Equipping The Saints

Equipping The Saints Soccer Analogy


What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part VIII

In Elizabethtown College Soccer History it has been eulogized as “The Game”!  The year before Elizabethtown College battled Hartwick College for the Division III NCAA National Soccer Championship to a nil-nil tie after six overtime periods. To prevent another tie when they met for a rematch for the National Division III title again, they started the game an hour early, just incase history would repeat itself.  It did! When regulation play ended, neither team had put the ball into the goal for the second straight year. In the fifth overtime period, during an offensive attack by Hartwick the Etown goalie was drawn out from his net and a Hartwick attacker fired a thunderous shot taking the breath out of every Etown fan. A sigh of relief was replaced by thunderous exaltation when big Dale Beiber, the son of an African missionary, placed his enormous thigh in front of the ball, knocking it down, and then kicking it down the field to safety.

After playing 90 minutes of regulation play, and 5 ten-minute overtime periods, every player, exhausted, was running on pure adrenaline. Each team was looking for the “break” that would tip the scale. That came when Sandy Kilo, the shortest player on the field, drew the Hartwick goalie out of his goal on a break away, and lobbed the ball gently over his head into the goal! Elizabethtown won 1-0! A front page pictorial of their victory lap on the Etownian, the official weekly Elizabethtown College paper, recorded history.

Why did Etown win? They were in phenomenal physical shape which provided the stamina needed and one-third of the student body weathered the 7 hour trip to create a “home game” atmosphere . Months earlier, before the student body arrived for the fall semester, the team had extensive two-time a day practices and drills. I recall one soccer player’s return from the late afternoon practice, where he took off his soccer spikes and collapsed on the hard stone porch, falling a sleep there in spite of the student traffic throughout the evening. Those exhaustive practices prepared the team for the stamina needed later.  I also was part of the masses who crammed into any vehicle heading towards New England for the game and the long, joyous, return home before the team bus arrived for a victory celebration like the College had never experienced before.

Elizabethtown had been better “equipped” for the game.  They had invested their time in physical conditioning, had worked hours upon hours on their soccer skills, had worked hard on developing a “team” concept, and had built a radical fan base that would travel anywhere to support them. They were prepared; they were equipped.

We, the Church, can learn from their experience.  We should be “equipping the saints for works of service.”  “Prepare ye the way!” is the cry heard throughout the Bible.  Preparation always precedes ministry. Jesus prepared his disciples for when he would leave the earth: he prepared them for apostleship; he prepared them to be the foundation of this new movement, the Church.  He not only prepared them, he equipped them with the Holy Spirit to “teach them all things”; he equipped them through the Word; he equipped them by teaching them the principle of laying down your life for your brethren (IJohn 3:16) so that they would establish community, a community that would survive even the most brutal persecution possible.  Preparing and equipping were essential principles needed in birthing and establishing the Church.  They are still needed today in the maintaining of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Any good building needs a foundation and needs the proper equipment to build that foundation. God knows what foundation the Church needed and equipped the Church with evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles.  I personally believe that evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles are still currently in most churches, but we need to equip them for service, then release them to do the calling they have been prepared and equipped for.  The more we prepare them, the higher we raise the bar for success, the more effective the Church will become.  Instead of dead-beat Christians who are enabled by a professional staff, we need to develop a new mindset of how to prepare them, equip them, and release them for works of service.

Life sometimes seems as exhaustive as a six overtime period soccer match, a tug of war, back and forth free-for-all that we can only win if we have been properly prepared and equipped. Like the terrific fan support, the Church needs to rally around each other as a community of faith, of believers, as priests unto the Holy Spirit, who are willing to “lay down our lives” for one another.  When that occurs, the Church will be ready to obtain that definitive score that will win the match, or “The Game” of “life”.


What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part VI

The Church’s Role In Releasing The Saints For The Work Of Service

What is the Church’s role corporately in “preparing”, “equipping”, and “releasing” the saints for the work of service?

Preparing:  The Church needs to get away from its program and organizational way of thinking, developing programs and structures that then need to be filled by positions and bodies.  Instead they need to begin to look at each individual member’s spiritual DNA, that which makes them up spiritually.  What is their passion, their desire, their dream, their calling, their goal, their point of view?  What spiritually makes them tick? How do they best function?

If they have a strong evangelistic strain in their spiritual DNA, what can the Church corporately do to prepare them to “live” and “give” the message of spiritual “birth” and “rebirth” that will be the core of their being?  The Church will have to guide them in learning what it means to “lay down your life for your brethren” (IJohn 3:16) so that believer can “live out” as an example the principle of what Jesus did for those who do not know him: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) What safer place to learn this kingdom of God place, than in the midst of the Church?  That’s preparing an evangelist to be an evangelist. The pastor/shepherd can nurture the practical life experiences of this dying and resurrecting principle, the teacher grounding it in the Word, the Bible, while the prophet can bring spiritual life to the principle, and the apostle coordinate is activity in the Christian believer’s life through the working of the Holy Spirit.

The same can be true for those strong with the pastoral/shepherding spiritual DNA strain, or teaching, prophetic, and apostolic DNA strains. The other four spiritual strains can exemplify, support, and strengthen the spiritual genetic make up of a believers growth in Jesus Christ toward maturity.

Equipping: While being prepared, the Church also needs to “equip” the believer toward his diverse unique calling in Jesus Christ. Corporately, the church can offer facilities, finances, mutual support from other believers and their giftings, callings, and DNA make up, as well as materials needed to support the effort of the individual calling of a believer.  In the Church “no man is an island; no man can stand alone.”  God has developed a body with different parts, different functions, different purposes that all work toward the health, stability, and function of the entire body. He has developed a priesthood of believers, a corporate function of all involved for one general purpose. When a person is about to be release into maturity, he knows he will not be sent alone, but with the blessing, the support, and the full backing of other believers which will serve him and whom he will serve.  When this occurs, he is now equipped.

Releasing: Now that the Holy Spirit has prepared the believer, the body of Christ, the Church has surrounded the believer in equipping him, the mature Christian is now ready to be released.  Even though released on his own, he still is, and always will be part of a corporate body of believers, the Church, who will surround him/her when needed to help fulfill their destiny and calling in Jesus Christ.  If when in the heat of spiritual battle, if one falls, they will fall into the arms of another Christian believer, another priest in the priesthood, who can administrate immediately what is needed to bring back their healing, their preparation, their equipping, to stand again in the faith.

In Conclusion: That in summary is the calling, the purpose, the direction of the five fold ministry, to prepare the individual believer for his calling in the corporate Church, to equip the individual believer by and through the corporate Church, to be released to do “works of service” glorifying the corporate Church, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Jesus Christ today!



What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part V

 Releasing Different Personalities

In a previous blog, I have written about the song “Little Boxes”, where they all came out the same.  The Church as an institution is great at producing little boxes.  Baptist create little Baptist boxes. Lutheran boxes are different from Baptist boxes but all look the same. There are Pentecostal boxes, Roman Catholic boxes, even nondenominational boxes.  I don’t think those labels will be on the boxes when God’s UPS truck takes us to heaven!

If you are a parent having “several siblings”, you quickly learn that none of them are the same even though they possess the same DNA from the same parents!  The “perfect” child who slept throughout the night since birth is followed by the “child from hell” who screams, cries, and demands a feeding, diaper job, and cradling every two hours, twenty-four hours a day!  That is enough to quit having children, but then you stretch your limits and end up having a third child because you don’t remember making love while you both were sleep deprived!  The third child is even different from his/her other siblings!  How can this be?

There are spiritual parallels. Even though we have the same spiritual DNA of our Father God, it is amazing that almost every Christian I have ever met is different!  We have different drives, different passions, different looks, different cultures, different styles of dress, accents, and personalities.  Even though we carry the same label, Christian, we act differently, think differently, are motivated differently, etc.  We have come to learn that even though we are a Church, a body of Christ, maintaining the same image, that of Jesus Christ, we are still all uniquely made, uniquely designed, uniquely wired, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  It is amazing how God loves us individually, accepts us unconditionally, yet sees us corporately!

If we are “to equip the saints for service”, then what is that to look like? What are we shaping, molding, developing, transforming? When we are finished, what does a mature Christian look like?  The answer is as nebulous as a painted portrait of Jesus Christ.  We do not know what he actually “physically” looked like, but we do know “spiritually” and even “emotionally” what that looks like? Then why do we as a church so often look at the “physical” appearance of what a mature Christian looks like rather than developing the “spiritual” or “emotional” Christian which we are supposedly preparing and equipping?  I suppose, because of the diversity of the human experience we all come out differently.

So maybe we need to learn to accept our diversity.  Maybe we should first see what the DNA make up of a person is before we try to transform them into “little boxes”, cloned images of what we think a Christian should appear or be. One person’s DNA may hold the passion and drive for the lost as a predominate gene, while another may possess the drive to care for others, to shepherd as their predominate gene.  Another may find the combination of spiritual molecules to make them strong in teaching, or the prophetic, or even the apostolic.  Each Christian has a different drive, a different bent, a different spiritual personality that still exemplifies Jesus, but in diverse ways with diverse degrees of emphasis.  The key to “equipping the saints” is giving them, “equipping them”, with what they need to be successful on their spiritual journey.

As the Body of Christ, the evangelist needs the equipping of a pastor/shepherd to nurture their spiritual growth and the growth of those they “birth” into the kingdom as well as a teacher to anchor their work and drive in the Logos Word, the written Word, making it a prophetic Rhema Word, a living Word, while being guided by the apostolic over sight of what and how the Holy Spirit is doing in one’s life in edifying the Body of Christ.  The laying down of the lives of the pastor/shepherd, teacher, prophet, and apostle around the evangelist is the “equipping” of that person, giving them what they need to have a mature, balanced ministry in the kingdom of God, the body of Christ, the Church.

