Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Titus' Gospel Frame 1

Don't you love being in the space where the eternal and the temporal collide? That big wave surfer gets pulled into that mega-wave to ride that ultimate face of pure, raw power. The storm chaser, who designs a vehicle that can face the awesome confrontation with that tornado as it sweeps all vestiges of life in its wake, knows that sense of reverent fear.

We live in that space. We are not psychologists who only deal with the soul. We are not just philosophers who only deal with the mind. We are not just healers who only deal with the body or sociologists who only deal with the world of relationships. We are all of these. But we are also storm chasers. We live in that space where the weight of the eternal omnipotent God breaks into the affairs of temporal fragile man. Paul says it this way to the Colossians: "For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me" Col 1:29.

Paul inspires Titus in handling the Cretan challenge towards the gospel. We have no solution if we do not start with God [Gen 1] go through the creation and fall of man [Gen 3] then engage in the proto-evangelium - the beginning of the redemption narrative.

There are two major gospel pointers in Titus. The first appears in vs 2:11 - 14, the second is in 3:4 - 8. These are the dual natures of the gospel which transforms believers and communities. The redemption story is so glorious, with so many words, pictures and metaphors, that I am always intrigued by which ones are emphasized in any given context.

With the Cretans being called "liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons... detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work..." Paul shapes the gospel to be presented to both the Cretan Jesus lover as well as raw rebel with : 3:4 - 8.

When the goodness and kindness of God - isn't it amazing that Paul does not suggest a good ole fire 'n brimstone approach? Rather he wants these desperate folks to discover true theology - the wonder of a kind and good Father, even though he could come in swinging with the wrath of God,
Our saviour appeared - There are never too many moments to reflect on Christ's incarnation. This hypostatic union of fully God and fully man is such a pivotal piece of our scriptural, historical and apostolic reality,
He saved us - Notice the short sweet language - it is already done, it is fully achieved, it has an out of and in to edge, it is finished,
Not because of works done by us in righteousness - there simply is no pretense that we can add to our salvation story. It is all about Him who died and rose again for us. Believers must simply be delivered from any notion that we are players in our salvation encounter. It does not matter how 'good' or how 'bad' we have been, our own righteousness is as filthy rags,
According to his mercy - this is part of the great redemption mystery... God only saves because of his mercy - none of us have earned salvation nor deserve salvation. It is simply because God is merciful. We have nothing to boast about, nor any deeds to be proud in, it is simply because he offers mercy,
By the washing of regeneration - Moving from the work of the Father [kindness, goodness, mercy] and the Son [appeared, saved] Paul now brings in the third person of the Trinity as salvation is a trinitarian partnership. Regeneration [rebirth] is a work of the Spirit - sins are washed away - both in actuality as well as in the symbolism of baptism,
And renewal of the Holy Spirit - indicates that God isn't doing a patch job on us - a little improvements here and there. Rather he is making all things new. He takes up residency in our hearts and through rebirth, renews all parts of our lives - a truly glorious journey has begun,
Whom he poured out richly through Jesus Christ our saviour - there simply is no other saviour, no other redemption, no other way to the Father, no other way to find meaning, reality, truth or purpose,
So that being justified by his grace - to ensure that the whole event is not purely seen as an emotional temporary encounter he introduces forensic language. By the eternal court of law as a proclamation of a legal decree of grace - salvation is ours!
We might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life - and finally Paul, with apostolic genius, traps the conversation in the biggest picture of all - eternity. I can hear him say to Titus: "Remind them often of eternity... so much of life has a temporal 'now' factor... however we who have been captivated by a perfect lover, live lives that eagerly anticipate his return, and that makes all the difference".

Monday, April 25, 2011

Titus' Contextual Challenges

Take Google Earth. Zeroing in from space right onto your house, is a little like the transition from culture to context. Culture is the big brush strokes. It provides the big picture pieces that fashions the nation as a whole. Context "google earths" you to the local realities of leading that church, with that history, in that city, with those people, on that campus, with those stories, and those dreams - one might say it is the macro / micro convos. It requires a very skilled craftsman to face the challenges of that unique community.

In fact, the difference between planting and replanting is like having your own children vs adopting or fostering a child with a history - generally it is going to be a very challenging journey. Titus is sent to an existing church. He is not going to plant one. This community has not been well planted, so Paul sends Titus in to replant her. But it is not going to be an easy task.

