What is it, how is it cultivated and what is the impact? Perimeter Church Pastor Randy Pope shares his church’s journey toward developing mature believers.
If you were asked to name three or four of your church’s best offerings for the spiritual formation of your people, what would they be? If you’re like most leaders, you’d list sermons, seminars, Sunday school classes, small groups. But are those programs really helping people become mature and equipped in Christ? They weren’t at my church. So we went on a discovery process that led us to a startling, yet simple solution. Notice I said simple—not easy!
For most of my 35 years of ministry, I’ve taken an annual study leave to evaluate my life, family and ministry. While I was away one year assessing the ministry of Perimeter Church, I began to realize that while we had been applauded and recognized for doing good things and being successful, in reality we were drawing a target around an arrow once it had been shot. We had been lauded for how far we had been shooting our arrow. But how foolish we had been to celebrate an aimless shot where the target is determined by the shot.
Seven strength-builders can equip believers to withstand life’s stressors and storms
When I was a boy I lived in a community where a tract of affordable houses had been built. From the outside they looked simple, yet attractive. By all appearances it seemed that these families were living the American Dream of home ownership. But this dream eventually became a nightmare.
You see, there was a problem. The foundations these homes were built on were compromised. They simply weren’t strong enough to deal with the stress placed on them. Over time the effects of shifting soil and changing temperatures took their toll and these foundations began to crack. As they cracked, these houses began to come apart. Ceilings separated, cabinets began to pull away from the walls, floors buckled.
Even though most of these homes were nicely appointed, inside and out, none of that could mask the fact that these homes were built on faulty foundations. Any structure is only as strong as what it is built on.
If you want to learn about engaging the culture, go to New York City, stand in Times Square and simply look around. In fact, try not to look around. The multitude of flashing iconic images representing the latest music, art, movies, fashion and personalities virtually scream in your ear, every day influencing an increasingly homogenized global culture. Just like earthquakes can produce massive waves that travel thousands of miles from their origin, Manhattan produces a cultural tsunami that reaches all the way to Manila.
A recent meeting in New York with an executive from a major TV network confirmed my sense that as Christians, we are still lagging behind in the culture wars. In essence, this producer told me, “Christians aren’t shaping the culture in America; the culture is shaping them.”
You may not have heard of Filipino pastor Joey Bonifacio, but his LEGO Principle—a simple yet profound discipleship model—could change the American church.
When Jesus spoke of the church, He never said to have stirring Sunday morning services, an amazing praise and worship team, or even a good nursery. Yet those are the elements countless congregations focus on the most.
No, when Jesus commissioned those who would follow after Him, He chose two words amid all the other instructions He could’ve offered: Make disciples.
That’s the subject of this month’s issue of Ministry Today. More specifically, we’re addressing how churches can create a culture of discipleship that produces true disciples of Christ rather than mere “churchgoers.” I can think of few people more qualified to make the case for establishing this than Joey Bonafacio from Manila, Philippines. Joey is one of the senior pastors at Victory Church, a community of more than 65,000 believers who eat, breathe and live out the core principle of discipleship every day. Joey’s also the author of a recently released book, The LEGO Principle, which reveals the key elements of connecting with God and connecting with people.
What are the Great Commission building blocks and transferrable principles for seeing your church lead a movement of Christ followers?
In March of this year, two pastors from Michigan and Florida made the trek to Manila to check out our church. Soon into their visit, they expressed their amazement at the way we did church, particularly intrigued by this idea of being one church with multiple services in multiple sites and with multiple preachers.
“We haven’t seen a church model like this one,” they told me. “In the United States, the typical multisite model broadcasts one preacher to multiple sites.” They were also quick to point out that they didn’t believe one model was better than the other. I can only agree.
But they specifically wanted to know and understand how one church does 94 weekend services in 15 locations with 51 lead pastors preaching and with approximately 65,000 in attendance. In their own words: “It’s worth the trip and a two-week stay to observe.”
Preaching. Countless people have done it and are doing it. And as we all know, there isn't just one way of doing it. When it comes to the work of proclamation, we have various strategies and styles—some healthier than others.
Three Common Approaches to Preaching What I find most often among preachers is something close to one of the three following approaches. While each approach has value, they are not enough in and of themselves.
The inspired approach. We probably know this better as the "I had a word from the Lord" approach. In its best form, this approach reflects a preacher who has been impressed by the Holy Spirit concerning a particular truth in Scripture. It is, in a sense, first-person: "The Lord led me, and I want to tell you how He is leading." In some ways, it reminds us of 1 Peter 4:11: "If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God's words."
The danger here is that if we aren't binding ourselves to the Word of God, it isn't difficult to get off the path of truth and allow our hearts—which the Bible calls deceitful—to guide our preaching more than we allow Scripture to guide us.
Through the years Victory Church has become very clear and very focused on what we are trying to do. Why have we become so fixated on a single strategy? It is, first of all, because we have embraced the Lord’s Great Commission as our own. Making disciples is the driving force behind everything we do. Second, it’s because we have overwhelming confirmation in our own experience that this one move, if mastered, is unstoppable and indefensible. I believe all churches and ministries can grow if only they master a discipleship process that is simple, biblical and transferable. I know of churches that are missing many seemingly important things such as nice buildings, good music equipment, support staff, big givers and dynamic preachers. Yet they’re still growing because they are making disciples.
Churches can be blessed with all those seemingly important things and become completely consumed with activities that have nothing to do with making disciples. Our goal is to make our small groups and everything else we do support our discipleship process.
Unfortunately, crowded church calendars often compete with discipleship. No activity is neutral. We recognize that everything we do and say will either underline or undermine our discipleship process.
—From WikiChurch: Making Discipleship Engaging, Empowering & Viral by Steve Murrell
When a church operates with an “everyone’s a minister” mindset, combined with a defined leadership multiplication process, the potential for kingdom impact is infinite
I am an American, but most of my adult life has been spent in Manila, Philippines, as a cross-cultural pastor and church planter. My wife, Deborah, and I originally went to Manila on a one-month summer mission trip to establish a church that would reach Filipino university students. That one month has lasted almost three decades, and that student church we established now conducts 92 weekly worship services in 16 Manila locations. It’s also planted churches in 60 Philippine cities and has sent Filipino missionaries to plant churches in more than a dozen nations.
Because our church constantly plants new churches and sends cross-cultural missionaries, it seems we’re always in the process of training new pastors, new worship leaders, new kids’ pastors and other new leaders to replace those we send. Because of this constant need for leaders, we’ve had to develop a culture and process for leadership multiplication.
Here’s an example of what we’ve done: Joseph was a talented singer and musician, but his first few times on stage leading worship were less than spectacular. After a staff meeting (that did not include Joseph), the head of our worship department suggested we switch worship leaders for the following week because we had a big-shot foreign guest speaker scheduled. He reminded me that the last time Joseph led worship, it was “forgettable.”
My response: I said that I was well aware we were hosting the big-shot American and that Joseph was not our best. However, I didn’t see any reason to bench Joseph. I reminded our entire staff that we weren’t trying to impress our guest speaker. In fact, he had better impress us or he wouldn’t be invited back.
For me, it’s more important to equip a worship leader than to have a perfect worship service. I knew that if we rescheduled Joseph, it would shatter his confidence and set the equipping process back a few months. When Sunday came around, Joseph led worship and our big-shot foreign guest preached. Sure, the worship was less than average, but Joseph went on to become a good worship leader and later a great pastor and church planter. He and his wife are now pioneering an underground church network in a restricted nation. Being an upstart worship leader was an integral part of his equipping process. I’m not sure he would be where he is today if we had short-circuited the equipping process to impress our guest speaker.
We hear the phrase all the time, “Every member a minister.” Yet because of our performance-driven culture, we often have little tolerance for the messiness of the equipping process that empowers average members to minister.
We do church as if only professional ministers should do ministry. But Scripture offers a different perspective. The biblical job description for professional ministers—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—is to equip the “nonprofessionals” for ministry, then get out of their way and allow God to move through them. When we forget that job description, we forget one of the primary reasons God called us in the first place.
