoing side of the Christian life.

- Michael Green (b. 1930), Evangelism Now & Then (1979), pp. 81-3

Let It Rain

You showered down abundant rain, God;
When your inheritance grew weary,
You restored it yourself.
-Psalm 68:9 (CEB)

Photo: Pixabay
Are you dry?  Are you weary?  God will refresh you.

God gives us rest.  God restores us.  God fills us when we are in need.

Are we in need?  We cannot be filled if we don’t recognize our need.  God gives rest and restoration to those who seek him.

Do you seek Him?  Are you thirsty?  Are you weary?

Come to the Lord.  Return to him.  Let him fill you again.

We are thirsty.  We are dry.  We are weary.

We need refreshment.  We need restoration.  Let it rain.

God, let it rain.  God, let it rain on me.  God, let it rain on your inheritance.


Restore your inheritance.  Let your rain restore us, for your glory.  Amen.

Personal Attacks On Believers By Believers (No!)

How long will all of you attack others; how long will you tear them down as if they were leaning down walls or broken down fences?
-Psalm 62:3 (CEB)

Photo: Pixabay
Personal attacks against people we don’t like is common these days, from Christian to Christian.  Sometimes the attacker will doubt the authenticity of the person’s faith they are attacking.  But the attacker brings their own legitimacy into question, by their brazen attacks on a child of God.

Nothing is wrong with arguing, debating, and discussing.  What is wrong is attacking people.  Personal attacks are wrong.

Malicious gossip, slander, and maligning are wrong for the believer.  Personal attacks is the style of Satan and when we accuse brothers or sisters, we are joining with Satan.  You become just like the ones who attacked Jesus, who thought they were the rightful standard bearers of God, when they were actually attacking the Son of God.

The attacker has the audacity, presumption, and arrogance to self-righteously believe that they are doing God’s work in attacking 'heretics'.  After all, false prophets or teachers of heresy are the enemies of God who must be punished, at least through verbal or written attacks.  Attacking what you believe is false doctrine, teaching, or prophecy is one thing; when it is done civilly; but personal attacks are wrong.

It is a problem when a person begins there opinion piece or argument with, (this name is fictional) “Ted Smith is wrong”.  Then it goes from bad to worse when they say, “Ted Smith is just bad, because of what he teaches, or does”.  And then it might even get worse when they say or write, or it is strongly implied that, “God is very angry with Ted Smith!”

It would be more authentic and healthier to say, “What Ted Smith teaches really makes me mad”.  We might be a bit uncomfortable with your anger, but at least you are not personally attacking Mr. Smith.  We can then ask, “What teaching is it that makes you mad?”, and we have a dialogue or discussion going.

When I was a kid, I heard the phrase, “ongoing theological debate”, and I was intrigued.  Ever since, I have seen and heard that there is a debate going on.  Debate, discussion, dialogue, and question and answer are all super good.  Saying, “I don’t know”, and being a lifelong learner is also a good thing.

Humility, meekness, love, patience, and being a listener are good characteristics.  Being able to say that we differ, but we are bound in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, is a good thing.  And unity does not mean uniformity.


Dialogue and debate, from a place of love is the better way.   

Notes From "Decoding The Church" - It's The Structure!

No one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If they did, the wineskins would burst, the wine would spill, and the wineskins would be ruined.  Instead, people pour new wine into new wineskins so that both are kept safe.
- Matthew 9:17

Picture: Pixabay
Here are some notes from a book called, Decoding The Church:Mapping The DNA of Christ’s Body, by Howard A. Snyder with Daniel V. Runyon (2002).  I will parachute in to chapter 4, ‘The DNA of Church Structure: Dead Ends’.  The authors critique three ‘dead ends’, that look promising, but ultimately are not the wineskins that are needed: megachurch, microchurch, and business models.

These are my notes:

“The power of the gospel is the wine, not the wineskin.”  The wineskin is the structure.  Church structure is made up of form and patterns, used to carry out mission.  Fundamental church structure is found in scripture.  Secondary forms and patterns or structure come from outside scripture.  Basic theology informs us about structural forms and patterns.  Pragmatism is outside theology.  We have tended to embrace secondary forms and patterns and pragmatism for structure, reading them into scripture.  So, we must ask, “what is church at the most foundational level?” (pp. 61-70)

About business: “Business does not teach the church what church is, but can teach church how to function as a human organization.”  (p. 71)

Chapter 5: The DNA of Church Structure, notes.

“Strangely, the church seems to have an inbred aversion to building ecclesiastical practice on scripture.”  (p. 77)

“The scripture must be our primary source for church structure.”  Four reasons:
  1. The Bible is God’s unique revelation about Jesus Christ and of his body, the church.  We have been big on mining the scripture for truths, about God and Christ; but not on ecclesiology, leadership, and how the church functions.
  2. Ecclesiology is a primary focus of scripture.  Since the reformation 1500 years ago, we have sharply focused on what the scriptures say about the plan of salvation – soteriology, while ignoring God’s plan for Christian community – ecclesiology, also found in scripture.  Individualism (and consumerism) has replaced corporate community (and radical generosity).  We have emphasized reconciliation to God, but neglected reconciliation to people.
  3. The scripture is filled with the example of what the new wineskin structure looked like and how it functioned, in the early church.
  4. We should go first to Scripture for guidance on church structure because Scripture uniquely combines church and mission.  There is little distinction between “church” and “mission” in the NT.  “The church does not have a mission, the mission has a church”, as someone has said.  Biblically this is true.  But, we must ask, Why is this true in the NT?  What can we learn from the scriptures about the meaning of church, so that we will have no need to place the word missional before the word church?  (pp. 77-80)

The next section of the book looks at Renewal Movements, as a way of seeing how new wineskins have worked in the past.