The “equipping of the saint for the work of service” can be diversely different for every believer in Christ that could be a logistical nightmare for the way we do church today, but is not difficult for the Holy Spirit who sees over the entire body of Christ, individually and corporately.

With the proper preparation needed, and the equipping of the five fold around them, believers in Christ can be “released” to allow their passion, their drive, their point of view, their motivation to arise, develop, and to flourish. This step is crucial in the development of every believer!

What does a “prepared” “equipped” believer in Jesus Christ, a mature Christian look like?  Because of the diversity of God’s DNA, it may look as varied as each grain of sand in the ocean!  That is why we need the Holy Spirit who is in each individual who professes Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord to arise and bring out the uniqueness of each individual to be combined with his corporate ability of unify and develop his Church into the image of Jesus Christ to be the agent, the teacher, the drive behind the development of believer in Jesus Christ individually and the Church as a whole corporately.  Only then will the diversity of the body of Christ be accepted, respected, and released!


What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part IV

 The Only Way To Be Released Is To Release

One of the hardest things about parenting is releasing!  What! They’re 16 already, and its natural to want to be released from the “bondage” of going everywhere with your parents and counting on them for everything! They want the car keys, a driver’s license, to drive on their own? If we want them to be successful adults, we have to release them!  What! An 18 year old going off to college where there is drinking, partying, peer socializing in ways that were taboo when they lived at home! Can they morally stand on their own?  Be responsible enough to make 8 o’clock classes, develop their own proper study habits, hygiene habits? Release them!  I think it is harder for the parent experiencing an empty nest, than it is for the yearling to establish his/her own nest.  Both need to release each other: the caregiver from constantly giving, and the recipient from always receiving. It is a process called “growing up”!

Paul even is fascinated by what it takes for an immature Christian to “Grow Up” in the faith. When they are young in the faith, new in the experience of faith walking, they often stumble as new walkers do when first learning to stand on their own.  Paul calls them “carnal Christians”, those who would rather remain spoon-fed, diaper changed, cuddled and pampered rather than “growing up” and standing on their own.

The key to a Christian believer “growing up” from the perspective of the five fold who has birth them (evangelist), help them develop and grow in the faith (pastor/shepherd), taught them the Word, the Bible (teacher), guided them into how to hear from the Lord on their own (prophet), and help them to see the big picture of the Church, the family of God, as a corporate group (apostle) needing one another, is to “RELEASE”.  If we have done a proper job of “preparing” and “equipping”, no one can stand on their own unless “released”!

If we have become “enablers”, it is difficult to release, because who will do it for them if they cannot do it themselves?  Most church leadership looks at their members as never being “mature” enough to be released, thus constantly enabling them, then wonder why they haven’t grown or become independent from them! In spite of having a “heavy foot” on the gas pedal, a parent has to “release” their son/daughter to drive, even if it takes an accident to teach them why they need safe driving habits. Who hasn’t done “really stupid things” in their 20’s that they never want to admit about in their 40’s or 50’s as part of their learning process of “standing alone”, “growing up”!

When Jesus “discipled” his 12 disciples, they acted like 20 year olds, fighting for positions, trying to figure things out practically on their own, inserting foot in mouth, and often lacking the “faith” needed for the coming call.  Jesus, the Teacher, the Shepherd, had not only called them, birthed them, their Evangelist, he now was in the process of nurturing and developing them.  He was preparing them, equipping them, for what lay ahead. He didn’t freak out over their falls, their failures, their short comings, he kept pouring himself into them, willing to lay down his life for them.  He was “preparing” them!  Once he ascended into heaven, he then “equipped” them, sending His Holy Spirit. Now they were ready!

On Pentecost he RELEASED them! They were on their own, now grown up!  They were no longer called disciples nor thought of as disciples; they were apostles and began to walk, think, and act like apostles, standing tall, standing on their own.  They had been released, and were now called to “see over” what the Holy Spirit was doing to the Body of Christ, His Church, His Bride, for the purpose of “preparing” and “equipping” others to be “released” for the “kingdom of God” was no longer at hand; it was in full “Acts-tion”! They were released, a live moving forward. 

The book of Acts does not record the stupid 20-year old actions of their Pre-Pentecost experience, but records the “Acts-ions” of what they are doing as “grown up” Christians!

That is the goal of the five fold: To help the believers “Grow Up”!

And the only way to allow a child, a teen, an adolescent, to “grow up” is to eventually “release” them!  The final step to the “equipping the saints for the work of service” is the “releasing” of them.  It’s a “hands-off” policy, so the hand of God can be on them for the rest of their Christian lives of “service”.


What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part III


Then How Is A Teacher To Be An Equipper?

After reading my last blog, you might have asked, “What is the role of the teacher in the five fold if they are ‘NOT THE TEACHER’”?  It is a different mindset than what the Westernized intellect has established.  The key may be found in how we define “equipping”?

Hypothetically, let’s say you want to “explore the North Pole”, the top of the world.  How do we prepare you for the trip; how do we equip you?  Well, Westernized intellectual thought would say to study, research, dig out all the information we can find about the North Pole, sub-zero weather conditions, climate, etc.  We want to “know”, intellectually, everything we can!  We go to school, earn a Bachelor’s, Master’s, even a Doctorate Degree in a specified area so that we become experts in the field. We rent a dog sled, because that is how early explorers got there, and go on our journey only to die by hardships; we freeze to death!  We knew everything about the journey, but did not “equip” ourselves for survival!  It takes more than intellectually “knowing” about a topic, but actually “experiencing” a topic.  If we survived enough to recuperate to go on a second expedition, we would invest in proper parkas, insulated boots and specialized gloves, proper heated, motorized equipment instead of dog sleds, etc. We will have learned from “experience” what is needed to succeed. It is a harsh climate out there! Those who follow us can read our written works, our journals, study our efforts, but it would not hurt them to call, visit, interview, and ask in depth questions from us about our “experience”.  Even with that, until they “experience” the frigid North for themselves will they truly be able to relate, to “know” what it is all about.

So it is in “learning” about faith in our spiritual journey.  Even though we have written accounts from the patriarch, Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob, and accounts of Moses’ journey, Samson’s story, Daniel’s faith adventures, the many prophet’s journey, the disciples walk, and even the church’s history in the book of Acts, we still do not fully understand the truths these men have learned until we “experience it ourselves”!  That is where the rubber meets the road; where it all is transformed from theory to actuality.

The drive of a five fold teacher is to “prepare” a person for their personal journey that he is about to “experience”.  To “equip” the person with all he needs for when he is ready to do the journey alone.   Walking with a brother/sister in the Lord, beside him, next to him through life’s experiences, teaching Kingdom of God principles to practical life applications is Jesus method of teaching his disciples. When the teacher is gone, hopefully you can stand on your own for he has “prepared” you to do so.  It is more than mentoring, for IJohn 3:16 says we ought to “lay down our lives for our brethren”.  I have had several Christian mentors in my life, but they were not willing to sacrificially lay down their lives for me when needed. Jesus, the ultimate teacher, was ready to “lay down his life” so his pupils, students, disciples, apostles, so they could stand on their own after his resurrection and ascension. He had prepared them.

He also “equipped” them.  He gave them everything that they needed upon his departure to stand on their own.  The same Spirit that descended upon Him at his baptism was given to them when the Holy Spirit fell upon them!  He had been led by the Spirit to the dessert, to places of quietness, to crowded areas, places of mass ministry, to the sick to heal them, and even to Jerusalem to the Cross to fulfill his life’s calling!  He has given each Christian believer that same Holy Spirit to “teach him all things”, to “say the right things for them when needed”, to “lead them, guide them”.  He has “equipped” them with “spiritual gifts” for effective communications with Him and through Him.  He has given them “faith”, “hope”, “love”, “peace”, “spiritual armor”, purpose, etc. Like the parka’s, transportation, etc. of the North Pole explorers, Jesus has given those things not only to “survive”, but those things needed to “strive”, to succeed to the goal!

The ultimate dream of a five fold teacher is to have his students “experience” God, faith, agape love, forgiveness, repentance, righteousness, holiness, obedience, etc. on his own, using the principles of the kingdom of God that they were taught when walking next to them in life’s experiences.  When they “experience” God on their own, standing firm in the faith, moving forward in the Spirit, toward the goal, the prize of the Kingdom, Jesus, as a five fold teacher you can have the satisfaction that you have succeeded!  That is the goal of a five fold teacher.


What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part I


Our Spiritual Library’s Story

I’ve been thinking about what does it mean to “equip the saints for the work of service”?  In most Westernize churches that means intellectual training: reading books, taking courses, and holding intellectual discussions.  If I am in a men’s ministry group, I will probably have to read a book called “10 Ways To Be A Better Christian Man” or “How To Be A Better Christian Husband”. If in a small home group atmosphere, I may be asked to read a book that every small group is reading to keep the message consistent throughout the body or read articles that complement the Pastor’s sermons.  If in a youth group, “How To Win Your School For Christ” may be the reading of choice. If in a women’s group, “Thousands Of Ways To Submit To Your Husband” could be another satirical title. If being a new attender, you might be asked to read, “What We Believe” book, or if you are a developing church leader, you might be asked to read “25 Steps Towards Righteous Leadership”!  If you attend a mid-week service, you might read “Missions, A Call To The World” to keep you informed of the church’s missionary endeavors.  If you are an “active” member, you could be reading multiple books at one time!  Then when meeting as a small group, you discuss whatever book you have read: “meet & discuss” sessions.  Application of what you have read will probably be done on your own, but at least you got to discuss the matter.

