Relieving suffering shows the world a faithful, compassionate, merciful and giving God
What does it mean to live radically generous?What does that idea look like both personally and in the context of leading a church or ministry in today's culture?
Most of us know what it means to be generous—the dictionary defines it as “liberal in giving, openhanded and marked by abundance.”Radicalis “very different from the usual, extreme.” So to be radically generous believers means we aggressively and purposefully look for ways to reach out to others and help meet their needs.
Fortunately, we have the ultimate example. Our God is a generous God—radically generous. He’s passionate about helping people.
The eternal impact of radically serving the community around you
I can remember being 20 years old, coming to Los Angeles with the goal of having a 24/7 church that would serve the local community’s needs. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But I had no idea of the challenges ahead.
Coming from such a large church—Phoenix First Assembly of God, led by my father, Tommy Barnett—it was a bit of an adjustment to have just a few people show up to some of our earliest servicesv. Feeling defeated after an especially difficult night, I walked through the neighborhood, listening for the voice of God.
That night, I saw people caught up in drug addiction, homelessness, prostitution. Just walking around, I could sense the turmoil and oppression. In that moment, God told me these broken people were my congregation, that my ministry was and would not be confined to a church building. Instead, this ministry would reach beyond walls and throughout the neighborhood.
That night—and finding that calling—was a life-defining moment for me.
Preaching. Countless people have done it and are doing it. And as we all know, there isn't just one way of doing it. When it comes to the work of proclamation, we have various strategies and styles—some healthier than others.
Three Common Approaches to Preaching What I find most often among preachers is something close to one of the three following approaches. While each approach has value, they are not enough in and of themselves.
The inspired approach. We probably know this better as the "I had a word from the Lord" approach. In its best form, this approach reflects a preacher who has been impressed by the Holy Spirit concerning a particular truth in Scripture. It is, in a sense, first-person: "The Lord led me, and I want to tell you how He is leading." In some ways, it reminds us of 1 Peter 4:11: "If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God's words."
The danger here is that if we aren't binding ourselves to the Word of God, it isn't difficult to get off the path of truth and allow our hearts—which the Bible calls deceitful—to guide our preaching more than we allow Scripture to guide us.
The church has always been faced with the choice of evangelizing through the power of God or by human wisdom, often expressed as apologetics.
A famous “defender of the faith,” Benjamin Warfield, against the overwhelming teaching of Scripture, actually claimed, “Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively ‘the Apologetical religion.’ It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet.”
Apologetics in this context means, “a reasoned defense” rather than a “presentation-in-power” of Christian belief. Apologetics assumes that one becomes a Christian more by intellectually grasping “right doctrine” or “good ideas” rather than humbly receiving the revealed presence and power of Jesus.
In early church history, as the power of the Spirit became a threat to the church hierarchy, most of the early “church fathers” became more acceptable as “apologists,” defending the faith against philosophical and religious attacks, even as they (rarely) conceded that Christianity was mainly spread by those who healed and drove out demons. Since these apologists were trained in the same intellectual traditions as their opponents, their crucial problem is that they accept their opponents’ premise that human wisdom is the way to discover God and to accept His gospel. The gospel then became a matter of accepting certain facts about Christianity (the creeds), rather than basing faith on the “experience” of God’s revelation and power—a problem even today in evangelical Christianity.
For decades, maybe centuries, the church has gathered weekly around a sermon. Our reasons are noble: We value the Scriptures and know that our lives are to be anchored in truth. But the study of the Scriptures is meant to launch us into an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
In that moment of connection, we obtain life. Without encountering the One to whom Scriptures point, we are a people to be pitied. As Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
Nearly every leader wants revival in one way or another, and many want healings, deliverances and miracles. But it’s hard to have the same fruit as the early church when we value a book they didn’t have above the Holy Spirit they did have.
This issue of Ministry Today is all about using the power of media to effectively communicate God’s message, and it’s as important as any we’ve published in the magazine’s 31-year history. That’s because our society today is increasingly dominated and driven by the media, and for believers to communicate the gospel, we must not only understand the media, but also be ahead of the curve in using it.
Recently I had the privilege of speaking to a group of students at Valley Forge Christian College in Pennsylvania. Among other things I shared, I spoke on the topic of learning to write for digital media. I actually talked about some of the concepts addressed in this issue, even quoting Hollywood movie producer Ralph Winter and other contributors.
These were young, eager people preparing themselves to serve in ministry, trying to get the tools they need for the future. Why they wanted to hear from a journalist who learned the ropes of the media industry on manual typewriters and who graduated before the personal computer was invented is beyond me. Yet I am a veteran of learning to navigate the tumultuous waters of change—and when it comes to the media world, things are changing like never before. I never could have envisioned a world of Facebook, Google, iPhones and text messaging when I started my career. But I reminded these students that they’ll likely experience more change in their own careers than I have in mine.
If you’re young, the same may be true for you. But even if you’ve had decades of ministry experience, you face the same dilemma as someone fresh out of college: Are you effectively communicating the message God has given you? Media—and how you use it—plays a huge role in answering that question.
As followers of Jesus, we have the privilege of responding to the world we live in with the Good News, no matter what the circumstances. Yet Christians have traditionally lagged behind the world in coping with technology and societal change. (That has nothing to do with the gospel and everything to do with paradigms of the Christian subculture.)
Because of this, it’s crucial for us—especially those in full-time ministry—to listen to leaders who are “bilingual” like Phil Cooke, our guest editor for this issue. They are citizens of God’s kingdom who know the language of Zion. But they also know the cultural language expressed through media that the world listens to.
Phil and I have been friends since he worked for Oral Roberts shortly after graduating as a student at Roberts’ university. We first met when I was a guest on Richard Roberts’ TV show in the 1980s and was impressed by a sharp young producer behind the camera. As I got to know Phil, I could see he had a passion to influence culture through media. I also watched him during a season in which he cast caution to the wind, quit his job and moved his family from “Tulsa-rusalem” to be a type of missionary to Hollywood. Today, though he still spends a significant amount of time working in the Christian media industry, he’s had enough success in the secular arena that people take notice when he recognizes an emerging cultural trend.
I’ve had dinner with Phil and his lovely wife, Kathleen. I’ve visited his offices in Burbank, Calif. We’ve collaborated on projects, and he’s become our company’s go-to guy for anything having to do with the media. If you’ve read our magazines, you’ve likely seen his byline often in print and online.
So when Ministry Today General Editor Lindy Lowry suggested him as a guest editor, I jumped at the idea. I knew the material would be good—as good as any we’ve had in the magazine. Whether in his books or behind the camera, Phil’s always produced top-notch content. And his Rolodex of names—including everyone from Joel Osteen to Ralph Winter—adds a richness and texture no one else could do when dealing with the topic of messaging and media.
Given Phil’s credentials, I encourage you to not just read this issue—devour it. Put these principles into practice in your own ministry. Lets start a movement of believers who will reclaim the airwaves—and every other medium—to advance God’s kingdom in our day.
Growing a church doesn’t happen without first growing a person. Here are eight core principles we adhere to in our discipleship model at Saddleback Church.
The discipleship process at Saddleback Church is based on the belief that if we focus on building people, God will build the church. Through a study of how Jesus helped people grow spiritually, Saddleback senior pastor Rick Warren developed these eight laws for spiritual growth.
1. Spiritual growth is intentional.
Spiritual growth is not accidental. You must intend to grow; you must make a choice to grow. This means that we grow by making commitments. People in churches are at one of six levels of commitment: community, crowd, congregation, committed, core or commissioned.
The community is anyone within driving distance of Saddleback Church. There is no commitment at the community level. We want to get the community to come to a weekend service, and we want to move them from the community to the crowd. What’s required to be in the crowd? One commitment: show up at church.
Next, we want to move people from being an attender to being a member of the church—to move from the crowd to the congregation. At Saddleback, you do this by coming to know Jesus as your Savior, being baptized, attending our membership seminar (Class 101) and signing the membership covenant.
People then move from the congregation to committed. We do that with a course called Class 201, where we teach the habits for spiritual growth. The class doesn’t make you a mature person; it just shows you what it takes to become spiritually mature and ends with the opportunity to make a commitment to growth.
From the committed, people move into the core—serving Christ by serving others. They take Class 301, sign the ministry covenant, discover their S.H.A.P.E. (each person’s unique blend of Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experiences) and start actively serving.
The commissioned are those who made it all the way into not just ministry but also mission. They have taken Class 401 and made a commitment to go into all the world as Jesus commanded.
2. Spiritual growth is incremental.
We know that incremental change is true in physical growth—so why not in spiritual growth? We know children grow in stages: They learn to breathe first; then to eat, to walk, to talk. No child has ever taken those steps out of order. They are developmental stages.
The same is true in your spiritual life. The order that we have here at Saddleback is all about helping people grow closer and closer to Christ. We want to see them know Christ, then love Christ, then grow in Christ, then serve Christ, then share Christ. Those are the systematic steps to spiritual growth.
3. Spiritual growth is personal.
You cannot mass-produce disciples because every person is different. There is no one-size-fits-all for spiritual growth.
To be a disciple is to be a learner. That’s the literal meaning of the word disciple. Because we all are different, we all learn differently. For instance, some learn best by listening, others by reading, some by discussing, others by doing a project.
One major tool we use to help people grow personally is our yearly growth campaign. For it, the entire church focuses together on some area of personal growth: 40 Days of Purpose, 40 Days in the Word, 40 Days of Love and so on. Our campaign for 2013 will be “What on Earth Am I Here For?” (To join us, go to saddlebackresources.com).
In these campaigns, the entire church studies the same thing for six weeks. We make use of all the different ways of learning so that everyone can grow. People hear it on Sundays, they read it in the book, they discuss it in a small group, they memorize a verse about it and they have a project to do for it.
4. Spiritual growth is practical.
God gives us practical ways to participate in the growth that He is causing. One of Saddleback’s goals is to help people grow by developing good spiritual habits. They’re called spiritual disciplines or devotional practices, but they’re really just habits.
For instance, we encourage the habit of spending time with God every day. Prayer is also a spiritual habit. Bible study is a spiritual habit. Tithing and attending a small group are spiritual habits.
In the end, we will become whatever we do habitually. To try to be a disciple of Jesus without developing the habits of a disciple is simply impossible.
5. Spiritual growth is relational.
We only grow if we are in community with others. This is one of the most misunderstood facts of growth among American Christians. American Christians think you can grow on your own. If I have a Bible and I have Jesus, I don’t need anybody else, we tell ourselves.
That kind of thinking is wrong! You cannot grow without the church. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:24-25: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another” (NLT).
6. Spiritual growth is multidimensional.
At Saddleback we have learned that in order for us to grow spiritually, five purposes all are needed: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. We are to grow stronger through worship, warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, broader through ministry and larger through mission.
If you go to a gym and get a trainer, you’re going to be required to work on the areas in which you are weakest. Do you have a weak shoulder? You’ll have to work on that shoulder. You have weak knees? Let’s work on your knees, your trainer will say. Spiritual growth is like physical therapy: God wants to strengthen us in all His purposes.
Of course, this means you can’t do the job alone as a church leader. But none of us are meant to do it alone! In Ephesians 4:12 we’re told to “equip” God’s people for works of service.
If I were starting a church again today, I’d get a volunteer leader to help me with each of these five purposes so he could grow as he helped the church to grow. At Saddleback, we now have entire staff teams dedicated to helping people grow in each of these five purposes.
7. Spiritual growth is seasonal.
You’ll relieve a lot of guilt in your people when you help them understand this one truth: that spiritual growth is seasonal. Nobody grows at a constant pace all the time. Plants don’t grow constantly; they grow in spring and summer and then are dormant in fall and winter. The same is true in our spiritual lives.
Some people are going through winter: “I just don’t feel like I’m growing much right now,” they say, “even though I’m doing the right things to grow.”
It will encourage them to know that’s OK. It’s part of life. In fact, there are some things that happen in winter that don’t happen in spring and summer. You deepen your roots in fall and winter for the next spring when you will have the next stage of growth and fruitfulness.
8. Spiritual growth is incarnational.
The final truth is that growth is not about what you can accomplish. Rather, it’s about the person of Jesus Christ living inside you. Galatians 2:20 says: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (NKJV).
