Friday, February 27, 2015

Three Keys of Discipleship: Authority Part 2

We have been discussing the Second Key of Discipleship which is Authority in God's Word.  This is a continuation from the last post so make sure you read part 1 before going on.

The 1980’s to the Present (Baby Busters & Mosaics).  When the King is in question, people lose the fear of God.  Church became nothing more than a religious activity on Sunday.  God was a good idea with no substance.  It was O.K. if someone believed in God, but few knew if God really existed because society had ceased to live by faith.  We had become self-sufficient, or so we thought.
Revelation 3:17, “Because you say, 'I'm rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,' and you don't know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,”  This generation views many of the people in church as hypocrites, or fake, because most would pledge allegiance to Jesus on Sunday and live for the Devil the rest of the week.

Today’s generation is the “show me” generation.  Preaching a good message is no longer sufficient. There must be feet to the message. There are tons of preachers standing in pulpits all across America commanding people to win the lost through personal evangelism when they do nothing to evangelize their world.  It is this shallow Christianity from the so-called men of God that causes the current generation to question the motives of the church.  Where is the reality?  Where are the people that are actually doing the things that we preach?  Where are the Spirit-filled believers that are living with the almighty God that we preach?  These are the questions of this generation.

Today’s generation will not receive a message of authority and loyalty to a person or a cause just because someone preaches it.  They demand the proof of it. They have been lied to for too long. “Because I said so” doesn’t cut it anymore! “Because the Bible says so” doesn’t cut it anymore!
The proof is based solely in the reality of the day to day actions of the believers.  How scary is that, when we look at the state of the believers in our churches today.

A proper balance must be drawn for God to be seen in this generation. We must remember the lessons of our fathers.  Proverbs 22:28, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”  The fear of God must be restored.  The fear of God produces respect toward God and his body, the church.  When respect is restored obedience and service naturally follow.  We must learn the balance of love and respect.  Love is not in competition with respect. True love naturally produces respect.  Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  True love is caring about others more than you care about yourself.  Therefore, true love produces the reality of caring more for others than one’s self, and respect follows naturally.  Demanding respect without love leads to rebellion because it is oppressive to the soul.

To Be Continued in Part 3

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Three Keys to Discipleship: Authority

In any good discipleship process there are three major components that will cause the reproducible results that church leaders are looking for in their people.  The first key which I discussed in my last post is intimacy with God.   The second key is establishing the Authority of God's Word.

At Reliant one of our core values is Bible Believers: The Word of God is our Final Authority for all Life and Practice.  This is not just a saying for us but a life to be lived.  Authority is often times defined by the culture in which one lives.  So let's take a brief walk down history lane and see where we came from, where we are, where we are going.

In the 1940’s & 50’s (Builders) as Americans came out of The Great Depression and into the Second World War, there was a great sense of unity among the nation.  The government conveyed the feeling “of the people, by the people, for the people” (Lincoln, 1863).  Out of this generation immerged three primary aspects of authority in the lives of people:

  • Respect:  The acknowledgement of something bigger than yourself.  A group of people can only be unified when they understand and accept the structure of the group.  People were happy to accept their place in society and function in it.
  • Obedience:  When there is true respect, there must be obedience to the chain of command: President to people, father to son, teacher to student, Pastor to flock.  Defiance to the structure is known as being disrespectful.  Therefore, respect and obedience go hand in hand.
  • Service:  The performance of a command.  When an order is given and carried out, a service has been performed, and thus respect has been shown.

This was very much the way of things in church.  Everyone in America, in church or not, acknowledged the fact that God is sovereign, and the church his mode of operation.  Those that were in rebellion to the structure of the church or God understood that they were in rebellion, and thus were primed and ready to receive the message of the King of kings and Lord of lords.  There was an inherent sense of loyalty and duty to God, family, and country.

Problems began to arise at the end of the war when the fathers came home with troubled hearts and lives.  The sense of loyalty and duty had been so ingrained in the men that there was room for nothing else.  All life revolved around respect, obedience, and service whether that was in the military, home, school, or church.  Many had lost the ability to love or to show love.  Expressions of love were seen as weak or feminine.  It is this lack of love that caused the next generation to rebel and defy all structure and authority.

