One of America's best-loved pastors shares his secret for staying relevant: risk reinventing yourself.
It's been said that the pastor today is more of a CEO than a shepherd, but perhaps there is a better metaphor to describe the 21st century pastor.
As a church grows and broadens its ministry, the pastor must begin to view his role not only as a shepherd but also as a rancher. As a church expands its reach to meet the needs of different groups of people, the senior pastor must be willing to allow others to shepherd those distinct groups. As a rancher, he helps set the direction for all these shepherds so the entire flock can embrace a like vision and operate in unity.
In order for a church to reach its community today, one must be willing to explore innovative ways to communicate to people who are receiving information, inspiration and motivation differently than they did just a few years ago.
Each year, when thousands of pastors and leaders gather at our Pastors' School, we emphasize that the method is not sacred--the message is. As long as we maintain the integrity of the good news of Christ, we can be--and we must be--innovative in the way we present the message so that it is relevant to people's lives.
Ultimately, there are two priorities set before the pastor as his holy charge. They are eternal and must be at the forefront of what he does: the Word of God and people. Everything else will pass away, but the Word of God will remain. And an emphasis on people and their everlasting souls will help keep the pastor focused, and limit distractions such as buildings and programs, which--albeit important--must not become the main focus in ministry.
If the pastor, or a rancher, if you will, has these priorities in mind and heart, it will be easier for him to reach the community with new methods, but with the same message of the love of God.
Numerous studies have shown that one of the primary barriers to churches reaching unchurched people in their communities is that many people feel churches are not relevant to their lives.
I have always felt that the church should be on the cutting
edge in the ways that it reaches out to people. Fifty years ago, using props and dramatic presentations while presenting illustrated sermons was considered practically heretical. Realizing that our society is becoming more and more visually oriented and less literary, we have to bring the message of Christ to people in a manner that makes sense to them.
Similarily, when we removed the hymnals from the pews at Phoenix First and replaced them with two large projection screens, many thought that a sacred element of worship had been replaced by some sterile technology. Instead, the worship experience has been enhanced with the use of technology that makes the message relevant to people.
A pastor must examine the church and its ministries, its facilities and, ultimately, himself to see that the love of God is being effectively communicated to people in a way that makes sense in the postmodern context.
A pastor should be willing to risk utilizing cultural innovations in order to spread the gospel. For example, we often capitalize on the marketing efforts that are capturing the attention of millions of people in order for those same people to hear our message.
We recently advertised an illustrated sermon titled "American Idols," complete with a vocal contest, and unchurched people from all over the community came. When the message was presented that idolatry and the pursuit of fame leaves people with a hollow emptiness that only Jesus Christ can fill, more than 1,000 people came to the altars to give their hearts to the Lord.
We've built new high-tech buildings for youth and children, a "Youth Walk" hangout for teens and a cafe in order to create an environment where we can reach the next generation. Young people who might not otherwise come to church are affected by the message to such an extent that many of them don't want services to end as they continue to seek the Lord.
If the pastor is a CEO as some church leadership experts claim, then perhaps some reinventing--as the corporate world would call it--is in order. When companies reinvent, they strengthen their identities and visions while increasing the scope of their outreach.
Without compromising the enduring values of salvation, healing, the Holy Spirit and the second coming, we must create innovative means of communicating these truths to a generation that is biblically illiterate.
One of the ways that we as pastors can examine our churches' relevance in our communities is to see if our churches represent the people that we are trying to reach in our weekly attendance. If not, we must be willing to take the risk of reinventing ourselves in order to reach a lost and dying world for Christ. *
In his 50th year of ministry, Tommy Barnett is the pastor of Phoenix First Assembly, an innovative congregation he has served for 24 years. Barnett is the author of several books, including Hidden Power, Dream Again and Adventure Yourself. For a profile of Tommy Barnett, see page 38 of this issue of Ministries Today. read more
The church needs more than good experience--it needs good theology.
Is sound teaching primary today, or are teachers merely scratching the itching ears of their hearers? It depends where you look. In some reformed or mainline denominational churches teaching is likely primary. The problem with most of them is that they are overfed. (I speak as a reformed theologian and pastor.)
They remind me of fat sheep that keep eating more and more and need to be poked to let air out before they die of eating too much. To quote my predecessor at Westminster Chapel, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, they are "perfectly orthodox and perfectly useless."
But if you look to charismatic and Pentecostal churches--those who fancy themselves "Spirit-filled"--you will find the opposite. Teaching is not primary. Worship, signs and wonders, and an obsession with the benefits of giving and receiving are the cornerstones of what passes for solid teaching.
Instead of an emphasis upon the real reason Jesus died--the cross, the resurrection, knowing Christ--teaching has become largely concerned with answering the question, "What will this do for me?" This is the very reason "revival tarries," to use the late Leonard Ravenhill's phrase.
Is the place of teaching in our churches given the same profile as in the New Testament?
Not in the least. The writings of the apostle Paul comprise two-thirds of the New Testament--almost entirely teaching. Consider the four Gospels, which are composed of the parables and the sermons of Jesus. They are all teaching. Look at the book of Acts: the key issues were the reason Jesus died and rose from the dead, the relationship of circumcision to salvation, the offense of the cross--all interlaced with persecution in the early church over teaching.
One of the forgotten observations of Luke is the way he initially described the early church immediately after recording the event of Pentecost: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching ... " (Acts 2:42, NIV). Teaching came first in the New Testament, and it should come first today.
Instead, it would seem that much that passes for preaching and teaching nowadays is done with meticulous care so that the deep-pocket givers will not be offended. Teachers are more concerned with filtering the content through the minds of hearers rather than confronting the lost who are going to hell.
By the way, when is the last time you actually heard an authentic, heartfelt sermon devoted entirely to the teaching of eternal punishment?
Is there a hint of the appetite of the church today if one judges this by the preaching on Christian television these days?
While some Christians might crave healthier fare, you'd never know it to watch the average "teaching" program. Instead of solid, sound teaching that reflects the God of the Bible, we hear of the preacher's desire to make people write in (with a generous contribution) at the end of the program.
But when contributions are needed to keep these preachers on the air, one wonders if they end up "playing to the gallery" and "ringing certain bells" to keep the money flowing in.
If I am asked what some of the false teachings are that have invaded the church today, I would answer:
The dilution of the New Testament teaching on eternal punishment. An absence of emphasis on the Holy Spirit's role in convicting of sin, righteousness and judgment before people can be saved. Ignorance of the primary reason Jesus died and rose from the dead--for our salvation, not for our healing and prosperity. An overemphasis on what appeals to one's personal comfort to motivate to obedience rather than being motivated by the glory of God alone.
These and other issues should be addressed by the teachers God has given the church. But it would appear that the gift of teaching has fallen on hard times in the body of Christ today.
ISN'T THE HOLY SPIRIT ENOUGH?
The office of the teacher is the last on the list of those offices, or special anointings, given in Ephesians 4:11. It is the least controversial, but possibly the most neglected and needed of the five.
The Greek word for "teacher" (didaskalos) is found in the New Testament 58 times. It was a common way the 12 addressed Jesus--"Master" in the King James Version--which appears in the four Gospels alone at least 45 times. The Greek word didasko ("to teach") is found 95 times in the New Testament and didakee ("teaching") appears 30 times in the New Testament.
In the ancient Hellenistic world these words taken together referred to instruction and were used to denote the insight of the one to be instructed and the knowledge presupposed in the teacher. The example, not merely the instruction, of the teacher formed a bridge to the knowledge and the ability of the pupil. Teaching referred to the inspiration of practical and theoretical knowledge.
There was a deep connection between the content of instruction and the example of the teacher, since the teacher would often be imitated by the pupil. One thus recalls Paul's final word to Timothy, "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance" (2 Tim. 3:10). Doctrine and manner of life were intimately related.
Is it true that if people are soundly converted they will progress in their walks with Christ simply because they have the Holy Spirit to guide and teach them? Most of Paul's letters--two-thirds of the New Testament--plus, Hebrews, all underline the premise that the Holy Spirit is not enough! If the Holy Spirit were enough, then one would just learn from Him and drink at the fountain of His peace--and never need to open the Bible.
But God gave us the Bible--the Holy Spirit's greatest product--that we might know the Spirit's mind. We need to be filled with the Spirit again and again and again. What happened at Pentecost in Acts 2 was virtually repeated in Acts 4:31 and following, and this must happen to us.
It is then that we will grasp the teaching of the New Testament at a level rarely experienced. Never forget: the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible and if we are to understand it we must be on good terms with Him.
In fact, the role of the Holy Spirit is to bring to our minds what has been previously taught. If sound teaching is not in our minds in the first place, there is nothing for the Holy Spirit to remind us of (see John 14:26).
TEACHING AND THE FIVEFOLD MINISTRIES
The fivefold ministries depicted in Ephesians 4:11 show not only the "givenness" and diversity of leadership in the earliest church but also the order in which the ministry functioned and generally unfolded:
First came the apostles who had authority to lay both doctrinal foundations and validate that authority partly through signs and wonders.
The prophetic ministry gave immediate direction and guidance for Christians, especially at a time when there was no New Testament to consult. This does not negate the need for the prophetic today, but one cannot help but wonder if people are more interested in the prophetic word than the written or preached word--even though we have the Bible at our fingertips.
Evangelists, the bearers of good news, could describe the role of virtually every Christian in ancient times although there emerged a special gifting in this area. All Christians have the gift of spreading the gospel within them, and this is a gold mine that is largely unexplored in the church at the present time.
The role of the pastor quickly surfaced, since all God's sheep need leadership, loving care and sometimes discipline.
The teacher can possibly be said to describe the apostle and pastor but refers mainly to the ongoing upholding of apostolic doctrine so that all the body of Christ could be aptly instructed and well-informed as to what they should believe.
Some pastors are not strong teachers or preachers, and some teachers and preachers are not good pastors. But sound teaching is needed in the body of Christ. This way a believer's faith will be strong and their discernment sharp when it is necessary to detect false teaching.
There is a distinction between the teacher and the preacher. Preaching refers to the message as well as method but largely embraces exhortation and evangelism. In a sense, preaching can be done by any believer, whereas the teacher is gifted with knowledge and the ability to impart knowledge.
Paul, John and Jude, in particular, had to deal with false teaching that crept into the church toward the end of the first century--largely Gnosticism and the teaching of the Judaizers (Jews who made professions of faith but who probably were never truly converted by the Holy Spirit).
CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
The little epistle of Jude indicates that the writer had hoped to write a soteriological treatise but, due to the onslaught of false doctrine which came from counterfeit ministers, he warned that we must earnestly contend for the faith "once for all" entrusted to the saints (see Jude 3).
The "once for all" refers to a body of doctrine that needed to be understood and upheld. This shows that we are not to teach just anything we like; we are duty-bound to uphold Holy Scripture and that faith "once for all" delivered to the church. This is one of the reasons we still need the office of the teacher.
I believe that every Christian is called to be a theologian. Most believers today could not tell you what they believe or why. How many do you know can explain the doctrine of justification by faith--which turned the world upside down in the 16th century? But Paul said that Jesus was raised for our justification (see Rom. 4:25).
Worse still, how many Christians could be prepared in 10 seconds to lead a lost person to a saving knowledge of Christ? It takes not only a good experience but also--sooner or later--good theology to do this. The role of the teacher is therefore not merely an option; it is urgently needed--now more than ever.
R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for exactly 25 years. Educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Oxford University, Kendall is the author of more than 30 books, including the best seller Total Forgiveness. He lives with his wife, Louise, in Key Largo, Florida. read more
A tribute to the life and ministry of Fuchsia Pickett. Her 50-plus years of teaching will not be forgotten.
Fuchsia Pickett never fit the mold of a charismatic teacher. Reared in a Methodist family, led to Christ by a Presbyterian friend, educated at John Wesley College, and dramatically healed and filled with the Holy Spirit in a Pentecostal church, Pickett became an icon of unconventional wisdom during her 50-plus years of ministry.
She stepped into the pulpit at a time when women's callings were typically confined to the nursery, and she taught on the importance of a crucified life when self-promotion and prosperity were the hallmarks of many prominent ministries.
Who knew that one day this unassuming woman would impact some of the church's most influential leaders, including Myles Munroe, Judson Cornwall and others.
On January 30, 2004, at the age of 85, Pickett died peacefully in her Tennessee home and went to be with her beloved Jesus. But her life and her teachings will not soon be forgotten.
Pickett was born to God-fearing parents in Axton, Virginia, and faithfully attended a Methodist church during her early years. She married at 16, after graduating from high school.
Soon after, Pickett began observing the vibrant faith of a Presbyterian girl with whom she worked. Convicted, Pickett would often lie awake at night questioning whether she would go to heaven.
After attending an evangelistic rally, Pickett fell to her knees in her bedroom and cried out to God. That night, Pickett walked from darkness into light. Soon after, God began speaking to her.
Lying in bed one night, she heard a distinct voice calling her name, and she sensed that the room was filled with the presence of God. "I want you to preach and teach My Word," the voice said. "I knew I had heard the voice of God," Pickett told Ministries Today in her final interview.
God opened the door for her to attend John Wesley College, in Greensboro, North Carolina, and, later, Martinsville Bible College, Aldergate University and the University of North Carolina.
THE TEACHER MOVES IN
For the next 17 years, Pickett traveled throughout the country, preaching and teaching--although it was rare at the time for a woman to do so.
Her father dying of Hodgkin's disease, Pickett began to notice in her own body symptoms of a debilitating bone disease. "I felt instinctively that my days of ministry would soon be over," she said. Pickett tried to hide her condition from her family until the symptoms became unavoidable, and she found herself in a hospital bed, supported with braces and packed in sandbags to sustain her body.
She had written her own funeral, selected pallbearers and purchased a tombstone when a friend offered to take her to a meeting at a Pentecostal church. During the service, Pickett heard the Holy Spirit tell her to go forward for prayer. Her weakened body in braces, she dragged herself to the front and spoke to the preacher: "I don't know why I'm here. But I have a feeling that God would like these people to pray for me."
After a simple prayer and a smear of anointing oil, Pickett began limping back to her seat. It was when she reached the seventh pew that she saw her first vision. A voice said to her, "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land" (see Is. 1:19). The voice continued, "Are you willing to be identified with these people--to be one of them?"
"Yes, Lord," she replied and began to lower herself into her seat.
At that moment, Pickett recalled that the power of God struck the base of her neck and coursed through her body. Minutes later, she was dancing and shouting, her unneeded braces clattering to the floor.
An hour later, having exhausted her vocabulary for praising God, Pickett found herself speaking in a language she had never learned or heard before. "Not only was I healed from the top of my head to the tip of my toes," Pickett said. "But I was filled with the Holy Ghost."
"My Teacher moved in," she said. "For the first time in my life I began to understand, through revelation, the same Scriptures I had studied and taught faithfully for many years. They came alive to me, not as information, but as power that was working in me and transforming my life."
DREAMS AND VISIONS
Soon after, God began to reveal Himself to Pickett in dramatic ways. "You run your classes based on 60- or 90-minute sessions," she recalled the Holy Spirit telling her. "I don't. I live here in your spirit. I have moved in to be your Teacher, and My classroom is never closed. I wrote the Book."
Pickett added: "As the Holy Spirit would quicken truth to me, whole books of the Bible would open and relate to each other in my mind. I saw how Leviticus related to Hebrews, Joshua to Ephesians, and I walked the floor, shaking my head and staggering in my ability to grasp it all."
Local Pentecostal pastors caught wind that a Methodist minister had received the Holy Spirit, and soon, Pickett was invited to speak at Pentecostal camp meetings and revival services. As she explained, a Spirit-filled Methodist was a novelty at the time, and her story was welcomed with applause and amazement.
But she was called to do more than just testify. Daily, God was revealing truths to her about Himself and His Word. Soon, her Pentecostal friend Ralph Byrd began to notice. "You remind me of a Guernsey cow," he told her one day. "You are so full of the milk of the Word that you are bursting with it and looking for every calf around you that you can feed."
A TEACHER AND A MOTHER
From that point on, Pickett traveled extensively, preaching at conferences, writing and teaching at Fountaingate Ministries and Bible College, which she founded in Dallas. Over the years, Pickett became respected as both a teacher and a spiritual mother in the charismatic movement. Her teaching was a unique marriage of prophetic revelation and verse-by-verse exposition.
Pickett applied theological principles from her formal training, but she never held them too tightly when she felt the Spirit move her in a new direction. "I don't despise what I have studied," Pickett said. "That knowledge of the Word brought me to the point that I could receive true revelation of it."
Unafraid to confront traditional understandings of difficult passages, she often embraced an unconventional allegorical interpretation of Scripture. Pickett described this as the living Word giving her insight into the meaning of the written Word.
For instance, in a vision, Pickett was transported to the court of Esther, where the Spirit explained to her the meaning of the book and its characters: Esther represents the church, Haman the flesh and Mordecai the Holy Spirit.
While some would argue that books such as Esther and Ruth are historical narratives to be taken in a strictly literal sense, Pickett taught that they are both historical and allegorical--or revelatory. "As Paul said, all these things were examples," she explained. "The Holy Spirit wrote the facts, but He also gave us deeper allegorical truths all the way through."
The core of her teaching, however, was the deeper life, death to self and the Spirit's empowerment for godly living. "It is obedience to the revelation we receive that enables the Holy Spirit to keep giving us new revelation," she said. "The test of true revelation is the power it has to transform our thinking and our lives to the image of Christ."
Was she afraid of making mistakes? "Not mistakes, but incomplete truths," she said. "No one person has it all because the truth is broken into bits." Never one to hold too tightly to her interpretations, Pickett encouraged her hearers to examine her teachings through the lens of the written Word.
But doctrine was not as much a concern for Pickett as was the disunity and spiritual apathy she saw in the church. Four years after being filled with the Spirit, she received the most dramatic vision of her life, and, like the prophetess Anna, she longed for its fulfillment.
While she was spending the night in a church in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Pickett saw a hydroelectric power plant being built by crews of laborers. It was surrounded by gates and connected to dammed-up rivers, representing streams of church tradition.
Pickett said that there will be a last-days awakening, in which God's river of truth will again plow through the mechanisms of the derelict power plant, releasing revival in the nation and around the world.
It's been nearly 40 years since Pickett saw the vision, but she held to its reality. "We are coming to the last session," she said. "God is digging out the reservoirs, filling them with His Word, connecting people who are hungry."
THE STATE OF TEACHING
As she looked at the current church culture, Pickett was both encouraged and concerned. "There seems to be a hunger for what God said rather than what so-and-so said," she said. "This hunger will bring in the presence of God. But if you're not hungry, you won't eat."
In order for true renewal to come, Pickett contended that the church has to be cleansed of denominationalism, culture and prejudice. "We're fighting over a lot of doctrinal nonessentials--man's opinions, like how to have church," she said. "Denominational lines can come down, and we can focus on what we agree on for the sake of relationship."
Pickett cautioned against minimalizing the importance of the Teacher--the Holy Spirit, that is. "He is the unveiler of the teaching," she said. "If we walk with Him, He'll talk to us and lead us beyond just what we're hearing or reading. The Holy Spirit is the Teacher, but the gift of God given to the church is the teaching."
In her last days, Pickett was still exploring challenging books of the Bible--but not the ones most consider difficult. "Ephesians," she says. "It's one of the books of hunger. In other words, it gives insight and provokes hunger, a book to the mature."
She also hinted that she would soon leave this world. In fall 2003, she told a congregation in Lavergne, Tennessee, that she "wouldn't be coming back."
Sue Curran, who pastors Shekinah Church, the Blountville, Tennessee, congregation attended by Pickett since 1988, visited the teacher shortly before her death. "During my last conversation with her, she was desirous to live as long as the Lord wanted her to," Curran says. "Our church prayed to that end."
As she grew older, Pickett had lost the physical strength of her younger years but none of the passion and good humor. An interviewer once asked her how old she was. "Age is a number, Honey," she replied with a smile. "Mine is unlisted."
Although failing health prevented her from maintaining her rigorous speaking schedule, Pickett continued to address the Scriptures with this childlike faith and a sense of mystery, sharing her wisdom with Christian leaders who came to her for insight.
It was always hard to get Pickett to talk about herself, but you never had to look very hard to find someone who was willing to sing her praises. One of her closest earthly friends was charismatic Bible teacher Judson Cornwall, who had known her since 1961 when she came to his church in Eugene, Oregon.
