McChurch. Franchised Jesus. Theological clones. Incubator congregations. Ecclesiological buffets. From the devil.
If there is a classification of church that gets put down more than megachurches, it would have to be multisite churches. Is the critique fair? Sometimes, but not always.
As we found with megachurches recently, there is plenty of good that comes with the stereotypical bad. In the megachurch research, we saw they don’t really draw away members from other local churches as much as people think they do, they are healthier financially and they are growing at a faster pace than smaller churches.
The most important question any church planter can ask is “Why am I planting a church?” I have had some conversations with some great guys lately who I think are really struggling with that question.
All of us struggle with why we are in ministry on Monday morning, but we need to evaluate our motivation on a bigger scale. Let’s look at what I think are some lousy reasons to plant a church and then share a great reason I recently heard.
First, the lousy reasons:
“I want to reinvent church.” This one comes in a lot of flavors, but it always comes down to the bottom line of, "I have a better way to do church." More hymns, no hymns, pews, no pews, more art, more coffee, more beer, less structure, less formality. We’re going to be radically sold out. We’re not going to cater to Christians. We’re going to go deep. We’re going to go wide. We’re going to be a church for people who absolutely abhor the awful church that I’m currently drawing my paycheck from.
Years ago my wife, Jeri, and I were driving on the interstate when we were overcome by a white cloud of windblown snow. "I can't see a thing!" I shouted. We were experiencing a complete whiteout. I lost all sense of direction. I couldn't see the road or other cars. Everything had vanished, replaced by this strange, mystical blizzard of white. The only thing I knew to do was to slow down and pray that I was still on the road.
I will forever remember as though we were standing there now, as you read these words.
The place: The walking bridge connecting the student parking lot to the bustling campus of Oral Roberts University, where the grandiose buildings and space age architecture were a daily reminder to the thousands of us students of Dr. Oral Roberts' charge to “Make no small plans here.”
The time: 25 years ago.
The experience: A life-changing encounter that would set the course for my spiritual future in ways I would never have imagined when I woke up almost late for class that beautiful spring morning in Tulsa.
With a mere six weeks remaining before graduation, and with a dream in my heart far bigger than myself, I was ready to go from this incredible place of preparation to be used by God to fulfill the Great Commission and reach our world for Christ.
The gift of tongues is still very much in evidence today. It is not meant to replace normal Christian responsibilities or minimize the importance of the Bible, but it will enhance all the good things of God already in your life. Here are six great reasons for seeking and using this gift:
1. Personal evidence.The Holy Spirit uses tongues as a miraculous, abiding sign. Miracle languages confirm the inner presence of the Spirit by using the body member most dependent on volitional, human intelligence--the tongue (see Acts 2:4; 10:44-47; 19:6; James 3:8).
2. Praise declaration. Tongues initiates a prophetic gush of inspired worship and causes the heart to soar in adoration and worship unattainable by human means, creating "the fruit of the lips" (see Is. 57:19; Heb. 13:15; John 4:23-24; Phil. 3:3).
While in prayer over the vision God gave Steve Hill about the “spiritual avalanche that could kill millions,” an alarming question nagged my soul: Could the great falling away already be underway? Could we be witnessing the first fruits of the great falling away even now? Are we at least seeing a shadow of the Great Apostasy?
There is much talk about Christ’s soon Second Coming. But we know that Jesus will not return for a church without spot or wrinkle unless the falling away comes first … (1 Thess. 2:3). Although it’s nothing entirely new, we are indeed witnessing a fast-progressing departure from sound doctrine and a holy life.
Even a quick comparison between what Scripture tells us about the last days and the manifest sin that has penetrated our generation should serve as a wake up call to every believer: Don’t ignore the signs of the times. In His discussions on the end of the age, Jesus warned us not to let anyone deceive us (Matt. 24). If it weren’t possible to get caught up in the Great Falling Away, Jesus wouldn’t have issued such a strong warning to His followers and left a record of it for you and me.
At some point we’ve all questioned why we’re alive. Whether you or someone you know is struggling to find their life mission, here are five specific purposes for which God created us.
Everyone in your congregation wants to know if life really matters. Members, visitors, even your staff want to know:
What on earth am I here for?
Essentially, they’re asking three basic questions. First, there’s the question of existence: Why am I alive? For thousands of years people have asked this question. Many people of the Bible did. Jeremiah asked: “Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace?” (20:18, GNT).
A new iOS app providing a portable and interactive user experience for the 10th Anniversary expanded version of Rick Warren’s bestselling The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? is now available from Zondervan at http://zndr.vn/UBL4E5.
The “Purpose Driven Life” app includes the entire content of the book as well as 42 built-in videos of Warren further sharing insights into each chapter. In addition, individuals will have the ability to create notes to use in small group settings or for personal study.
“The ‘Purpose Driven Life’ app allows for simple and efficient portability perfect for on-the-go reading,” said Tracy Danz, Vice President and Publisher, Zondervan Trade Books. “What better gift to give this Christmas than one that will help an individual start a journey of discovering the answer to life’s most important question: What on earth am I here for?”
