The NEW Church How NEW is what we do?
David Edgren Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
Copyright ÂŠ 2008 by David Edgren
The NEW Church has been produced as a digital book in the hope it will bless the church as widely as possible. A huge amount of time and effort has gone into creating this book. The more readers, the better! I encourage you to share The NEW Church with friends, small group leaders, elders, teachers and pastors. Please distribute it in itâ€™s entirety without alteration. If you find this digital copy of The NEW Church useful, you can purchase it for $10. This payment entitles you to keep the file on your computer forever and to print a copy of the book. In my attempt to reach as many as possible with this material it may be useful to print a standard hardcopy edition of The NEW Church. If that is something you would like to see happen, let me know. Your expression of interest may just tip the scales in that direction. If you would like to use The NEW Church or part thereof in a manner beyond this copyright, email me and we can work something out. Thank you for your honesty! To contact me, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Edited by Nathan Brown Cover by David Edgren
Pastor David Edgren Associate Editor Signs Publishing Company (Australia)
Dedication This book was written for youâ€”the active church member. I hope it blesses you as much as it has blessed me over the past five years as it has developed. If you recognise a sermon or an article among the musings printed here, you have remembered well. I have had the NEW Church growing in my heart since I moved to Tasmania in 2004 to pastor two churches. Since starting work at Signs Publishing in 2006, the NEW Church has matured into the book before you as I have prepared sermons and articles for Signs of the Times, Record, The Edge and other Adventist publications. Life is like that. You get a bee in your bonnet and it gets you moving! So, the NEW Church is dedicated to youâ€”the reader. Thanks for inspiring me to say it simply.
The NEW Church Why a NEW Model?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 The NEW Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Two Questions in One . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 The N in NEW Church—Nurture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 DIVE into Nurture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Disciple like Jesus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 The Great Commission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Humility—The First Step . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Taking Them with You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 A Home Run for Kenny . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Inspirational People are Humble . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Come to the Table . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 It All Started with a Meal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Standing in the Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 The E in NEW Church—Evangelism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 The “Evangelism that Works” Model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Personal Evangelism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Paul’s Strategy for Caring and Sharing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 Small Group Evangelism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
A Small Group and a Box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Give My Best to the General . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Community Evangelism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mark’s Heroines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
77 80 84 85
The W in NEW Church—Worship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 POWER in Worship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 Pray Continually . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 In His Image . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103 Double Click . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 Suit Up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 My Life Verse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120 Finding Your Strength . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 In Jesus’ Name . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130 Riding the Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133 Putting the NEW Church to Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
The NEW Church
Why a NEW model? In my brief ministry experience I have pastored established churches. The youngest church I’ve pastored was planted in the early 1970s and the oldest was built in the late 1800s! I have noticed most people in established churches do what they do because they’ve always done it that way. There is often no rhyme or reason to their practices other than the fact that it rhymes or seems reasonable. It is my desire to see passion and purpose instilled into these sometimes listless limbs of the body of Christ. As a young pastor, I began a quest. I read everything I could find about creating a healthy environment within an already existing church. I did the training to become a certified Natural Church Development coach. I ran the “40 Days of Purpose” in my local church. I even helped my conference president create a church health research tool for the Adventist churches in Tasmania. Of the many church health models I studied and taught, I noticed one recurring result. I could not remember them. There was too much information. In most cases the abundance of information was part and parcel to the package. It is important to have a complete picture of the church in order to apply it effectively. I like simplicity. But I also need completeness. Especially when it comes to leading Christ’s church! It was my desire to create a model that encapsulated the key areas of church health in as few 1
The NEW Church points as possible and presented them in a memorable way. Letâ€™s take a look at the two leading church health models in the world today and demonstrate how they create a need for The NEW Church.
Natural Church Development (NCD) Thousands of churches in hundreds of countries on every populated continent have participated in the NCD program. I have started three churches on the NCD process. NCD is designed for top-level detailed analysis and long range planning. It quantifies eight key areas of church health and qualifies them with eight key adjectives. To do this effectively you must learn six biotics. What is a biotic, you ask? Let me go get my notes. NCD is an extremely effective way to carefully analyse your church, plan for the future and become healthy. But, it is not something you and I can apply daily because it is very in-depth and its systems are impossible to remember without notes or one of the NCD books. The NCD program is intended for the leadership team in the boardroom. While its effects will be seen, its theories and concepts will never be completely understood by the majority of church members.
The Purpose Driven Church Rick Warren and Saddleback Church have created an enjoyable and effective way of teaching their five purposes for the Christian 2
Why a NEW model? life. “The Purpose Driven Life” program is designed to explain the Christian life in a wholistic way. I enjoyed preaching the “40 Days of Purpose” sermons and our church members cherished the accompanying book, The Purpose Driven Life. The series began with a very good question: “What on Earth am I here for?” The five answers—Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Evangelism—were well stated and many people were blessed. During the concluding sermon of the program, I began listing the five purposes—then stopped. I was stuck. I asked for help from the audience and together we recapped the five points. I got stuck after three! When my wife sends me to the shops, if there’s any more than three items, I make a list! After reading the book and presenting the series to our church I was left wishing for a way to make it more memorable. I wanted each and every church member (and myself!) to be able to walk through life with a way of saying, “How can I make this situation as God-centred as possible?” It was from this desire that The
NEW Church was born.
3 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
The NEW Church
The NEW Church You are the church. You are the body of Christ. You are, in fact, a minister. For you to minister effectively, you need to know what being part of the body of Christ—the church—means. If you aren’t asking, “Am I being effective for Christ?” you won’t know the answer. And without a concise and memorable way to frame the question, you may not even think to ask it. The NEW Church has been designed to empower you, the church member, toward wholistic ministry in a memorable and easily transferable way. It will not solve the systemic problems of the church—that’s NCD’s job. It will not serve as a wholistic sermon series—that’s the territory of the “40 Days of Purpose” series. What the NEW Church will do is hand you the keys to the church. You are The NEW Church minister. And you can do it! This book: The NEW Church is a simple concept. It would only take two or three pages to give you enough to understand and apply it. So, I have done two things to help the NEW church really stick in your mind. First, I have unpacked it as much as I can without becoming prescriptive. It is important for you to apply it to your personal and local situation. Second, I have included a number of illustrative chapters. A story often makes rough places plain! 4
The NEW Church So, this book has two purposes: to teach the NEW church theory and to model its principles in action through story.
The NEW Church Model
Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. This prophetic passage is a quick snapshot of the complete follower of Christ. It shows a wholistic approach to living a godly life. Micah precedes Godâ€™s commission with a powerful questionâ€”What does the Lord require of you? The prophet then answers the question succinctly and completely. To act justly: IN-reach: The complete Christian is one who seeks justice in the lives of those around them. They seek fairness and wellness on behalf of fellow Christians. This is Nurture. 5
The NEW Church To love mercy: OUT-reach: The totally devoted Christian also has a passion to see mercy offered to the lost. They personally take the gospel in both word and deed to those in need. This is Evangelism. To walk humbly with your God: UP-reach: And, primarily, the passionate Christian honours God—glorifying God and glorying in His presence. This is Worship.
The NEW Christian I considered calling this book The NEW Christian because its primary purpose is to give Christians a simple yet complete model for doing ministry. But the truth is, Christians are the church! So The NEW Church is a more fitting title because it is both personal and corporate. Ever since childhood I have thought it odd that we call the Christian workforce “lay members.” What is this saying about us—the body of Christ? Are we just laying around waiting for Jesus to return? What does “lay members” say about Jesus, whom we are serving? Is Jesus asleep? Is our Messiah dead? NO! Jesus Christ was raised to life! He now stands ministering on our behalf before the Father in Heaven. How should this effect my Christian life? It often seems, as long as I’m involved in the lay activities committee (having a nap 6
The NEW Church after faithfully attending church) I fit in perfectly and am doing my part! If this is the case, I don’t understand my mission as a Christian. It is my hope this book will raise up and embolden the members of Christ’s church. The NEW Church is one that has upstanding laity.
The Great Commission is your mission! Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). In Jesus’ pivotal mission statement for the Christian church, we see the wholistic nature of the NEW Christian. Jesus puts Evangelism first—“Go and make disciples.” Then He challenges His leaders to bring the new disciples into total submission to the Trinity, in the humblest act of Worship—“baptising them.” And finally He requires continual growth in each disciple through Nurture—“Teaching them to obey.” Jesus finishes with a blazing statement of divine Nurture by promising, “Surely I am with you always!” In His three-step Great Commission, Jesus initiated The NEW Church.
7 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
The NEW Church
Two Questions in One There are two ways to view the question upon which The NEW Church in based. One is the memory device—How NEW is what we do? The other is the literal meaning of the question—How new is what we do? It is important and useful to explore both questions on a regular basis.
Q1. How NEW is what we do? No one has all the answers. But we all know people who act as though they do. They are usually our favourite people to be around because they are so helpful! No? Why not? Because, finding the answers is just as important as asking the questions. Good questions are the stuff of maturity. A good question is worth its weight in gold. “How NEW is what we do?” is just that. It’s a great question! It will help you analyse everything you do before you do it, while you are doing it and after you’ve done it. When you ask, “How NEW is what I am doing?” you are asking three quick questions that will give you a wholistic Christian outlook you can then instantly apply. The questions are: How is Nurture happening in this? How is Evangelism happening in this? How is Worship happening in this? With these three questions you can ensure what you are doing is wholistic—it reaches in, out and up. In my study of church 8
Two Questions in One health I have discovered this simple threefold truth of all healthy churches—a healthy church cares for its members, ministers to the needs of the world and glorifies God. This is The NEW Church.
Q2. How new is what we do? Change is the only constant in life. In fact, the only things not constantly in a state of flux are inanimate objects and dead creatures. Don’t let your church be either! Healthy change is called growth. A long-term pattern of growth is the process of maturity. To reach maturity in any ministry area, ask yourself, “What do I do well?” Or, as a ministry group, ask, “What do we do well?” Spend some time being really honest about your ministry. How are you most effective? Who is your ministry touching? When was it at its peak? Once you have discovered what you do best, focus in on that one area and ask, “How can we do it better?” Then go for gold! Be creative and try something new! This is opposite to NCD’s foundational principle. NCD teaches that you should work on your weakest area so you can retain more people in your church programs. I have seen that work—on a corporate level. But on the personal ministry level we have been called and commissioned to work within our spiritual giftedness. Glorify God through growth and maturity. God has put a new heart within you. Find the passion of your heart and set it on fire! 9 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
The N in NEW Church Nurture When we think of the word “nurture” we think of parents— particularly mothers. The act of nurturing creates a deep-seated connection between the person giving and the person receiving nurture. Your pastor can’t nurture the whole church. He can’t even nurture the whole leadership team—at least not effectively. For my last two years of church pastoring, I poured myself into four people. They were the four I felt God drawing me toward. I have never enjoyed pastoral ministry more! Following is the strategy I used.
Forming a Nurture Group Without a doubt Jesus was the most effective minister of all time. His leadership style gives us a perfect example of effective ministry. Jesus divided His followers into groups. There were unstructured multitudes who came to Him for healing and to hear His stories. There were 70 (see Luke 10) trained to go out witnessing. There were 12 discipled on a daily basis. And there were three into whom Jesus poured extra-special time and effort. Peter, James and John were the three men chosen by Jesus to be His nurture group. We have so immersed ourselves in church growth, church 10
The N in NEW Church health, church life-cycles and church buildings that we naturally assume Jesus’ ministry and mission was focused on building local churches. Jesus was never a church pastor. Jesus was a small group leader. Jesus led a healthy small group—12 disciples. He modelled small group principles day in and day out for three and a half years. The great commission (see Matthew 28:16-20) is a small group commission. A study of the leadership of Jesus is a study in small group management, training and empowering. One principle revealed in His discipleship training is that followers of Jesus are nurtured to maturity. Jesus targeted His attention based on levels of involvement. When He spent time with the crowds, the inner circles (70, 12, 3) were also present. When He ministered to the 70, the 12 and the three were present. At the heart of the 12—and the heart of Jesus—were the three. Peter, James and John were the most trained, most nurtured and most empowered of the disciples. Jesus often limited His audience. When He focused on the 12, the 70 and the crowds were often absent and at times were specifically not invited. Occasionally, Jesus chose to separate the three from the 12 for a special time of training and nurture. Jesus did not apologise for this selective approach. In fact, He saw it as necessary. Jesus chose to specifically involve these 11
The NEW Church three in the extremes of His spiritual journey. At the Mount of transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-3), the three saw Jesus in His glory—His true identity was revealed. At the raising for Jairus’s daughter (see Mark 5:22-42), the three witnessed Jesus’ unique giftedness—He has power over death. And in the Garden of Gethsemene (see Mark 14:32-36), the three saw Jesus in His grieving—struggling to keep the Father’s will as His own primary focus. At each of these times, Jesus specifically called these three out of the 12 and instructed the other nine to stay behind. He made it clear that He was pouring special time and training into Peter, James and John. In our ministry, we too will be most effective if we pour ourselves into others in this selective and intentional way. By focusing our nurture on only a few, we can create a deep bond with them and invite them into our moments of glory, giftedness and grieving. Jesus understood that you cannot pour yourself fully into more than a few people. He didn’t see anything wrong with playing favourites. In fact, He seems to have seen it as a necessity. Why He chose Peter, James and John we can only guess. But one thing is certain—Jesus had a core group of three He nurtured in a special way. I would challenge you to develop a nurture group of just a few people. Once, after presenting this picture of Jesus’ ministry to a multi-denominational group of church leaders, a Lutheran elder 12
The N in NEW Church commented how empowering it was to hear that he couldn’t and shouldn’t care for everyone. He said it would really benefit church leaders to take the nurture group concept to heart. Modelling your ministry on Jesus’ example is always liberating!
13 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
The NEW Church
DIVE into Nurture Why did Jesus spend more time with Peter, James and John than He did the other nine members of His small group? He knew it would have maximum efficiency. You can nurture best by following Jesus’ example—form a nurture group from among the people in your circle of influence. There are a number of factors— personality, influence, spirituality and time, to name a few—that must be taken into account in choosing the members of your nurture group. As always, pray that God will show you to whom you should be ministering in this specialised way. Once you have selected your chosen few—your nurture group— you can truly DIVE into nurturing them. You will have to say “no” to other people and many responsibilities in order to focus on your nurture group. I have found that having a nurture group focus is liberating and empowering for my ministry. Do more for less! To better care for the whole church we must each focus our care on fewer people. Once we are able to help our church leaders understand this we will begin to see relationships flourish and ministry mature in our churches! The DIVE principles can be used to strengthen relationships with all people we lead for the Lord. But, the most effective way to DIVE into Nurture is within your clearly chosen and established nurture group. 14
DIVE into Nurture
Disciple I V E
Disciple like Jesus
Much has been written about the discipleship process. The model given by Jesus is worthy of life-long emulation. Depending how deeply you wish to delve into the art of making committed followers for Christ, there is always more material to study and more strategies to implement. And the more you explore the nature of Christ, the more you become like Him. The best disciple makers are those who are closest to Jesus. And we can always get closer! In Jesusâ€™ great commission to both you and me, Jesus put discipleship first. It is truly the primary way to teach anything practical. Some call it mentoring. Some call it an apprenticeship. Some call it discipleship. Whatever the terminology used, the process is simple when reduced to its core. The essence of disciple making is seen in the following five steps Jesus modelled with the disciples. 1. I do, you watch (you ask questions) 2. We do it together (while I teach theory) 3. I watch, you do (I ask questions) 4. You do it, I go (I remain available to you) 5. You train a disciple (I start over with someone else)
15 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
The NEW Church
Disciple I V E
The Great Commission
“Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him—but some of them still doubted!” (Matthew 28:16-20). Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven He gave His followers a mission statement. “The Great Commission” encapsulates the ministry and training of Jesus in a nutshell. Jesus’ final words reveal His heart and passion. We can learn vast amounts from these five short verses of Matthew’s Gospel. going where Jesus told them to go The disciples went to the mountain top—all of them. Why? Because disciples know that Jesus is always in charge. He told them to go, and they went. Likewise, our lives ring true when we obey Jesus faithfully. 16
DIVE into Nurture they worshipped Him Jesus met them right where He said He would. When they saw Him, they worshipped the risen Saviour. When we go where Jesus invites us, we too will see Him in all His glory. And we will worship. some of them still doubted It is amazing that after seeing all they had—Jesus had fed thousands with a boy’s lunch, healed the sick, raised the dead and even came back from the dead Himself—some of them still doubted. This tells us that having doubts doesn’t disqualify you from service. In fact, doubt signifies you are struggling with your thoughts and beliefs. Dealing with doubt is part of healthy faith. Followers of Jesus may have their doubts, but their doubts don’t have them! I have been given complete authority Followers of Jesus do not need influence, reputation or authority to merit the role of disciple. Jesus, in conquering sin on the cross and death on resurrection Sunday, achieved our victory over both. And the Father returned to Him complete authority over all creation when He returned to His rightful place in Heaven. Jesus offers His authority to His followers. Because we have confidence in Jesus’ full authority, we can obey the directive that follows. 17
The NEW Church go and make disciples “As you are going” is a more fitting translation of the word “go.” Jesus’ point isn’t: get ready, learn your stuff, pack your bags and go. “Go” is in the present tense. Likewise, immediately after the Ten Commandments it is written: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7). As you are going, make disciples. It’s a call to mums, dads, grandparents, siblings, teachers, preachers and soccer coaches. Make disciples as you go about life. of all the nations Followers of Jesus have a global vision. None of the 11 disciples would have thought they were personally to go to every nation on earth. They understood that Christianity is a team sport. It requires each of us to go to the world around us. And like a sporting team there is no position on the team for spectators. We are touching our part of the world for Jesus with our candle lit by His torch. Together we will set the world alight. baptising them in the name Two things are clear about Jesus’ connection with baptism: He was baptised and He didn’t baptise others. He supervised as His followers baptised. He continues to attend every baptism and 18
DIVE into Nurture rejoice as another loved one is added to the family. We, the baptised, identify with Jesus because He too was baptised. We, the baptisers, identify with Him as we continue the work. There is a powerful allegiance that emerges from the waters of baptism. Because of the three names in which Jesus commanded us to baptise, we believe in the Trinity. And we, in joining His family through the waters of baptism, comprehend the intertwined nature of His divinity. We, the church, are one—His bride. teach them to obey my commands As followers of Jesus we recognise that knowing the precepts of the Bible is not enough. Obedience is the key to worshipping our precious Saviour. And thus we obey and teach others to do so. be sure of this Disciples have assurance of two things: First, they are promised Jesus’ continual presence. It’s a comission because we are never alone while living it out—Jesus is always with us. Knowing He has complete authority in Heaven and on Earth empowers us to act. We need not fear earthly punishment because we know our eternal God is returning to claim us and take us to His eternal kingdom. And that reveals the second surety, and Jesus’ conclusion. Followers of Jesus live in hope—hope of an end to sin, hope of a new age in a new place with old friends. We know Jesus is 19
The NEW Church returning to claim His followers. He has the authority, the power and the glory to bring an end to sin and suffering for eternity. We, His followers, fully expect that day to be soon. Jesus never meant for a disciple to live alone. We are part of a discipleship pyramid that goes back, through the disciples to Jesus and through Jesus to the Father. It is all, truly, about bringing glory to God. Our every action as a discipleâ€”whether it be learning from our mentor or teaching our studentsâ€”glorifies God because it originated with him. God is the Father of all mentors and disciples!