The goal of the Christian life is to live like Jesus. But it won’t come from your trying to be like Jesus. It comes from trusting Jesus to live inside you. The secret of the Christian life is not imitation but incarnation—letting Christ live through you. Nobody can live like Jesus better than Jesus!
None of these eight principles for growth can be done in our own power. It’s God who works in us because of the cross. We need to remember that, for the sake of our own growth as well as the growth of the church. This frees us from the frustration of what we can’t seem to get done and releases us from the even more dangerous temptation to try to do it on our own power.
We get to be fellow builders. Under Jesus’ leadership, and by following biblical principles for spiritual growth, God will build His church!
Tom Holladay is associate senior pastor at Saddleback Church, where he has served for almost 21 years, and teaches at Purpose Driven conferences worldwide. He is the author of The Relationship Principles of Jesus (Zondervan). Hear his podcast, “Drivetime Devotions,” at drivetimedevotions.com.
Why we believe the group setting creates the best environment for producing healthy followers of Jesus Christ
In early 2000, our leadership team began asking the question: What does a healthy follower of Christ look like? If we are to be successful in fulfilling Christ’s commission to make disciples, we need to define the term disciple. Through a series of meetings, we determined that such a follower of Christ is someone who is balancing the five biblical purposes in his or her heart and life. A healthy follower of Christ, therefore, is:
Surrendering his or her heart and life to Christ on an ongoing basis.
Experiencing fellowship with other Christians.
Growing in Christ through “being” and “action.”
Discovering and using his or her God-given gifts and abilities.
Reaching out and sharing the love of Christ with nonbelievers.
We understood that unless you know what the target is you cannot hit it, so we ade our target health through balance. As believers, when we reflect Christ and become more like Him, the focus of our lives shifts away from self-centeredness toward serving Him through every area of life. That is health and balance.
As a church, if we were to produce healthy followers of Christ, then our leadership team had to decide what the best tool, or delivery system, would be to produce that desired result. Eventually we agreed that small groups would create the best environment in which to produce health through balancing the biblical purposes in each person’s life.
Whenever you start a new approach to ministry, the question “Why?” always comes up: “Why should we do small groups?” “Why are small groups a good method for helping people develop these five things in their lives?” Over the last 15 years, we’ve realized there are several things about small groups that make them an effective strategy for helping people grow in the Lord:
Small groups are biblical. We see in the book of Acts that the early church knew the value of small groups. In Acts 5:42 we read: “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (NIV). The early church met together for a large-group gathering in the temple courts because they knew the value of a corporate gathering of all the people. This is similar to what we do in churches today: The entire church gathers every weekend for large-group worship.
But the early church did not gather together just as a large group. They also met together in their homes for small-group fellowship. The early church knew they needed to grow bigger and smaller at the same time. They wanted to reach as many people as they could with the good news—as well as care for the needs of the people in the church and help them grow in relationship with God.
Small groups are convenient. One struggle many churches have is knowing how to get information out to their people in a way that everyone will hear it and be able to implement it in their lives. Weekend services help, but we know that people retain more when they interact with the information and ask questions. Since that approach isn’t a great option in a large gathering, small groups become a convenient place for disseminating information in a practical way that makes it more likely to be retained.
At Saddleback we learned the power of using video curriculum to launch our small groups. The group host doesn’t have to be a teacher, and the information being shared is consistent because we know what is being taught on the video. Because the host doesn’t have to teach, he or she feels more capable of leading a small group and is more open to hosting the group at home.
Small groups are economical and unlimited in size. The great part about groups is the fact that they are very affordable. Most churches run into budget problems, and the need for additional space is common. But everyone in your church has a facility they call their home.
When people open up their homes to host small groups, it eliminates the need for the church to build more facilities to reach people. Not only that, but small groups create the potential for unlimited growth, as more and more people in the church host groups in their homes. This allows the church to continue growing to the capacity of its attendees’ homes. It also provides a great way for congregants to go outside the church’s four walls and be in the community, instead of only seeing the church as a campus.
Small groups are unlimited in reach. The beauty of small groups is that they can happen anywhere and at any time, whenever the group wants to gather. This increases your ability to reach people.
With small groups, people can meet in the morning, the evening-—or even the middle of the night. Not only do small groups expand your church’s reach by offering a variety of meeting times, they also expand your reach through the different ways that groups gather together.
Small groups are not limited to meeting in people’s homes. Groups can gather online using Skype or some other software tool. They can meet in restaurants, subways, airplanes or businesses. When and how a group meets is limited only by the creativity of your people and their desire to reach out to people they know.
Small groups encourage accountability. Left on my own, I can fool myself into thinking I am growing in Christ. But something happens in my life when a friend who knows me and loves me takes the time to tell me about areas of my life in which I need to grow. When that happens, I am more likely to listen and make those changes, which in turn helps me grow as a follower of Christ.
Small groups provide a great setting for true accountability. When a member of a group is making a decision to do something that is wrong, they have to look each member of the group in the eye and explain why they’re doing it. That creates a natural accountability that can have a significant effect on the growth of everyone in the group.
Small groups provide a safe environment. Most people do not open up and share what truly is going on in their lives in a large group. The beauty of a small group setting is that it creates a safe place for people to share their struggles, successes and dreams and provides a built-in support system of people who will pray and be available to help at any time. It is also where people can try out their gifts and abilities in a safe place and discover where they might serve best.
Small groups provide focus. If directed correctly, a small group is a collection of people working on common goals—not just one person teaching while the others listen. The teaching method that requires listening and taking notes is good for helping people understand knowledge and learn new things.
The downside of it is, people have a difficult time applying that knowledge to their everyday lives. A small group setting enables people to work together and talk about what they are learning, which are practical actions that help them grow.
As mentioned previously, our church’s target is the five purposes of growth. We believe the more that a small group balances these five areas within the group, the healthier and more focused the group becomes. That health and focus then creates the right place for true growth to happen in the lives of each member of the group.
Saddleback’s strategy for making healthy followers of Christ (disciples) is small groups. We have no other plan; we have no other delivery system. We believe this is the most effective way to make disciples and lead people to live healthy and balanced lives. We are not a church with small groups; we are a church of small groups. The figures on this page illustrate how this strategy works.
Our small group ministry is not just another program. It’s an embedded, integrated piece of everything we do as a church. It is where care happens, and our delivery system for all spiritual formation. It is our method of balancing biblical purpose and creating healthy lives.
Steve Gladen has overseen the strategic launch and development of more than 4,000 adult small groups at Saddleback Church. He is the author of Small Groups With Purpose and Leading Small Groups with Purpose, and co-author of 250 Big Ideas for Purpose Driven Small Groups. For more information, go to smallgroups.net.
A worshiping church won’t just happen. It starts with a leader who places a high value on personal worship.
I remember only two things about my college biology class: the broken clock that hung on the wall behind my professor’s desk and this definition of culture: “A colony of microorganisms or cells grown in a specially prepared nourishing environment.” Sounds like the church, doesn’t it? Each congregation is a colony—an outpost of the kingdom (to mix metaphors)—that is grown in a specially prepared, nourishing environment.
Here’s another definition of culture; this one from my sociology class (which, by the way, also had a broken clock hanging behind the professor’s desk): “The values, beliefs, ideas, customs, skills, arts and traditions of a people that are passed along to succeeding generations.”
That sounds like the church, too.
The church is a culture, in the sense that it is a living organism, and the church has a culture that is a reflection of its values and beliefs.
With those definitions in mind, let’s think about this: How can we as pastors and leaders create a culture of worship in our churches? How can we prepare the “nourishing environment”? How can we transfer our values, customs and skills for worship to the succeeding generation?
A worshiping church won’t just happen by itself. It must start with a leader who places high value on his or her own personal worship life and then infuses that value into the culture he or she is creating. When it comes to spiritual leadership, there is no substitute for a healthy, personal worship life.
How often do you talk with God—not because you need something but simply out of friendship? How often do you spend time in the Word—not for the sake of public ministry but for personal renewal? We cannot lead people where we are not going ourselves.
Here are some ideas to help you infuse your value of worship into the culture of your church, as well as some questions to help you dig deeper into these key topics.
Preach sermons that help your congregation understand the role of worship in their lives. Start with Romans 12:1-2 and teach what it means to live all of life in an attitude of worship to God. Teach biblical principles for offering our bodies as living sacrifices. Why does God want our bodies (see 1 Cor. 6:19-20), and what are the implications of Spirit-filled worship?
Teach from John 4:23-24 about what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth. What was Jesus telling the woman at the well about the difference between form and function in worship?
Teach about the relation between worship and the throne of God, as described in Psalm 22:3 and Isaiah 6:1. What happens when we align ourselves with God’s throne through worship?
Teach from Psalm 105:1-5 about what it means to summon forth, send forth and sing forth the name of the Lord. God’s names represent His character, and his character is manifested through His actions.
His name is Savior because He saves. His name is Healer because He heals. His name is Comforter and Counselor because He strengthens us and gives us wisdom. By what names do your people need to call on the Lord in worship today?
Teach from Hebrews 13:15 about the importance of Christ-centered worship. Teach a biblical study of physical postures of worship: kneeling, lying prostrate, lifting hands, standing before God.
Teach about the spiritual dynamics of singing praise to the Lord: Prison doors are opened and captives are set free (see Acts 16); battles are won and our enemies self-destruct (see 2 Chron. 20). In other words, teach your congregation what the Bible says about the principles, practices and power of worship.
A friend once told me, “I would rather hear my pastor sing than eat—’cause I’ve heard him eat!” Even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, you can still be a worship leader.
You can lead through example. Let your congregation see through your life and behavior that you are a worshiper. Don’t hide in the greenroom until the music is over. Sit where people can see you openly participating in corporate worship. This doesn’t mean you should be ostentatious or showy; but when people, especially men, see that you are worshiping it gives them permission to worship, too. Your example tells them that worship is important.
Before I was a pastor, I was an event producer. On the opening night of a worship conference, I asked the evening speaker if he would like to join the audience during our worship time. He replied: “That’s not necessary. I’m on TV time. I know when to come out.”
So the preacher didn’t show up until the worship ended. God, on the other hand, doesn’t show up until the worship starts. The people experienced a powerful, palpable sense of God’s presence during worship that night. The preacher opened his message with a joke and missed the God-encounter moment because he was disconnected from his audience. Instead of pastoring the moment, he wasted it.
I often change the introduction to my message to reflect something that was said or sung during the worship time. It lets people know that I not only was paying attention but also sharing the moment of worship with them.
We allocate money, time and staff to things that are important to us. How does your investment in worship reflect your value of worship? If you are going to create the “specially prepared nourishing environment” to grow the culture of worship, then you have to provide sources of nourishment.
Budget for worship in dollars and time. Is your worship team adequately funded? Do they have time to be creative? Creative people must have time as well as resources so they can think and dream without pencil pushers looking over their shoulders. At the same time, creative people need administrative support and loving discipline to help keep them focused and on budget.
Provide products and services that will help develop the personal worship lives of your congregation. Sponsor worship concerts and conferences at your church. Recommend books, music and small-group studies that will help people understand and experience worship.
The culture of worship is built on historic and memorable moments. Find songs that will capture the memory of those moments for your congregation, such as theme songs for sermon series or songs that coincide with special seasons of ministry or times when the Spirit of God is moving in a unique way.
Let’s go back to my sociology class for a minute. Remember, a culture is defined as “the values, beliefs, ideas, customs, skills, art and traditions of a people that are passed along to succeeding generations” (emphasis added).
Do you want to know what the future of worship-leading looks like today? It looks like a 9-year-old girl singing into her hairbrush in front of the bathroom mirror. It’s a 10-year-old boy who just picked up a guitar for the first time and is stretching his fingers into a G chord. The future of worship-leading just might be sleeping in the bedroom at the end of your hallway.
Are you raising a new generation of worshipers? The only way to do it is to invest in the next generation of musicians in your church.
My favorite ministry at our church is run by a tough, talented, loving and crazy young guy named Taffy. Think School of Rock meets Jesus and youth ministry. Taffy trains young teens to become worship leaders. He auditions them, puts them in worship bands, rehearses them, mentors them and then gives them a platform to lead worship in our student ministries. Many of them migrate to leading worship in our adult weekend services.
