Church Reduction 101…..

“As the Preacher of Ecclesiastes saw, “There is a time to break down, and a time to build up…a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” And the second Reformation, if it comes, will be distinguished from the first by the fact that it is a time of reticence, of stripping down, of traveling light. The church will go through its baggage and discover how much it can better do without, alike in doctrine and in organization.”

– John A.T. Robinson, as quoted by Frank Viola in “Finding Organic Church”.

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A Great Quote…

“The missionary work of the non-professional missionary is to live his daily life in Christ, and therefore with a difference, and to be able to share the reason and cause of the difference to men who see it. His preaching is essentially private conversation, and has at the back of it a life which explains and illustrates and enforces his words. It is such missionary work that the world needs today. Everybody, Christian and pagan alike, respects such work. When it is so done, men wonder, and inquire into the secret of a life which they instinctively admire and covet for themselves.”

Roland Allen (1869-1947, Non-Professional Missionaries) as quoted by Warren Cole Smith in A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church.

If only every single Christian would come to understand this concept. If only this would be the plea from pulpits, rather than a plea to fulfill the ministers ministry vision. If only Christians would actually be Christians, rather than consumers in an industrialized engine of greed, power, and tax-free monopolies. If only Christians would get out of their Christian ghettos, whether they be living rooms or sanctuaries, and get on with living the life Christ crucified and resurrected!

A Great Quote…

I had to share my absolute favorite quote from Neil Cole’s most recent book, “Organic Leadership“.

I wonder if God likes getting the credit for all the crap we do.

This quote comes from a section where Cole is writing about the sin of self-preservation. This is the sin we see when churches, organizations, ministries, etc. died long ago, but are being kept alive artificially with man’s systems, institutions, and organizations. When I was young in the ministry, I visited MANY churches such as this, and I still know of some that continue to hold on to a “life” that is but a distant memory now.

Sometimes, actually often, things need to die in order to live. After all, Jesus did say, “Truly, truly I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” (John 12:24-25, NASB)

In fact, CrossLife, actually had to die last year in order for us to finally begin seeing the life we always dreamed of. Once we decided to “die”, we began seeing a new life that has not stopped. In fact, it even multiplying! I am excited to see what Father will do in the future with our “dead” stuff.

I would rather see God get credit for the great things He does rather than the second-hand crap, we can do!

Thanx!

Compelled…

I am held captive by my imagination in Christ. As I read Scripture and move deeper into intimacy with Father, I am compelled to share more, pray more, and find myself broken over my own sin. I have posted the following quotes before, but thought they may be needed again…

I am not here attacking Christianity, but only the institutional mantle that cloaks it.

Pierre Berton

A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn’t the world being round that agitated people, but that the world wasn’t flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.

Dresden James

Experience supplies painful proof that traditions once called into being are first called useful, then they become necessary. At last they are too often made idols, and all must bow down to them or be punished. 

J. C. Ryle

I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow on the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? . . . A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.

Franz Kafka

If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used. If the church in the second half of [the twentieth] century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting. Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will not be one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom.

A.W. Tozer

Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convinced by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

Martin Luther

These quotes haunt my imagination, and stir something deep within. They leave me very unsettled and unsatisfied with the status quo. They make me uncomfortable, and compel me to move out of the safety net and into the battle. While I appreciate and enjoy our gatherings, I know my life must be spent in the trenches of real life everyday, joining Father in His Kingdom agenda.

I’ll end with this stirring thought:

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NLT

What’s Up With the Nicolaitans?

This is going to be a difficult post. Why? Because I know it could become somewhat controversial. So, please be patient with my exegesis. I am a learner. We are all learners. We must treat one another as such. With that in mind, I believe fully that Jesus wants and expects us to know His Truth. So, here I go…

But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

Revelation 2:6, NLT

But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Revelation 2:14-16, NLT

I have recently heard and read several different individuals concerning their view of the Nicolaitans, so I decided to start a discussion here.