"Her insight into the Scriptures was phenomenal," says Cornwall, 79. "The life that was in her seemed to be available to all who would listen with spiritual ears."
Cornwall attributed Pickett's gifting to an intimate relationship with God. "You had the sense that she heard from the Holy Spirit in her prayer closet, and I happen to know that she had," he says.
Still, Pickett always realized who really deserved the praise. "It's all about knowing who I am in contrast to who He is. It takes your pride down a number of notches," she said. "The praise that I receive doesn't belong to me. I just pass it on to Him--thank Him for it. I'm only the keeper and steward of knowledge--a trusted servant to handle the truth."
Fuchsia Pickett's books enjoy revived interest
Fuchsia Pickett's writings and teachings continue to enjoy a broad audience, as people seek to gain insight and encouragement from books such as Receiving Divine Revelation, Stones of Remembrance and The Next Move of God.
Shortly before her death, a new series of books was released, a compilation of her hallmark writings on spirituality. Repackaged in hard-bound collector's editions, the six volumes are a tribute to Pickett's life and teachings. Here are some highlights:
Five Laws of the Dying Seed: Discover the Secret to a Fruitful Life
"Resurrection life comes out of losing our lives. Jesus wanted us to understand that out of death comes life and that without death there is no life. His message focused on the antithesis of death--resurrection life that would glorify God alone. Yet, it underscored the necessity of death, a spiritual law that we must embrace if we are to become fruitful in the kingdom of God."
God's Purpose for You: Answer Life's Five Key Questions
"Many charismatic teachers deny the need for suffering. They have taught us to rebuke everything the cross brought, to confess that we don't have to endure anything that hurts or cuts away at our 'self' lives. They don't want to talk about the fourth baptism. We speak eagerly of the baptism into the body of Christ, water baptism and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The fourth baptism, baptism of suffering, however, is not as readily taught. We don't want to suffer."
Possess Your Promised Land: Learn to Defeat Your Hidden Enemies.
"Even God's miracles, like the manna He fed His people daily in the wilderness, have the larger purpose of humbling us to teach us the reality of our dependency on our relationship with God. He tests us to see if we will obey His commandments, knowing that only if we do can we inherit our promised land.
To purchase these and the other three books in this series (Understanding the Personality of the Holy Spirit, Walking in the Anointing of the Holy Spirit and Cultivating the Gifts & Fruit of the Holy Spirit), visit www.charismahouse.com, or call 1-800-599-5750.
Matthew Green is associate editor for Ministries Today. He was assisted by Carol Noe, who conducted this final interview with Fuchsia Pickett. read more
A divorce of the Word and the Spirit in the church has resulted in 'fast-food' teaching and preaching--often tasty, but seldom healthful.
There's been a silent divorce in the church--not between a man and a woman, but between the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
As with any divorce, sometimes the children stay with the mother, and sometimes they stay with the father. In this divorce, some have embraced the Spirit and others the Word. However, I believe that our teaching and preaching will only be effective if it is firmly grounded in the Word of God and entirely saturated with the Spirit of God.
What is the difference? Those on the "Word" side emphasize sound doctrine, expository preaching, contending for the faith. "We need to get back to the teaching of the Reformation," they say, "to rediscover the doctrine of justification by faith, the sovereignty of God and to know the God of Jonathan Edwards."
Those on the "Spirit" side emphasize the prophetic word, signs, wonders, miracles and the power demonstrated in the book of Acts. "Until we see that dimension of the Spirit that is seen in the early church--with all the gifts of the Spirit in operation--the honor of God's name will not be restored, nor will the world take any real notice of the church," these people say.
It is not one or the other that is needed, but both. This simultaneous combination will result in spontaneous combustion. It is only then that the revival for which we pray and another Great Awakening, which is sorely needed, will take place.
VALUING THE WORD
In the Old Testament, God has revealed Himself in essentially two ways: His Word and His name. His Word is the infallible expression of who He is and what He declares to be true. His Word is His integrity put on the line. His name reveals His identity, His power and His reputation.
When I teach, I sometimes ask people to vote for which, in their opinion, is the more important of the two to God Himself: His Word or His name? In my experience, most people believe that God's name is more important to Him than His Word.
The answer is actually provided by David in Psalm 138:2: "Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (KJV).
Why? First, His Word came prior to the disclosure of His name. It was His Word that spoke creation into existence (see Gen. 1:3), and it was the way He revealed Himself to the patriarchs. This is evident in His words to Moses: "'I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord [Yahweh] I did not make myself known to them'" (Ex. 6:3, NIV).
Similarly, the disclosure of God's name in Exodus 3:14 was almost immediately followed by signs, wonders and miracles. With the possible exception of the birth of Isaac, supernatural events were largely withheld from the patriarchs until the era of Moses' ministry (his rod turning into a serpent, the plagues on Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea and the provision of manna).
Second, God's Word is to be magnified above His name because the Word is an integral part of the plan of salvation. We are saved in precisely the same way Abraham was saved: by believing God's promise--His Word. In fact, Abraham became Paul's chief example of justification by faith.
Abraham's justification occurred long before the signs and wonders that he experienced (the provision of a son and a sacrificial ram). Instead, Abraham was justified when he placed faith in the promises of God (see Gen. 15:6). Ultimately, we are not saved by signs and wonders but by believing the Word--the promise. That, in a word, is the gospel.
And yet a third--and deeper--reason for God's exaltation of His Word above His name may be that we might get to know God for who He is in Himself. This takes time. It means devouring His Word--the Scriptures--just in order to know Him.
If you want to know God, it is required that you spend time with Him alone in prayer and spend time in His Word--not just to see what will "preach" or "teach" or give you a quick sense of direction.
A recent poll of pastors, church leaders and clergymen on both sides of the Atlantic revealed that the average church leader spends 4 minutes a day in quiet time and personal devotions. And we wonder why the church is powerless?
Martin Luther wrote in his journal, "I have a very busy day today; must spend not two, but three, hours in prayer." John Wesley was on his knees every day at 4 a.m. for two hours. But where are the Wesleys and Luthers?
We are all too busy, so getting to know God for His own sake has less appeal nowadays. We prefer the quick prophetic word to personal wrestling with Him in prayer and intercession--and devouring His Word as it is revealed in Scripture.
I recently watched a religious program on television, which began something like this: "You will be glad you stayed tuned because we have a word--a rhema for you!"
That is what we all seem to want, myself included. Rhema is a biblical word--used 70 times in the New Testament--sometimes indicating what is prophetic, personal and immediate. For this reason, many prefer the prophetic word to the expository word that emerges in preaching and teaching.
Sometimes I think that a preoccupation with the rhema word rather than the written Word is like going to McDonald's or Burger King: quick, fast food which makes us flabby, but not very healthful.
KNOWING THE AUTHOR
One of my predecessors at Westminster Chapel, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, has published many books of sermons. He graciously made himself available to me during the first four years I was at Westminster Chapel. There were two ways of learning from him: reading his books and asking him questions.
Most people did not have the latter privilege as I did. But the way I showed the most respect and appreciation for this man was to have read his books first before asking him his view about this or that verse in the Bible. To talk with him was like getting his rhema word, but to read his books is what truly enabled me to know him.
God is gracious to us, too. He understands how we want--and sometimes need--a word fitly spoken in a time of stress. "He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14). But to those who sit at His feet and learn of Him, the reward is incalculable.
Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would remind them of what He had taught them (see John 14:26). I suspect the disciples often thought, Will I remember this? when they were hearing Him teach or give a parable. The problem is, if we haven't learned anything, there will be nothing in our heads to be reminded of!
If you are empty-headed when you receive the laying on of hands, you will be empty-headed when you get off the floor! It is the promise of the Holy Spirit that should motivate us to receive good teaching, give good teaching and memorize scripture verses (an art that has almost perished from the earth). The coming of the Holy Spirit in power makes the discipline of receiving teaching, memorizing Scripture and wrestling with His Word all worthwhile.
A few years ago the late John Wimber invited me to have a meal with him in London. The same day I was to meet him the Spirit gave me a word for him. It made me a little nervous. In fact, I did not eat when I sat with him and his wife, Carol, that evening.
I waited for the right moment to say, "I have a word for you." He looked at me and said, "Shoot." I did.
"John, when I heard you speak at Royal Albert Hall on Monday evening I agreed with what you said," I began.
I then reminded him of his own words: "Luther and Calvin gave us the Word in the 16th century, but God wants us to do the works in the 20th century." He agreed that is what he said.
"John," I said with some fear and trembling, "you are teaching Pharaohs who knew not Joseph. In other words, people in the 20th century don't know the Word to begin with."
He dropped his knife and fork, pointed to his chest and said, "You have just touched in the very vortex of where I am." He went on to say, "I receive your word."
A clear understanding of the gospel should be prior to the prophetic word or signs and wonders. I wish it were not the case, but most people cannot write in a sentence--much less a paragraph--what justification by faith means. Some ministers and church leaders would have the same problem.
And, yet, it is also true that the Word alone is not enough. There are those who have the purest theology on the planet who are--as Lloyd-Jones used to say--"Perfectly orthodox, perfectly useless."
That is why the Word must be joined by the Spirit. When Paul said that his gospel came not in word only, he implied that it could have been that way. But he was able to say that it came also with power (see 1 Thess. 1:5). I fear that too much of my own preaching and teaching have been simply with words.
That is not good enough. We need the Spirit to produce the power that not only applies the Word effectually, but also which accompanies the Word with what is unmistakably supernatural. Then--and only then--will we see the world turned upside down.
ISHMAEL OR ISAAC?
One way I have described the relationship of the emphases of the Spirit and the Word is the relationship between Ishmael and Isaac.
So obsessed was he with making God's promises come to pass, Abraham took matters into his own hands and impregnated his servant, Hagar. Abraham believed that Ishmael was to be the promised son, but he was wrong.
Then came the wonderful news: Sarah was pregnant. But was this good news for Abraham? He now had to completely adjust to the idea of Ishmael not being the promised son. The thought of Sarah being pregnant was not only laughable, but disrupting.
It is my view that what we have largely seen in the church up until now is Ishmael. God had a definite plan for Ishmael--and it is my own opinion that we have hardly begun to see what God had in mind.
And, yet, Ishmael, though loved by Abraham, was not what God ultimately had in mind. God had Isaac in mind from the beginning but waited a good while before he revealed this.