As full-time pastors, it’s common for us to measure the effectiveness of our week by how busy we are with random acts of ministry. On Monday we saved a marriage, on Tuesday we prayed for Fred in the hospital, on Wednesday we taught lesson 26 of our 48-part Ezekiel series, on Thursday we preached to our mailman and on Friday we said a prayer at the high school football game. All that’s great, but in the process, did we equip anyone else to do ministry? Usually not.
It’s common for pastors to have a week packed with ministry activities and yet still be delinquent in our ministerial responsibilities. It’s because we’re not only called to do ministry, but also to equip others to do ministry.
I often ask pastors two questions: Do you spend more time ministering to people or equipping people to minister? Do you spend more time preparing sermons to preach, or preparing people to minister? Unfortunately, most full-time ministers I know spend far more time preparing sermons, leading meetings and running religious organizations than actually equipping regular people to do ministry.
Once we accept that we’re called not just to do ministry, but also to equip others to do ministry, the next question is: How? Out of the desperation of our endless need for leaders in the Philippines, we developed a simple, four-part leadership development process.
1) IDENTIFICATION. The starting point for equipping spiritual leaders is to help people identify their unique and divine calling. A calling is from God. Everyone has one. Far too many people have no clue what they’re called to do.
Leaders help people identify their calling by helping them recognize and develop their God-given strengths and gifts. Leaders also help by recognizing hidden potential in others.
I never would have started teaching the Bible 32 years ago unless my pastor had first identified a potential gift God might have given me. Then he led me (and often pushed or dragged me) through open doors, even if the opening was barely a crack. I’m thankful for people who saw gifts and strengths in me that I never noticed because of my condemnation, ignorance and immaturity.
2) INSTRUCTION. Paul’s letters are filled with doctrinal, relational and practical instruction. Many times he sent instructional letters to churches in cities he had never visited, demonstrating that effective instruction does not depend on personal relationship or physical proximity.
My life has been positively impacted by instruction through books and podcasts written and spoken by people I have never met. Two seminary courses, Ethnohermeneutics by Larry Caldwell and The Book of Genesis by Dr. Nomer Bernardino, impact almost every sermon I have preached nearly 20 years after sitting in those classes. I could list many individual books or sermons that have redirected my life, enlightened my mind or softened my heart in life-changing ways.
3) IMPARTATION. As important as instruction is, it’s not enough. Paul wrote to the Romans, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong” (Rom. 1:11, NIV, emphasis added). Paul sent instruction to people he had never met, but he seemed to need a face-to-face relationship for impartation to happen.
I can read all about evangelism, but something happens when I actually hang around my friends who are evangelists. I get an evangelistic impartation that changes me for the better in ways that instruction alone can’t.
Impartation happened when King Saul was hanging around the prophets, then started prophesying (see 1 Sam. 19). Impartation happened when God took the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the 70 elders (see Num. 11).
I’m not sure that the same level of impartation happens through email messages or online classes. There’s something about face-to-face ministry that God has designed to be part of the equipping process.
4) INTERNSHIP. Elijah and Elisha, David and Solomon, Barnabas and Paul, and Paul and Timothy are only a few of the biblical examples of internship. Internship is basically on-the-job training. Internships can be either formal or informal. Over the years, I’ve had formal interns who requested a mentoring relationship, and I’ve had informal “interns” who had no idea I was intentionally equipping them for ministry. They thought we were just hanging out together. Whether formal or informal, internship is a vital part of the equipping process.
In closing, let me explain the power of equipping every believer to do ministry with a real-world illustration. In 2000, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger started an online encyclopedia called “Nupedia.” Their goal was to include articles written only by credentialed experts. Before an article could be posted to Nupedia, it had to go through an extensive, seven-step, scholarly review process, which proved to be painstakingly slow. When Nupedia finally unplugged its servers in 2003, only 24 articles had been posted, and 74 were stuck in the review process. There weren’t many articles, but they were professionally written.
In 2001, one year after Nupedia launched, Wales and Sanger also started a feeder system called “Wikipedia.” They got the name from the shuttle bus at Hawaii International Airport called WikiWiki Transport. Wiki is a Hawaiian word meaning “quick.” The Wikipedia idea was to allow nonprofessionals, non-scholars and non-experts to write articles that the Nupedia scholars would then review. If the Wikipedia articles survived the seven-step Nupedia approval process, they would be posted. If not, they would be trashed.
By the end of 2001, volunteers had submitted more than 20,000 “wiki” articles. It took the trained expert scholars three years to create 24 articles and the volunteers one year to create 20,000. Wikipedia now contains more than 18 million articles written, edited and posted by volunteers.
Unfortunately, many churches and ministries today function more like Nupedia than Wikipedia. They allow only credentialed, ordained professionals to minister while volunteers are expected to show up and pay up, but not to engage in serious ministry.
Imagine if the situation were reversed. Imagine if every believer, not just paid leaders, actively engaged in ministry. That’s what I call a “WikiChurch.” That’s what happened in the book of Acts.
Wikipedia may be an imperfect source, but it has made information widely available by simply empowering volunteers. That’s what church leaders are called to do—to equip and empower imperfect people to honor God and make disciples.
Steve Murrell is the founding pastor of Victory in Manila, the president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, and the author of WikiChurch, from which this article is adapted with permission. He and his wife, Deborah, have three adult sons and split their time between Manila and Nashville, Tenn.
Joey Bonifacio is the senior pastor of Victory Fort, one of 15 congregations that make up Victory Church in the metro Manila area of the Philippines. Each weekend, Victory hosts 94 gatherings with 51 lead pastors preaching to a multigenerational congregation of almost 65,000. Though the church’s membership has grown almost 25 percent each year for the last 12 years, of greater concern to Victory’s leadership team are the number of baptisms (4,613 in 2011) and discipleship groups (currently more than 5,000).
After running a successful business for years—and then splitting time between his company and ministry—Bonifacio joined the Victory team as a full-time pastor in 1998. Today he is a member of the International Apostolic Team of Every Nation Ministries and a member of the board of directors of the Real Life Foundation. He and his wife, Marie, have three sons.
Bonifacio is also the author of The LEGO Principle, which draws parallels between the famous toy-maker and core discipleship elements. Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. Just as a Lego piece was designed to do one thing—connect, regardless of shape, size or color—we were made to connect with God and others, Bonifacio says. “If you can connect to the top with God and to the bottom with others, you can pretty much shape the world you live in.”
Theme: Hip-hop culture is global! Surprisingly, its original goal was “Love, Peace, Unity and Having Fun!” Hip-Hop Hope: Jesus Makes Me Glad offers Jesus as the ultimate DJ who scratches out new songs of hope.
ANSWERS IN GENESIS answersvbs.com The Kingdom Chronicles: Standing Strong in the Battle for Truth
Theme: With The Kingdom Chronicles VBS, brave knights and fair maidens will be equipped to put on the full armor of God so they can stand strong in the battle for truth.
Theme: This study from the book of Exodus explores how God led Moses through the perils of his life and remained faithful to him in extreme circumstances. Children will learn the ways that God loves us, calls us, saves us guides us and cares for us.
Theme: Everywhere Fun Fair is a global celebration with the look and feel of a world's fair. Children will discover that God’s love can be found everywhere—even in their own neighborhoods.
CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE vbs.cph.org Tell It on the Mountain: Where Jesus Christ Is Lord
Theme: Get ready for a mountaintop experience! At Tell It on the Mountain, children will learn about the one true God through five mountaintop Bible accounts. This VBS features active Bible storytelling, energetic songs and Peak Performance videos for opening and closing.
Theme: Teaching kids biblical principles and builds character through their favorite sports activities, this church-led program is fully adaptable to suit any church’s size, volunteers and facilities.
GROUP PUBLISHING group.com/athens Athens: Paul’s Dangerous Journey to Share the Truth
Theme: Imagine leaving a life of privilege and power to face angry mobs, painful imprisonment and chain-breaking earthquakes—all to spread the life-changing truth of God’s love. Learn the jaw-dropping story of the apostle Paul—straight from Paul himself!