Being a Christian of over 50 years, I now have accumulated a large library of books (most of which I have now discarded), have taken a multitude of courses, have sat through thousands of teachings and sermons, have taken online/workbook individualized courses, have attended a multitude of conferences, to specifically train me for what?  When I get to heaven, will I have to read “10 Steps To Get Into Heaven” so Peter and I can discuss it before allowing me to enter?

The Bible says that we are not only to be hearers of the Word, but doers! Unfortunately, very seldom has reading a Christian themed book lead me to become a doer of its material.  I have become “aware” of its topics, “informed” of its topics, and maybe even “intellectually stimulated” by its themes, but usually not motivated to actually “do it”!  Why does almost everything in Western Christendom have to be intellectualized?  The Jewish culture, which is where God decided to immerse Himself, operates out of the heart, the emotion. King David is known as a man with God’s heart, not God’s head.  His son, Solomon, is known as the intellect, constantly trying to intellectualize his faith unlike his father. Knowing God with your heart means experiencing God!  Experience goes beyond just intellectualizing it, for if you feel it, you “do it” in order to “know it”!

Maybe to start out asking how we are “to equip the saints for the work of service”, we should ask how we can help people “experience” God for themselves, and stand beside them, behind them, next to them in “their” walk of faith, in “their” unique faith journey.  What can we do to “support” them in their walk, their growth, their journey?  Finally, can we “release” them to “do it” on their own, without our guidance, in other words, “grow up spiritually”, become mature in the faith?  How can we teach them to depend on the faithfulness of the Father, depend on Jesus, depend on the Holy Spirit rather than depending on an older mature Christian or a professional staff member?  Can we “release” them so we can move on as well as they move on in our faith walks?

Being an English teacher who emphasized reading good meaningful literature, it is ironic that I am saying that we need to at some time place aside the books written by other authors, and begin to write about our “Acts” of faith, our spiritual walk, what we are “doing” for the kingdom of God. This is not to put us under legalism of a “works” kick, but to free us to walks the journeys we are equipped to walk. 

In order to understand how “to equip the saints for works of service”, I propose that we need to first understand that this journey will NOT just be just an intellectual journey, but a journey of the heart, a journey of our emotions, a journey of experiencing our faith, a faith journey in Jesus, lead by the Holy Spirit.  We will continue to walk in this journey in the next series of blogs!


Church Pigeon Hole Politics


Putting The Cart Before The Horse

Most American churches are programmatic, that is, as an institution they design programs often run by volunteers but administrated by the professional staff.  Programs make positions, and positions must be filled by people, thus titles and job descriptions are developed.  As laity, we are often told by our clergy that we should be willing to serve, to do anything for the kingdom, thus under that premise, many volunteer to fill vacant positions as nursery attenders, Sunday school teachers, youth advisors, children’s church workers, back ground singers or choir members, ushers, and other menial positions, and get stuck there for life or until they are burned out or bored. Many times people who are placed in positions don’t have the knowledge to do that position well, or don’t have the passion or drive to push themselves in that position. When there is no life in the program, we begin questioning why?

I believe that the five fold is for the laity because it is just identifying the passions that drive them, and the mentality or point of view from which they think and operate. A person whose passion is to win the lost doesn’t need motivation, they are driven by the Holy Spirit to do just it. They can’t help themselves. They think continually about winning the lost. They just need equipped by their local church, then released.  If a person is passionate about shepherding, caring for others, we need not find a “position” for them; just equip them and release them! The same with someone driven by the prophetic, or a teacher, or apostolic oversight of seeing the big picture.

The church needs to identify the passions, drives, and points of view by the people who are already active in their congregation, give them what they need to succeed, whatever that would be, alias the equipping, then release them to do their thing!  They will do it with gusto, determination, striving for success, wanting only the best, and be happy and fulfilled doing it.  The church should not place a pastoral/shepherding saint in children’s ministry just because no one else will do it, but allow them to develop a small group ministry to disciple people as they are driven to do so. If some one sees the big picture, apostolic in vision, drive, and point of view, making them an usher to see over people financially given during the offering just because the position needs filled, does not enhance their chances for ministry, and stifles their drive to use their passion effectively for the kingdom of God.

The church needs to reprioritize its efforts. People should go ahead of programs! Developing their talents and equipping them for ministry should come ahead of developing programs and asking them to fill positions.  Releasing them to go with their passion and fulfill their desire to minister effectively in their own giftings and talents should trump having to teach them, design them, and train them to successfully fill a position that drives a program.

In the world of professional public education, you have teachers who are “driven” with “passion” to teach children when they graduate with their teaching degrees. They are driven to evaluate what is best for their students and adjust their multiple teaching styles to meet that student’s need. They are in the classroom because they love teaching, are driven to do it, and are fulfilled by seeing their student’s succeed. Yet in spite of teachers earning four year degrees in higher education and multiple graduate courses and  graduate degrees, today’s public school administrators think they have to bring “programs” in for “professional development” to tell their teachers how to teach, as if they aren’t qualified to do so in spite all the education they have received.  This is thwarting and devastating many teacher’s drive, their passion to creatively and professionally teach, feeling muted, downgraded, and frustrated by always being told the administrator’s ways are always better than their own inclass proven ways. Administrators decades ago use to do anything they could to “equip” their teachers to teach, fighting for materials for their teachers and their classrooms, provided the best schedules and class sizes to be effective, not telling their teachers how to teach.

Today’s churches find themselves in a parallel position. Instead of allowing the people in their congregation to go with their passions, use their already established talents, free them to be who they are in Christ to do the works of service and “be the church”, they establish positions and tell their people ‘how to do church”! “Leadership Conferences” for pastors and staff teach “professional development” on professionally how to “do church” rather than teaching them how to equip their saints to be who they are in Christ, equip their saints with resources to succeed in their passions and endeavors, equip their saints to be successful, nor how to release their saints without micromanaging them. 

If we want the church, the people of God, to be the church, the people of God, then we got to allow the church, the people to God, to be the people of God by releasing them to be so!

We got to learn how to let the Holy Spirit be the motivator, the passion within the saint, to be the trainer and developer of the saint, to be the equipper giving the saint whatever he/she needs to succeed.  The professional staff has to quit trying to be the Holy Spirit for the saints! That never works!

We have to develop a new mindset: Instead of investing in church programs, instead of investing in more staff or “professional development” for the staff, let’s start investing in the saints, the Church, the people of God!  Let’s start equipping them for success, and releasing them to be what God has created them to be! Let’s put the horse again in front of the cart! 


Store House Tithing: A Lost Art In Christendom Today


Preparing A Church For Rough Times

In the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, Chapter 41 portrays the powerful narrative of how Joseph goes from imprisonment to be second only to Pharaoh in power. He interprets Pharaoh’s dream of 7 years of abundance and 7 years of famine. Pharaoh places him in charge of “store housing” 1/5 of Egypt’s grain during the years of plenty to be distributed during the years of famine. By the time the famine subsides, the Egyptians have sold their souls for grain, and Pharaoh owns all of Egypt and begins building a great empire built on tyrannical control.

By the time we get to the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, Chapter 3 God asks, “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask me ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.”  Israel is being challenged to use the very principle that God had Joseph use in Egypt. I call it store house economics: creating a store house in times of wealth to be drained during times of need.

Watchman Nee was a Bible teacher and leader of the church in China before the Communist take over. I enjoy his teachings in the context that he is preparing a Church for persecution.  What Nee teaches would be monumental in the Church’s survival under extremely harsh persecution.

Many Christian church leaders want you to read his “Normal Christian Life” book because it is about submission to authority which they want their people to dutifully do, but very few recommend his book “The Normal Christian Church Life” which is about apostles, elders, the basis of union and division, and store house tithing, topics that are not propagated by most American churches, particularly financially. 

I do not personally know of a Christian church that practices store house economics here in America. During times of plenty we have built monumental cathedrals called mega-churches, increase professional staffing, invested in theatrical lighting, sound, and technological advances to create a highly professional worship service.  During times of plenty we have created marvelous monuments of awe, but when the size of the congregation dwindles, the economic hard times arrive, budget cuts are the buzz word, and our edifices are mere replicas of former years, the cry of need arises, but there is no funding for the now drastic programs needed for survival. We failed to heed the call of store house economics. During the time of prosperity we have heard the mantra over and over again of “give, give, give” financially from your blessings, and as downward economic times hit that of “give sacrificially”, yet there is no store house from which to draw in time of need. The fat of America’s churches has been squandered, and during the recent economic downturn their colors have shown. Churches have faced budget cuts, downsizing of staff and personnel, aging buildings, yet try to maintain pre-lean year budgets.

We have invested in our buildings and properties, in taking care of our professional leaders financially, and in developing our staffs, but have we invested in our people, those who attend our churches?  Have we effectively taught them discipleship to stand on their own faith, read the Word on their own, listen to the still voice of the Holy Spirit on their own and corporately, then act obediently to what they have seen and heard? Have we equipped the “saints” for the work of service (Eph. 4) or have we financed a professional staff to do that work for us?  If the professional staff is eliminated due to economic strains, can the common committed brethren stand on their own?  If the church doors would be closed, where would they go to congregate, to pray, to get teaching, to corporately hear from God and worship?

