Ministry Leaders and Local Church Volunteers:
Back to the Scriptures
Jesus was not just another great teacher with the latest new idea for church. He certainly was not just a motivational speaker promoting positive thinking. He absolutely did not come to start a new religion, nor did he come to earth to lead people to find their own paths to God. The very term religious leader would have been distasteful to the Son of God. The only purpose of Jesus was to provide the one and only pathway to God. His plan and purpose was to take us back to the scriptures to see what The Christ thinks about all of this man made religion. In this month's Leadership Connections we wish to point you toward Jesus who says, "Trust God, and let Him speak for Himself."
Prophetic Insight on the Future of America
by R. Loren Sandford
Whether or not America can be saved rests squarely in the hands of the church.
God agreed to Abraham's plea to spare Sodom if just 10 righteous men could be found. Are we such a people? Righteousness implies a respect for the moral laws and principles articulated in God's Word.
As the influence of godless secular culture has invaded the church, however, we have seen a gradual erosion, not only of the morality of those who call themselves Christian, but of foundational historic theology. We need a massive move of repentance, beginning in the church, but repentance begins with a consciousness of sin, something increasingly missing, both in the surrounding culture and in the church.
Both the First and Second Great Awakenings in America began with repentance. Even as the masses fell into immorality, the nation shared an understanding of moral right and wrong and therefore knew what to return to when conviction came. Repentance made sense to them. Such a cultural agreement concerning moral right and wrong no longer exists.
A time is coming when increasing numbers of people will be crying out in pain as the lifestyles they've chosen inevitably fail. At such times people seek answers. Will the church then appear as a glowing beacon of light, a place of healing and restoration? Or as a dark wall of condemnation? Will we present a doorway to a better life? Or falsely affirm the sin that produced their misery to begin with—and all in the name of "grace"?
I know from experience that the closer one comes to the holiness, glory and goodness of God, the more clearly that which is unholy and unclean stands out. In that light, the Holy Spirit reveals sin for what it is. My job is to love; His is to convict, and I've seen it work time after time.
As the sinner draws nearer to the radiant goodness of God exhibited in and through His people, light exposes darkness.
When darkness is clearly revealed, conviction falls, lives change and people are healed. America can be saved as Christians lovingly radiate the glow of the goodness of the Father's heart.
Will the church as a whole step up to the plate in this crucial time?
Will we be that beacon of inviting light that draws the hurting to repentance and healing?
Will America be saved? The answer lies with us.
Pockets of true revival are breaking out across America.
R. Loren Sandford is the founder and senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver.
Don’t Miss These Three Markers for Discipleship
by Ed Stetzer
What Are We Missing in Discipleship?
I think we can all agree there’s a discipleship deficit in many churches. There isn’t a whole lot of discipling going on, even though that’s precisely what we, as Jesus’ followers, were commissioned to do—make disciples.
There are plenty of discipleship books and models. But what can we learn about discipleship from Christ and the early church? In this series of articles, we are looking at four discipleship principles found in Scripture:
A Pathway to Maturity
- Maturity is a goal for disciples.
- God wants you and your church on a clear path toward spiritual growth.
- God involves us in our own growth, as well as our church’s growth.
- God calls you and your church to be spiritual leaders.
If we can agree that spiritual maturity is the goal for disciples, how do we achieve it? How does God expect us to disciple?
Though essential (and actually a gift from God), having a desire for spiritual growth is not enough in the Christian life; we must be on the path. That’s one of the reasons why we call this a "spiritual walk."
And while you as a pastor or leader will have to break out the machete at times to clear overgrown paths, others have already blazed a trail and left us some good markers. Paul was such a trailblazer, making more than just a few disciples. So I think we can learn from his process.
A Path to Growth
We have found through Transformational Discipleship research that there is a progression, a path involved in making disciples. But, that's just a reflection of the biblical realities showing up in our research of churches.
Paul writes of this path in his letter to the Colossians:
“For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God” (1:9–10, HCSB).
Here are three things that mark the path of spiritual formation:
Being filled with the knowledge of God’s will is a vital part of becoming a disciple of Jesus. We can tell people to be more like Jesus all day long, but if they don’t know Jesus, they won’t be like him. This knowing happens individually, and through relationships.
We don’t learn about God to become theological encyclopedias. Rather, we learn and know so we can be. That's learning to walk worthy by being, increasingly, who we are in Christ.