The above passages are the only place we find this term in the New Testament. Jesus makes some very powerful assertions regarding the Nicolaitans which leave no question to how He feels about them. HE HATES THEIR DEEDS!! He commands urgent and immediate repentance from those who have succumbed to their deeds. Jesus is fully prepared and ready to defend His honor with His Truth (the sword of His mouth). I think we need to pay attention here!

So, what are the deeds? What is Jesus talking about here that demands such serious action? Who are the Nicolaitans? What is their teaching? From where did they come? Why is Jesus so ticked at them?

In His pointed address to the church at Pergamus, Jesus uses the teaching of Balaam as an illustration of the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Balaam was a “prophet-for-hire” who was being paid by Balak the King of the Moabites to call a cursing upon the invading army of Israel. Yahweh would not allow this cursing, but rather turned Balaam’s curse into a blessing on three separate occasions. Finally, Balaam gives up trying to speak a cursing over Israel and instead instructs Balak in how to trick the Israelites into calling a curse upon themselves. He does this by using the pagan temple prostitutes to go into the war camp at Mt. Peor and seduce the battle-weary soldiers into worshiping false gods by having sex with them. As a result, 24,000 Israelites died. It wasn’t a good time for Israel. (Check out these other passages concerning Balaam: Numbers 22-24; 31:8, 16; Deuteronomy 23:4-5; Joshua 13:22; 14:9-10; Nehemiah 13:2; Micah 6:5; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11.)

Now, I will share two interpretations:

  1. The first thought identifies “Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith)” (Acts 6:5) as the culprit, as in the “Nicolaitans” were following “Nicolas”. He was one of seven men chosen to run a food distribution program in the church at Jerusalem many years before. These men are regularly referred to as the first “deacons” within the church. (I don’t actually agree that sentiment within the context it is often used, but that is for another discussion.) The theory here is that Nicolas began holding to a teaching that would ultimately be referred to as “Gnosticism”. This teaching adopts a very twisted “hyper-grace” view of life. It basically says that once you are saved by grace, you can do whatever you like in your physical body. It doesn’t matter, just live it up. Give no heed to personal holiness, because that is just a legalistic illusion. Have fun! This, of course, is identified as the teaching of Balaam who caused the seduction of Israelite men away from Yahweh and into idol worhsip through sexual sin. This teaching did cause concern in early churches and Paul addressed these pagan teachings in several of his letters. Also, Jesus certainly would hate this type of teaching, because it truly runs contrary to His teachings. So, we can see the origin of this interpretation. But was that the intention of Jesus in this particular passage?
  2. The second line of thinking has more to do with the actual word “Nicolaitans”. It is derived from two Greek words: “nikao”, meaning to conquer or rule (where the word “Nike” comes from), and “laos”, meaning people (where the word “laity” comes from). When joined, the two words mean people conquerors or rulers. Also, it is interesting to note the actual meaning of Balaam’s name. His name is derived from two separate Hebrew terms: “bal”, meaning not, nothing, to wear out, consume, and “am”, which means people. Literally, the translation would be “not people”, and is usually thought to mean “not (of the) people”, or “foreigner”. An etymological study will reveal that the Hebrew name Balaam and the Greek word Nicolaitans can mean the same thing. The idea is that the “deeds of the Nicolaitans” didn’t necessarily have anything to do with moral corruption or “Gnosticism”, but rather was the emergence of the clergy/laity divide which has permeated nearly all of Christendom from “higher” forms of church (i.e. Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Orthodox, etc.) to “lower” forms of church (i.e. Baptist, Pentecostal, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, etc.). “Lower” and “higher” church being a reference more to church polity, governance, traditions, and structure, not necessarily doctrinal issues. Not only is the issue of the clergy/laity divide called into question in this view, but the fact that Balaam was a “prophet-for-hire” is poignantly pointed out by those who question the Scriptural veracity of the CEO pastoral role assumed by so many “professional” ministers today. No matter which tribe (denomination) is being considered, one thing is true, Christianity has been decisively divided between those with a “special” calling and those who are…well…just people (laity). It is as though the impetus of the Reformation has been forgotten, yet again: the literal priesthood of all believers. Whether these “offices” of leadership are referred to as ministers, bishops, cardinals, deacons, pastors, reverends, popes, or whatever, the divide is quite evident. Therefore, if this was what Jesus was pointing out, He is clearly stating that He hates this divide and the monetary gain in which it is encumbered.

