Leadership

UnChurching – The Modern Church Dilemma

DilemmaThis article about “unchurching” furthers the discussion from our article “The 12 Reasons Why “Mature” Christians No Longer Go To Church”. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you see if you identify with any of the reasons why so many believers in the West are unchurching… why so many struggle to fit in a traditional, institution church setting.

Many of those who are “unchurching” state the contemporary, institutional church is a man-made construct and therefore is irrelevant. There are other reasons these believers give for unchurching, but if you will permit me, I want to tackle the issue of why some believers say they no longer need a traditional church after their formative years.  Let’s look at the beginning phase of our spiritual journey to see how it might affect our perception of a church community today.

Your First Family-Church Model – Winning People to Christ.

This is like our biological family. A man and a woman (pastor and board) enter a marriage covenant (church bylaws) so they can bring children (new believers) into the world, in a safe, structured environment. The father and mother are the preeminent authority in the house (church). They are responsible to protect, provide, and train their children for least 18 years. When we are children (immature believers) we are completely dependent on the adults who provide us with a house, a bed, a bathroom, cloths, food, water, electricity etc. Since these new believers are vulnerable to deception and abuse, it is important that they submit to their parent’s loving authority. Accountability to this authority is needed during their formative years. Here are some things they will experience in this environment:

  • Regular Meals and Shelter.
  • Authority and Order.
  • Right and Wrong.
  • Discipline and Punishment.
  • Protection (covering) until They are Adults.
  • Their First Community Culture.
  • Their First House.

When people become part of an existing family (church) as adults (mature believers) the dynamics are much different. Accommodating these “adopted grown-up believers” can sometimes be a wearisome challenge for leadership.

For the millions of believers who are “unchurching”, they often express the same kind of disillusionments and disagreements that an emerging young adult experiences with their parents and siblings at home.

Is This About Cross-Less Christians?

Critics of “unchurching believers” say those leaving church think they are too mature to stay home, but are actually too immature to lay their lives down to help around the house or start their own family. Could these “dones” be unhappy because they feel it is all about them? Are their criticisms simply a case of “Moses and Cross-less Believers”? I once heard of a survey of 1000 pastors and churches that asked; “What is the purpose of the church”? 91% of the pastors stated; “the purpose of the church was to win the lost”. Not surprisingly, 89% of the people in those congregations said, “the purpose of the church was to meet the needs of me and my family”. As you can see, leadership and their congregations often don’t see eye to eye. One leader responded to criticisms of his church by saying; “We may be doing Church wrong, but I think God likes the way we are doing it wrong better than the way you are not doing it all”Unchurching

Is this a case of believers who carry a cross and follow Jesus and those who don’t? In Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus said we each need to deny ourselves, take up “our” cross and follow Him.

Maybe It’s Not About Carry A Cross, But About Gifting

Some believer’s dissatisfaction with church might be connected to the fact that they no longer appreciate the dominate gifting of (dad) the lead minister. For example; if you were raised by an evangelistic pastor, you may now be drawn to a teaching pastor, or vice versa. If we reluctantly stay at home, conflict may arise as we may unknowingly try to create our leader according to our preferences. This is when we attempt to “Create Our Leaders in Our Image”.

Just what is the dominate gifting of the leaders at your church? According to Acts 2:42-47, there are 5 purposes of the Church. Rick Warren wrote about the five purposes of a church in “The Purpose Driven Church”. Your leader and your church may have one of those purposes driving their identity and mission. Some large churches try to be and do all five.

I will leave you with this diagram to look over and to ponder; Is there one aspect of the 5 purposes of the Church that has influenced your decision to stay or leave? Is the group you are a part of now doing one or more of these purposes? Does one of these purposes reignite your passion for the ministry of Jesus?Purposes of the Church

 

 

 

 

“The Weakest Link” in Becoming One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church

Link5After working with ministry leaders over the last 30 years I believe that we must address the “weakest link” in our efforts to see the prayer of Jesus for us becoming “One” in our communities. If the Gospel of the kingdom is to become a functional reality we need the courage to recognize and repair this weak link. It’s not the theological differences one might suspect that separate us. It’s something more difficult to recognize and deal with.

Before we get to the number one weakest link, let’s look at what some leading thinkers commonly consider are the top five. Stating with number 5…

Number #5 – Kingdom Ignorance

There is still considerable ignorance about the Gospel of the Kingdom in most Christian communities. Local pastors building their kingdom in Jesus’ name, still has a monopoly on how most of us do “church”. The Gospel of salvation rules most mindsets, yet Jesus preached and proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom everywhere He went. The Church tells people how to get a ticket to heaven but not much about how to live beyond church life in the very communities in which they live. The fact that most ministry organizations don’t teach their disciples how to work with the different parts of the Body of Christ is an indicator that they don’t understand how to live Kingdom life themselves. No wonder we haven’t shown the way. Many believers are still stuck in the grooves that their first teachers and their denominational networks emphasized. These tutors should have prepared believers for life in Christ’s Kingdom, but regrettably these organizations gave them hitching posts instead of guide posts.

Number #4 – Structural Idolatry

It is one thing to finally accept the Kingdom vision for the world as set forth by the Scriptures, but it is another thing to insist we should unite believers using the Old Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Anglican or Episcopalian ecclesiastical structures. The same holds true for the new breed of leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation who believe we need to go back further in history and use the original template of the first century. We must appreciate the old and the new. That way the wine and the wine skin are both preserved. Our seminaries and denominational networks have a vested interest in promoting “their” franchise and have done a poor job explaining how the other parts of the Body of Christ are to interact. That’s why I wrote “Working Together For Jesus”. The Kingdom of God is a work made without human hands; God is supernatural and we need discerning eyes to recognize how He is supernaturally weaving His tapestry together.