20 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
DIVE into Nurture
Disciple I V E
Humility—the first step
The desert warrior and his 600 loyal men rapidly made their way along the steep mountain slope. They knew in the valley, on the opposite side of its rugged peak, were 3000 of the king’s finest soldiers—hand-picked to catch their little rebel group. But the desert nomads, much like Middle-Eastern insurgents today, knew the mountains well and were intimately familiar with the elaborate cave systems that pockmarked the hills. They found the sheep pens on the border of the Engeti Desert that marked the small entrance to a cave large enough for 600 men and burrowed their way into the depths of the mountain. A few days later, a scout entered the cave and reported the king’s 3000 were nearing the narrow entrance. Never would the king look for them here. The cave’s deceptively small opening placed it beyond suspicion. The desert warrior and a small group of his leading men made the lengthy journey from the expansive cave through the narrow passage to the mouth. Just beyond the pens, glimmering in the sun, they could see sparkling armour, shields and spears. The enemy was close. They were out of rank, resting in the relative shade of the mountain side. 21
The NEW Church One man, a good head taller than the rest and clothed in splendid armour, emerged from the rabble and mysteriously headed directly toward the party hiding in the cave. They quickly ran back down the corridor and around the first bend of the cave’s throat. The man approached the cave. He entered. Alone. The rebel leader and his mighty men hazarded a glance. There was no question—it was the king. “Now is the time!” whispered one of the men. “God promised you would have this chance. Deal with him!” The desert warrior quietly stalked his prey. Edging closer, the only sound that could be heard was the sound of the king relieving himself against the cave wall. The king thought he had found a solitary place for this private act. How wrong he was. Slowly a knife was drawn from its scabbard. Silently the final steps were taken. The rebel knelt behind the king. Steadily he grasped the king’s robe and with a deft swipe of the knife the robe was cut. With a portion of the king’s robe in hand the rebel returned to his men. The three men attending their leader stared at him incredulously, “You missed?” He showed them the bit of fabric. “No, I didn’t miss,” he laughed. “I did a little tailoring of his suit and he didn’t even notice!” The three trained killers glared at their comic champion. They were livid. How could he waste such a chance? “We will kill him ourselves, if you are too scared!” The men moved forward. 22
DIVE into Nurture Quickly he grabbed them, “No! We mustn’t,” he rasped, “He is God’s anointed leader.” As he spoke he looked down at the scrap of fabric in his hand and the full import of what he had just said and done hit him in the heart: I have just mocked the Lord
by making a joke of His chosen leader. He suddenly saw the sin at the core of his action. He was a God mocker, the king’s jester. His pride had overwhelmed his commitment to God. And he had sinned. God’s king turned and left the cave. The desert warrior stood and headed after him. By the time the rebel reached the mouth of the cave the king was approaching his army. So he shouted, “My lord, the king!” The king turned with a start and stared at his nemesis. The man emerged from the dark cave, knelt in the sunlight and pressed his forehead to the ground for a long moment before regaining his feet. “Why are you convinced I am hell-bent on killing you? You are anointed from Heaven. I will never harm you. And yet you hunt me like a wild dog. I am a flea. Nothing more!” He held up the bit of fabric that now tore at his heart. “Look at the hem of your robe. The missing piece is here, in my hand. I removed it with my knife and left you unharmed. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.” King Saul’s eyes filled with tears. He had once been as passionate for God. He envied this young idealist. Envied him with a passion. “Is that your voice, David, my son?” His voice 23
The NEW Church choked on the last word and his body began to convulse in sorrowful conviction. “I am unrighteous and unfit to rule. I’ve lost touch with the God of my youth.” He stilled his sobs and raised his voice, “You are more righteous than I. You have shown mercy to an unmerciful old king. God will bless you one day when you become king. Promise me you won’t cut off my descendants as easily as you severed the hem of my cloak!” David, the dessert warrior, bowed his head. “I promise,” he shouted. “I promise your children and their children’s children will walk unharmed all the days of their lives.” And he meant it. This wasn’t the first or the last time that David’s pride caused him to lose track of his primary focus. As a teen he confronted a giant. God was with him—and King Saul could tell. The king placed the weight of the kingdom’s freedom on the shoulders of a young shepherd because it was evident the Lord blessed David’s actions. A few hours later it was clear the king had made the right decision. When the giant fell, the Israelites chased every Philistine down and David, the giant-killer, entertained his first bout of pride. He had killed Goliath with the giant’s own sword—cutting off his head after knocking him down with a slingshot. He brought the head back to the king as a trophy. But then David did something odd. He went on tour—with the head. He kept the head and weapons of Goliath in his tent and took them on a slow procession to Jerusalem. People came to see this hero and his plunder. Soon the decapitated head of the giant 24
DIVE into Nurture was far out-sized by the head of the young shepherd boy. The stories and songs about David moved toward the Holy City faster than he did and when he arrived in a town the young girls would begin the refrain, “Saul killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands!” They continued singing David’s praises as King Saul passed through their towns as well. And thus began the jealousy that degenerated into hatred and finally into madness. David, not so much in his success, but in how he dealt with his success became the bane of King Saul’s existence. Had he quietly surrendered the weapons and head of the giant to King Saul on the battlefield camp, rather than making the prideful procession to Jerusalem, the story would be different. But the story as told in the Bible reveals a king who slowly slipped into depression and then plummeted into an insane jealous rage that lasted until his death. In the eyes of King Saul, David was enemy number one—the usurper of the throne. Every girlish refrain and boyish apology served to steel his resolve. Years later, when David was king, his pride got the better of him once again. He desired Bathsheba. He sent for her. And he slept with her. When she fell pregnant and her husband had been gone for weeks—serving in King David’s army—a solution had to be found. David called for Uriah, the woman’s husband, and tried—but failed—to get the man to sleep with his wife. It seems Uriah was unwilling to disrespect his God or his king by taking personal pleasure when there was a battle raging. David should have been 25
The NEW Church reminded of his own idealistic past. But too many years as the sovereign king had severed him from his righteous youth. And again his pride led the charge. David signed and sealed Uriah’s death warrant and, with the same sarcasm he had displayed when cutting the hem off Saul’s garment, he gave the letter to Uriah to deliver to his general. Uriah galloped to his death with integrity and resolve, not knowing his own impending doom. Uriah died. Bathsheba mourned. David waited. And as quickly as was decent, the king and Uriah’s wife were wed. David was confronted with his sin in a most unusual way. Nathan the prophet visited him with a tale to tell. David listened to a story of a poor man’s plight, a rich man’s greed and a beloved lamb’s death. He called retribution down on the rich man. His own shaking finger of judgment was bent backward to point directly at him by Nathan’s chilling words, “You are that man.” David wept. He wept for his sin. He wept for the baby that was dying. He refused to eat, bathe or sleep. For seven days he wept. Then the baby died. He had tried. He knew he had been forgiven—Nathan had said so. But he thought maybe—just maybe—the baby could be spared. But the sickness ended in death. David accepted God’s judgment. And he and Bathsheba were soon blessed with another baby boy. They named him Solomon. After all we have just explored, it seems ludicrous that the Bible 26
DIVE into Nurture can state David was “a man after God’s own heart.” How could this be? “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proberbs 16:18). Pride settles deepest in the tallest poppies. When he was only a teen, David was anointed “future king” by God’s prophet. David didn’t have visions of grandeur—he had realities of grandeur! It was just a matter of time. His humble beginnings as a shepherd boy were eroded as people flocked to follow him. He was a great leader. But, unfortunately, at times he let it go to his head. Thinking himself above reproach, he would do something irresponsible. Afterwards, in dejected shame, he always realised he was no different than any other man. And ultimately he would kneel, kiss the ground before God and beg for forgiveness. When faced with his slip-ups he bowed in humility, confession and repentance. David was, indeed, a man after God’s own heart. Long before Newton discovered it, the Bible clearly demonstrated that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” David’s life is proof. King Saul was driven to madness by David’s prideful parades—no matter how sincere the apology. Not only did Uriah and the baby die in Bathsheba’s tragedy, but David’s bony-finger-pointing judgment—that the man in the story should pay four times over for his evil—was carried out in full. Four of David’s sons were lost during his lifetime and the respect of his children was never regained. They had seen too much. 27
The NEW Church Truly, the wages of sin is death. And often it is far worse than your own death. It is death through disconnection—of loved ones, of cherished ideals, of commitment to God. Sin separates. David discovered the solution. Repentance. Admitting wrongs and saying sorry can often make things right with an offended friend or family member. Repentance always makes things right with God, because God always forgives a repentant heart. Unfortunately, repentance doesn’t change the consequences of the snowballs you have thrown. Some, mercifully, do little harm, while others cause avalanches The only way to ensure pride will not go before your fall is to catch yourself at the thought level—in those fantasy-like moments when you think, “I should have said . . .”—and take the thought captive. Imprison the prideful and release the merciful. But when you let one fly and it hits its mark, remember to humble yourself and say you are sorry. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). And you too will be seen as someone after God’s own heart, warts and all.
28 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
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Taking them with you
Mountain-top experiences are something we all long for—a time we are right where we know we have been created to be, side by side with our Creator. There, on the mountain top, we draw near to God and He draws near to us. Moses was so moved by his mountain top experience that he asked to see the full glory of God. Elijah, hiding in a cave on a mountain, was called to the mouth of the cave so God could “pass by”—only to face a great wind, earthquake and fire. Then God arrived in a whisper. There is something unique about Jesus when He took to the mountain—He didn’t go alone. Jesus took His nurture group. Nothing is quite as inspiring as being in the presence of someone you admire while they shine. Jesus invited Peter, James and John to accompany Him to the mountain top. When they got there, the nature of Jesus was revealed. Awaiting an audience with Jesus were two mountain-top men of legend. But this time Moses and Elijah welcomed Jesus, rather than the other way around. And Jesus wasn’t alone when He arrived on the mountain top, as they had been. Jesus had His proteges with Him. Jesus is in the business of empowering His people. Imagine being one of the three that day. Peter responded as many of us would—flustered and blustering random thoughts: “Lord, it is good for us to be 29
The NEW Church here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4). Honestly, what would you say? Jesus wanted His nurture group with Him on the mountain top for one purpose—to see Him in His glory. He wanted them to know who He was, where He was from and where He was heading. There was no reason for mistaken identity or misunderstood purpose after seeing Jesus mix and mingle with the prophetic giants of the past. Such an experience would have caused a myriad of emotions to flood through the three disciples accompanying Jesus. But one thing is sure, in seeing Jesus in His glory the three were inspired by His identity and purpose. Jesus also took the three along when He raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. They made their way past the paid mourners, past the distraught mother and into the death chamber—the girl’s bedroom. Jesus asked everyone to leave, except His nurture group. Then He did the unthinkable. He took the hand of the dead girl—and spoke to her. “Little girl, get up!” And she did. The three would have been overwhelmed. Jesus’ giftedness was revealed in their presence. He had the gift of life. A gift He gave willingly to this child. A gift He revealed purposefully in front of the three. Again, many emotions coursed through the disciple’s veins. But one thing was sure, in seeing Jesus in His giftedness the three were inspired. Finally Jesus suffered in the presence of the three. He sweated drops of blood while praying over the will of the Father. Yes, 30
DIVE into Nurture the disciples slept. but the lesson was not lost on them. The connection between Jesus and His Father was clear. No decision would be made by the Son contrary to the desire of the Father. Such commitment to obedience, such suffering for clarity would become the life and purpose of the three in the near future. Jesus’ example—and the presence of the three to witness that example— was inspirational. We all, no matter our station in life, have mountain-top experiences with God. When we have them alone, like Moses and Elijah, we grow. When we bring our closest allies along, like Jesus, we grow both ourselves and others—inspiring them to greatness. Jesus farewelled His disciples with the great commission. He left them responsible for leading the entire world to salvation. But He promised He would always be with them—that’s the kind of nurturer He is. Yes, we have a great work to do. But we are following the greatest Saviour, the greatest Conqueror, the greatest Leader. He bids us, “Follow me.” Go. But don’t go alone!
31 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
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A homerun for Kenny
Some of my best childhood memories happened at camp meeting. The years were filled with craft, excursions, friends and great storytellers. One year an earthquake caused the baseball field to roll like a swelling sea. But for me, and most kids at Northern California’s Redwood Camp Meeting, nothing defined camp more than Kenny. Kenny was a youth with Down Syndrome who lived for camp. He kept track of the year by how many days remained until camp. He always knew! “How many days until camp, Kenny?” “147 days until camp! 147 days!” Although Kenny was really an adult, he fit best with the kids. He gave great high-fives, loved to tell stories and made some really hilarious faces and gestures. To us kids, Kenny was camp. Along with his love for camp, Kenny loved baseball. He also loved people. And laughing. And chocolate. Nothing combined all of his favourite things as well as Candy-bar Baseball—where the player got a chocolate every time they made it around the bases. Whenever a game of Candy-bar Baseball was on, there was always a huge line of kids—dutifully waiting their turn to bat. And then Kenny would show up. He would run to the front of the 32
DIVE into Nurture line and excitedly say, “I’m UP!” It’s hard to explain, but he was always right. We loved Kenny. And he was up! The pitcher would take a few big steps toward Kenny and lob a gentle floating pitch. Kenny, leaning over the plate, would swing with everything he had—and miss. Every time he would get a strike the entire line of kids would yell, “BALL!” Four balls was an automatic walk—which meant Kenny went to first, and inevitably to home (Kenny never got out!). We all loved the rare occasions Kenny’s ferocious swing made contact with the pitch. The ball was likely to go anywhere. And so was the bat! Kenny would take off at top speed yelling, “HOME RUN! HOME RUN!” Which it always was. Children’s cheers amplified Kenny’s so the entire camp knew—Kenny had hit a home run. Ministry is built on memorable moments—connecting lives, hearts and souls through a shared story. That’s what we as Christians are meant to be about—drawing people toward eternal life by sharing God’s story and our story—hopefully connecting with the listener’s story. There are millions of Kenny’s out there— they need those of us who are in line to cheer them on, lift them up and give them a homerun. Give them Jesus. He’s better than chocolate!