There is a mysterious transfer of spiritual DNA that occurs as a believer walks the path of discipleship. It is a becoming.
Walking with Him shapes us to be like Him—to walk worthy.
Just as our mindsets are formed by our training and belief, our actions flow from who we are.
Knowing who you are in Christ, then being who you are in Christ (by walking worthy), leads you to doing the work of God.
Bearing fruit in every good work is an indicator of development… being a disciple will inevitably result in doing the work of a disciple—not just doing good things but also bearing fruit.
Works don't save you but saved people work.
No one wanders into spiritual maturity.
There are no accidental disciples—God gives new life in Christ. Then, disciples learn to know, be, and do what the Christian life is.
Finding the Mosaic in the Mess: The Reality of Urban Ministry
By Ed Stetzer
.....I am a missiologist so, well, that’s what we are supposed to help people do. Whether I’m pointing people to the usefulness of social media or explaining the importance of welcoming other cultures and backgrounds, I serve the Church by helping it better understand and interact with the world around it. One of the most recent trends missiologists have been keeping an eye on is the urbanization of the world and how such migration affects the ways in which we plant churches and do mission.
“The city” is an emerging phrase that seems to be embraced by a growing number of Christians. I intentionally say they are embracing the phrase, because I do not think that all are actually embracing the city. Rather most are simply embracing the idea of embracing the city.
Whatever it is that we say about the city, the truth is the church is often absent from the urban context.
Part of the reason is that urban ministry is complex ministry. A diversity of cultures, races, and socioeconomic statuses make for a beautiful mosaic of the people of God, but working among the diversity of Miami can be more complicated than ministering among a more homogenous group in rural Nebraska.
When cultural differences collide, things can get messy. But the beauty of the gospel is how it brings unity in the midst of what often seems to be chaos. As Paul is writing to the first century churches, most often located in important cities of the day, he constantly brings them back to the unity that belongs to them in Christ—despite all the differences they may see and experience when the church gathers as a body.
He reminds the Corinthian church that they have all been baptized into one body through one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12). He tells the Galatians that the distinctions so often made in their society—Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female—were unimportant considering the oneness they had in Christ (Galatians 3:28).
So urban ministry is important, and the growing passion for it is encouraging, but if we’re going to properly minister to people in urban areas, we have to better understand modern urbanization and the complexities that make up urban ministry.
As one who grew up on Long Island outside of New York City and planted my first church in Buffalo, New York among the urban poor, I love the concept of “urban ministry.”
Yet, I am convinced that you cannot love a city if you do not know a city.
Now, full disclosure, I am biased. I run a research firm and we do city research, so you should be aware of that. I run a research firm because I believe that we need to know so we can engage. If you don’t properly understand the context in which you want to minister until after you start ministering there, your ministry will likely be more frustrating than fruitful.
The beauty of the gospel is how it brings unity in the midst of what often seems to be chaos. The fact is, the how of ministry is, in many ways, shaped by the who, when, and where of culture. So, in order to reach the city, we have to come with a missionary mindset. We have to love the city, and know the city, to engage the city.
But we need to do it now because cities are growing faster than most of us even realize.
An Acts 2 Believer
by Craig Mosgrove
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many
wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” Acts 2:42–43 NIV
You do not change the community around you by showing up at church each week. You, as a member of His Body, are getting personally challenged to change during a weekly service so you can change those in the community around you. I believe there are 3 types of churches:
1. Churches that don’t change –– same ol’, same ol’; same music, same styles; typically elderly congregations that see no need to change or keep fresh vitality
2. Churches that change with the world–– accommodate the culture and become more worldly; create an environment of worldliness to accommodate them
3. Churches that change the world–– truly counter-cultural
We MUST move from going to church to becoming the Church. We must stop seeking to be served by the church and start seeking to serve as the Church. When you look at the Book of Acts, the New Testament believers described a life in the early church that I feel is prescriptive for us today (Acts 2:42-47). As modern Christians, we need to be sure we also have the characteristics of an Acts 2 Christian:
•intentional spiritual growth
•intimate worship and prayer
•surrender to the supernatural
•sacrificial giving of resources
•taking Christ to the community
•experiencing daily conversions
It is imperative that we make an impact on our communities. We must change, but we cannot and will not change unless our mentality changes from going to church to being the Church!
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