Number #3 – The “Anti-Denomination Denomination” Syndrome

Sadly, some of the most elitist, isolationistic, reclusive and independent believers and ministries are being led by “pastors”, “bishops”, “apostles” and “prophets” who claim they are uniting the “true” Body of Christ under the banner of the Kingdom of God. Many are unaware they are operating in the same sectarian spirit they criticize in traditional churches. This is known as “anointed self-deception” where we believe the part we have from God is “the” most important thing God is doing.Link An important litmus test to determine if you or your ministry is free from this deception is to ask; “Does your ministry and its leader(s) actively pursue and develop, year in and year out, relationships with other ministries and leaders in your community?”  I emphasize doing it “over time” because we have a Scriptural mandate that we can’t give a try and then give up on because it’s difficult. I emphasize “your” community because it’s easy to preach among your network but forsake the community where you live. Ironically we end up becoming an unhealthy ministry, a “tumor-ministry”. Remember, a tumor is a group of cells that grows unto itself without regard for the rest of the body. In fact it sucks the life out of the host Body causing death if left unchecked. Jesus said by our love for one another would we prove we are His disciples. Therefore the world needs to see our love for each other demonstrated in our community.

A friend reminded me that the very nature of apostolic and prophetic ministry to blaze new trails and expand the borders of the King’s domain into enemy territory requires a bold and a courageous disposition. These fearless pioneers don’t easily lend themselves to developing relationships between ministry settlers (pastors) among the people of God. Yet if these leaders don’t grow up and model these collaborative kingdom relationships, who will? We have to advance beyond platform rhetoric and be the change we want to see. The Body goes where the Head goes. It usually takes years and many broken relationships before these independent ministers realize they would do things differently if they could go back in time.

Number #2 – The “Heaven/Earth” Blindness Syndrome

Perhaps one of the most stunning blind spots we all struggle with is the inability to properly discern what the Scriptures teach us about the culture of heaven. Remember, this is essential because we are commanded to pray that earth be just like heaven. So just what is going on up there that we want down here? For starters we can stop jockeying for the head position in our communities because the “head” position is clearly filled by Jesus Himself. In heaven, everyone with a title or crown of achievement throws it at the feet of Jesus with their face on the ground. When was the last time you saw that spirit among leaders down here? In heaven, everyone is so grateful, so overwhelmed by the fact they are allowed to be in His presence; there is no envy or jealousy in anyone’s heart. Worship explodes from the redeemed; there is no critical commentary and sectarianism. Finally, we know Jesus rules His kingdom with clarity and perfect order. The confusion and disunity down here reveals many of our leaders are not truly receiving from heaven’s broadcast. Another similar excuse people give for not working together is the “untruth”… “We will never get along until Jesus comes back”. Well if that’s truth then why did Jesus tell us to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done here on earth”? Are we suppose to obey the command or shrink back because it’s too expensive for us?

This leads us to the question…”What is the number one weakest link to one holy catholic apostolic church?” The Weakest Link is…

Number # 1 – The Psychology of Our Theology

The number one weakest link to becoming one holy catholic apostolic church is our spiritual and emotional immaturity. Yes it’s that simple. Like self-absorbed siblings who cannot seem to get along with one another we have need of maturity. Once we don’t get the attention or honor we think we deserve or our feelings get hurt, we usually take our ball and bat and go home; and the joining and connecting of the Body of Christ is often postponed, if not abandoned all together. We often unconsciously hide our immature selves behind the façade of commitment to sound doctrine or our critical appraisals of other believers. Instead of seeing kingdom transformation we are left with advancing a narrative that justifies entrenchment and the status quo. Each believer does their best to carry on doing their own thing, but the grace God releases through the “joints” (the parts that meet together) remains missing. Regrettably the Church remains disjointed and anemic. We often run back to our individual studies and redouble our efforts to explain our point of view. We write a new book, start a Bible School, create a new website, a blog, etc. When all that is needed is an apology, a humbler heart, a teachable spirit, a phone call and a sober recognition we truly need each other. In other words, more of us need to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.

I have seen it happen time after time. Misunderstanding and confusion over another leader’s gifting and level of maturity. One Christian leader offends another by some cultural insensitivity or a believer over-emphasizes some doctrinal position because their identity, their sense of significance or their income is tied up in its uniqueness. I was standing in the parking lot during one of our ministers meetings, when one apostolic leader said, “We are 40 years away from seeing the Church get it right”. He was referring to another leader in the meeting who was basically using his title, to control the people in His ministry, so no one would ever challenge his authority. I told him; “As long as we were having this discussion outside and not with him, he was right, it may take another 40 years; but why don’t we go talk to him right now?” He didn’t seem to want to engage in this kind of dialogue. The emotional and psychological minefield was apparently too scary for him to step into. It is difficult getting real and being real with other humans. And this illustrates why we are not addressing the weakest link.

It is expensive tackling these emotional issues. Just seeing Jesus suspended between heaven and earth speaks to the cost of reconciling two parties who are separated. But this is what we must do. All of our preaching; all of our conferences and seminars will fill our heads with information; but if we don’t deal with our inner heart issues we will be nothing more than a lot of intelligent people consistently coming to the wrong conclusions. Sadly, that sounds like Washington DC; doesn’t it? For those wanting the character and culture of heaven flowing through your life and ministry but have felt stuck where you are at, we wrote “Roadkill Seminary”, “The Inner Journey” and “Working Together For Jesus” just for you. You don’t have to wait 40 years to be the answer to the prayer Jesus prayed. Welcome to the Movement!

Finishing Well…Will You?

Finishing Well

Are you aware of the various stages we humans will experience during our life? How well are you dealing with the “process items” you are facing in each phase in your life? Do you plan on finishing your life well or are you just trying to make it through today? Dr. J. Robert Clinton’s book “The Making of a Leader” has some tremendous insights on this subject. Also my books may help as well.

