It’s been a while and I have been putting off writing as I have felt a bit distracted and quite frustrated. I believe I am over my frustration at this point and am ready to go on. Let me explain;
I am a guy who finds a very strong plumb line in the Word of God and it has been my life since 1981 when Jesus actually became my Lord and not just my Savior. I have set my face to know Jesus and understand the principles of His Word. I am a constant reader of the Word and do not know how to exist without Father’s voice and companionship. Jesus says in Jn.5:39 that scripture does not give us eternal life – He does. The Word reveals Him and who we should be. Jn. 20:21. I am always finding that my perspective is constantly in need of His fresh viewpoint and is about constant change or a shift in my thinking. His will is given in His bible commands, and the foundational principle of all He instructs us to do is revealed to be Intimacy with Father just like He lived. Our focus should be that which He says it should be.
These last few months I have been pondering a couple of things that continue to confound me. I have found myself going back and forth in sadness, frustration and at times being just plain angry with our continued justification for ignoring scriptures that are foundational and key to what we should but are not seeing here in “western-style” Christianity. We are hungry for more but can’t seem to grasp what we need to so we can be whom we desire to be.
I, as well as my wife, have been involved in discipleship, House Church, and CPM’s (church planting movements) for 18 years as trainers internationally and before that have practiced and taught discipleship in the NW of the US since 1984 in my living. Around the globe my wife and I have taught many, many leaders from traditional churches, discipleship or house church networks, and a variety of denominational fellowships and groups about discipleship, intimacy with Father, prayer and leadership. Before beginning our international ministries we spent time in the USA as; pastor, evangelist, teacher, prison chaplain, and witness. We did all kinds of crazy stuff with cowboys, bikers, street people, convicts, in and out of traditional church settings, in parks, on ranches, in prisons and bars, etc. Though always in a state of growth we have lived Christ everywhere we have been and strive to be what Father’s heart is longing for. We were and still are so hungry to see His kingdom come and His will be done. We constantly have to adjust our living some as we receive more revelation of the Truth and live with Jesus. (Our imperfections are always in need of His grace and mercy – and a faith to trust.)
Let me lay a bit of a foundation of how we begin the discipleship/intimacy trainings we have facilitated over the past 18 years across the globe;
I most generally ask whatever group we are training, in whatever country or region we are in, some basic questions to get all on the same playing field. (A common starting place). Before we begin the journey of “back -to-the-bible” and it’s commands, we have need of a common understanding and starting point. (We also need to find out if we desire more or just like the idea of more but actually know we are not leaving the place we have found comfort in)
So here are some of the questions we present and answers we generally get, no matter where we are.
How many traditional churches and or home fellowships are in your region or city?
After they answer I ask the pastors and Church leaders in attendance at our training “how many baptisms did you have each year for the past 3-4 years in your congregations or groups?
Then we average out the answers, they each share, to come up with an overall average for those in attendance. We then take the total number of churches in the area and multiply the average came to by those in attendance to come up with an approximate yearly average total of baptisms in the area per year.
Then, I ask the attendees the population of the area? (most do not know the population of their city or area). After all of this I ask them, how many of the people in the area does Jesus want to reach?. (Of course the answer is ALL.)
After this we take the average yearly baptism rate in The area or city Church and divide it into the population total we have found to determine how long it will take to reach our city or area using our current methods of sharing the Gospel and reaching the Lost. Usually the answer is from 250 years to never going to happen! Then I throw in the population growth rate of the area on top of that. At this point It gets really quiet and most are ready to look back at the Bible afresh to see what we have lost and where we need to move to in our Christian walk to complete the task Jesus has given us. I have to re-assure the leaders that I am not against them! We just need to look at what we are doing and the “system” we are living afresh.
When I talk about reaching people for Christ I am not talking about a conversion moment. I am talking about seeing them changed by Christ for life – they live Christ.
The very beginning of our training reveals our dilemma and generally brings me to tears.
THE ANSWER WE FIND NO MATTER WHERE WE ARE IN THE WORLD IS THAT — OUR PRESENT SYSTEM WILL NEVER COMPLETE JESUS COMMAND TO GO, MAKE DISCIPLES of ALL NATIONS, nor will it equip and edify the body of Christ to do the “work of the ministry,” nor bring us all to a ”unity of faith, to the fullness of Christ”.
IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.
So, what is the answer? We must go back to the Bible and look at the way Jesus told us to live and move, and that He modeled for us. We must make a paradigm shift in our focus, our priorities and our practice of being Christ followers.
The clergy/laity system must change and our denominational differences and separations must be dropped. Otherwise we will never complete God’s mandate of reaching every tribe kindred and tongue with the Gospel. ( we will also not present a “church without spot or wrinkle” to Him at His return. And we will definitely not show “our love for one another”! )
Being Prayer, doing discipleship, and living love and community is living the relationship we have been given by Jesus sacrifice on the cross. These must become normal life in Christ. Being “God’s love”, (having His naturally supernatural presence in our daily lives) is the only way we will succeed in His will.
