What One Church Can Do by Phil Kesler

What One Church Can Do

Early in the morning one Saturday, as the stores were starting to open, a group from First Baptist Sidney, Ohio, gathers to wash cars. This is no ordinary fundraising effort; this is a team of volunteer missionaries, led by their Pastor, John Butts (Missionary Emeritus, IMB) – and with the participation of Pastor and Missionary Flavio Augusto Rezende Machado from Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, Brazil. Under a hot sun and with the cooperation of many town residents needing their cars cleaned, this team of hard workers raised 700 dollars to help pay the costs of their trip overseas in December, 2018 – ministering alongside Pr. Flavio in his city of Foz do Iguaçu.

 

First Baptist Church, Sidney, Ohio is a Southern Baptist Church in a rural town that runs between 110 to 150 in attendance each week. They do not let size stop them from being involved in overseas missions.

In fact, this is the second trip they are going on as a church to Brazil. They first went to Brazil in November 2016. During this trip, they did evangelism, prayer walks, ministering to children and adults, and held a special Thanksgiving dinner for the community that was supposed to be for 300 people – but ended up serving 500! They ministered especially in two poor communities – using an appropriate balance between Gospel presentations and compassionate acts. Pastor Flavio shared during training that “although we may never know the full effects of that trip until we reach eternity, people we run into regularly still talk about how much those Americans and their ministry meant to us!”

 

This next trip, to be held during the week following Christmas into the first few days of the new year, will be an intensive period of work in multiple communities in support of church planting efforts in the region of the Three Frontiers (the border area between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina). They will only have one day for tourism and for most of the young people, a huge hardship – they will leave their cell phones in the hotel safe – so as not to be distracted as they go and minister where the Spirit leads them.

They will work in small teams – mixed with Americans and Brazilians and their translators – to maximize their ability to plant seeds of the Gospel wherever they go. They will use singing Christmas carols in public places to get a crowd, and Pr. Flavio and others will then preach messages of encouragement to those that stop to listen. In these areas, they will encounter Brazilians, Paraguayans, Argentineans, Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, Guarani, and many tourists from around the world.

 

Having served with my wife and family in this beloved city of Foz do Iguaçu for seven years – including some overlap with Pr. John and his family, it pleases this author greatly to see how God continues to strengthen the partnership between Americans and Brazilians. The light of Christ continues to shine as brothers and sisters from one small US town join forces with brothers and sisters in a city of over 300,000 to spread the light of Christ to those that have still heard or responded to God’s free gift of salvation. What an appropriate Christmas present to give; what an appropriate New Year’s Resolution but to go and share Jesus this holiday season.

 

If this is what one small church can do for God, what can YOUR church do?

 

When a Duck May Not Be a Duck by Jim Spikes

When a Duck May Not Be a Duck.

 

Most of us know what a duck looks like when we see it.  In fact, there is a common saying that states: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.  In our culture, the reasoning behind this saying holds that the best explanation for a set of observations is usually the simplest and most obvious.

 

Along these same lines, most Evangelical Christians today probably feel they have a clear idea of what “Cross-Cultural Ministry” means. This term creates visions of faraway lands and of people who look and speak differently from us.  Many would say confidently that going to different cultures for ministry means going to a different place, learning a different language, and finding ways to introduce the Gospel to these new peoples.  This task is just as valid today as it ever was. Going to different places and to different peoples around the world with the Gospel is still a clear, inescapable mandate from God.  In our changing world, however, this understanding of Cross-cultural ministry is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the implications facing us as the Church in North America. I believe there are two additional aspects of cross-cultural ministry that are crucial for us to grasp.

 

In addition to the divine mandate to go to the nations, we are confronted by the undeniable fact that those who were once far away from us are now our neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Global economics, political upheaval, war, and other forces have produced migrations that have brought many of these different tribes and cultures to the USA.  In addition, there are groups and segments in our own society that were once separate but are now sharing common spaces together. These movements of people are changing our neighborhoods, cities and regions in a permanent, irrefutable fashion. As churches, not only must we remain committed to sending missionaries abroad, we must also think and strategize as cross-cultural missionaries in our own communities – often for the first time. The churches who are on the front lines of these changes in our cities and urban areas are confronting important questions. What does a congregation need to do when it finds itself in the middle of a city or a neighborhood that no longer looks like or speaks like most of its members?  How do churches respond with the Gospel to different cultures and peoples who may have come from a different part of the city or a different part of the world? The responses to these questions could determine whether a congregation thrives in its location, moves to a new, more comfortable location, or experiences decline and eventual death.

 

These are clearly very important questions. Yet, there is an even most important cross-cultural challenge facing every single American congregation today has nothing to do with language or ethnicity.  Many of those around our church buildings who are farthest from the Gospel are those who may look the most like us. Some in this group may even be part of our own families. To be honest, the term “generation gap” has been part of our social reality for decades. There have always been generational differences that had to be overcome in passing the Gospel from one generation to the next.  Yet, in spite of the differences, there were also shared cultural understandings as well as beliefs about truth, right versus wrong, and good versus bad that were similar enough to never call into question that these different generations were still part of the same “tribe”.  If these folks walk like us, look like us and speak like us, then they must be the same as us. Isn’t that the most logical conclusion?  That may not be the case in the coming years. A duck may not actually be a duck.