33 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
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Inspirational people are humble The northern riders, darkly robed, came at dusk—when they came. Without warning or pattern to the attacks, they would gallop gracefully through town, grabbing any child
within reach. They always came when they needed more. But when that need arose was known only by them. The townspeople waited each day in fear that today the riders would return. As quickly as the torrent of riders rushed in one end of town, they would flow out the other, followed only by tears of mothers and shaking fists of fathers. She had been one of those children, taken, while playing in the street. Now she served as the personal slave of the commander’s wife. The commander who led the raiding parties. The commander who planned attacks on her parents and their people. Yet, she did her best to serve. She wanted to please her mistress, to follow instructions and to love her new family. Yes, love. It was the way of her people. The people of the one true God. Only one word was required to define their indescribable God—love. While she had no choice about leaving her mother and father, 34
DIVE into Nurture she did have the choice of whether or not she would leave her God. And she chose to love. She chose to hold onto her people by holding doggedly to their God—and living the way He required. She would serve willingly and love generously. Never could she have imagined the reward it would bring her. a child shall lead them The glimpse we are given in scripture of this little girl is fleeting. She is unnamed. But her master is well known, for he was the leader of all the armies of Aram. He too may have been left unnamed, had he not encountered the love of this young slave girl. Because of her, he became part of the narrative of the Israelites—her people—as a blazing testimony of the power and love of her God. His name was Naaman. His story can be found in the fifth chapter of 2 Kings. It is a story of numerous amazing things—not just the miracle healing often told as a children’s story. There is much more in this brief chapter of Scripture. The character of God is revealed. And the character of His true followers is demonstrated through the slave girl, through God’s Prophet Elisha and ultimately through the healed Commander of Aram’s armies—Naaman. All because of the love of one small girl who, hearing her captor had leprosy and believing she had a God who was able to heal, said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3). 35
The NEW Church Having lived in the house of Naaman for some time, the slave girl would have known of his military genius. His king had high admiration for Naaman. As did, unbeknownst to him, his slave girl’s God. This foreign God—the Israelite God—demonstrated His inclusive nature, in the life of Naaman, when “through him the Lord had given Aram great victories” (verse 1). Only later, would Naaman realise how very involved the true God was in his life. Hundreds of years later, Jesus would say, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44). Could it have been the presence of this little slave girl—her prayers and her love—that brought the hand of God and His military blessings to Naaman? a king’s ransom Evidently this little maid held the respect of Naaman. He decided not only to visit Israel’s prophet, but to do it through proper channels. His actions show he believed his slave girl’s God was worth the risk. First Naaman went to his king. He revealed his leprosy, which normally would result in banishment, but quickly followed it up with the promise of a miracle cure from the prophet in Israel. The king, relieved the banishment of his right-hand-man can wait until another day, jumps at the opportunity for some foreign diplomacy. He writes a letter to the king of Israel, has servants load wagons full of treasure in payment for the healing and 36
DIVE into Nurture farewells Naaman. One can imagine the emotional turmoil Naaman’s wife suffered while her husband confessed his ailment to the king. Would her sweet Naaman be banished to the caves like every other leper? Her joy upon seeing him ride into the yard with an entourage in tow—treasure and a military escort—would have been beyond words. Naaman was alive and off to see the prophet. Naaman had achieved a lot already. He had humbled himself before his wife—revealing his leprosy to her. He had acted on the advice of a child, a girl, an Israelite slave—about as low as one could be in their society. And he had bared his soul to his king, risking death. All of this was but a training ground for the humility of heart that would be demanded on the road ahead. As Naaman and his military parade rushed through the outer towns of Israel, mothers hurried their little ones indoors. Men hid in the shadows of thatched roofs and watched the shimmering chariots, bedecked soldiers and a fluttering white flag held high by the lead horseman. The Armenians made a bee-line for Israel’s capital. What would come of this most unusual, broad daylight display? What kind of trick was this? Arriving at the lodging place of the king of Israel, Naaman’s men were met by the royal guard. They waved the truce flag high and presented the letter from their king. It was addressed to the king of Israel and was hastily delivered. When God’s king opened the letter, it read, “With this letter 37
The NEW Church I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy” (verse 6). Israel’s king tore his clothes—an unthinkable act for God’s leader—and declared, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me” (verse 7). Not for a second did Israel’s king consider this an opportunity to represent his God and demonstrate His power. The king, in his moment of distress, had no such thought. A message came from the prophet Elisha rebuking the king, “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel” (verse 8). Elisha saw the situation for what it was—an opportunity to represent the Almighty God to an honest man seeking healing. a humble heart When Naaman arrived at the prophet’s door—a moment he had been imagining and anticipating with every step of the journey—he was distraught by the brazen reception he received. The prophet refused to come to the door. Instead, a servant came out with a message from Elisha: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy” (verse 10). Naaman’s ultimate moment of testing had arrived. He was a man of protocol and procedure. He was respectable and expected to be treated as such. Naaman was irate. He began to lash out, “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me! I 38
DIVE into Nurture expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!” (verse 11). Naaman took the prophet’s message as a direct insult. Of all the things he had imagined about meeting a miracle working prophet, he had not even considered that he would be refused an audience and told to “go take a bath.” He got on his horse and whipped it into a frenzy as he escaped the most embarrassing moment of his life. Do I look like I need
a bath? Am I dirty? Naaman furiously thought to himself. How many rivers do we have at home that put this muddy Jordan to shame?!? If I want to wash, I’ll wash in a clean river! Finally, as his horse began to tire, Naaman slowed. His men caught up with him and challenged him to consider the possibility of what the Prophet had said—what if it worked? Why not wash and see? “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” (verse 13). It sounded so simple—too simple, in fact. The words of his men exposed to him the truth of his feelings. He was offended by the prophet, not so much by the treatment at the door, but by the treatment of his pride. He was a man of substance. Not a dirty vagabond. He may have leprosy, but he wasn’t about to act dirty. He came to pay for a proper healing, not be told to go have a bath. It was unthinkable. Or, was it? Naaman, broken by the realisation of his pride, rode off the 39
The NEW Church path to the river’s edge. He’d been riding along the river during his angry tirade, hardly noticing it, and only now in his humbled state saw it for what it was—a baptismal font that could purify him from his leprosy and perhaps more. Naaman walked into the water, lowered himself the required seven times and emerged spotless. He was healed! the gift of a thankful heart Ecstatic, the new Naaman headed back to the Prophet’s house at a full gallop. This time Elisha greeted him. Naaman bubbled his thanks. He gestured to the wagons and the “750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing” (verse 15) provided as payment for the healing. Elisha’s answer was beyond understanding, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts” (verse 16). Naaman tried everything to change the prophet’s mind, but Elisha refused. Slowly it dawned on Naaman that Elisha wanted no reward as he hadn’t done anything—other than deliver a message from the God “whom he served.” God had healed Naaman. This God—the God of his slave girl—truly was the one true God and had an honest-to-goodness prophet! Naaman understood. It was God who was worthy of thanks. But how? His chariots loaded with treasure looked insignificant now. How do you thank a God who has everything? Naaman’s next request of Elisha seems odd indeed. “Please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, 40
DIVE into Nurture and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord” (verse 17). How do you thank a true God for His providence? Naaman had discovered the answer—worship. sharing God’s love Imagine the scene: Naaman comes home with a huge pile of dirt. “Dirt from the prophet’s front yard!” he excitedly explains to his wife and slave girl. Then he piles the prophet’s dirt in his own front yard and builds an altar—like he’s seen in Israel—to the one true God. He has found a God worth taking home. Every day he brings his offerings to the altar. He sacrifices to the God of Israel. Neighbours walk by and stare. Naaman explains again, “It’s dirt from the prophet of the one true God— Israel’s God—who healed me from leprosy!” And everyday, as he makes his sacrifices—as he kneels in worship—he is not alone. He is joined by someone very special to him, someone who saved his life, someone who taught him humility. She kneels too—on home soil—and worships the God she has always loved.
41 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
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Come to the table
From fruit in the garden to a banquet table in heaven, we are a people defined and refined by the times we have shared food in community. Abraham prepared a meal for three strangers, receiving the Lord’s promise of a son (see Genesis 18). It was food that brought Joseph’s family back to him and one meal in particular that softened his heart (see Genesis 42-45). The children of Israel commenced and commemorated their freedom through a Passover meal (see Exodus 12). The woman of Shunem would have never had a son born and reborn, been warned of a coming famine or had her land returned by command of the king—if she had not, first, urged Elisha to stay for a meal (see 2 Kings 4-8). Esther gained the attention of the king and saved the lives of her people through a carefully planned meal (see Esther 5). Jesus was anointed at a meal, farewelled His disciples with a meal, asked us to remember Him with a meal, identified His resurrected self at a meal and fed His disciples before His ascension. And, ultimately, our time in heaven will begin with a meal, shared by Jesus and the redeemed: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). It couldn’t all be coincidence, could it? In 2007, I interviewed the leadership teams of four healthy churches from four different 42
DIVE into Nurture states in Australia and wrote church profiles for the South Pacific Division’s Record—a weekly magazine for Adventist church members. Each church had a unique story, various roles in their community and specific strengths. But all held one thing in common—all four churches eat together regularly, in various ways. Soup and buns every Sabbath, small-group picnics, youth dinners, Thursday breakfast at McDonalds, soup for the homeless—the list is long. The conclusion is irrefutable: food creates and strengthens community. One of my favourite examples of the power of a shared meal is found in the ministry of Elisha. Through an amazing course of events, the prophet traps the Aramaean army. The king of Israel, excited at his good fortune, asks Elisha if he can kill the enemy. The prophet replies, “Do not kill them. Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master” (2 Kings 6:22). The king does as advised. And the reaction of Aram’s king is intriguing: he stops attacking Israel. An unwritten law—when you feed my people, your people become my people—brought peace. Perhaps this is why it is so difficult to sit down to a meal with an enemy. Eating together brings peace. Far too often we would rather destroy our enemies than repair the relationship. During the United States Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, who had invited some former confederates to a dinner party, was challenged by an angry woman: “Mr President, these 43
The NEW Church are your enemies. You shouldn’t invite them to dinner, you should destroy them.” Lincoln replied, “Don’t I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Once when Jesus was at a dinner party, He said to His host, ‘‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours. . . . invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Luke 14:12-14). Clearly Lincoln, Elisha and Jesus knew the same God. He is a God who, through His wisdom writer, said, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21). At least, it will nudge your enemy’s heart. At most, it will destroy your enemy by creating a new friend. As a church pastor, I started three churches on the Natural Church Development program. When each church received their results, the lowest factor was “loving relationships.” Too many of our churches are broken communities, filled with broken people. No-one wants to be the first person to raise a hand and say, “I’m broken.” But we all like to eat. A meal is the most effective way to bring people together— physically, emotionally and spiritually. Families, friends, small groups and churches are all strengthened when they meet at the table of food and fellowship. It’s the way God made us. Let’s eat!
44 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
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It all stared with a meal
Gehazi stood before the King. It wasn’t the first time he had been in front of the King—and it wouldn’t be the last. He was a storyteller. And the King loved to hear stories. Gehazi was the servant of the prophet, Elisha. He had seen him do many miraculous things and was occasionally called on by the King to recount these amazing tales. “Is it true the prophet has given life back to the dead?” the King asked, settling back into his throne, doubtful. Gehazi nodded his head ever so slightly as a smile lit his face. “Yes, my king, a dead boy lives.” The King grasped the throne armrests, his knuckles going white. Pulling himself forward, he leaned toward the storyteller. “Tell me,” he said. “Tell me the whole story!” Gehazi adjusted the prayer shawl resting on his shoulders and started the tale he had recounted many times. “It all started with a meal,” he began. “We were travelling from our home in Gilgal to God’s mountain. On the way, we passed through the village of Shunem. A wealthy woman who lives there, invited us to have tea with her and her husband. Elisha refused, not wanting to put undue stress on her. But she insisted. “That meal led to a long friendship and amazing kindnesses. 45
The NEW Church Some time later, when passing through Shunem, the woman led us to her rooftop—she had asked her husband to build a room just for Elisha and myself! “She built an entire room just for an occasional visitor?” the King asked incredulously, sliding back into his throne. “They must be very wealthy.” “True, my king,” Gehazi replied. “Her husband was a landowner with many fields and they had no children on whom to spend their profits.” Gehazi waved his hands, as if trying to stop a passing chariot. “I’m getting ahead of myself!” The King laughed. “Go ahead, then.” “Well,” Gehazi said, “as we were enjoying the plush new room, Elisha was overwhelmed. He asked the lady of the house what he could do in return. He offered to bring her request to you!” “I don’t remember such a request,” the King said, scratching his head. “That’s because she declined,” Gehazi continued. “She said she was at peace with her life. Unsatisfied, Elisha later asked me what she needed. I thought for some time and then said, ‘She has everything she wants—except a son, of course.’ Well, you should have seen him light up! He told me to call the woman. I did and when she arrived, he promised she would give birth to a son.” “Can he do that?” the King implored. “He had never promised such a thing before,” Gehazi answered. “But we returned a year later—and there, in her arms, 46
DIVE into Nurture was a little bundle of boy-joy!” The King laughed, as did the prophet’s servant. “Well, Gehazi,” the King said, clapping his hands, “that’s a good beginning!” Gehazi smiled and continued. “As the boy grew up, his parents doted on his every whim. His mother spent time teaching him at home and his father took him to the fields. On one particularly hot morning, the son was in the field with his father when his head began to hurt. His father sent him, in the care of a servant, to his mother. The pain in his head continued to increase until, about midafternoon, the boy died.” “The miracle boy died?” the King probed. “Surely, God wouldn’t let such a thing happen to a child He created after the promise of the prophet!” “He was certainly dead, my king.” Gehazi leaned heavily on his staff and said, in a hushed tone, “I saw his lifeless body myself. I touched his bloodless cheek with my own hand.” The King was so far forward on his chair, he was nearly standing, “You were there?” the King questioned. “Was Elisha there as well?” “It was hours later that we arrived,” Gehazi answered. “The woman, knowing her son was dead, sent a servant to get a donkey from her husband in the field. Not wanting to alarm him, she said only that she wished to visit the Prophet at Mount Carmel. She came as quickly as possible to where we were on God’s mountain.” “She rode alone?” the King demanded. “That is nearly 25 47
The NEW Church kilometres!” “She was with her servant,” Gehazi replied. “Elisha saw them first. He can see so much further than a normal man. He said, ‘Gehazi, the woman from Shunem is coming. Run out to meet her and ask if everything is alright with her husband, her son and herself.’ “So I did. I ran. When I met her on the path, she said everything was fine.” “She lied?” the King asked. “Why would she do that?” “She didn’t want to talk to me. I had not promised her a son,” Gehazi said, in a reflective tone. “She wanted to talk to God’s prophet. When we arrived back at the house, she charged at Elisha, fell in front of him and grasped his feet. I was so shocked by her action I tried to push her away. Elisha told me to leave her alone. He said, ‘Something is bothering her and God hasn’t told me what it is.’ I stepped away and watched.” “The woman said, ‘When you promised me a son, do you remember what I said?’ She began to weep. ‘Do you remember? I told you not to get my hopes up!’” Tears were flowing down Gehazi’s cheeks as he recalled the emotions of the moment. The King was impatient. “Keep going, man! This is sheer torture.” “Sorry,” Gehazi said, wiping his eyes. “Suddenly, it was as if she had told the Prophet the whole story. His gaze, previously fixed on the woman at his feet, jerked toward me. He nearly shouted, 48
DIVE into Nurture ‘Quick, Gehazi, get my staff!’ I couldn’t imagine why he needed his staff but I grabbed it from next to the door. ‘Get ready to travel,’ he said. ‘Go lay my staff on the boy’s face!’” “His face?” the King asked. “Did you do it?” “Yes. The boy was lying in that little upper room, our room, on the prophet’s bed,” Gehazi answered. “And,” the King was becoming anxious, “what happened?” “Nothing!” “Nothing?” the King shouted. “I rode my donkey hard to get there as quickly as possible,” Gehazi remembered. “And when I rested the staff on his face, he just lay there. I stroked his lifeless forehead and tried again, placing the staff on the other side of his face. But nothing happened. So I hurried back to Elisha and the woman. I met them on the road as they were headed to Shunem. I told them of my failure.” “When we got to the house again, Elisha made us stop at the bottom of the stairs. He went up alone, leaving the boy’s mother and myself downstairs, in the house. We waited for what seemed an eternity. We could hear his occasional footsteps as he paced the room above. Then we heard the boy sneeze!” “Sneeze!” the King repeated. “The dead child sneezed?” “Seven times!” Gehazi said. “Elisha had warmed the child’s body by laying on him—breathing in his mouth, squeezing his hands. When the boy came to life, he opened his eyes and sneezed seven times, right in Elisha’s face!” 49
The NEW Church Gehazi started to laugh. The King joined him, “So,” the King said, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, “the boy is alive today?” “I believe so,” Gehazi responded. “They left before the famine. Elisha told them it was coming. They’ve learned to trust him, so they went to Philistia. But now the famine has ended, I expect them to return any day.” “The famine lasted seven years,” the King said. “That’s a long time to be away from home. I should like to meet this boy and his amazing mother!” At that moment the doors into the palace throne room opened and a servant stepped in, “Sorry to interrupt, my king, but there are a lot of people out here waiting to see you.” “Yes, yes,” said the King. “It has been good talking to you, Gehazi. Thank you for your stories. Give my kind words to Elisha.” Gehazi bowed, “Yes, my king.” As he turned to leave, the servant was exiting the room. Through the open door Gehazi glimpsed a familiar face—two faces, if he wasn’t mistaken. One was more mature than he remembered. The door closed. Excitedly he turned back to the King. “I believe I see them!” he stammered. “See who?” the King asked. “The woman and her child,” Gehazi blurted. “Well, not a child anymore. He grown into a man. Outside the door, awaiting an audience with you.” 50
DIVE into Nurture The King rubbed his hands together, “Well go see, my good man!” he said, “and if you are correct, bring them in at once.” Gehazi darted across the room and out the massive doors. Moments later, the doors swung open, and an elderly lady and young man entered, followed by the prophet’s servant. Gehazi prodded them toward the King. As Gehazi began the introductions, the King interrupted. “Is it true?” He gestured to the young man. “Did the Prophet bring you back to life?” The young man nodded. “It is true, my king. I am alive—twice— thanks to the prophet of God!” The King turned to the mother. “You are a generous woman! An entire room for an old prophet?” The woman’s face creased in familiar places as she smiled wisely. “A worthwhile investment, if ever there was one!” The King chuckled. “Worthwhile indeed. Now, you were awaiting my attention. What can I do for you?”*
*The rest of this story and more about the amazing life of Elisha can be found in 2 Kings 4-8.