“The Inner Journey”

“Roadkill Seminary”

“Working Together For Jesus”

How Israel Complaining 14 Times Mirrors Your Christian Journey

ComplainingWhen God delivered Israel from slavery to Egypt He also intended to bring them into a promised land flowing with blessing and prosperity. The children of Israel however didn’t cooperate with the plan designed to benefit them. They complained and fought against God almost every step of the way. The Bible states these ancient events serve as our examples, that we might learn from them. Thus we also see why we struggle so much with our own journey from slavery to sin, to possessing our inheritance in Christ. Let’s see why God wanted us to observe their journey and what we can learn from the 14 times they complained.

#1 – The people complained to Moses that because of Him and His talk of a promise land, Pharaoh made things worse for them – Exodus 5:1-22 This is when the enemy creates pressure at home, at work or school to discourage you at the beginning of your Christian walk. Out of nowhere, your responsibilities at home, work or school suddenly increases and requires you to meet impossible deadlines and quotas. Your workload and the extra overtime “scatters” (verse 12) you, and you feel like you are taking a “beating” (verse 14). Your family, your boss or supervisor blames you and your sudden interest in “Christian things” for not being able to do your job.

#2 – The people complained and said to Moses “let us alone” – Exodus 14:11-12 This is when you are faced with what seems like an impossible situation all because you listened to your godly friends or leaders. You wonder if this “Christian thing” is worth it. We sometimes blame the preacher or our Christian friend who has been witnessing to us for all the new drama and pressure in our life.

#3 – The people complained about the bitter water – Exodus 15:22 This is when you are faced with the bitterness of changing your diet from the things of the world to the things of God. Like asking a child to go from sugary foods to eating their vegetables, it never happens without a protest.

#4 – The people complained about being hungry; God gives them Manna – Exodus 16:1-4 This is when your spiritual growth produces greater hunger. However, its the not the earthly food we are used to; God begins to feed you with heavenly food. The irritability during the infant phase seems constant.

#5 – The people complained about being thirsty – Exodus 17:1-4 This is when your spiritual growth produces greater thirst. God seems to allow the thirst and the hunger to teach us where our provision truly comes from.

After complaining 5 times God begins to take out His belt!

#6 – The people forsake the Lord. The Lord orders the Levites to kill 3000 people by the sword, because they worshipped the golden calf. – Exodus 32:28  This is when you recognize just how impatient our flesh-nature is when it comes to the things of God and how inclined we are to worship anything but the One True God. Instead of waiting for 40 days for Moses who was on the mountain, they forsake the Lord and created their own idol/God. 

  • This is the 1st time Moses intercedes for the people – Exodus 32:10-12

#7 – The “mixed multitude” of the people complained about food – Numbers 11 The Lord burns the outskirts of the camp – Moses wants to die – The Lord sends a very great plague v.33  Here you become so dissatisfied with the spiritual diet God has given you, that you may wonder why you even became a Christian (v.20). This is where the confusion of being in a crowd of people with varying degrees of opinions and commitment to the Lord exasperates the problem. The ongoing process of further weaning the people from the world’s food comes to a head.

#8 – Miriam and Aaron complain about Moses’ leadership – The Lord curses Miriam with leprosy – Numbers 12:1-12

  • This is the 2nd time Moses intercedes for the people – Numbers 12:13

The next test the people face was the test of leadership; knowing the importance of not only Complainfollowing God but following His delegated leaders.

#9 – The people complained about how difficult it looked to conquer the giants in the land so they refused to enter the Promise Land. Numbers 14:1-10 Because the path the Lord has chosen to develop His people is almost always humanly impossible and difficult, it can cause some people to freak out and desire to go back to their old life. These people didn’t want to have to depend on the Lord this much in order to go forward.

#10 – The people complained again and wanted to kill Moses – they try to select another leader. The Lord seeks to destroy the people with pestilence – Numbers 14:10 Some believers will attempt to “vote out” their spiritual leaders; hoping to select leaders who will lead them into a more prosperous path.  When it doesn’t look like they can replace their leaders they actually tried to kill them.

  • This is the 3rd time Moses intercedes for the people. Numbers 14:12 (we know this is the tenth time because here God says they tested Him these 10 times in verse 22) The Lord kills the 10 spies by the plague – Numbers 14:37

#11 – The key leaders rebel against Moses – Numbers 16 – God gets serious and opens the earth and swallows the offenders! This is when the bitterness of a few disgruntled leaders defiles many and God has to stop the coup.

  • This is the 4th time Moses intercedes for the people – Numbers 16:22

#12 – The people complained again and they accuse Moses of killing God’s people – Numbers 16:41  

  • This is the 5th time Moses intercedes for the people – Numbers 16:45-49 – God kills 14,700 people.

#13 – The people contended with Moses again because of no water – Moses gets angry Numbers 20:1-5 The people gather against Moses again. This is when the people’s rebellious nature comes to a head. This even blows Moses’ circuit breakers as he runs out of grace for these clueless people, resulting in Him becoming embittered and losing out on the Promise Land as well. Snake 4

#14 – The people complained against God and Moses – Numbers 21:4-5 – God finally brings the solution – The fiery serpents to bite them – He shows them the depth of their sin-nature. This is perhaps the most important of all the lessons during their wilderness journeys. God finally gives them a taste of their own hateful medicine. They were to experience the same painful poison they were dishing out. As a recipient of their own venom, they finally recognized the death that was in them and cried out to the Lord; acknowledging they sinned against God and Moses (V.7). 