A church that invests in its people will survive any economic downturn, persecution, famine, or time of difficulty. God says, “test me” in Malachi to see if store house economics works! He promises only blessings if the Church practices it!  If economic recovery returns to America, will the church's wasteful spending and grandiose projects come back, or will it have learned to make “store houses” for the next economic down turn, the next time for need!

During down times, we naturally look to the Lord to provide our needs; we got to naturally look to the Lord in good times to provide from our excesses and store it for times of need. For America and most of the Westernized world, that is a totally radical mindset, but a mindset we MUST embrace if we are to be good stewards of God’s kingdom.


Who/What Is Your Church Investing In?


Should Church Budgets Reflect Christian Development Or Staff Needs?

This past Sunday, the church that I attend had a “Family Talk” instead of the sermon which basically was a dissertation from the pastor with a few supportive comments from the three elders that now comprise the church’s board.  There was no input from the family sitting in the pews, no feedback, no questions, just a one way dialogue. The presentation showed the direction leadership would like to the congregation to take in the next year by outlining the budget items that would reflect their direction, and a plea for those in the pew to finance those endeavors through generous financial contributions this year.  90% of the budget was nontouchable, already designated areas of commitment, whose details were not disclosed at the meeting. New initiatives comprised 10% of the budget.  Only 2% of the budget was designated for “Equipping” or training the saints, the pew sitters, toward Christian and leadership development.  More money was designated for developing relationships with New Frontiers networking, for developing Life Groups by training leadership through an 18 month course commitment on counseling to have them certified, for establishing “programs” to draw people to the church, and for deferral of payroll cuts than were designated for “equipping” or developing the saints, the common believer, the pew sitter!

I don’t think their budget is much different than most of today’s Christian Church budgets for buildings and grounds, mortgage payments, payroll commitments, staff professional development and needs, and maintenance supplies comprise a greater load of the budget with other commitments like missions, administrative pledges to overseeing organizations, and benevolence funds.  Very seldom is there a major commitment financially for “laity development”.

I thought a major mission of the church was to “develop disciples”, to develop the saints? Fully funding Pastor(s) and staff to Christian Leadership Growth Conferences is the norm, but financially funding the development of the saints toward Christian discipleship has been neglected by the local church.

So what are we developing the saints to become?  Future professional clergy? Future staff? Future Leaders (of what?)? If we developed them to be evangelists would we allow them to give “evangelistic messages” ie. sermons or personal testimonies during Sunday Worship Services, or develop their own outreach programs? If we developed them to be pastors/shepherds, would we allow them to mentor other Christians without being under the micromanaging microscope of the pastor and staff?  If we developed them to be teachers of the Word, the Bible, would we allow them to actually preach from the pulpit? What would they be allowed to teach? How do we overcome this fear that their teaching would be heretical, off base, unprofessional? If we developed them to be prophets, what outlet would we give them to prophecy, to flow in the Spirit in freedom? Of course, we would never allow them to develop apostolic skills, for the professional pastoral staff and senior pastor feels that is their exclusive role, not laity’s! A nonskilled, nontrained, nonprofessional seeing over the work of an entire church would be unthinkable!

Most Christian church’s produce “enablers”, for the professional staff does everything for them: prays for them, preaches to them, teaches them, does visitations for them, extend hospitality through the church’s coffee bar to them, provides “programs” for them so they can meet socially, tells them in a service when to sit, when to stand, when to sing, when to pray, when to greet one another, and when to give financially while announcing all the church events because they believe their flock is to ignorant to read or understand the printed bulletin they gave them to read.  We don’t develop disciples of Christ, nor leaders if all we do is enable them; and then we get frustrated when they don’t do anything or respond to a preordained programs.

We, Christians churches, must begin to “invest” in the people who are “financially investing” in their “professional staff” to do all things for them!  Pew sitters, the saints, must begin to do more than just “pay the bills”!  But how?

Professional Development is designed to develop the professional in what he does in his profession!  Getting a college degree, a proper certification, an academic title directly influences one salary and leadership position. That is for the professional staff, but what do those in the congregation have to do to earn positions of favorability, positions of freedom to serve, positions to minister in freedom?

I know of no church staff that tries to equip the saints to do what they do, thus putting themselves out of a job! Instead of focusing in “equipping” or “preparing” the saints for service, the professional staff gets caught up in doing it themselves, for they are better trained, better equipped, and more highly educated to do the task than their counterparts in the pew.  What message is the church sending when they want their parishioners to financially support their budget to pay their salaries, their expenses, their benefits, their professional development, yet the budget holds little to financially support the laity’s own personal development in their faith, their journey, their spiritual growth?

Check your church budget. What does it reveal? What or who are you investing in? Are the saints lost in your budget? Oh, I forgot, they aren’t lost; they just have to finance is sacrificially through their tithes and offerings, usually under the premise of feeling guilty through funding drives and pleas every Sunday before the offering.

Where you put your money exposes your heart, your treasures, your priorities, and your goals and dreams. Church budgets reveal the heart and treasure of the church.  Unfortunately, we should be shocked at what they reveal, and begin to rethink how we should readjust our priorities in them.


Following & Equipping Through Obedience


Qualifications For The Five Fold – Part I

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen, and He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.  Matthew 4:18-22

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And He got up and followed Him. And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples, for there were many of them, and they were following Him. Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, and said to his disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick, I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Mark 2:14-17

He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the names of twelve apostles of the Lamb. Rev. 21: 10, 14

While on earth, Jesus was choosing men to become foundation stones for his New Jerusalem, choosing men to be evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles. What kind of men did he choose? What were their credentials? What did Jesus do to “equip” these saints for the work of service that would impact centuries to come?

It is interesting to note that he did not pick one scribe, the theologians of his day, nor one Pharisee, the highly religious person of his day, nor started a school for rabbis, the spiritual teachers of his day.  In fact scribes and Pharisees are the only people he verbally criticizes with a venomous zeal.  In stead he chose every day, common, religiously untrained people: fishermen, tax collectors, and others by trade who were willing to lay down their occupations and careers to “Follow Me!”

Jesus was willing to live with them, walk with them, spent time talking, discussing, teaching, modeling, directing, just doing what he expected they would eventually do.  He invested Himself in them; in turn, they dropped what they did, followed Him, and invested themselves in Jesus! 

Jesus was looking for was obedience: He spoke; they followed! He did not ask for resumes, conducted no interviews, nor demanded any formal academic or religious training. He spoke; they followed! Religious people were busy taking their sacrifices to the Temple, but Jesus said, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” He spoke; they followed!

To be an effective follower of Christ, a believer in Christ, a disciple of Christ, an evangelist propagating Christ, a shepherd leading a flock for Christ, a teacher expounding the Word of God about Christ, a prophet proclaiming the life of Christ, or an apostle overseeing the Body of Christ, you have to be obedient!  When Jesus speaks; you must follow what He says in obedience! It is that simple.

Were these disciples very obedient? Scripture records they squabbled amongst them selves over power, who would sit on Jesus’ left or right when he rules His kingdom; He taught them in parables, then He had to reteach it to them in simple terms for they did not understand; He often rebuked them, “Oh ye of little faith;” Peter becomes known for “opening his mouth and inserting his foot”, yet Jesus chooses him to become “a rock” in this movement; and they all run, flee, and hide in fear when Jesus is crucified and become skeptical when first told of his resurrection.  In spite of all this, they still qualify because Jesus chose them, and they followed. Jesus continues to extend Grace and Mercy, and they continue to receive and take it.

Ephesians 4 encourages the Church to “equip the saints for the work of service.” These initial followers were not yet equipped for service in spite of their training, in spite of walking by Jesus side, in spite have a personal relationship with Jesus, their Messiah. Peter denies Jesus three times, yet before his ascension Jesus affords Peter the opportunity reaffirm his love for Him three times, then commands, “Follow Me!! 

Acts 1:4 records: “He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised.” If they were obedient, he was about to “equip” them. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Jesus’ followers, his disciples had been trained, had walked a spiritual journey with Jesus, but now they were going to be “equipped”; they were going to be “empowered” and that “empowerment” would require “obedience”. When Jesus’ Spirit, the Holy Spirit, speaks; you must follow what He says in obedience! It is that simple.

As I have said often in past blogs - bottom line: Can you trust the Holy Spirit? Will you be obedient to what He reveals and says? Empowerment comes through obedience.  He has equipped you with His Holy Spirit; now go in obedience!


America & The Church: Facing The Challenge Of Community


The Need For The 5 Fold – Part II

The Issue: How To Develop Community (Continued)

Today’s churches look for programs and models that have been proven “successful” by other churches and pattern their program after it. The five fold doesn’t recreate; it creates. “In Jesus Christ all things are new,” as the scripture says.  The Holy Spirit can direct one local church to do one thing, yet has another church do something completely different.  The Holy knows the hearts of men, so it knows what we are or are not willing to do, our faith levels, our commitment, our foundations of faith. 

If your church wants to reach out to the urban neighborhood, you might pattern other ministries: begin with a door to door evangelistic thrust handing out tracts about your new ministry, offer a soup kitchen, create a community food and clothing bank, develop a Rescue Mission or drug free half way house, etc, but do these proven and highly effective ministries fit with your congregations gifts?  Will your church be over taxed eventually causing burn out if they tackle on all of this? Do you have the resources needed?