 

We need to recognize that we are beginning to deal with a different generational culture or “tribe,” Our children and grandchildren may speak the same language and be like us in many ways, but they also reflect the mindset, belief systems, and attitudes of a growing global community around them. That global community is very different in its orientation. It is fueled by almost instantaneous global communication, constant exposure to global news and anti-Christian agendas, and easy global social interactions. These younger generations think differently, they view truth differently, they judge worth differently, and they most certainly view right versus wrong/good versus bad very differently. In many ways, they have moved away from the basic Judeo-Christian heritage that characterized their parents and grandparents.  They are a different “culture” in spite of multiple similarities.  In essence, I am saying, If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, and runs on batteries, then it probably is not a duck.  This new tribe requires us to engage it with the same level of intensity and intentionality that we have traditionally reserved for the “mission field”. The first question is, can our churches engage this new tribe effectively? The more important question is, are we willing to do it?

 

Being “faithful” is not just holding on to the Truth, no matter the cost, when those around us condemn it or invalidate it. It is also doing whatever is needed to ensure that this Truth – without dilution – is ignited in the hearts and lives of those who follow us. Can we do what it takes to not only reach the different cultures around us, but also reach the “cultures” coming after us?

 

 

Multi Generational Disciple Making by Ron Roy

Making an eternal investment that keeps on giving

 

This is exactly what I think investing in multigenerational discipleship is, an eternal investment that keeps on giving. Discipleship is a life-style of obedience as we follow Christ completely and influence others to develop and impact others who are repeating the process.  Jesus saw the multiplication of disciples as His strategy for changing the world.

 

Over thirty years ago at the Baptist Camp in La Tuna, Uruguay I watched a fellow missionary, Dr. Jimmy Bartley plant pecan trees.  They were just sticks in my mind.  I wondered why he placed them so far apart.  Through the years I would see him prune, graft and nourish the trees.  Now they are giving harvests of pecans annually and provide awesome shade for the camp goers.  I thought many times, as I visited the camp through the years how important it is to have a vision for growth that looks to the future. This principle is even more important as we choose to invest in disciples who continue to pour themselves into others. We must see future generations of disciples being developed, nurtured and sent out to impact their world.

 

Do you have a spiritual family tree? How many branches? Barnabas knew the importance of nurturing in the discipleship process. He saw the potential in Saul, that others did not see. Saul later became Paul the missionary.  In Acts 9, and 11 we see how Barnabas invested in training and modeling for Paul, who later wrote to his disciple Timothy.   The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2”2  NASV.  This verse shows us that disciple making extends into on going generations of learners and followers of Jesus.

 

Dr. Waylon Moore, a seasoned pastor and author on discipleship, as well as a former International Mission Board trustee asked me once, “Ron, what is the most important verse in the Bible?”  Naturally, I had never really thought of trying to drill down to one verse. John 3:16, the gospel in miniature was the first response. But he challenged me, again.  I thought some more and said 2 Timothy 2:2  “Why did you choose this verse?” was his response. I shared with him that, Paul’s challenge to his disciple Timothy, was a lifestyle principle that had become a core value in my life, family and ministry. I shared that “the multi-generational disciple making in this verse guarantees that future generations will have a chance to hear and multiply the Gospel because the Great Commission is being lived out.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

 

Ten Important Discoveries in my own disciple making journey are:

 

  • Seeing the potential in future generations while investing in the current one
  • Let the disciple begin to pass on what they are learning as they learn it,
  • Start where the disciple is, not where you think he/she should be.
  • Learning that multiplication means creating a culture of discipleship
  • Show the disciple how something is done, not just teach them how to do it
  • Disciple making is not a cookie cutter mentality or process. People are different and the pace and method of discipleship needs to be adapted to the disciple.
  • Cultivating reproducible relationships can be messy and meaningful at the same time
  • One of the best ways to grow as a disciple is learning to disciple someone else at the same time. You learn to seek out counsel from the one disciplining you, so you know best how to influence your own disciple.
  • Discipleship is not only about learning, it is about following Christ completely
  • Encourage disciples to have a Paul, (a mentor); a Barnabas (an encourager)

and a Timothy (Disciple)  in their lives

 

One of the challenges to multi-generational discipleship making was when I was shown an outline of someone’s discipleship chain of 44 individuals mentioned by name.  These were disciples who were continuing to multiply.  Wow, that is a vibrant, multiplying, fruitful Spiritual Family Tree!

 

One time in the Summer Olympics, the 440 USA relay team, dropped the baton, between the third and fourth runners. There was tremendous disappointment for the runners and the nation.  The runners had huge potential, they were awesome champions in other events, but by not passing the baton they were disqualified.  Our responsibility is to pass the baton of disciple making to future generations. We cannot fail, the consequences are too severe. Don’t drop the baton when it comes to making disciples.  The next generation is depending on us and waiting for our example of running a race that passes the discipleship “baton” off successfully.

