Archive for the 'Church' category

The Growth of the Church

Jun 16 2014 Published by under Church, Ministry

By Dr. Dick Brogden

dick-brogdenCurrently there is an inordinate emphasis on size and speed when it comes to the development of the church. Church history soberly shows that orthodoxy tends not to spread as swiftly as heresy and that bad teaching outpaces good. It is the slow, steady repeated truth of God that builds the enduring church. The largest church at the end of the first century was found in Rome, thought by most scholars to be around two hundred members. The churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica (among others) were most probably between fifteen and fifty. The record of Acts takes place over about fifty years.

Biblical precedent indicates that it takes about a generation to get a few churches to what we now consider modest size. One myth is that the church has to grow quickly; another that a strong church is a big church. The best churches tend to grow slowly and steadily, and the normal first century church comprised less than fifty people.

Disciples, too, are forged over time. If a church is but a collection of disciples, then it makes sense that strong churches require time to become solid. Another common myth today in missions is that all new disciples need is the Bible and the Holy Spirit. As appealing as this sounds, it has never been true in history, and if we are honest, it has not been true for any of us experientially. Consider how many books, sermons, mentors, friends, and external inputs help shape and form our spirituality over time. None of us grew to where we are without multiple sources of input over disparate seasons, all the input submitted to the authority of the Holy Spirit and the Word.

Biblically there always remains the need for an outside catalyst to help correct our biases and heresies. A group of people studying the Scriptures can just as easily end up pooling ignorance as illumining one another. Acts 15 is a classic example of ongoing external input necessary for the formation of strong disciples and churches. The negative example of external input (requiring circumcision) does not negate the massive, ongoing positive external input.

Paul and Barnabas report the wonderful turning of the Gentiles to Jesus. They also report the negative external pressure. James and the counsel respond by correcting the error and reinforcing what is necessary. In Acts 15:20, James delineates what they should not do–former religious forms and rituals. Paul reminds the council that coming to Jesus demands conversion (v. 3) and James cites Peter that the Gentiles must come out of false religion (v. 14). In Acts 15:32, Judas and Silas “exhort and strengthen the brethren with many words.” In verse 35, Paul and Barnabas teach and preach to the Gentiles and in verse 36, Paul and Barnabas commit to revisit their converts to ensure they are walking correctly.

Disciples and churches are forged over time. Let us continue to believe that God will do great things and bring millions into His church. Let us continue to understand that it is slow, steady, life-on-life work to make disciples and build churches.

 

Dr. Dick Brogden currently serves as an Assemblies of God World Missionary and is the Strategy Leader for Live Dead Arab World.  To find out more about the Live Dead Arab World project, visit http://arabworld.live-dead.org. 

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Help Me, I Have a Problem!

Apr 07 2014 Published by under Church, Evangelism, Ministry

By Rev. Tom Cederblom

P.TomPlease help me, I have a problem!  I’m a pastor and I’m surrounded by people who are saved. My wife is saved, my kids are saved, my secretary is saved, and even my youth pastor is saved.  My problem is that I spend ninety-five percent of my time around people who are not lost!

I decided a couple of years ago that I needed to do something about this problem. I realized I needed to be very intentional about getting out into the world that surrounds my church and my home.  I made the decision that I was going to venture into the schools of our city as a substitute teacher and walk in the part of the world where many people fear to tread:  The world of the elementary school student, the middle school student and the high schooler.

The first thing I recognized was that I needed to follow the example of the One who I was supposed to be following.  John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  (NIV)  Jesus understood that He needed to leave the comfort zone of heaven and come down to earth and walk among us.

And so my first day as a substitute teacher I “became flesh” and “made my dwelling” among 4th graders in a Special Education class (God has a sense of humor!)  I was scared as I walked the halls of that elementary school.  I was nervous, I was uncomfortable, I was without a friend and I was about to enter a classroom with six special needs students.