Two of my kids have been through Taffy’s training. One of them is now a songwriter and worship leader with Youth With A Mission. The other leads worship for 600 women who come to our Thursday women’s Bible study.
Had it not been for Taffy, they just as easily might have found their musical outlet in a garage band playing music that is anything but worshipful. Find your Taffy!
Whatever your leadership position is, you have a role to play in creating a culture of worship in your church. God’s people are looking for leaders who will teach them, show them, empower them and release them to be worshipers. God has called you to lead them. The future of your church depends on it.
Buddy Owens is a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., focusing on spiritual formation and the role of worship in a believer’s life. He is the author of The Way of a Worshiper: Discover the Secret to Friendship With God (Purpose Driven Publishing) and Finding God in the Desert of the Soul, and is the general editor of The NIV Worship Bible.
Rick Warren is a global strategist, philanthropist, pastor and author. His book The Purpose Driven Life is the best-selling hardback in American history. It has sold more than 30 million copies in English and is published in more than 50 languages.
In 1980, Warren founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., with one other family. Today it is one of America’s most influential congregations, with more than 100,000 names on the church roll and 20,000 people attending services each weekend on a 120-acre campus. In addition, the church offers more than 300 ministries and support groups for parents, families, children, couples, prisoners, addicts, and people living with HIV/AIDS, depression, MS, Parkinson’s, autism, and many other conditions.
Warren built the Purpose Driven Network, a global alliance of pastors from 162 countries and hundreds of denominations who have been trained to be purpose-driven churches. He also founded Pastors.com, an online interactive community that provides sermons, forums and other practical resources for pastors—including archives of a biweekly newsletter sent to more than 100,000 pastors and ministry leaders.
Warren and his wife, Kay, give away 90 percent of their income. They are passionate about global missions and what he calls “attacking the five global giants” of poverty, disease, spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership and illiteracy. His solution—The Peace Plan—is a massive effort to mobilize Christians around the world into an outreach effort to attack these five global giants by promoting reconciliation, equipping servant leaders, assisting the poor, caring for the sick and educating the next generation.
Warren earned a bachelor’s degree from California Baptist University, a master’s in divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary and a doctorate in ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has lectured at Oxford; Cambridge; Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; the United Nations; the Global Health Summit; the Aspen Ideas Institute; TED; and numerous world congresses. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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).
Second, there’s the question of significance: Is there some meaning and purpose to my life? Is all that I’m doing just a waste of time and energy? Is my life significant?
In Psalm 89, David remembers how short his life—and every human life—is and asks God: “Why did You create us? For nothing?” (see v. 47).
Job also asked the question, “Why should I work so hard for nothing?” (see Job 9:29). In other words, if there’s no meaning and purpose, why am I even doing this?
Solomon, in all his wisdom, questioned the significance of pleasure. In Ecclesiastes 2:2, he says: “Laughing and having fun is crazy. What good does it do?” (CEV). We all want to know: “Is there any significance to what I do? Why keep going?” Without meaning, life is petty, trivial and pointless.
Third, there’s the question of intention. Is there a purpose for my life? Isaiah said this: “My work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose” (49:4, NLT).
The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, who described himself as an atheist, said, “Unless you assume a God, the question of the purpose of life is meaningless.” In other words, if there is no God, there is no grand scheme or significance to anything. If there is no God, your birth was an accident. You simply represent a random chance. If there is no God, there is no right or wrong and no heaven or hell.
This is why it is so important for us to teach our people that God made each one of us for a purpose. They need to know that nothing matters more than knowing God’s purpose for their lives, and nothing can compensate for not knowing it—not success, wealth, fame or pleasure.
We need to teach that without purpose life is motion without meaning, activity without direction and events without reason—yet underscore that it is never too late for any of us to discover our God-ordained purpose. People need to understand God makes everything with a purpose. Every plant has a purpose; every animal has a purpose.
Our people need to grasp the same truth about their lives. We should teach them: “If you are alive, it means God has a purpose for your life.”
The New Testament teaches that God created each of us for five purposes. These are explained by Jesus in the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:35-40) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19), were demonstrated by the early church in Acts 2, explained by Paul in Ephesians 4, and prayed about by Jesus in John 17. Here they are, briefly summarized:
1) Planned for God’s Pleasure
The first purpose of your life is this: You were planned for God’s pleasure. I think the two words that best describe the Christian life are love affair. God wants you to know Him and to love Him. Everything else is secondary to that purpose.
There is a word for how we express love to God: It’s called worship. Worship is both expressing love to God and living a life that’s pleasing to Him.
You know, there’s a big myth in Christianity. In the minds of most Christians the word worship is a synonym for “music.” We say things like, “Well, I liked the message, but I really liked the worship”—as if the message wasn’t worship.
Worship is more than music. It is everything you do that brings pleasure to God or glorifies Him. Your whole life is to be a life of worship.
2) Formed for God’s Family
Just as worship brings God pleasure because He wants us to love Him, fellowship with other believers brings God pleasure because we’re formed for God’s family.
One of the most misunderstood ideas about the Christian life is that it’s just a matter of believing. But God says: “No, you’re not just ‘believers’; you’re also ‘belongers.’”
You belong in the family of God.
Did you know that the term one another is used 58 times in the New Testament? Love one another, care for one another, pray for one another, exhort one another, encourage one another, greet one another, and on and on and on. God wants you to care for other people. That’s called fellowship. Enjoying God’s family is called fellowship. It’s the second purpose for your life.
3) Created to Be Like Christ
You were planned for God’s pleasure (worship), and you were formed for God’s family (fellowship).
Here’s the third reason God made you: You were created to be like Christ. It’s called discipleship. God made you in order to transform you into a likeness of His son, Jesus Christ. God is far more interested in what you are than what you do. He’s far more interested in your “being” than in your “doing.”
A lot of people ask, “What is God’s will for my life in my job or my career?” Know what? You probably could have two dozen different careers and God would think that’s fine. He is more interested in your character, and I’ll tell you why: You are not taking your career with you when you die; but you are taking your character into eternity.
There is no problem you have that you can’t grow from if you’ll learn the right response for it. If you respond to it the way God wants you to, then you become like Jesus. This is God’s third purpose for your life.
4) Shaped for Service
The fourth purpose is this: You were shaped for service. God made you to serve Him. You’re planned for God’s pleasure; that’s worship. You’re formed for a family; that’s fellowship. You’re created to be like Christ; that’s discipleship. And you’re shaped for service; that’s called ministry.
Every Christian is created to serve—called to ministry, created for ministry, saved for ministry and gifted for ministry. The Bible makes it very clear that every Christian is a minister (see 2 Cor. 5:17-19). Not every Christian is a pastor, but every Christian is a minister because to be Christ-like is to be a minister. You can’t be like Jesus Christ without serving others.
What is ministry? It is any way you use the abilities God has given you to help someone else in Jesus’ name. God uniquely wired you in a certain way for a purpose. God gave you your abilities—not for your benefit, but to use to bless other people.
5) Made for a Mission
The fifth reason you were put on this earth is that you were made for a mission. The apostle Paul was extremely passionate about this particular purpose. He says in Acts 20:24, “I only want to complete my mission and finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do” (GNT). And what did he say that work was? To tell people the good news about God’s grace.
Fulfilling your mission in the world—there’s a word for that in the Bible. It’s called evangelism. And it is the fifth purpose God has for your life.
My dad was a man on a mission. He was a pastor for 50 years, but a few years ago he died of cancer. The last week of his life he was delusional, very frail and had lost all this weight from cancer. One night he became agitated and tried to get out of bed.
My wife, Kay, said: “Jimmy, you can’t get out of bed. Lie back down, you’re very weak. You’re dying.”
But he tried again to get out of bed, and my wife said again, “No, please, lie back down in the bed.” She forced him back down in the bed and then asked him, “What is it you need?”
He said: “Gotta save one more for Jesus. Gotta save one more for Jesus. Gotta save one more for Jesus.” He said this over and over and in the next hour must have repeated it 100 times. “Gotta save one more for Jesus.”
As I sat there by his bedside, I put my head down, praying, and tears were running down my cheeks. My dad reached up and put his hand on my head—as if he were blessing me—and said: “Save one more for Jesus. Save one more for Jesus.”
I intend for that to be the theme of the rest of my life. And I invite you to make it the theme of your life. You were made for a mission.
The Bible says that David “served God’s purpose in his own generation” (Acts 13:36, NIV). I can’t think of a better epitaph. That’s what I want said about my life—that when I die people will say of me, “He served God’s purpose in his generation.”
And that’s what I want people to say about you. In this article I’ve shared from God’s Word what it means to live a life of purpose, a purpose-driven life. What are you going to do about it?
Despite authoring one of the most successful books in history, the Saddleback Church pastor remains focused on something even greater
Rick Warren knows it’s not about him.
Because of this, it wasn’t a stretch for the pastor to begin The Purpose Driven Life with the now-famous line: “It’s not about you.” Indeed, as author of the No. 1 best-selling hardback book in American history other than the Bible, he’s reaped enormous rewards. Yet he’s also used that wealth to further God’s kingdom rather than his own.
First, Rick reimbursed his Saddleback Church for his salary since day one; and for years he has since “reverse tithed,” which means he gives 90 percent and lives on 10 percent. Rather than neglect his church, as many celebrity pastors tend to do, he remains very much hands-on—and that was obvious the day I visited Saddleback’s main campus in Lake Forest, Calif., a few months ago. That day, Rick preached an inspiring message and then baptized about 50 people after the service.
He remains a pastor’s pastor, which is why I invited him to be guest editor of this issue on knowing your life purpose. In a day when scandal among clergy is far too common, Rick is a shining example of what can be accomplished when a man knows his purpose in life. I hope you’re inspired as you read these articles, and that you share them with friends—either in print or online. In addition, we want to do our part to enlist your participation and thousands of others’ in his PEACE Plan to:
Plant faith communities
Equip servant leaders
Assist the poor
Care for the sick
Educate the next generation
To mark the 10th anniversary of The Purpose Driven Life’s release, he’s rereleased the book for a new generation and is focusing on encouraging the church to truly be the church through projects such as the PEACE Plan.
In a culture increasingly gone haywire, and at a time when most “successful” pastors are seemingly more concerned with being liked and making people feel good rather than sounding a prophetic alarm, Rick is a role model. He isn’t afraid to speak out. Though the liberal media doesn’t favor him more than any other Bible-believing leader, at least they can’t blast him for saying off-the-wall things. He’s savvy yet sticks to the Word of God. And he does this while battling behind the scenes some enormous challenges that would crush many men or neutralize their influence.
I believe part of this favor is because Rick doesn’t just rail against the culture but offers solutions. He pastors one of the nation’s largest churches in arguably the most liberal state in the Union. Yet by every indication—in reading about it and visiting firsthand—Saddleback is growing, healthy and making a true difference.
The articles here from Rick and his staff are meant to inspire you to do the same wherever you are. I ask you to not only read them but also devour them, meditate on how they apply to you and resolve to put them into practice. But don’t stop with print. Visit ministrytodaymag.com to read fresh content each day during January and February on this issue’s theme of knowing your life purpose.
You can also get this 24/7 on our free Charisma News app, available at any app store or by texting “charisma” to 24587. Once on the app, click the “Ministry” tab to read content directly related to the ministry world. In addition, you’ll have access to breaking news and spiritual insight from Charisma News, daily devotionals and other good stuff. We recently added this tab to the app and are experimenting to see how many people use it. Eventually we may develop an app exclusively for Ministry Today. So let us know what you think by downloading the app, using it and giving us your comments.
You’ll also be interested in Daniel Kolenda’s article on finding God’s will. Though it’s the lone entry from a non-Saddleback contributor, it fits perfectly with this issue’s theme. Look for more from Daniel, who is Reinhard Bonnke’s successor at Christ for All Nations, online at ministrytodaymag.com, where we’re also giving away copies of his new book, Live Before You Die.
Ultimately, I hope all these resources help you either discover or reaffirm your life purpose.
You don’t have to be afraid of discovering God’s will. The process is always covered by His grace and the natural giftings He gives us.