I do suspect that much of our work here in the USA will be about replanting. The stats indicate that around 3500 churches are closing their doors each year. Behind each closure is a story of pain, tragedy, trauma and unmet expectations. These churches must have been launched out in a clear conviction of divine intent, but many things could have led to their ultimate end. Paul equips Titus to face this, the most difficult of all situations, with full throttle.

Paul's frames the challenge that Titus will face in Titus 1:10 - 16. Here is my breakdown of the essentials that Titus must identify, then deal with. Establishing the right questions is always one of the most important matters when facing a God mandate. I think it is one of the silent catalytic characteristics of a true apostle - helping leaders identify the right questions. If they are not asked, will the correct answers be reached? As the Father asked Jeremiah: "What do you see Jeremiah?", so we need to empower 'replanters' with the right questions:

1. Is the church fragmented into "camps"? What are they? What is the hill they are dying on?
2. What is their theological framework - if any? What is the energy that drives them?
3. What is their attitude toward leadership - especially when leadership crosses them, takes them where they do not want to go, what is the heart that gets revealed?
4. How is sin identified and dealt with both individually and corporately?
5. What is the current DNA that defines them?
6. What is the outward evidence of their 'faith'?
7. What are the major battles that require priority attention? Not all the "surgery" can be done at once. You must choose your battles wisely, in order of true kingdom value, not simply based on personal preference or prejudice.

This text describes these ingredients as follows:
1. "Especially the circumcision party..." we now know that there were camps and one of the strongest was the legalists, who are still driving after some semblance of the law being upheld,
2. "Devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth..." Titus must ensure that he is a student - especially if he wishes to deal with those who seek to blur the lines of grace with law, who still want to drag new Christ followers into the arena of legalistic bondage, some form of law based conformity driven by sets of rules and laws that determine spirituality,
3. "For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers..." Paul readies Titus that he is going into a community that does not respect leadership or authority. Titus cannot go into the church, expecting to be automatically honored simply because Paul sent him. He is going to have to earn trust and respect and that will influence the pace of change that he will bring,
4. " But both their minds and consciences are defiled..." These are weighty statements! Paul is instructing Titus that even their sense of morality is fragile. Quite amazing - don't even start preaching appealing to a preset godly conscience. That is simply not there. They are not going to respond to you from a biblical position.
5. "They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for any good work..." Paul is certainly not soft soaping anything. Their DNA is simply deplorable. Yet he has not given up on them. They can be redeemed. They can be restored. That is why he is sending Titus in - but he is going to have to start at the very beginning and relay the foundations just as a tough contractor would need to do,
6. "They profess to know God but they deny him by their works..." Their testimony in the marketplace is not good. They are not even known by good works. They probably do not tithe, do not have a great heart of expansive generosity. It is like Paul is saying to Titus: "Let us get this straight, assume nothing, everything needs to be revisited and requires change."
7. "But as for you teach what accords with sound doctrine..." Paul gives Titus his first strategic step - you have to fight the theological battle first. The new chapter in this church's story has to be framed around the sacred text and the theology and doctrine it produces. This is not the time for pleasant little topical talks or motivational moments ["You can be the best you, you can be"]. This is the assault on a tough community through the simple power of the Word preached.

Any volunteers?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Titus' Cultural Convo

When M and I arrived in LA in 1996, we were simply not ready for what faced us. A minor reality in our defense was that we had been preparing ourselves to plant a church in Newport Beach when the call came, belatedly, for us to take over the captaincy from Jesse Mason in the Christian Chapel story. We had already handed over the reins of Glenridge but it was only 3 weeks before we flew out to our new faith chapter, that the goal posts changed.

However, we were not ready. We had an over realized passion for church structure and shape [ecclesiology], an under developed sense of the gospel [Christology] and were certainly not ready for the cultural and contextual realities that faced us. We had not done our homework. We were simply not sufficiently versed in the matters that were to face us. Therefore we simply took a working African tactic that we embarrassingly assumed would work again. I made so many mistakes in this conversation that drives me to equip others so that they do not do the same.