The 1960’s & 70’s (Baby Boomers).  One thing is for certain, people tend to be extremist.  By the end of the 1960’s the next generation was rebelling against any and all types of authority.  America had gotten out of balance.   The primary need of every soul is love and people were willing to fight to get it. The famous cover of Time Magazine on April 8, 1966 said it all, “Is God Dead?”  Here are some excerpts from that article. “Less radical Christian thinkers hold that at the very least God in the image of man, God sitting in heaven, is dead, and—in the central task of religion today—they seek to imagine and define a God who can touch men's emotions and engage men's minds.” “The institutional strength of the churches is nowhere more apparent than in the U.S., a country where public faith in God seems to be as secure as it was in medieval France. According to a survey by Pollster Lou Harris last year, 97% of the American people say they believe in God. Although clergymen agree that the postwar religious revival is over, a big majority of believers continue to display their faith by joining churches. In 1964, reports the National Council of Churches, denominational allegiance rose about 2%, compared with a population gain of less than 1.5%. More than 120 million Americans now claim a religious affiliation; and a recent Gallup survey indicated that 44% of them report that they attend church services weekly.” “Particularly among the young, there is an acute feeling that the churches on Sunday are preaching the existence of a God who is nowhere visible in their daily lives. "I love God," cries one anguished teenager, "but I hate the church."

Due to the lack of love and purpose being found in the structure of the churches, it was sought out in other forms.  The reflection of this search was apparent in many art forms of the day.  Music played a major role in communicating the message of the day.
“Come on, people now, smile on your brother.  Everybody get together.  Try to love one another right now” (Get Together, Youngbloods)  The fathers of the 60’s & 70’s began to seek out more of a love relationship with their children.  With no example to follow, they were faced with making it up as they went.  Some succeeded and some didn't.  It was at this time that churches began to experiment with an “all-love” style of preaching and teaching.  Condemnation was thought to be inappropriate.   Laws and commandments were seen as oppressive and controlling.  People were searching for the God of love.  The focus of the message became the cross of forgiveness instead of the road to repentance, or the authority of a King.  Christianity became the road to heaven instead of an entrance into the kingdom.  Thus, salvation was the end of the Christian faith and not the beginning.

To Be Continued on Friday's post.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Three Keys of Discipleship: Intimacy

I remember, as if it were yesterday, 20 years ago traveling up to First Baptist Church in New Philadelphia, Ohio to visit some men of God that helped me learn how to mentor the people of God. Mark Trotter and Frank Pardue (God rest his soul) were the pastors at the time and were very gracious to spend time teaching young ministers how to "pour into" others.  Since that time I have made it a life long mission to learn the best practices of mentoring Christians for the cause of Christ. Kim and I have been taking tons of physiological profiles this week as we get ready for our Church Planting Assessment and I am finding that searching out best practices is right in my wheelhouse.

When it comes to building people for the kingdom of God there are three major components that I have found that must be present.  If one of these is missing, you will have a shallow result that does not reproduce itself, and let's face it, discipleship is all about multiplication.  Over the next few posts, I will discuss all three of the aspects needed.

The first key to a reproducing discipleship is "Intimacy with God." One of the biggest problems that I see in the church today is a shallow sense of intimacy at that moment of salvation.  We spend a lot of time talking about forgiveness for sin and not the person that has been offended by that sin.  God has always been drawing people "unto himself."  For example, in the book of Deuteronomy God chose a people "unto himself" which in turn makes them holy. The proper definition of the word 'holy", is "to be set apart", not "to be righteous".  The Children of Israel were by no means righteous before God but they were set apart by Him "unto himself." (Deuteronomy 14:2; 28:9; 29:13)

Not only was God concerned with a nation for himself but for a people of all nations, tribes, and tongues.  In that famous passage of 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 we are told in vs. 19 that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself."  These are just a few scriptures on this matter, but I think the point is clear.  God has sacrificed His Son so that he might have an intimate love relationship with His people.

So, how do we structure intimacy into our discipleship process.  This is normally the place that you get the pat answers of read your Bible and pray more.  And although I'm not in objection to that, I want to dive a little bit deeper.  To build intimacy with the Lord one must walk with Him.  Walking with God can only be done through faith.  And there in lies the key.  How does your discipleship process produce impossible circumstances where your disciples must walk by faith with God? Materials will not do that.  Bible reading will not do that.  Prayers won't do it alone.  There must be situations and circumstances that demand faith. Faith will build a lasting and intimate relationship with the Lord that is real and personal.  "Without faith it is impossible to please Him."