As a little boy raised in the church, I was often confused by the words of certain songs. For instance, whenever the song “Bringing in the Sheaves” was sung, I thought we were singing about bringing in the “sheeps.” I always wondered where we would get these “sheeps” and why we wanted to bring them in anyway. Spiritual themes, whether spoken or sung, can easily confuse the simple mind of a child; and while I learned quite early that “sheeps” is not even a word, the topic of God’s will continued to be a point of confusion for a long time.
I remember another song we used to sing, usually after a missionary had told depressing stories about the hardships and toils of the mission field: “Jesus, use me / Oh, Lord, don’t refuse me / Surely there’s a work that I must do / And even though it’s humble, help my will to crumble / Though the cost be great, I’ll work for You.”
As wonderful as those words are in and of themselves, there was something about the combination of the lyrics, the music and the context that made me afraid of God’s will for my life. I thought He must have something simply dreadful for me to do. I just knew He was going to send me deep into the jungle where I would live in a mud hut, survive on a diet of grubs and wind up being eaten by cannibals.
Looking back, my naïveté is quite amusing now, but the reality is that many people—ministry leaders included—really are afraid to discover God’s will for their lives, even if subconsciously.
They think: What if God wants me to do something I don’t want to do? What if God wants me to do something I’m not good at? What if doing God’s will means I have to give up my hopes and dreams? I think sometimes people haven’t discovered God’s will simply because they are afraid to.
God’s Will Fits You
After I preached at a certain Bible college one of the students approached me. He was nearing graduation and had been seeking God’s will for many years but still had no direction. He asked me, “How can I figure out what God wants me to do with my life?”
We were standing next to a lamp, and I noticed that it had been unplugged. I pointed to the plug lying on the ground and said to him: “How do you know what that three-pronged contraption is for? Should I stick it in my ear or use it to comb my hair?”
“Of course not,” he replied. “It goes into the electric socket.”
How did he know that? Because of its shape. That plug fit so perfectly into that electric socket that there was no question that it was made for it. Even a child who had never seen a plug or socket before could figure out that they were made for each other.
This is one way you can know what God wants from you. Where do you fit? What do you enjoy? What brings you delight and satisfaction?
I have heard people teach that God’s will is always difficult and requires great sacrifice. But I have seen that the most effective people in any ministry or occupation, or just life in general, are not the ones forcing themselves to do some dreadful task because they feel it is God’s will. Rather it is the ones who are doing something they enjoy so much that they feel guilty taking a salary for it.
When you find something that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning, when you find something that challenges and thrills you, when you find something that you sense you were made to do, chances are you are getting close to discovering God’s will for your life.
This does not mean that obedience, death to self and sacrifice are never required or necessary. But when a person is doing what he or she was created to do, there is a taste of sweetness in the sacrifice, a sense of fulfillment in the obedience and an enduring hope in the suffering.
With Your Gift Comes His Gift
We often talk about the fivefold ministry gifts—apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher and evangelist—that are listed in Ephesians 4. But it is vital that we remember what it says in verse 7, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
Grace comes with every gift! Jesus is the fullest expression of all of the five ministries, but when He ascended He distributed 20 percent of His ministry to the apostles, 20 percent to the prophets, 20 percent to the pastors, 20 percent to the teachers and 20 percent to the evangelists. Not only did He give the gifts, He also gave grace according to the measure of the gift.
Did you ever receive some special gift for your birthday as a kid, then after you had torn open the package you realized it needed batteries to operate? When Jesus gives a gift, He also gives the batteries the gift requires to operate. The battery for “the gift of Christ” is grace. But He will give you only the measure of grace you need for the gift He has given.
I hear a lot of preachers talking about “burnout” these days, and it doesn’t surprise me. Imagine a pure pastor who is wonderfully gifted in his pastoral office. He is using 100 percent of his God-given ministry gift, yet his gift is only 20 percent of what his congregation needs. This precious pastor is working around the clock, attempting to provide 100 percent of what the church requires to be perfected and edified in the way Ephesians 4:12 describes, yet he has only 20 percent of the grace to do that job!
Anyone can see that this is a formula for disaster. If a person’s body has only 20 percent functionality, we would say that person is handicapped. If an airplane lost all but 20 percent of its mechanical capabilities, the pilot would bring it in for an emergency landing. If a business operated at only 20 percent output, it would soon go bankrupt.
In Philippians 1, Paul is talking to his ministry partners (the ones who were supporting him financially). In verse 5 he expresses his gratitude for their partnership in the work of the gospel, and then says in verse 7, “Ye all are partakers of my grace” (KJV). Do you realize that you can actually tap into the grace that is on someone else’s life? By partnering with Paul’s gift, the Ephesians became partakers of the grace on his life!
Let’s go back to my example of the pastor who is burning out. Rather than attempting to provide 100 percent of his church’s needs with 20 percent of the gift and grace, he should partner with others who are gifted in the areas he is not. When he partners with their gift, he will also become a partaker in their grace, and the whole church will benefit.
The principle is simple but profound, and Eph. 4:7 encapsulates it: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” The grace comes with the gift!
Although this verse is set in the context of the fivefold ministry gifts, it is not applicable just to those called into “full-time ministry.” The Bible says this grace is given to every one of us according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Whenever God calls you to do something, He will always supply the perfect measure of grace so you will be able to operate in your gift. But whenever you try to operate outside your gift, you will find it difficult, burdensome and miserable because there will be no grace for it.
Take, for instance, someone who is called to live a celibate life. The apostle Paul was called to this. In fact, he said in 1 Cor. 7 that remaining single was a good thing, and he went so far as to say: “I wish that all men were like I myself am [in this matter of self-control]. But each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another” (v. 7, AMP). Although Paul preferred singleness and wished everyone would remain single, as he was, he had the wisdom to recognize that his ability to lead a happy and full life without a spouse was a special gift from God.
Paul understood that without the gift, there would be no grace. This is why he warned against those who would forbid marriage (see 1 Tim. 4:3). We have seen in the modern Roman Catholic Church priests who have been forbidden to marry, though many neither have the gift nor the grace to remain single. The result has been an appalling international scandal that has shamed Christianity and landed many priests behind bars.
Paul’s singleness was a gift, and with the gift God gave him the grace. Without the grace Paul would have seen his singleness not as a gift but as a burden.
An interesting side note here is that because Paul was given the calling, gift and grace to lead a celibate life, he said, “I wish that all men were like I myself am.” I have noticed that when the gift and grace are on a person’s life to do something, it seems so natural and obvious to them that they think everyone else should be doing it as well.
Grace Makes All the Difference
There are two lessons to learn from this principle:
1. Don’t make the mistake of trying to force those around you to do what God has called you to do. And don’t look down on them for doing something other than what you think is so important! Recognize that, as Paul said, “Each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another” (1 Cor. 7:7, AMP).
2. If you think everyone should be doing one particular thing, chances are that is what you are called to do! If you think everyone should be an evangelist, you are probably an evangelist. If you think everyone should be a political activist, then that is probably what God is calling you to do! When God’s gift and grace rest on a person for a certain task or calling, he is able to do with joy what seems difficult, or even impossible, to others.
It is interesting that as a boy I dreaded the thought of being sent into the jungle in obedience to the call, but today I often go to the “jungle,” preaching the gospel in Africa and around the world—and I don’t know of anything I would rather do. I love my life, and I love my calling as a missionary-evangelist.
What I had not taken into consideration as a child was this great truth: The grace comes with the gift, and the grace makes all the difference.
With this understanding, you never need to be afraid to discover God’s will for your life. If He calls you to do something, He will also give you the grace to do it. When you are in God’s will, covered by His grace, it is the most wonderful place to be in the whole world.
Daniel Kolenda is a missionary evangelist who has led more than 10 million people to Christ face-to-face through massive, open-air evangelistic campaigns in some of the most dangerous, difficult and remote locations on earth. He is president and CEO of Christ for All Nations and hosts an internationally syndicated television program.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional and human rights law, announced Wednesday it is representing the wife of an Iranian-American pastor who is being held in an Iranian prison because of his Christian faith.
Saeed Abedini, who converted to Christianity, has been indicted by an Iranian court and is facing formal charges that could result in a lengthy prison term or possibly even the death penalty. The ACLJ, which is providing legal representation for his U.S.-based family, is also launching an international campaign calling on the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Congress to demand the release of Pastor Saeed.
“This is a very troubling pattern that we have seen inside Iran—Christian husbands and fathers who are punished for their religious beliefs,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ. “What makes this particular case so much more disturbing is that Pastor Saeed, who was born and raised in Iran, has been granted U.S. citizenship. He's been in prison for nearly three months simply because of his Christian faith.
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Through the years Victory Church has become very clear and very focused on what we are trying to do. Why have we become so fixated on a single strategy? It is, first of all, because we have embraced the Lord’s Great Commission as our own. Making disciples is the driving force behind everything we do. Second, it’s because we have overwhelming confirmation in our own experience that this one move, if mastered, is unstoppable and indefensible. I believe all churches and ministries can grow if only they master a discipleship process that is simple, biblical and transferable. I know of churches that are missing many seemingly important things such as nice buildings, good music equipment, support staff, big givers and dynamic preachers. Yet they’re still growing because they are making disciples.
Churches can be blessed with all those seemingly important things and become completely consumed with activities that have nothing to do with making disciples. Our goal is to make our small groups and everything else we do support our discipleship process.
Unfortunately, crowded church calendars often compete with discipleship. No activity is neutral. We recognize that everything we do and say will either underline or undermine our discipleship process.
—From WikiChurch: Making Discipleship Engaging, Empowering & Viral by Steve Murrell
When a church operates with an “everyone’s a minister” mindset, combined with a defined leadership multiplication process, the potential for kingdom impact is infinite
I am an American, but most of my adult life has been spent in Manila, Philippines, as a cross-cultural pastor and church planter. My wife, Deborah, and I originally went to Manila on a one-month summer mission trip to establish a church that would reach Filipino university students. That one month has lasted almost three decades, and that student church we established now conducts 92 weekly worship services in 16 Manila locations. It’s also planted churches in 60 Philippine cities and has sent Filipino missionaries to plant churches in more than a dozen nations.
Because our church constantly plants new churches and sends cross-cultural missionaries, it seems we’re always in the process of training new pastors, new worship leaders, new kids’ pastors and other new leaders to replace those we send. Because of this constant need for leaders, we’ve had to develop a culture and process for leadership multiplication.
Here’s an example of what we’ve done: Joseph was a talented singer and musician, but his first few times on stage leading worship were less than spectacular. After a staff meeting (that did not include Joseph), the head of our worship department suggested we switch worship leaders for the following week because we had a big-shot foreign guest speaker scheduled. He reminded me that the last time Joseph led worship, it was “forgettable.”
My response: I said that I was well aware we were hosting the big-shot American and that Joseph was not our best. However, I didn’t see any reason to bench Joseph. I reminded our entire staff that we weren’t trying to impress our guest speaker. In fact, he had better impress us or he wouldn’t be invited back.
For me, it’s more important to equip a worship leader than to have a perfect worship service. I knew that if we rescheduled Joseph, it would shatter his confidence and set the equipping process back a few months. When Sunday came around, Joseph led worship and our big-shot foreign guest preached. Sure, the worship was less than average, but Joseph went on to become a good worship leader and later a great pastor and church planter. He and his wife are now pioneering an underground church network in a restricted nation. Being an upstart worship leader was an integral part of his equipping process. I’m not sure he would be where he is today if we had short-circuited the equipping process to impress our guest speaker.
We hear the phrase all the time, “Every member a minister.” Yet because of our performance-driven culture, we often have little tolerance for the messiness of the equipping process that empowers average members to minister.
We do church as if only professional ministers should do ministry. But Scripture offers a different perspective. The biblical job description for professional ministers—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—is to equip the “nonprofessionals” for ministry, then get out of their way and allow God to move through them. When we forget that job description, we forget one of the primary reasons God called us in the first place.
As full-time pastors, it’s common for us to measure the effectiveness of our week by how busy we are with random acts of ministry. On Monday we saved a marriage, on Tuesday we prayed for Fred in the hospital, on Wednesday we taught lesson 26 of our 48-part Ezekiel series, on Thursday we preached to our mailman and on Friday we said a prayer at the high school football game. All that’s great, but in the process, did we equip anyone else to do ministry? Usually not.
It’s common for pastors to have a week packed with ministry activities and yet still be delinquent in our ministerial responsibilities. It’s because we’re not only called to do ministry, but also to equip others to do ministry.