God declared that His covenant would be established with Isaac--an "everlasting covenant" (see Gen. 17:19). Through Isaac, Abraham would be "heir of the world" and a father "of many nations" (see Rom. 4:13,17).
Ishmael represents what those on both the Word side and the Spirit side have understood as the ultimate promise of what God wants to do.
Those on the Word side tend to see sound doctrine and faithful expository preaching as being "as good as it gets." Those on the Spirit side tend to see the movement of the Spirit in Pentecostal and charismatic circles of the last century as being "as good as it gets."
I believe that both perspectives are wrong. Isaac is coming. He is being birthed as you read these lines. Moreover, the promise concerning the spontaneous combustion of the Word and the Spirit will be in proportion to the original promise about Isaac--far greater than the one regarding Ishmael.
For the Word without the Spirit and the Spirit without the Word--though achieving a lot--hardly compare with what is coming when the two are joined once again. It is then that the ministers of God will stand where no one has stood since the days of the early church.
This message probably offends some. It offended Abraham when he first heard it. "Word" people may say, "Are you telling us we don't have a place for the Holy Spirit?" I would answer that most evangelicals have a "soteriological" doctrine of the Spirit (the Spirit applies the Word but does not manifest Himself immediately and directly).
Spirit people may say, "Are you telling us we don't preach the Word?" I would answer that too many charismatics and Pentecostals stress the rhema of the prophetic but often seem utterly bored with the logos of expository preaching.
I humbly plead with you to consider these lines. Would you not agree that we need more than what we have at the moment? The world is going to hell, taking almost no notice of the church, and we delude ourselves if we say that what we have is "as good as it gets."
There is more. Let us fall to our knees and look to heaven with the Bible in one hand and the other reaching out to all God will give us. And it just may be that He will look down on us with pity and bless us. The result will be that both sound theology and the supernatural be re-wed in our time.
R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. Educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Oxford University, Kendall is the author of more than 30 books, including the best seller Total Forgiveness (Charisma House). He lives with his wife, Louise, in Key Largo, Florida. read more
The biblical rite of ordination serves to communicate the responsibility and spiritual authority entrusted to the fivefold ministries.
The divine call always precedes the human call. But how should we recognize and commission those in our midst who demonstrate God's direction and anointing for lives of ministry?
The New Testament offers practical models for appointing leaders to equip and advance the church. More than a mindless ritual, the biblical rite of ordination serves to communicate the responsibility and spiritual authority entrusted to the fivefold ministries.
In the New Testament, Jesus is described as "appointed" (see Heb. 3:2, NKJV). In turn, Jesus appointed 12 disciples (see Mark 3:14-15) and, later, chose 70 others (see Luke 10:1).
Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus said to His apostles, "'You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit'" (John 15:16). In all of these cases, the appointment (or ordination in the KJV) was both the setting apart and giving authority to perform some special ministry.
Paul speaks of himself as appointed by Christ (see Acts 26:16; 1 Tim. 2:7), but his ordination was mediated through the laying on of hands by Ananias, who was told by the Lord to go to Paul, "'for he is a chosen vessel of Mine'" (Acts 9:15). After Ananias laid his hands on him (see v. 17), Paul was as ordained for his ministry as any of the other apostles.
Next, we observe that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in the churches where they had been ministering: "So when they ... appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed" (Acts 14:23). Titus was asked by Paul to do the same thing in Crete (see Titus 1:5).
IMPARTATION OF CHARISMA
One of the clearest descriptions of ordination is found in 1 Timothy 4:14, where Paul warns the young preacher, "Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership." Although the word "appointed" or "ordination" is not used regarding Timothy here, this seems clearly to be his "ordination." Let us observe several points.
First, there was the impartation of a "special gift," or charisma. A charisma is a gift of grace, not a natural talent or achievement. What then was its nature? The answer seems clearly to be the gift of preaching and teaching. For immediately prior to the admonition "do not neglect the gift," Paul said, "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching" (1 Tim. 4:13, NIV).
The office of ministry of the Word is a gift of God's grace. A person may surely prepare for it--indeed there could be years of preparation--but ultimately the office comes as a gift of grace. This means that there can be no claim to have earned it or merited it: it is wholly the gracious gift of God.
Second, the gift was bestowed on Timothy through prophetic utterance. Such utterance was doubtless inspired by the Holy Spirit and occurred while Timothy was being ordained.
A significant parallel to this event may be found in the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas for missionary work (see Acts 13:1-3). It was not that Paul and Barnabas were unaware of the call on their lives, but this was the moment when through prophecy, the Holy Spirit commissioned them for their upcoming work.
There seems to have been more than one prophecy in Timothy's case. Earlier in his letter to Timothy, Paul writes, "This command [or charge] I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience" (1 Tim. 1:18-19, NASB).
These prophecies in all likelihood refer to the occasion of Timothy's ordination when there was prophetic utterance. The prophecies at that time were of such significance that Paul could call them to Timothy's remembrance as background for the charge he was delivering to him.
Now let us try to view more clearly the scene at Timothy's ordination. Probably, as in the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas, there was worshiping and fasting. If so, this could have meant some extended time of preparation by both Timothy and those who were present to ordain him.
Then, when the moment came for the "setting apart" to occur, various prophecies came forth. They may have included words relating to the responsibilities in Ephesus that Paul was later to assign him.
In his second letter to Timothy, just after speaking again about the "gift [charisma] of God" that was in Timothy, Paul adds, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim.1:7, NKJV). Perhaps prophetic utterance reminded Timothy at his ordination that, whatever his natural inclinations, God's would be manifest in these various graces of the Holy Spirit: power, love and a sound mind.
All of this has much relevance for us today. At the ordination of a minister there should be opportunity for prophetic utterance. There may be preparation through prayer and fasting, perhaps also a solemn charge to the candidate, but when the actual moment of ordination is at hand, prophecies may be freely given.
It is through prophecy that God speaks directly in human words. For the one being ordained, such words can have memorable significance for years to come. Many churches have almost totally overlooked, or looked down upon, prophesying and have allowed other ordination procedures to take its place. How much we need to recover the vital significance of prophetic utterance that Paul and Timothy knew and experienced.
Third, the climactic moment in ordination was the laying on of hands by the body of elders, who essentially acted as a unit.
Paul apparently functioned alongside the elders in laying hands on Timothy, for he says in 2 Timothy 1:6: "I remind you to stir up the gift [charisma] of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands."
Paul by no means suggests that Timothy's ordination required his apostolic authority and presence, because he makes no reference to himself in 1 Timothy 4:14. It was the local body of elders who did the ordaining. Timothy was ordained "with the laying on of the hands of the eldership." To sum up: his ordination occurred through and with the laying on of hands.
It is important to recognize the importance of the laying on of hands. In both accounts of Timothy's ordination, the laying on of hands is stated. Prophecy is not mentioned by Paul in referring to his own participation, as if to say that while prophecies are indeed valuable, the critical action is the imposition of hands. Prophetic utterance assured Timothy of his call to the ministry of the Word, but it was by the laying on of hands that Timothy was placed in office.
We may ask, "Did the laying on of hands automatically convey the gift of ministerial office to Timothy?" The answer must be no. Three other factors need to be kept in mind as well.
Life of faith: For a valid ordination to occur, the candidate must be an individual of sincere faith. Without such faith the whole procedure is null and void. Timothy was a man of genuine faith.
Before Paul wrote to Timothy about stirring up the gift of God that was in him through the laying on of Paul's hands, he wrote the words, " ... I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also" (2 Tim. 1:5).
A "genuine" faith dwelling in Timothy was the human context for the charisma of special ministry to be received. Recall that the statements in both 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 speak of the charismatic gift as being "in" Timothy. Because Timothy was a man of sincere inward faith, the gift could likewise be received within.
Body of elders: Second, there was the activity of a valid ordaining body, namely the elders of the church. The elders themselves had been ordained to office, and because of this they could convey the gift of special ministry to others. While the presence of the congregation is important because it is the members whom the ordained will serve, they do not participate in the laying on of hands. It is the body of elders that has this particular responsibility.
Presence of the Holy Spirit: Third, there was the all-important operation of the Holy Spirit. While prayer and fasting may be needed for requesting God's grace in the Holy Spirit to be manifest, we must recognize throughout that the Holy Spirit alone can confer the spiritual gift that makes ordination a valid and living experience.
That prophetic utterance occurred was in itself evidence of the Spirit's presence, for prophecy is one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas the Spirit spoke through prophecy; doubtless the same thing occurred in Timothy's ordination.
The critical matter was not so much prophetic utterance itself but what it implied--that the Holy Spirit was Himself actively on the scene. The ultimate validation of Timothy's ordination was the presence and the power of the Spirit.
Let us note three additional points: First, while ordination occurs within the setting of a local church, and the one being ordained is usually installed there as minister of the Word, the ordination is at the same time an action of and for the whole church of Jesus Christ.
Thus he becomes an ordained minister of the Word to serve the whole body of Jesus Christ. Timothy himself may have been ordained earlier in his home church at Lystra (see Acts 16:1), but he is called by Paul later to serve the church in Ephesus.
Second, in ordination a real conferring of grace occurs. It is a charisma "gift given" (see 1 Tim. 4:14), namely, a gift for teaching, or ministering the Word.
Third, there is no need for further ordination. If it has been a valid ordination, repetition is unwarranted and unnecessary. Ordination is for one's whole future ministry in the church.
STIRRING UP THE GIFT
There is, however, the possibility of neglecting this gift of ministry. Paul writes, as we have noted, "Do not neglect the gift that is in you." Then he adds, "Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them ... " (1 Tim. 4:15).
The ministerial office, while a definite gift from God, is no guarantee of automatic success. Rather it is an office of high and sober responsibility that needs constant diligence and unremitting devotion. Neglect can--and often unfortunately does--happen, to the great detriment of both the minister of the gospel and his people.
A stirring up of the gift may be needed. Even to Timothy, a man with rich indwelling faith, Paul felt constrained to write, "I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Tim. 1:6). Timothy had received the gift several years before, but now it needed to be freshly stirred up and fanned into flame. The gift was not gone, but it was like embers burning low that needed to be rekindled into a fresh flame of ardor and zeal for Christ's high calling.
Paul's words are surely relevant to many ordained ministers today who may feel that they are accomplishing little for the kingdom and wonder if their ordinations mean anything. Paul's word is very timely: "The gift is in you"; you need only to "stir up the gift," the charismatic fire. Truly, the challenge of ordained ministry of the gospel can shine with renewed brightness and zeal.