Paul equips Titus. In the apo father's preparation of his young leader, he must have briefed him more thoroughly. Here he revisits his counsel: Titus 1:10 - 16

1. Culture: by this I refer to the prevailing worldview that has shaped the community as a whole. Here we can read these ingredients by looking at language, family, arts, business, education, sports, politics — what is valued, honored, defended, celebrated, accepted in society — what is worshipped, who are the idols, what are the greatest priorities. So Paul gets Titus to see what he is facing culturally - as seen by the Cretans themselves:
i. Cretans are always liars, [describes their ethics]
ii. Evil beasts, [defines their morality]
iii. Lazy gluttons. [defends their industry]
[Any volunteers for this assignment?]

Whether we are going to "plant a church" [by establishing a gospel community] or "replant a church" [by taking a community that has a history into a new future] we need to take a chunky time to visit the cultural piece, engaging "their prophets" to hear what they are saying about themselves — both inside of the church as well as in the marketplace.
Some good cultural Q's to ask with your team:

1. When folks talk about your nation what are the generalities that they use? ... they are arrogant, or deceptive or racist...
2. What do folks say about your city? ... oh you live in LALA land...
3. What drives your city? Is it family, money, power, pretense, right schools...?
4. What does the city prioritize? The principalities and powers that sit behind the throne, will be evidenced in the decisions people make,
5. What songs, plays, poetry and movies does your city host, make?
6. What are the educational institutions known for? What is their message?
7. Where do folks have their third place-where they congregate and do life together? Talk around the ethnic / multicultural nature of the city... who can you reach as a church?
8. How do they view spiritual things?
9. What do they do with the poor?
10. Where and how do they spend their money?

Hope this is helpful... keep the cultural convo going. It does shape how we present the glorious gospel.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Titus Team Selection

No doubt, leadership selection is one of the most defining ingredients in a community's journey. In the USA church world, the ease of hiring rather than leadership development, has not created the correct framework for effective, passionate, raw, real leadership.

Paul empowers Titus with this most significant mandate - "as I directed you". We would all love to have been in that briefing when Paul instructed Titus on the task at hand "set in order that which is lacking and appoint elders". Here we have a summary, a precise of what was given before. Now before we can look at who needs to be selected, we are given a window into the world of the apostle's ministry:

1. Ever available to be the "sent one". Paul has this man whom he trains up, as the work is getting more than he can cope with. He multiplies himself in Titus, so he has to prepare him before he left. Paul had to remind Titus once he got there, as he probably got overwhelmed at the task at hand.

2. Titus had to "set in order that which was lacking". We will look at that in detail later. Let it be sufficient to say, Paul was not looking to conform all churches to "one model or pattern". Rather, he was wanting every church to be surrendered to "one head" who is Christ, the head of the church. Whilst there are some basics all churches are to give themselves to, they will look and feel differently as the personality of the leaders, the mandate on each church and the context in which they minister, gets reflected.

3. The task required of Titus was to "appoint elders". Wow, two words weighted with such substance -
i. Apostles were very involved in leadership selection in the early church;
ii. They had to educate, endorse, empower and appoint these men in a public laying on of hands;
iii. "Elders" is seen in the plural. Apostolic leadership is noted by its collaborative style. This is reflected at an eldership level where senior local church leadership is more about "us" than it is about "me". The notion of a one man leadership model in the early church, simply did not exist. They were men together, on mission, around the gospel, to transform their world!

The criteria for this team selection must never be seen as a single exhaustive checklist. That would be nothing more than bland legalism. Remember, Paul is revisiting a more substantial convo he had had with Titus before he left for "Project Crete". I want to suggest, Paul is highlighting the major areas that must be matrixed around this team selection. Lets look at it a little closer:

1. Calling: There is no grace to walk in this role if God has not appointed them,
2. Character: The story of the man must first be measured by a life that reflects Jesus in the substance of personhood, especially being strong in the areas that the community is weak-that "contextual character strength" is totally essential,
3. Home: Marriage and family must reflect the beauty of a gospel transforming story. One never looks for perfection. One only looks for the sense of wonder, a faith evidence that Jesus is being seen in the way we love our wives and engage our kids in a bigger God empowering story,
4. Doctrine: These elders were bible guys. Sound in doctrine, substantial in the sacred text, they could equip these saints to live these godly lives, standing strong even when truth is not popular,
5. Culture: They were men who understood the culture they were ministering in. They were not disconnected from their culture nor their context. As overseers, they got the big picture. Being neither small minded nor disengaged from the world, they could lead a community who activates their believers as missionaries into a very difficult world [as we are about to see].
6. Guts: These elders had to be gutsy men. They could not be reluctant to act confidently and boldly either in giving instruction nor in rebuking the wayward. True eldership is not simply placating the sheep, who may bleat in naked rebellion. True eldership / overseers / shepherds, see what is best for the sheep and will lead them there, even if they are not popular for a while.