I often ask pastors two questions: Do you spend more time ministering to people or equipping people to minister? Do you spend more time preparing sermons to preach, or preparing people to minister? Unfortunately, most full-time ministers I know spend far more time preparing sermons, leading meetings and running religious organizations than actually equipping regular people to do ministry.
Once we accept that we’re called not just to do ministry, but also to equip others to do ministry, the next question is: How? Out of the desperation of our endless need for leaders in the Philippines, we developed a simple, four-part leadership development process.
1) IDENTIFICATION. The starting point for equipping spiritual leaders is to help people identify their unique and divine calling. A calling is from God. Everyone has one. Far too many people have no clue what they’re called to do.
Leaders help people identify their calling by helping them recognize and develop their God-given strengths and gifts. Leaders also help by recognizing hidden potential in others.
I never would have started teaching the Bible 32 years ago unless my pastor had first identified a potential gift God might have given me. Then he led me (and often pushed or dragged me) through open doors, even if the opening was barely a crack. I’m thankful for people who saw gifts and strengths in me that I never noticed because of my condemnation, ignorance and immaturity.
2) INSTRUCTION. Paul’s letters are filled with doctrinal, relational and practical instruction. Many times he sent instructional letters to churches in cities he had never visited, demonstrating that effective instruction does not depend on personal relationship or physical proximity.
My life has been positively impacted by instruction through books and podcasts written and spoken by people I have never met. Two seminary courses, Ethnohermeneutics by Larry Caldwell and The Book of Genesis by Dr. Nomer Bernardino, impact almost every sermon I have preached nearly 20 years after sitting in those classes. I could list many individual books or sermons that have redirected my life, enlightened my mind or softened my heart in life-changing ways.
3) IMPARTATION. As important as instruction is, it’s not enough. Paul wrote to the Romans, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong” (Rom. 1:11, NIV, emphasis added). Paul sent instruction to people he had never met, but he seemed to need a face-to-face relationship for impartation to happen.
I can read all about evangelism, but something happens when I actually hang around my friends who are evangelists. I get an evangelistic impartation that changes me for the better in ways that instruction alone can’t.
Impartation happened when King Saul was hanging around the prophets, then started prophesying (see 1 Sam. 19). Impartation happened when God took the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the 70 elders (see Num. 11).
I’m not sure that the same level of impartation happens through email messages or online classes. There’s something about face-to-face ministry that God has designed to be part of the equipping process.
4) INTERNSHIP. Elijah and Elisha, David and Solomon, Barnabas and Paul, and Paul and Timothy are only a few of the biblical examples of internship. Internship is basically on-the-job training. Internships can be either formal or informal. Over the years, I’ve had formal interns who requested a mentoring relationship, and I’ve had informal “interns” who had no idea I was intentionally equipping them for ministry. They thought we were just hanging out together. Whether formal or informal, internship is a vital part of the equipping process.
In closing, let me explain the power of equipping every believer to do ministry with a real-world illustration. In 2000, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger started an online encyclopedia called “Nupedia.” Their goal was to include articles written only by credentialed experts. Before an article could be posted to Nupedia, it had to go through an extensive, seven-step, scholarly review process, which proved to be painstakingly slow. When Nupedia finally unplugged its servers in 2003, only 24 articles had been posted, and 74 were stuck in the review process. There weren’t many articles, but they were professionally written.
In 2001, one year after Nupedia launched, Wales and Sanger also started a feeder system called “Wikipedia.” They got the name from the shuttle bus at Hawaii International Airport called WikiWiki Transport. Wiki is a Hawaiian word meaning “quick.” The Wikipedia idea was to allow nonprofessionals, non-scholars and non-experts to write articles that the Nupedia scholars would then review. If the Wikipedia articles survived the seven-step Nupedia approval process, they would be posted. If not, they would be trashed.
By the end of 2001, volunteers had submitted more than 20,000 “wiki” articles. It took the trained expert scholars three years to create 24 articles and the volunteers one year to create 20,000. Wikipedia now contains more than 18 million articles written, edited and posted by volunteers.
Unfortunately, many churches and ministries today function more like Nupedia than Wikipedia. They allow only credentialed, ordained professionals to minister while volunteers are expected to show up and pay up, but not to engage in serious ministry.
Imagine if the situation were reversed. Imagine if every believer, not just paid leaders, actively engaged in ministry. That’s what I call a “WikiChurch.” That’s what happened in the book of Acts.
Wikipedia may be an imperfect source, but it has made information widely available by simply empowering volunteers. That’s what church leaders are called to do—to equip and empower imperfect people to honor God and make disciples.
Steve Murrell is the founding pastor of Victory in Manila, the president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, and the author of WikiChurch, from which this article is adapted with permission. He and his wife, Deborah, have three adult sons and split their time between Manila and Nashville, Tenn.
Joey Bonifacio is the senior pastor of Victory Fort, one of 15 congregations that make up Victory Church in the metro Manila area of the Philippines. Each weekend, Victory hosts 94 gatherings with 51 lead pastors preaching to a multigenerational congregation of almost 65,000. Though the church’s membership has grown almost 25 percent each year for the last 12 years, of greater concern to Victory’s leadership team are the number of baptisms (4,613 in 2011) and discipleship groups (currently more than 5,000).
After running a successful business for years—and then splitting time between his company and ministry—Bonifacio joined the Victory team as a full-time pastor in 1998. Today he is a member of the International Apostolic Team of Every Nation Ministries and a member of the board of directors of the Real Life Foundation. He and his wife, Marie, have three sons.
Bonifacio is also the author of The LEGO Principle, which draws parallels between the famous toy-maker and core discipleship elements. Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. Just as a Lego piece was designed to do one thing—connect, regardless of shape, size or color—we were made to connect with God and others, Bonifacio says. “If you can connect to the top with God and to the bottom with others, you can pretty much shape the world you live in.”
Theme: Hip-hop culture is global! Surprisingly, its original goal was “Love, Peace, Unity and Having Fun!” Hip-Hop Hope: Jesus Makes Me Glad offers Jesus as the ultimate DJ who scratches out new songs of hope.
ANSWERS IN GENESIS answersvbs.com The Kingdom Chronicles: Standing Strong in the Battle for Truth
Theme: With The Kingdom Chronicles VBS, brave knights and fair maidens will be equipped to put on the full armor of God so they can stand strong in the battle for truth.
Theme: This study from the book of Exodus explores how God led Moses through the perils of his life and remained faithful to him in extreme circumstances. Children will learn the ways that God loves us, calls us, saves us guides us and cares for us.
Theme: Everywhere Fun Fair is a global celebration with the look and feel of a world's fair. Children will discover that God’s love can be found everywhere—even in their own neighborhoods.
CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE vbs.cph.org Tell It on the Mountain: Where Jesus Christ Is Lord
Theme: Get ready for a mountaintop experience! At Tell It on the Mountain, children will learn about the one true God through five mountaintop Bible accounts. This VBS features active Bible storytelling, energetic songs and Peak Performance videos for opening and closing.
Theme: Teaching kids biblical principles and builds character through their favorite sports activities, this church-led program is fully adaptable to suit any church’s size, volunteers and facilities.
GROUP PUBLISHING group.com/athens Athens: Paul’s Dangerous Journey to Share the Truth
Theme: Imagine leaving a life of privilege and power to face angry mobs, painful imprisonment and chain-breaking earthquakes—all to spread the life-changing truth of God’s love. Learn the jaw-dropping story of the apostle Paul—straight from Paul himself!
Theme: Children are invited to discover the life-giving breath of God. Through Bible stories on breath and wind, children will explore how God’s own breath was used to create people, and how the wind of the Spirit helped the young church grow.
REGULAR BAPTIST PRESS rbpvbs.org Investigation Destination: Follow Clues to the King of Kings
Theme: Investigation Destination turns VBS students into secret agents—investigators on a special mission to discover clues about a special person, the King of Kings. The objective: Prepare students for the return of the King, challenging them to believe in Jesus and accept Him as Savior and then to choose to trust, follow, love, obey and serve Him. Those who know the Savior will want to tell others about Jesus, our wonderful King.
Theme: Get ready for outdoor adventure under the shimmer of starlight that starts in your own backyard and gets bigger each day as kids take the love of Jesus into their homes, neighborhoods and communities.
Theme: Encouraging stronger relationships in spiritual and natural families through Jesus Christ. This program introduces family time for all 10 lessons, including We Believe! We Encourage! We Forgive! We Protect! and We Give! Each lesson highlights a family from the Bible that dealt with the same struggles as families today.
After 37 years of covering most of the world’s major ministries, I believe Joyce Meyer’s is one of the best
We are honored to have Joyce Meyer as this issue’s guest editor. When I became aware of her enormous outreach, I asked if she’d be willing to tell how her family and ministry have made such a huge impact through their missions efforts, both domestically and overseas, as well as their commitment to a lifestyle of radical generosity.
I wondered if she’d say yes. After all, she has one of the largest ministries in America. With her ongoing teaching and travel schedule, along with leading a global ministry, she’s obviously in high demand. In addition, she has the ability to get out her message through her own media.
But as we talked about it, I believe she understood my heart for wanting our readers to be inspired by what she has done. I know that when it comes to missions, one of the best ways to inspire others is for them to see it modeled for themselves.
In a way, that is what happened when Dave and Joyce Meyer opened the Dream Center in St. Louis. They modeled what they did by taking note of what Matthew Barnett has done in Los Angeles. He, in turn, was inspired by his own father, Tommy Barnett, whose ministry outreaches are legendary in Pentecostal circles. And recently I learned that the Dream Center picked up a few ideas from Bishop Bart Pierce of Baltimore, who gave them the idea of adopting specific blocks within a city.
Not long ago I was talking by phone to a businessman who I knew didn’t always pay his bills, even though he was a high roller. Despite claiming to be a Spirit-filled Christian, he obviously didn’t have the highest level of integrity. In our conversation, this man began criticizing ministries he didn’t like and mentioned something he read in an article about Joyce Meyer and her ministry.
I stopped him. I had visited Joyce Meyer Ministries and knew firsthand that it is one of the most generous ministries I’ve ever known. In more than 37 years of covering the Christian community, I have known and seen most of the major ministries—many of them up close and personal. From my vantage point, Joyce Meyer and her ministry are among the best. They walk in integrity. I know that not only as a journalist who has covered them over the years, but also as a publisher who published one of her books. When you work with someone in the book business, you quickly find out if he or she is the real deal. And I can say that Joyce Meyer and her ministry are!
Yet another example of this is how hard they worked on this issue. It didn’t benefit them nearly as much as I’m sure it will benefit you.
And I’ve benefited too. As I read over the final articles before they went to press, I was stirred in my own spirit. I have long had a heart for the poor, but this issue of Ministry Today motivated me to do more, especially in my local community, which is still reeling in the aftermath of the killing of Trayvon Martin. That tragedy happened only 2.3 miles from my office, a fact you would know if you read our recent coverage in Charisma of the racial reconciliation efforts in Sanford, Fla.
We recently had a meeting of churches and pastors to see what we can do to show the love of Jesus by helping the poor and helping to ease some of the tension in our city. In that way, we overcome evil with good! I liked some of the articles in this issue so much I copied them and handed them out because I knew it would inspire those who work regularly with the poor to do even more.
Sadly, too many churches and pastors are focused more on their own congregations and their own finances than the actual needs around them in their community. They never seem to have enough to help others. Or if things go well, then they begin to consume more of the Lord’s blessings rather than using those to help others.
God is not honored by that. He is honored when we give to the poor.
May you be inspired by these articles just as I was. We’d love to hear how they impacted you, so send us your stories of how you’ve been inspired.
“Do not forget or neglect to do kindness and good,tobegenerousanddistributeandcontributetotheneedy...forsuchsacrificesarepleasingtoGod"(Heb. 13:16, AMP).
Being radically generous and helping others is easier than you may think. I have asked people to share practical ways we can show love, have read books, searched the Internet, and been aggressive on my own journey to find creative ways to help others. Below are some helpful ideas to remember in your daily life and as you think of ways your church can show love in action.
Mow an elderly person’s lawn or organize teams to mow lawns and shovel snow for single-mom families and shut-ins in your church and community.
Help a single mom or senior adult clean their house or offer to do their grocery shopping.