J. Rodman Williams, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of theology at Regent University Divinity School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. An author of several books, Williams has served as a pastor, and a college and seminary professor. He is married and has three children. read more
He has the heart of a pastor, the affability of a high school quarterback and the guts of a heavyweight boxer. Here's how pastor Scott Hagan is striking a blow to racism--not with his bare fists, but by 'loving without limitation.'
Michigan pastor Scott Hagan has already made plans for August 14, 2032. That night, Hagan and his wife, Karen, plan to gather with their children and their spouses--and their grandchildren--to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
"If this comes to pass," laughs Hagan, who is only 40, "it means a lot of things went right in life."
That's the first thing you learn when you meet Hagan: The man dreams big--and talks big. He puts his money where his mouth is.
Several years ago, Hagan, author of They Walked With the Savior, sensed God calling him away from sunny California to Grand Rapids First Assembly of God. The result? He is bringing healing to one of the nation's oldest wounds: one that politics, ultimately, cannot heal: racism.
"A politician doesn't know how to heal it," Hagan explains. "All they can do is compensate for it with a system. Churches, we're the healers of the heart. The pastor, the people who speak prophetically, we're the only ones who can really bring the message of transformation."
Hagan has seen walls of denominational and racial division breaking down in Grand Rapids. Pastors are meeting for prayer and fellowship, holding joint services and assertively reaching out to their community.
Churches working together to build greater unity in their cities is nothing new. But Grand Rapids is no ordinary city.
"Evangelical Christianity is to Grand Rapids what Mormonism is to Salt Lake City," he says. The city of 200,000 houses some of the nation's largest Christian publishers, including Baker Book House, Eerdmans and Zondervan, a leading producer of Bibles, including the widely read New International Version. Locals say Grand Rapids has been called "Little Jerusalem" because of the influence its publishing houses have had on the broader body of Christ.
It was in Grand Rapids in 1947 during a General Council meeting that the Assemblies of God made an infamous decision against the ordination and inclusion of African Americans into the denomination.
Hagan is quick to point out that the Assemblies is now "bold" and "courageous" in its approach to racial reconciliation. But, he explains, "When you go back and read through the minutes of that General Council, it was very, very painful and difficult to see."
He adds: "When I read about this decision to exclude African Americans, Grand Rapids became a city of spiritual significance for me personally. I felt this spiritual awakening and this confirmation that the Lord wanted to do something very special, specifically in the area of inclusion and belonging in this city."
A SHEEP IN SHEPHERD'S CLOTHING
Raised in Seattle, Hagan describes himself as "a sheep who for several years has doubled as a shepherd."
Four years ago, Hagan was in Sacramento, California, leading a thriving church with more than half of its members nonwhite. Then, the Lord led him and his wife, Karen, to leave their California oasis for Grand Rapids First when former pastor Wayne Benson retired from the church.
"Only the voice of God could have taken us away from [the Sacramento suburb of] Elk Grove," Hagan says.
Harvest Church was the couple's first church plant, a ministry that Hagan wanted to reflect Revelation 7, where people of every tribe would gather together in worship. He took special pains, crafting letterhead that portrayed people of every ethnicity even before the church began.
"We wanted everything we had to say, 'This is the church we want to head toward,'" Hagan says. "'We have no idea how to get there, we have no idea what the bumps will be, but this is where we want to head.'"
For Hagan, the process began by developing friendships with people of color who visited the church. "I made a point to have dinner with them right away and stated my heart to them," he says. "I said: 'This is what God has put in my heart, will you help me? I need your help. I need you in my life. Would you teach me?' And whenever I would say this, this feeling would come over people like, yeah, this is right."
Naturally, he says, people of color rose into leadership, and in eight years it grew to 1,500 members. The ministry planted seven daughter churches, and Hagan became area presbyter for the Sacramento region, overseeing about 25 churches. He says he was happy and content.
Then the Hagans received a call from Grand Rapids. "We really felt God wanted to do something fresh," Hagan says. It didn't hurt any that during a prayer meeting the night before he received the call, someone prophesied to him that God had a big assignment for him.
Two thousand miles away, the prominent Assemblies of God congregation in Michigan was in the wake of a four-year revival led by evangelist Stan Rijfkogel of Memphis, Tennessee. "We saw thousands saved, and the lives of members transformed ... but the underlying, deep invisible work of God was preparing the church for change," says former pastor Wayne Benson. "That word 'change' became a theme during the revival."
After the revival, the church was hungry for racial diversity in its membership. The ministry even hosted racial sensitivity training to prepare.
Enter Scott Hagan, with his passion to "love without limitation."
"I am convinced theologically this is the heart of Jesus," Hagan says. "When I look at His life, when I look at the Word of God, this isn't a thing He's showing the church. This is who Jesus was. It should have been this way all along.
"You could fire me over one of these issues because I would have to give up what I believe is the heart of Jesus, which is to love without limitation."
Change didn't come without a cost. Hagan changed the church's worship style, incorporating a multicultural worship team and gospel choir. He canceled Sunday evening services for cell groups, and he opened a coffeehouse.
Hagan describes the adjustment as "spiritually and emotionally difficult." He says the church's lack of diversity was a reflection of the stratification in the broader community. Upon his arrival, he had four initial goals: to see the church make a clear, prophetic declaration that they were moving in the direction of unity; to initiate lunches with 100 local pastors; to teach a series titled "The Cross of Many Colors"; and to hire minority staff from outside the community as positions became available.
Now two years on, 10 percent of the church's members are people of color. Michael Daniels, who is African American and has been a member for 15 years, says he has become more involved in the ministry now that it has stronger outreach efforts into low-income and inner-city communities, and he says he feels more connected to his church family.
Helping people from diverse and sometimes divided backgrounds has been one of Hagan's critical challenges, both in Elk Grove and in Grand Rapids. But Hagan has the affability of a high school quarterback (though at 6 feet 3 inches tall he played college basketball) and a disarming charm.
His relational style has helped foster fellowship among local pastors from various denominational backgrounds and helped move them beyond cultural differences.
"Ninety percent of your life is common; culture is like the outer 10 percent," Hagan says. "... The differences are simply ... the bow on the package. The gift inside, the content, is still the same."
Hagan can easily rattle off statistics showing income and educational disparities between whites and nonwhites, he can put African Americans' spirituality and Democratic political leanings in historical perspective, and he can even sit through a meeting with civil rights activist Al Sharpton and understand his point of view.
But Hagan says the process wasn't easy. He read history books, watched documentaries--and listened carefully to two close African American friends.
He notes, "At the turn of the 20th century, the body of Christ experienced our most historic and revered modern revival, Azusa Street. For nearly three years Azusa Street bloodied the lip of racial prejudice that saturated post-slavery America. But the work was never fully completed."
Hagan says that almost no discernable change has occurred in the 97 years since Azusa Street. "Our cities remain socially and spiritually bankrupt while denominations lob their lifeless messages of reconciliation from behind their safe cultural walls. There are many friendly churches in America, but we lack the desire and mechanisms to aggressively heal the collateral pain of many Americans."
Area pastors say Hagan has served as a catalyst to help get ministers from diverse cultures and denominations fellowshipping together. Says pastor Wayne Schmidt of Kentwood Community Church in Grand Rapids, a Wesleyan congregation. "You tend to reach people like yourself most easily and effectively. The problem with that is that it doesn't look like heaven. Pastors are rethinking the way they do church."
"I thank God for bringing Scott into the community to be a catalyst," Schmidt says. "This is not going to be done with an event. It's not going to be something that's not met with skepticism. But there needs to be a group that will persevere."
For African American pastors, deeds have been more meaningful than words. Hagan endeared many to him when he became the only white pastor to participate in a prayer meeting targeting the city's attempt to quash efforts to name a local street after civil rights hero Rosa Parks. He later was the first white pastor to host a service honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
But, Hagan admits his own learning curve was "personally very humiliating." He says he's made insensitive comments--as recently as last year--and though he can't explain why, he says several years ago he opposed interracial marriage--but only between blacks and whites.
"It was an irrational, emotional reaction that I had," Hagan says. "When I stepped back intellectually and looked at it, I said, 'There's no justifiable position for what I'm thinking here, so why am I so emotionally connected to this, and why am I reacting to it?' That had to completely work itself out of my system."
Following Hagan's transparent example, longtime Grand Rapids First members Marilyn and Ron Wierenga, who are both in their 60s, say their views of other cultures have changed as they developed friendships across racial lines.
"Our parents, we knew they had some strong stereotypes," Marilyn told Ministries Today. "They thought they were doing better than their parents. We thought we were doing better than our parents. You think you're not prejudiced. I wanted [nonwhites] to have the same things we had. But it really falls short because you don't develop relationships."
REMEMBER THE TITANS?
The picture in Grand Rapids is beginning to remind Hagan of his favorite movie, Remember the Titans. "[The film] showed the joy of that reconciliation and the feeling of victory, that feeling of triumph when we get past those man-made walls," he says.
The two coaches--one black, one white--"have these moments of awareness, where the lights went on about their own internal stereotypes. They realized that the way they had been raised, the things they had thought, things they had promoted were not true. Seeing people come into the light like that is just tremendous."
Those "aha" moments are what keep Hagan motivated, and they serve as one of the tools he uses to measure his effectiveness in ministry. "When you continue to touch one life at a time, it's like tiny little tributaries and trickles that come down a mountain and form into a little creek, then a stream that fills up into a river. All these little victories along the way are going to form a change in our society and a change in the church. You gotta believe that, one life at a time."
Walking With the Savior
Scott Hagan is pouring his passion for God's people into a new series of books. His message: There are no 'minor players' in His kingdom.
Pastor-turned-author Scott Hagan likes to read between the lines.
In his new book, They Walked With the Savior, Hagan writes about minor players in the Bible who came face to face with Jesus and accepted major roles in God's kingdom. In the process, he helps readers to draw closer to Christ and helps them plug into His eternal purpose for their lives.
Christians often think of themselves as a gift to those that don't know God. But many times it's the other way around, says Hagan, who observes that non-Christians can help believers by "showing us how far we have drifted [in our faith]."
The lost "have a way of bringing out the spiritual weakness in all of us, especially on their turf," Hagan writes in They Walked With the Savior. "Sure, it's one thing to be bold in the church lobby. There are lots of spiritual giants in a church lobby. It's safe turf and the numbers are on their side."