So, these are the two basic interpretations as I understand them. Either way we go, we are given much to reflect upon and consider. I think that we must wrestle with this passage.

Please share your thoughts. I have many more passages of Scripture I could share along with my own ideas, but I invite the conversation. Please share Scripture, and play nice. I am not making any accusations here. I just simply want to pursue Truth. I am looking for well-thought-out, considerate conversation, not accusatory, reactionary, diatribe.

Thanx!

More CMA Thoughts…

Okay, the conference is over. The last day we heard from Dave Gibbons in a general session and the breakouts we went to were done by Brad Fieldhouse, Paul Kaak, and Dana Cole. I will be sharing thoughts from each of these throughout the next week.

I will say now that I was not disappointed at all with this year’s conference. I was at the first CMA conference three years ago. I remember that year I was totally confused. Everything was new to me. My brain hurt. I didn’t know what to do next. As a result, that next year was tough. We tried and “failed” numerous attempts to do “different” things. It was a harsh learning experience that I will never forget.

The next year, we needed some healing and clarity, which we got. I remember thinking during last year’s conference, “That makes sense.” So much of what was shared last year, we had experienced the hard way the year before, and just didn’t know how to frame it with words. Needless to say, we received a lot of clarity, focus, and direction. This past year, has continued to be a healing and refreshing time of learning to listen to Father. We have met so many new friends that offer encouragement, fresh insights, and just plain ol’ friendship. It is good to have new friends to share this crazy journey with.

Now, after this year’s conference, Father has shown me many things. I have fresh ideas of tangible ways to live out Kingdom values in my neighborhood and city. Father has fully begun breaking my heart for Memphis and Southaven in two very radical ways. I will share more on that later. Also, Father is causing some deep introspection. Not the kind that makes one prideful or self-centered, but the kind that breaks you in humility. To be honest, it doesn’t feel all that great. But, feelings can be quite deceiving, because I know this is good. This is the place I must be. I am not sure how long this season will last, but one thing I know, I want to embrace it with a open heart and mind. I am sure I will be sharing much more on this later.

So, the point of this post is to simply say, stay tuned….

Malaria

Malaria.

The word just doesn’t mean very much to Americans. Most Americans anyway. But for much of the world’s population this word sends shivers down the spine. This is one of the most deadly killers in our world today, yet is one of the most preventable. 

Each year, there are approximately 515 million cases of malaria, killing between one and three million people, the majority of whom are young children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria is commonly associated with poverty, but is also a cause of poverty and a major hindrance to economic development. Malaria is one of the most common infectious diseases and an enormous public health problem. [Source]

Malaria is transmitted through mosquitoes as a parasite that which multiplies within red blood cells as seen in the picture to the right. Scientists have developed many anti-malarial drugs, most of which are therapy drugs after infection with the disease. An individual who is treated with these drugs can expect a FULL recovery.

The inherent problem with this dreaded disease is the fact that it infects the poorest of the poor in our world. It destroys the weakest of the weak. Children. Poor Children. Extremely poor children. Time or space does not allow me to detail the complicated reasons behind this continued pandemic, but suffice it to say that far too Christians are taking action on this issue.

We can present eloquent speeches outlining grand theological doctrines, we can interact with government through political bureaucracy to win moral arguments, and we can argue to hilt with one another over matters that make not one difference in the world we live in, all while millions of people die from a preventable death trap. Satan must smirk at our feeble efforts to gain notoriety and significance among men, while children lay rotting to death.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons!  For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me no clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46, NLT

Check this website out for more on this subject!