Give single moms gift cards to take their children out to lunch.
Invite a person who has no family in town to your home for the holidays. Or think big and host Thanksgiving for international college students.
Organize a ministry team to offer a night of babysitting, giving new parents an opportunity for a date night.
Encourage your children’s ministry leaders to look for specific and thoughtful ways to honor their community heroes.
Deliver homemade cookies or fresh-baked bread to your community's local police and fire departments.
The list of ways to bless others is endless. Be open to God and ask Him to show you how you and your church can help people. Your radical acts of generosity may be just the key to unlock the door of someone’s heart to hear and receive the gospel.
In February 1976, JoyceMeyer drove to her job in St. Louis, frustrated after having yet another difficult morning, when she cried out to God: “Something is wrong; something is missing!” That day, Meyer says, the Holy Spirit touched her life.
“I was just so frustrated, because I was desperately trying to do what I felt like the church was telling me to do,” she says. “I was going to church and doing church work. And it just wasn’t working for me. That day, I became so very acutely aware of not only the presence of God, but the goodness of God.”
It was a spiritual turning point that became a catalyst for what has become one of the largest ministries in the world and what would make Meyer one of the most recognizable and respected leaders in Christendom today.
St. Louis-based Joyce Meyer Ministries includes the international radio and TV program, Enjoying Everyday Life, broadcasting worldwide to a potential audience of 4.5 billion, and close to a dozen domestic and international conferences every year. Meyer is also a New York Times best-selling author of more than 90 books that have been translated into nearly 100 different languages. Her most recent release, Do Yourself a Favor ... Forgive, tackles the vital practice of forgiveness and its positive impact.
Through Meyer’s teachings and resources, God has provided myriad opportunities to meet the needs of the suffering and demonstrate the gospel in practical ways. Hand of Hope, the missions arm of Joyce Meyer Ministries, supports and provides outreaches around the world. In 2000, Dave and Joyce Meyer founded the St. Louis Dream Center to serve their hometown’s inner city through hands-on programs targeted at reaching the lost and hurting with the love of Christ.
“We are passionate about world missions,” she says. “I have dedicated the rest of my life to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and relieving as much human suffering as I can with the time and resources we are given.”
The power of making God’s Word and love radically known
Some people you meet change your life forever.
When I met Abeba, a beautiful, sweet and special little girl in one of our Joyce Meyer Ministries feeding programs in Ethiopia, she was severely malnourished. Her little body was swollen, already in the shut-down mode of starvation. Many in her village were starving, but she was one of the worst cases.
The thing that blew me away about Abeba was her joy. Despite how much pain she was in from malnutrition and her living conditions, Abeba’s smile always glowed.
I had the opportunity to give food to Abeba’s mother for Abeba and her nine brothers and sisters. They were visibly happy and thankful just to have something to eat. Often, the food our ministry provides in this region is the difference between life and death for many of these children and families. Abeba now had a new shot at life.
Our team had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time with her. A year later as we prepared for a return trip to Ethiopia, I was excited to see Abeba. Sadly, just before we left for the trip, we learned she had passed away.
At first I was shocked. Then I bawled for a while. I just couldn’t believe this had happened.
On the plane back to Ethiopia, I felt empty and hopeless: If we are going to help these kids and they’re not going to make it, what’s the point?
Then while we were there I saw Abeba’s mom with one of Abeba’s little sisters, and it hit me: There’s more to do. There are more people to help. Yes, there will be kids who don’t make it, but there are a lot more who need our help. And we can help. So we can’t give up.
We were able to give Abeba a year free of hunger and full of love. Her life greatly affected me. God used her to teach me about my purpose. When I wake up now, what I care about and focus on is different. Abeba inspired me to change and do more. I am humbled to have been a part of her life.
I believe God allows important connections like these so that we can come back and tell their story, encouraging others to find their own purpose and do something to make a difference in our world.
As Much As You Can, Wherever You Can
My passion is seeing people’s lives changed through the message of Jesus Christ, as our ministry shows them His love. Whether we’re reaching out through my mom’s teaching or the missions outreaches we’re involved in, it’s all about real, relevant, intentional ministry. We share the gospel and relieve human suffering in any way we can, wherever we can.
Through our missions arm, Hand of Hope, we are privileged to be part of thousands of outreaches resulting in people being loved, fed, medically treated, rescued from slavery, restored from disasters, etc.
A few years ago, after an amazing night of outreach in Los Angeles where more than 2,000 people gave their lives to Jesus, something struck me: Because God is working through our ministry, a great magnitude of His work is happening all at the same time, all around the world. As a result of people coming together in a joint effort, the impossible is truly becoming possible.
I sat and thought about all that was happening at the same time those 2,000 people gave their lives to Jesus:
While we were in Los Angeles, my brother, David, was across the world in Cambodia with a team of people kicking off one of our ministry’s largest-ever mission outreaches.
At the same time, the gospel was being preached on hundreds of TV and radio stations through our daily programs—reaching a potential audience of two-thirds of the world. And at the same time, there were also hungry kids being fed through our feeding programs—kids that would have otherwise starved to death.
Across Asia, people were caring for orphans in our children’s homes. And while that was happening, postal workers were delivering life-changing resources to help families grow in their walk with God.
Disaster relief teams we had sponsored were finishing another long day of relief and rebuilding work, and thousands of men, women and children were waking up in newly constructed villages and homes that we helped rebuild in parts of India and Sri Lanka after the tsunami. The list kept going.
Together, we are showing the love of Jesus as much as we can, wherever we can. The really amazing thing is that these kinds of outreaches are not just happening for one day—but rather every day! God’s grace and all of us doing our part make this possible. Every member of the team is an important piece of the big picture.
Our mission is to make God’s Word accessible to as many people as possible. We know that His Word is always current. So our job is to keep ourselves current so that we can catch the attention of the people He wants to reach. That’s why we use media outlets like our website, TV and radio programs, Facebook, Twitter and mobile apps that offer daily devotionals and access to our Enjoying Everyday Life broadcast.
I am humbled by all God is doing through us and honored to be part of such a great team of people. It’s pretty amazing what He is allowing us to accomplish together around the world—mind-blowing, really! All glory and honor to Him.
Our Partners Play a HugePart
When I talk about our team, I’m not just referring to our employees. Everyone—our employees, our friends, our partners—they are all irreplaceable. Their ongoing prayer and support allow us to reach so many in the United States and throughout the world.
Words can’t describe how grateful we are to our partners. Our family regularly prays for them, and several teams in our office pray daily for them and their prayer requests. Their faithful generosity is literally helping change lives across the globe, and we can’t thank them enough!
In addition to individual partners, we also have organization partners—great relationships with dozens of groups like Convoy of Hope, Service International, Mercy Ministries and Crisis Aid, to name a few. We think of these ministries as God’s hands and feet, reaching out to help hurting people and fulfill the Great Commission, often in very remote, unreached places.
In the words of my brother, David, “Together, we are better!” God is using our unique differences and talents to make an even bigger impact than we ever could alone.If you have partnered with us in any way, I want to say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” You are helping to rewrite people’s stories.
I think of a young boy named Les in our orphanage in Cambodia. Les and I became good buddies. His father was killed in a fishing accident while working, and his mother could not afford to keep him and his five siblings alive.
Without a ministry like this orphanage, Les would likely grow up on the streets. His story has been rewritten. Les is growing up fed, clothed and educated. He has a roof over his head, a new family that gives him much love and attention, and most important, he’s learning about Jesus!
Les is just one of the thousands of lives that together we are changing. Seeing the difference in his life motivates me to do more.
We Can All Do Something
More than anything, I want people and churches to know that we can all do more. Like my mom says in her book, Change Your World, we firmly believe that every church or ministry and every Christian should be involved in world missions, helping the poor and needy. It’s a vital part of being a follower of Jesus.
When we do more, more people will be affected, more people will be helped, more people will experience the love of Jesus. And I firmly believe that God’s commands to help and serve others changes not only the lives of the people we touch, but we are changed in the process as well.
If you lead a church with limited resources, know this: Small things do make a difference. Some people and churches might have resources to do big things while others can’t. That’s OK. Just do something with what you have—whether it’s mowing an elderly neighbor’s lawn or leading a missions trip that awakens your congregation to others’ needs.
Look at the lives of the people that have impacted you. Assess the relationships you have and the opportunities to partner with others to make a greater impact. Consider the resources in your hands and within your reach. Then do something to show the love of Jesus.Daniel Meyer is CEO of U.S. Media and Operations for Joyce Meyer Ministries and co-creator of Fuzed Worship, an outreach of JMM. Driven by a passion to see lives changed, he is committed to positioning JMM for the next generation and beyond, and effectively communicating the irreplaceable role of its partners.
Why grasping God’s sacrifice compels a radical response to injustice
I bolted upright in bed, tears stinging my eyes and sweat drenching my hair. The shrill screams for help still rang in my ears. Instinctively, I cried out, “We’re coming for you!” But there was no response, only silence. These girls were in my dreams now.
Anyone who’s a first responder will tell you they encounter things they can never “un-see.” First responders—paramedics, firefighters, law enforcement and medics—observe human suffering up close, sometimes too close. When instinct says to look away, these heroes zoom in on the pain. Years later, many can still see the faces and hear the screams. Tragedy and injustice are not easily forgotten.
Over the past four years, my husband, Nick, and I have learned that firsthand. After seeing “tragedy” I couldn’t ignore any longer, Nick and I became first responders, founding The A21 Campaign in 2008 to help fight human trafficking in Eastern Europe. Until then, like most people, we had kept a safe distance—unsettled by the idea of modern-day slavery, but not yet upended.
With little knowledge and a lot of passion, we began to zoom in on the pain and quickly learned that sex trafficking is a $32 billion-a-year industry and the world’s fastest-growing organized crime today, second only to drug trafficking.
What we saw was astonishing. I couldn’t get away from it, not even when I slept. I still can’t.
When you meet a young girl who was burned and whipped by her captors, you don’t forget that. When a hollow-eyed survivor asks softly, “Why didn’t you come sooner?” you don’t forget that. When a woman is so traumatized from abuse that she can no longer speak, you don’t forget that.
Like I said, some things you can never un-see.
A Holy Resistance
These images—these people—are a part of me now. They remind me that atrocities aren’t confined to history books; they slip off the pages and crawl into our local communities. If no one stands against them, they will rehearse their evil practices of the past.
There must be a holy resistance. I believe that resistance is the church.
Today, more than ever, I’ve come to realize that the battle against injustice is not a calm fight. Evil is not solved; it must be overwhelmed.
That means we, as the church, must embrace a level of radical behavior that makes many people in the church uncomfortable. But when I read the Gospels and the stories of how Jesus identified and fought evil, I can’t help but think, Isn’t “radical” what we were originally called to be? Isn’t that how the church was founded—with radical Christians who had walked with Jesus, watching Him breathe life into the dead, refute the Pharisees and ultimately give His life?
They heard firsthand Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The early church defied tyrants, demolished prejudices, overran obstacles and outlasted persecution.
When I read the stories in Scripture, I’m overwhelmed with evidence that the church was never intended to be a safe place, but rather a saving place. As He prepared the disciples for ministry—those who would build His church—Jesus told them, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, KJV).
The early church of the book of Acts was a constant center of activity—a movement, not a museum. The church was created to be active and alive. When the church is working like Christ mandated, it is as much a verb as it is a noun—loving, moving, building, comforting, charging, rescuing.
A Kingdom Fight
Our work to abolish human trafficking is a simple exercise in this radical behavior. We are the arms of the church. One arm fights violently against the devil, while the other arm extends healing to those the devil has tried to destroy.
And we’re not doing it alone. The church is rising up and fulfilling its call. Every shelter that has been built and every girl that has been rescued are direct results of the generosity of the saints of God and the local church.
Radical generosity is making a radical difference in Eastern Europe. We’re seeing it firsthand.
It’s astounding to think of what God has done over the last four years. Together with ministries such as Joyce Meyer Ministries’ Hand of Hope, we are rescuing women from some of the worst environments imaginable.
With shelters in Greece, Ukraine and Bulgaria, we are infiltrating the very heart of darkness and exposing the enemy’s evil. I call these shelters the point of the sword, fighting human trafficking on its own turf—prying victims from their tormentors’ grip.