The solution to this poison seems very odd at first. God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and to put it on a pole, so that anyone bitten by one of the fiery serpents could be healed. But how would God heal them? God would heal them by having them look at the bronze serpent. In other words, we only get saved from this poisonous and rebellious nature and the death that comes with it when we look at it face to face. We must look at our own spiritual MRI and see the seriousness of our disease. When we, out of desperation, look in the mirror and finally acknowledge our own hideous propensity to sin, our deliverance is near. Acknowledging our true condition is what confession and salvation is all about. This is why in the New Testament, Jesus said the only way for us to be saved, was to look at Him (as He became sin for us; 2 Corinthians 5:21) on the cross, the same way Moses put the serpent on the pole. Listen to His words;

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:14-15

This is the last we hear of the people of Israel complaining in the wilderness. They still fell into sin here and there, but something changed in their minds and hearts. It is as if a light bulb came on and they began to understand what was driving their murmuring, complaining and rebellion all these years. They also began to understand why God had to deal with them and their free-will the way He did all those years as well. The wilderness journey we call life is all about us coming to the place where we truly see our true spiritual condition. Jeremiah states it like this in chapter 17:9;

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

The good news is God doesn’t leave us frozen by the horror of seeing our grotesque selves. He also reveals His boundless mercy and compassion towards us. It is truly amazing to consider that the one and only true God, the righteous and holy Creator of the universe, patiently puts up with us, and then dies for us; even the death of the cross. How could anyone not want to serve an awesome God like this?

I Have a Dream Too

Dream

In light of the recent 50th anniversary of one of the greatest speeches in American history, I believe we can tap into a “greater grace” to advance Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Dream” and the “Dream” of the Lord Jesus Christ in John 17, that we would be one. I believe there is something beyond the normal talking points of our ideological entrenchment that is available to the humble. In my dream, I still see the Church (or better said, the servants of Jesus Christ) as the best answer for all that is wrong in the world today. However the Church needs to admit we have missed the mark when it comes to reconciling the races and the denominations.

Some of our Sunday morning separation is not wrong; it’s just a matter of cultural preferences similar to the variety on our radio dial. I love the honesty of a black minister in my city. He said, it isn’t that he doesn’t like white people, he just prefers to be with black people. People like certain genres of music. It’s not often you will find country, blues, jazz, hip hop and rock music all on the same radio station. Freedom to choose your preference is a good thing. However when we never interact with people different form us between the Sundays, when we don’t cross pollinate, when we only have relations with our “own kind or family” the offspring we produce can have “birth defects”. Our mutual isolation produces psychological and sociological genetic weaknesses that keeps us from reproducing healthy solutions the next generation needs. We have lost the ability to balance differing points of views, that enables us to walk the “narrow path” that leads to life in our nation.

The Church of Jesus Christ is the only authorized and empowered people on the planet that can bring true reconciliation to mankind. The God who reconciled sinful man to Himself through Christ has deputized us as ministers of reconciliation, in all its forms. However the Church needs to be reminded that the Church isn’t the pattern for the Church… Jesus is the pattern. We are to offer the essence of Christ Himself, not the religion about Him. We are to be Jesus with skin on. That requires us to embrace the crucified-life so His life can flow through us. I believe He is with us today, speaking through people who are willing to yield to His Spirit, whether in the local PTA meeting or at your work place, in the White House or in God’s House.

We sometimes forget that Jesus didn’t come to earth to bring a religion; He came to bring a Kingdom. His kingdom is not political, but it is governmental. He still administers His kingdom rule here on earth, one life at a time. Often it’s only those who are broken, “kingdom minded believers” that possess the essential grace to advance the conversation we need so desperately. We need to be aware of the powerful vortex drawing us into the same trap set by the religious leaders of His day. Will we stay stuck by repeating the same old talking points that keeps us separated or will we mature in Christ-likeness to find new solutions.  Let’s tap into His grace to advance the conversation that is available to the peacemakers, and we will see the Dream come true.

I have a dream…

I have a dream we will not be political snake breeders.

I have a dream we will be free from doing things the way Barabbas did. 

I have a dream we will find life amidst a larger, balanced theological perspective.

I have a dream we will bury the excuses that keep us from working together in our cities.

I have dream we will humble ourselves and let God take over as never before.

I have a dream we will find a better way to govern by seeing things from a third perspective.

I have a dream the Church will understand the bigger picture of how we are to reach maturity.

I have a dream believers will understand how apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers can get along.

I have a dream the transition the Church is experiencing nationally with turn into another awakening.

Jesus or Barabbas – Which “Son of the Father” Are We Following?

BarabbasThe cyclical nature of human events still amazes me. The more things change, the more they remain the same. About 2000 years ago the Roman government gave the religious leaders in Jerusalem a choice between two men; Jesus or Barabbas. The Romans gave the Jews this choice because of a custom of releasing a prisoner every year around Passover to appease the Jews in an effort to keep the peace.

The choice between these two men came about because Jesus’ ministry was upsetting the status quo in this Roman province of Palestine. He was changing people’s hearts and therefore was changing the accepted order of things. No imperialistic power allows this for long. The religious leaders were afraid this intenerate minister was going to shake things up so much that it would cause them to lose their place of social status. Pilate, the Roman governor, was giving the people of God a choice that would determine the philosophical direction they and their nation would go.

Here in Sanford Florida, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy I have challenged both white and black leaders with this very question. “Are we going to follow the way of Barabbas or Jesus?” Will we try to resolve the racial conflict in our city by the strength of our flesh or by the Spirit of God? One way prolongs the division the other resolves it.

Both Choices are Sons of the Father

Everyone knows Jesus is the son of the Father, but did you know that Barabbas’ name ironically also means “son of father” (bar=son and abbas=father)? Here we see again how multilayered and insightful the Bible is as it illustrates the two natures we humans must choose from today. The struggle of the ages ironically isn’t about what is happening outside of us but with what is happening inside of us.

Choices are a central theme in the Bible. The Holy Scriptures highlights several scenarios where we have an opportunity to choose between good and evil, right and wrong and Spirit and flesh. There are choices between the Two Trees in the Garden, Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, David and Saul. Each of these choices illustrate this inward struggle we all face. (For more insight on this see Where God Speaks About Everything).