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Healthy Fear

"There is no fear of God before their eyes" is the commentary of people who don't know God in Romans 3:18.  I'm afraid this same problem has carried into the church even after people have accepted Christ as their Savior.  Could it be that it is the way we present salvation in the first place?   Many teach that your sin will send you to hell if you don't repent. The Bible says God himself will send all those to hell that do not confess their sin to God and accept Jesus as their Lord. The more I get relational with God the more I understand how we were created in His image.

Sin is not just an inanimate object but an offence against the Creator of the universe.  The reason we don't see the life change in our churches after salvation is because we failed to put the gospel in the context of a relationship.  Paul spends a lot of time in Ephesians 5:1-11 describing the difference of a child of light and a child of darkness.  We must understand that God is offended by sin, both by the lost and the saved.  Again in Romans 6:1, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!"

The problem is we don't have any fear of God.  There are churches that take communion every Sunday using 1 Corinthians 11 as their model but yet they don't instruct the people to examine themselves and make sure they are not living in offence to the gospel which has caused many to be sick and some to die.  Yes die!!  When a christian becomes on offence to the gospel they will be chastened (convicted) by the Lord.  If the chastening doesn't work then He scourges (whips) every son (Hebrews 12:5-11).

We as pastors must take a close look at the way we represent God.  He is the God of love and forgiveness.  He is the God of second chances.  He is the God of restoration.  And He is also the God of righteousness.  He is the God of holiness.  He is the God of justice.  My prayer is that we would "walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called."

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Meeting New Friends

Do you ever feel like you lived a month in a weeks time?  This was last week for me. It started off with an amazing Sunday at Reliant. We had music and guests and it was outstanding.  Then on Monday, Brian Clark was in town for a Missions conference and we had lunch with his entire family.
Brain as been a missionary in the outskirts of London, England since 2002 and is doing a great job bringing discipleship to that place. He is the pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church and is active in modern day evangelism with the teams that come over to help during the Summer months. He set up a lunch date with two other pastors here in town so that I could meet them.  This was much appreciated since I haven't had a chance to really get out and meet a lot of guys yet.

One of the guys at the table was Billy Wood, pastor of One Baptist Church in Douglasville.   It was good to meet a guy sold out to discipleship and ready to do a great work for God.  He is the pastor of a 2 1/2 year old church plant and has got a good group of people behind him.  I look forward to the time I can visit their place and hang out a bit.

The other guy at the table was James Dekoker, pastor of Connect Church in Emmerson.  James is also a new church plant and has been running a discipleship model somewhat similar to mine.  I was excited to hear about the people they had won to Christ through relationship building.  If you are out the Emmerson way, Connect Church would be a good one to go and visit.  I'm excited to talk with James more about the Church Plant and get some pointers from him as we get ready to launch Reliant.

That just gets us to Tuesday afternoon.  Brian preached at Reliant on Tuesday night and was really helpful in getting the people to understand the balance of evangelism with discipleship.  The bottom line of his teaching was this.  If you don't A.S.K. people about Jesus you're not going to win anybody. If you would like to catch Brian's powerful message online, just follow this link.

I'm been blown away by some of the things that the Lord has been teaching me in Joshua.  Things I had never seen about Rahab.  So, I'm excited about Sunday.  If you would like to be a part of an exciting church plant, come to Reliant this Sunday.  You won't be disappointed. We had to purchase some chairs this week which cost us $500.00  If you would like to help with the cost you can donate by CLICKING HERE. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Avoiding the Trap of Legalism

Growing up in an independent fundamental Baptist Church,  I was exposed to quite a bit of legalism.  Over the last few decades legalism has taken on a broader meaning than its first intent.  The definition of legalism is the gaining of salvation through the adherence to a set of laws.  The church I grew up in was not so. We were always taught that salvation was by Jesus alone through faith alone.  So in the strictest definition we did not practice legalism.

We were called legalistic because there were certain rules that were placed on us by the church that were not found in the Bible.  For example, I remember going to Astroworld in Houston in the heat of summer with jeans on because we "as Christians" were not allowed to wear shorts.  The crazy thing is I wore shorts every day of my life just not at church functions.

Legalism can take on many forms and creep up on you before you realize what happened.  Today we understand legalism to be any set of rules that is used to determine one's spirituality.  Legalism would say today, "If you do ___________ then you will be closer to God and God will accept you."  For centuries men have been setting up these sets of rules and laws to be able to determine who is the most spiritual or superior in their spirituality.  This is a dangerous game to play.  It is the same game that the Pharisees were playing in Jesus' day and he called them hypocrites (and that was the nice term he used).