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D I V Empower
Standing in the gap
Blessing others with kind words and generous praise is one of those rare things in life that always comes back to you. It is impossible to lift others up without being raised up yourself in the process. In this world of overabundance, people are deathly low on encouragement. Give it away like you only have today. There are a number of ways we can provide encouragement. Let’s look at a few. Two of the basic rules for getting things done contradict each other. The first is the often quoted maxim of busy people: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” The other is the key to a life of effective leadership: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Empowerment of others is one of the most overlooked and undervalued life skills. No child becomes a healthy adult without a fair dose of encouragement and challenge from a significant adult. Without being empowered young people are left to flounder in meaningless activities and irresponsible living while they wait for their 15 minutes of fame. Only through the gift of empowerment are people truly allowed to shine. And empowerment doesn’t occur accidently. You either choose to lift others up, step on them to lift yourself up, or ignore 52
DIVE into Nurture upward mobility altogether opting to stagnate in a pool of sappy platitudes and unhappy attitudes. The choice is yours. Make one, or it is made for you. Barnabas chose to lift people up. His name was actually Joseph, but he was such an uplifting person that the leaders of the early Christian church changed his name to Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas was willing to risk his reputation to give others a new start in life. One young religious leader changed his views—converting from Judaism to Christianity—and wanted to lead people to Jesus. Unfortunately, this young man had been employed by the Jewish leaders to hunt, imprison and even kill Christians. His name was Saul. On one occasion, while still working for the Jews, Saul stood over the body of a Christian preacher named Stephenand called for others to stone the man. He was holding the coats of the men throwing the stones. Stephen died and the Christians feared Saul—the Christian killer. While on a trip to the city of Damascus where he was planning on rounding up some Christians, Saul had an encounter that changed his life. He heard the voice of God and saw a bright light. The voice said, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Not recognising the voice, Saul asked who the voice belonged to and was told “I am Jesus” (verse 5). The brightness of Jesus’ light blinded Saul for three days. The voice of Jesus, whom Saul had been certain was dead, removed his spiritual 53
The NEW Church blindness and allowed him to see that Jesus was the Messiah— just as the Christians had been saying. Saul was so cut to the heart that he chose a new name—Paul. He wanted nothing to do with his old life. But, he wanted everything to do with Jesus. He began to share his new-found faith with people and was effective in leading non-Christians to Christ. But he was less than effective in convincing the Christian leaders he was authentic in his love for Jesus. They thought it was a trick to get into their inner circle, find the ring leaders, and gut the Christian church from the inside out. The Christian leaders wouldn’t let Paul get close enough to hear his story. Then Barnabas stepped into the gap between Paul and the Christians. “Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus” (verse 27). Paul was the lowest of the low in the eyes of the Christian leaders. Barnabas reached down and lifted Paul up in the eyes of others. From that time on, Paul was allowed to preach in the name of Jesus and he became one of the greatest Christian teachers in the early church. But none of it would have been possible without Barnabas—the son of encouragement. Barnabas obviously had influence in the leadership of the early Christian church. They listened respectfully as he told the story 54
DIVE into Nurture Paul was not allowed to tell. Influence is interest bearing. The higher your investment in someone, the higher the potential returns. But to have any effect you must take a risk. Influence grows fastest when you spend it on others. As you praise the achievements of others your influence grows with them. As you create a safe place for them to exercise their new skills they become gifted and your investment in them bears returns over time. The expenditure of influence that brings the greatest returns is when you take the risk of believing in someone others have abandoned and standing in the gap so they can cross to a position previously unattainable. As you face the criticism and doubts of others on the new person’s behalf—you are spending your hard-earned influence on an unknown. Such standing in the gap causes the doubters to suspend judgment for a moment. Their pause is for one purpose—to find an answer to the question your action has caused, “Why would you stake your reputation on this person?” There are few things more stressful for leaders or parents than handing over the keys. Once you have convinced others to give the new person a go, you need to be willing to let them go! Barnabas modelled this well with Paul. He travelled and preached with Paul for a couple years then moved on to empower the next young leader. He was able to lift, invest in and empower Paul and then move on—allowing both Paul and himself to mature. 55
The NEW Church Only trust makes this kind of empowerment possible. Paul trusted Baranbas (and why not, the man did so much for him). And Barnabas trusted Paul to continue in the way he had been trained. Both of them moved into new sphere’s of influence as they allow physical distance to come between them. Barnabas came by his gap-standing skills honestly. His leader, Jesus, was by far the most effective empowerment expert of all time. He stood in a gap for each of us that seems impossibly wide: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). That’s the gap Jesus stood in—He spanned the chasm of death for you and I. He lifted us up in the full view of others and said, “This is My child, whom I love very much!” And while others wouldn’t have given us a chance, Jesus always does. Now Jesus stands before the Father in heaven investing His influence on our behalf. “I am your Son. I died for them,” He says. And the Father smiles in triumph. Jesus has made you free. Many of us are unaware or uninterested in Jesus’ amazing gift, and yet He offers it undeterred. He is standing in the gap, offering us His influence before the Father. The wages of sin is death. But Jesus offers a way out. Take His hand, walk across the cross beam and stand in the kingdom fully pardoned. No wonder it’s called amazing grace! But He’s not finished with us when we cross into the kingdom. Jesus empowers us with trust: “Go and make disciples of all the 56
DIVE into Nurture nations” (Matthew 28:19). And with that commission, He bids us blessings on our quest. Now it’s our turn to empower others by believing in them, standing in the gap for them and handing them the keys to the kingdom. Kind Words I heard about a guy that went into a pub and after ordering a drink he heard someone say, “Nice shirt.” He looked around and couldn’t figure out where the voice had come from. After another drink he heard the voice again, “You look great today!” Again he was dumbfounded as to who was speaking. A third time the voice piped up, “You’re the best looking guy to come in here all day!” It was all too much. He called the bartender over and asked if he had heard the voice or seen a person. The bartender stated that the man had been alone in the pub since arriving. The man insisted that he had heard a voice. The bartender asked, “Well, what did the voice say?” “Nice things about me!” the man replied. “Oh!” the bartender exclaimed, “It’s the nuts!” Pointing to the bowl of beer nuts in front of the man, the bartender stated, “They’re complimentary!” Compliments are easy. Any nut can do it! The great thing about kind words is they bless everyone! The person is lifted up when you praise them. God, in whose image they are made, is glorified when we find beauty or joy in His creation. And you are 57
The NEW Church blessed many times over. The person thinks more highly of you. God honours you, and your character is developed. Thus making you more Christ-like, which again glorifies God! Kind words never cost a thing to give and they always come back with interest. That’s why they are called complementary! There’s no crash course in giving compliments. Just do it! Don’t wait for something big to praise. Comment on everything positive you see, hear or think of about that person. There is one simple rule to giving great compliments—start! The D&M There is a much deeper level of encouragement than the complement. Australians have category of conversation that I really like. They call it the D&M. If someone has had a particularly difficult experience, a close friend will say, “Let’s get together for a D&M.” And soon, those two friends will be sipping hot drinks somewhere quiet and having a “Deep and Meaningful” discussion. It says something about a culture to have an abbreviated way of saying something. It says they value it enough to give it a name! And, in the case of the D&M, it means they care enough about each other to create a label for the most meaningful of conversations. The DIVE Instructor should be a confidant—close enough to their Nurturees that they are approached for a D&M when hard times come. The Prayer-->Care-->Share model from the Personal level in 58
DIVE into Nurture the Eggcellent Evangelism section works well with the D&M level of encouragement. God knows the deepest longing of people’s hearts. Ask Him how you can best encourage the person who has sought your nurturing. Empowerment The Bible is full of examples of people who lift others up. Something happens in the heart of the believer when they realise how far Jesus humbled Himself in order to scoop us out of the pig slop we were living in as sin-sick humans. It isn’t until Jesus came in the flesh that true humility was really understood. James explained, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). God’s true purpose is thus revealed. He desires to empower us—to lift us up. But only through humility can He accomplish His work for us and in us. Paul says it like this: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became 59
The NEW Church obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:3-11). You are probably wondering, “Why are we having a Bible study on humility in the middle of a chapter on encouragement?” There is a good reason! You won’t risk your reputation or use your influence for someone else if you are not humble. The highest form of encouragement is to stand in the gap for someone you believe in. This is true empowerment. Jesus believed in you, so He bridged the gap between you and the Father by humbling Himself on the cross. Jesus still believes in you and now stands before the Father on your behalf as your mediator and High Priest. He takes the risk that you may make a fool of Him. He offers His reputation as collateral in God’s judgment of you. When you realise how highly valued you are by Jesus, it should inspire you with a passion to lift others up. Within your sphere of influence there are superiors willing to listen to your advice and there are disciples looking to you for guidance and assurance. You can bridge the gap between these two types of people through empowerment. You can lessen the struggle of your disciples by using your influence and risking you reputation for them. You can be a Barnabas. Saul’s transition from Christian killer 60
DIVE into Nurture to Christian evangelist should have taken years. In fact, it should have been impossible! But it was made possible and launched into action because Barnabas became a bridge builder for Saul. Barnabas put everything on the line by walking into Christian Headquarters with Saul on his shoulders. It was extremely risky. But he did it. Barnabas was called “the son of encouragement” because he chose to humble himself in order to lift people up! Without Christ-like humility in the leader, true empowerment is impossible. Saul became Paul and changed the face of the empire through his influence as a Roman citizen, an upstanding Jewish Pharisee and an empowered Christian evangelist. Paul had two great empowerment experts to thank for it—Jesus and Barnabas. Your Nurture Group will benefit most from you becoming a Barnabas in their lives. Seek out as many opportunities in which to use your influence to stand in the gap for your people and to lift them to a higher level!
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The E in the NEW Church Evangelism I like marketing. I love the idea of having something worth selling and then selling it effectively. If you explore my bookshelf, you will discover a number of public relations, sales and marketing books. One of my favourite authors, because of his audacity, is Seth Godin. After reading Seth’s book, Purple Cow I explored his various websites and sites of people linked to his website. While reading the websites, I kept bumping into a word—a very misused word, in my opinion—Evangelist. On these marketing websites there were repeated statements about the power of evangelists. I, too, believe evangelists have power in presenting a message. But what was frustrating me was the understanding marketers had of evangelists. These marketing guru’s weren’t talking about the perfect-hair, perfectteeth, perfect-message proclaimers of truth I had grown up with. To them, an evangelist was just the opposite. Evangelists aren’t professionals selling a product, they are customers sold on a product. The difference is stark and the paradigm shift I experienced was ministry-changing. Marketers liken true evangelism to sneezing. When you have a cold, you sneeze. You can’t help it. When you sneeze, others get 62
Evangelism that works the cold. Information is shared because it is valued. People tell each other about products not because they are impressed with the ingredients or packagaging, but because they love what the product does for them. So they sneeze—infecting their friends and family with their love for the product. This is called viral marketing. At the time I was a local pastor in Tasmania. To explain my awakening to true evangelism, let me share an email: G’day Seth, I am a church pastor in Tasmania, Australia (the little island!) and have just finished reading Purple Cow. I have now done the blog-slog and read through all your online stuff and am reading through some of the other blogs in your field that you referenced. Wow! What a wealth of information. One thing that I have found most interesting is the “evangelist” concept. As a church pastor I went to the Bible dictionaries for a definition of the original meaning of the term now being used by marketing for “word of mouth” advertising. What I found intrigues me. Thought I would share it. “Evangelist” from the Easton’s Bible Dictionary: A “publisher of glad tidings;” a missionary preacher of the gospel (Ephesians 4:11). This title is applied to Philip (Acts 21:8), who appears to have gone from city to city preaching the word (8:4,40). Judging from the case of Philip, evangelists had neither the authority of an apostle, nor the gift of prophecy, nor the responsibility of pastoral supervision over a portion of the flock. They were itinerant preachers, having it as their special function to carry the gospel to places where it was previously unknown.
From this definition it seems that the marketing industry has got it right 63
The NEW Church and the church has got it wrong! For years now (especially in the modern era) Christians used the term “evangelism” or “evangelistic crusade” to define a program or series of programs where and expert came and jug-2mugged everyone in the audience. WRONG! According to Easton’s BD an evangelist is exactly what you guys are saying – a non-expert. Lacking the authority of the salesman (apostle), the message-giving-skills of the marketing department (prophet), or the leadership strength of the CEO (pastor). Christian evangelists were the sneezers of the 1st-century world. Their message was so powerfully life changing that their presentation didn’t need to be perfect—just present! To see the first evangelistic sneezers in action just read the book of Acts in the New Testament of the Bible. So now I’m thinking, how do I create real evangelists in my church? How do I get these Christians to be as empowered and passionate as the 1st-century Christians? They turned the world upside down—converting 3000 in a day the first time they sneezed! The primary reason they were so effective was they were sold on Jesus. He had changed them from timelimited-self-involved-nose-wipers into timeless-others-centred-sneezers. How do I get my people back to this simple faith sharing format? You marketing people have something—I want it back! Pr David Edgren His reply was short and inspired hope: It’s yours, David! Thanks for the kind words. I have a feeling you’re well on your way. Seth 64
Evangelism that works What Seth helped me realise is that you, the church member, are the most effective evangelist available to the church. The least effective person at actually affecting true change on a personal level is a paid communicator or advertiser. The local pastor is never going to be as effective at bringing your friends and family to Jesus as you will. The most effective evangelist is not the one paid to sell the Gospel. The most effective evangelist is the Christian sold on Jesus.That’s you! On a flight from Brisbane to Hobart, I sat next to one of Jesus’ favourite people—a fisherman. Geoff was originally from Smithton (Tasmania), but now hails from Hervey Bay (Queensland). For the two-and-a-bit hours of the flight Geoff told me of his history, his family and his love for fishing. Having little background in Christianity, Geoff didn’t understand why I got so excited by one of his comments. “Can I write that down?” I asked excitedly. He looked amused. He thought I was kidding. I wasn’t! Geoff said, “You either love fishing or you hate it. I love it. Tried to stop and couldn’t. That’s why I’m going back to Tassie. They say the salt gets in your blood.” I just love that last line. Jesus said we are the salt of the Earth. How can we get the salt of salvation in the world’s blood? Geoff had the answer for that too. He didn’t know he gave me the answer, but he did. It wasn’t what he said that showed me 65
The NEW Church the way to being a fisher-of-men, it was how he said it. He was passionate! You could see the sea in his eyes. He loved the life of a fisherman. He talked the talk and he certainly looked the part— long hair, thick goatee and rough sea-worn hands. Geoff loved fishing and he made me want to love it too. I even asked if I could go out fishing with him sometime. I want to catch what he’s got! Geoff is an evangelist. Everywhere he goes he looks like a fisherman, talks like a fisherman and draws others to the life he loves. He told me stories of the numerous first-timers he has taken out on his boat. They heard the call of the sea through Geoff and then discovered if they were cut out for life on deck. “You can see it in their eyes.” Geoff said, “If they love it, they’re up early and working with a smile all day. If they hate it they look miserable and I can’t wait to get them back to the dock!” Jesus calls us to be fishers of men. He meant it literally. The passion in our step, our words and our life should net people for Christ. Your friends and family will be clamouring on board once you start exuding the joy of fishing the way Geoff does! Because of you they will be on deck and because of Jesus they will be loving it.
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Evangelism that works
The “Evangelism that works” model One evening I was sitting, pen in hand, in the kitchen of the church I was pastoring. The head elder walked in, looked at my scribbling and asked what I was drawing. I explained my three-layer theory of effective evangelism. After hearing my ideas and seeing my doodles, David Walker (my head elder) drew this. And I’ve used it ever since. Thanks Dave! Personal Small Group Community
Community: The big circle is what we do every week when we get together as an entire church family. It is the only time all our spiritual gifts (body parts) are in one place. The body of Christ gathers and enjoys the completeness of community. While it is a wonderful time of togetherness for believers, it is the least effective evangelistically as new people are yet to become part of the body. 67
The NEW Church Small Group: The little circles represent the small groups we are in. We are all in numerous small groups. Any group you are involved in regularly is, by definition, a small group. Your family, workmates, classmates, sports club, book club, craft group or church board are all small groups of people. Recognising this allows you to define your role in the group. The little circles inside the big circle are filled with church members. The circles outside the community are groups with no ministry-minded Christian presence. When you identify a small group as your “mission field” you pull it toward the church. So doing, you have brought those people in touch with your church community because you have said, “I am in a small group (of golfers, workmates, etc) and will be an evangelist in this group.” You have become a missionary! Small groups are the funnel through which nearly everyone comes to faith in Jesus. Personal: The lines reaching out from every small group are the personal relationship each person in that group has with others outside the group, connecting that group with other groups. It’s like a huge piece of bubble wrap with everyone on the planet represented. Social scientists tell us only six degrees of separation exist between you and anyone else on the planet—six small groups! No wonder Jesus said, “I am coming soon.” The system He set up was rapid and faultless. The only way to slow it’s effectiveness would be to take the small group evangelists out of the picture and replace them with a corporate event. When the community tries to 68
Evangelism that works do the small groupâ€™s job, personal relationships are ineffectiveâ€”if they are present at all. Personal relationships, developed over time and with Christian love, are the mortar in the church. Without love, friendship and compassion, the church has no long term staying power. Personal evangelism is, truly, the only form of evangelism that works for eternity.