Sympathy for Barabbas

Barabbas was already in the custody of the Roman authorities for murder and insurrection (Mark 15:6; Matthew 27:15; and John 18:39). It’s not difficult to understand why Barabbas was responding the way he was. From a little boy he probably saw members of his family and friends suffering under the forced labor and taxation of a foreign nation. How much pain and humiliation had he experienced from the hands of these invaders? How many friends did he see crucified? It seems he was unwilling to sit back and do nothing while another “lynching” took place. He was going to fight these oppressors. The anger and bitterness he felt was justified. In the end he ended up in jail awaiting crucifixion.

Today we might see Barabbas in a right wing militia or in a Black Panther group. Sometimes you can see Barabbas in the Civil Rights movement or on Talk Radio. The Cable News shows give air time to Barabbas as political operatives. I think we all would agree we see Barabbas in the Islamic terrorist.

When We Chose the Way of Barabbas

When we choose Barabbas we get a short term rush from a sense of accomplishment. Our prideful, flesh/nature craves this kind of instant gratification. It gives us a small sense of control in a world where we seem out of control. However a “Barabbas spirit” results in us planting seeds that continue the war perpetually. It’s not that there isn’t a time to fight a just cause; it’s just very important we monitor what’s going on in our hearts while we do it. Jesus taught us to beware of a root of bitterness because it defiles many.

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. Hebrews 12:15 NKJV

When we harbor bitterness, unforgiveness and revenge in our hearts it’s like drinking poison but expecting the other guy to die. It affects every relationship we have. Jesus told two of His disciples who wanted to take action like Barabbas in Luke 9:55, 56; that they didn’t know what “spirit” they are of. The Lord doesn’t want us becoming the enemy while fighting the enemy.

I like what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said during his “I have a dream speech” 50 years ago this month. “But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred”.

Many of Us Still Chose Barabbas Today

Our Religious Leaders – Some of our religious leaders still chose “Barabbas” today. They may have “reverend” in front of their name but they are not operating in the spirit of a peacemaker involved in the ministry of reconciliation. In fact they seem to relish the thought of stirring things up and instead of calming the situation down. It is a shame, but it is evident that these “spiritual leaders” haven’t experienced a genuine personal transformation that comes from an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ. Their serial combativeness and self-interests betrays their true condition and their real agenda as they agitate the very disputes they claim to want to solve.

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.
Proverbs 15:18 NAS

This is when snake catchers sadly turn into snake breeders (For more information see our article “Keeping The Snakes Alive” ).

Our Corporations – The executives and producers of our television news networks and talk shows choose “Barabbas” by inviting him on their programs. The fireworks and heated rhetoric he uses raises their ratings and their revenues. These business leaders seem more focused on their company’s stock prices than meaningful solutions.

Our Politicians – Some of our political professionals never waste a political or a racial crisis as an opportunity to seek out a camera; not to foster dialogue in order to find solutions, but to advance their self interests. Since their power comes from the consent of a particular constituency they often don’t seek heaven’s point of view.

We The People – Let’s be honest. None of this happens in a vacuum. We as a nation often chose “Barabbas” each time we participate in the argumentative mudslinging as we watch television, as we talk to those at the water cooler at work, or with our family around the dinner table. We love the propaganda each sides spews forth and the drama it produces. We are like the people who go to hockey games for the fights. We are not unlike the crowds in Jesus’s day voting for the guy who looks more capable of busting some Roman heads. How many of us are working to advance the conversation towards heavenly solutions by doing things Jesus’ way?

When We Chose the Way of Jesus

When we chose to die to the “Barabbas way” of doing things and yield to the life of Jesus Christ, new life and new solutions emerge from another realm. What seemed like an impossible situation or conflict becomes an opportunity for the “Way-maker” to make a way through us. New relationships and perspectives develop between different groups of people as we submit to Him, not our entrenched ideological camps.

Choosing Jesus is not easy to do, especially if you live in a world like Barabbas did; where a dominate culture oppresses and withholds justice. There is a price to letting the Spirit of Christ rule the day in our lives. Just seeing Jesus suspended between heaven and earth testifies to the price of being part of the solution. The feeling of being alone in this process is often unavoidable. If you feel alone you may also be experiencing “The 3 Difficulties of Being From the Future”. You may get shot at by both sides of an issue; Jesus did. Ironically a godless empire conspired with right-wing fundamentalists to get rid of the greatest human who ever lived.

Yet Jesus overthrew the empires of Rome and Religion; better yet He also overthrew the satanic strongholds in the human heart that causes these oppressive institutions in the first place. Even Gandhi following the teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount overthrew the greatest empire of his day.

It may not seem like you are accomplishing much when you choose the way of Jesus. It may seem like things are moving like a herd of turtles. However every time we choose Jesus we win. Victory is guaranteed. Regardless how it feels, the way of Jesus is actually the short-cut to fixing everything that needs fixing. I choose Jesus. I hope you will too.

Does Everyone Need to Attend Roadkill Seminary?

RKS 3As we stated before it is not the intention to discourage anyone from serving the Lord Jesus in any capacity. We are addressing the need to encourage those who are being prepared for maturity and fruitfulness. If we were to ask a plant what they thought or how they felt during pruning time, the plant might scream, “someone is trying to kill me!” However, after the seasons go by, the pruning makes more sense. This material is meant to help explain and encourage every believer as they get pruned.

When asked if everyone must go through RKS, I must respond with, “Yes, if you are following in Jesus Christ’s footsteps.” Every believer spends time at RKS sometime in their life. Our school enrollment papers are signed; our tuition has been paid; and the registration desk is waiting for us to officially sign in. Maybe we won’t experience the same depth of suffering as the next guy. However, whatever it takes for us to be pliable in the Master’s hands will come to bear on our life. Is every one of us called to the kind of wilderness experience of a Joseph, Moses or David and Paul? Perhaps not. However I believe every believer is called to advance the kingdom of God in some way with the one life they have been given by the Lord.