From the very beginning we have found that almost all of the leaders from traditional background know that they should be making disciples and that what we are currently doing in most of modern Christianity does not work – will not reach the world. Though they know that they should be doing differently they tell us after discipleship training is complete that they will continue to do what they have been doing rather than change.
(There are several problems here that our present leadership face; almost all do not know how to make disciples, nor understand the goal of discipleship, nor how to stand against traditions that restrict or control them and keep Christ’s Church mostly powerless. If they change they believe it could mean that they have wasted a lot of their lives doing traditions rather than Jesus’ commands and they will lose there positions.) These fears are not true but it is the general thought of those in traditional settings who go through discipleship trainings.
What if it is simply that NOW is the time for change and shift to complete all God and we hunger to see?
I just got back from a trip to Russia and Indonesia training more leaders, missionaries and believers to live in Intimacy with Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit and how to do discipleship like Jesus did. Most are confounded at the simplicity of Jesus commands and the results.
One of the groups I taught discipleship to 22 months ago began to practice what I taught and has planted over 100 groups in a unreached area. It is so amazing to see Jesus move when we do that which He implored and commanded we do.
It still affects me the same, I get excited at His presence and power that shows up when we do as He instructed. When we live like Jesus and be light, bring truth and share love, people respond.
The thing that gets me is only one out of 30 or so traditional leaders that I taught actually made the shift – the rest have not changed even though they now have an example of how obedience to disciple, founded in an intimate relationship with Father, works. The rest of the leaders could not give up the traditions of man to embrace obedience to the Word regardless of the results.
I cannot believe we have strayed so far from the simplicity of The Gospel. After 18 years I am still still asking, Why? Why do we resist change and repentance? where is our humility before Father and His Word?
Why do we hold onto something we know does not work? Why do we continue to hope for a different result while we do the same things over and over again? Why do we fear change? Why is it so hard to admit we have been doing wrong and change direction, go back to the Bible and follow It’s commands? Why are we holding onto frustration, anger, disappointment and shame? The cost of change is to give up what we are experiencing and to embrace life! Change and repent are not bad words, they are words of hope and faith, relationship and humility. They bring God onto the scene and change the future.
The everyday Christians I encounter in the many countries I have been sent to always get excited when I share about their position with God, the reality of what He wants them to do and the provision he has given them to walk out what they find. When we look afresh at the scripture commands and promises to them they get a change of perspective and many will begin to change their work places and communities as they begin to walk in a close, personal, dynamic, naturally- supernatural relationship with Christ (intimacy)!. Traditionally trained Leaders are the only ones I have ever encountered who resist changing. This effects the body drastically and I pray for change, grace and humility to engulf us all as leaders.
Let me give you an example; I was trained to become an electrician right before the time when electronics was introduced into the trade. To remain an electrician after the introduction of electronics into the trade I had to embrace a whole new set of rules and fundamentals that had not existed before. In 10 years the whole trade had done a paradigm shift in knowledge and function. A lot of what I had learned as a foundation became irrelevant in light of the new revelations. It was still the truth but the truth had grown exponentially. My foundation was solid but the truth that is still being revealed required me to constantly adjust if I want to remain an electrician. I believe that Christianity is the same and as leaders we must adjust to the revelations we are now receiving. If we stay with what we were taught as a foundation only we will become obsolete because we refuse to change and grow. Paul says Jesus is the cornerstone, the apostles laid the foundation and each man is to build on this until the house is complete.
I would that it was different but for the most part Christianity is where it is because of what leaders have been taught and have to practice to be acceptable to denominational leadership. What has been put on them and how they are told they must walk as leaders to “maintain” their position and title constrains them from releasing, equipping and edifying the Body of Christ to do the work of the ministry.
I recently was asked to share about discipleship to a small group of pastors and leaders in the USA. I went and answered their questions and gave some statistics for them to consider. I laid some foundational discipleship elements out to them and the results in hopes that they might want to do a training for their congregations or groups. At the end, one of the pastors present told me that he could never embrace what I have laid out through scriptures and testimonies as he would lose his job and he had to think about his family and his future. He said that he would never go through the training because it would be against what would be good for him, his position and his desires.
So, this is where I am… I have never understood why most leaders resist that which we will admit is scriptural and produces the continuation of the “book of Acts” in our age? What have we to lose by repenting, embracing and living out Jesus’ desires and commands? Mt. 20:25-28.
“This I will do, forgetting that which is behind me I will press on toward the mark of the high calling of Christ Jesus.” Father, forgive me for my inabilities and the sin that so easily besets me!
Lead me in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake! Whatever the costs, whatever it takes, mold me, make me, use me, conform me to your image and let me bring your kingdom to bear on earth! Let me understand what is the length, breadth, height and the depth of your love.
Let me be found alive in Christ no matter the cost. Helps me embrace the truth and be led by your spirit! In Father’s Hand, Neil.