Is Our Toolbox Big Enough by Jim Spikes

Is Our Toolbox Big Enough?

 

 

Having lived in a variety of locations around the world, I often faced more “do-it-yourself” challenges than I ever imagined. The hardware store became almost like a toy store for me. On one hand, if the repair involved something I knew about or had the tool for, the work went easy.  In some cases, however, I was faced with repair jobs that required a very unique set of tools or skills that I did not have.  I had to choose between trying to “make-do” with a tool I already owned or going out and getting the correct equipment. It goes without saying which option produced the best result. A great collection of automotive tools offers little help for most house repairs.  A great set of carpentry tools will not be of much use in giving your car a tune-up.

 

This is part of our human nature. In the Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, published in 2012 by Yale Press, the entry under “Generals” records a modern proverb that states, “Generals (soldiers) always fight the last war.” This proverb refers to our human tendency to view the world, the challenges in front of us, and the solutions to those challenges through the filter of our past experiences.  In almost every endeavor, we tend to use our past successes, failures, and the lessons learned to build up a “toolbox” of strategies, policies, techniques, and resources that have proven useful and effective. If the issue at hand is a familiar one, then the tools in the toolbox may work. Sometimes, though, the issues and challenges are so far outside of our framework, we cannot even see them until it is too late. And, even if we could see them, our tendency is to twist or re-define these issues to make them “fit” into our accepted paradigms. This temptation to redefine issues is the reason why business and cultural writers state that we often miss important “paradigm shifts” that change our reality completely. The classic example of a missed paradigm shift is the failure by Swiss watchmakers to recognize the significance of one of their own inventions – the quartz movement.  By refusing to see the potential of this new invention, these highly effective watch manufacturers lost revenue, and many went out of business as their competitors in Japan and other locations took advantage of the new technology.

 

As churches, we are facing challenges today with “toolboxes” that may be limited or inappropriate.  It is becoming clear through observation and research that we, as Evangelical Christians are facing a cultural shift in our country that is leading many to grow more hostile to our message and our identity. There is no shortage of effective analyses and evaluations as to why this may be taking place. The important question is, “What do we do about it?”  How do we carry the Gospel effectively to a culture that more and more sees us as extremist, closed-minded, intolerant, and irrelevant? This is only one example of the multiple challenges before us.  Even as we recognize these challenges, we also struggle with the temptation to bring out our trusted “toolbox” and continue to use solutions and strategies that were very effective in a different era. It is easy to see what does not work. The numbers make that clear. Yet, we struggle to identify and see what will work. Some congregations seem to opt for “more of the same” – only bigger and better. To those on the outside, it seems that these churches are unconsciously structuring their programs and activities to, in a sense, “compete” with other churches for a slice of an ever-shrinking pie. It appears to be easier to gather believers dissatisfied with their current congregations than to reach into a lost world that is growing more suspicious and hostile toward us. The good news is that this world is desperate for the Gospel.  The Kingdom is growing world-wide and men and women are coming to faith in parts for the world that we have often considered closed. In our own Western culture, there are reasons to believe that we are living in a time in history that is as close to the First Century reality as we have ever experienced.  The opportunities abound, but they may require adding “tools” to the toolbox. The way forward may be to look back at the “tools” our brothers and sisters used in the very beginning of the Church to change the world in a generation. Many of us are facing a dilemma. How can churches continue to fill weekly calendars with more and more activity and familiar program-based “tools” and, at the same time, during the same weeks, ask their members to have time to build relationships intentionally, love their neighbors, do good to those around them and reflect the love of Jesus in concrete ways.  The God who worked in Acts is the same God who desires to work now. His purposes and desires have not changed. The true challenge is not the cultural or societal issues before us. It is whether we have the trust and faith to step back and let God guide us and work in us as He wills. Are we open to letting God use people and experiences that are very different from our own to show us new tools? Do we have the patience and the spiritual will to let God expand our “toolbox” in ways that might be uncomfortable and new so that we can become the instruments in His hands to expand His Kingdom and multiply disciples? I hope we are. I would not like the Lord to find me trying to hammer a nail with a crescent wrench just because I did not recognize the hammer He had placed beside me.

 

 

Effective Discipleship Can Lead to Mission Sending by Phil Kesler

Effective Discipleship Can Lead to Mission Sending

For many years it has been said that the local church is responsible for sending mission workers into the field. So why is it that so few are going out?

 

The secret lies in the question of discipleship — something that few churches do, and fewer still do well.

 

For most churches, discipleship means a short course between the decision of salvation and the moment of baptism. This course usually focuses on giving tithes, participating in church meetings, reading the Bible, and prayer. After one graduates with a diploma in hand, it is assumed that the person knows all they need to know to be an effective disciple of the Lord. They are on their own to discover how to serve in the local church, and little if any long-term coaching happens after that. Is it any wonder that so many come into the church and go out the back door? Would it be a surprise to see that many of these churches never send out a single missionary in their history?