The first leaders we appoint in a church plant is a very weighty matter. They reflect the prototype we are modeling. Their faith, commitment, passion, diligence, study, love and Bible priority will be the shape of the things to come. We are the shape of things to come - just you wait and see. We will produce after our own kind - and that started in the garden.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Paul and Titus-a shared apo journey

There seems to be little doubt among most theologians that Paul was the author and that Titus was one of his proteges. Paul was one remarkable man. He was passionate and rugged, tough and tender, intentional and Spirit-led. He was so focussed "This one thing" yet would not let his call be a one generational legacy "And the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also". He multiplied himself in these young studs. These statements [like 1 Cor 4:15 - 17, ] are either boldly humble or significantly arrogant. He invested himself in these "sons" to ensure he would not simply be a one generational wonder.

This is a leadership legacy book. It is a book of trust. I can read between the lines as Paul energizes this young "son" of his by saying ": 'This is your first assignment — go do it. I believe in you. I see the hand of the Father is on you. The call to 'apostle' is on you. I am here if you need me, but it is your time. It is your turn to pick up the apo baton. Now go and get the job done!" I am sure that Titus must have felt somewhat inept. Representing Jesus was massive. Being trusted by Paul as his ambassador was weighty. To be given such a mandate was simply outrageous. The moments of self doubt must have pervaded his mind. The voice of the great liar, discourager and deceiver must have worked his own uncertainty. But he had a task to fulfill and he had just received his marching orders.

I love Paul's introduction. Titus knew him. Yet he is still quite intentional about defining his voice in this epistle. It could have been that his introduction was culturally necessary. That may be true. It may be that was Paul's style that he repeated often or it may be that he was expecting the letter to be read to the whole community, so he endorsed and validated Titus before the church, as he reminded all of his apo role in both Titus' life as well as in Crete.

" Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ..." May I suggest that he collides these two images of his call to ensure that no-one tries to make him 'king' for there is only one king and that his name is Jesus. Oh that the next generation is captivated to be true passionate yet free servants of God! These next leaders are not to be driven by wild ambition of self promotion, nor see themselves in the glitz and glamour world of name recognition. Surely, I hear Paul say: "is there a higher call than to be a servant of the lover of our soul, the one with whom we will share eternity?" Both are positions of humble obedience and not titles of superiority. As servant, we are reminded that he is "bought, owned and directed by God" [John Stott]. Paul frames his task with the gospel. He is reminding the reader that the only role he has, is because " you are not your own for you were bought with a price." 1 Cor 6:19 - 20. Unless a leader grasps that, he will never stand in the full wonder of grace nor be amazed at the kindness of God's election, calling us to a journey - " For we are God workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" Eph 2:10.

"...An apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ" This ascension grace gift cannot be earned, trained to become one or inherited. As Michael Eaton says: "Apostles fall from the sky" meaning one can only be an apostle when Christ appoints, anoints and authorizes a person to that end. Paul has no greater credential than what Christ gives him. But then he speedily adds to what end: "for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness..." . So he is an apostle for the church and for the sake of truth. Can you hear him say between the lines: "Have you got that Titus? It is for the sake of Jesus' girl that we are apostles. It is not for ourselves, for title or position. It is so that she can flourish and gain strength from the truth to walk in the full beauty of holy godliness. That is why we are apostles - so be courageous my son for the task that lies ahead. It will not always be popular nor will you get man's approval. But it is for the church. That reward is enough!"

Tampering with Titus

Prof J.R. Clinton from Fuller Seminary writes, in his commentary on Titus that his writings provide: "this is a leadership commentary, not an exegetical commentary". I do like the freedom of that approach as long we do not use the text to be a matrix for our opinions. The text must always first be allowed to reflect God's original intention using all the good, sound, true exegetical guidelines. Once this is established, we can review the sacred text to see what it prophetically calls to our attention.