When Christians encounter an unbeliever, the non-Christian searching for answers "[gets] someone who hasn't prayed in months. Or they need someone to stand up and be courageous, but instead they get a blank stare from someone gripped by fear."
Yet that realization can drive Christians back to Jesus to renew their relationship, Hagan says in reflecting on the story of Peter's betrayal of Christ. The servant girl who asked Peter whether he knew Jesus--prompting the disciple to deny that he did--"made him feel empty and in need by her words," Hagan says.
In one of a series of reflections on people mentioned only briefly in the Bible, Hagan speculates that the girl's question may have come from curiosity about Jesus. "Maybe she was like most of the world to come, caught somewhere between the facts and fictions of faith," he writes. "Maybe she was trying to find someone with an answer. Instead she found someone without a spine."
Along with the servant girl, Hagan finds faith lessons in 19 other biblical encounters with Jesus, including Simon of Cyrene, Martha, Bartimaeus, the Samaritan woman and the boy whose lunch was multiplied to feed thousands of people. Charisma editor J. Lee Grady says that "more than just describing the lives of these minor characters, Scott unfolds their lives and their stories so that we can uncover hidden meaning in the words of Scripture."
Hagan blends his thoughts on the different encounters with personal stories and observations--among them the day a change machine's rejection of his dollar bill because of its bent corners caused him to wonder about Christians who fear they will be turned away from heaven because of their imperfections.
Published by Charisma House, which like Ministries Today is a part of Strang Communications, They Walked With the Savior is the first in a trilogy in which Hagan shares different lessons from the Bible's large "supporting cast." For more information, visit charismawarehouse.com or call (800) 599-5750. Read a sample chapter at www.ministriestoday.com.
The Cross of Many Colors
Seven practical steps any pastor can take to break down the walls of racism that keep people in our communities--and churches--apart. By: Scott Hagan
1. It begins with celebration, not toleration. Most people can tell immediately when they are being tolerated. Heartfelt enthusiasm for people and their stories goes a long way when it comes to modeling the love of Jesus.
Discrimination is denying someone the right to have. Segregation is denying someone the right to belong. Jesus didn't die so we could have things; He died so we could belong. Communicating that sense of belonging is the responsibility of pastors and the church.
2. It happens best in a house. Until we begin breaking bread with people who are different from us in our homes, we will not have reconciliatory breakthrough. Your home is your sanctuary far more than your church. Having someone in your home is worth more than a hundred meals at a restaurant.
3. Seek to understand. Passion flows like gravity. People in our churches feel dismissed from the journey when they see their own leader lacking a personal passion for reconciliation. We each need solid and safe relationships where we can ask someone from a different race or culture to help us understand. Three simple words can change our lives and communities: Help me understand.
4. Acknowledge the power of social conditioning. When Peter told the Lord three times that he wasn't interested in mingling with Gentiles, he was basically telling God that the power of his upbringing was stronger than the Holy Spirit in his life. It's vital that we recognize the power our upbringing has over God's ability to use us freely for His kingdom today.
5. Stop going out of your way not to reach people. To become a church that looks like heaven, the pastor must see color as the blessing, not the barrier.
Satan often tells the church it will take sacrifice to reach people. Actually, it is the opposite. We must go out of our way not to reach people. By avoiding places we fear and people who are different, we are essentially saying that the time it will take to reach out matters more to us than lost people. To experience the joy of oneness, we must pass through the needs before us and no longer avoid them.
6. Recognize that legalism and racism are the two major enemies of God's kingdom. When you look at the ministry of Jesus and the writings of Paul, there were always two major opponents to the kingdom: legalism and racism. Both stood like Goliaths joined at the hip, and those giants still mock the church today. The pastor of the local church has the exciting opportunity to live out the core message of redemption, which is reconciliation.
The local church must make certain that the injustice that keeps many of our children from the basic opportunities of food, clothing, shelter, education and opportunity are addressed. Why do we classify those things as "political" and not expressions of the same grace you and I received?
Most people are not prejudiced; they are ignorant. Even fewer are actually racist. But when prejudice or racism rears its ugly head, the pastor must bloody its lip.
For most of us who serve as pastors, if we had a deacon or elder living in adultery and we chose to sweep it under the carpet, it would cost us our ministries. Yet we allow racial pride to exist in our midst without a loving confrontation. May God renew the courage of the cross in our lives.
And may we see it as a colorful cross from this day forward.
Adrienne S. Gaines is news editor for Charisma magazine. read more
People sometimes fall into a 'performance mentality,' in which they become so busy doing good works for God that their hearts never really change. How can we encourage people to let God mold their hearts and be transformed by His power?
Ministries Today recently met with Juanita Bynum, author of the best-selling book Matters of the Heart, and asked her to share why allowing God to mold our hearts is so important, and how we as leaders can help others realize the benefit of submitting to His deep work in our lives.
Ministries Today: What prompted you to write your book Matters of the Heart?
Bynum: I was dealing with some issues in my life. When I pulled my car into my garage one day, the Lord just spoke to me, "You need a new heart." He began to show me areas about my personality that were not pleasing to Him. I began to rend my old heart, and I told God: "I want You to take this religious heart that I have. I want to give it to You, and I want to experience Your heart."
That's what initiated the writing of the book, though I didn't even know it was going to be a book. I was just processing something the Lord was ministering to me, and eventually He began to tell me, "I want you to write this."
Ministries Today: Was this a process or something you saw change overnight?
Bynum: When I asked God to give me a new heart, that was an instant thing that happened; I was in that car for hours. Immediately I began to see things about me change. Weeks came, and days went by, and with some of the things I would do, I would hear the Holy Spirit say: "Now, that right there is what I'm after. This right here is what you have to bring to Me in prayer." I can hear Him now really challenge my character in every area because I had received that new heart experience in that garage.
Ministries Today: The book has quickly become a best seller; it seems to have really struck a chord. Why has this message hit home with so many people?
Bynum: People really want to be sure they're not just having a church experience but a real experience with God. I think one of the things causing the book to sell is the fact that it is confrontational. It challenges you to stop and ask yourself, "Where is my relationship with the Lord?"
With 9/11 and the war, I think a lot of people now are starting to say: "Wait a minute. Am I really saved? Am I really where God wants me to be?"
Ministries Today: You encourage people to get a new heart. Can you explain what exactly that means?
Bynum: The Scripture says, "'Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh'" (Ezek. 11:19, NKJV). I'm only encouraging people to ask for what God promised to give us. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the "'heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.'"
Ministries Today: How could a pastor learn from this book?
Bynum: Make sure your heart is right with God. And preach to the congregation about their hearts.
Your heart betrays who you really are. You cannot, for example, go around the church, and give everybody a hug and a kiss, and tell everybody that you love everybody, and then go up to somebody you really don't like and though you just said, "I love you," on the inside the love of God has not really been birthed in you for that person.
Ministries Today: How could the body of Christ, more broadly, be changed by this message?
Bynum: When they embrace the heart of God, they will begin to see and feel about sin the way God feels about sin. We in Christendom have a dislike for the devil, a bad taste in our mouths to the point we don't want to sin, but we don't have a hatred for Satan.
Since I got this new heart experience, I'm beginning to hate the devil the way God hates him. I think when you begin to have this new heart experience, you will begin to feel what God feels. You will begin to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
Ministries Today: What do you feel God is saying to leaders in this hour?
Bynum: Because of the hour we're living in, I believe the Lord is really trying to show some leaders that it's time now for them to stop majoring in minor things and minoring in major things. The major thing right now is that every leader has been given a responsibility to carry people in the spirit realm, and they have been assigned to a particular group of people. Their responsibility is to cultivate those people's lives to make them ready to stand before God in judgment, to hear Him say, "Well done."
Now is a very crucial time for every leader to preach the gospel to their people, to get them ready to walk in the Lord and meet the Lord. That's why I believe this book can become such a tool for leaders.
Ministries Today: What causes you the most concern when you look at what's going on with the body of Christ?
Bynum: My passion is to make sure the people of God are not having a church experience, but a God-relationship experience. A church experience doesn't cause your character to change. It doesn't provoke integrity. It doesn't provoke commitment. It doesn't provoke submission to God.
But a relationship with God will provoke a person to walk in integrity and character. My real concern is that the people of God would really begin to have a one-on-one relationship with the Lord.
Ministries Today: What gives you the most hope?
Bynum: In the natural sense, the fact that the book has sold so many copies in record time says to me there is a nation of people who not only have passion for real relationship, but who have relationship because they want it. There's a nation of people out there who have an appetite for this message, and that gives me hope. If enough leaders, preachers and evangelists begin to preach this kind of gospel, there's already a people out there who are waiting for it, who want it.
Ministries Today: About what do you think leadership should be most prayerful?
Bynum: There are so many things really, because you are a leader. I don't think you can pick one. But if I were to choose, one of the things a leader should be most prayerful about is that the word that he gets will be a timely word and received by those who have heard it, and that there will be an impartation that will provoke change.
Juanita Bynum is a sought-after speaker and author. Her new book, Matters of the Heart (Charisma House), is available at bookstores across the country or online at a special discount. Log on to www.charismahouse.com. read more
As every pastor knows, the root of many people's problems is unforgiveness. So we asked R.T. Kendall, best-selling author of Total Forgiveness, to tell us more about the power of forgiveness and how leaders can help others experience the freedom it can unleash. Ministries Today recently sat down with respected church leader and author R.T. Kendall to talk about forgiveness and the important message he shares in his book Total Forgiveness.
Ministries Today: What prompted you to write a book such as Total Forgiveness?
R.T. Kendall: My book was born in the darkest hour of my life. The story can never be told. But I did in fact share it with an old friend from Romania, Josif Tson. I did it thinking he would say to me, "You have a right to be angry; get it off your chest."
But instead he looked at me and said: "R.T., you must totally forgive them. Until you totally forgive them, you will be in chains. Release them and you will be released." Nobody had ever talked to me like that in my life. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend," Proverbs 27:6 says.
I once wrote a book called God Meant It for Good. One chapter in that book was titled "Total Forgiveness." The book Total Forgiveness is a detailed elaboration of that chapter and deals with every question I could think of.
Ministries Today: The book's message has really struck a chord. Jim Bakker even said that it not only changed his life, but also saved his life. Why has this message hit home with so many people, including church leaders?
