Posts Tagged ‘Seeker Church’
Much has been written already on the 2012 US elections. Many godly men such as Dr. Al Mohler has pointed out that we are facing a dramatic culture shift in the United States. President Obama won both the popular vote and the electoral vote despite claims by political conservative pundits that he would lose. Some guaranteed Obama’s defeat (see Dick Morris for example). I felt that Obama would win but thought he would lose the popular vote. I was wrong on that as well.
What do we learn from the 2012 elections?
1. True Christianity Is Losing the Culture War.
Some “Christian” such as Rachel Evans hold that we should realize that younger “evangelicals” just don’t care about abortion or about same-sex marriage and thus why they voted for Obama. Christians have made the culture war their mandate for many years now but if we learn anything from the 2012 elections it would be that Christians are losing that battle. Same-sex marriage was passed in the states of Maine and Maryland and likely Washington. Minnesota rejected the idea (good for them). The map is clear that in the North and the Northwest, Christianity has little to no bearing on the voters. The South continues to support traditional marriage but it is a matter of time before that changes as well.
Our mandate as disciples of Jesus is not to transform our culture through politics. Our fight is not abortion or same-sex marriage though I think we should vote righteously on these issues. Our fight is for the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). The gospel will transform our society. You want people to have a biblical worldview? Then preach the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God and that Jesus alone saves. This will transform our society from the inside out (Titus 3:1-7). People are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) so why should we not be surprised when they vote for their flesh and not for God? We need to disciple our people to think biblically and to proclaim Jesus to the lost (Matthew 28:19-20). This will transform our nation.
2. Prayer Must Be A Focus!
The one positive that I see coming out of the 2012 elections would be the call to prayer. I feared that if Romney won the election then disciples of Jesus would view that as a reason to sit back and relax but with Obama winning, I saw many people calling for prayer. Good! This should not take the election of one wicked man to force us to pray. We should have been praying already. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-7 what to pray for and it is clear that we should be praying for the lost to be saved. The true Church should pray for President Obama to repent of his sins and be saved (Acts 2:38). We should pray for Obama to repent of his views on abortion and on same-sex marriage. God can change Obama’s heart.
Jesus said in Luke 18:1 that we should always pray and not lose heart. How many lost heart over the elections last nigh? I did. I was discouraged when I went to bed and woke up with a heavy heart. But Jesus said that that should drive us to prayer. Our faith in a sovereign God should lead us to pray for the United States to repent and for God to be glorified in His Church (Ephesians 3:20-21).
3. Be Ready For a Fight Even Among “Christians”.
We will see a shift over the next four years. The younger “evangelicals” who have been soaked in postmodernism, in the seeker church, will push for evangelicals to come “mainline” with the political views of our culture. We will be asked to allow for same-sex marriage, to accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle, and we will be asked to curb our focus on abortion. We will be asked to move more toward the left on most issues. The Republicans (and other “conservatives”) will move away from cultural issues toward more liberal views. Obama, at the 2012 DNC, was cheered for defending abortion and for coming out in favor of same-sex marriage. That view, an anti-God view, won last night. It is clear that our nation agrees with Mr. Obama, that abortion should be allowed and that homosexuality is legitimate. The Church should not.
We need to stand for what the Bible teaches. Many younger evangelicals will ask us to reinterpret texts that are against abortion or against homosexuality. When it comes to abortion, we will be asked to realize that we can never get rid of it but should seek to curb it. This is the stance of many evangelicals who supported Obama. They believe this is Obama’s view as well. We will be asked to embrace same-sex marriages and this will happen because the media will ridicule the traditional view, popular media will give us movies, television programs, and books that support same-sex marriage as a positive and good thing, and many evangelicals will grow weary trying to fight the push to accept the sinful practice of homosexuality. Many will simply give in and accept cultural norms without a fight.
4. A Clear Division In the Church.
We will see a rise coming of more and more seeker sensitive, shallow churches. Why? Because as the cultural moves more and more to the left, so will the Church. The Church will do this because they want to be popular, to draw crowds, and of course, make money. To preach against abortion, against socialism, against homosexuality, against adultery, etc. will not draw crowds. The words of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 will soon come to pass. The Church will either embrace postmodernism or will suffer. I pray that we will heed the words of 2 Timothy 3:12 and suffer for Christ.
On a positive note, the house church movement will grow! Many churches, to keep their budgets and to keep their buildings, will embrace postmodern Christianity but the true disciples of Jesus, the true Church will stand firm for the Lord (Matthew 24:13). House churches will grow because they do not require buildings or monies. Like the underground Church in China, the house churches in the United States will see growth over the years to come. We can rejoice in that.
May God separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).
5. We Must Preach Salvation Through Christ Alone!
Postmodernism will ask the Church to reject the inclusive nature of the gospel but we must stand firm (Romans 10:14-17). Faith comes by hearing the gospel. We must preach the truth to people who will hate us for preaching the gospel. Have no fear. Even if they kill us, let us stand firm (Matthew 5:11-16). Jesus didn’t say the world would love us but rather they would hate us (John 15:18-25). Peter makes it clear in 1 Peter 4:12-19 that we will suffer for being disciples of Christ. There is no escaping the coming persecution. The truth has never been popular. We will be ridiculed for our stand for biblical marriage (Matthew 19:4-6), for our stand that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27), for preaching that salvation is in Christ alone. We will be told to accept what culture defines as norm. May we resist! May we stand for the Word of God even when we are laughed at for doing so.