I read an article by a BBC journalist who was proposing that it would be good for the right if Donald Trump ran for the presidency here in the USA. I did wonder how much of his article was tongue in cheek. However, where he was accurate, was his concern that there was a deficiency of true competent leaders in the USA today - most clearly seen by those seeking to stand against Obama in the 2012 elections. The church cannot ignore this obvious weakness that is raging in this nation. If it true when we say: "like the church, so the nation", then it is deeply concerning that we are not catalyzing nearly enough prophetically accurate and apostolically intentional leaders from the loins of our communities. Too much of the church is too cautious, conservative and preoccupied with endless lists of qualifications that provide horizons of hurdles for passionate young stallions.

Paul was different. While Peter tended to travel with established apostles, Paul seems to be focussed on both the "old guys" as well as the next generation of mavericks who always hold the future of the church in their hands. This quote is worthy some conversation:

“Experimental groups seeking to engage the Christian faith in a postmodern context will often lack the resources, profile or success record of the Boomer congregations. By definition, they are new, untried, relatively disorganized and fearful of self-promotion. They reject the corporate model of their Boomer forebears and thus do not appear, according to existing paradigms, to be significant. But don’t be fooled. Somewhere in the genesis and genius of these groups, is hidden the future of Western Christianity. To dismiss them is to throw away the seeds of our survival.” Gerald Kelly[1]

I would like for us to wrap our hearts and arms around this TITUS text to see how we can best give ourselves to the leadership conversation.

[1] Frost and Hirsch; The Shaping of things to come; pg x,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Further Reflections

Being home is wondrous. M and T welcomed me home with such authentic excitement yesterday. The long 3 part flight from Cape town was mammoth. Between the many movies and TV shows that distracted my mind, I did have some time to revisit the trip - place by place, meeting by meeting, church by church, convo by convo. Here are some further thoughts:

1. The fragmentation of the previous chapter has had a number of very profound and positive impacts [and many tragic and sad ones too] - including the re-empowerment of elders. I met with eldership teams in Durban, East London and Cape town and was delighted by-en-large. There is a new robustness about the teams [with some exceptions]. Their ownership of the well being of the church is tangible. There is no reliance on another corporate anointing. They are defining their theologies. They are far more collaborative in leadership style. The process of eldership decisions seems to be more in a "togetherness" than ever before. It is producing stronger, healthier and maturing teams, yet several of the teams are still very young. Very inspiring.

2. I loved the passion I saw with the priority for "City impact" - especially from my friends Rigby Wallace and Nick Hardy. With a call to being a "community together, on mission, around the gospel to transform our cities", I loved the heart, focus, intentionality and desire to partner with others in the city. Fresh collaborations, including with brothers from other denominations and movements was refreshing and inspiring. Even how we see and use our buildings seems to have been affected by this new vista.

3. Honestly, the generic notion of "the team" rather than the full wonder of 'apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers' has lost the full edge of what each gift brings to the table. Of course, we must not overvalue any one of these gifts over the other - but then neither must we undervalue them either. The apo-gift has a strong 'sent one' factor. Besides whatever else they bring to the table, they certainly do stir Jesus lovers to the horizons beyond. They cannot help themselves. It exists in their gift DNA - they offer a bigger dream, a larger adventure and a lost horizon. The movement then becomes cautious, loses is apo viscosity and quietens down to the palatable, measurable and manageable. This, I am sad to say, was very evident in most of my RSA experience. If the apo and prophet voices are not empowered to operate, the once virile and wild train ride will grind to a slow, boring, repetitive mail train and the Father will need to raise up others to fulfill this necessary role.

Thanks for your comments. Delighted to be back in the USA convo again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reflections from South Africa

It has been a very busy trip here in South Africa. I have barely had a spare moment but have loved every moment.

It is Saturday afternoon. This morning was spent with 40+ Josh Gen elders and wives. They lead a church of 10 campuses here in Capetown. Their passion for Jesus is contagious. Their love for the bride is infectious. Their heart for the lost is tangible. I am so looking forward to ministering at 2 of their campuses tomorrow.

Having been in 3 cities here in RSA on this trip, I have found myself reflecting on a number of issues:

1. The dispersal of an apostolic household that could have multiplied and celebrated and not fragmented, has left a residue of pastors and churches who are somewhat disorientated and vulnerable. Of course it need not have happened that way. However there is a way forward to recover some of the lost ground.