We know that if a person says you must were a suit to worship God that is described as legalism.  But what about the guy who says you can't were a suit?  He is just as legalistic.  Is the person who has a quite time with the Lord in the morning more spiritual than the guy who reads his Bible twice a week.  We would think so, but that really depends on a persons heart doesn't it?  Generally I believe that it is better for a person to spend a daily quite time with the Lord, but I can't say that it is going to make you more spiritual.  The fact is, a child of God is spiritual and accepted into the beloved by the blood of Jesus Christ.  It is nothing that we can obtain or gain, we just are.

Here is the danger of legalism.  The church has used sets of rules and laws to control people for centuries.  There have been many denominations that have set up these rules to use and manipulate people into doing whatever they want.  These rules usually come back around to money at some point.  Jesus turned over the money changing tables in the temple because the temple had established rules that you had to use temple money to tithe and buy sacrificial animals and they were cheating people in the exchange rate.  We would call that a racket today.  But what about things like coming to church, or serving on a serve team, or giving a tithe, or taking communion, or taking bible classes.  I think all these things are helpful in the walk of a christian but they are not required.  And when a person is made to feel guilty or less of a christian because they don't do these things or others, we have crossed the line into legalism.

So have your quite time, study your Bible, take communion with your local assembly, and serve your church not because it makes you any closer to God but because you are close to God.  "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:13)

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mission Minded

I remember growing up in a midsize Church in Houston, TX, now North Park Baptist Church where missions was always at the forefront of our minds.  It is an Independent Baptist Church which means we supported our own missionaries directly.  The plus side of this kind of Missions Program is that you get to see and meet the missionaries in person instead of just seeing their stats on a spreadsheet.  (There are some negatives to this type of system as well, but this is just one of the positives).

Because the missionaries had to raise their own support they would travel around all over the country (that would be the negative side) and preach in any church that would let them, hoping they would be taken on with monthly support.  So, I heard hundreds if not thousands of sermons on reaching the world for Christ.  I got to witness first hand how men and women would push through the struggles of deputation just to see their people group have a witness of Jesus Christ. I have to be honest, it made an impact on my heart.  I would dare say it made it very easy for me to answer the call of God on my own life.

There are still couples traveling all over the country trying to raise the support needed to preach the gospel in foreign lands and I applaud their efforts.  It seems that with the modern movement of programming the church services, there is little time or room to hear a man's burden for the lost in other places.  Jesus was very intentional about giving his disciples a world view of evangelism.  They were commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  This is a command and a responsibility that we still have as disciples today.

I have had Ivan Kunderenko staying in my home for the last few days.  He is a Pastor in Ukraine and aides the churches of Ukraine in understanding the Cults in the area.  He is truly a warrior for the cause of Christ.  He will be addressing our core group in the meeting this evening.  I am excited to introduce him to the people of our church.  As Kingdom Builders, We will take every God-given opportunity to advance His kingdom in this world.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Excellence & Discipline

For those of you that have been following my posts, you know that our first Sunday to have our Core Group meetings was this past Sunday.  Last week was a blur as we were transforming my house into a meeting place that would accommodate about 30 people.

I asked the group to get here at 9:00 am, because I didn't know how long it was going to take to get the garage all set up and the children's area worked out.  To my surprise and joy, everyone was here on time and we had the whole thing set up and ready to go in about 20 minutes.  Everyone pitched in and before we knew it, we were ready for our time of preaching and teaching.  These people are amazing.

We had everything up and going that any church in town would have had, just on a smaller scale.  Everything from coffee bar to a giving kiosk to the check-in station for the kids was set up and ready.  I want to set a culture of excellence from the very beginning because excellence in all things relates to trust in the message.

When you find a disciplined person,  they are usually disciplined in all areas of life.  And the same is true when you find an undisciplined person, that he or she is so in all areas.  So, it is important that when people come to your church that you present yourself as a people of discipline and excellence.  This tells the visitor that you will be excellent in your interpretation of the scriptures and in the care of their souls, just as you are with everything else.

Very few times do people see or pay attention to organization, because being organized is the standard of living.  But people will immediately detect disorganization and remember because it directly affects them.  We, as the people of God, must always strive for excellence and discipline as we are ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ and speak on His behalf the ministry and message of reconciliation.

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."  2 Corinthians 5:20

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