Kendall: I think the answer is, we all have a story to tell--whether we are church leaders or have no profile whatsoever. We have all been hurt by someone.
In the case of Jim Bakker, he read God Meant It for Good, and the chapter called "Total Forgiveness" was partly what moved him. When you have spent time in prison over an injustice, you have a lot to be angry about. Jim instead chose to forgive--totally.
But apart from Jim, there is not a church leader under the sun who has not had his or her share of strained relationships in the church, marital tensions, people falling out with you, deacons not speaking to each other, being lied about--the list is endless. Church leaders have feelings too! And they, too, need to forgive.
God will not bend the rules for any of us. The funny thing is, most of our problems tend to be with those closest to us or even fellow Christians. As the saying goes, "Living with the saints above, O that will be glory; living with the saints below, well, that's another story."
Ministries Today: You use the term "total" forgiveness. What is that?
Kendall: First, it is the way God forgives us. The blood of Jesus Christ washes away all sin. God will not hold our sins against us. He will never bring them up. He will not allow us to feel guilty once we have confessed them and turned from them.
He will not let anyone know what He knows about us. He will not let us be afraid of Him. He will not allow us to feel guilty. He will let us save face; He protects us from our deepest secrets and fears and--best of all--He keeps on doing it!
Second, total forgiveness is forgiving ourselves. I deal with that in the book, too. It is not total forgiveness just to know we have been forgiven, but it is to forgive ourselves--the hardest thing of all for many of us.
Third, it means to forgive another person in such a manner that you absolutely do not hold it against him or her any longer; you will keep no record of wrongs; you let them off the hook and even ask God to let them off the hook! That is total forgiveness, it seems to me.
Ministries Today: How do you know if you have totally forgiven?
Kendall: You know you have totally forgiven when you stop reminding people about "what they did." Telling people what they did is our effort to punish those who hurt us. First John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear--and fear has to do with punishment. When we tell what they did, it is our way of punishing those people--so we look better, they look worse and will be discredited and not admired.
God doesn't like that. He won't tell what we did. He does not want us to tell what they did either. We therefore know we have totally forgiven when we stop talking about our hurt, refuse to let people be intimidated by us, and we will not let them feel guilty.
This means we do not wait for them to repent (nobody was repenting at the cross, and yet Jesus prayed that they be forgiven--Jesus, not the old covenant, should be our model). We let them save face. We know we have totally forgiven when the people who hurt us don't even find out it was a problem.
And, yet, perhaps, the most neglected thing of all is, we keep doing it. It is not enough to say, "I did it yesterday." I have to do it tomorrow. Day after tomorrow. Next week. Next year. Forever. Like God does.
Ministries Today: What can a pastor or church leader glean from this book on a personal level?
Kendall: That God does not bend the rules for us church leaders. We have to forgive just as those to whom we preach. Sometimes our hurts are very great indeed. But God won't let a single one of us off the hook. If anything, He is tougher on us, according to James 3:1-3.
Ministries Today: In what ways would this book's message be helpful to a pastor's congregation?
Kendall: It will increase his own anointing. It will set the Holy Spirit free to work ungrieved in the congregation.
It is my opinion that totally forgiving one another will bring us closer to true revival than 1,000 people engaging in a 40-day fast. Why? Because if there is bitterness in our hearts at the beginning of the 40-day fast, there will be bitterness afterward--if God does not somehow break through to us. I can almost guarantee this.
God is sovereign and can bring revival anytime and anywhere He may choose; but, generally speaking, a lot of praying and fasting will not compensate for bitterness in us.
Ministries Today: Give us an example of an instance in which you had to practice this message in your own life.
Kendall: I will never reveal names or details. All I can say is, it is probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I totally forgave those people. And guess what? I never told them! We never talked about it.
It has to happen in the heart. Don't ever go to people and say, "I forgive you for what you did." They will say, "What did I do?" And then you will say, "You surely know." They'll reply, "Well, I don't," and now you've got a fight on your hands. Most people you would have to forgive (even if you were to hook them up to a lie detector) sincerely do not think they have done anything wrong.
Ministries Today: What happens when a person chooses not to forgive?
Kendall: The consequences are horrible. The person grieves the Holy Spirit, loses anointing, risks becoming yesterday's man or woman, often develops health problems and stays moody and hard to live with.
Even many non-Christians are discovering the value of forgiving. It puts Christians to shame. The bitterness some choose to live with is always counter-productive, and the people who do not forgive will one day be very sorry.
Ministries Today: Is forgiveness a one-time thing or a process?
Kendall: It is both. You have to do it at a point in time, but you also do it in stages. You think you have done it and realize later you hadn't, and then you renew your forgiving spirit. The main thing: You have to keep on doing it.
Ministries Today: What would you say to encourage the pastor out there who is struggling and facing a tough time in ministry or has been wronged?
Kendall: You just described 99 percent of all church leaders. We have all struggled. We have all been hurt. Most of us have had our eras of bitterness. I did. And I still keep reading Luke 6:37 every day because I am tempted to point the finger. But, God won't allow it! So I read Luke 6:37 every day to remind me of the best way forward for a greater anointing.
Speaking personally, I would rather have a greater anointing than anything else in the world. Luke 6:37 promises this--by totally forgiving all who have hurt me, no matter what they did. And remember, God will not bend the rules for any of us.
R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is well-known internationally as a speaker and teacher and has written more than 30 books including Total Forgiveness (Charisma House). Log on to www.charismahouse.com. read more
Father of the faith Oral Roberts candidly shares from experience the principles he has learned through the years that have kept his ministry and personal life on track.
Solomon, the richest and most successful man ever to live, uses the term "meaningless" no fewer than 31 times as he laments about his life in the book of Ecclesiastes. For him the struggles of youth had brought great obedience and focus. But he allowed the success of maturity only to bring him great distraction and ruin. It is a powerful lesson to us to remain vigilant.
As we submit ourselves to the Lord, pursue Him with our whole heart and seek His guidance and wisdom, then we will succeed. But it is precisely at that moment of success that we will need to be the most submitted to the Lord and to our calling.
Pastor Randy and Maribel Landis are living proof that God can use ordinary people to shatter the racial, cultural and denominational barriers that typically divide the church.
At first glance, it looks like a picturesque postcard. Posing as America's little getaway, this town is complete with historical museums loaded with 17th-century European paintings and unique sculptures. In the spring, its tree-lined streets and cobblestone roads exude warmth and friendliness. In the winter, blankets of snow beckon children to play.
But Allentown, Pennsylvania, is anything but the typical, off-the-beaten path Small Town, USA. As thousands of travelers rush through Allentown's bustling Lehigh Valley International Airport, many of the city's 106,000 residents scurry to their daily routines.
Allentown boasts a multicultural society. Even Billy Joel, in his hit song, "Allentown," sang the city's praises. Allentonians pride themselves on their rich, ethnic diversity, and the thriving medical industry keeps the flourishing economy strong.
City life, however, isn't the only thing moving at warp speed in this place. People in search of a church moving in the Spirit head south on Airport Road and turn left on Union Boulevard. They proceed seven blocks and stop at the corner of Maxwell and East Cedar Street, arriving at Church on the Move (COTM).
COTM has spent years moving through the hearts of Christians and unbelie vers alike. While the ministry is building bridges of unity in the body of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, its message of hope draws people by the droves. The church motto frames its mission as "The Gathering Place" for the downtrodden, the disenfranchised and the wounded.
What seems to resound the loudest, however, is its heart for racial reconciliation among blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics and other ethnic groups. And no one knows this any better than the church's senior pastor, Randy Landis, and his wife, Maribel. As an interracial couple--he is white, and she is from the Dominican Republic--the Landises have sown seeds of unity in the hearts of their racially diverse congregants.
Randy and Maribel seek to model the love of Christ by precept and example. Randy reflects that his interracial marriage is just one of the reasons the ministry attracts the kind of people it does.
"It takes being very sensitive to the ethnic diversity and cultural differences that are among us," he says. "It is a great challenge to help others move from a position of tolerance to a position of acceptance while embracing our differences and celebrating them." Landis knows it is a process and that people go through the journey at their own pace.
Married for 15 years, the couple doesn't flaunt their distinction. Instead, they exemplify the biblical principle that marriage is symbolic of the church. As with other interracial marriages, it is not uncommon for this husband and wife ministry team to experience obstacles that are a direct result of their color. But they say it's a challenge they are willing to take on.
"God ordained marriage, and we know He is faithful to protects us," Maribel says. The couple is used to stares and whispers, but they have weathered people's comments and reactions well.
Conservatively speaking, 60 percent of COTM's members are people of color, and 40 percent are white. But something happens to people as they rush through the doors of the 11,000-square-foot sanctuary. With uplifted hands, they seek God together through Spirit-led worship and passionate praise, regardless of racial background.
Maybe that's why Tanya Brown finds it easy to come here. "I love this church because you can get totally lost in the presence of God here," she says. "It's really interesting--when I come here, I don't even notice whether the person standing next to me is Asian or white." And as far as the Landises are concerned, that is the way God intended it to be.
Ministries Today spoke with the Landises about their ministry in Allentown and racial reconciliation in the body of Christ. Their story is inspiring and offers hope to those who are willing to yield their lives to Christ.
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER
Randy Landis was born and raised in Allentown and says starting a church in his hometown was his greatest challenge. "It had nothing to do with the racial makeup of the city nor its economic status," he says. "It was just the thought of growing up here as a child, as a teen-ager and then being transformed because of Christ."
But the young pastor rose to the occasion and started mapping out ways to draw people to the Lord. He decided to call his ministry Church on the Move because of the positive impact a good friend, pastor Willie George, had on his life. George started a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and called it Church on the Move, and Landis followed suit. The two ministries are not affiliated.
Landis says COTM is a "no labels" ministry. It is considered transdenominational because it transcends cultural, ethnic and denominational barriers--sort of a "many streams, one river" church. The uniqueness of the church draws people from different streams--charismatics, Pentecostals, evangelicals, Word of Faith adherents and purpose-driven ministries--as well as prophetic and seeker-sensitive worshipers.
The pastor says the concept is considered a genuine expression of God's nature.
"The church strives to somehow extract the pureness of God from all the streams, and allows them to flow and make one life-giving river," he explains.