Theme: Children are invited to discover the life-giving breath of God. Through Bible stories on breath and wind, children will explore how God’s own breath was used to create people, and how the wind of the Spirit helped the young church grow.
REGULAR BAPTIST PRESS rbpvbs.org Investigation Destination: Follow Clues to the King of Kings
Theme: Investigation Destination turns VBS students into secret agents—investigators on a special mission to discover clues about a special person, the King of Kings. The objective: Prepare students for the return of the King, challenging them to believe in Jesus and accept Him as Savior and then to choose to trust, follow, love, obey and serve Him. Those who know the Savior will want to tell others about Jesus, our wonderful King.
Theme: Get ready for outdoor adventure under the shimmer of starlight that starts in your own backyard and gets bigger each day as kids take the love of Jesus into their homes, neighborhoods and communities.
Theme: Encouraging stronger relationships in spiritual and natural families through Jesus Christ. This program introduces family time for all 10 lessons, including We Believe! We Encourage! We Forgive! We Protect! and We Give! Each lesson highlights a family from the Bible that dealt with the same struggles as families today.
Three times more Protestant pastors plan to vote for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential election. Romney's Mormon beliefs are a factor for only a small number of pastors who plan to cast their ballot for another candidate.
A survey conducted by LifeWay Research Sept. 26-Oct. 3 found that 57 percent of Protestant pastors plan to vote for Romney compared with 17 percent for Obama. Twenty-two percent are still undecided.
The breakdown is similar to what it was in 2008 when John McCain challenged Obama for the presidency. A survey conducted by LifeWay Research in October 2008 found that 55 percent of Protestant pastors planned to vote for McCain compared with 20 percent for Obama and 22 percent undecided.
In celebration of a half-century of life-changing, Christian worldview education, Summit Ministries will hold a dinner Celebration on October 20 in Colorado.
Under the leadership of new president Dr. Jeff Myers, Summit Ministries has provided a significant impact on the youth that it trains with its summer conferences and adult training programs. In a recent study, Summit’s Turning the Tide: Evidence of Impact Study, it was found that graduates of Summit Ministries affirm a Biblical worldview at four times the rate of the average born-again Christian. Graduates also experience up to a429 percent growth in spiritual disciplines and positive habits of cultural engagement.
Summit grads not only understand their own Biblical worldview better after their experience at Summit training courses, they alsobetter understand many other major worldviews and topics covered during the course of the training. And when Summitstudents graduate from Summit’s programs, they show demonstrable increases in political activity.
“Do not forget or neglect to do kindness and good, to be generous and distribute and contribute to the needy … for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Heb. 13:16, AMP)
Being radically generous and helping others is easier than you may think. I have asked people to share practical ways we can show love, have read books, searched the Internet, and been aggressive on my own journey to find creative ways to help others. Below are some helpful ideas to remember in your daily life and as you think of ways your church can show love in action.
When I met Abeba, a beautiful, sweet and special little girl in one of our Joyce Meyer Ministries feeding programs in Ethiopia, she was severely malnourished. Her little body was swollen, already in the shut-down mode of starvation. Many in her village were starving, but she was one of the worst cases.
The thing that blew me away about Abeba was her joy. Despite how much pain she was in from malnutrition and her living conditions, Abeba’s smile always glowed. I had the opportunity to give food to Abeba’s mother for Abeba and her nine brothers and sisters. They were visibly happy and thankful just to have something to eat. Often, the food our ministry provides in this region is the difference between life and death for many of these children and families. Abeba now had a new shot at life.
After 37 years of covering most of the world’s major ministries, I believe Joyce Meyer’s is one of the best
We are honored to have Joyce Meyer as this issue’s guest editor. When I became aware of her enormous outreach, I asked if she’d be willing to tell how her family and ministry have made such a huge impact through their missions efforts, both domestically and overseas, as well as their commitment to a lifestyle of radical generosity.
I wondered if she’d say yes. After all, she has one of the largest ministries in America. With her ongoing teaching and travel schedule, along with leading a global ministry, she’s obviously in high demand. In addition, she has the ability to get out her message through her own media.
But as we talked about it, I believe she understood my heart for wanting our readers to be inspired by what she has done. I know that when it comes to missions, one of the best ways to inspire others is for them to see it modeled for themselves.
In a way, that is what happened when Dave and Joyce Meyer opened the Dream Center in St. Louis. They modeled what they did by taking note of what Matthew Barnett has done in Los Angeles. He, in turn, was inspired by his own father, Tommy Barnett, whose ministry outreaches are legendary in Pentecostal circles. And recently I learned that the Dream Center picked up a few ideas from Bishop Bart Pierce of Baltimore, who gave them the idea of adopting specific blocks within a city.
Not long ago I was talking by phone to a businessman who I knew didn’t always pay his bills, even though he was a high roller. Despite claiming to be a Spirit-filled Christian, he obviously didn’t have the highest level of integrity. In our conversation, this man began criticizing ministries he didn’t like and mentioned something he read in an article about Joyce Meyer and her ministry.
I stopped him. I had visited Joyce Meyer Ministries and knew firsthand that it is one of the most generous ministries I’ve ever known. In more than 37 years of covering the Christian community, I have known and seen most of the major ministries—many of them up close and personal. From my vantage point, Joyce Meyer and her ministry are among the best. They walk in integrity. I know that not only as a journalist who has covered them over the years, but also as a publisher who published one of her books. When you work with someone in the book business, you quickly find out if he or she is the real deal. And I can say that Joyce Meyer and her ministry are!
Yet another example of this is how hard they worked on this issue. It didn’t benefit them nearly as much as I’m sure it will benefit you.
And I’ve benefited too. As I read over the final articles before they went to press, I was stirred in my own spirit. I have long had a heart for the poor, but this issue of Ministry Today motivated me to do more, especially in my local community, which is still reeling in the aftermath of the killing of Trayvon Martin. That tragedy happened only 2.3 miles from my office, a fact you would know if you read our recent coverage in Charisma of the racial reconciliation efforts in Sanford, Fla.
We recently had a meeting of churches and pastors to see what we can do to show the love of Jesus by helping the poor and helping to ease some of the tension in our city. In that way, we overcome evil with good! I liked some of the articles in this issue so much I copied them and handed them out because I knew it would inspire those who work regularly with the poor to do even more.
Sadly, too many churches and pastors are focused more on their own congregations and their own finances than the actual needs around them in their community. They never seem to have enough to help others. Or if things go well, then they begin to consume more of the Lord’s blessings rather than using those to help others.
God is not honored by that. He is honored when we give to the poor.
May you be inspired by these articles just as I was. We’d love to hear how they impacted you, so send us your stories of how you’ve been inspired.
“Do not forget or neglect to do kindness and good,tobegenerousanddistributeandcontributetotheneedy...forsuchsacrificesarepleasingtoGod"(Heb. 13:16, AMP).
Being radically generous and helping others is easier than you may think. I have asked people to share practical ways we can show love, have read books, searched the Internet, and been aggressive on my own journey to find creative ways to help others. Below are some helpful ideas to remember in your daily life and as you think of ways your church can show love in action.
Mow an elderly person’s lawn or organize teams to mow lawns and shovel snow for single-mom families and shut-ins in your church and community.
Help a single mom or senior adult clean their house or offer to do their grocery shopping.
Give single moms gift cards to take their children out to lunch.
Invite a person who has no family in town to your home for the holidays. Or think big and host Thanksgiving for international college students.
Organize a ministry team to offer a night of babysitting, giving new parents an opportunity for a date night.
Encourage your children’s ministry leaders to look for specific and thoughtful ways to honor their community heroes.
Deliver homemade cookies or fresh-baked bread to your community's local police and fire departments.
The list of ways to bless others is endless. Be open to God and ask Him to show you how you and your church can help people. Your radical acts of generosity may be just the key to unlock the door of someone’s heart to hear and receive the gospel.