On the other hand, if examined from a five fold perspective, the five gather to “seek” the voice and direction of the Lord in what to do to revitalize this neighborhood.  During time of prayer and worship, the evangelist cries out in intercession for the lost, the shepherd sees the overwhelming need in the community and begins to prayer for provisions and direction, the teacher searches the scripture for a relevant scriptural foundation to base this endeavor, the prophet seeks the presence of the Lord, desires to hear from Him,  and seeks a living gospel, and the apostle intercedes with the other four for the cause of the whole project.  The Lord may first direct the team to do nothing but pray and intercede for a time, or canvas the neighborhood to feel its life or pulse, or walk the streets just to talk to people and begin basic relationships, etc.  Out of those faith walks may come hints of direction.  The Holy Spirit may reveal the needs, desires, atmosphere, and character of the community, giving the five a “sense” of the proper direction. Soon the needs, dreams, desires, wants, wishes, and challenges of the community become clear, and the Holy Spirit gives the five a plan to implement. Now they have to be obedient and “just do it”, not doubt.

Often the believer with an evangelistic bent leads off the endeavor, birthing the project.  As it begins, the shepherd kicks in and begins maintaining an effective infrastructure.  Both of their efforts come in line with Biblical examples taught by the teacher and are given life through the prophet while the apostle is amazed at what the Holy Spirit is doing, releasing the other four in the freedom to minister according to their desires and passions effectively.

Instead of a soup kitchen, the Holy Spirit may make the members of this church open their homes to strangers, released prisoners, drunks and drug addicts helping them to kick their addictions, feeding them around their own kitchen tables while building relationships, making them feel part of a family, being accepted just where they are.

Service is always central to the five fold, for Ephesians 4 says we are to “equip the saints for the work of service.” The more the church community serves the neighborhood, the more the neighborhood looks at your church not as a religious institution but as a group that builds relationships and serves.  When the religious barrier drops, the effectiveness of service through relationships thrives.

Each neighborhood has its own flavor, its own uniqueness, its own personality and character from the diversity of people living there, the culture they have creative, and even the architecture and history, so the plan to conquer it for Christ has to be personal, unique, and diverse to be effective and can not be a copy of another church’s work.  This is the power of the creative work of the Holy Spirit, and what better avenue to funnel that creativity than through the five fold giftings, passions, and point of views to bring unity in one’s community and neighborhood through diversity?


The Five Fold Is Already In Your Church; I Sincerely Hope So!

Ways The Church Might Change: Point 10

[In a previous blog I have outlined 10 possible changes the Church may face in the future. This is point 10 in the series: God has been reestablishing the evangelist, pastor, teacher, prophet, and apostle back into the Church. They are in the Church now!  This generation has to be open to allowing the Holy Spirit to bring them together through submission and releasing one another to operate in their passions, callings, and voices to bring unity to the body of Christ and being effective.]

As you have seen throughout this series, I believe revival in the Church will come through relationships vertically with the Godhead and horizontally among believers while demanding total trust in the Spirit of Jesus Christ to lead the way.   If you have read my series on metamorphosis, you would also know that I believe that the Church is in a time of transformation, a cocoon stage, where the current slow cumbersome caterpillar structure of the Church is being transformed into a complete different structure, a hard shelled resilient structure of a butterfly that will allow it to fly.  The Church is in a period of change, but as members of the Church, the Priesthood of Believers, the Bride of Christ, are we willing to embrace these changes?

One of the changes that is occurring is the reestablishment of the five fold of Ephesians 4 back into the church as passions, gifts, points of view, and voices in individual believers to make them more Christ-like and bring unity within the Church that has not existed for the last 20 centuries.

Every local Christian church needs an evangelistic passion to win the lost and proclaim the message, “You must be born again” of “the water and the spirit”.  With revival is always a powerful movement of new believers in Jesus Christ.  The evangelistic spirit is the spirit of birthing, and every local church needs that spirit in order to grow in number.

Every local Christian church needs a pastoral, shepherding spirit that nurtures, cares, develops, equips, trains, and releases their believers towards ministry, “works of service”.  The evangelist births, but the pastoral/shepherd nurtures these newborns through their spiritual childhood and adolescence to prepare, equip, and train them in Christ-like character development to release them to be able to stand and advance the kingdom of God as mature believers. The pastoral/shepherding spirit is the spirit of development, and every local church needs that spirit in order to grow in character in Christ-likeness.

Every local Christian church needs the teaching spirit. The Word of God, the Bible, is the foundation of all that happens in the Church. Every Christian, without exception, needs someone to help them understand the Word of God for themselves through the tutorage of the Holy Spirit.  Every Christian needs to memorize scripture, exercise the knowledge of knowing or recalling scripture, and bases everything they do upon the Word of God. The teaching spirit sets the foundation for the Church, so every local church needs that spirit in order to stand firm.

Every local Christian church needs the prophetic spirit, the capability to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit for themselves, as well as being able to take the Logos Word, the written Word, the Bible, and make it the Rhema Word, the living Word.  The 1st Century Church took the Logos Word, what today is known as the Old Testament, and made it the Rehma Word, the living word, as they lived out their new faith and recorded it, thus the New Testament.  The prophetic spirit activates life into the Church, so every local church needs the prophetic spirit to move forward in living out their faith.

Every local Christian church needs the apostolic spirit, the ability to “see” what the Holy Spirit is doing and saying and be obedient to it, the ability to identify giftings in other believers and equip and train them in their Christian development, and the ability to release other believers in their gifting, their calling, their destiny in Jesus Christ.  Instead of administrators in a business sense, the Church needs developers and investors in other Christian believers, people with spiritual parenting skills. The apostolic spirit brings unity, direction, harmony, and stability to the Church, so every local church needs the apostolic spirit for direction and over sight.

Now for the shocking conclusion: I believe all these spirits are already in people in your local congregation. The five fold is already present, seeking to be manifested right among yourself.  All we must do is embrace the Holy Spirit to birth, develop, and release these passions, visions, and points of view among us, the believers in Jesus Christ, the Priesthood of Believers.  They need to be “activated” among the laity in order to be effective. Clergy/laity labels must cease, so all believers in Jesus Christ can be empowered, developed, equipped, and released into their destiny in the kingdom of God.  The key to the next revival is that it will touch “all” believers in Jesus Christ, not just the professionals, nor the old establish believers, nor the chosen few.  It will be a massive world wide movement to remove the “spot and wrinkles” of the Bride, the Church, in preparation for the Groom, Jesus’ return.  It will impact Church structure like no movement in history has, not even the Great Reformation.  I prophesy that the way my great-grandchildren do Church as adults will look nothing like the pew sitting, hymn singing, pulpit preaching church services of my great-grandparents.  Church, if we want REVIVAL, we must be prepared for change, and be open to what the Holy Spirit desires to lift the name of Jesus and establish the Kingdom of God over the entire earth! Revival, come!


Laying Down The Principle Of Selfless Blame

10 Ways The Church Might Change: Point 7

[In a previous blog I have outlined 10 possible changes the Church may face in the future. This is point 7 in the series: “Laying Down One’s Life”, vertically in our relationship to God and horizontally in our relationship with each other, is central to the gospel. On the Cross, Jesus “laid down his life” for us!  On the Cross, we must “lay down our life” for God and for each other.  Without understanding this principle, we cannot function in plurality, nor as a priesthood, nor as an unified body.”]

I explained in a previous blog, point #2, about the importance of the vertical plane between God and man and the horizontal plan between man and his fellow man that dissect each other making up the context of the Cross.  Also in my last blog I addressed the issue of the body of Christ, the Priesthood of Believers, the Church, as a pluralistic body of diversity, yet a single entity as one. The question that needs to be asked is, “How can such a diverse body be united and remain united?  The answer lies in putting the two blogs together.

In order for the Church to be united it has to embrace the doctrine of Priesthood of Believers, that in spite of its extreme diversity, common, everyday believers are the backbone of the Church, and it is they who have to step forward and perform the duties that are necessary for the Priesthood of Jesus Christ to succeed as one united distinct unit.  The Church’s diversity in the past is the very thing that has torn it asunder when what makes them different is the very thing they stood up for bringing division. Then what can keep the Church united; what will be the glue?  As I have suggested earlier, the answer likes in I John 3:16 where we, as believers in Jesus Christ, are to “lay down our lives for the brethren”.

My first reaction is that “attitude” can never be attained, for there is no historical proof.  Historically, the opposite, division, has always resulted, so why would I believe in the impossible.  I know scripturally it says, “all things are possible in Christ Jesus who strengthens me,” but this dimension goes beyond the vertical relationships between God and man through Christ Jesus, it goes between man and man.  As man, Adam, a creation of God, are we willing to consciously make the decision ourselves to be “selfless”? Can we willing lay down our life for the common good of the unit, the Body of Christ?

Jesus, as a man, as flesh and blood, as the Son of God, came to earth to be obedient for the cause of laying down his own life, willingly, for the brethren.  He proved that such a deed can be done only through “Christ Jesus who strengthens me”, but just as Jesus experienced on the Cross, it could be extremely painful.    Being Christ-like means one has to be utterly “selfless”; it is not about me, but about the kingdom of God.

So what does it mean to be selfless, to lay down your life?

Jesus, when on the Cross, never played the “blame game”? The Church has debated over the centuries, “who is to blame for Jesus’ crucifixion?”  Some blame the Romans and Pilot washing his hands clean of a case for political gains of an innocent man being accused by a ruthless mob.  Some have blamed the Jews, the Sanhedrin, or Jewish governing body, for Jesus’ crucifixion.  The great reformer, Martin Luther held this anti-semantic view during his life which became the seeds for the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust later in history. Some blame it on the sins of you and me, a favorite theme of modern day Evangelical evangelists.  Jesus did not blame the Romans, nor his fellow Jew, nor you or me, for while on the Cross his attitude came out in His own words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  His crucifixion was preordained by God, the Father, himself; even prophesied by prophets of old. It was going to happen because it was part of God’s eternal plan. There IS NO BLAME!  Even blameless, selflessness is being willing to take the blame even though it is unjustified; that is what Jesus did! As the Sacrificial Lamb, he took the blame even though he was innocent, willingly, selflessly, for the good of mankind!