To do this we must undergo the preparation of the Lord at Roadkill Seminary. We cannot do this in our strength. It’s not by might; It’s not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord, Zechariah 4:6. The way to discover and walk in His Spirit is to remove the obstacle of your old nature and our fleshy efforts; only then can we be used of God to remove the demonic strongholds in our world. At RKS we will be truly liberated from us, and then we will be empowered to minister at a level that truly displaces the enemy.

Finally, let me remind all of us that we have “The message” to tell the world, and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But we also each have “a testimony” of what God has worked in our lives. We discover our message while studying at Roadkill Seminary. That is why the Bible says in Revelations 12:11. We overcome the devil by the blood of the lamb (that’s the simple Gospel), and the word of our testimony (that’s our story), loving not our lives unto death (that’s Roadkill Seminary).

Excerpt from “Roadkill Seminary

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What Christian Leaders Wish Their People Knew But Are Afraid to Tell Them

rrChristian leaders must be willing to take off their masks and the Sunday-morning professionalism and share the real needs of the ministry and its leadership. More Christians need to be trained how to support ministry leaders. That’s the reason for the book, “What In Hell…Is Going On?” – it will help your ministry know the truth about what’s going on behind the scenes, even if your leaders are hesitant to talk about the spiritual attacks he or she is experiencing.

Admittedly, this is difficult to do. One leader noted that when he began to open up and let his ministry team know what he was really battling, he was criticized. The naïve members of his ministry didn’t want to hear that they were a burden to him. They effectively said, “We don’t want to know you are human”. (Kids don’t usually like to acknowledge their parents are people too until they have children of their own.) Yet this is absolutely necessary if we are going to bring God’s people to maturity.

We cannot expect to reach a lost and dying generation by pretending things are better than they are. If Christian leaders are getting shot to pieces by their own troops, then we better say something about it. If leaders will honestly and candidly share what the real battles of the ministry are (at least to their leaders), I believe they will find a larger army of sensitive, well-informed soldiers ready and willing to lift their hands, even as Aaron and Hur supported the hands of Moses (Exodus 17:10-12). Don’t you think it is time for a candid conversation like this in every Christian ministry organization in America? I hope that you do. With a little more than a 100 pages this resource blows the lid off the secrecy and dysfunction in our ministries. Here is the Table of Contents.

1. Why This Book is Necessary

2. The Hats a Christian Leader Wears

3. Welcome to Your Leader’s Life

4. The Power of Critical Words

5. The Leader and Sin in the Camp

6. Criticized by Cross-less Christians

7. “Cains” in the Congregation

8. Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t

9. Weekly Issues Do Affect Your Leader

10. Ten Things to Help Your Ministry

11. A Word to Ministry Leaders

12. Where Do We Go From Here?

The Strategic Purpose for this Book

First, it is a specific tool to help grow up the people of God, by having an adult conversation about the realities of the Christian ministry as it is played out in the local church, home group, jail ministry, homeless ministry, mission organization etc.

Second, it gives Christian leaders and the people in their ministries a tool to initiate this adult conversation with their core leaders, facilitated by someone outside their ministry. If the material is too heavy for some to digest, they can always eat the fish and spit out the bones. At least the conversation will have started.

Third, it exposes demonic strategies hidden in the local ministry, so God’s people can exercise their dominion over Satan instead of over each other.

Fourth, it may provide new insight about differences in ministry gifting and governmental adjustments that can be made in order to reduce the number of disagreements the devil uses to hide behind as he hinders the flow of the Holy Spirit in the organization.

Fifth, it reveals the sin nature operating among religious people and thus the need for all believers to let the cross of Christ have its deeper work in our lives.

Excerpt fromWhat In Hell… Is Going On?”

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23 Ways Leaders Dominate Their People by Sam Storms

DominateI thought Sam Storms listed some clear abuses of authority that would apply not only to church-world, but the family and the business world as well.

Proverbs 28:16 states; “That a ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor”. Many times these insecure alpha male/females types don’t even recognize they are oppressive leaders. They think their assertiveness and control is a sign of good leadership, but they are often unaware they are masking deep insecurity. Read Sam’s list below and see is you can identify any of these traits in yourself.

1. A man can “domineer” or “lord it over” his flock by intimidating them into doing what he wants done by holding over their heads the prospect of loss of stature and position in the church.

2. A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with stern warnings of the discipline and judgment of God, even though there is no biblical basis for doing so.

3. A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with public exposure of their sin should they not conform to his will and knuckle under to his plans.

4. A pastor domineers whenever he uses the sheer force of his personality to overwhelm others and coerce their submission.

5. A pastor domineers whenever he uses slick verbiage or eloquence to humiliate people into feeling ignorant or less competent than they really are.

6. A pastor domineers whenever he presents himself as super-spiritual (his views came about only as the result of extensive prayer and fasting and seeking God. How could anyone then possibly disagree with him?).

7. A pastor domineers whenever he exploits the natural tendency people have to elevate their spiritual leaders above the average Christian. That is to say, many Christians mistakenly think that a pastor is closer to God and more in tune with the divine will. The pastor often takes advantage of this false belief to expand his power and influence.

8. A pastor domineers whenever he gains a following and support against all dissenters by guaranteeing those who stand with him that they will gain from it, either by being brought into his inner circle or by some form of promotion.

9. A pastor domineers by widening the alleged gap between “clergy” and “laity.” In other words, he reinforces in them the false belief that he has a degree of access to God which they don’t.

10. Related to the former is the way some pastors will make it appear that they hold sway or power over the extent to which average lay people can experience God’s grace. He presents himself in subtle (not overt) ways as the mediator between the grace of God and the average believer. In this way he can secure their loyalty for his agenda.

11. He domineers by building into people a greater loyalty to himself than to God. Or he makes it appear that not to support him is to work at cross purposes with God.

12. He domineers by teaching that he has a gift that enables him to understand Scripture in a way they cannot. They are led to believe they cannot trust their own interpretive conclusions and must yield at all times to his.

13. He domineers by short circuiting due process, by shutting down dialogue and discussion prematurely, by not giving all concerned an opportunity to voice their opinion.