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Personal Evangelism Prayer Care Share Personal evanglelism is the backbone of a healthy growing church. When God’s people are regularly forming new relationships with non-believers, the church grows. Here are three simple steps to develop evangelistic relationships. Prayer: Pray that God will show you who, in your circle of influence, you should be proactively seeking to serve. Then, as a name comes to you, pray specifically for that person on a daily basis and ask the Holy Spirit to impress you with the needs they have that you are able to meet. Care: Begin to minister to the needs shown to you. Care deeply and honestly. Jesus always made people’s needs His priority. If there was time to share His wisdom and truth after meeting their needs, He would. Share: When the opportunity comes (and it will!) to open up and share your faith, be bold and willing to do so. It may be at this point (or before in many cases) that you invite them to your small group. Without personal evangelism, the evangelistic potential of your church is drastically reduced. Your church needs you to be actively forming relationships. Jesus needs you! 70 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
Evangelism that works
Paul’ strategy for caring and sharing “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22, 23). I have become all things Many people have made significant changes in their lives partway through—a job change, getting married, moving from one country to another—but few can match the variety and versatility of Paul. He was a leading Pharisee early in adulthood—something that took others until midlife. Then he changed drastically, becoming a Christian—the very people he had been hunting and killing when he was a Pharisee. Paul was a tent maker by trade, a theologian by passion and a preacher by necessity. In his fast paced life, he was constantly on the move—shipwrecked three times, imprisoned numerous times, beaten with rods three times, received the Jew’s “forty lashes minus one” five times, was stoned once, was in danger from rivers, bandits, storms, people of numerous countries and religions—including his own. Paul knew what it was to be high and low, loved and hated, heard and ignored. Paul was a man of extremes.
The NEW Church to all men Paul also had the unique ability, due to his origins and allegiances, to mingle with numerous people groups. He was both a true Israelite (circumcised on the eight day) and a Roman citizen. Fluent in both languages, he was able to present himself as either. He studied the Hebrew Law under Gameliel, a well known rabbi and was brought to the Christian faith by none other than a vision of the risen Jesus, changing his name from Saul to Paul to mark the transition. Paul had connectionsâ€” Roman, Jewish and Christianâ€”and used them proficiently. Paul managed his familiarity with people well. He travelled widely, participated in local customs and spoke intelligently about local religion, politics and trade. Paul was in the practice of using his similarities with others to bridge the gap between them. Oddly, only when confronting his own Christian brothers was he reduced to shouting his superiority in faith and commitment to win their approval. Even this demonstrates his ability to know the required approach to reach the hearts of his hearers. Paul went on three protracted missionary journeys and spoke more widely than any other founder of the early Christian church. so that by all possible means When the simple Gospel was sufficient, Paul would proclaim it. However, when Paul could see the locals needed philosophical massaging, he would connect with them in ways that even 72
Evangelism that works today’s Christian leaders would shy away from. Speaking to the men of Athens, Paul plucked the line “we are his offspring” from the introduction of Aratus's Phaenomena—a major work of one of the then ancient Greek poets (circa 315BC)—and applied it to Jesus. While this may seem a reasonable thing to do, it is startling when read in context: From Zeus let us begin; him do we mortals never leave unnamed; full of Zeus are all the streets and all the marketplaces of men; full is the sea and the havens thereof; always we all have need of Zeus. For we are also his offspring. How do you think today’s Christians would react to such “misquoting” in evangelism? You can be sure, Paul was attacked from all sides. Thus his defence of himself—that he was willing to use “all possible means” to accomplish the Gospel commission— was well founded. I might save some While Paul spent a lot of time in public proclamation, much of his success as a soul winner was found in personal relationships. He would never have been accepted in the ranks of the Apostles if it hadn’t been for one man—Barnabas— who stood up for Paul in front of the fearful Apostles and proclaimed the works, sermons and commitment of Paul as a follower of Jesus. If Barnabas had been unwilling to risk his reputation and wager his influence on Saul-the-Christian-killer, Paul-the-Apostle may never have been born. And what a loss the 73
The NEW Church early church would have unknowingly suffered. Due to the empowerment of Barnabas, Paul was accepted by the Christian leaders and became their champion. He could speak to people of all persuasions and began immediately to do so. He used his influence and intellect to lock horns and hearts with the greatest minds and mentors in each community he entered. Often Paul would stay on for a couple of years, developing deep relationships with local leadership and leading them to Christ and the Christian church. Many of his letters reflect these relationships as he called out greetings, by name, to numerous people and households. I do all this for the sake of the gospel Paul had a strong sense of self—supporting himself while ministering, writing letters with strong conviction (13 of which are included in the New Testament) and doggedly proclaiming his position as an Apostle due to his Damascus Road encounter with the living Christ. Yet, when he was present among people he asked for little for himself and spoke gently. Beyond self, Paul had an even stronger sense of the Gospel— ultimately being killed in defence of Christ. He understood that all his learning, leading and languishing would be useless if Jesus Christ was not proclaimed in every message, letter, plea and action. Paul struggled with his actions. He knew what he should do—what he desperately wanted to do—and yet he was disrupted in his obedience by numerous influences that led him astray. 74
Evangelism that works Paul’s example allows us to see the power the Gospel has for the first conversion to Jesus and then the daily reconversion as we again place our hearts in the Saviour’s hands. that I may share in its blessings Paul got his strength from the example of Christ. He saw Jesus, “who for the joy set before him, endured the cross” and lived likewise. Paul’s eyes were ever fixed “on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Paul knew he would share, one day, in the blessings of Jesus’ kingdom.
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Small Group Evangelism Belong Believe Behave Bringing friends to our small group allows them to meet people who share our faith but vary in personality and temperment. Relationships formed in small groups last a lifetime and lead many people into decisions for eternal life! Belong: The key to a healthy small group is that every person feel included, involved and needed. This is belonging. There should be no outsiders in a small group. Invite people to be as active and involved as the wish. And make sure they feel it is their group as much as anyone else’s. Believe: The teaching segment and conversation in the small group effects the group members and their beliefs. Healthy structured teaching will challenge, stretch and grow members. Behave: Once the group member is loved (belong) and begins to believe the Bible’s wisdom and guidance, attitudes will change. This will effect their actions and you will see a change in their behaviour. Changing behaviour before belonging and believing creates warped followers—acting it out without living it within, hypocrisy. We must ensure we build the foundation of love and faith before encouraging action.
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A small group and a box I will never forget what Linda said the first day we studied the Bible together. She had been invited to come along by her work mate Sarah-Jayne, who was preparing for baptism. Linda was interested in what Seventh-day Adventists believed and decided to join us although she was suspicious of churches. Having been introduced to Jesus some years earlier, Linda was told that Jesus was all she needed to be a Christian. Churches, she was told, may once have had contact with God. But now they were adrift at sea, having lost their way. She accepted Jesus and followed Him as best she could by listening to Christian music and reading the Bible. So, with some trepidation, Linda entered the church hall and sat in a sunlit corner with Sarah-Jayne and me. It wasn’t long into the conversation that Linda put her worries into words. Her eyes wandered around the brick room and in her quiet voice she reflected, “It just feels like churches put God in a box.” The idea of having God in a box was a familiar one to me, but I had never considered church buildings as a visual representation of the limits we put on God. Was this how the world saw the church? Are we the ones with a small God? Are we naively keeping God locked in our jewellery boxes while the rest of humanity allows Him to roam free—unhindered and undefined? 77
The NEW Church Is this why denominations seem to race to build bigger and better churches—to demonstrate that my God is bigger than your God? Are the differing denominations like an after-school fight— churches facing up to each other with taunts and fists while the world stands by watching in amused disinterest? Linda continued: “I find God in nature. I see Him in the bush. I see God at the beach. I don’t like putting God in a box. And sometimes I wonder, does God really limit Himself to the boxes we build for Him?” Her eyes again surveyed the church structure, “Does He even enter them at all?” My mind, which often wanders off the beaten path, visualised Aladdin’s Genie (in the Disney story) shouting to declare his “PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS!” before stuffing himself into his tiny lamp and whimpering, “itty, bitty living space!” Was this our God—a divine eternal being, stuffed into a box we rub once a week? To Linda’s credit, she kept coming into the box, into my church, to hear me talk about my God. Sometimes it was about the God of the box; sometimes it was about the God outside the box. She came. She listened. She learned. And she looked to see if her very big God was in any way present in our little church. Linda was invited to attend Jason’s small group. There she discovered something. The church wasn’t made of bricks and walls. The church was hearts and people. God’s church was God’s people. The walls just provided a place to meet, out of 78
Evangelism that works the weather, to experience community, friendship, family and to worship—together—as the people of God. Linda had discovered the church. The true church. She saw past the walls and into the heart of the place—and there she saw the heart of God—His people. In her small group Linda discovered something about God’s people she could relate to—really relate to! These people had questions. More questions than answers. Questions about life. Questions about God. Questions with answers. Questions without answers. Questions that led to vigorous discussion. Questions that led to thoughtful silence. Linda and her questions about God, and the box, had found a home. I told this story one Sabbath afternoon in 2007 while standing on a beach as Linda’s small group, family and friends pressed around her. We all stood together on the sand as the wind whipped through our hair and the waves pounded at our heels. After the story was finished, Linda and I turned and walked away from the crowd—into the surf. And there the story began anew.
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Give my best to the General The General paced down the row of soldiers lined up in formation. He checked for posture. He checked for neatness. He checked for the passion of his men. The General stopped front and centre and shouted to the troops, “Today is the day, men! Today is the day that we win this war! I need each of you to give your best—100 per cent. As a unit we can win this war today. But I need every single one of you.” The General paused and looked into the eyes of a few soldiers. “But I don’t need you here,” the general pointed to the ground and gestured to the battlefield in front of them, “I need you here!” the General pointed to his temple, “and I need you here!” This time the General banged on his chest with a closed fist. With a sweeping gesture he continued “We can’t win the battle out there! We must be victorious in our hearts and minds first and foremost. We will vanquish this enemy today if we work together with all our hearts and minds working together as one!” After his rousing pep talk the General called the bugle boy to his side. “I need you to do a final call to arms. We’re missing a few precious men. We will need everyone today. Go back to the camp. Play the call to arms at the head of camp. Then run to the other side of camp and play it there too. If you see anyone, tell them the General needs them in formation now!” 80
Evangelism that works With a quick, “Yes sir!” the bugler ran to do his General’s bidding. After playing the call to arms at both ends of camp, he began running back to the troops. But as he was running he heard something. He stopped and listened. It was the sound of coughing and it was coming from a nearby tent. The boy stuck his head inside the tent and saw a man lying on his cot. “Didn’t you hear the bugle? The General requires everyone’s presence.” The man feebly turned his head toward the boy, “Yes, I heard. But I can barely move. I am very ill. I would come if I was able. Please give my best to the general.” The boy left the tent and began running toward the battle, but again he was stopped in his tracks by a human sound. This time it sounded like sobbing. He approached a tent and stuck his head through the flap. Inside a young soldier sat at a writing desk crying as he wrote a letter, “My dear Love, I fear that I shall never see you again. Every passing day brings closer the reality that I shall die in this horrible place.” The bugler felt guilty doing so, but he interrupted the soldier, “Excuse me, sir. Didn’t you hear the call to arms? The General requires every man at the battle front.” The soldier lifted his eyes and fixed his teary gaze on the young boy. “You wouldn’t understand what I am feeling. I love her more than anything! I am so scared. I don’t want to die. I wouldn’t be any use to the General today—probably just cause an accident with the state I’m in.” “But, the General made it extremely clear that ALL men 81
The NEW Church are to report for duty.” replied the bugler. “You will be court marshalled! The General believes that this battle will decide the war. You are needed!” The soldier turned back to his letter, “I can’t come. I’m a mess. Just go. . . . Oh, and give my best to the General.” To boy ducked out of the tent and raced toward the General. He was running late and needed to blow the call to attack when the time came. As he rounded the final bend at the edge of camp he again heard a man. This time it was not a cough or crying. It was someone singing. He quickly headed toward the tent and stepped inside. A Soldier stood in front of a mirror in casual dress. He sang to himself, “You are so beautiful to me!” as he preened himself. The boy was enraged and nearly yelled at the soldier, “Can’t you hear? I played the call to arms just metres from your tent not 10 minutes ago!” The startled soldier turned and laughed, “Yes, little man, I heard your bugle, and a fine musician you are!” “I wasn’t just playing a song!” shouted the boy, “That was a call to arms and you know it! Why aren’t you in uniform? The General is going to be irate! He requires the service of every man for today’s battle!” “The General will do just fine without me. I was one of the scouts yesterday and I saw the enemy’s camp. The battle is in our hands—no problem. I also saw a fine piece of property on one of the hills during my scouting expedition. I am going to go claim 82
Evangelism that works that piece of property for my lady and I. That’s how confident I am about today’s battle! Now, run back to the General. He’s going to need your bugling skills any minute.” The bugle boy turned away, amazed at the man’s brazenness, and went through the flap. As he took a step away from the tent the man inside shouted, “Oh, and give my best to the General!” The boy quickly ran back to the troops and found they had already marched a fair way toward the enemy. He ran past the soldiers and made his way to his place next to the general at the front. As he fell into formation, the General asked, “Did you get the rest of the men to come.” The bugler reported, “No sir. There were three men still in their tents. One was quite sick. The second was writing a letter to his girlfriend and crying. The third was. . . . well, he was admiring himself in a mirror and planning a day of leisure.” “HE WAS WHAT?” bellowed the General. “He was in casual dress, sir. And he told me he was so confident of your success today he was going to claim a piece of property for his family.” “He won’t be needing land when I get through with him!” shouted the angry General. “A cold cell will be all the room he needs for a few years.” The bugler finished his report to the General, “Sir, each of the three men told me to give their best to the General.” The general shook his head, “Give their best to the General?” he mimicked. “That’s what they should have done.” 83 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
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Community Evangelism Example Experience Explore Without personal and small-group evangelism, corporate evangelistic events will innoculate people against our church rather than bring them to Christ. Make sure personal and smallgroup evangelism is healthy and thriving before you plan a community evangelism event. Example: When a non-Christian comes to church the first time they will be looking around—getting an example of church. They will stay in this phase until they become accustomed to your church. Community evangelism usually progresses after the person feels comfortable with a small group of people at church. Experience: After a few examples the person gets involved. They join in and experience worship. They will begin to identify with the local church. Once this happens they will become regular attenders and will demonstrate an interest in getting involved. Explore: As community worship becomes part of their personal identity the growing believer will have questions popping into their mind. By this time, if they are in personal relationships and a small group they will have a strong support base to get the answers they seek. Their questions will lead them to a desire for baptism and membership in the family of God. 84 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
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Mark’s heroines The Gospel of Mark reveals the great value women had in the life of Jesus. Mark was not merely transcribing details onto paper but was telling a many-faceted tale with multiple plot lines that all culminated at the Cross. The remarkable faith of the women in the Gospel of Mark reveals Mark’s two key points—the true Jesus and the true disciple. By demonstrating faith in its purest form, the women allow Jesus to work in complete fullness in their lives, thus presenting a beautiful example of what it means to be His disciple. the true Jesus Recorded in Mark 5:21–43, sandwiched within the story of the dying daughter of Jairus, is the miraculous healing of a woman who had been haemorrhaging for 12 years. As a social outcast, she could not call out to Jesus and did not ask for healing. She simply believed she would be healed if she could touch Him. Jesus felt power drain through the touch of someone who had faith in Him. This is the first glimpse Mark gives of true faith and the results of such faith. By asking “Who touched Me?” Jesus established not only that divine healing power had gone out from Him but also that He felt it leave. 85
The NEW Church Jesus’ reaction to this woman is a priceless telling of His love for each of us. He could have kept walking, knowing His power had healed someone. But instead, He stopped and invited a confession of faith. Jesus made a social giant wait while a lonely lady had her moment of glory. Mark’s Messiah is revealed as one who holds all as equals. He knows no favourites and honours all who believe in Him. Jesus’ indifference to social standing is seen again in Mark 7:24–30—in a conversation with a Syrophoenician woman. She asked Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter. In the ensuing conversation, the unmatched faith and understanding of this woman is revealed. Through a common form of bantering conversation the woman doggedly fought for her daughter’s healing. “She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. ‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter’” (Mark 7:26–29). Her understanding of Jesus is evident in both her insistence that Jesus heal her daughter and in her calling Him “Lord.” She is the only person in the entire book of Mark who calls Jesus by this title. Due to her great faith in Jesus, the demon was cast out of her daughter without Jesus even seeing the child. This is the only place in the entire Gospel where such a thing takes place. This 86
Evangelism that works restates the power of what Jesus can do when faith is present. Mark 14:3 tells about a woman who poured expensive perfume over Jesus’ head. Others in the room saw the display as wasteful. Jesus rebuked them: “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial” (Mark 14:8). Again a woman reveals the true identity of Jesus. At the end of Mark’s Gospel three women witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus and then followed His body to the tomb. On the third day, they knew where to go because they had been there before. This final witness of the deceased Christ by the women gives us faith that we indeed have a risen Lord. Again the women in Mark’s Gospel reveal the identity of Jesus. the true disciple Mark paints the 12 disciples as a faithless lot. They constantly failed to understand Jesus’ mission and rarely grasped His parables. If you go to the book of Mark looking for an example of discipleship, you will be sorely disappointed with Jesus’ chosen disciples. It was the women who both understood Jesus’ identity and served His needs (see Mark 15:41). During a three-and-a-halfyear evangelistic trip, there would be many needs. Who would prepare the food? Who would fund the travelling? Who would provide emotional support? Women filled these roles. Only once did Jesus ask the 12 disciples to minister to His emotional needs. In the Garden of 87
The NEW Church Gethsemane He asked them to remain awake and support Him with their prayers. They failed. According to Mark, the women who followed Jesus never failed Him. They always seemed to have an understanding of who He was and demonstrated an unwavering faith in Him. The haemorrhaging woman had complete faith in Jesus before she touched Him. After she was healed and Jesus asked who touched Him, she stepped forward. Why? She could have quietly slipped away having been healed without making herself a spectacle. But instead she fell at His feet and declared “the whole truth” (Mark 5:33). It is the character of a true disciple to boldly declare faith in Jesus’ healing touch. Jesus explicitly states the source of her healing when He says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you” (Mark 5:34). A disciple’s faith results in confirmation of that faith. The next woman Mark gives as an example of true discipleship is the so-called Syrophoenician woman. She is willing not only to state clearly that she knows Jesus can heal her daughter, but she is prepared to fight for it. While faith in Jesus is never explicitly mentioned by the woman, Jesus or the narrator, it is made clear in her persistence. With two counts against her, being both a woman and a Gentile, her faith is greater than the unbelief of the scribes and Pharisees. She understands the sayings of Jesus better than His own disciples. She is the only character in Mark’s Gospel to 88
Evangelism that works counter Jesus’ cryptic remarks and end up winning the sparring match. The example of this woman teaches disciples to be bold in their faith and willing to fight for a blessing. While sitting at the temple Jesus watched as “a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny” (Mark 12:42). Jesus specifically pointed out this woman to His disciples. She did not know she was being watched. “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others’” (Mark 12:43). Jesus showed the disciples that generosity is quantified not by the amount of money given but the amount of money remaining. By giving all she had, the poor widow established her absolute trust in God. She kept nothing with which to support herself. Her complete gift is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice Jesus would soon make on the cross. In the poor widow’s gift we see the life to which disciples are called. The story of the woman who anointed Jesus is another example of true discipleship. She ignored the social pressures around her and anointed her Messiah. It is the duty of disciples to make sure every action is one that anoints Christ as King. Finally, Mark describes the scene at the cross: “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James . . . and Salome” (Mark 15:40). Mark names three, which seems to neatly parallel the three male disciples who made up Jesus’ inner circle. Upon their 89
The NEW Church disappearance at His capture, these three women appear in their place. Along with the new three comes a group of followers—all women. Mark is drawing our attention to these women by mentioning them for the first time at this point in his narrative and by naming the main three. Based on the faithfulness of women in the rest of Mark’s book, it is obvious Mark is unveiling these faithful women at the cross so we might realise it is the women whose example we are to follow. Mark’s conclusion reveals the women as the first to hear of the Resurrection. Jesus speaks first to the women who have come to His tomb. Their reaction to this encounter is directly opposite of what the reader expects from Mark’s always-faithful women: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). Many Bible translations note that this is where the earliest manuscripts of Mark finish. There is no conclusion. There is only silence—a silence that screams for resolution. To this point, the women described in Mark have best revealed the true Jesus and have been the best examples of true disciples. It is as though they have forgotten and forsaken Jesus, and are now riddled with doubt. By comparing this unfortunate conclusion with the rest of Mark’s book, it is clear something is askew. Due to the very existence of the Gospel, it is obvious the women told others of 90
Evangelism that works the Resurrection. Therefore, the women’s silence does not demonstrate their loss of faith in Jesus. It is in this moment of silence that the women of Mark and the reader realise the complete identity of Jesus. Some 13 women are mentioned in Mark’s Gospel. Thirteen male disciples are named. The men struggled to understand the identity or purpose of Jesus. The women never failed Him. Until now. Mark leaves the reader with a compulsion to finish the story: “Of course the women told people—how could they keep silent?” Or “Of course the women told people—we are still telling the story 2000 years later!” Mark spent 16 chapters setting up faith-filled, unfailing women and then had them seemingly fail. Why? So true disciples would keep the story alive: “Of course the women told people. . . .”