 

For missionaries and those involved in new fields, discipleship is so very much more. It involves three phases – the salvation phase, the initial discipleship phase, and the subsequent discipleship or sanctification phase. At the beginning, the new disciple is taught the concept of immediate obedience to whatever God reveals in His Word. Disciples are taught to share their faith, to teach others what they have learned, and to use their spiritual gifts to edify others and grow the church. More than that, disciples are coached in life skills besides just how to memorize scripture and become victorious in their Christian walk. Disciplers accompany the lives of their disciples for life. As soon as possible, disciplers begin encouraging their disciples to take on their own disciples and begin coaching them.

 

A great example of discipleship and sending is that of the house church networks based in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Evangelism and discipleship takes place in the context of house church groups. Members study the Bible during meetings and with disciplers at other times. Through the consistent presentation of the Word of God and emphasis on immediate obedience, these house church groups recognized their responsibility to reach the world according to Acts 1.8 and a mission sending agency known as Impacto Mundial (World Impact) was born.

 

Effective discipleship means taking a person from where they are in their Christian walk, and nurturing them towards spiritual maturity through regular coaching and training. Each person is different and thus what they need may be different. All disciples need to be encouraged to pray, read and memorize Scripture, participate in church meetings, discover their spiritual gifting, evangelize, and become a discipler to disciples they will coach. The discipler / coach will also discover where their disciple is weak and encourage them to grow in those areas. For example, if a disciple has a problem dealing with fear, the discipler coach may encourage them to memorize Scriptures that touch upon that subject as well as help them step out into new areas of service with courage. A discipler / coach can also help the disciple learn how to behave properly in certain circumstances, learn to control their anger – any number of life skills that will help them become successful in Christian and daily living.  A good discipler /coach will help challenge their disciple to increase their involvement in the Kingdom with respect to telling Bible stories, planting house churches and other missional activities.

 

It should be obvious to see that THIS kind of discipleship – not a program or short course with a diploma – naturally leads disciples to more and more Kingdom focused work that is focused on reaching the nations in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!

 

What kind of church do you have? What kind of church do you want to have?

Biblical Disciple-making by Jim Spikes

Biblical Disciple-making

 

“Getting from One to Two”

 

Foundational Concepts

  1. Prayerfully set realistic expectations

There are no “magic bullets”, short-cuts or “quick fixes”

  1. Effective Disciple-makers build authentic relationships. Discipleship begins with Relationship.

We enter into the life of others and allow them to enter ours – This means we need to be willing to invest. – time, energy, money, etc.  Biblical discipleship cannot be done at a distance and at no cost.

  1. Effective disciple-makers choose methods and practices with the next generation of believers in mind.

Effective disciple-makers plan their ministry and choose methods and practices, not based on what is comfortable for them, but on what new believers may need in order to grow spiritually and quickly pass the Gospel on to others.

  1. Effective disciple-making uses structures and approaches that are simple and easy to reproduce

The aim is to help new believers learn, assimilate and pass on truth in ways that are appropriate to their spiritual age and maturity.  As they grow, more complex approaches can be used.

  1. Effective disciple-making is intentional.

Disciples are not formed by accident nor through wishful thinking. The disciple-maker looks actively for 2 Tim 2:2 type of men or women in whom to invest time and energy. All they do, they do thinking of how it will help those they disciple grow and mature spiritually.

 

 

First Steps

  1. Start Small and develop correct DNA – Think in terms of Jesus’ parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. Select 3-4 faithful people to begin doing discipleship. Look for 2 Tim. 2:2 type of people.
  2. Modeling concepts has a higher priority than teaching concepts – set clear expectations and show people what each step looks like rather than teach a course and hoping they get it.
  3. Define clearly the characteristics and core values of the disciples you hope to produce – What will they look like? – The measure of success is not the completion of a plan, a curriculum or a series of activities. It is whether or not you are seeing men and women take on the desired characteristics and begin to reproduce them in others.
  4. Effective discipleship needs to have from the beginning a “drive to lostness” as a core value. – The goal is not to have all of the existing congregation involved in the process. The goal is to see men and women moving quickly outside of the church to engage and win their family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances with the Gospel.
  5. Effective discipleship will be “messy” – Newborns often create messes that will need discipline, patience, wisdom, love and consistence to help clean up or correct in the appropriate ways. Newborns do not think like or behave like mature adults.

 

 

Saying Yes to His Rhythm and No to Burnout — by Ron Roy (Complete 5 Parts)

My Spiritual Director, at the beginning of our time together, asked me to stop while I was praying. He said, “stop praying and listen to what God wants to say to you.”
As I did, I felt that God was impressing upon me, that my work as a missionary in Uruguay had become an idol.  The obvious question came from my Spiritual Director, “Ron, “what does that mean to you?”   With a few tears forming in my eyes I responded, that “I love my ministry more than God.”  This was one event among several that helped me to realize how I was moving toward ministry burnout.

Over the next several months several verses began to grip my heart and my spirit that were instrumental in assisting me to move toward a spiritual realignment.  I started writing out Matthew 11.28-30 from different translations and paraphrases in my spiritual journal.  I learned that Jesus was wanting to teach some valuable life lessons, not just about work, but about life.  I needed to start from a place of rest in Him.  I needed to minister and work from His heart and not my agenda.  I needed to develop skills that would allow me tp listen and follow his direction.