2. Losing the big picture has led to most churches focusing in on their own health and growth as well as seeking to transform their city for and with the gospel. This has been one of God's great acts of mercy. Whilst the call to the nations has sadly diminished, the attention to the city conversation has been very empowering and essential.

3. The apo fathers in the nation are too quiet. Being nervous to be seen to be drawing pastors to themselves, they have stepped too far back in an effort to appear to honor. The victims of their reluctance have been the pastors themselves. I have appealed to several of them to accept and take ownership of their clear emerging apostolic role and lead. The pastors and churches are looking for a clear voice and clarion call.

4. The conversations have often drifted towards what third generation apostolic movements looks like. Whilst I will blog my thoughts on this later, RSA does need these men to disengage from the stranglehold of the past - good and bad bits. This is a chapter turning moment. A new day. A day of God's clear promotion and leadership repositioning. It is the ongoing beginning, of the emergence of today's apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These men and women will have new job descriptions, new role and responsibilities. There will be some new collaborations, alliances, partnerships as well as the wondrous long standing relationships of our past.

5. These emerging apos must fire up their steam engines. Churches, pastors, believers are looking to hitch their wagons onto a train that is fired up with destiny, a big story and a hill worth dying on. Each apo man will journey uniquely as differently as Paul was to Peter, as Peter was to John, as John was to James, as James was to Timothy. There simply is not a one size fits all.

6. Once again, the intriguing seed from the South African soil will be felt around the world. The splashes from these waters will burst their banks and wet the wastelands of the foreign shores. I am delighted.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Kind of Believer we want to produce IV.

This weekend, Alan asked me to continue the "Love Re-imagined" study through the book of 1 Corinthians. With specific emphasis on 1 Corinthians 12, I chose the title of "The Anatomy of Love" as the text is all about the 'body'. However I wanted to come in from a fresh angle. This chapter has 31 verses of which only 5 deal with the gifts. The other 26 deal with the more than the 'charismata'.

Here is a portion of my notes from Sunday. It fits into the "Kind of believer..." series as every Jesus follower does need to be part of a 'local body',

  • Where they are part of this 'local church' unit,
  • Where they belong,
  • Where they are needed,
  • Where the weak are vital,
  • The least honorable are pivotal,
  • The most unpresentable are essential,
  • Where division is prevented with all passion.

Also, Paul is so intentional in his use of metaphors, as he wants the Corinthian church to rediscover Christ's origin design of "true Church" and not grow comfortable with anything less than this picture.... here are my notes:

Neil Cole: “church 3.0” writes: Chapter 1 – ‘what about the world we live in – from the village church to a global village’[1]

“My mentor Thom Wolf often points that the 21st Century is quickly becoming the sister century to the first century:

  • A single and dominant superpower,
  • A single, global trade language,
  • Technological advances create a global community,
  • Relativistic philosophy,
  • Pagan and occult activity,
  • Sexual promiscuity, perversion and chemical addictions,

But was not the church born for such a time as this? Aslan is on the move!

There are many key texts that shape this moment in church history… but I want to take us to 2:

“ I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” Matt 16:18.

  • I - Jesus is the centerpiece of this whole conversation. From the fall and the garden, the whole earth has been groaning in anticipation of his redemptive arrival
  • Will build – he is the architect and builder of this building – like the flood – to face the force of the tsunami when the wells from beneath and the heavens from above collide… the new ark,
  • My – He is both savior and Lord, redeemer and king, apostle and prophet.
  • Church – It is imperative that we know what he had in mind! There has been so much confusion as to who, what and why the church exists:
    • The Websters Dictionary reflects the modern mind when it translates the word ‘church’: 1: a building; esp for Christian public worship; 2. The whole body of Christians; 3. DENOMINATION; 4. CONGREGATION; 5: public divine worship.
    • Megachurch- ‘Large gathering of folks’ - church is seen as the largeness of gatherings, the number of programs;
    • Emergent church – ‘Loose gathering of folks’ – any and every gathering of 2 or more believers is a church but is it biblically?
    • Traditional church – ‘Long established gathering of folks’
    • NT – Greek – ekklesia – ‘calling out; assembly or gathering’;
    • English word church comes from the Gk word kyriakon – ‘the Lord’s’.

The second text that plays a pivotal role to our conversation is:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father… I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth… the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name” John 14:9 – 27.