However, we know the battle against human trafficking won’t be won through rescues. We need a long-term, sustainable solution.
That’s why in addition to building shelters, we’re raising awareness of the global sex trade, offering employment to those at risk, educating “clients” to the realities of what they are engaging in and offering transition programs so that no victim ever finds herself in that place again. We are in the schools, on the streets, working with the governments and constantly in prayer.
Yet the strongest anointing isn’t in the fighting, but rather the extension of a radical, generous love to girls who had given up hope that such a thing could exist.
A Rescue Story
As I think about all of this, I’m reminded that God was the first on-scene responder. He saw us in our brokenness, He ran to our rescue, He simply couldn’t un-see our pain. We were forever on His mind. Throughout the Old Testament He called out, “I’m coming for you.”
The Bible is a rescue story. Before there was racial oppression or human trafficking, we were slaves to our own sin. We were beaten and battered, assailed and assaulted. But God saw us in our lowly state, and in His radical generosity sent a one-man rescue team to become a holy atonement for our sins, forever closing the gap between Him and us.
This example—our own rescue—inspires us to do the same for others. Whether you’re reaching out to underprivileged kids in the inner city, helping care for single mothers in your community, stocking the local food pantry or staring down human traffickers, it is all a response to the rescue you have already received.
I think about 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us” (NIV). That Scripture could just as easily read: “We rescue because He first rescued us.” This is the beauty of the church. Redeemed people, rescued people, sharing redemption with others.
I so love what my friend and mentor Joyce Meyer says about living out your faith. I can still hear her saying with her trademark passion and conviction, “You have to start somewhere. Just go do something for God!” Time and again, she has shown me that faith is more than a concept. Faith must be lived out loud. We can’t just talk about standing against injustice; we must do something about it.
The Great Opportunity
I have great hope for A21 and the church at large. I believe that God is raising up a generation of men and women who are passionate about living out their faith with a generosity that can change our culture and illuminate the darkest places.
I believe an awakening is taking place. I see leaders who are running to the battle rather than sitting on the sidelines and watching things become progressively worse. On every continent of the globe, families are standing against injustice, cruelty and oppression.
But to be a leader during this time in history isn’t for the weak of heart. Binding up the brokenhearted and preaching freedom for the captive are as real for us as they were for Jesus 2,000 years ago.
This isn’t a part-time endeavor, and it can’t be done from a distance. It requires on-site response. You have to zoom in on the pain.
For A21, this means finding real girls experiencing real pain in a really broken world. They aren’t someone else’s problem. They are our pursuit.
I always ask people who say they want to make a difference in the world around them today: “What is your pursuit?” When you understand that you have the great opportunity to live a life demonstrating the radical generosity of God’s love, it’s one of the most incredible and life-altering things you can experience.
And in the moments when you feel overwhelmed, or can’t sleep because of the call in front of you—when the names and the faces and the cries stay with you—don’t despair. Take heart. You’re in good company. Jesus understands your call. He feels your burden. He lies awake with you. Jesus is your rescuer, too.Christine Caine travels the globe taking her messages of hope and inspiration to people around the world. She is a member of the leadership team at Hillsong Church (based in Sydney, Australia), and founder of The A21 Campaign. Caine lives with her husband, Nick, and their two daughters in Southern California.
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How the indispensable command to preach the third person of the Trinity empowers and breathes life into our churches and world
O Spirit of the living God, Thou light and fire divine, Descend upon Thy church once more, and make it truly Thine. Fill it with love and joy and power, with righteousness and peace; Till Christ shall dwell in human hearts, and sin and sorrows cease. Teach us to utter living words of truth which all may hear, The language all may understand when love speaks loud and clear; Till every age and race and clime shall blend their creeds in one, And earth shall form one family by whom Thy will is done. —A traditional Welsh hymn by Henry H. Tweedy
More than 50 years of ministry have produced several personal convictions expressed in this hymn and evidenced in Scripture. I want to be frank with you—especially those called to preach the gospel to the church: It is the Holy Spirit or nothing. No salvation; no holiness; no discernment; no power; no prayer; no miracles; no God.
If we are going to preach the gospel, honoring the third person of the Trinity is both necessary and inevitable. He is not just a phantom or an associate God—He is God here, God now, God where it counts. No one is saved without His work of conviction and conversion. No one develops holiness of heart without the Holy Spirit's continuing work. No one is empowered for witness and service apart from Him.
And while more than 150 specific works of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the New Testament, let's not forget that without the Spirit there would be no Bible—Old Testament or New Testament. R.T. Kendall declares that the Holy Spirit's greatest work is the Bible itself, having inspired those who wrote it.
Second Peter 1:20-21 reminds us: "Above all you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God the message that came from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (NIV).
Struggling with your next sermon? Make the intentional decision to listen for the heartbeat of Jesus.
We all have those times in ministry when it's just plain difficult. In the early days of my ministry and preaching, Saturdays and Mondays were those times for me. Saturdays were spent struggling to find a verse, an illustration, a thought to share with the people that would show up at church the next morning to see and feel all my hard work. These were "pre-Internet" days, so by mid-morning I'd have 25 books spread out all over my floor just to find one nugget of truth. The second-worst days were Mondays. After I had the time to let the damage I caused the day before sink in, Monday became a depressing day of "no one was changed, saved or transformed and even cared." And then realization set in that I got to do this again for the midweek service. There has to be a better way, I thought. Over the years, I found one. It all depended on what my "H" looked like.
A FORMER NONBELIEVER IN THE BAPTISM AND GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT SHARES WHY THE ANOINTING OF GOD IS THE INDISPENSABLE COMPONENT FOR PREACHINGPOWER PREACHING
In His first sermon, Jesus told the people of Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel" (Luke 4:18). As with Jesus, so with us: There can be no authentic preaching of the gospel without the anointing of the Holy Spirit. My 60-plus years of ministry can be divided into two parts. For the first 27 years of pastoral work, I was a hard-line nonbeliever in the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. My denomination insisted that miraculous works of the Spirit vanished when the Apostle John died, and I wrongly carried that error to my congregation.
A Hard Road to Spiritual Awakening During that period I never saw an alcoholic, drug addict, suicidal person or someone suffering from similar problems miraculously deliv-ered by the power of God—nor did I expect it. It's difficult to think about and admit, but my ignorance of Scripture was extremely costly to me and my flock. I'll never forget one particularly dark time. A young mother in our congregation, whom we all thought gentle and kind, loaded a gun, murdered her husband and three children, and committed suicide. At the time it was Atlanta's worst-ever murder-suicide. It's impossible to describe the horrific effect the tragedy had on a network of families, friends, neighbors and our church.
R.T. Kendall can preach with the best of them, yet it’s his gift of connecting knowledge to Spirit-empowered truth that truly sets him apart
Since we started having guest editors two years ago we’ve covered some important topics: integrity, giving, church growth, evangelism, prayer, leadership, social transformation and, most recently, revival and healing.
We’ve had some high-profile guest editors such as Reinhard Bonnke, Robert Morris, Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson and Dr. Mark Rutland. During these two years, Ministry Today has experienced a resurgence unlike anything in its nearly three-decade history. I’m grateful to these guest editors and for the response from readers like you.
Now we focus on an equally important topic for pastors: preaching. To do so, we asked one of the best preachers of our generation—Dr. R.T. Kendall—to be guest editor.
It’s 6 at night as I arrive home from a long day at work. I flip on the TV to catch the news. The commentator rattles off some of the day’s headlines: “The American economy is in serious trouble! President Obama and the Republicans can’t agree on the solution. With the declining economy, crime is increasing and poverty is on the rise. Internationally: Iran is threatening to destroy Israel ... the violent North Korean dictator has just died, leading to greater global uncertainty ... Egypt has turned violent ... There’s a growing threat of civil war in Iraq, and immorality seems to be at an all-time high.”
My heart wrenches with anxiety as the stories unfold. Get us out of here, Lord, I pray silently. Then suddenly, without warning, a thought stands erect like a brave soldier on the battlefield of my mind:Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Before I can process that verse, more soldiers begin to take their stand on the war-torn sands of my imagination; “Arise and shine for your light has come. The glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold deep darkness covers the earth, deep darkness the people, but the Lord will rise upon you. His glory will be seen on you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising!” In a matter of seconds, other soldiers emerge, shouting their commands into the foxholes of my heart, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth; therefore, go and make disciples of all nations!”
Courage slowly seeps into my soul as I am reminded of our mandate and mission. We were never placed on this planet to reflect the culture; we’ve been called to transform it. The kingdom of God is to be cultivated within us so that it infects and affects the kingdoms around us, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God.
A culture of honor gives room for people to grow in freedom and power
One of the premier core values and goals of an apostolic environment is creating a safe place that brings out the best in people. Paul asserts that knowing a loving God is the pathway to accessing the unlimited supply of His goodness:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:14-21).
God is stirring in the hearts of leaders a vision to see a generation that is passionately ablaze for Jesus and His cause. I am not talking about a mere spark that eventually fizzles, but an all-consuming fire, which continues to burn through one’s entire life.
As leaders, we must build with this goal in mind. We are not called to just bear fruit, but to produce that which remains (John 15). I personally don’t believe I have fulfilled my role effectively as a leader of the younger generation if their passion and commitment to Jesus fades somewhere in their 20s or 30s. We must see a generation whose light burns even brighter with their age. So the question then must be: “How do we as leaders create a culture that releases young people into a life of not only sustained fire but a fire that is ever increasing?”
Three Components of Fire
It is one thing to ignite a flame, or occasionally stoke an ember, but altogether another to sustain a fire that is ever advancing and magnifying. A fire requires three things to continue: fuel, heat and oxygen. As we call a generation to give their lives fully to Jesus—to present themselves as a living sacrifice (fuel) and encounter the passionate love in the gaze of Jesus (heat)—we must also be intentional in creating an atmosphere where oxygen is abundant.
Anyone who is familiar with the elementary school science experiment, where a lit candle is placed inside a jar, knows what happens when oxygen is removed from the equation. The flame extinguishes, and all that remains is smoke. Fire simply cannot survive in a vacuum. It requires oxygen, and the more it draws on fresh air, the more dazzling, pervasive and powerful it becomes.
Being thankful and staying hungry for God leads to spiritual health and passion
Several years ago, I was in an all-day prayer meeting that was sure to leave a mark on my life. While there, I met Mike Servello, a pastor from Utica, N.Y. We had corresponded through email, but we had never met in person.
While the worship team was playing, Mike leaned over to me and said, “God is looking for a city that would belong entirely to Him. And once He gets that one city, it will cause a domino effect across our nation.” I told him I believed my city, Redding, Calif., was that city. He said he believed Utica was. In print, it may look like a competition. It wasn’t. It was two pastors expressing their faith for the big picture.
A little while later, I was in a different part of the sanctuary. Standing next to me was a friend and prophetic lady named Jean Krisle Blasi. She turned to me saying, “God is looking for a city that would belong entirely to Him. And once He gets that one city, it will cause a domino effect across our nation.” I was stunned. It was word-for-word what Mike had declared maybe 30 minutes earlier. Before I could mention my convictions for my city, she said, “And I believe Redding is that city.”
Robert Stearns is mobilizing churches to stand with Israel as it faces some of the most difficult threats to its existence
Christian Zionism is not a new phenomenon created by the religious right. In fact it predates the Jewish Zionist movement. So says David Brog in his excellent book Standing With Israel.
As a historian, Brog documents how William Hechler, a deeply religious Christian, was one of the first allies in 1896 of Theodor Herzl—a Jew who was the father of the modern Zionist movement.
Fast-forward 120 years. The state of Israel exists against all odds today, while facing some of the most difficult threats to its existence. Israel has few friends in the world more devoted than the evangelical (particularly charismatic) Christian community.
A new generation discovers more reasons to stand with Israel
Christian support for Israel needs a face-lift—a much-needed makeover to meet the charged climate of the 21st century global arena.
Christian Zionism is not new; it has been around for centuries. Sometimes quirky, often romantic and wrong-headed, these eccentric believers lived out a dream to see Zion restored. Their visions seldom corresponded with the social realities of the time. Call them visionaries before their time, the 19th century settlers who relocated to then-Ottoman “Palestine,” were passionate but mostly without significant influence; not to mention few and far between. They were committed pioneers who gave their lives for a biblical promise of the rebirth of a nation long dead.