In February 1976, JoyceMeyer drove to her job in St. Louis, frustrated after having yet another difficult morning, when she cried out to God: “Something is wrong; something is missing!” That day, Meyer says, the Holy Spirit touched her life.
“I was just so frustrated, because I was desperately trying to do what I felt like the church was telling me to do,” she says. “I was going to church and doing church work. And it just wasn’t working for me. That day, I became so very acutely aware of not only the presence of God, but the goodness of God.”
It was a spiritual turning point that became a catalyst for what has become one of the largest ministries in the world and what would make Meyer one of the most recognizable and respected leaders in Christendom today.
St. Louis-based Joyce Meyer Ministries includes the international radio and TV program, Enjoying Everyday Life, broadcasting worldwide to a potential audience of 4.5 billion, and close to a dozen domestic and international conferences every year. Meyer is also a New York Times best-selling author of more than 90 books that have been translated into nearly 100 different languages. Her most recent release, Do Yourself a Favor ... Forgive, tackles the vital practice of forgiveness and its positive impact.
Through Meyer’s teachings and resources, God has provided myriad opportunities to meet the needs of the suffering and demonstrate the gospel in practical ways. Hand of Hope, the missions arm of Joyce Meyer Ministries, supports and provides outreaches around the world. In 2000, Dave and Joyce Meyer founded the St. Louis Dream Center to serve their hometown’s inner city through hands-on programs targeted at reaching the lost and hurting with the love of Christ.
“We are passionate about world missions,” she says. “I have dedicated the rest of my life to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and relieving as much human suffering as I can with the time and resources we are given.”
Relieving suffering shows the world a faithful, compassionate, merciful and giving God
What does it mean to live radically generous?What does that idea look like both personally and in the context of leading a church or ministry in today's culture?
Most of us know what it means to be generous—the dictionary defines it as “liberal in giving, openhanded and marked by abundance.”Radicalis “very different from the usual, extreme.” So to be radically generous believers means we aggressively and purposefully look for ways to reach out to others and help meet their needs.
Fortunately, we have the ultimate example. Our God is a generous God—radically generous. He’s passionate about helping people.
The eternal impact of radically serving the community around you
I can remember being 20 years old, coming to Los Angeles with the goal of having a 24/7 church that would serve the local community’s needs. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But I had no idea of the challenges ahead.
Coming from such a large church—Phoenix First Assembly of God, led by my father, Tommy Barnett—it was a bit of an adjustment to have just a few people show up to some of our earliest servicesv. Feeling defeated after an especially difficult night, I walked through the neighborhood, listening for the voice of God.
That night, I saw people caught up in drug addiction, homelessness, prostitution. Just walking around, I could sense the turmoil and oppression. In that moment, God told me these broken people were my congregation, that my ministry was and would not be confined to a church building. Instead, this ministry would reach beyond walls and throughout the neighborhood.
That night—and finding that calling—was a life-defining moment for me.
How outreach ministry Hand of Hope partners and risks to reach the unreached
For as long as I can remember, my mom and dad (Joyce and Dave Meyer) have always looked for ways to help those in need. I’ve watched them cry with compassion for the homeless, hungry and mistreated—and then do something about it.
From the very beginning, using our resources to reach out to others has been extremely important to them. Our commitment initially started as a tithe—allocating 10 percent of our income to help the hurting through missions efforts. Over the years, that percentage has increased incrementally.
As CEO of Hand of Hope (the missions arm for Joyce Meyer Ministries), helping others is my calling. It’s what God created me to do. But witnessing my parents’ love for hurting people has influenced the course of my life. Through the years, their lifestyle of radical generosity has transformed the hearts of millions—including mine—and set the groundwork for everything we do through Hand of Hope.
The power of making God’s Word and love radically known
Some people you meet change your life forever.
When I met Abeba, a beautiful, sweet and special little girl in one of our Joyce Meyer Ministries feeding programs in Ethiopia, she was severely malnourished. Her little body was swollen, already in the shut-down mode of starvation. Many in her village were starving, but she was one of the worst cases.
The thing that blew me away about Abeba was her joy. Despite how much pain she was in from malnutrition and her living conditions, Abeba’s smile always glowed.
I had the opportunity to give food to Abeba’s mother for Abeba and her nine brothers and sisters. They were visibly happy and thankful just to have something to eat. Often, the food our ministry provides in this region is the difference between life and death for many of these children and families. Abeba now had a new shot at life.
Our team had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time with her. A year later as we prepared for a return trip to Ethiopia, I was excited to see Abeba. Sadly, just before we left for the trip, we learned she had passed away.
At first I was shocked. Then I bawled for a while. I just couldn’t believe this had happened.
On the plane back to Ethiopia, I felt empty and hopeless: If we are going to help these kids and they’re not going to make it, what’s the point?
Then while we were there I saw Abeba’s mom with one of Abeba’s little sisters, and it hit me: There’s more to do. There are more people to help. Yes, there will be kids who don’t make it, but there are a lot more who need our help. And we can help. So we can’t give up.
We were able to give Abeba a year free of hunger and full of love. Her life greatly affected me. God used her to teach me about my purpose. When I wake up now, what I care about and focus on is different. Abeba inspired me to change and do more. I am humbled to have been a part of her life.
I believe God allows important connections like these so that we can come back and tell their story, encouraging others to find their own purpose and do something to make a difference in our world.
As Much As You Can, Wherever You Can
My passion is seeing people’s lives changed through the message of Jesus Christ, as our ministry shows them His love. Whether we’re reaching out through my mom’s teaching or the missions outreaches we’re involved in, it’s all about real, relevant, intentional ministry. We share the gospel and relieve human suffering in any way we can, wherever we can.
Through our missions arm, Hand of Hope, we are privileged to be part of thousands of outreaches resulting in people being loved, fed, medically treated, rescued from slavery, restored from disasters, etc.
A few years ago, after an amazing night of outreach in Los Angeles where more than 2,000 people gave their lives to Jesus, something struck me: Because God is working through our ministry, a great magnitude of His work is happening all at the same time, all around the world. As a result of people coming together in a joint effort, the impossible is truly becoming possible.
I sat and thought about all that was happening at the same time those 2,000 people gave their lives to Jesus:
While we were in Los Angeles, my brother, David, was across the world in Cambodia with a team of people kicking off one of our ministry’s largest-ever mission outreaches.
At the same time, the gospel was being preached on hundreds of TV and radio stations through our daily programs—reaching a potential audience of two-thirds of the world. And at the same time, there were also hungry kids being fed through our feeding programs—kids that would have otherwise starved to death.
Across Asia, people were caring for orphans in our children’s homes. And while that was happening, postal workers were delivering life-changing resources to help families grow in their walk with God.
Disaster relief teams we had sponsored were finishing another long day of relief and rebuilding work, and thousands of men, women and children were waking up in newly constructed villages and homes that we helped rebuild in parts of India and Sri Lanka after the tsunami. The list kept going.
Together, we are showing the love of Jesus as much as we can, wherever we can. The really amazing thing is that these kinds of outreaches are not just happening for one day—but rather every day! God’s grace and all of us doing our part make this possible. Every member of the team is an important piece of the big picture.
Our mission is to make God’s Word accessible to as many people as possible. We know that His Word is always current. So our job is to keep ourselves current so that we can catch the attention of the people He wants to reach. That’s why we use media outlets like our website, TV and radio programs, Facebook, Twitter and mobile apps that offer daily devotionals and access to our Enjoying Everyday Life broadcast.
I am humbled by all God is doing through us and honored to be part of such a great team of people. It’s pretty amazing what He is allowing us to accomplish together around the world—mind-blowing, really! All glory and honor to Him.
Our Partners Play a HugePart
When I talk about our team, I’m not just referring to our employees. Everyone—our employees, our friends, our partners—they are all irreplaceable. Their ongoing prayer and support allow us to reach so many in the United States and throughout the world.
Words can’t describe how grateful we are to our partners. Our family regularly prays for them, and several teams in our office pray daily for them and their prayer requests. Their faithful generosity is literally helping change lives across the globe, and we can’t thank them enough!