How did Jesus do these ‘things’? From Luke’s gospel:

· The Holy Spirit descended on him, 3:22

· Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, 4:1

· Led by the Holy Spirit into the desert… where he was tempted, 4:1

· Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, 4:14

But what did he do? He began his work of redemption…

  • Teaching,
  • Preaching,
  • Healing, [that is why these three are under such attack!]
  • Delivering the oppressed,
  • Liberating the women,
  • Discipling the followers,
  • Loving, Caring, Feeding, Correcting,
  • Empowering through a big redemptive story,
  • Resisting religion… until they killed him for itpenal substitutionary atonement!
    • Incarnational – living Christianity at “street light level” [S. Timmis]
    • Missional – Missionaries on mission,
    • Atonement – Redemption agents,
    • Community – Never alone, always together,
    • Resurrection – Spirit empowered lives

So, what did his early church look like?

  • A Jesus centered, gospel preaching gathering,
  • A regenerated community with deep affection for God, each other and a dying world,
  • They gathered together around mission [Jerusalem to the uttermost],
  • Led by biblically qualified leaders,
  • Sat together consistently around the teaching of the scriptures / sacred texts,
  • Participated in the spiritual disciplines [prayer, worship, fasting, meditation.]
  • Engaged in the sacraments [ baptism, communion]
  • Reflected Holiness [personal and togetherness / set apart, distinct and God like purity]
  • Dwell in a culture of Generosity [toward themselves as well as the outside world]
  • An activated priesthood [not a class of believer but where everyone is vital, essential and active]
  • A supernatural collaboration with the Holy Spirit- where God encounters are the norm.

Every Jesus follower should have the opportunity to be involved in a community like this.

[1] Neil Cole; church 3.0; pg 16 – 22.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Kind of Believer we want to produce III.

OK it is time to acknowledge - I did expect a much stronger reaction to the words I used in this conversation. When we chatted around the convo at Exploration yesterday, a group of young leaders voiced their preference with "Jesus follower" rather than "believer". That was good - the former is a stronger picture of obedience in their journey, rather than simply an academic / philosophical exchange of ideas. But I did think there would be a more fervent appeal for another word to "produce" which speaks of the industrial age of factories and impersonal cookie-cutting one-size-fits all. Possibly a family and more relational word would be more powerful - from 'disciple' to 'raise up'.

1 John is a most wonderful book, written by the apostle 'of love' as he is sometimes called. It is a very strong, yet tender photo album of what Jesus loving and obeying believers look like. There is no suggestion of cramming all of humanity into a single vat of conformity, yet he unapologetically directs the reader to understand the essential cornerstones to becoming a temple of God, where his presence can reside unhindered and his work completed without interruption. Here is an easy, simple outline of "The kind of Jesus followers we desire to disciple":

  • Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ; Father - a Trinitarian grasp...
  • We have fellowship with one another; Fellowship - a vital, life source no matter what,
  • The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin... will forgive us our sins; Forgiveness, the beginning of a truly gospel centered journey,
  • Anyone who obeys his word; Foundation - obedience is the cornerstone of this journey,
  • You have overcome the evil one; Foe - knowing what the devil's strategy is against you and then defeating him daily,
  • Do not love the world; Fight - our three part defense against the things that tempt us,
  • You have an anointing; Flame - each Jesus lover has been endowed with an anointing to live an extraordinary life of miracles - find it, fuel it,
  • We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers; Family - belonging to a band of brothers reaches true reality when we are prepared to live and die for each other,
  • Anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need; Financials - the Lordship of Christ is often best reflected in our checkbook for it reveals who reigns in our lives,
  • Test the spirits... spirit of falsehood; False - as with bankers, these Jesus followers are to test and measure the real from the counterfeit,
  • Dear friends; Friends - real, simple, authentic, transparent, honest, for life,
  • Confidence in the day of judgement; Future - fervent passion with Jesus till the end for it will be a great celebration when he comes, and we are ready,
  • Victory that has overcome the world, even our faith; Faith - is what brings the Father pleasure, means we truly trust him,
  • The Spirit is the truth; Freedom - a Jesus lover who is engaging the freedom there is in Christ,
  • Confidence in approaching God, if we ask anything according to his will: Favor - we live under friendly skies, the Father delights in loving, blessing and answering our prayers,
These are some very cool God ingredients from the apostle of love. What else do you see in the text?