Complaining To God Is Good

God, hear my voice when I complain.
-Psalm 64:1a

Photo: Pixabay
Did you know that complaining to God is good?  You might think complaining is bad, as in saying, "stop complaining", to someone.  You might think that complaining to God is sinful, that it is wrong to complain.

It is a huge insight to get, that God wants to hear your complaint.  It would actually be strange if God said he did not want to hear our complaints and had a 'no complaining' policy.  It is a mistake and a missed opportunity when we do not go to God with our complaints.

Complaining goes hand in hand with lamenting.  Lament means grieve, mourn, and sadness.  God wants to hear our heart, whatever it's state.  Turn to God with your complaints and lament.

When we complain, we tell God the problem.  David wrote a song that starts off with, "God hear my voice when I complain", and his problem was the terror, the dread, the threat, and the fear of the enemy.  When we are under attack, we don't go into denial, but call out to God; in song, in worship.

We say to God that this is happening, I hurt a lot about this, and I am deeply grieved about this; and we might request God's help or intervention.  Then, we tell God that we praise and worship him no matter what.  We go into intimacy (into-me-see) with God, being honest and sharing what is in our heart.

Out of that interaction, we worship.  Worship is putting God above everything.  When we air our complaint or express our lament, we come to God with our problems or needs and are completely transparent about our pain; and then put God and his love above it all.

We bring our red wagon of requests, trouble, or grief with us to the throne and worship.

The mistake is to say, "I am in so much pain or in so much trouble or need, that I just can not worship".  That thought mistakes worship only with happy times, happy feelings.  Worship is not just praising God for the good, but also saying "though" and "yet":  "Though I have these bad things and I ask you for help with them", or, "Though I am in mourning, grief, or very painful circumstances, yet I will worship you".

Another thing is that complaining is different from criticizing or judging.  Criticizing or judging God is wrong, is sin.  Complaining about your situation is completely different.

Complaining is transparent, honest, and humble.  We hurt or experience injustice, we have a problem like threats or terror or fear from the enemy, and we complain to God.  That is good and we need to voice these and tell God what we want and come to him as we are his children.

In life, we get angry.  If we react by criticizing God or others, by blaming God or others, or by standing in judgement of God or others, we are in trouble, are are headed for bondage.  When we get angry, we need to pour out our complaint before and to God, and not go to criticism, blame, and judgement.

Complaining (the complaint to God) is good and a must.  When life hands us hurt, sadness, anxiety, shame, or guilt; we often feel anger.  But beneath the anger is the loss, the hurt, sadness, anxiety, shame, or guilt.

When we feel anger, but deny the loss or hurt, and do not take the pain to God, but instead go into criticism and blame; we become disconnected from our authentic selves, others, and God.  And this is why complaining and lamenting to God is so important.  Good counselors help people to bring their complaints before God and release forgiveness and become free from the bondage created by freezing anger into criticism and blame and judgement

So, pouring out your complaints to God and expressing lament is good spiritual hygiene.  You may think it sounds silly to sing to God or recite the poem of your life right now, that contains words of mourning, grief, sadness, hurt, fear, anxiety, or shame.  But that is exactly what we are called to do, as God's children.

Consider the fact that God already sees and by telling him, you are letting him know, know you, from your end, and you get to receive more grace and love from him.  When you do not tell God something that is on your heart, you are deliberately disconnecting yourself or that part of your self from the one who loves you, and from your authentic self that is connected to God.  The healthy, normal flow is for no disconnects and open communion.

Loud Praise and Silent Praise To God

Clap your hands, all you people!  Shout joyfully to God with a joyous shout!

God of Zion, to you even silence is praise.

-Psalm 47:1 and 65:1a (CEB)

Picture: Pixabay
Loud praise or silent praise: Praise is what people do towards God.  If you are not praising Him, you might have a problem.  Praising God is a life-style, the way of life for the believer.

The opening of Psalms 47 and 65 give us two ends of the praise spectrum:  Clapping and joyful shouts on the one end, and silence on the other.  These and everything between is praise from the heart focused on God.

Our thoughts and our words and our whole experience of life is punctuated with praise to God.  Praising God is a continuous thing.  We continuously praise, thank, worship, and give honor to God.

We live our lives in worship (Rom. 12:1).  We give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18).  And we address other believers in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19).

If we do not praise God, we might have a problem and might need to get our praise back on.  Living outside of praising God is living like an unbeliever, who does not know Father and is not experiencing the life of Christ.  Praise God, give him praise always.

Praise: high praise, low praise, loud praise, and silent praise; we praise God as worship.  Yes, praise God always.  

On the other hand, what if you are in great pain, and you don't feel like worshiping?  Praise is not happening for you, even in silence.  That is when we turn our pain into worship, in it's highest form, called lament; which will be in my next post.