In addition to individual partners, we also have organization partners—great relationships with dozens of groups like Convoy of Hope, Service International, Mercy Ministries and Crisis Aid, to name a few. We think of these ministries as God’s hands and feet, reaching out to help hurting people and fulfill the Great Commission, often in very remote, unreached places.
In the words of my brother, David, “Together, we are better!” God is using our unique differences and talents to make an even bigger impact than we ever could alone.If you have partnered with us in any way, I want to say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” You are helping to rewrite people’s stories.
I think of a young boy named Les in our orphanage in Cambodia. Les and I became good buddies. His father was killed in a fishing accident while working, and his mother could not afford to keep him and his five siblings alive.
Without a ministry like this orphanage, Les would likely grow up on the streets. His story has been rewritten. Les is growing up fed, clothed and educated. He has a roof over his head, a new family that gives him much love and attention, and most important, he’s learning about Jesus!
Les is just one of the thousands of lives that together we are changing. Seeing the difference in his life motivates me to do more.
We Can All Do Something
More than anything, I want people and churches to know that we can all do more. Like my mom says in her book, Change Your World, we firmly believe that every church or ministry and every Christian should be involved in world missions, helping the poor and needy. It’s a vital part of being a follower of Jesus.
When we do more, more people will be affected, more people will be helped, more people will experience the love of Jesus. And I firmly believe that God’s commands to help and serve others changes not only the lives of the people we touch, but we are changed in the process as well.
If you lead a church with limited resources, know this: Small things do make a difference. Some people and churches might have resources to do big things while others can’t. That’s OK. Just do something with what you have—whether it’s mowing an elderly neighbor’s lawn or leading a missions trip that awakens your congregation to others’ needs.
Look at the lives of the people that have impacted you. Assess the relationships you have and the opportunities to partner with others to make a greater impact. Consider the resources in your hands and within your reach. Then do something to show the love of Jesus.Daniel Meyer is CEO of U.S. Media and Operations for Joyce Meyer Ministries and co-creator of Fuzed Worship, an outreach of JMM. Driven by a passion to see lives changed, he is committed to positioning JMM for the next generation and beyond, and effectively communicating the irreplaceable role of its partners.
Why grasping God’s sacrifice compels a radical response to injustice
I bolted upright in bed, tears stinging my eyes and sweat drenching my hair. The shrill screams for help still rang in my ears. Instinctively, I cried out, “We’re coming for you!” But there was no response, only silence. These girls were in my dreams now.
Anyone who’s a first responder will tell you they encounter things they can never “un-see.” First responders—paramedics, firefighters, law enforcement and medics—observe human suffering up close, sometimes too close. When instinct says to look away, these heroes zoom in on the pain. Years later, many can still see the faces and hear the screams. Tragedy and injustice are not easily forgotten.
Over the past four years, my husband, Nick, and I have learned that firsthand. After seeing “tragedy” I couldn’t ignore any longer, Nick and I became first responders, founding The A21 Campaign in 2008 to help fight human trafficking in Eastern Europe. Until then, like most people, we had kept a safe distance—unsettled by the idea of modern-day slavery, but not yet upended.
With little knowledge and a lot of passion, we began to zoom in on the pain and quickly learned that sex trafficking is a $32 billion-a-year industry and the world’s fastest-growing organized crime today, second only to drug trafficking.
What we saw was astonishing. I couldn’t get away from it, not even when I slept. I still can’t.
When you meet a young girl who was burned and whipped by her captors, you don’t forget that. When a hollow-eyed survivor asks softly, “Why didn’t you come sooner?” you don’t forget that. When a woman is so traumatized from abuse that she can no longer speak, you don’t forget that.
Like I said, some things you can never un-see.
A Holy Resistance
These images—these people—are a part of me now. They remind me that atrocities aren’t confined to history books; they slip off the pages and crawl into our local communities. If no one stands against them, they will rehearse their evil practices of the past.
There must be a holy resistance. I believe that resistance is the church.
Today, more than ever, I’ve come to realize that the battle against injustice is not a calm fight. Evil is not solved; it must be overwhelmed.
That means we, as the church, must embrace a level of radical behavior that makes many people in the church uncomfortable. But when I read the Gospels and the stories of how Jesus identified and fought evil, I can’t help but think, Isn’t “radical” what we were originally called to be? Isn’t that how the church was founded—with radical Christians who had walked with Jesus, watching Him breathe life into the dead, refute the Pharisees and ultimately give His life?
They heard firsthand Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The early church defied tyrants, demolished prejudices, overran obstacles and outlasted persecution.
When I read the stories in Scripture, I’m overwhelmed with evidence that the church was never intended to be a safe place, but rather a saving place. As He prepared the disciples for ministry—those who would build His church—Jesus told them, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, KJV).
The early church of the book of Acts was a constant center of activity—a movement, not a museum. The church was created to be active and alive. When the church is working like Christ mandated, it is as much a verb as it is a noun—loving, moving, building, comforting, charging, rescuing.
A Kingdom Fight
Our work to abolish human trafficking is a simple exercise in this radical behavior. We are the arms of the church. One arm fights violently against the devil, while the other arm extends healing to those the devil has tried to destroy.
And we’re not doing it alone. The church is rising up and fulfilling its call. Every shelter that has been built and every girl that has been rescued are direct results of the generosity of the saints of God and the local church.
Radical generosity is making a radical difference in Eastern Europe. We’re seeing it firsthand.
It’s astounding to think of what God has done over the last four years. Together with ministries such as Joyce Meyer Ministries’ Hand of Hope, we are rescuing women from some of the worst environments imaginable.
With shelters in Greece, Ukraine and Bulgaria, we are infiltrating the very heart of darkness and exposing the enemy’s evil. I call these shelters the point of the sword, fighting human trafficking on its own turf—prying victims from their tormentors’ grip.
However, we know the battle against human trafficking won’t be won through rescues. We need a long-term, sustainable solution.
That’s why in addition to building shelters, we’re raising awareness of the global sex trade, offering employment to those at risk, educating “clients” to the realities of what they are engaging in and offering transition programs so that no victim ever finds herself in that place again. We are in the schools, on the streets, working with the governments and constantly in prayer.
Yet the strongest anointing isn’t in the fighting, but rather the extension of a radical, generous love to girls who had given up hope that such a thing could exist.
A Rescue Story
As I think about all of this, I’m reminded that God was the first on-scene responder. He saw us in our brokenness, He ran to our rescue, He simply couldn’t un-see our pain. We were forever on His mind. Throughout the Old Testament He called out, “I’m coming for you.”
The Bible is a rescue story. Before there was racial oppression or human trafficking, we were slaves to our own sin. We were beaten and battered, assailed and assaulted. But God saw us in our lowly state, and in His radical generosity sent a one-man rescue team to become a holy atonement for our sins, forever closing the gap between Him and us.
This example—our own rescue—inspires us to do the same for others. Whether you’re reaching out to underprivileged kids in the inner city, helping care for single mothers in your community, stocking the local food pantry or staring down human traffickers, it is all a response to the rescue you have already received.
I think about 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us” (NIV). That Scripture could just as easily read: “We rescue because He first rescued us.” This is the beauty of the church. Redeemed people, rescued people, sharing redemption with others.
I so love what my friend and mentor Joyce Meyer says about living out your faith. I can still hear her saying with her trademark passion and conviction, “You have to start somewhere. Just go do something for God!” Time and again, she has shown me that faith is more than a concept. Faith must be lived out loud. We can’t just talk about standing against injustice; we must do something about it.
The Great Opportunity
I have great hope for A21 and the church at large. I believe that God is raising up a generation of men and women who are passionate about living out their faith with a generosity that can change our culture and illuminate the darkest places.
I believe an awakening is taking place. I see leaders who are running to the battle rather than sitting on the sidelines and watching things become progressively worse. On every continent of the globe, families are standing against injustice, cruelty and oppression.
But to be a leader during this time in history isn’t for the weak of heart. Binding up the brokenhearted and preaching freedom for the captive are as real for us as they were for Jesus 2,000 years ago.