14. He domineers by establishing an inviolable barrier between himself and the sheep. He either surrounds himself with staff who insulate him from contact with the people or withdraws from the daily affairs of the church in such a way that he is unavailable and unreachable.

15. Related to the above is the practice of some in creating a governmental structure in which the senior pastor is accountable to no one, or if he is accountable it is only to a small group of very close friends and fellow elders who stand to profit personally from his tenure as pastor.

16. He domineers by viewing the people as simply a means to the achieving of his own personal ends. Ministry is reduced to exploitation. The people exist to “serve his vision” rather than he and all the people together existing to serve the vision of the entire church.

17. He domineers by making people feel unsafe and insecure should they desire to voice an objection to his proposals and policies.

18. He domineers by convincing them, ever so subtly, that their spiritual welfare is dependent on his will. To cross him is to cross God!

19. He domineers by misinterpreting and misapplying to himself the OT command: “Don’t touch God’s anointed.”

20. He domineers by building a culture of legalism rather than one of grace. People are thus motivated to embrace his authority and bow to his will based on extra biblical rules that supposedly are the criteria for true spirituality.

21. He domineers by arguing or acting as if his movements and decisions are ultimately determinative of the spiritual welfare of others (cf. 2 Cor. 1:23-25).

22. He domineers when he leads people to believe that their faith hinges (i.e., rises or falls) upon his life and decisions.

23. He domineers when he uses people as a means to his own satisfaction rather than enabling them to experience satisfaction in Christ alone.

http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/pastoral-bullies

Leaders and Sin in the Camp

SinThe way a ministry deals with the “sin issue” may have something to do with the kind of calling or ministry DNA the Lord has called them to operate in. One of my pastor friends has several thousand members in his “seeker friendly” church. He said about a quarter to a third of his congregation are cohabitating with someone they are not married to. He doesn’t try to convict them through sermons because he is trying to develop a trusting relationship with them so they will allow the other ministry leaders to address their moral issues later in their home groups. He’s not trying to clean the fish until he knows he really has them in the boat.

Some of my other pastor friends see that philosophy as compromising the Word of God. They clearly see it as watering down the Gospel in order to draw larger crowds. They believe it to be the main reason why the American Church has become so worldly and unable to positively affect the culture. They also believe these ministers are spineless and fear man more than they fear God. They confidently say nobody in their church of 200 is sleeping around, because they are the “real” believers.

Ironically, one pastor boasts that they had hundreds of sinners in their church last Sunday, while the other minister boasts that they had no sinners in service last Sunday. Each ministry leader has a different idea of what a “ministry homerun” looks like. They are both standing at different stages along God’s ministry assembly line (see our book The Inner Journey for more on this Assembly Line). Some are dealing with the raw materials of lost souls by drawing them closer to the boat; others are fine tuning the people by calling them to live the Christian life. Can you see where each ministry may have a different role to play? Can you see your own ministry in this scenario?

You may want to look at the chart in our article about Unchurching to see what kind of church you are currently attending.

Excerpt from “What In Hell… Is Going On?”

God’s Ministry Assembly Line

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Leaders Often Get Along Until The Children Come Into The Room

leadAnother way to describe this tension in the Church would be to use parents as an illustration. Let’s imagine three or four couples along with their children, having a dinner party at someone’s house. The kids are in the back yard playing while the parents are relaxing over coffee and conversation. There is apparent unity and consensus among them as they enjoy each other’s company.

However, when the children come into the living room to join the conversation so does the potential for friction as the different parenting styles become evident. Everyone keeps their thoughts to themselves but on the ride home each car is filled with comments like “I can’t believe they let their kids act that way,” or “They are so mean to their children,” or “That’s not how I would deal with that situation”. These parents got along until the children came into the room.

This family analogy can also illustrate the sentiments between ministers of the Gospel. It may be easy to get along with other ministers, even from different camps… until the sheep (children) are in the room. Suddenly the gifting in each minister wants to impact the people of God according to their abilities. We sometimes presume we know what the people of God “really” need. Instead of each of us affirming and preferring the other ministers, we can doubt their validity.

Sometimes just being in the same room with someone with a different ministry gift can drive you “bonkers” as they seem to over react or under react to certain things. They can appear to be too intellectual or over spiritual. It is difficult to appreciate where they are coming from and why they are coming from there in the first place! Understanding God’s Assembly Line and Jesus Christ Regional Hospital will give us great insight into how His Kingdom works. As we mature we will be able to love and really appreciate them and their ministries just like our Heavenly Father does. Remember… Jesus is building His Church. It’s the leadership of our churches that must decide if they are going to be part of the bigger picture. If we fail to be mature in this area, our churches and our communities will deteriorate from a place of “completing” each other to a place of “competing” with each other.

Excerpt from “Working Together For Jesus”

Friendly Fire – Creating Your Leader In Your Image

FriendAnother subtle type of control that wears on ministry leaders is from so-called “friendly fire” which comes from well meaning compliments. This is when the senior minister receives little comments or notes from certain people who will compliment the behavior they want them to display. When they preach hard and with conviction, certain people will praise them for being the prophet they always wished for. When they teach long comprehensive expository sermons, certain people will praise them for being the teacher they always wanted them to be. Then when they are passionately reaching the lost in relevant ways, certain people will praise them for being the fiery evangelist they believe every preacher should be. Then if they visit someone at the hospital, they will praise them for being the pastor they always wanted them to be.

When praise comes from a pure heart, it is beautiful and edifying. But unbeknownst to some believers is the subtle spirit of control they operate in as they try to make their ministry leader into their ministry ideal, instead of accepting them for who God made them to be. Like many things in life, it all seems innocent until you are on the receiving end of it.

Excerpt from “What In Hell… Is Going On?”