One person God brought into my life, challenged me one day “to find Christ’s Rhythms for my life.”    The Rhythm of life theme kept coming to me from different directions.

The rendering from The Message helped me begin to see that “rhythms of grace” can happen in my work life as well as the rest of my life. 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how  to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11.28-30  The MSG.

In the months that followed, Jesus began to lay out a path for me that not only corrected my idolatry to work, but set me free from an addiction that was steeling joy from my everyday life.  I began to listen with more sensitivity, trusted more clearly, and abided in Christ with a renewed vigor and rhythm.

One of the most positive steps that I started to build into my life was to have a mini spiritual retreat every two weeks.  I tried to have it around the first and the middle of the month.  This practice helped me to have a spiritual, emotional, mental checkup.  I would make necessary course corrections to get back on track.  These mini-retreats would only last two – three hours, and became anchors for me to guard against burnout. These hours were invested in evaluating the last couple of weeks and making rhythm adjustments for what was coming ahead.  I developed a keener since of being still and listening.  Waiting and resting became more of a natural part of the flow of my connectedness and abiding in Christ.

  • What rhythm changes might be necessary for you to make?
  • What burdens are needed to be entrusted to the Lord?
  • What practical step (s) will you take to renew your faith walk?
  • What is your main rest disturber and how will you let Christ speak into the situation?

One of the ways that God has chosen to impress his truth in my life is through word pictures.  They are like modern day parables that always come with a life lessons. The most vivid of these came on the front end of my quest for boundaries and God’s rhythm for my life.

In the word picture, I was part of a traveling circus that had several acts.  I was the juggler who was keeping seven spinning plates going on top of tall sticks working franticly to not let any of them fall.  I was the lion tamer facing different dangerous challenges that caused me to strive to remain alert at all times, so I would not make a mistake.  I was the tight rope walker using a long balancing rod to keep me from falling to the ground several stories below.  I had to stay focused and concentrate on only what was ahead of me and not listen to the noise of the crowds around me. Finally, I was the trapeze artist swinging by my knees catching one after another who relied on me to catch them so they would not fall.  I could not fail; nor could I rest.    The application to ministry in each case served as a wake-up call for me.

There were multiple choices to make that affected the lives of others.  The needs for ministry were endless. Leading pastoral support groups, I was wanting to be there for those whose lives needed someone to walk along side of them.  Just living the word picture over in my mind alerted me to the fact that without rest I was in danger of hurting myself, those around me and naturally the ministry that I had been called to in the first place.

What happened next was one of the those game changer moments in my life.  My momentum, motivation and outlook did a complete turn around. Jesus added another life altering part to the word picture He gave me.  This time He took me by my hand and he and I walked to the circus together.  I was a young toddler. As we found our seats he put me in his lap and I started to watch the circus acts, the clowns and the animals.  When I looked at Jesus, he was looking at me.  I did this several times and then I realized. He is looking at me, and not the circus.  There is all of this excitement going on and he is interested in me. “I am Jesus’ Circus.”  The Life Lessons I took away were:

“Without me leading you, your life becomes a never-ending circus.”

“You are not a performer, Ron, you’re my child.”

“God, you take delight in who I am, not for what I may accomplish.”

During my spiritual retreat when I received the Circus Lesson, I was in a prayer chapel. I remember singing the hymn, “I am a child of the king.”  I read it too.  During this season of prayer, I actually got up to leave.  I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to remain and that was when the second part of the circus story above came to me.  I have thought many times; how important it was for me not to have left before He took me to the circus Himself.  This word picture became a tremendous tool to lead me away from the burnout situation I was heading toward.  But also, it has become a rhythm reminder to call me to enjoy being with Him.   Am I too much the performer? A crowd pleaser? Am I moving toward enjoying being His child, receiving His love, comfort, direction, care, assurance, joy, and hope?

  • What distractions are taking you away today from hearing from God?
  • What sounds, attitudes, actions are keeping you from being still and knowing that He is God? (Psalms 46:10)
  • What are the worries, attitudes, cares, that are keeping you from resting in Christ who is there to care for you? (I Peter 5.7)
  • What does the rhythm you are living now say about your Kingdom priorities? (Matthew 6:33)

“God does not have favorites, but he does have intimates.” This is a quote I heard from Waylon Moore. I remember saying to God that I was ready to recuperate my intimacy with Him. Not having this spiritual intimacy was definitely part of my moving toward burnout. Looking back, in trying to find His Rhythm for my life, without a doubt one of the mayor verses of Scripture was Psalms 46:10. “Let be and be still, and – know and understand – that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth.” Amplified Version.  Easier said than done, right? In time, I developed what I call a Psalm 46:10 prayer perspective.  It has been a game changer.