“Laying down your life for your brethren” must begin with laying down and crucifying one’s “blame game”.  It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. What matter’s is God’s will, God’s eternal plan, and if that plan is to lay down the blame, carrying the unjustified burden and accusations even thought you may be right, even at the expense of one’s reputation and life, then do so! That is being “Christ-like”! It was never God’s plan for the Priesthood of Believers to be blaming and condemning one another for their faults, sins, and short comings; It was God’s plan to extend GRACE to cover his/her faults, sins, and short comings.  The Church preaches grace; now it is being called to LIVE GRACE TOWARD ONE ANOTHER!  Impossible, you may first shout, but again “all things are possible in Christ Jesus who strengthens you!”

Church, brethren, the Body and Bride of Christ, the Priesthood of Believers, let’s begin to “lay down our lives to/for one another”, “selflessly”, “without blame” while extending “grace”; for then we will see the miracle of the fulfillment of the unity of the Body of Christ for which Jesus prayed in John 16.  No prayer goes unanswered, and neither will this one, particularly if Jesus himself prayed it and fulfilled the answer to that prayer!  At the cross, being willing to “lay down one’s life”, blamelessly, selflessly is where REVIVAL begins. Church, let’s let the REVIVAL begin there with ME!


How Prepared Is The Church?

 10 Ways The Church Might Change:

Point 5 – Part 2

[In previous blogs I have outlined 10 possible changes the Church may face in the future. This is point 5 in the series: Church offices will be replaced by leadership built on relationships, not position.  Because of what one does, will one be respected or rejected. This will not be based on works, but on grace, mercy, and obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Leadership will be established by those who are willing to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and be obedient to that voice.]

I believe that revival in the 21st Century Church will demand leadership built on relationship among the local brethren. That was also the pattern of the 1st Century Church.  Paul, listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit, was lead to a city to evangelize or proclaim the gospel or “Good News” of redemption of Jesus Christ to a dying and degenerate world.  With new converts, Paul then led them through teaching and personal modeling in this new Christian lifestyle of “holiness”, “righteousness”, and walking in faith, grace, mercy, and acceptance that was foreign to their old ways of life and surrounding culture.  As they grew in this faith journey with Jesus led by the Holy Spirit, Paul then trained and equipped them for leadership, so when he left their area, they could stand on their own and grow in faith and in numbers.  He never controlled them, only equipped, trained, and encouraged them in their growing faith, in their studying of the Word of God which where Old Testament Scriptures, and relying on the Holy Spirit to interpret those in light of this new Christian culture for Jews and gentiles.

Can you image how grateful the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Galatians were to their inbreed leadership who were trained and equipped by Paul and other visiting apostles like Barnabas, Apollos, and Timothy for leading them into the knowledge of the salvation of their souls through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross and the power of his resurrection, for developing, training, and equipping them to walk a life worthy of Christ Jesus, and release them into the gifting of the Holy Spirit for their personal growth and the edification of the entire body of believers? 

I know that my wife and I have been spiritual parents to three sets of youth throughout our lives.  They still call us Mamma B & Poppa B, but it gives us great pleasure to see their spiritual growth now that they are adults.  They have deep respect for us, and that respect is reciprocal as they continue to grow in Christ.  As spiritual parents, it is hard to describe the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of your investment. I can understand Paul’s letters to those he has trained and equipped as he sees them grow in their leadership skills.

When there is a revival, there is immediate growth, and often the need for leadership is great.  The proper training and equipping of the saints prior to a revival is a necessity, for once revival starts, there is no time for training because so much happens so quickly.  When the cause of evangelism begins to produce new babes in the Lord, those with leadership skills in properly nurturing and care, pastoral skills, are needed to develop and walk out this faith journey with these new converts.  As they grow, they needed grounded in the Word, thus the need for leaders with teaching skills. They need direction, guidance, and to learn to know the voice of the Holy Spirit and how to be obedient on their own, thus the need for a prophet.  Finally, there is a need for someone to pull it all together, to bring together the efforts of the evangelist, pastor, teacher, and prophet for the purpose of spiritual growth and unity in the body of Christ, thus the apostle. 

In a day where many are leaving the professional ministry due to burnout, the Church needs to reevaluate how it trains leaders and for what purpose if they truly want to see and be a part of revival.  The laity, the saints, need to be drawn out of their passive modes that we have enabled with, and train them for the works of service.  Then the Church will be ready for revival.

I truly believe that the Church as a whole has not yet seen revival because it is not ready for it. “Prepare ye the way” is a strong Biblical theme throughout the Bible.  The way is “prepared” before the major event occurs.  John, the Baptist, was the forerunner of the Messiah, “preparing the way”. The Church, the Bride of Christ, is to be without “spot and wrinkle” in preparation for the Groom’s, Jesus’, return.  I believe the Church is in a season of “preparation”, so that will require change.  Change in the way we train leadership; change in the way we worship together; change in our leadership structure; change in how we do “body” ministry; and change in our attitudes toward Christian brethren who do not practice their faith exactly the same way we do.

What is the Church going to do during this transitional time of preparation?  Are they going to continue their current attitude of doing nothing while clinging to past traditions, or are they going to embrace change no matter how radical it may look.

When, not it, world-wide revival hits, the Church needs to have prepared evangelists, pastors, teachers, prophets, and apostles by equipping them and releasing them to serve.  It is a monumental task, but world-wide revival is a monumental event. It is the event that will unify the church while removing its “spots and wrinkles” in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the ultimate world-wide revival.


Personally, I Am Not Against Clergy; I Just Want To Challenge The Laity

But To Challenge The Laity, They Must Be Freed Of Dependency On The Clergy

Recently a personal friend of mine, a member of the professional clergy, ask me how long I would be clergy bashing.  It have had to step back and examine what I have been writing and their purpose.  I do not want to sound that I am against the clergy as persons, but I do challenge the authenticity of their existence Biblically from a “professional office” position. To me “pastor” is not a professional paid position of leadership, but one of the points of view or passions of the five fold mentioned in Ephesians 4 that is available for all believers in Jesus Christ.  I believe every believer in Jesus Christ can be an evangelist, or a pastor, or a teacher, or a prophet, or a prophet, or even a combination of those experiences. I am also a believer in plurality of leadership through these multiple giftings where believers are called to “lay down their lives for their brethren” (IJohn 3:16) in order for leadership to work effectively.  There is no hierarchal distinction of leadership where everyone is laying prostrate before each other in service!

Over the years some of my best friends have gone into the professional ministry; my best man in my wedding is a respected professional minister in the Lutheran Church circles.  Often you hear the term “called into the ministry” which I fully believe in.  What one faces as a professional Christian needs a response to a “calling” in order to survive.

Personally, I was part of a “calling” when in my early twenties I was invited to respond to an invitation to become a member of the “free ministry” at New Fairview Church of the Brethren where their leaders are chosen for life and receive no monetary compensation for their efforts.  This, historically, has been their practice since their inception, and generations later they have had home grown leadership.  When asked to respond to a “calling”, I prayed and fasted for a week and got a red light to the calling. I was honored by the recognition that a local body of believers was willing to stand behind me in leadership that would be for life, but God had other directions for my spiritual walk.

I believe in home grown leadership verses professional westernized theological training. Paul, an apostle, would come into a city, birth a church, develop the Christian character of those attending, and raise up local leadership, then leave to start a new work somewhere else.  He did not bring in the “Antioch boys” to replace him.  He did bring in outside sources like Barnabas, the encourager, to help “equip” and “train” the locals for when he would depart.  He even came back to visit them to check on their progress.  His letters are often written to those he trained, and often he mentions them by name. 

Jesus was the son of a carpenter whose trade I am sure he learned and Paul a tent maker.  Several of His disciples went back to their professions as fishermen after His death and resurrection. No where in the New Testament can I find where there was developed a differential between a professional and nonprofessional believers. “Equipping the saints” was the apostolic goal of the first century.  Rapid expansion could only come through the “equipping of the saints”, particularly preparing them for the upcoming persecution and martyrdom that they would face.

Burn out rate is high among today’s pastors, the professional clergy, because the laity expects them to be all things to all people which physically, psychologically, and emotionally they can’t. Because it is “part of their job”, most parishioners expect their pastor to be a teacher, a people person, a counselor, a prayer warrior, a church politician, an organizer, a motivator, a Biblical scholar, a person who they can call 24/7, an administrator, and so much more.  They expect their pastor to pray for them, read and interpret the Word for them, provide necessary fellowship by being their personal friend, and, unfortunately, most clergy try to comply which enables their parishioners to continue to be pew sitters, uninvolved, untrained, Biblically illiterate, lacksidaisical in their prayer life, and childish in their spiritual development.

Church leadership needs to train the saints; then release them “to do it”!  Jesus had to teach Peter to walk on water because he had to learn how to focus on Jesus and not the storm, believe in faith, and do the impossible.  It was equipping Peter for what lay ahead in his life, in his calling to be a “rock” in this new Church.  Jesus trained, equipped, developed, and released his disciples to do even “greater things” than He. Ought we not follow Jesus’ example.