This isn’t a part-time endeavor, and it can’t be done from a distance. It requires on-site response. You have to zoom in on the pain.
For A21, this means finding real girls experiencing real pain in a really broken world. They aren’t someone else’s problem. They are our pursuit.
I always ask people who say they want to make a difference in the world around them today: “What is your pursuit?” When you understand that you have the great opportunity to live a life demonstrating the radical generosity of God’s love, it’s one of the most incredible and life-altering things you can experience.
And in the moments when you feel overwhelmed, or can’t sleep because of the call in front of you—when the names and the faces and the cries stay with you—don’t despair. Take heart. You’re in good company. Jesus understands your call. He feels your burden. He lies awake with you. Jesus is your rescuer, too.Christine Caine travels the globe taking her messages of hope and inspiration to people around the world. She is a member of the leadership team at Hillsong Church (based in Sydney, Australia), and founder of The A21 Campaign. Caine lives with her husband, Nick, and their two daughters in Southern California.
How the indispensable command to preach the third person of the Trinity empowers and breathes life into our churches and world
O Spirit of the living God, Thou light and fire divine, Descend upon Thy church once more, and make it truly Thine. Fill it with love and joy and power, with righteousness and peace; Till Christ shall dwell in human hearts, and sin and sorrows cease. Teach us to utter living words of truth which all may hear, The language all may understand when love speaks loud and clear; Till every age and race and clime shall blend their creeds in one, And earth shall form one family by whom Thy will is done. —A traditional Welsh hymn by Henry H. Tweedy
More than 50 years of ministry have produced several personal convictions expressed in this hymn and evidenced in Scripture. I want to be frank with you—especially those called to preach the gospel to the church: It is the Holy Spirit or nothing. No salvation; no holiness; no discernment; no power; no prayer; no miracles; no God.
If we are going to preach the gospel, honoring the third person of the Trinity is both necessary and inevitable. He is not just a phantom or an associate God—He is God here, God now, God where it counts. No one is saved without His work of conviction and conversion. No one develops holiness of heart without the Holy Spirit's continuing work. No one is empowered for witness and service apart from Him.
And while more than 150 specific works of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the New Testament, let's not forget that without the Spirit there would be no Bible—Old Testament or New Testament. R.T. Kendall declares that the Holy Spirit's greatest work is the Bible itself, having inspired those who wrote it.
Second Peter 1:20-21 reminds us: "Above all you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God the message that came from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (NIV).
Struggling with your next sermon? Make the intentional decision to listen for the heartbeat of Jesus.
We all have those times in ministry when it's just plain difficult. In the early days of my ministry and preaching, Saturdays and Mondays were those times for me. Saturdays were spent struggling to find a verse, an illustration, a thought to share with the people that would show up at church the next morning to see and feel all my hard work. These were "pre-Internet" days, so by mid-morning I'd have 25 books spread out all over my floor just to find one nugget of truth. The second-worst days were Mondays. After I had the time to let the damage I caused the day before sink in, Monday became a depressing day of "no one was changed, saved or transformed and even cared." And then realization set in that I got to do this again for the midweek service. There has to be a better way, I thought. Over the years, I found one. It all depended on what my "H" looked like.
A FORMER NONBELIEVER IN THE BAPTISM AND GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT SHARES WHY THE ANOINTING OF GOD IS THE INDISPENSABLE COMPONENT FOR PREACHINGPOWER PREACHING
In His first sermon, Jesus told the people of Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel" (Luke 4:18). As with Jesus, so with us: There can be no authentic preaching of the gospel without the anointing of the Holy Spirit. My 60-plus years of ministry can be divided into two parts. For the first 27 years of pastoral work, I was a hard-line nonbeliever in the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. My denomination insisted that miraculous works of the Spirit vanished when the Apostle John died, and I wrongly carried that error to my congregation.
A Hard Road to Spiritual Awakening During that period I never saw an alcoholic, drug addict, suicidal person or someone suffering from similar problems miraculously deliv-ered by the power of God—nor did I expect it. It's difficult to think about and admit, but my ignorance of Scripture was extremely costly to me and my flock. I'll never forget one particularly dark time. A young mother in our congregation, whom we all thought gentle and kind, loaded a gun, murdered her husband and three children, and committed suicide. At the time it was Atlanta's worst-ever murder-suicide. It's impossible to describe the horrific effect the tragedy had on a network of families, friends, neighbors and our church.
R.T. Kendall can preach with the best of them, yet it’s his gift of connecting knowledge to Spirit-empowered truth that truly sets him apart
Since we started having guest editors two years ago we’ve covered some important topics: integrity, giving, church growth, evangelism, prayer, leadership, social transformation and, most recently, revival and healing.
We’ve had some high-profile guest editors such as Reinhard Bonnke, Robert Morris, Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson and Dr. Mark Rutland. During these two years, Ministry Today has experienced a resurgence unlike anything in its nearly three-decade history. I’m grateful to these guest editors and for the response from readers like you.
Now we focus on an equally important topic for pastors: preaching. To do so, we asked one of the best preachers of our generation—Dr. R.T. Kendall—to be guest editor.
It’s 6 at night as I arrive home from a long day at work. I flip on the TV to catch the news. The commentator rattles off some of the day’s headlines: “The American economy is in serious trouble! President Obama and the Republicans can’t agree on the solution. With the declining economy, crime is increasing and poverty is on the rise. Internationally: Iran is threatening to destroy Israel ... the violent North Korean dictator has just died, leading to greater global uncertainty ... Egypt has turned violent ... There’s a growing threat of civil war in Iraq, and immorality seems to be at an all-time high.”
My heart wrenches with anxiety as the stories unfold. Get us out of here, Lord, I pray silently. Then suddenly, without warning, a thought stands erect like a brave soldier on the battlefield of my mind:Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Before I can process that verse, more soldiers begin to take their stand on the war-torn sands of my imagination; “Arise and shine for your light has come. The glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold deep darkness covers the earth, deep darkness the people, but the Lord will rise upon you. His glory will be seen on you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising!” In a matter of seconds, other soldiers emerge, shouting their commands into the foxholes of my heart, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth; therefore, go and make disciples of all nations!”
Courage slowly seeps into my soul as I am reminded of our mandate and mission. We were never placed on this planet to reflect the culture; we’ve been called to transform it. The kingdom of God is to be cultivated within us so that it infects and affects the kingdoms around us, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God.
A culture of honor gives room for people to grow in freedom and power
One of the premier core values and goals of an apostolic environment is creating a safe place that brings out the best in people. Paul asserts that knowing a loving God is the pathway to accessing the unlimited supply of His goodness:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:14-21).
God is stirring in the hearts of leaders a vision to see a generation that is passionately ablaze for Jesus and His cause. I am not talking about a mere spark that eventually fizzles, but an all-consuming fire, which continues to burn through one’s entire life.
As leaders, we must build with this goal in mind. We are not called to just bear fruit, but to produce that which remains (John 15). I personally don’t believe I have fulfilled my role effectively as a leader of the younger generation if their passion and commitment to Jesus fades somewhere in their 20s or 30s. We must see a generation whose light burns even brighter with their age. So the question then must be: “How do we as leaders create a culture that releases young people into a life of not only sustained fire but a fire that is ever increasing?”
Three Components of Fire
It is one thing to ignite a flame, or occasionally stoke an ember, but altogether another to sustain a fire that is ever advancing and magnifying. A fire requires three things to continue: fuel, heat and oxygen. As we call a generation to give their lives fully to Jesus—to present themselves as a living sacrifice (fuel) and encounter the passionate love in the gaze of Jesus (heat)—we must also be intentional in creating an atmosphere where oxygen is abundant.
Anyone who is familiar with the elementary school science experiment, where a lit candle is placed inside a jar, knows what happens when oxygen is removed from the equation. The flame extinguishes, and all that remains is smoke. Fire simply cannot survive in a vacuum. It requires oxygen, and the more it draws on fresh air, the more dazzling, pervasive and powerful it becomes.