To be still is to remain in a state of expectation, rest, hope, and confident trust.  The opposite of being still for me is to have a hurried and cluttered mind and a divided heart.   Being still is an unnatural rhythm for me, that is why I needed to develop a Psalm 46 prayer perspective.  It is a prayer perspective, focusing on what I like to call “expectant connectedness.”  It is an exchange of my anxiety, agenda, and wants, while I adopt a priority of reflective listening using Scripture and prayer.

This prayer perspective has helped me to move toward a better balance of “Being,” and “Doing.”  Praying with stillness, is worth the effort.  Let stillness, move you to pray!

Some of the main areas for me that hinder my being still and living as one of God’s intimates through the years have been:

  1. The most obvious one is sin. Sin interrupts my stillness and is replaced by excuse making, and guilt.  Positively, conviction moves me toward repentance and forgiveness.  The concern becomes getting right again with God instead of being still and enjoying being with Him.  Sin becomes a dark cloud over stillness. When I am having, trouble being still, I ask the question, “Is there a sin in my life that is hindering my stillness?”  Sin can invade like a mighty-destructive storm, replacing all the tranquility in its path.
  1. Priorities that are out of balance cause me to replace stillness and my contemplative listening time with hurried, go through the motion, legalistic type of a devotion with the Father.
  1. Worry chokes out stillness. The spiral down the worry trail has to be cut off for me to regain the stillness perspective. This is when I Peter 5:7 becomes more than a verse to memorize, but a prayer of action to realize.
  1. Perhaps the most destructive barrier that keeps me from being still is when I go into what I call my “fix it, at all costs mode.” Like waves one after another my plans, ideas, ways of fixing a certain problem, crisis or interpersonal relationship conflict over powers like a tsunami my stillness approach to meeting with God. If gone uncorrected, it is like God is crowded out and my “fix it with my own strength mentality” trumps stillness and listening for God’s perspective, heart and wisdom about the issue being dealt with.

This Psalm was written to a nation at war.  It is a call for the nation to see all that God was doing in spite of the confusion, doubt, fear, and battle torn reality they were living.  It was not hard for me to move from the physical battle the Israelites were facing to my own personal spiritual battles.  It is in stillness that we capture the second part of the verse that says, “know that I am God.”

Too many times we want to Know God, but we are not willing to be disciplined in our hectic schedules so that we can participate in “expectant connectedness,” which has to happen, in order for the last part of the verse to be realized.  Praying in this manner is not about us, but it is about exalting the Father among the nations in all the earth.

Let Stillness Move you to Pray today with an intentional focus on becoming an intimate with the Father.  Perhaps being still could take on one of the dynamics below in your life today:

  • Be quiet, and aware that God is at work regardless of the headlines.
  • Be meditative, and acknowledge that God is still on His throne.
  • Be focused on listening and available to hear what God wants to tell, ask, show or be with you.
  • Be restful and approach life with the rhythm that He desires for you.
  • Be still and let your life announce how God can be exalted among the nations.
  • Be a sensitive listener to the whispers of God so the noise of the world will be drowned out.

Discovering and maintaining His Rhythm requires an ever-refreshing Intimacy with the Father. A single drawing was one of the concepts that moved me back into intimacy. This illustration helped me to capture life disciplines necessary for intimacy. I I used it like a roadmap to recapture the intimacy I had lost with Father God.  Nourishing my soul, mind, spirit, and even emotions all worked together to restore what busyness had tried to corrupt.  The drawing, in my spiritual life journal became an often-visited reference point.

The drawing was based on the tree in Psalm One verse three. I drew a root system and labeled them:  Prayer Life, Bible Study-Meditation, Living by the Spirit, and the Body of Christ.  I had key passages of scripture to remind me that these were to be foundational priorities in my life.  The trunk was represented by Christ living in me and John 15 was the main go to passage.  The principles of abiding in Christ and bearing fruit, with the foundational disciplines, allowed me to grow in the areas that covered the rest of the tree.  In the branches, I put my wife’s name, my three son’s names, different aspects of my job and ministries at the time.  After a few weeks, I realized that there was not a branch with my name on it. This reminded me that I need to build time into my life for my own soul and rhythm balance.  In Psalm one it talks about bearing fruit and the reality that the Psalm one tree does not wither but continues to prosper.

The drawing became like a compass helping me to find and maintain my true north. Intimacy returned as I learned to give attention to abiding in Christ once again and allowing the disciplines to determine how I was going to live.  My priorities of the day were determined by my time with the Father and listening to His Heart.  Instead of my work being the main driving force determining my schedule, “The Tree” concept was used to discern who, and or what were to be the priorities of the day.  Intimacy with the Father clarified His rhythm for me. “ My agenda,” started with finding out what was on God’s agenda for me in the areas of Being and Doing.

Among some of the lessons I learned following the Tree Concept of Priorities  were:

  • Focusing first on building Intimacy with God, paved the way for clearer priorities
  • Intimacy with God, knowing and following His heart kept me in the right rhythm

(Matthew 11:28-30)

  • Allowed me to focus on being obedient to God’s call of the day and less on trying to make things happen with my time table in mind
  • Listening more to discern His will, helped me to grow in intimacy with God
  • Fruit was more natural, meaningful, beneficial, and long lasting. Fruit was more person centered and less program oriented.
  • I was receiving spiritually more consistently, so I was fresher in giving out to others.
  • There was greater balance all-around of my priorities so I was moving away from burnout and toward contentment.
  • Those around me were able to know I was fully present and not so overly committed that although, I was present,, my mind was engaged in a long “to – do” list.