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The W in the NEW Church Worship If you ask a Christian to define the ultimate purpose of their life, it wouldn’t be long before they would be talking about evangelism— leading other people to faith in God. But there is a conundrum in that line of logic. Believing we exist to bring other people to faith in God is incomplete—it is fine for now, on sinful planet earth where there are plenty of people who do not believe. But what about after Jesus returns the earth to its pre-sin perfect state—what then will be the purpose of human life? Those who denied the existence of God will be no more. Leading people to faith in God will be impossible—everyone will already believe! What will the purpose of human life be in a sinless universe? From Genesis to Revelation (and before and beyond), creation has existed for one purpose—to worship God. Christian author John Piper suggests the purpose of human life is “to glorify and glory in God.” We exist to praise God (glorify) and to find joy (glory) in Him—this is complete worship! The act of worship brings us to a state of joy in the presence of God. The Apostle Paul reflects, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). 92
POWER in Worship In Revelation, the final battle between good and evil is waged and the players identify themselves in one way—by who and how they worship. In a flashback to the creation story, an angel shouts, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Revelation 14:7). This is how the people of God are identified—they worship the God of Creation. Likewise, worship is the identifying mark of those who have chosen to go against God: “There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:11). During Creation week God created a lot of good stuff and then set up a day in memorial—a day of worship—called the Sabbath. He set the Earth on a repeating seven-day cycle—the seventh of which he has eternally set aside for worship. That’s the Genesis story. And, it’s still our story. In Isaiah, God declares that in the new earth, “From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me” (Isaiah 66:23). We will be worshiping God forever—that is our purpose.
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POWER in Worship If worship is so important—and is something we should be focusing our energy on—we need to have some simple ways to get started. A memory device that I use is: There is POWER in worship. There are many ways to worship. We can worship alone, in small groups, in families, daily, hourly, in church or anywhere. Worship, at its simplest, is recognising God is present. At its deepest, worship is abiding completely in God’s presence. In reality, anything which helps us take pleasure in God (glorying in Him) or celebrating His goodness (Glorifying Him) is taking us into a place of worship. But, to make it easy to start worshiping, let’s explore the five aspects of worship in the POWER acronym. Prayer If worship is so important—and is something we should be focusing our energy on—we need to have some simple ways to get started. A memory device that I use is: there is POWER in worship. There are many ways to worship. We can worship alone, in small groups, in families, daily, hourly, in church or anywhere. Worship, at its simplest, is recognising God is present. At its deepest, worship is abiding completely in God’s presence. In reality, anything that helps us take pleasure in God (glorying in Him) or celebrating His goodness (glorifying Him) is taking us into a place of worship. But, 94
POWER in Worship to make it easy to start worshiping, let’s explore the five aspects of worship in the POWER acronym. Obey When Solomon was a young king, God offered him an amazing opportunity: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon, in humility before God, asked for discernment so he could judge wisely. “The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him” (1 Kings 5:12). His wisdom spread far and wide so “the whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart” (1 Kings 10:24). But then Solomon let his fame and fortune go to his head. While he didn’t forget the God of his youth, he did forget the humble heart that resulted in wisdom. In his old age, Solomon began a quest to discover the meaning of life. His journey of discovery is recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes which concludes with the wise man’s findings: “Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). With all of the world’s wealth, power and prestige at his beck and call, Solomon discovered ultimate purpose and fulfilment is found in living a life of obedience to the will of God. Paul voiced much the same thing when he challenged, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). 95
The NEW Church Word In the Creation poem recorded in the first chapter of Genesis, the power of God’s Word is revealed. He created by speaking. His power converted speech to substance! We need resources, energy and time to create. God needs only His Word. Still, today, His Word holds the same power. As we read the Word of God we are recreated in His image, “being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we read the scriptures we are embedding God’s creative power in our minds. His Word empowers us to make right decisions and to lead others toward the safety of the Saviour. “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:104-105). God’s Word, read and applied, also has the power to keep us from evil. When Jesus was a boy He memorised scripture, as was the Jewish custom, and had divine assistance through the Word of God when He needed it most. He deflected three temptations from Satan by quoting from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. When prodded to bow in worship to the master of darkness, Jesus shouted, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matthew 4:10). We too will have the power of God’s life-giving Word in our time of need, if we have committed scripture to memory in our times of worship.
POWER in Worship Express The typical first thought when we think of the word “worship” is of forms of expression—singing, preaching, teaching—at church. While these outward displays are only one aspect of worship, they are particularly meaningful to most Christians. Psalm 150 is a great illustration of worship through expression: Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes! Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals. Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord! This amazing praise-and-worship anthem gives a clear example of the joy that comes from glorifying God in the sanctuary of His presence. Horns, lyre, harp, tambourine, strings, flutes, cymbals, dancing and singing. This is how worship is expressed in a community of joy. “Praise 97
The NEW Church the Lord!” hedges the boundaries of every stanza; “praise” is the first word in nearly every sentence! Unfortunately, the way people express worship has a devastating power to polarise people. Many churches never fully express, as a community, the joy of knowing Jesus. And other churches seem to do little else. Worship is a lifestyle—a constant varied experience in the life of the follower of Jesus. It must be as varied as the food we eat. Many textures, hues, qualities and flavours—some strong, others simple—are required for a healthy lifestyle of worship. Reach out Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible reveal the passion God has for the downtrodden and unfortunate. The prophet Micah wrote, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Jesus brought it closer to home when He said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23, 24). It is often difficult to be sure you are living your life the way God desires. Jesus makes it simple when He states, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). 98
POWER in Worship There is no more selfless act of worship than to help someone who can never repay you. They may be the closest you ever come to serving Jesus. There is POWER in Worship Prayer, Obey, Word, Express, Reach out. These five thoughts only get us started on our worship journey. There are innumerable other ways to worship God. How do you “glorify and glory in God”? When you do, you are worshipping Him and you are living your ultimate purpose. There is no greater joy in life or reason for § living than to worship God!
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The NEW Church
Prayer O W E R
When we were living in Tasmania, I took my three children to an animal park called Zoo-Doo. After the bus ride, where we fed ostriches and saw a variety of animals we came back to the main building. Inside, we gathered around a racetrack. All the kids were given a ticket, stuffed monkeys were strapped to the backs of Shetland ponies and the gates flew open. The race caller shouted out the horse names and placements as they raced one quick lap. As the announcer shouted out the winning horse’s number I looked down to see that Mikey—my middle child—had won. Mikey is an extremely active and talkative boy. I expected him to go crazy and run in tight little circles shouting, “I won! I won!” But, he didn’t. He just stood there, glanced at his number and quietly slipped it into his pocket. The other two were so busy complaining about their misfortune they didn’t notice Mikey’s lack of response. I put my hand on his curly mop of hair and said, “Mikey, you won!” To which he half-heartedly replied, “Yeah, I know.” “Are you going to get your prize?” I asked. “If you take the number to the shop they will give you a free chocolate.” He nodded and we walked to the shop. After claiming his prize, 100
POWER in Worship we drove home. He sat in silence, not eating his chocolate. “Mikey,” I said, “you can eat your chocolate. You won it.” He quietly opened the wrapper and ate in silence. When I put Mikey to bed that night, I commented about his behaviour. “Mikey, I am proud of you. When you won, you didn’t show off or make fun of your brother and sister. You were very thoughtful.” “It’s not that,” Mikey responded, hanging his head in shame. “Well, what is it Mike? Why were you so quiet when you won?” I asked. He glanced up at me and then down at his hands. “I cheated,” he whispered. “Cheated?” I asked, “You were only given one ticket. How could you cheat?” “I prayed to Jesus and asked Him to make my horse win,” Mikey confessed. I smiled and hugged him. Only a child—with unbridled faith— would consider a prayer to be cheating! No wonder Jesus said “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Prayer is an amazing thing. We have access to the God of the universe any time. We can ask for our heart’s desires. Jesus promised, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). And yet, we so often let life race by, rarely asking God for a win. He cares deeply for each of us and longs to hear from you. My favourite definition of prayer came from a contact in 101
The NEW Church Colinsvale, Tasmania. Each time I swapped a video with him he would invite me to sit and talk. Having just watched a video on prayer, he commented, “Do you know what I think prayer is?” “Tell me,” I responded. “You Adventists believe in the Trinity, right?” He asked. “Yes we do.” “Well the Trinity is God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit all living together.” He continued, “They think, act and live as one. It’s like they are constantly in conversation with each other. I think prayer is us joining the conversation.” I was dumb struck. What an amazing understanding of prayer. It’s no wonder God said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). How else could a human respond, when entering the Trinity-inhabited Sanctuary for a time of prayer, than like Job: “I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4). Imagine you were able to enter a room with your three greatest heroes and given an hour with them. How much time would you spend talking? How about listening? Prayer is that room. But, you can enter any time you like and stay as long as you wish. Paul placed prayer at the heart of joy and thanksgiving: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). And it’s no wonder. You have a friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:4). When you pray, Jesus is there. When you ask, He answers. When you listen, He speaks. When you cry, He holds you. When you laugh, He smiles. Let’s pray. 102 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
POWER in Worship
P Obey W E R
In His Image
Ever wanted to be a Samson? Rippling muscles, long flowing hair, powerful persuasion tactics (killing a few thousand men with the jawbone of an ass is no small feat!) Or perhaps being an Esther is more your style. Gorgeous, brave, picked in a line up by the most powerful man in the land. (Did you know she spent a year being bathed in oil, perfumes and cosmetics before the big day?) Whatever the case, guess what? Samson had serious pride issues and Esther was afraid of rejection. Sure, they would have been on the cover of Sport’s Illustrated, Rolling Stone, and Signs of the Times, but, all celebrities—no matter how great they look— have human hearts and frail spirits. Just like us. Samson trusted his to make up for his character deficits. Don’t. It doesn’t work. Whenever he lost his temper, he blew a gasket. Once he ripped a lion apart. Another time he tied foxes tails together and burned his enemies’ fields. There was also the time he ripped the city gates from the ground and carried them to the top of the nearest hill. Or the time he killed 30 men to steal their clothes in order to pay a debt he owed. You never read of Samson walking quietly into a café and ordering a cappuccino. He didn’t do “civilised.” 103
The NEW Church His pride led him to misery. Eyes gouged out, head shaved, pushing a mill wheel round and round and round. Why? Because he trusted his strength. He had muscles on his muscles, but his character was paper thin. And it was character in the end that really mattered. It always is. You can’t put a photo of character on the front of a glamour magazine. You can’t write an article with 10 steps to the perfect character. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a decision. And another one. And another one. For years and years—as many as you live—every decision you make. When your beauty has faded, your character has just begun. Paul said, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) There are a lot of things we think of when we ponder heaven. Streets of gold. The tree of life, sea of glass, a river coming from the throne of God. Sitting at Jesus feet. But, of all that will be in heaven, there is only one thing you will have brought with you. The rest will already be there. That one thing is your character. Every angle the media comes from leads us to the conclusion that looks are everything. But your character begins where skin-deep ends. Do you want to be truly beautiful? Start with your heart. Do you want true strength? Develop a Christ-like character. Look at Jesus. Every day. The more you do, the more you will become like Him. And when you get to heaven, He’s going to give you a new body. But your character will continue 104
POWER in Worship from where you left off before His second coming! So, â€œlet us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faithâ€? (Hebrews 12:2). Let us explore His perfect character. We are, after all, made in His image.