Being thankful and staying hungry for God leads to spiritual health and passion
Several years ago, I was in an all-day prayer meeting that was sure to leave a mark on my life. While there, I met Mike Servello, a pastor from Utica, N.Y. We had corresponded through email, but we had never met in person.
While the worship team was playing, Mike leaned over to me and said, “God is looking for a city that would belong entirely to Him. And once He gets that one city, it will cause a domino effect across our nation.” I told him I believed my city, Redding, Calif., was that city. He said he believed Utica was. In print, it may look like a competition. It wasn’t. It was two pastors expressing their faith for the big picture.
A little while later, I was in a different part of the sanctuary. Standing next to me was a friend and prophetic lady named Jean Krisle Blasi. She turned to me saying, “God is looking for a city that would belong entirely to Him. And once He gets that one city, it will cause a domino effect across our nation.” I was stunned. It was word-for-word what Mike had declared maybe 30 minutes earlier. Before I could mention my convictions for my city, she said, “And I believe Redding is that city.”
For decades, maybe centuries, the church has gathered weekly around a sermon. Our reasons are noble: We value the Scriptures and know that our lives are to be anchored in truth. But the study of the Scriptures is meant to launch us into an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
In that moment of connection, we obtain life. Without encountering the One to whom Scriptures point, we are a people to be pitied. As Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
Nearly every leader wants revival in one way or another, and many want healings, deliverances and miracles. But it’s hard to have the same fruit as the early church when we value a book they didn’t have above the Holy Spirit they did have.
The church has always been faced with the choice of evangelizing through the power of God or by human wisdom, often expressed as apologetics.
A famous “defender of the faith,” Benjamin Warfield, against the overwhelming teaching of Scripture, actually claimed, “Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively ‘the Apologetical religion.’ It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet.”
Apologetics in this context means, “a reasoned defense” rather than a “presentation-in-power” of Christian belief. Apologetics assumes that one becomes a Christian more by intellectually grasping “right doctrine” or “good ideas” rather than humbly receiving the revealed presence and power of Jesus.
In early church history, as the power of the Spirit became a threat to the church hierarchy, most of the early “church fathers” became more acceptable as “apologists,” defending the faith against philosophical and religious attacks, even as they (rarely) conceded that Christianity was mainly spread by those who healed and drove out demons. Since these apologists were trained in the same intellectual traditions as their opponents, their crucial problem is that they accept their opponents’ premise that human wisdom is the way to discover God and to accept His gospel. The gospel then became a matter of accepting certain facts about Christianity (the creeds), rather than basing faith on the “experience” of God’s revelation and power—a problem even today in evangelical Christianity.
Robert Stearns is mobilizing churches to stand with Israel as it faces some of the most difficult threats to its existence
Christian Zionism is not a new phenomenon created by the religious right. In fact it predates the Jewish Zionist movement. So says David Brog in his excellent book Standing With Israel.
As a historian, Brog documents how William Hechler, a deeply religious Christian, was one of the first allies in 1896 of Theodor Herzl—a Jew who was the father of the modern Zionist movement.
Fast-forward 120 years. The state of Israel exists against all odds today, while facing some of the most difficult threats to its existence. Israel has few friends in the world more devoted than the evangelical (particularly charismatic) Christian community.
A new generation discovers more reasons to stand with Israel
Christian support for Israel needs a face-lift—a much-needed makeover to meet the charged climate of the 21st century global arena.
Christian Zionism is not new; it has been around for centuries. Sometimes quirky, often romantic and wrong-headed, these eccentric believers lived out a dream to see Zion restored. Their visions seldom corresponded with the social realities of the time. Call them visionaries before their time, the 19th century settlers who relocated to then-Ottoman “Palestine,” were passionate but mostly without significant influence; not to mention few and far between. They were committed pioneers who gave their lives for a biblical promise of the rebirth of a nation long dead.
Today is a different story. The modern state of Israel not only exists (against all odds); it is the focal point of the complex and delicate geopolitical realities of the Middle East—and to some extent, global affairs. From my ongoing work over the past 20 years in the Jewish and Christian communities, which revolves around these pivotal issues, as well as Eagles’ Wings’ efforts to educate the next generation in them, I propose there must be a fundamental shift in the way we approach the Jewish people, Israel and Zionism.
Most evangelicals are familiar with the many biblical reasons for supporting Israel. These important pillars are eternal, foundational and serve as the basis for traditional Christian Zionism. However, I believe a new generation is rising—boldly declaring that support for Israel is not only, for believers, an essential biblical principle, but for humanity, a universal moral imperative.
The center of the world is also the center of our faith
Jerusalem is the crossroads of the world. This unique city is unlike anywhere else on the planet. It’s difficult to describe how distinct and singular its atmosphere is. Although most urban centers are a confluence of varying ethnicities and cultural expressions, the thing that sets Jerusalem apart is the sense that its very location is the reason for the convergence of diversities that populate it. Its composition is not arbitrary or incidental.
Its inhabitants did not happen upon this landmass due to natural migration patterns or random chance. Rather, it seems that each and every person who resides in this land does so by deliberate, intentional choice. No one is there by accident. If you’re living in Israel, it is because you believe something so strongly you’re willing to stake your life on it. Many end up doing just that.
Often thought of as the crossroads of the three monotheistic faiths, the charged religious nature of Jerusalem also positions it at the hub of world politics. Jerusalem is not an easy place to live. There are no comfort zones in Jerusalem—nowhere to hide. The irreconcilable philosophies hurled down through the ages at avalanche-speeds meet in this tiny city, where they butt heads, brush shoulders, pass each other in vigilant silence.
Why the church must identify and combat the last acceptable prejudice
When believers today discuss the Holocaust (or Shoah), it is not uncommon for them to shake their heads in disbelief that such a massive genocide involving 6 million Jews could have happened so recently in Christian Europe. “How did the church not see?” we cry.
We read with horror the historical accounts; we weep at the testimonies of those who survived and grieve for those who didn’t. We stare with unbelief at the grotesque photos of man’s inhumanity to man during the Nazi reign of terror, and vow with Jews all over the world: “Never again!”
Yet, only 67 years after the end of World War II, we find ourselves living in a time eerily similar to the years preceding Hitler’s “Final Solution”—a time when the unthinkable is now very possible. Results of a 2003 poll authorized by the European Commission show that 60 percent of Europeans in 15 EU countries believed Israel to be the greatest threat to world peace, greater than North Korea or Iran.
How Israel advocacy is changing the way a generation relates to their faith
Have you ever noticed that the book of Genesis, our introduction to God, His character, His emotions and His will, devotes just the first two chapters to creation, and chapters 12 through 50 primarily to one theme?
That’s right, two chapters on speaking the universe into existence, and 39 zeroing in on one thing. This one thing is the “big picture.” This one thing is covenant. The big picture of biblical covenant is about God’s decision to use a place and a people (Israel and the Jewish people) to establish His means of revelation and redemption in the earth.
An honest observation of the Christian under-30s would suggest that the next generation longs to be connected to the big picture. They want to exchange the catchphrases and bumper-sticker theology for the reality of genuine relationship with God and with people. They want to be a part of His story.
Why God’s promises to Israel should matter to your congregation
So, you haven’t quite figured out what to do with that “Israel” couple in your church. ...
They’re nice people—sincere and passionate—and your heart tells you they might be on to something, too. However, a demanding schedule limits you from really focusing in on what they’re all about. Not that you would have time to engage in another program on top of leading your congregation.
The building project, the short-term missions trip, the rewrite of the mission statement (not to mention more counseling, weddings and funerals than you know what to do with) are enough to make you run every time they approach you on a Sunday morning about hosting a Passover Seder. Compared to the immediate demands necessary to keep a busy ministry moving forward, the “Israel thing” understandably seems far-off, undeserving of a high spot on the priority list.
Why the church must remember the largely forgotten believers in the Arab world
Did you know there is a people group vital to the fulfillment of God’s promises in Israel, whom you may not ever have heard anything about? This population segment, too often forgotten or even largely unknown, is the Arab Christian community.