I survived that day and I have continued to survive for the last 2 years as a substitute teacher, but in the process I have learned a lot about myself and about my “problem”.

My problem is that it’s been awhile since I’ve felt like a visitor.  Can you remember what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, to be on someone else’s turf, walking in their territory?  People visit our churches all the time and we forget how scary that experience can be for them.

I share with my congregation stories about going into the different schools and I tell them, with humor in my voice, that when I am walking down the hallways as a substitute teacher, it’s as if I am “invisible-man”.  Teachers don’t say “hi”, administrators ignore me, and secretaries treat me like I’m not very bright because I don’t know the routine of their school.  The only ones who treat me like I’m visible are the students!  Now, before you think I am having a pity party, remember my point, we need to be sensitive to what it feels like to be a visitor, again.

My problem is that I am a creature of habit.  I need desperately to get out of my comfort zone and walk into the war zone of real life.  When I walk into a middle school, my heart starts to beat faster, my mind is very aware of how much I need God’s strength, and my prayer life comes alive with simple phrases like, “Holy Spirit, help me to be ready with the right response when a seventh grader asks me a question,” and “Lord, please help me to make a difference in this place!”

My problem is that I have forgotten how to weep for souls.  I need desperately to get around lost people and have my heart broken for their lives, their situations, and their world.  It’s amazing how many times a student will just start to talk with me about the things going on in his or her life, and before I realize it, the student has opened up a window into their world.  And when I take a brief glimpse into their world I sense the Holy Spirit doing a work on this religious heart of mine.

The Message quotes John 1:14 this way, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  May the Lord help us with our “problem”, may He help us to be intentional in moving into the neighborhood of hurting souls and lost lives.

Rev. Tom Cederblom serves as the senior pastor of Life 360 Church – Calvary Campus in Springfield, MO. He can be reached at tom@life360.org.

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Thoughts on Faith & Science from a Pentecostal

Feb 24 2014 Published by under Church, Evangelism, Life, Ministry

By Dr. Jim Bradford

Bradford, James T. - Casual 1 -- 02 24 2009The cover article of an issue of Time [Magazine], February 2011, featured a concept known as ‘Singularity.’ It is not a mathematical singularity or a black hole, but a moment in human history when futurists predict that machines will have exceeded human intelligence by such a margin that human existence as we know it will change forever.

“Imagine,” the article suggests, “a computer scientist that was itself a super-intelligent computer. It would work incredibly quickly. It could draw on huge amounts of data effortlessly. It wouldn’t even take breaks.” Machines creating machines . . . technological capacity growing exponentially . . . human life being extended by decades, even centuries . . . artificial superhuman intelligence that can “write books, make ethical decisions and appreciate fancy paintings.”

The time line? Just over 30 years from now!  Futurists are predicting that by the year 2045 ‘Singularity’ could be upon us. Quoting again from the article, “In that year… given the vast increases in computing power and the vast reductions in the cost of the same, the quantity of artificial intelligence created will be about a billion times the sum of all the human intelligence that exists today.” Sound far- fetched? Even NASA hosts what is now a five-year-old Singularity University for graduate students and high level executives.

The offspring of science, in the form of advanced technology, is one reason why understanding the integration of faith and science is so important. How will faith relate to a ‘singularity’ world and what kinds of ethical frameworks will be needed to guide that kind of technological explosion? The importance of this discussion is further underscored by the implications of the new atheism’s assertion that science is at war with religion.

Some of us with conservative Christian upbringings may have been exposed to the church’s own version of that ‘war,’ being taught that science was contrary to Biblical teaching. Sometimes more highly educated people have wondered if they can remain in the church given a somewhat anti-intellectual bias that has been advanced. Still others have walked away from faith completely, believing that science is irreconcilable with Scripture and, in fact, disproves Scripture.