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The NEW Church
P Obey W E R
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousands words. There is a collection of pictures on your computer that represents your programs. They are tiny pictures, so maybe they are only worth a hundred words but they certainly save a lot of time! Those pictures are called icons. Each icon is a visual representation of a program with a hidden link that will open the program if you double-click on it. A blue W leads you to Microsoft Word. A blue “e” with a lopsided and fallen halo (that should tell you something about the product!) leads you to Internet Explorer. Or, for a more net-savvy and friendly experience, a blue planet embraced by an orange fox leads you to Firefox. Icons are our friends! Without them we would struggle with the vast collection of material on our computer. Imagine you were designing an icon to represent yourself—so other people would be able to contact you with the press of a button—what would your icon look like? Mine would be one of those cartoon speech bubbles that show the words of the character. And inside the bubble would be the words, “blah, blah blah” to show that I am a communicator and will talk about nearly anything—just get me started! What would your icon look like? 106
POWER in Worship Now imagine you are an icon. When you get double-clicked, what do you open up? The word icon (or Eikon in its original Greek) has been around for thousands of years. It means “image.” Just like on your computer an icon is an image that represents something else. I double-clicked the back end of some guy’s BMW one morning. My wife was in the passenger seat, my three children were in the back and the mobile phone rang. I had a hands-free kit, so all I had to do was press the answer button. I did. And in the time it took for me to look down, press the button and look back up—my Daihatsu Charade was buried under the back end of a BMW 380i. It totalled my car and did significant damage to the BMW. We managed to drive our two cars off the road and then the most amazing thing happened. The man in the BMW got out of his car. He had every right to be irate! He was sitting at a red light when I ran into him. He had done nothing wrong. And then I double-clicked him—with quite some force. What amazed me was the nature of this man. He calmly walked to my wife’s window. “Are you alright?” he asked calmly. Once my wife said she was, he asked about the kids and then myself. Most people would have been livid with anger or at least frustration. But, this man was different. His character was connected to something deeper. I don’t know his story. I don’t know his belief structure. But what I do know is that he brought forth the most beautiful character when he was double-clicked in 107
The NEW Church the most sudden and jarring way. I don’t know if that man knew Jesus. But I have a strong suspicion he did. He was connected to something very deeply that was peaceful and kind. He was the image of Jesus to me that day. Jesus was once asked by His followers, “Show us the Father” (John 14:8). Jesus was taken aback—they could only ask such a question if they didn’t realise who He really was. “Have I been with you all this time,” Jesus replied, “and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9). Paul explained the nature of Jesus by saying, “Christ is the visible image [eikon] of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Paul was saying, if you double-click on Jesus He will open up the Father—every time! I’m comfortable with that idea Jesus being just like God the Father sits well with me—it makes sense. But Paul takes the whole icon (living in the image) idea a bit beyond my comfort zone when he says that Jesus “makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It was Paul’s belief and teaching that the more time we spend looking at Jesus, the more we become like Him. In another place Paul writes, “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (Colossians 3:10). Paul wants everyone to realise that when 108
POWER in Worship people are looking for Jesus, they should need to look no further than His followers. When people double-click on a Christian they should have Jesus open up before them! now I’m uncomfortable Paul, always one to push things to the edge, put it boldly when he stated, “You should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I am reticent to say that as boldly as Paul. Even though I have been a follower of Jesus Christ for more than 25 years, I shudder at the thought of other people following me because they are “sure” I’m following Jesus. It sounds arrogant, until you realise Christians aren’t trying to be like Jesus—Jesus is making them more like Him. It’s a world of difference, and Paul understood it. Followers of Jesus are more like Him with each passing moment as they keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. So, it’s not the Christian saying, “Hey follow me, I’m like Jesus.” It’s actually Jesus saying, “If your faith is struggling to see the invisible God, double-click on one of my icons!” Every person on Earth is an icon that, when doubleclicked, leads to their passion and pursuit. True Christians are icons of Jesus. Double-click on one, and they will lead you to Jesus—every time. double click a disciple The Jesus that one of His true followers will lead you to, will not be a judgmental Jesus or a condescending Jesus—because 109
The NEW Church that’s not who Jesus really is. People who have been looking at Jesus’ pure and lovely nature will lead people to freedom from such self-righteous attitudes. “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence. God has done all this. He has restored our relationship with him through Christ, and has given us this ministry of restoring relationships. In other words, God was using Christ to restore his relationship with humanity. He didn’t hold people’s faults against them, and he has given us this message of restored relationships to tell others” (2 Corinthians 5: 17-21). What an amazing promise! Jesus is calling all people to Himself so they can be made new, not so He can tell them a list of bad things about themselves. Jesus isn’t in the business of fault finding. He’s in the business of restoring relationships. And, the primary relationship He wants you to have in full strength is one with His Father—God: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16,17). When Jesus came as the visible image of the Father, He presented a picture very different than what people expected in the Messiah. He said, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). And He modelled that love with His actions, stories, life and death. The Icon didn’t look much like God—at least not what people had 110
POWER in Worship been told God was like. But Jesus was who He said He was and the Image He revealed of the Father stands today. God is a loving, forgiving, accepting and inclusive God who wants all people to know their Creator cherishes them. just like Jesus It is the role of every Christian to reveal this picture of God—a God of love and new life. Right after Jesus rose from the dead, one of His followers was adamant he would not believe Jesus was alive until he had seen and touched the scars caused by the crucifixion. As he was in the midst of his impassioned tirade, Jesus walked up behind him. You can imagine the look of absolute terror on this disciple’s face. What would Jesus do with him and his faithless words? Jesus’ response was both unexpected and far-reaching. Jesus held out his hands for inspection, revealing the scars of the cross to the doubting disciple. Then Jesus said something amazing—he made a statement about you. Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). That’s us! We have not seen the scars on Jesus’ body. Jesus wants you to know that if you find Him and believe in Him without seeing the scars, you are blessed! That’s the kind of person Jesus is—one who blesses those who struggle to see Him. That’s the kind of God Jesus is—one that shows, through his nail-scarred hands, what God’s love really looks like. And that’s the kind of followers Jesus draws—ones who 111
The NEW Church doubt, ones who ask questions, ones who seek Him with all their heart. All who come to the Father, come by seeing the Son. All must come to Jesus. Some come to Jesus by seeing the scars. But most come to Him by seeing a living breathing icon of Jesusâ€”a Christian, passionate to restore relationships.
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POWER in Worship
P O Word E R
When I was boy, my uncle was a professional motocross racer. He was fearless! I can remember standing next to a set of triple jumps and hearing the crowd go crazy as he approached. Most riders would land atop the middle jump. Not Uncle Tim— he would hit the first jump at an insane speed, launching him over the triplets, landing on the downward slope of the last jump. Tim was a winner. He had a room full of trophies. But occasionally the prize would be something else, like money or riding gear. My favourite prize he ever won was a Honda XR75. It was too small for him but just perfect for me. Uncle Tim was my hero. In the valley and mountainside around my grandparents’ house there were a warren of tracks my uncle had dug with his back tire. His repeated riding over the terrain had left tracks to follow. And follow, I did! I would quietly putter along the tracks he had blazed. The huge hills, I felt proud just to have ridden to the top of, were his launching pads. He was the real thing—a professional. I was just a kid, having a bit of fun—until I put on his gear. Some times I would sneak into the garage and slip into my uncle’s racing gear. His boots became my boots, his shoulder 113
The NEW Church pads, gloves, clothes—mine! And suddenly, the timid boy, Davy; became the legendary Uncle Tim. I was sure I could fly! Wearing my uncle’s gear, I was a new person. I opened up the throttle where previously I tapped the brakes, leaned into a corner I avoided before and treated those hills as the jumps they were meant to be. I may have still looked like little Davy riding an XR75 but I felt victory coursing through my veins! Today, these boyhood memories remind me of Paul’s recommendation to “put on the full armour of God.” But he’s got bigger things in mind than a quick lap around the racetrack. He tells us to suit up “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). The situation may be different but the purpose of the armour is the same—it protects us. the call to suit up Paul presents the call and the reason to suit up in God’s armour: “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with 114
POWER in Worship the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17). To attempt to face the devil and his evil schemes on our own is both fool-hardy and unnecessary. God has promised to give us everything we need to effectively stand up against evil. suit up for protection Paul advises followers of Christ to fully prepare themselves for battle. It’s interesting that every item he lists in this passage is defensive in usage, it’s primary purpose being to keep us standing through the attacks. The only item in Paul’s list that could be seen as for attacking is the sword of the Spirit, “which is the word of God.” But the purpose of the Bible, rightly understood, is to parry the oncoming blows of the enemy—it, too, is primarily for our protection. Writing to a group of believers, Paul states, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Not only does our protection come from God, so does the strength to keep going. God truly is our everything! “The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life” (Psalm 121:7). Why? Isn’t it good for us to go through hard 115
The NEW Church times? Doesn’t fire refine? Yes, and it is clear there is a battle raging around us—we do not go unaffected. Death, suffering and unjust events are all direct results of the presence and persistence of the master of evil—Satan. But these texts assures us righteousness wins in the long run. Jesus prevails. And His people are, ultimately, saved. During this war against evil, God wants His people to feel safe enough to spend time reading His Word. From reading will come heeding, and from heeding comes peace, joy and love. This is God’s desire for each of us. “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him” (1 John 2:5). God’s goal for each Christian is that they reveal His love to the world—even in the midst of raging war! suit up for battle While we are unable to see the spiritual forces—angels and demons—fighting around us, we are able to feel the oppression of evil and the joy of pure love. These are the spiritual extremes of the battle—the reason the two sides are fighting—and they are noticeably present. The forces of evil are intent on separating us from our Creator. But the love of God, expressed in fullness on the cross of Jesus, is too strong: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:25, 27). 116
POWER in Worship During this supernatural altercation God’s people play a part. When we suit up—protecting our head and heart (what we think and feel) and busying our hands (shield and sword)—we have one proactive task. The Christian’s great commission is, with feet fitted with readiness, to take the gospel to the world. The divine protection is shielding us not merely for our own wellbeing but for the salvation of those lost in the world—we are messengers of hope. As we run, we need not fear “for he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). Keeping both hands busy is of primary importance for God’s warriors. But busy for a specific purpose. In one hand rests the shield of faith. As we run the gauntlet, our convictions will be attacked, fiery arrows of doubt and distraction will be hurled at us. The strategy given by Paul for facing these piercing doubts is to throw up the shield of faith and keep running. The other hand is holding the sword of truth—the Bible. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any doubleedged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Applying what they learn from studying God’s Word, Christians become increasingly effective in living God’s purpose for their lives. God understands that life on planet earth is not easy. So He has given His faithful people not only protection but purpose. We run to deliver the gospel and hold firmly to His Word and our faith in Him. 117
The NEW Church suit up for courage Wearing my uncle’s motorcycle gear had another effect beyond protecting me—it gave me confidence. Likewise, clothed in the armour of God, Christians can live courageous lives. Submerged in this dark world, Christ’s followers strive daily to see God’s kingdom become a reality in the lives of those yet to accept Jesus’ gift of eternal life. This passion for the freedom of others compels Christians into situations beyond imagination. But they know they are protected: “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). Suited up, God’s people are never alone. Amazingly, God promises He will be holding the hand of those who live for Him. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. . . . For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:10, 13). Knowing your God is right next to you gives great confidence. Knowing Jesus has conquered where you travail is empowering! “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). suit up for victory “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will 118
POWER in Worship be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Revelation 21:3, 4). The future is assured. Jesus will return and with Him He will bring a new reality of eternal peace. This wonderful new world is not far from any of us: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). It is God’s divine plan for each of us to receive His gift of eternal life. But the choice is ours. Those who choose to accept the gift of life are given both a part to play in the salvation of the world and the promise of eternal life with God. Living on this earth is not easy—especially for those trying to live by God’s principles. The devil will try to knock us down. His schemes are carefully researched and well planned—he knows our weaknesses. But he cannot defeat Jesus. Jesus has fought the fight against sin and won the war. Sin and Satan are defeated. That victory belongs not only to Christ but to all who live in Him. “For all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). If we are clothed with Christ, we are victorious with Him! Satan cannot deflate the heart of one who has Jesus’ victory coursing through their veins. We can rest assured that God will provide and protect. Getting suited up in God’s armour is more than just a good idea. It’s a lifesaver! 119 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
The NEW Church
P O Word E R
My life verse
The year before the internet entered worldwide prominence, a miracle from God and His Word prepared my heart and mind for the coming onslaught. It was 1991 and I was a year 12 student at Rio Lindo Academy in northern California. Being a boarding school we were subjected daily to 7:30 am chapel. A visiting medical doctor had the chapel talk this particular morning and spoke powerfully about addiction. He told us of a variety of drugs and their long term results. He told us about alcohol and cigarettes and the harm they cause. Then he said, “In conclusion, I would like to talk about an addiction that is so powerful it alters the part of the mind that falls in love. This addiction can damage the way you perceive other people to the extent that no marital partner will ever meet your desires. This addiction is very real—it is pornography.” He then went on to talk about the warped perceptions pornography leads men to have of women. I was uncomfortable with his labelling of pictures as addictive. I didn’t agree. You can’t be addicted to a magazine! I thought to myself. What are you going to do, roll it up and smoke it? Inject it in a vein? Ridiculous. I left chapel convinced he was wrong. But he had presented 120
POWER in Worship a challenge throughout his talk, and reapplied at the end to pornography, “If you want to know if something is an addiction in your life, try to go three days without it.” The reason it bothered me so much was that I had two magazines in my room. I thought to myself, I am not an addict!
I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs! I’m a good Adventist. I was getting mad and my inner arrogance was emerging, I’ll tell you what I am! I am the year 12 class pastor. I am the head dean’s assistant in the boys dorm. I am not an addict! And to prove it, I decided to take his challenge. Before lunch I had failed three times. Mysteriously a magazine would be in my hands within minutes of entering my room between classes. I realised, according to the doctor’s diagnosis, I was addicted to pornography. My heart had known the magazines were bad but I had been deceiving myself. I had arrived at the first stage of dealing with it—admitting I had a problem. I laid the magazines on my bed and punched them—hard. I realised I was crying. I didn’t know what to do. I went over to my bookshelf and grabbed my Bible. Kneeling in front of my couch, I laid the Bible in front of me. I closed my eyes and prayed, “God, I am addicted to these stupid magazines. I don’t know how to stop. I am going to open my Bible and point. And when I open my eyes, You are going to fix my problem.” My hands fumbled in the dark and opened the Bible in front of me. With my eyes still closed I pointed in the middle of the page. 121
The NEW Church When I opened my eyes my finger was under a verse number—15. I read the verse. I read it again. I was so amazed I went over to my computer and printed a banner (remember dot-matrix printer days?) that wrapped right around my room with the verse written on it. I put the magazines in a paper bag and took them to the dean. He had been at chapel, so all I needed to say was, “Don’t look in that bag. But you have got to hear what God just did!” I told Dean Craig the story of my day. When I got to the part about the verse, I asked to use his Bible. I opened his Bible and read Psalm 25:15, “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” Dean Craig’s face cracked into a weathered smile and his eyes twinkled, “You’ve just been given a life verse, David. Memorise that. I believe God knows you’ll need it.” I didn’t have to memorise it. It was already emblazoned on my mind. And it has remained with me ever since. Whenever I am tempted to let my eyes stray from what is pure, I hear Jesus calling, “Look at me, Dave. Fix your eyes on me.” Daily I am blessed by that verse. Only when we fix our eyes on Jesus can he truly lead our lives. Pornography availability and addiction has taken a quantum leap since the arrival of the internet. But so has knowledge and visibility of Jesus. Put your eyes where they belong. Fix your eyes on Jesus and He promises to finish what He has started in your life!
122 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
POWER in Worship
P O W Express R
Finding your strength
Due to the Spirit-filled leadership of Nehemiah, the people of Jerusalem achieved a great amount—the city wall was rebuilt in just 52 days, Jerusalem’s corrupt leaders were ousted and the people had come together for registration. Jerusalem’s glory was renewed! In response, the people gathered, built a platform in the city square and called for Ezra, their priest, to read them God’s law. The people longed to worship. “Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet. “Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, ‘Amen! Amen!’ as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:5, 6). Then Ezra began to read. He recited the scriptures “from early morning until noon. . . . All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law” (verse 3). When the reading finished, the Levites mingled with the people reading the law and they “clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage” (verse 8). Then, the inevitable happened. People began to see the 123
The NEW Church disparity between their lives and the holy lives called for by the law. In sorrow and repentance, the worshippers began “weeping as they listened to the words of the Law” (verse 9). At this point in their day of worship, Nehemiah is first mentioned. I imagine him quietly walking on stage and whispering something in Ezra’s ear. The Levites regroup at the podium and confer with God’s leader and His priest. Then, they presented the people with a life-changing message. The Levites merged back into the crowd and “quieted the people, telling them, ‘Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day’” (verse 11). The worshippers timidly approached the stage.