One goal of the ministry is to build what reflects the kingdom of God. That is why COTM places major emphases on the value of people from different backgrounds and all walks of life.
Accessible to residents in Lehigh Valley, the church is positioned between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Once people walk through the doors of the sanctuary, they receive teaching that is both practical and relevant.
During Sunday worship services, attendees hear challenging messages such as the pastor's recent series titled, Life Was Never Meant to Be Boring--Live It on the Edge. Strategically planned, all the services are designed both to feed believers and to attract nonbelievers.
In June 1990, COTM opened its doors with great expectations of what God would do in the city. And members say "something great" is what God did. Since that first Sunday in June, the ministry has catapulted to a 1,500-person membership and has experienced a tremendous move of the Holy Spirit evident by changed hearts and lives.
It is not uncommon for affluent people, single moms and recovering drug addicts to share pews together. Neither is it unusual to see well-known speakers such as Cathy Lechner, Latin evangelist Carlos Annacondia or Bernice King--daughter of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.--ministering at COTM.
Why? Because the church knows that people from all walks of life will seek out a church that doesn't focus on the color of their skin or the size of their income. They know that Jesus Christ is Lord of lords at COTM.
Says longtime member Tanya: "COTM is sensitive to people. I like it because you don't have to give up your culture. We celebrate diversity."
As the minister of music and the pastor's wife, Maribel Landis is one of three worship leaders at the church and oftentimes leads worship in Spanish and interprets the songs. But ministering to spiritual needs is not the only thing COTM does. The community is grateful to COTM for sacrificing buildings owned by the ministry so low-income children can receive a quality Christian education at The Kings Way Academy. The academy is designed to offer children the best possible educational experience while instilling a strong biblical foundation.
The church staff knows that sacrifices will be made for the benefit of ministry, and Maribel says she is willing to make those sacrifices for God. She gave up a promising career as a bilingual oncologist nurse educator and a comfortable salary to help her husband in ministry.
Her own personal experience with a child who has special needs has made her extra sensitive to the needs of others. And she knows the best way to relate to them.
"It is important to be who I am," she says. "I like to be real. I am the same person at church as I am at home."
THE IMPACT OF AUTHENTICITY
It is such authenticity that drew Ruth Alpha to the church in 1991. Although Alpha's mother was already attending COTM when she decided to attend, she says it was the realness and genuine love that the Landises showed to hurting people that caused her to stay.
Alpha, 48, was living in the pain of a troubled past and needed a way of escape. Her problems began as early as the 1970s. When she was 16 years old, Alpha, who is white, had an interracial baby with an African American man. With heroin as her drug of choice, she was arrested and convicted for the possession of a narcotic substance and sentenced to 3-1/2 to 5 years, though she only served 1-1/2 years.
"Ruthie," as she is affectionately called at the church, says the birth of her interracial baby is one factor that led to her drug addiction.
"I was wounded from the way I was treated because of my baby," she says. "I felt rejected and judged by society." Her newborn son was immediately taken from her care and placed in a foster home. Alpha spent the next year in a juvenile home.
Today, Alpha is the director of Women of Destiny, the women's ministry at COTM. The ministry focuses on five major areas that meet the needs of the spirit, soul and body.
Her interracial son, James, is now married. He and his wife, Angie, have three children: Michael, Shiann and Zion David.
"I am free from the pain of my past," Alpha declares. "The ministry at Church on the Move has impacted my life in many ways."
Carmen Renden would say the same thing. She recalls the time when, as a 19-year-old college student who did not know Christ, she decided to abort the child she had conceived out of wedlock. But there was one problem with Renden's decision: Her boyfriend did not want her to abort their child. As Renden was nearing the end of the eighth week of her pregnancy, her unborn baby now had a beating heart, arms and legs, and fingers and toes.
While contemplating abortion, Renden's boyfriend, Jesús, who is now her husband, was not a Christian. But "G," as he is known among church friends and family members, grew up in a Christian home and could not imagine doing it.
"After a lot of heartfelt conviction, I asked Christ to come into my heart. Since that time, I've had no regrets," he says.
After his conversion, Jesús, now 30, encouraged Renden to attend a Friday night revival service at the local YMCA. The young preacher delivering the message was Randy Landis.
Although she had made up her mind to carry out her plans to end her pregnancy, Renden accepted her boyfriend's invitation. "I did not grow up in a Christian home," she says. "I sat in my seat, and my hands and feet felt like they were tied by the enemy."
But as Maribel Landis prayed the sinner's prayer with Renden, the young woman literally felt the spiritual shackles that felt like weights fall from her body. With uplifted hands and tears streaming down her face, Renden told God: "Lord, I'm giving you two weeks. If You will change my life, I will be Yours forever."
Today, 11 years later, the Rendens enjoy the Spirit-led life at COTM with Briani--the child they had once considered aborting. The couple also has three other children: Krielle, Cheyanne and Marlynn.
Briani says she would someday like to be a child evangelist. She started pursuing her goal earlier this year when she led a classmate to Christ in the bathroom of her elementary school. Says Briani: "I asked God for a little space to tell a friend about Jesus Christ."
The youngster also prayed a prayer of healing for a friend who was diagnosed with cancer. "The friend is recovering nicely," says her dad.
FACING THE CHALLENGES
Although Randy Landis graduated from Rhema Bible Training Institute in Tulsa and was employed by Kenneth Hagin Ministries for a short time, it was his travels as an itinerate minister that strengthened his teaching skills. During his years of travel, he was exposed to more than 200 churches.
Landis has experienced firsthand the challenges of building a ministry. And in one respect, his success is ironic: He recalls saying he would never pastor a church. But in May 1989 in Hickory, North Carolina, he says the Lord impressed upon his heart to start a church.
The pastor believes quality leadership is critical. "The church today is literally crying out for authentic leadership," he says. "They want their leaders to be real. They want to know that leaders have the same struggles and issues as they have." It is that type of conviction that keeps people coming to the church.
Mayor William Heydt of Allentown is a frequent attendee. "Church on the Move has had a tremendous impact on the city," he told Ministries Today.
"The church is growing dramatically, and it encompasses all ethnic groups. What amazes me are the young people. They are in church because they want to be there and not because their parents force them to come."
Adopting a unique approach to ministry, COTM operates from a team concept. With nine pastors on staff, each pastor is assigned the oversight of a group of ministries, and each ministry has a department leader. Landis meets with the pastoral team to review the effectiveness and strategy of each department.
"We are a purpose-driven church. We try to keep everything in the context of our mission and vision statements," he says. "Most of the ministries at the church have a clear and defined mission and vision statement printed in brochure-form for members and visitors to view."
Everyone at COTM is needed to support the ministry for the cause of Christ--and young people are no exception. "The media may have labeled our youth 'Generation X', but we are a generation with a purpose," says associate pastor Bill Cummings.
Highvoltage Youth Ministry affords students the opportunity to express themselves through Christian activities and group meetings. Activities include a youth band, a drama team, street witnessing and many others. The purpose of the ministry is to change trends in the community.
The Landises are committed to racial unity in the church, but old strongholds die hard. Although residents of Allentown do pride themselves on ethnic diversity, the city is one of only a few cities in the United States that do not recognize Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday.
"That's obviously been a war," Mayor William Heydt said during a telephone interview. "I continually talk with the local NAACP and explain that my people who work with the city have slated certain holidays as a personal day; they want the flexibility of work, and the same thing applies to Dr. King's day."
According to COTM's "core values" statement, racial harmony begins with a respect for all of God's people. So, with or without recognition of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Randy and Maribel Landis embrace the fundamental principles of what King stood for.
A church that is on the move for God, COTM does not focus on the color of someone's skin. What matters the most, they believe, is the people's willingness to look beyond race, denomination, gender and cultural barriers to see a God who cares about one race: the human race. *
Vanessa Lowe Robinson is a free-lance writer. She lives in Queens, New York.
Pastor Profile: Randy and Maribel Landis
Age: Randy, 41; Maribel, 39
Family: Randy and Maribel have been married for 15 years, and they have two children, Natalie, 12; and Olivia, 10. Randy has two sons from a previous marriage, Randy Jr., 20; and Isaiah, 19.
Education: Randy attended Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas for one year and then transferred to Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he received a diploma and his ordination.
Church Background: Raised in a Christian home, Randy accepted Christ at age 19 and six months later accepted the call to ministry. After completing his seminary education, he worked briefly with Kenneth Hagin Ministries. The experience he gained during his travels as an itinerant minister was needed during his service at his home church, Grace Fellowship, in Tulsa. In obedience to the Lord, Landis stopped traveling and returned home to Allentown to plant Church on the Move.
About Church on the Move: Slightly more than five years ago, Church on the Move purchased the former United Weslyan College for $765,000, which was valued at $2.4 million. Located on eight acres of prime property, the church is situated in a garden-like setting. With a huge sanctuary, education facility, an administration building and a resource building, residents see the ministry as both a church and a community center.
Pastors and Family: "As a pastor or minister, you must learn to prioritize your life," Randy Landis says. "If you work in ministry, you must make sure you're doing the important things that bring you a return. There is no return like your children."
Landis enjoys spending time with his family and playing basketball with his daughter, Natalie. The entire family constantly showers daughter Olivia, who has Down's syndrome, with love and attention. Randy has two young-adult sons from a previous marriage, with whom he spends time and dispenses fatherly advice.
"I unwind by working out in the gym with my wife, and I enjoy playing golf," Landis says. He says Maribel is his best friend and greatest support. He describes his wife as a "very strong gracious leader," not only to the church's women's department, but to the community as well.
Mentoring: Landis says mentoring is very important in the church today. While mentoring, he focuses, among other issues, on two areas: "I want them to walk life with me. I want them to see how I relate to my wife, how I relate to my kids. I really allow them to 'do life' with me. Then I focus on the ministry aspect," he explains. "We work on character issues and developing a Christlikeness."
The late John Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston impacted both Randy and Maribel. It was Osteen's well-known heart for people that continues to reverberate with the Landises.
The Future of COTM: Landis says the future is ever present in his mind. Aside from cultivating the current church and the relationship it has with the community, he often considers the possibility of satellite churches in various locations across the country. Autonomous in nature, each church would have the freedom to meet the specific needs of their community.
Landis believes his desires are simply prophetic words coming to fruition. He says that he received a prophetic word on May 3, 1998, from Cathy Lechner: "God is going to give you prime property at the gate of the city with lots and lots of land." read more