As a follower of Christ, a Pentecostal and a student of the sciences (Aerospace Engineering, Ph.D.), my starting assumptions over the years have been the following:

  • Understanding how and why things work in the natural world does not preclude the existence of a personal God. He is more than ‘God of the gaps.’
  • All truth is God’s truth, because he is Creator of all.
  • The capacity of the human intellect to be curious, to investigate and to learn is a God-given attribute, not a threat to my faith.
  • The very nature of God himself, imprinted in what he has made, makes scientific study possible.

There has always been a direct link in Scripture between God’s creation and God’s character:

“The heavens declare the glory of God,

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

(Psalm 19:1)

“God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

(Romans 1:20)

Because of this I would often leave science classes feeling like I had been in a ‘worship service.’ If our starting assumption is that discovering how the natural world works will eliminate the need for a God to explain that world, then our faith will be threatened. But does discovering the beauty of a painting mean that there must not be a painter? Quite the opposite – both the Old and New Testaments teach us that the created order reveals the glory and character of a creator God.

Furthermore, Proverbs 8 declares:

“I [wisdom] was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep. . . Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” Prov. 8:27, 30-31

Most every scientist has tasted that enthralling ‘delight’ of discovering the handiwork of God as revealed in astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, physics, geology and the breadth of scientific endeavor.

Loving God with ‘all of our minds’ (Matthew 22:37), in fact, calls us to that delight – exploring and being in wonder of all God’s handiwork. Not only does he ‘know’ it all but he ‘designed’ it all. Here is an invitation to curiosity and intellectual pursuit in a way that does not threaten our faith, but glorifies and honors our Creator.

 Dr. Jim Bradford serves as the General Secretary for the Assemblies of God. In addition, he holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Minnesota. To learn more about the Assemblies of God, visit www.ag.org.

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Porn Addicts, God Haters, and Gossips

Nov 25 2013 Published by under Church, Leadership, Life, Ministry

By Dan Rockwell

dan3The need for fairness destroys thankfulness.

Life isn’t fair and, more importantly, grace isn’t fair. Grace has nothing to do with fairness. The most unworthy, from a human point of view, receive just as much in grace as the “worthy.” What if Hitler trusted Jesus in his last breath and ended up in the same heaven you enjoy? The thought offends our fairness gene.

Fairness:

Fairness is about comparison. Is everybody being treated the same?

Suppose your employer hires a less experienced employee, who does what you do, but makes more money. You aren’t grateful for your job. You hate it.

1.   Superiority ends gratitude.

2.   A sense of worthiness ends gratitude.

3.   Comparing ourselves with others ends gratitude.

Categories:

Grace has nothing to do with comparison, worthiness, or superiority. Grace humbles the righteous and the unrighteous.

There are no categories in grace. Grace does the same for a gossip as a drug addict.

Who’s in your “bad” category?

1.    Adulterers

2.   Alcoholics

3.   Abortionists

4.   Transvestites

5.   Porn addicts

Surprisingly, gossips are in the same list as God haters in Romans chapter one. You say, “It’s just not fair.” And that’s the point!

Superiority:

Recently, someone asked one of our leaders if a lesbian could come to our Church. Here’s our six word response. “We don’t put people in categories.”

One reason Christians put people in categories is it makes us feel superior.

The only thing that makes a believer different from anyone else is Jesus, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Humbling isn’t it?

Gratitude emerges when you realize the only difference between you and a God hater is Jesus. You don’t really believe God is impressed with you, do you?

Everyone is in the same category so
that everyone can enjoy the same grace.

Your choice is to be self-righteous and thank God you aren’t like “those sinful people.” Or, you can humbly receive grace like the rest of us.

Gratitude bubbles up when grace is humbly received.

 

Dan Rockwell is the author of the Leadership Freak blog, recognized as the most socially shared leadership blog of 2012, in addition to authoring the Grace Freak blog. Currently, Dan coaches leaders, consults with organizations, and delivers corporate and community presentations. You can follow his blogs at www.leadershipfreak.wordpress.com and www.gracefreakdan.wordpress.com.

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