Perhaps you are in a place today where you can celebrate knowing that your intimacy with God is exactly where He and yourself want it to be.  Or perhaps you need to be reminded through the tree drawing how important the disciplines and abiding in Christ are for you to maintain intimacy with the Father. Decide today to live with priorities that bring blessing to Him and His Kingdom. Choose intimacy. Live in alignment with His Rhythm.

  • What areas are you failing to abide in Christ?
  • What particular “root” needs to be attended to for intimacy to grow in your life?
  • When you cut a tree in half you notice the rings that show years of growth, are you in a season of growth? Why?  Why not?
  • As you bear fruit in your life and ministry, how will this continue to multiply by the choices you are making to grow in intimacy with Christ Jesus your Lord?

Psalms 1:1-3 NIV  “Blessed is the one  who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,  and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers”

Abiding in Christ is the final principle in this series of articles focusing on discovering and maintaining rhythm to avoid burnout. The fifteenth chapter of John was perhaps the main chapter of the Bible that guided me back to a healthy connection with Christ.  The principles below worked together to give me a concrete example of staying connected to the True Vine.  It went along well with Jesus’ teaching of being Yoked to Him also, found in Matthew chapter eleven.  The spiritual checklist below keeps me honest in my quest for living with the Rhythm that Christ has for me each day. Learning to abide in Christ can be compared to oil in a car. Life may work for a while, but without the oil of abiding, a breakdown cannot be too far in the future.

THE PURPOSE OF ABIDING IN CHRIST: 

A –  Available, faithful and teachable, to remain connected to the VINE

15:1-6, 15-16 The Reverence of Abiding 

B –  “Bear Fruit,” “Much,” “More,” “Fruit that last”:

15:2, 5, 6, 8,16   The Results of Abiding 

I –    Intimacy through Intercession with  Christ        15:7, 16             The Road of Abiding 

D-   Disciple others to Abide in Christ                      !5:8       The Reproduction of Abiding 

E – Exalt and Glorify God above all else                  15:8                The Reason for Abiding 

THE PROBLEM OF NOT ABIDING IN CHRIST: 

I – Failure to identify with Christ completely leads to instability, indifference and the    inability to abide well with Christ.                      15:2-6 The Repentance Needed for Abiding 

N-  Nothing can be accomplished apart from Abiding in Christ.  15:4-5 The Reality and warning for those who seek to live the Christian Life without Abiding in Christ 

THE PRINCIPLES FOR ABIDING IN CHRIST: 

C- Command of Christ to love others as he has loved us.

15:9-10,12-13,17   The Requirement of Abiding 

H–  Holy Spirit will be Counselor, Truth,  power and authority for those who abide.

15:26-27    The  Ripple Effect of Abiding 

R- Radical Obedience to Christ’s commands     15:10, 14            The Rhythm of Abiding 

I-  Intentional joy from Christ through you to others 15:13         The Resilience of Abiding                                                                   (See also:     John 10:10;   14:27;   16:24;   17:13)

S- Suffering is part of the price for Abiding         15:18-25 The Repercussions of Abiding 

T-  Truth, God’s Word is the True North of Abiding

15:3,7,20, The Reliable Source for Abiding

Let me encourage you to walk through this chapter again and again while asking yourself:

  • Am I aware of the importance of daily abiding in Christ?
  • Am I needing an Abiding Tune Up?
  • In what areas am I abiding?
  • In what areas am I failing to abide? Why or Why not?
  • How have I bared fruit in the last week to ten days?
  • In what areas am I failing to obey Christ completely?
  • Is there someone I need to share this outline with and ask them to hold me accountable to abiding in Christ?
  • How am I allowing the Holy Spirit to assist me to abide in Christ?
  • Am I convinced that apart from Christ I can do nothing? What difference is this making in my life-style?

The spiritual principles found in this chapter served me well during personal retreats and became a “go to chapter” for regaining momentum in my Christian walk.  Abiding in Christ is necessary to defeat the pull toward burnout.  Abiding in Christ allows us to naturally bear fruit that multiplies and last. Abiding in Christ gives us resources when: anxiety, worry, stress and even suffering enter our lives.  Abiding in Christ keeps us fresh and renewed spiritually.  Abiding in Christ teaches us to rely on His strength, and authority, while depending less on our own power.  Knowing that we are connected and abiding in the True Vine, we can rest knowing that Christ releases His Spirit in us to encounter whatever circumstance, temptation, trials or conflict.  Let ABIDING IN CHRIST, keep your life flowing in healthy rhythm.

Ron Roy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inward Focus versus Kingdom Focus by Phil Kesler

When you look at your church, what do you see? Does it reflect the priorities of the membership, or does it support Kingdom priorities?

