Let’s face it…American pastors are constantly being asked questions about whether the local church is important and why church attendance is necessary. There are those who advocate that the modern American church is broken: why not fix it with a Starbucks-style makeover?
Some people are saying “the typical Sunday morning service of half lecture and half sing-along isn’t a useful way for me to connect with God. What if, instead of the church being like a theater, a police station, or a seminary, it was more like a coffee-house?”
One of the least obvious – and yet most tragic – changes that American Evangelicalism has experienced in the past fifty years is the diminishment of the centrality of the local church in the life of many Christians. The Lord’s Day, once considered a special day dedicated to the worship and service of God, is now treated like any other day by many professing believers. And local church life, once considered the center of indispensable relationships within our spiritual family whom we love, encourage, and to whom we remain accountable, is now treated like an extra-curricular activity rather than an essential ingredient of the Christian life.
For nearly a decade, I’ve served in a church planting ministry and have worked hard to see growth, but the right kind of growth: that which comes from good health. I know, I know, everyone talks about church health: a simple Google search will identify the “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church” and “The Twelve Characteristics of the Healthy Church” and the “Eight Essential Qualities of a Healthy Church” and the “Three Core Characteristics of a Healthy Ministry.” And we at IFCA International have twenty-one Vital Signs of Healthy IFCA Churches.
But, as a church planter, I was interested in process. How do all these very good ideas fit together? Is there a process that’s identifiable for a church to follow to implement these concepts? I think the answer is yes.
During the final days of Israel’s Kingdom, King Zedekiah sought the counsel of the only true Prophet he knew. To Jeremiah he asked: “is there a word from God?” And Jeremiah’s answer was: “there is” (Jeremiah 37:17closeJeremiah 37:17 17 King Zedekiah sent for him and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?” Jeremiah said, “There is.” Then he said, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” (ESV)
closeJeremiah 37:17closeJeremiah 37:17 17 King Zedekiah sent for him and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?” Jeremiah said, “There is.” Then he said, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” (ESV)
17 King Zedekiah sent for him and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?” Jeremiah said, “There is.” Then he said, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” (ESV)
It is my settled conviction that this exchange illustrates the primary role of a military chaplain. I can easily see a Commander turning to a chaplain and asking the same question. What troubles me is that I know too many chaplains who will not respond with the same answer.
There is no doubt that the church today needs revival. But not revival as it is sometimes defined: evangelistic tent meetings in which the Holy Spirit is scheduled to arrive on our set dates. Revivals or “awakenings” as they used to be called, mark a special time when God moves upon God’s people and there is evidence of the Spirit’s powerful work among his people and those he draws to salvation through the proclamation of the gospel message.
Today there is a lot of activity in the evangelical church– lots of money being spent, books printed, and conferences held, churches planted and sermons preached. With the technology of our day, there is more access to the Bible, sermons, and the gospel worldwide than ever before. We have in our country a majority of the world’s largest churches.
But would we say that there is revival happening in our nation or our churches? Most of us would say no, and I would heartily agree.
Some people seem to come into this world just to irritate and take advantage of others. They’re “takers” rather than “givers.” Jacob was be one of those types.
Jacob’s name, which means “Deceiver,” seemed apt since he was born holding the heel of his brother Esau. His later conspiracy with his mother Rebekah to steal Isaac’s firstborn blessing from Esau demonstrates his nature. His struggles with his uncle Laban and his twenty year labor for his wives, children and their physical wealth further validate his basic tendency to depend upon his own wits, wiles and wishes to get through life.
You have to eat the brain with your fingers. It’s tradition.”
We’ve been looking forward to trying pacha. Our hosts, young refugees who have become nearly as precious to us as our own children, promised to prepare this special Iraqi dish for us weeks ago. Now it is on the table in front of us and our Zimbabwean friend.
Two lambs’ heads stare vacantly from a serving dish lined with slabs of sheep’s stomach. It has all been boiled for seven hours, with garlic and onion and salt, on the veranda of our friends’ urban apartment. A heap of fresh Iraqi flatbread, which our host has gone to some length to acquire, lies steaming in a bowl of aromatic broth. A simple salad completes the meal, one of many we have shared with this delightful Muslim couple in the last six months.
And, Lord, bless the missionaries.” It is likely that you have heard this request at a prayer meeting. After praying for healing for Aunt Susie’s serious health problems, recovery from a heart attack for John and encouragement for the multifaceted ministries of the local church, plus possible prayer for the pastor, the missionary family of the church is “covered” almost as a post script with the prayer: “and, Lord, bless the missionaries.”
What do we really mean by that prayer? How do we want the Lord to bring a special blessing to the missionary family of the church? And, how would we know that our prayer was really answered?
Building Relationships for Global Ministry – Paul Williamson As Vision World churches begin to identify those within their congregation who are called out by God to missionary ministry, the concept of interdependence can be realized in a powerful way.
Diligence for Church and Home – Mark Steiner Teaching children is an absolutely essential part of discipling children. But teaching children is not easy. Here are my top ten tips for teaching children.