Some members of my church gathered near the altar last Sunday to pray for those affected by the recent school massacre in Connecticut. Our pastor had a list of the victims, and he asked that we mention each of the families by name.
It wasn’t easy to read that list. It included Daniel Barden, age 7; Charlotte Bacon, 6; Olivia Engel, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; and Jack Pinto, 6. A total of 20 children died in the shootings, plus six adults, including Victoria Soto, the brave first-grade teacher who herded her students into a closet when the gunman approached her classroom. She was 27, the same age as my oldest daughter.
Some people in my church found it too difficult to pray out loud. That’s understandable. But how exactly do we pray when tragedy strikes?
GOD TV aired a live broadcast featuring Steve Hill of the Brownsville Revival of the 1990s and Nathan Morris of the current Bay Revival, together with pastor John Kilpatrick, the host of both spiritual outpourings. Below are some photos Hill sent us from the historic event.
The Brownsville Revival ran from 1995 to 2000, attracting more than 4 million people to Pensacola, Fla. Often televised on GOD TV, it was characterized by passionate salvation messages from evangelist Steve Hill, a call to holiness from Kilpatrick and worship led by Cooley.
TheBay Revival started in Daphne, Ala., in July 2010. It overflowed to the Mobile Convention Center and is now on a city-to-city tour of the USA. It is recognized for its many miracles, radical preaching from British evangelist Morris, teaching by Kilpatrick and original songs written by Marrow.
My feelings, following the results of the 2012 presidential race, are not predicated on the relative merits or either candidate. They are borne with facts that are true of Americans' lives at this time in the 21st century; some of which are flavored by choices by our seated president's words and actions, but not without difficulties that may be attributed to either of our presidential candidates or their parties. In short, our vulnerabilities and weaknesses as a nation—economically, spiritually, morally or otherwise, have a deeper root than the failures of human management or policy.
It is in the light of that preamble that I make this statement: The re-election of President Obama is yet another landmark of history that reveals the inevitable flow of events which increase in depth and spread when the church mistakes its mission. As one incident, the election outcome holds the portent of being a prophetic announcement of the impending end of the significance of the church in America, unless ...
... Unless a reawakening of Christ's body in America occurs, which heeds the "first of all" priority Paul, by the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 2:1-2), assigned to the church's ministry of prayer and intercession for leaders, peoples and nations, no administration or political party will be capable of a solution to our nation's essential problems.
Just telling our societies that Jesus is what they need isn’t enough
In the current vitriolic and polarizing culture-war atmosphere, a Sermon on the Mount emphasis of giving mercy, going the second mile, turning the other cheek, and forgiving “70 times seven” would serve the cause of Christ far better than an angry stance that smacks of, “We’re Christians and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Recently I was at a stoplight, and the car in front of me had a bumper sticker that read: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” The statement is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Of course it’s overstated and far too much of a glaring generalization. But I find little comfort in that.
When I saw that bumper sticker, I wanted to get out of my car, walk up to the driver and apologize. I wanted to say something like: “I know. We have been far too unlike our Christ. Please forgive us.”
We live in a world where much is wrong. And what is most wrong with the world is not the politics or the economy or who happens to be living in the White House. What is most wrong with the world is the human heart.
The greed and pride and lust of the human heart are the epicenter of all that is wrong with the world. We should realize this by now.
As followers of Christ, we are not so much called to know the answer or preach the answer as much as we are called to be the answer. This is how we are salt and light (also found in the Sermon on the Mount). We are to model the answer by being Christ-like in a Caesar-like world. This is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.
The narrow (and difficult) way of the Golden Rule demands that we consider and not use others. The Golden Rule of considering others by giving them love, respect and mercy is the narrow gate that leads to salvation. Not because this is how salvation is earned, but because this is how salvation islived.
Using other people as objects to satisfy our self-centered agenda is absolutely the highway to hell—it is the kind of life that leads to the utter and final ruin of the human soul. When creatures created in the image of God cooperate with sin and Satan to use other image-bearing creatures as objects to satisfy their own greed and lust, they conspire to erase the image of God from their own souls. This is what Jesus is trying to save us from in teaching us the narrow way of the Golden Rule.
This is the Sermon on the Mount—to choose the Christ-like way of giving over the Caesar-like way of taking. To give mercy to the undeserving. To forgive the offender. To turn the other cheek to the enemy. To go the extra mile with the oppressor. To give the cloak to the scoundrel. To give cheerfully to the beggar. To forgive again and again. Seventy times seven.
This is the narrow way that Christ invites us to follow Him on. It is a hard and difficult way. But because it is Christ who invites us to follow, it is also possible.
Above all, it is the way that leads to life. Do we dare believe this? To be Christians means that we do believe this. And not only do we believe it; we live it. We live it in community with others who share our faith in Jesus Christ. Even more significantly, we live it in fellowship with the One who promised to never leave us or forsake us and to be with us on the narrow road to the end of the age.
Brian Zahnd is pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Mo., and the author of What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life and the new Unconditional? (Charisma House) from which this article is taken.
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