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God Doesn’t Come to Take Sides, He Comes to Take Over

sidesThere is a Need for All of Us, Especially Christians, To Be Free from the Sin of Presumption

Remember that God doesn’t come to take sides. He comes to take over! (See Joshua 5:13-15). The story in Joshua is one of the most astounding examples in the entire Bible of why none of us should dare presume or take for granted that God is on our side. Here we see the children of Israel had just crossed the Jordan River outside of Jericho under “God’s direction”. Joshua was appointed by God as Moses’ successor to lead God’s chosen people, the Jews, into the Promised Land. God had been leading His people for 40 years through the wilderness to come to the edge of the Promised Land to take possession of it. They were commanded to dispossess these morally depraved nations who were killing their own children in religious sacrifices.

This is the crowning moment of over 400 years of  planning to fulfill the promise God personally made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that their descendants would possess this land. Right after all the males circumcised themselves to prove how committed they were to keeping God’s commands and ordinances. Their leader, Joshua found himself confronted by the appearance of the Lord with His sword drawn. We know it’s the Lord Himself because Joshua was told to take his sandals off (it was holy ground) which was something only God would say. Let’s take a look at Joshua 5:13-15 in the New Living Translation:

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. 

Joshua looked at this heavenly figure with the sword and asked the question of the ages, “Whose side are You on; Ours or theirs?” The divine response is “Neither”. How in the world could God not be on Joshua’s and on Israel’s side? They are Abraham’s children. God Himself powerfully delivered them from Egypt through signs and wonders. They were led by God through the wilderness. God divided the Red Sea and the Jordan River for them to cross. There has never been a surer group of people on earth with the supposed endorsement of God. Yet we see God reminding us and them that we should never presume God is automatically on anybody’s side.

This Puts the Axe to the Root of Presumption

It’s not your way or my way, it’s YAHWEH! I pray this Scripture makes us consider that no matter how right any of us truly think we are, we should always pause and acknowledge our need for God’s grace to save us from ourselves. I hope at the very least we will learn a few things in the following pages as we join the camp that the Lord is in.

Excerpt from A Better Way To Govern

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God’s Ministry Assembly Line

assemblyNow that we understand the progressive nature of the maturing process we will also begin to understand and appreciate why certain ministers, churches and ministries operate the way they do. The proof of our spiritual growth is played out in the context of Christian ministry where we live. This material helps us understand the “maturity milestones” believers must attain to effectively minister side by side; it’s a maturity/character thing. Our book “Working Together for Jesus” helps us understand why so many elders, deacons, bishops, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers often struggle to get along with each other. It’s a ministry context thing.

Our hope is that we will begin to look at different Christian leaders who we thought were out of order in a different light. We will realize that certain ministers are positioned by the Lord to help believers move along the Ministry Assembly Line, the maturing process according to their gifting. Here we see the division of ministry (those who Defend the Faith and those who Extend the Faith) as God ordained. There are fathering and mothering aspects to bringing Christians to maturity. However Satan and his religious spirits work continually to cause friction and persistent misunderstandings between these two styles of discipleship so he can divide and conquer the Church.

To help understand this division of ministry we should review Hebrew culture. The patriarchal (father) and matriarchal (mother) roles reveal why the Church of Jesus Christ emphasizes two different roles. When a woman had a baby in ancient Israel the father and the mother would often give the baby to a “wet nurse” so the mother would stop lactating to better enable her to conceive again.

Evidently the new mother’s body doesn’t allow her to conceive easily when she is nursing. In the Jewish mind, the more children they had the more they were obeying God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. Wealth was measured by how many sheep and cattle and children they had.

After the child was weaned they would hand the child over to a tutor (“pedagogue” in Greek) until such time as the child would have their bar mitzvah. Then the father would, in a sense officially adopt his own child into his care, his training and his family business. That is why we read about Jesus at around 12 years of age saying “He must be about his Father’s business” when He was in the temple (Luke 2:49).

The Bible says that Israel was kept under guard by this “pedagogue” this tutor, which was the Law.

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  Galatians 3:23-25

This is the Way This Plays Out in Our Christian World

The first part of your Christian walk you are brought into a church/ministry family where you are regularly fed and nurtured by a tutor, a church family, and a pastor or home group leader. These loving and caring people along with teachers change your spiritual diapers and feed you with the milk of God’s Word. Some even call the Outer Court the “utter court” because it represents a new believer’s need for milk.

We are given consistent and regular routines and programs to help us more easily understand and assimilate the Bible’s basic doctrines. Providing peace and predictability are essential when we are young. We become committed to our local church or denomination because it is the house we grew up in, the yard we played in and the first bedroom we hung our posters in.

This is the safe and soft place of the Church known as your mother or matriarchal ministry. This is the place of peace and predictability that is so necessary for all young believers. You can click here for a visual chart on how this looks in your church. However, sadly the religious spirit can enter here in almost every ministry and where Satan plans to keep Christians stuck in perpetual immaturity. What was valid and appropriate ministry can become smothering and emasculating. Egypt was a place of provision for Israel but years later it became a place of slavery to man’s egotistical monuments. This environment de-motivates believers to move on to maturity.

Have you ever seen an unemployed 30-year-old man who sleeps in late, watches TV all day and still lives at his mother’s house because there is no father is in the house to straighten him out? The same is true for believers in America. It is so sad to see the great tragedy of wasted spiritual potential for the kingdom of God. What is even more incredible is the fact that most Christians have never had their Christian experience described like this before. They have never been exposed to the anointing and authority of the Apostolic and Prophetic ministries that uncovers the fact that they have been stuck in perpetual immaturity. The following diagram helps us see God’s intentions hidden in the Tabernacle.

AssemblyThe Reason Why So Many Backslide and Fall Away

Some church experts believe that there are as many as 20 million Christians who no longer go to church? Click here to better understand 12 reasons why some believers no longer attend church. If we are to grow up beyond typical church attendance. we must understand why we need all 5 of the ministry graces Jesus gave to His Church. That’s what we address is in the following.

The Inner Journey

Working Together for Jesus