So in conclusion, I want to encourage Church leadership to train others in their local congregations to replace them, to multiply. The difference between being a child and maturity is the difference between dependency and independence.  When children mature, they eventually leave home, earn their own living, marry, and have a family and career; in other words, become independent.  When Christian believers mature, do we release them to replace us or send them out like to serve others like the Great Commission challenges us to do?  Can I believe that there may be a local church or congregation that has no professional clergy, or pastor, leading them because they once had one, but he trained and lead everyone in this congregation to stand on their own with their God given talents and gifting.  He trained and “equipped” US to do the work of service, so he resigned his position and became just one of us, another family member, and we do everything he has taught us!  Is that dream to vast for me to believe?


Lesson From The Chinese “Church”


What Must The Church Do To "Prepare The Saints"?

I just finished reading God Is Red, a book about the Church in China. The author, claiming not to be a Christian but a Chinese Dissident, curiously interviews Christians because he believes they are on the fringe of Chinese society.  He is intrigued with the history of the Chinese Church: A missionary influx in the 1800’s that was thwarted by the Boxer Rebellion only to have a second wave of missionary activity in the first half of the twentieth century only to be thwarted by the Communist Chinese and their Culture Revolution.  Since the Communist take over in 1949, Christianity has basically been banned unless through their sanctioned governmental Church. In spite of all the intense persucutions, amazingly the free-cell home church movement is growing with leaps and bounds.

Throughout history secular governments have tried to align themselves with religious movements.  The Barons of Germany lined up behind Luther to oppose the Italian Catholic Church during the Great Reformation.  Henry VIII of England founded his own church, the Anglican Church or the Church of England, which still boasts the monarchy as its head.  Even in China the Chinese Catholic Church’s allegiance is to the masses and Communist party rather than to a “foreign” Pope in Italy. 

I have read several of Watchman Nee’s books for his teachings are unique to the Westernized religious world. He is actually preparing the Church in China for what is to come: persecution.  How do you prepare the Church for the time when its clergy system will be devastated by persecution and imprisonment?  How will the Church survive if its supposed leaders are diminished and almost eliminated to the point of extinction? In spite of not being able to send “foreign” missionaries into China and with the elimination of their clergy, the Church of China has not only survived, but grown not only in numbers but in spiritual power.  What prepared them for this?

Watchman Nee and other’s taught to “prepare the saints for the work of service”, even if that service was to be under a harsh atheistic Communist regime.  In spite of harsh penalties, the Church, God’s people, learned how to pray, how to exercise their faith, the importance of “gathering together” for corporate worship, and for “memorizing” the Bible for the day all Bible’s would be confiscated.  Because the saints had been prepared for the upcoming days of persecution, they survived.

I wonder if the Church in America would be ready for such persecution?  Would they survive? Most American Christians are enabled by their clergy who pray for them, read the scriptures to them, preach or interpret the Bible for them, and visit the sick for them, break communion for them, etc.  We expect our well paid professional leaders and staff to do it all for us.  We want to be entertained, have excellent music available, have scripture and song lyrics projected instead of memorizing them, have our children Biblically entertained and our youth enthusiastically energized.  We are instructed to have a private prayer life and a private daily Bible reading, but are banned from sharing it openly corporately, led and fed by peers.  I have seen the numbers of Christians who read through the Bible in a year or less diminish over the years, and memorization of scriptures is even scarcer.

So, I have asked often before in these blogs, but will ask again: What will it take to “prepare the saints for the work of service” here in America?  How do we birth, develop and release common ordinary believers in Jesus Christ to be evangelists to extend the gospel, to be pastoral to take care of the widows, the orphans, all of us in need, to be teachers of the Word not intellectually through Westernized theology, but through practical living and working out our salvation and walk through living the Word, to be prophetic to listen to the voice of God and be obedient to what they have seen and heard, and to be apostolic, being about to see the big picture of the church rather than the denominational sectarianism that divides the church in theology, scope, power, and unity? It is a monumental challenge, but a question to be taken seriously!

With power, influence, and wealth comes arrogance.  Are we so arrogant to think that we will always have “religious freedom”? Study history?  Are we so self-pious to think that we will never fall into apostasy, or even spiritual complacency at times? Study history?  When the American economy flounders and its stance as a world power wanes, what shape will the American Church be in?  We can’t ignore these questions.

We, the Church, need to face the question of how to “prepare the saints for the work of service” in the twenty-first century and beyond.  What must “we” do “now” in preparation for the uncertain future that lay ahead.  How do we prepare the average American Christian believer to increase his faith, learn how to hear God for himself, know how to pray effectively, learn how to lay hands on the sick and see healings, how to give benevolently, in fact sacrificially to others, etc. The challenge is there…; let’s meet it head on today! 


An Olympic Lesson: Who Wins The Awards?


Coach or Athlete; Clergy or Laity

At the Olympics, when the flags are raised, who is standing on the podium getting the medals? The athletes; not their coaches!  The athletes have to perform under enormous pressure. What they do provides the final results.  The preparation for what they do is the job of the coach.  An athlete is only as good as his coach. Gabby Douglas, the London All-Around Gold Medalist, moved across country for two years just to be trained by a certain coach to prepare her to become not only an Olympian, but a Champion.

My daughter had the honor of becoming a Division I gymnastics and earning a full ride to North Carolina State University where she became their All-around participant for four years.  Looking back, what got her there was not only her ability and determination, but the coaching she received.  Without that, she would not have been prepared for what she had to accomplish.

In the church world, the pastors are like the coaches.  The laity or parishioner’s personal Christian growth often is influenced by the leadership of the church they attend: good teaching, personal encouragement, prayer support, Christian character development, etc.  Poor leadership hampers their development.  As we have seen in my last blog, a church is as healthy as its investment in those it is developing.

Who is on the platform for all to see when attending a church service?  Who does the church put on display to convey its story or celebrate its victories: it’s coaches or its participants? Its coaches, its pastors!  Most Christians do not know how to evangelize, how to tell their personal story of their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, often because their church has not even give them the opportunity to tell it to their own family of God.  There are healings in churches, but usually the person who is healed is not afforded the opportunity to verbally share their story with their entire church family.  When there are victories in people’s lives through their faith in Jesus, they are not afforded the opportunity to share it.  I have been a Christian for over 50 years and a church attendee for even longer, but out of the thousands of church services I have attended, very few have had laity, the parishioners, the average Christian church attendee share their own personal stories, or to teach alias preach, or lead prayer.  Formal church services have allowed laity to read prepared liturgy but not share original thoughts, writings, or stories.

Don’t get me wrong, their pastor has been very instrumental in their Christian birth, development and growth, but we have show cased the pastor, the coach during public “celebrations” of the local church family’s services rather than the average believer. If the coaches, the pastors, are truly preparing, equipping, their sheep, the common everyday believers for the work of service, then they need to release them to do what they have been prepared to do.  Allow “church services” to be generated around what the Lord is doing among his people whom leadership prepared. Let them tell their stories, share their healings, and pray for others. 

As Christians, our gold medal is Jesus Christ. Everyone who receives Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord receives the gold medal of a personal relationship with Him for eternity.   There are no second or third places.  If we are to place anything on the awards podium it should not be the coach nor athlete, the pastor nor parishioner, but our gold medal, Jesus Christ for all to see.  Instead of a national anthem being played, worship by the people of God should be our anthem.  Church let’s show case our relationships with Jesus Christ during our open worship sessions for all the world to see! 


An Olympic Lesson: Investment Brings Results


Who Is The Kingdom Of God Investing In?

As I watch the current London Olympics unfolding, I see that the countries who are willing to finance their sports and invest in their athletes are on top of the leader board. In spite of what the Olympics would like to present as their image of world competition for all countries, those with great political power look at the Olympics as a way to show case their dominance and power, even in athletics.  “Winning the gold” is the only viable goal for them. Losing a swim meet by .01 of a second to earn a second is “losing”!  One of the images of this Olympics that will stick in my mind was an interview with a girl who lost by .01 and thought she failed her coach, her family, and her country.

A commercial for an upcoming television program for this fall had Shawn Johnson, an ex-gymnastic Olympian in a small group session where she is accused of being a “loser” because she has more silver medals than gold. She reminds them she is a “winner” because she won a gold medal. The group accuses her of being in denial! That is the American attitude going into the Olympics: world domination.

When Germany was a major power, their Olympic teams were powerful. In my lifetime the USA/Russian Cold War Battle was often fought on the medal leader board of the Olympics since there were no physical combat battlefields due to the fear of a nuclear war.  Eastern Block Germany tried to show its dominance over free Western Germany to the point that their women were growing mustaches and then rejected by drug testing in an effort to get the needed advantage to win gold. Today China, Russian, and the USA are still on top of the leader board politically and athletically.

The climax of the Opening Ceremonies for the London Olympics was the March of Nations, 204 strong!  Most of those nations have never won an Olympic Medal in their history nor are expected to win one, yet they still participate with pride!  They have no “Dream Teams” of “Fabulous Five” as the USA, but just being there competing is a dream come true for them.

There is a direct correlation between investment and results at these games.  Those countries willing to financially invest in their athlete’s training get results on the Medal Count.  I have to stop and ask the question: What investment is the Church placing in advancing the Kingdom of God and what have been the results? Who is the church investing in?  How much of your church budget goes into “Laity Development”, or Christian Development? What is the out come of that investment?  Ephesians 4 challenges the church to “equip the saints for the work of service”.  How much of your church budget goes toward “saint equipping”?  Most budgets are heavily weighted by staff salaries and benefits, building maintenance, administrative costs, benevolences, and missions, but only a small percentage goes toward “developing” or “equipping” the local “saints”, the pew sitters, the laity for the work of service, the life stream of the local church.