So much of the daily activities of traditional or legacy churches is program based – meetings, classes, and structure designed to support the ministry needs of those already attending the church; even much social outreach is simply more ministry to those that cannot make it to church but are already saved (or were least attending or family to those attending). Much is focused on maintaining, continuing, and building community inside the building – a club like mentality.

Very few churches have a hospital mentality (though there is much talk about it). Little is done to purposefully expand the Kingdom of God throughout the community among those that do NOT know Him yet. Few churches have house or cell groups that have as their focus evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication (and not just another Bible study of members that does not grow numerically) and fewer still reach different ethnic groups. So many urban churches have changed so much that the neighborhood around the church no longer reflects the original founding population but may have significant members of immigrant groups living right next door to the church building!

What is your focus – Inward or Kingdom? What’s it going to take to change? Food for thought

Where do YOU engage Lostness? by Phil Kesler

In your city, there are many people that do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. In some cities, about 80 percent are not walking with the Lord and destined for an eternity apart from Him.

What are we doing about it? Do we – do you – have an intentional plan for reaching the lost in the community? Where do you or can you go where you can have conversations that lead to salvation?

Do you visit the same gas station / convenience store, barber /salon, grocer, or gym – where folks gather, do something together, and naturally talk with one another for a few minutes? What about at social gatherings at school, community centers, and such? Waiting around to pick up a child at school? What about in the waiting room at doctors /dentists – lots of time to talk to folks.

There are many encounters that are “unplanned” during our day but much of our agenda puts us in the same places where we meet one or more people. Being in the right place at the right time guided by the Spirit was the example Jesus set for us – and he met some very interesting people that needed something from Him. I believe many of the people we meet also need something from God – and as His ambassadors, we need to be flexible to where He is working and go to those places. Who knows – today may be the day you get to present the Good News to someone that has never heard or never responded to His gift of salvation. Are you available for assignment?

The Walking Dead Are Among Us and What We Can Do by Phil Kesler

Everywhere around the world, there is a version of the Walking Dead playing on a digital device. Images of mindless zombies wandering the earth, and folks trying to protect themselves from the danger that is lurking about.

Inside every church, the walking dead live among us. The “walking dead” the church may have a relationship with Jesus. These may have been baptized. Some may be your leaders, deacons, even pastors. What is going on inside of these people that you cannot easily see?

People are very good at hiding a shaky marriage. You cannot easily tell who is a survivor from the pains of a divorce as a child. It is difficult to know who is harboring guilt or shame from past or even recent present sexual, physical, or emotional abuses. Concealing the struggles of addictions, depression, anxiety, sexual identity, trying to raise children as single parents, and other issues is what people do to try to get through one more day.  In our dysfunctional world of today, many walking dead may wrestle with more than one of the above problems – often compounded with financial, employment, or other social welfare issues.

When a person has cancer or some other physical disease that incapacitates, we get that person to the doctor to see what can be done about it. People in the church pray; it is talked about. The person works though the issue alongside of trusted friends, family, and church members. The pastor and deacons visit. Everyone rallies around the one suffering.

For most of the “walking dead” in the local church – there is no help readily available; and quite often, we don’t even want to talk about any of this out loud. After all, once we become a Christian, we are a new creation, made new – right?

2 Corinthians 5: 17 says that we have a new beginning to our life with God. He has forgiven us of our transgressions; but the damage from sin that we suffered – and are often suffering daily – still must be dealt with.

Treating these issues is messy, complicated, and requires time, resources, but most of all, someone that cares. Second – in the legal world we live in, people are afraid to tackle some issues out of fear of the church being taken to court. Third – and perhaps the most difficult thing we must admit – just like a person entering a twelve-step program – is that we really have a big problem that can no longer be ignored.

Some large sized churches generally have a system of support groups in place; some medium sized churches have one specialized support group available. Few Christian professional counselors exist. Secular counselors can provide help but may advise their client in a way that moves them further from serving the Lord and not towards biblical wholeness. The author has witnessed this very thing too many times. A hindrance in both cases is the financial question when consulting with professionals.

There are any number of ways the churches could help – from establishing couples / singles groups to young mother programs to addiction and divorce recovery groups. Food closets, meals on wheels, free health / dental /legal clinics can provide relief to many. Even if some counseling professionals could donate some of their time each week to provide pro bono services in some areas churches, it would greatly enrich the community at large. Could churches network together to provide these services to the community? Yes!

Cell groups / churches can provide much first line pastoral ministry to the walking dead – and will be there for those really struggling to provide emotional support. Small peer groups that operate with anonymity and confidentiality can help even more as they are all seeking to survive the effects of a common trauma or condition.  However, this does not eliminate the need to have counseling available to those that have deeper traumas; and the pastor does not always have the time nor the background to resolve every case.

How could churches in a city network together better to share valuable counseling resources so that those that need care have access to it where you are?  What programs, groups, or ministries need to be developed in the church right now with the resources at its disposal? How can leaders be trained / retrained to best handle certain kinds of issues and do they all know how to get someone help as efficiently as possible?

Let the church stop talking about being a hospital and become a hospital.