The auditorium was jam-packed with visitors for a dead man—my father, in fact. Students, teachers, engineers, taxi drivers, businessmen, nurses ... all lined up to pay their respects to a fallen hero. Hundreds came to the memorial service, with more waiting outside amid an overflow of familiar faces. All this for a simple music teacher.
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.
Mike Bickle explains the importance of today’s prayer movement
I am honored and challenged to be the guest editor of this issue of Ministry Today. It’s impossible to cover all the important elements and ministries the Holy Spirit is emphasizing right now regarding the prayer and worship movement. But in this issue we seek to highlight some of what is happening, why it is important, and how it will strengthen the church’s efforts in evangelism, world missions and in establishing local congregations.
In this hour of history God is raising up a worship-based prayer movement as the leading edge of a youth-led missions thrust that will reach all nations with the power of the gospel as it invades every sphere of society with the presence of God’s kingdom. This massive movement involves people from all around the world, in many different congregations, ministries and denominations.
The Lord led me to focus on building an evangelical missions organization based on night-and-day prayer and led by worship teams serving 24/7. For the past 12 years our missions base, the International House of Prayer, has continued nonstop in worship and prayer.
International House of Prayer’s founder reveals how the 24/7 ministry hub actually works
On Sept. 19, 1999, a group of 20 people in Kansas City, Mo., began to worship God 24/7 and pray for an outpouring of the Spirit on God’s people to build the church and establish His kingdom in every sphere of society. Today we have about 1,000 staff members who raise their own financial support as “intercessory missionaries.” We were inspired by the financial model used by Campus Crusade and Youth With A Mission, both of which have about 25,000 full-time staff who have raised their own financial support.
All staff members spend at least 25 hours each week in our worship-based prayer room and a minimum of 25 hours per week in ministry outreach, works of justice, administration and service. About 300 of our staff and interns have reordered their lives to serve in the prayer room from midnight until 6 a.m. We call this faithful company the NightWatch. Along with staff, we have 1,000 students and interns in our full-time Bible school, International House of Prayer University (IHOPU), training to serve their local churches in prayer, worship and outreach.
Our week is organized into 84 prayer meetings, each lasting two hours. Every meeting is led by a worship team of 10 to 12 staff members who interact with intercessors in what we call the “harp and bowl model” of prayer (see Rev. 5:8). This refers to combining worship music and intercession in corporate prayer settings.
How to transition from attracting followers to reproducing leaders
Have you paused to consider that you’re pastoring the first generation in history that doesn’t need leaders to get information? When you see your folks on Sunday, many have been online, finding all kinds of other pastors, authors and zealots and obtaining all sorts of information. Even though people no longer need us for information, they do need us for interpretation as we help them navigate the barrage of information they consume each week.
My concern is that we, the leaders of the church, have either misunderstood the biblical idea of leadership or we’ve dismissed it as “secular” or “fleshly.” We’ve read the Bible with a “follow-ship” bias and missed the call from God across the Old and New Testaments to lead.
Look again at the book of Genesis, where we read familiar words: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image.” Just what does that mean? We receive a clue to a part of its meaning in the next phrase: “and let them rule”
(Gen. 1:26, NIV).