A current trend in America is to send their senior pastors and pastoral staff to “leadership” conferences.  It has become “professional development” opportunities like any other profession.  “Camp Meetings”, which were a ground swell of grass root believer participation, are almost ancient history now.  Unless one plans to get formal education at a Bible College or earn some college degree in religion in order to make the “ministry” their vocational profession, it is hard to find educational opportunities for just the laity to be used at the local level.

Equipping the saints to replace the professional clergy locally is not looked upon as a viable option today, but equipping the saints to become the professional clergy is acceptable.  What are we “equipping” the “saints” to actually do, I ask?  How are they fairing in the Olympic events of life?  Is the church “setting the standard”, raising the bar, shooting for “the gold medal”, or is the church allowing sports, nationalism, local culture, traditionalism, etc. to trump their efforts and effectiveness.  To the “world” is the Church beginning to look like a Third World Nation of insignificant power and resources compared to Islam, Hindu, Buddahism, atheism, and other Eastern Religions?  I see Islam’s current “investment” in their believers in the Middle East and the increase of its influence on the world stage, but what about the Church’s investment in their believers and its influence.  The Church’s Christian influence in the United States and Europe over the last half century is diminishing.  The other major religions of the world have been penetrating and influencing what has been considered Christian nations.

The Church will only regains its power, its influence, its energy for evangelism, pastoral care, having a teachable spirit, prophetic insight, and apostolic vision as it is willing to “equip”, “train”, and “develop” its believers, the saints.

The Olympics is about the nations of the world coming together in political peace to perform combative athletics to “win” gold, silver, or bronze.  The key to success, measured in preparation, investment, training, and support, produces the dividends wanted.  The Church needs to prepare, invest in, train, and support its laity, the saints if it wishes to “advance the kingdom of God” forward in peace, power, and influence to change the world.


Hearing When There Is No Sound


Dietrich BonhofferApostle PaulMother Teresa









Speaking In The Silent Times

When Moses was in the wilderness for 40 years before he returned to Egypt, what did he hear?  When Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, what did he hear?  When Paul was in the wilderness being detoxed of all his religious training, what did he hear?  When Deitrick Bonhoeffer was in Nazi concentration camps, what did he hear?  When Daniel was in the Lion’s Den, other than a roar from a lion once in a while, what did he hear?  When Joseph was in prison for a trumped up charge by Potiphar’s wife, what did he hear?  When Mother Teresa sat with the sick and lowly in Calcutta India, what did she hear?  When the disciples gathered, frightened, who were receiving reports that their Messiah who had just been crucified on a Roman cross, what did they hear? When John was exiled on the Island of Patmos, what did he hear in those early days?  Before the days of Samuel, what did Eli the High Priest hear in order to lead his people?

How comes, some of the most powerful spiritual moments of learning and understanding God come when man can’t hear a thing.  What is it about the stillness, the quietness, the solitude of silence. Simon & Garfunkel questioned the essence of secluded solitude in their hit song “Sounds of Silence”: “Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.  Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains… within the sound of silence.”

In those dark moments of despair, of hopelessness, of questionable doubts testing one’s faith, when crying out to the Lord only produces serene silence, “a vision that was planted in my brain, still remains.”  It is during those times that the seeing and understanding the vision of faith becomes more important than the hearing.  In those moments of silence, often God tends to “reveal” Himself to us is ways other than oral.

Hebrews 11:1 states: “Now faith is the assurance (or substance) of things hoped for (or expected), the conviction (or evidence) of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained (or obtained) approval.” (New American Standard Bible).  Ironically faith does not come from our physical sense of seeing nor hearing, only through our spiritual sense of believing for those things one cannot physically see or hear!  When the tangible caused by sight and sound are taken away, what do you have left?  “Faith”, the intangible!

I often wondered how Helen Keller functioned without sight or sound in her life during her early childhood of wonder, exploration, and trying to figure out life.  In the Miracle Worker, Ann Sullivan breaks through Helen’s world of darkness and quietness at a water well, pumping water over Ann while spelling w.a.t.e.r through sign language with her hand.  Something clicked in Helen’s head, and the rest is history as Helen Keller went on to earn a college degree while changing the world.  Jesus breaks through the spiritual darkness and quietness of a Samaritan woman’s life also at a watering well when explaining that spiritually he was the drink, the water of life that she needed to have in order for her spiritual life to be opened to the truths of the kingdom of God. Something too clicked in her spirit, and the rest is history as she brings revival not only to herself, but to her town, family, neighbors, and Samaritan race.

It was difficult, in fact excruciating painful, for Moses to wonder as a solitary shepherd for 40 years after being the favored of Pharaoh, for Paul to have his whole theology thrown out the window after being knocked off his horse for zealously opposing this Jesus who accepted him so gracefully, for Jesus to set aside his earthly agenda for his Father’s heavenly purpose to learn obedience to His heavenly Father, for Deitrick Bonhoeffer to question his faith and purpose when in the midst of the Hell Hole of a Nazi Concentration Camp, for Daniel to lay aside his fear of hungry lions when in the midst of faith, for Joseph to suffer in prison when judged unfairly, for Mother Teresa sitting in the midst of poverty and sickness knowing Jesus is their Provider and Healer but physically not seeing it, for the disciples when their visions and dreams seem to be smashed as their leader faces the cruel death of crucifixion, for John who walked with Jesus, led his believers in this new movement of God, now to be isolated from everyone and everything, for Levi to be the spiritual leader of Israel, yet unable to hear the voice of God for himself.

It is excruciating painful when we, as believer’s in Jesus Christ, go through such times of isolation, times of seclusion, times of trials, times of silence, yet it is in those very moments of darkness, despair, hopelessness, and brokenness that something spiritually clicks, and we obtain a new understanding, a new truth, a new hope, a new purpose, a new vision a new drink of living water through faith.  A vision of faith is often solidified during those moments of solitude. As painful as it sounds, we, as believers in Jesus, must learn to embrace those solitary moments of silence when God seems so distant, not present, not listening, not being evident, for in those moments faith, the evidence of things not seen nor heard, become the vision that anchors our faith in Jesus Christ.


Shepherding And Social Networking: Can The Church Capitalize On This New Technology?


How Do You Prepare God’s People For Works of Service? Part VIII

If shepherding is nurturing, caring, and developing, and social networking and new technology is influencing our current society, the church just needs to look reexamine how it shepherds. I read this week that Google is thinking of invading the television business with major capital investments because the 18 to 34 year olds are beginning to watch their entertainment on their smart phones, or IPad devices rather than having to sit in their family rooms in front of their televisions sets.  This “mobile” society is about to see another paradigm shift away from traditional family time, traditions, and cultures and the way we are use to do things.

My age group attends High School and College Class reunions because we have “lost contact” with almost everyone after graduation except for a select few.  That is not true with the younger age group, for they stay in contact through social media formats and tools.  By becoming “friends” they communicate through Facebook and join “circles” to keep in touch with different groups in their social strata. Every time they are on Facebook, they expose what they are saying and doing. You can almost “monitor” what is happening in their life just by following them on Facebook, or Twitter, or other forms of social media. They expose their backgrounds, share current pictures, and post daily comments.  Even the Foursquare software program allows you to “check in” and gain rewards when you notify where you are currently located. All this information and data about people is available, and they are not even in your physical presence.

Mentoring is most effective when done 24/7, but who can be with the one they are mentoring in their Christian growth when you are not in their presence.  Today that can become a reality.  If you are discipling or mentoring a younger believer in the Lord, you can monitor their social patterns, where they hang out, where they shop, who they communicate with, their interests, hobbies, etc. Availability is crucial in a successful mentoring program, and today’s technologies make that possible with smart phones, that not only let you talk to one another, but also see one another. One being mentored can easily and immediately contact their mentor orally, visually, or through written communications like texting or tweeting. If one needs help, prayer, or advice, contact and help can be immediate.  Interactivity is a key to successful social network connectivity.

So shepherding can now be 24/7 and connectivity almost instant.  Part of the Smartphone culture is the need to react to the ding, ping, or sound effect that comes from our phone. It is almost like an immediate response, and instant reaction. Connectivity and availability is crucial.

The danger lies what one does with all this data and information about a person.  In the 1970’s the Shepherding Movement from the Fort Lauderdale Five was birthed out of the need to help younger Christians mature under the direction of older more mature Christians. We have learned through them that unfortunately, it is so easy for the mentor to fall into a “control” mode, guiding every decision of the young Christian rather than teaching them how to make decisions on their own. So far, social networking is not about “control” but “contact” and “communication”, the transfer of information from one to another. That “loose” relationship can actually be a healthy one, for you have to allow everyone to “work out their own salvation”, to “walk their own spiritual walk”, and learn to “hear the Holy Spirit for themselves”, because eventually they will have to walk and stand on their own and hopefully mentor others in future journeys.

The church needs to embrace the power of social networking because it has permeated our American culture. The question is what to do with it, how to effectively use it as a tool for communicating the gospel, and communicating with others in guiding them in their spiritual walk. Many churches are making websites basically to “advertise” their worship service and available services, but they must learn how to make their sites interactive.  If Facebook is only a tool to post information about their church and there is no interactive communication happening on that page, then the church has missed the mark of what social networking is all about.

So pastoral/shepherding skills may manifest themselves in new forms as we enter this social media culture of the twenty-first century. The challenge for the church is how to be open to change, technology, and new mindsets of thought and communication.