How to leave your denomination ... for all the right reasons.
A few years ago, my wife and I felt God calling us out of our denomination into another network of churches. Being in connected relationships with like-minded pastors and churches was important enough for us to navigate the choppy watters of change.
Some said, “Stay and be salt.” Yet, I sensed no call to take my “salt” there. (I know of a Spirit-filled priest whose calling in life is “to save as many as he can before they kick him out.”) Albeit humorous, note how he is certain of his call. I could not say the same. My “salt” had been trampled on, and others who stayed to be a prophetic voice discovered that they were ignored as well.
It ought to haunt us that no county in the country has grown one percentage point in the last 35 years with regard to the number of Christians. The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization released a report in 2005 forecasting that by 2050, in the Western world, the number of Christians will drop far below the population increase.
I can still remember prophecy teachers who tacked rows of charts and diagrams on the church wall and explained spell-binding details of the past, present and future. I cut my spiritual teeth on the Scofield Bible and devoured Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. My seminary professors instructed me in pre-tribulationism and premillenialism. I quickly categorized anyone who disagreed as a “liberal.”
Now I look back on those days with a strange combination of regret and amusement. How is it that I was so wrong for so long? As I analyze my change, I can sum it up by admitting that I simply did not understand the kingdom of God.
Let me explain what I mean by starting with the Great Commission. The Great Commission has been central to my life. I committed myself to missions the night I was saved when I was 19. I spent my first 16 years of ministry as a field missionary and the next 30 as a professor of missions.
After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, "What were you discussing out on the road?" But they didn't answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. — Mark 9:33-34
It's embarrassing when someone demonstrates he or she can read your mind. Most of us would rather not have our thoughts exposed. We're not proud of our motives. We don't want our intentions broadcast. The disciples had a problem--Jesus understood them. Just as he understands us.
Every tactic we use in human relationships to avoid the truth is absolutely transparent to God. The fact that God knows us that well isn't amazing. After all, he is God. The fact that we still try to work our magic on him isn't all that surprising either. After all, we are human. It is amazing though that God knows us as he does and still draws near to help us be better than we instinctively are.
The disciples were arguing about leadership. They were mind-wrestling over who could claim the top of the heap. They were all poised on the ladder to greatness, and thankfully we are not given the details on how ready they were to step on each other on the way up. Apparently the discussion ended in a draw.
Jesus' question caught them by surprise. The subject of greatness suddenly didn't feel right. Jesus broke the strained silence with a challenge. He gave them the ultimate measure of leadership: "Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else" (Mark 9:35). Apparently the silence resumed. The disciples neither argued with him nor asked any questions. We don't know how long this went on, but Mark records that Jesus spotted a little child in the vicinity and decided to make an additional point while holding the child. "Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me" (Mark 9:37). Are the two points connected? Perhaps Jesus was saying, "Do you really want to be first? Then start small."
As you go about your day, think about whom you serve. How aware are you of people who are not being served? Can you see those who are overlooked? In the end, what do you find most important: being called a leader or doing what a real leader does?
If our thoughts and intentions are to serve Christ, we don't have to worry about someone reading our minds.
What does holiness have to do with your needs? Francis Frangipane reveals the answer from Matthew 3.
According to Scripture, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit “while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15, NASB). We are also told his coming was in the spirit and power of Elijah. Historians tell us that John’s penetrating, uncompromising ministry led nearly 1 million people to repentance. Vast multitudes left their cities and towns and went into the wilderness to hear the prophet and be baptized into repentance in preparation for the kingdom of God.
Only Jesus knew the fallen condition of the human heart more perfectly than John. No class of people escaped the Baptist’s judgment: soldiers and kings, sinners and religious leaders alike all were brought into the “valley of decision.” John’s baptism was more than a simple immersion in water. He required a public confession of sins as well as the bringing forth of righteousness (see Matt. 3:6, 8).
Before Jesus died, He willed us His peace. But we forfeit His gift through strife.
The Bible tells us that everything the Father has is ours through Jesus (see John 16:15). What does the Father have? He certainly does not have strife. On the contrary, everything He has ministers life to us. His kingdom is one of righteousness, peace and joy. So supernatural peace and joy belong to the believer.
Before He died, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you" (John 14:27, The Amplified Bible). In essence, He was saying, "I am willing you My peace."
God's desire for us is that we live in peace with Him, with ourselves and with our fellowman. He wants us to have peace in the midst of our current circumstances--peace in the morning, at night and all times in between. Peace is our inheritance! And it is a wonderful possession.