Mobilizing Saints for Powerful Ministry

Ordinary to Extraordinary

“God has already determined which Christian should best assume which ministries in the church. The role of church leadership is to help its members identify their gifts and integrate them into ministries that match their gifts.”

~Christian Schwarz
The ABC’s of Natural Church Development, 11.

Such a statement only makes sense if you are a Bible reader.  The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:4-8 that the church in Corinth did not lack for any gift and later in the same letter he says that all have been given a particular gift or gifts for the building up of the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12).

In the early church, they really believed this, even before Paul wrote his more elaborate treatment of the subject, the apostles acted on the belief to solve one of the first internal problems in the church. They knew that God had called and gifted them for a particular ministry and were in danger of being diverted from it. The  effect would have been to take the place of others who were gifted and called in a different way.

6 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.  And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 6:1-7  (ESV)

A Couple of Quick Observations

  1. Rapid growth always has its attendant problems.
  2. Sin and nearsightedness will always produce disharmony.
  3. Releasing people for ministry maximizes your potential.
  4. The “teaching elder” did not come up with a plan to solve the problem. The whole body of elders came up with it.
  5. The end result of the elders coming up with a plan was verse 7.
  6. Isn’t verse 7 what we want to happen in all of our churches?

Tomorrow:  
Seven Practical Points for Spiritual Gift Mobilization in Your Church

What Interrogates Your Reality?

Tuesday is for Discipleship

People think a lot of ridiculous things about Christian discipleship.

They don’t know any better because they don’t read their Bibles. Or they read their Bibles but never examine their assumptions about what they read. Any reading material, but especially the Bible, is best read as an interrogator of reality.

So it was refreshing to read Bonhoeffer on the calling of the Levi into discipleship with Jesus in the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark. Bonhoeffer allows the text to speak and helps us to hear the call to discipleship with greater clarity. [I have broken up the longer paragraph of Bonhoeffer for the modern reader and added some bold emphasis.]

Bonhoeffer Meme on Discipleship

“The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus. How could the call immediately evoke obedience? The story is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events… Something must have happened in between, some psychological or historical event. Thus we get the stupid question: Surely the publican must have known Jesus before, and that previous acquaintance explains his readiness to hear the Master’s call. 

Unfortunately our text is ruthlessly silent on this point, and in fact it regards the immediate sequence of call and response as a  matter of crucial importance. It displays not the slightest interest in the psychological reason for a man’s religious decisions. And why? For the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response is Jesus Christ himself. It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, Levi follows at once. … Not a word of praise is given to the disciple for his decision for Christ. We are not expected to contemplate the disciple, but only him who calls, and his absolute authority.”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 57f.
The Cost of Discipleship

Jesus is Lord, Master, Savior, God-in-the-flesh. He calls the world to discipleship. Those who heed the call, who obey Him, who follow Him are those who believe. Indeed, the only real proof that we have become a follower of Christ is that we take seriously His call to obey, which is what it means to follow Him.

Bonhoeffer’s words ring true. “We are not expected to contemplate the disciple [in this case, Levi], but only him who calls, and his absolute authority.”

Let the call and the word of Christ interrogate your reality. Everything depends on it.

The Second Flood at Watseka

For the second time this year (July and December) our little town is under water on the West side of town. Please pray for our neighbors, and for our stamina and that of the Red Cross volunteers. Our church is located on the East side of town and is on higher ground and we function as the Red Cross Emergency site. Tonight we will have at least 20 flood refugees staying over night.

Pray that our people, especially our staff and our members would display the sweetness of Christ to all who come through our building this week as we seek to give comfort, hope, and safety to those who have been displaced. Pray too for gospel opportunities and conversations. Below is a short video of some drone-footage of the flooded areas. The view starts on the West side of town and follows route 24.

The Right to Vote is a Responsibility to Vote

Tuesday is for Political Engagement

Bookmark for Picking a PresidentThe following is an excerpt from chapter 5 of my 2012 book, Picking a President: Or Any Other Elected Official. We are working with Thomas Nelson/Zondervan on bringing out a second and fully revised edition (projected April 2016).

I would appreciate your prayers that all goes well and that the book finds a new audience as we move toward November 2016.

Remember, the right to vote is both a responsibility to vote and also to prepare to vote wisely.

A One-Vote Oddity
Did One Vote Make it Possible to
Win World War II?

Four months before Pearl Harbor, Congress voted to lengthen the time of military service from one year of active duty and 10 years in the reserve to two and one half years of active duty. This allowed the military to begin to gear up for what many believed was the United States inevitable entrance into the war.

After war was formally declared, the term of service was amended again. This second amendment extended the term to terminate six months after the war ended. From 1940 until 1947, when the wartime selective service act expired, more than 10,000,000 men entered the service through the draft process.

What would the history of the world look like today if the tour of duty of the American soldiers in World War II was one, rather than two and a half years? We don’t know. “The Greatest Generation’s” parents took care of that. By a vote of 203-202, the Congress of the United States of America ensured that the world would never have to find out.

Who was the deciding vote? Unknown.

Who cast the last vote? Unknown.

Who changed their vote at the last minute? Unknown.

What is known is this: 405 members of Congress decided that their vote mattered and 203 came out on the side of history with their vote and helped to create the military force without which the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans would have become Fascist lakes. They each got up, had their coffee, left their homes, organized their day and were present and accounted for with their vote. One of them tipped the scales and world history changed.11

This election, your vote could do the same.

  1. See http://www.snopes.com/history/govern/onevote.asp. Cf. also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Training_and_Service_Act_of_1940.

The Marvelous and Dangerous Love of God

Wednesday is for Thinking

Great quotes from classic texts.

JI Packer

“God’s love is an exercise of His goodness towards individual sinners whereby, having identified Himself with their welfare, He has given His Son to be their Saviour, and now brings them to know and enjoy Him in a covenant relation.”

J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 111.

How wonderful and marvelous is it that we,

we sinners, we lost, we corrupt, and selfish, and petty, and unfaithful, liars, cheats, filled with anger, and bitterness, and resentment, slow to forgive, quick to speak, gossips, immoral, unethical, we unholy image bearers of God have been bought by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19) and made children of the living God?! (1 John 3:1)

We are a blessed people!