Today is a different story. The modern state of Israel not only exists (against all odds); it is the focal point of the complex and delicate geopolitical realities of the Middle East—and to some extent, global affairs. From my ongoing work over the past 20 years in the Jewish and Christian communities, which revolves around these pivotal issues, as well as Eagles’ Wings’ efforts to educate the next generation in them, I propose there must be a fundamental shift in the way we approach the Jewish people, Israel and Zionism.
Most evangelicals are familiar with the many biblical reasons for supporting Israel. These important pillars are eternal, foundational and serve as the basis for traditional Christian Zionism. However, I believe a new generation is rising—boldly declaring that support for Israel is not only, for believers, an essential biblical principle, but for humanity, a universal moral imperative.
The center of the world is also the center of our faith
Jerusalem is the crossroads of the world. This unique city is unlike anywhere else on the planet. It’s difficult to describe how distinct and singular its atmosphere is. Although most urban centers are a confluence of varying ethnicities and cultural expressions, the thing that sets Jerusalem apart is the sense that its very location is the reason for the convergence of diversities that populate it. Its composition is not arbitrary or incidental.
Its inhabitants did not happen upon this landmass due to natural migration patterns or random chance. Rather, it seems that each and every person who resides in this land does so by deliberate, intentional choice. No one is there by accident. If you’re living in Israel, it is because you believe something so strongly you’re willing to stake your life on it. Many end up doing just that.
Often thought of as the crossroads of the three monotheistic faiths, the charged religious nature of Jerusalem also positions it at the hub of world politics. Jerusalem is not an easy place to live. There are no comfort zones in Jerusalem—nowhere to hide. The irreconcilable philosophies hurled down through the ages at avalanche-speeds meet in this tiny city, where they butt heads, brush shoulders, pass each other in vigilant silence.
Why the church must identify and combat the last acceptable prejudice
When believers today discuss the Holocaust (or Shoah), it is not uncommon for them to shake their heads in disbelief that such a massive genocide involving 6 million Jews could have happened so recently in Christian Europe. “How did the church not see?” we cry.
We read with horror the historical accounts; we weep at the testimonies of those who survived and grieve for those who didn’t. We stare with unbelief at the grotesque photos of man’s inhumanity to man during the Nazi reign of terror, and vow with Jews all over the world: “Never again!”
Yet, only 67 years after the end of World War II, we find ourselves living in a time eerily similar to the years preceding Hitler’s “Final Solution”—a time when the unthinkable is now very possible. Results of a 2003 poll authorized by the European Commission show that 60 percent of Europeans in 15 EU countries believed Israel to be the greatest threat to world peace, greater than North Korea or Iran.
How Israel advocacy is changing the way a generation relates to their faith
Have you ever noticed that the book of Genesis, our introduction to God, His character, His emotions and His will, devotes just the first two chapters to creation, and chapters 12 through 50 primarily to one theme?
That’s right, two chapters on speaking the universe into existence, and 39 zeroing in on one thing. This one thing is the “big picture.” This one thing is covenant. The big picture of biblical covenant is about God’s decision to use a place and a people (Israel and the Jewish people) to establish His means of revelation and redemption in the earth.
An honest observation of the Christian under-30s would suggest that the next generation longs to be connected to the big picture. They want to exchange the catchphrases and bumper-sticker theology for the reality of genuine relationship with God and with people. They want to be a part of His story.
Why God’s promises to Israel should matter to your congregation
So, you haven’t quite figured out what to do with that “Israel” couple in your church. ...
They’re nice people—sincere and passionate—and your heart tells you they might be on to something, too. However, a demanding schedule limits you from really focusing in on what they’re all about. Not that you would have time to engage in another program on top of leading your congregation.
The building project, the short-term missions trip, the rewrite of the mission statement (not to mention more counseling, weddings and funerals than you know what to do with) are enough to make you run every time they approach you on a Sunday morning about hosting a Passover Seder. Compared to the immediate demands necessary to keep a busy ministry moving forward, the “Israel thing” understandably seems far-off, undeserving of a high spot on the priority list.
Why the church must remember the largely forgotten believers in the Arab world
Did you know there is a people group vital to the fulfillment of God’s promises in Israel, whom you may not ever have heard anything about? This population segment, too often forgotten or even largely unknown, is the Arab Christian community.
Their story seems small in contrast with the vast, intensifying conflict that marks the war-torn Middle East; but particularly as we see a growing number of Christians worldwide who focus support on the Jewish people and state of Israel, it is vital that we also remember our Christian brothers and sisters and that we show them our support in this critical hour.
The Arab peoples and specifically the Palestinians are perhaps one of the most misunderstood people groups in the world today. Sadly, too many well-meaning Westerners, the terms “Arab” and “Palestinian” are synonymous with “terrorist.” For Christians who stand with the nation of Israel, it is important to understand that this is very often not true at all.
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. is on a mission to protect the moral compass of the nation by educating and empowering churches, as well as community and political leaders
It’s the political season in what many are saying is the most important presidential election of our lifetime, so I turned to my good friend, Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., because he not only has motivated Christians to get involved in the political process to bring change, but he’s highly respected.
Our guest editor has appeared on the CBS Evening News, Fox News’ Special Report, The O’Reilly Factor and The Tavis Smiley Show. Bishop Jackson’s articles have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.
And why not? He’s Harvard educated and very articulate—something the mainstream media respects. But at the same time Bishop Jackson is a great spokesman from a Christian perspective—he understands the believer’s mandate to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Bishop Jackson has a successful track record of growing churches and discipling believers. He hasn’t strayed into liberal theology, and his integrity is above reproach.
Any person with common sense can see that America is moving in the wrong direction. The “media elite” and much of the population continually mock the God of the Bible, diminish the value of marriage and family and have no concern for the sanctity of human life.
We’re headed straight into the ditch of out-of-control debt. Blind leaders are leading our blind nation toward a cliff. Thank goodness, some preachers and discerning Christians see what is coming and want to help right our ship of state.
One such individual is Jay W. Richards, an intellectual who has lectured before Congress and on leading universities nationwide. Jay has focused much attention on biblical economic principles—some of the best I’ve seen. Over the past couple of years, I have met with him on many occasions, and our hearts beat as one.
Jay and I began discussing the possibility of working on a significant book project together a number of months ago, and the result is Indivisible, which addresses restoring faith, family and freedom in America.
Connection is the beginning of all true influence—people will follow leaders they trust
From P.I. to preacher is not a common path, but it was mine. After graduating with a criminal justice administration degree at San Diego State University, I set out on a brief but fascinating career as a private investigator.
God had other plans. I had resisted God’s call, but it was time. While working as an investigator, I served in a small church as a student ministry leader. I soon found myself as a full-time master’s in divinity student at Asbury Theological Seminary. My three years there were fantastic. They were literally life changing. I was fired up and ready to serve in ministry, but I still had much to learn about leadership.
John Maxwell invited me to join his staff for one year as an intern at Skyline Wesleyan Church, which was located in a San Diego suburb. Little did I know that we would work together for 20 years, and reach thousands of people for Jesus.
Calling pastors to help change the nation through prayer, preaching and partnership
As a teenager, I remember President Ronald Reagan’s vivid image of America as a “shining city on a hill,” echoing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. President Reagan meant that we are a beacon of light and hope for the rest of the world. Today, that beacon is growing dim.
Human life has become disposable. Abortion remains a tragic and open wound on our society. When miscarriages are not counted, fully 22 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion. The rate for African-Americans’ abortion in New York City is an astonishing 60 percent. More pre-born children die daily in America’s abortion centers than the casualty from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, there have been more than 50 million abortions.
Our families are in disarray. More than 40 percent of children do not have married parents. Not surprisingly, only 45 percent of teenagershave spent their childhood with biological parents who were married.
Forget grassroots revival—widespread change is best achieved by a narrow focus
There is a seismic shift taking place today in the marketplace and the church. We need to understand how to respond if we are going to bring systemic transformation. There are ways the church should apply the gospel in response to cultural shifts.
First of all, it is a mistake to believe the culture will shift because of a church revival or a societal awakening. Often, we as believers think the key to societal transformation is to convert masses of people. But the truth is that culture is transformed by a small percentage of the population who make up the cultural elite in a society. Thus the only way to affect cultural change is to convert the elite who formulate culture in every sphere of society.
Second, it is a mistake to think that political victories will bring transformation. For example, abortion was legalized in 1973 yet the fight still rages on. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in several states in the Northeast, but the battle continues. Homosexuality has been normalized by art, media and entertainment, yet a large percentage of Americans still refuse to consider it as normative behavior.
Pastors need to twin prayer for spiritual revival with practical involvement in cultural reformation
Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world.”
Those were the words that Martin Luther King Jr. heard as he prayed alone at his kitchen table in 1956. He had arrived in Montgomery, Ala., two years earlier, accepting the pastorate of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church rather than pursuing the academic career he had originally envisioned.
He soon found himself the head of the pastors’ association that led the famous bus boycotts. Increasing incidents of police harassment had caused Dr. King to ponder whether such activism was worth the risk to himself and his family. For 30 days in a row he had received daily death threats, so he paused to pray for guidance.
The Lord answered him clearly. It is hard to imagine what America would be like had King not answered the Lord’s call at that kitchen table. But because he did, our nation has made significant progress in living up to its own founding ideals of liberty and justice for all.
Why pastors simply must speak out on political issues
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.
Mathew D. Staver
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. interviewed Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel; and Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), who discussed why pastors should not stay away from political issues—despite scrutiny from the IRS and groups threatening lawsuits.
Jackson: Mat, you have interacted with many pastors who believe they should “just preach” the gospel and stay away from political issues. What do you say to these church leaders?
Despite long odds and strong opposition, apostolic minister Kimberly Daniels won a city council seat after God led her to run for office
Jacksonville, Fla., is my hometown. With 20-plus miles of beaches and the most beautiful river views in the world, it is a great place to vacation and even a better one to live.
However, my city—like most others—also has its negative side. Jacksonville is nationally known for violent crimes. I grew up in the LaVilla area, where as a child, I loved living in my neighborhood—located a few blocks from the office where I currently work as a city council representative. I received almost 93,000 votes after entering a political race a few weeks before the May 17, 2011 election.
Becoming an elected official seemed unreachable, considering my mother was a single mom of three daughters from three different men and my father owned a bar in LaVilla, which featured “Sissy Shows” (female impersonators).
At times, I still feel like I am going to wake up one day and say, “I dreamed I was an at-large city council representative in Jacksonville.” As I look out my window onto the streets where I used to play, I cannot help but feel humbled. Though it is not a dream, it all started with one.
How the Manhattan Declaration is mobilizing silent-too-long Christians to protect life, marriage and religious freedom
It was Nov. 20, 2009 when more than 20 Christian leaders stood before the microphones at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Fox News, CNN, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, TheWashington Post and other media outlets were there with cameras and microphones.
There we announced the launch of the Manhattan Declaration. We proclaimed to the church—and put our nation’s political leaders on notice—that we would protect the sanctity of life, uphold the sacredness of marriage as a holy union between one man and one woman and defend religious freedom for all people.
In front of all those cameras and lights, the Christian leaders lovingly, winsomely and firmly took a stand. I will never forget the picture. I stood between Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia. I looked over at Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, and Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action. To my left was Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., who mobilized African-American churches in the District of Columbia to oppose gay marriage. And there was Fr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary.
Pastors must rediscover their historical, nation-shaping role
During the American Revolution, the British dubbed the courageous clergy “The Black Regiment”—a backhanded reference to the black robes they wore. The British blamed the clergy for America’s independence, and rightfully so as modern historians have documented that “there is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence, which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763.”
The rights listed in the Declaration of Independence were nothing more than a listing of sermon topics that had been preached from the pulpit in the preceding decades. Early clergy literally believed 2 Tim. 3:16-17—that all Scripture is God-inspired, and that God’s Word is to prepare us for every work.
Their sermons presented a biblical perspective on pressing public issues, including what type of taxes were and were not scriptural, how education should be conducted, the biblical role of the military, the difference between offensive and defensive wars, and the importance of having written constitutions of governance and electing godly leaders. The sermons touched on scores of other biblical topics, which the pulpit is largely silent on today.