Their story seems small in contrast with the vast, intensifying conflict that marks the war-torn Middle East; but particularly as we see a growing number of Christians worldwide who focus support on the Jewish people and state of Israel, it is vital that we also remember our Christian brothers and sisters and that we show them our support in this critical hour.
The Arab peoples and specifically the Palestinians are perhaps one of the most misunderstood people groups in the world today. Sadly, too many well-meaning Westerners, the terms “Arab” and “Palestinian” are synonymous with “terrorist.” For Christians who stand with the nation of Israel, it is important to understand that this is very often not true at all.
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. is on a mission to protect the moral compass of the nation by educating and empowering churches, as well as community and political leaders
It’s the political season in what many are saying is the most important presidential election of our lifetime, so I turned to my good friend, Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., because he not only has motivated Christians to get involved in the political process to bring change, but he’s highly respected.
Our guest editor has appeared on the CBS Evening News, Fox News’ Special Report, The O’Reilly Factor and The Tavis Smiley Show. Bishop Jackson’s articles have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.
And why not? He’s Harvard educated and very articulate—something the mainstream media respects. But at the same time Bishop Jackson is a great spokesman from a Christian perspective—he understands the believer’s mandate to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Bishop Jackson has a successful track record of growing churches and discipling believers. He hasn’t strayed into liberal theology, and his integrity is above reproach.
Any person with common sense can see that America is moving in the wrong direction. The “media elite” and much of the population continually mock the God of the Bible, diminish the value of marriage and family and have no concern for the sanctity of human life.
We’re headed straight into the ditch of out-of-control debt. Blind leaders are leading our blind nation toward a cliff. Thank goodness, some preachers and discerning Christians see what is coming and want to help right our ship of state.
One such individual is Jay W. Richards, an intellectual who has lectured before Congress and on leading universities nationwide. Jay has focused much attention on biblical economic principles—some of the best I’ve seen. Over the past couple of years, I have met with him on many occasions, and our hearts beat as one.
Jay and I began discussing the possibility of working on a significant book project together a number of months ago, and the result is Indivisible, which addresses restoring faith, family and freedom in America.
Connection is the beginning of all true influence—people will follow leaders they trust
From P.I. to preacher is not a common path, but it was mine. After graduating with a criminal justice administration degree at San Diego State University, I set out on a brief but fascinating career as a private investigator.
God had other plans. I had resisted God’s call, but it was time. While working as an investigator, I served in a small church as a student ministry leader. I soon found myself as a full-time master’s in divinity student at Asbury Theological Seminary. My three years there were fantastic. They were literally life changing. I was fired up and ready to serve in ministry, but I still had much to learn about leadership.
John Maxwell invited me to join his staff for one year as an intern at Skyline Wesleyan Church, which was located in a San Diego suburb. Little did I know that we would work together for 20 years, and reach thousands of people for Jesus.
Calling pastors to help change the nation through prayer, preaching and partnership
As a teenager, I remember President Ronald Reagan’s vivid image of America as a “shining city on a hill,” echoing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. President Reagan meant that we are a beacon of light and hope for the rest of the world. Today, that beacon is growing dim.
Human life has become disposable. Abortion remains a tragic and open wound on our society. When miscarriages are not counted, fully 22 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion. The rate for African-Americans’ abortion in New York City is an astonishing 60 percent. More pre-born children die daily in America’s abortion centers than the casualty from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, there have been more than 50 million abortions.
Our families are in disarray. More than 40 percent of children do not have married parents. Not surprisingly, only 45 percent of teenagershave spent their childhood with biological parents who were married.
Forget grassroots revival—widespread change is best achieved by a narrow focus
There is a seismic shift taking place today in the marketplace and the church. We need to understand how to respond if we are going to bring systemic transformation. There are ways the church should apply the gospel in response to cultural shifts.
First of all, it is a mistake to believe the culture will shift because of a church revival or a societal awakening. Often, we as believers think the key to societal transformation is to convert masses of people. But the truth is that culture is transformed by a small percentage of the population who make up the cultural elite in a society. Thus the only way to affect cultural change is to convert the elite who formulate culture in every sphere of society.
Second, it is a mistake to think that political victories will bring transformation. For example, abortion was legalized in 1973 yet the fight still rages on. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in several states in the Northeast, but the battle continues. Homosexuality has been normalized by art, media and entertainment, yet a large percentage of Americans still refuse to consider it as normative behavior.
Pastors need to twin prayer for spiritual revival with practical involvement in cultural reformation
Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world.”
Those were the words that Martin Luther King Jr. heard as he prayed alone at his kitchen table in 1956. He had arrived in Montgomery, Ala., two years earlier, accepting the pastorate of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church rather than pursuing the academic career he had originally envisioned.
He soon found himself the head of the pastors’ association that led the famous bus boycotts. Increasing incidents of police harassment had caused Dr. King to ponder whether such activism was worth the risk to himself and his family. For 30 days in a row he had received daily death threats, so he paused to pray for guidance.
The Lord answered him clearly. It is hard to imagine what America would be like had King not answered the Lord’s call at that kitchen table. But because he did, our nation has made significant progress in living up to its own founding ideals of liberty and justice for all.
Why pastors simply must speak out on political issues
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.
Mathew D. Staver
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. interviewed Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel; and Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), who discussed why pastors should not stay away from political issues—despite scrutiny from the IRS and groups threatening lawsuits.
Jackson: Mat, you have interacted with many pastors who believe they should “just preach” the gospel and stay away from political issues. What do you say to these church leaders?
Despite long odds and strong opposition, apostolic minister Kimberly Daniels won a city council seat after God led her to run for office
Jacksonville, Fla., is my hometown. With 20-plus miles of beaches and the most beautiful river views in the world, it is a great place to vacation and even a better one to live.
However, my city—like most others—also has its negative side. Jacksonville is nationally known for violent crimes. I grew up in the LaVilla area, where as a child, I loved living in my neighborhood—located a few blocks from the office where I currently work as a city council representative. I received almost 93,000 votes after entering a political race a few weeks before the May 17, 2011 election.
Becoming an elected official seemed unreachable, considering my mother was a single mom of three daughters from three different men and my father owned a bar in LaVilla, which featured “Sissy Shows” (female impersonators).
At times, I still feel like I am going to wake up one day and say, “I dreamed I was an at-large city council representative in Jacksonville.” As I look out my window onto the streets where I used to play, I cannot help but feel humbled. Though it is not a dream, it all started with one.
How the Manhattan Declaration is mobilizing silent-too-long Christians to protect life, marriage and religious freedom
It was Nov. 20, 2009 when more than 20 Christian leaders stood before the microphones at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Fox News, CNN, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, TheWashington Post and other media outlets were there with cameras and microphones.
There we announced the launch of the Manhattan Declaration. We proclaimed to the church—and put our nation’s political leaders on notice—that we would protect the sanctity of life, uphold the sacredness of marriage as a holy union between one man and one woman and defend religious freedom for all people.
In front of all those cameras and lights, the Christian leaders lovingly, winsomely and firmly took a stand. I will never forget the picture. I stood between Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia. I looked over at Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, and Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action. To my left was Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., who mobilized African-American churches in the District of Columbia to oppose gay marriage. And there was Fr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary.
Pastors must rediscover their historical, nation-shaping role
During the American Revolution, the British dubbed the courageous clergy “The Black Regiment”—a backhanded reference to the black robes they wore. The British blamed the clergy for America’s independence, and rightfully so as modern historians have documented that “there is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence, which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763.”
The rights listed in the Declaration of Independence were nothing more than a listing of sermon topics that had been preached from the pulpit in the preceding decades. Early clergy literally believed 2 Tim. 3:16-17—that all Scripture is God-inspired, and that God’s Word is to prepare us for every work.
Their sermons presented a biblical perspective on pressing public issues, including what type of taxes were and were not scriptural, how education should be conducted, the biblical role of the military, the difference between offensive and defensive wars, and the importance of having written constitutions of governance and electing godly leaders. The sermons touched on scores of other biblical topics, which the pulpit is largely silent on today.