Don’t weep? they thought. Aren’t we supposed to heap ashes on our heads and repent with tears? Isn’t this the purpose of the law? Nehemiah took centre stage. Their fearless—seemingly faultless—leader smiled, and in a jubilant voice proclaimed: “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God. . . . Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (verses 9, 10). The joy of the Lord is your strength. Have you ever pondered Paul’s meaning when he wrote, “Always be joyful” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)? Is it really possible to be joyful always? Even when facing your true nature in comparison to God’s perfect law? 124
POWER in Worship Or what about Jesus, hanging on the cross? He couldn’t have been joyful as He endured such pain, could He? Where did Jesus get His strength as He “endured the cross”? Paul presents the answer: “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Joy? Yes! Jesus looked beyond the cross to the joy of the eternal kingdom and received the strength to endure His temporary suffering. His own future joy, and the joy of His Father, gave Him strength. But, that’s only the last half of the text. Paul had a reason for painting a picture of joyful Jesus on the cross. The first half of the text offers us the same opportunity for transformation in worship experienced in Nehemiah’s “new” Jerusalem. We know our sinfulness, and we have witnessed our sinless Saviour suffer on our cross. The chasm seems too great. And we weep. How are we to go on? We must mourn, we think. We must bear the burden of His death. How can we endure? Paul—our Nehemiah—steps forward and proclaims, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus, the joy of the Lord, is our strength! Eyes fixed on Him belong to a people of joy. And to a world searching for strength, such joy is irresistible. Imagine you received a flyer in your letterbox from the best 125
The NEW Church downhill snow skiing park in your area. The flyer invites you to come to a short presentation and receive a free gift valued at more than $100. You look at the date of the presentation and realise you are free on that day. When the day finally arrives you excitedly bundle into the car and head to the mountain. You drive up to the lodge where there is special parking close to the lodge for people responding to the flyer. You park and make your way inside. You walk up to a group of people standing in front of a sign saying, “Please wait here for special presentation.” After waiting for a while, the manager arrives and separates the group in two. The groups are sent into separate rooms. Inside one room the manager faces the expectant group, “Thank you for coming out this morning. We have a 30-minute presentation we would like you to watch on the big screen, then we will give your gift!” He steps to the door, switches off the lights and the screen comes to life. As the picture comes into focus you see a couple on a chairlift. The woman says, “I’m not sure I can do this honey.” He puts his arm around her and says, “You’ll be fine. I’ll help you.” When they get to the top of the lift, he skies off. She tries to stand, one ski goes skewing off to the left, she puts her weight on it, picks up speed and smashes into a pole. The movie is all downhill from there: fast skiers knocking learners over. Jumpers landing very wrong. Close-ups of sunburned faces and chapped lips. Skier after skier injuring themselves. Finally, 126
POWER in Worship after 30 minutes of mayhem and agony, the manager returns, flips the light switch and says, “Thank you for watching our presentation today. Your gift is a free day on the snow! We have free lift tickets for each of you as well as skies, boots and poles. There are also warm clothes available if you need. We just want you to enjoy your day!” In the other room, much the same thing takes place. The manager faces the seated crowd and says, “Thank you for coming out this morning. We have a 30-minute presentation we would like you to watch on the big screen, then we will give your gift!” He steps to the door, switches off the lights and the screen comes to life. The first scene is of a class of learners. They are all facing a coach and he says, “By lunchtime you will be skiing confidently. I promise.” He then shows them how to do some basic manoeuvres and they slowly skid down the learners slope. A time lapse shows they have now been skiing for two hours. The same group is swishing down steep runs, laughing and shouting to each other. The film then switches to shots of extreme skiing. People jump from ridges landing in a flurry of bouncing knees and fast skiing. Skiers jump, do flips, the splits, wave to the crowd—and land perfectly, every time. At the end of the 30 minutes the movie finishes, the lights come on and the manager says, “Thank you for watching our presentation today. Your gift is a free day on the snow! We have 127
The NEW Church free lift tickets for each of you as well as skies, boots and poles. There are also warm clothes available if you need. We just want you to enjoy your day!” Which group do you think will go skiing for the day? Nehemiah was on to something. He understood that joy motivates people. Neighbouring tribes and towns would hear of the joy in Jerusalem. They would travel there for business or pleasure and see the joy for themselves, and they would want such joy in their lives. When Nehemiah said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” he meant it. There is no greater way to influence others than by being joyful. They will want what you have. Which 30-minute presentation is your church? Do visitors leave feeling they have just experienced something divine, or do they flee, hoping they won’t catch whatever sickness has befallen your flock? The joy set before us is Jesus, our Saviour, returning in billowing clouds of glory to take us to heaven. That’s worth looking forward to—and should cause inexpressible joy to be on our face constantly. Yet, many Christians are less than joyful. Charles Swindoll says some Christians have such long faces they could eat corn out of a Coke bottle. It is as if many of us are walking to heaven backward. We know the joy that awaits us, but we spend our time shuffling slowly in reverse watching all the mayhem and destruction behind us—and 128
POWER in Worship being morose. Paul gives us the perfect solution, “Look to Jesus!” Keep your eyes fixes forward. Your hands and heart can still go out to the world, but you have reason to be joyful—let it show! Like Nehemiah, Christian leaders need to model the joy of the Lord. We can do this only by looking at Jesus moment by moment. And then, when the people around us complaining and focusing on the negative, we need to have the strength to stand tall and demand, “Stop! Rejoice! The Joy of the Lord is your strength!”
129 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
The NEW Church
P O W Express R
In Jesus’ name
Some conversations change your perspective on an issue, of a person or your view of yourself. This one did all three. I went in for a massage and came out with a message. The young massage therapist began my time on the table with a question, “What do you do, Dave?” “I work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” His response revealed a lot, “Is that a Catholic or a Christian church?” Moments later I felt as lost in his world as he was in mine. “I’m a krumper,” he said. “What’s a krumper?” I asked. He explained that krumping is a form of dancing that “looks a lot like an epileptic fit the first time you see it.” He said he was a break dancer but broke his fibula landing a backflip. “I wont be able to do flips for at least a year,” he stated sadly. “So, I started krumping because it’s low impact.” He then said something that really caught me off guard, “Krumping is a really religious dance.” “Religious?” I questioned. Based on his earlier statement I wasn’t quite sure what “religious” actually meant to him. “Yeah,” he said, “the guy who leads out in the krumping sessions 130
POWER in Worship at the skate park forms us into a circle and tells everyone to ‘bow your heads for a moment of respect.’ So, we bow our heads. He’s a big New Zealander, so everybody does what he says.” “Respect?” I asked, “What are you respecting? The dance form? The leader?” “We respect God!” he replied. “He full-on prays to Jesus—about the krumping session we’re about to start. When he finishes, we take turns krumping. He even has his own style of krumping called ‘praise buck.’ He freezes with his hands together like he’s praying.” (Buck is the term used for a dancers personal style of krumping.) The idea of praying before a dance session intrigued me. “What does he say when he prays?” I asked. “He says pretty weird stuff, like, ‘Jesus, we know You made us in Your image and made our bodies able to dance. We are getting buck for You, Jesus! As we krump here on earth, we hope you and your angels will krump with us in heaven.’ Then he says, ‘In Jesus name’ and everyone in the circle shouts ‘AMEN!’ It is an amazing sound to hear all those guys shouting ‘amen.’” What was happening in that skate park as that dancer led in prayer? Was this evangelism? According to my masseur, the krumping sessions attract druggies, homeless people, and teenagers who come to watch and krumpers who come to dance. And they all hear the prayer. I asked, “Do his prayers make you think? Have you ever asked about Jesus?” “Nah, not yet,” the young krumper replied, “but it does make me wonder. I respect him a lot and he believes in Jesus. It’s cool. 131
The NEW Church Yeah, one day I’m gonna ask him what it’s all about.” He fired another question at me, “Hey, you being a Christian, is it alright to pray like that?” My reply took me by surprise, “In the Bible, King David ‘danced before the Lord.’ So, I guess the ‘krumping for Jesus’ thing is okay. And, when Christians are about to worship Jesus in church—we do that by singing—the worship leader will often pray, ‘Dear Jesus, as we sing here on earth, we hope you and your angels will sing with us in heaven.’ So, yeah, I guess it’s alright. But, I know I couldn’t do it.” “Why not?” “Because I can’t dance!” Later, sitting at my computer, I googled “krump” and discovered it is an acronym for Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise. Krumping developed in South Central Los Angeles as a nonviolent way of releasing aggression. Now it’s an internationally recognised dance form. Bringing God’s kingdom to people often happens in ways unexpected by the majority of believers. Jesus told parables (literally “near bringers”). Martin Luther translated the Bible. Charles Wesley wrote hymns. Ellen White penned books. Each using the media and the means of their day. I was challenged by that conversation. Not to become a krumper, but to withhold judgment of what I don’t understand, to value those who do what I am unable to do and to use my skills to take God’s kingdom to the people I can influence. 132 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
POWER in Worship
P O W E Reach out
Riding the Spirit
While we were all taught not to talk to strangers, it seems new acquaintances develop and conversations abound when we are stuck with those strangers for a long time. Lengthy travel in planes, trains, buses or boats serve as prime moments for these brief encounters. I have found these types of relationships to be quick-forming and deeply transparent. Something about the temporary nature and inevitable separation from each other—usually forever— allows people to lower their defences and reveal their heart and soul. Two such occasions in my life occurred on the Spirit of Tasmania, the ferry that connects Tasmania with mainland Australia. I have taken the Sydney-to-Devonport ferrytwice—a 22-hour trip. Both trips resulted in lengthy conversations that overwhelmed me with their depth and sincerity. My cabin-mate on one trip, John, invited me to breakfast—a conversation that stretched for nearly four hours! We talked of his life as an antique dealer and mine as a church pastor. We were both sincerely interested in the other’s life story and asked many questions. He told of some antique finds. Once, he bought a dusty vase in a disused pub for two dollars. He cleaned, polished and then sold it for $9500 a week later! 133
The NEW Church While that was his “highest percentage” success, he said his most profitable was an accident. A church had closed and was to be auctioned. He wanted them to get a good price, so he attended and took the first bid to get the auction rolling. To his dismay, no-one else bid. He had accidentally purchased a church for $35,000. He used the church to store antiques he couldn’t fit in his shop. When he decided to move to Tasmania, his adult children demanded he clean the valuable loot out of the church and sell the building. They were concerned that someone would break in and steal the collectables. Out of respect for his kids, he sold the contents and put the church up for auction—10 years after he had purchased it—and sold it for $345,000! After we’d talked for awhile, John carefully worded a question, “Dave, can I ask you a question? You don’t have to answer, if it offends you. OK?” I agreed. He then asked, “Does it make you mad that I am not a Christian? I mean, it’s your job to make me into one. And I’m not going to become one. So, does that anger you?” I was stunned. Was this what people outside Christianity thought of Christians and particularly pastors? Were we seen as so single minded that our only reason for being friendly was to make others be like us? Humbled, I responded, “Not at all, John. Life is a journey. We meet people, have experiences, make decisions and live as best we can. Yes, I would love for you to know Jesus. But, I think it highly 134
POWER in Worship arrogant to expect I would be the one person to turn you into a Christian! Each person we meet in life is a stepping stone in our path. I only hope our time together has taken you one step closer to Jesus.” He liked that answer. “So, you aren’t expecting me to say, ‘Aha! Now I get it. I want to be a Christian too,’ and go to church with you next week?” “No!” I laughed. “But, I must tell you something. I believe in God. I believe He answers prayer. And now I know your name, I’ll be praying for you!” He surprised me by saying, “Thanks, Dave. That really means a lot. I will be thinking about this conversation for a long time.” As have I, John. Thanks for being a stepping stone in my journey. I pray I was one in yours and not a stumbling block. Another time on board the Spirit, I was reading my Bible outside the cafeteria. I felt someone staring at me and looked up. In front of me stood a father and his eight-year-old son. Robert and Isaiah were their names, I would later discover. Robert was almost glowing as he said, “Is that the Word, brother?” I almost laughed, but held it back. “Yes. Yes it is!” I wondered what could come next, after such an introduction. Robert quickly ascertained that I was a Christian and pumped me for my profile: Seventh-day Adventist pastor, doing my morning reading. He was impressed. I was amused by his interest in my spiritual biography. “Come, Isaiah,” he concluded. “Let’s allow the pastor to return to God’s Book.” And with that, they 135
The NEW Church walked into the cafeteria. Moments later Isaiah bolted back into my presence, “Would you please sit with us for breakfast? I’ll save you a seat!” I said that would be nice, closed my Bible and followed him into the dining area. As breakfast ended, Robert said, “Pastor, would I be able to talk to you in private? I have a question.” I told him I would go to the lounge on the next deck and wait for him there. I had barely sat down and Robert was across the table from me. “Can you prove to me, without using the Bible, that the Sabbath is still valid?” I was intrigued that someone so enamoured with seeing me reading the Bible would now make such a request. But why no
Bible? I wondered. He continued, “I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been to a number of programs at your Adventist churchesand some of your seminars. So, I’ve heard all the Bible proofs you use for the Sabbath. I want to know if it’s still valid. So, can you prove the Sabbath is still important to keep, on Saturday, in our time?” This was a unique request: prove the Sabbath, without using any of the Sabbath passages in the Bible. An answer came, “Robert, are you familiar with the call to tithing in Malachi?” “You mean where it says, ‘Bring your tithes and offerings into God’s storehouse?’” he asked. “Yes,” I replied. “That’s it. It demonstrates that tithing is more about God’s promise than our obedience. The text states that 136
POWER in Worship if God’s people give 10 per cent of their income—a tithe—He’ll bless them. It actually says He’ll pour so many blessings on their lives that they won’t have storehouses big enough to store all the bounty! The Sabbath is like tithing. God promises, over and over in Scripture, that if we honour His Sabbath, He will bless us. Robert, I would like to offer you a challenge.” His eyes widened, “OK. What is it?” “Keep the Sabbath for six months. Set it aside as a special day for God and see if He blesses you. I bet He will richly bless your life.” Robert smiled, “My wife and I have been keeping the Sabbath for the past year, and God has been blessing us like never before!” Their own lives had provided the answer Robert sought. Both conversations reveal how God works in people’s hearts. God is patient. He tinkers with the heart, day by day, revealing more of Himself, His love and His plan. While at times He may seem far off, God is no stranger to your heart or mine.
137 Been blessed? Bless the author! firstname.lastname@example.org
Putting the NEW church to work The most effective way to learn anything is to teach it. I would invite and challege you to share what you have learned in this book. (I bet you’ve already been sharing the ideas as you’ve been reading the book. It’s exciting stuff!) Work through the memory devices with anyone and everyone who will listen. Constantly remind yourself of the simple acronymns in this book. Just for fun, I’m going to write the rest of this chapter without looking backward in the book. Let’s see if I can remember what I have learned through teaching. . . .
The NEW Church How NEW is what I do? How is the picnic this Sunday going to be Nurturing for my nurture group? (I’ll ask one of them to plan the food. I’ll ask another to think of a couple team games.) How is it going to be Evangelistic? (I’ll invite a couple contacts). How will Worship be present at the picnic? (We will pray as a group before eating. I’ll make a conscious effort to mention the beauty of Creation around us and give God credit for His handiwork.) How new is what I do? What am I doing in my sphere of spiritual influence that is edgy—pushing myself a bit further than where I was last week, last month, last year? 138
Nurture I’m planning a meeting (as I drive to it!) with one of my nurturees. How will I DIVE into his life this week? How will I Disciple him? (I’ll teach something from my life and ministry applicable to his current experience). How will I Inspire him? (I’m a storyteller. I’ll tell a story from my life that shows my passion and purpose in ministry.) How will we plan to get another Visit in? (I will invite him to come along on a preaching trip in the next few weeks.) How can I Empower him this week? (From the conversation that develops during our 90-minute nurturing session I will offer to make some rough place plain for him—I’ll use my influence to give him an opportunity.)
Evangelism A couple weeks ago I was at a camp-meeting and was about to take my turn in the “Evangelism” meeting to talk about Signs Publishing. One of the first people to present was an “Evangelist” and took about 10 minutes more than he was allotted. He kept commenting, “I’m an evangelist, I can’t say anything in two minutes!” After him, each presenter commented something like “I’m not an evangelist, but. . .” It was grating on my teaching nerve—I was itching to preach a sermon! When my turn finally came, I had resolved to bite my tongue and do my promo. But, the host welcomed me to the stage by saying, “Dave don’t tell me you’re not an evangelist!” 139
The NEW Church I couldn’t hold it in. “I’m going to redefine evangelism right now—once and for all,” I said. And then, sweeping my hand over the crowd, I said, “You are all evangelists!” The people cheered! “If you believe Jesus died for you, then you have been called to share the good news with others. That makes you an evangelist and the Great Commission is your commission!” A chorus of Amens flowed loud and long. Then I did my two minute Signs promotion. People know the truth about Evangelists—we are a priesthood of believers. We know it, but do we practice it? There are three levels of Evangelism that works. The first, and most effective, is personal evangelism. Personal relationships are formed by practicing prayer, care, share. As we pray for those God puts on our heart, care for their needs and share our faith story with them, we will see them draw near to Christ. The next level of evangelism is small groups. We are all in lots of small groups. When we recognise that our workplace, our classroom, our bowls team or our family are our mission field we pull that group toward the church—we become the evangelist in the group. There is another form of small group—the intentionally evangelistic small group of believers into which we invite those in our personal-evangelism sphere of influence. When they enter our group, they belong instantly. Over time they begin to believe and as they grow in knowledge they start to behave like a Christian as they absorb the Word of God into their character. The final, and least effective, form of evangelism is community 140
Conclusion evangelism. I say least effective because only through personal relationships and small-group involvement will the people attending our corporate programs be retained in the long run. The reaping events are necessary and valuable, but they require the other two forms of evangelism as their foundation. Then the participant can grow from our example into experiencing church and exploring the truth for themselves.
Worship There is POWER in worship. Worship can be done alone, in couples, families, groups, churches or as an entire universe (won’t that be an awesome day!?). To worship God is the highest calling and desire a human can experience. To glorify and glory in God— this is worship. A few aspects of worship include Prayer, Obedience, reading God’s Word, Expressing our faith and Reaching out to the needs of others. When we get to Heaven, worship will enter a new phase—it will never cease. There are angels around the throne of God who sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty, who was and is and is to come.” Then they start again. They never stop singing that line. To our earthly sensibilities it sounds repetitious and tedious. But they have seen God, and we have not. We will understand their passion when we enter into His throne room ourselves and the song begins to build in our hearts. 141
The NEW Church One day we will worship in spirit and in truth. Until that day, let us remember to worship as often as we can! God is worthy, always worthy, of so much more than we can ever lavish upon Him!
A final thought I did it! This entire final chapter was written without peeking backward in the book. At the beginning of this book I said The NEW Church was a simple concept. It really is. It’s simple enough for me to remember. And what I can remember, I can do. What I can do, I can teach. The NEW Church is something I can do. It makes living a wholistic Christian life possible for me because it gives me a memorable way to plan my efforts for Christ and to assess how effective I am being. Moment by moment, I can ask, how NEW is what I do? And this question gives focus and purpose to my life for Christ. The NEW Church is something I can teach. It makes teaching practical Christianity as simple as one-two-three. DIVE into nurture. Prayer, care share. POWER in worship. I can teach these things without notes. So can you! Let’s get out and get on with Jesus’ Great Commission for us. Let’s take the good news to the world. Let’s bring The NEW Church to life! Do me a favour and send me an email now and then. I’d love to know how The NEW Church is blessing you and your church!
142 Been blessed? Bless the author! email@example.com
"How can I be an effective active Christian?" Have you ever wished for a simple way to understand and answer that question? This Digital bo...
Published on Jul 23, 2008
"How can I be an effective active Christian?" Have you ever wished for a simple way to understand and answer that question? This Digital bo...