Salvation will never come through politicians. Transformation of our culture will not come through politics or by corrupting the gospel. True salvation will only come through making disciples (Mark 16:15-16). We must preach Christ alone. We must stand for Christ alone. We must preach His Word alone. We must not give in to the culture for to do so will mean the loss of eternal salvation through Christ. We must preach Jesus. We must declare to all people to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31). We must lay out the biblical demands of Jesus to follow Him (Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-35) and not water down the gospel for easy decisions. We must allow the Holy Spirit to do His sovereign work of regeneration (Titus 3:5-7). Salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and He will save sinners as the disciples of Jesus preach His truth but we must open up our mouths and preach Him in order for souls to be saved.
I am not a big fan of modern books on prayer. I prefer to read E.M. Bounds on prayer or Andrew Murray or A.W. Tozer or Leonard Ravenhill or Samuel Chadwick than to read many modern books on prayer. It seems you get two types of modern books when it comes to prayer. The first is the “exegetical” approach to prayer. I appreciate this more than the latter but I think many of us know many verses of Scripture on prayer but we just don’t pray. We can quote the Lord’s teaching on prayer in Matthew 9:9-13 but we don’t follow His example nor His outline for prayer.
The second group bothers me the most. Many of the modern books on prayer from The Prayer of Jabez to Sun Stand Still offer nothing new on prayer. If anything they try to make prayer all about us and not much about God. Oh God is here and there but He is there for a reason: you! God wants to answer your prayers so that you can be blessed in this life. Few take the first approach and go very deep into the Scriptures on prayer (though they will proof-text their books) and most make you remember more about the author or the author’s scheme then about God or His kingdom. The countless stories that fill modern books on prayer are given, they say, to show us the author’s faith but all we remember are the authors. The books are focused on the authors more so than on the Lord in my opinion. Typical of the modern clergy-laity church where the pastor is the prophet, priest, and king of the house.
That’s why I never recommend modern books on prayer. A few are good such as Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire though this book has a good many personal illustrations in it with some Scriptural teachings. Cymbala’s theology is much sounder than the books listed above. At least Cymbala is not so much focused on prayer pleasing yourself.
Prayer is not about you. Prayer is to be focused on pleasing God. When Jesus said in John 14:13 that we could ask anything in His name, He wasn’t meaning that we could pray for what our covetous desires. John 14:14 makes it clear that the reason for John 14:13 is because of the glory of God. God answers prayer because of His glory and for His honor. Every answered prayer is in accordance with God being exalted. Even healings are done for the glory of God (John 9). The Apostles were clear in the book of Acts that they focused the attention on the Lord and not upon themselves. Modern preachers would not do well in the book of Acts. Modern preachers would never be able to utter the words of Acts 3:12 or Acts 14:14-15. Nor would they be able to utter the words of Acts 26:20-21. Of course, nor would they be able to declare James 5:16-18 when it comes to prayer other than stories that they tell about themselves.
Prayer is all about the glory of God. Prayer is not about “your audacious faith” but the honor of God. Prayer is not about pleasing your pleasures. It is about Jesus and His kingdom (James 4:2-4). Why would God want you to pray a prayer that would violate 1 John 2:15-17? He does not. He is holy and righteous and He will answer prayers that exalt Him as God. God does still answer prayers but He answers them so that His name is praised (1 John 5:14-15). By the way, prayer is not powerful. Only God is. Prayer is powerful because God answers prayer that glorifies His name.
Let me end with this, do you pray as Jesus prayed in John 17? In John 17 Jesus prayed to the glory of God. Jesus begins His prayer with a focus on glorifying God (John 17:1-5). Jesus’ entire focus in His prayer in John 17 is upon the glory of God. Go through John 17 and notice how many times Jesus says “you” and “Father.” Even when praying for the Church in John 17:20-26 His focus is completely upon the glory of God. He wants God the Father to give them unity so that God may be glorified. You will not find the narcissism in Jesus’ praying that you’ll find in many modern books on prayer.
So if you want to study prayer then I encourage you to read the older works on prayer such as The Valley of Vision or the works of E.M. Bounds on prayer. The best book I have ever read on prayer are the works of Leonard Ravenhill and especially his book, Why Revival Tarries? Dead faithful men are faithful men still.
Take the title of this post and google it. You’ll be surprised at how many various opinions come up about money and the Western Church. Sadly, many atheists see the American Church in particular as a “much-profit” organization that is out to use their “non-profit” status simply to make more money. I personally have seen situations where someone would like to give some money to someone and the local church would tell that person to give the money first to the church and designate the money for that family in order for it to be viewed as true charity. Sadly, this was money not given to a poor family but to the pastor who was already making decent money from the church.
This is the time of the year when every ministry I know of is begging for money. ”Get your money in now before the end of 2011 so that we can make your donation with a matching pledge” is the slogan these days. Just yesterday I received not one but four ministry news letters in the mail all asking me to give to their ministries. Some are better at begging than others. Some just offer you a CD or a book for such and such amount. Some play the guilt trip: “We will not be able to continue as we have if you do not give to us.” I wish one would simply just ask me to give money because they need it and that is the bottom line.
Many of the churches I have attended over the years do beg for money. Typically the old “tithing” sermon is best given when giving is down. Preach a poor exegeted sermon off Malachi 3:8-10 and let the Spirit do the rest. Preach that tithing is commanded by God (and it was under the theocracy of ancient Israel) and watch the money roll in. It has been stated that nearly 85% of all giving in the United States in the church goes toward salaries, buildings, upkeep, etc. Less than 2% of all donations in the American church actually goes toward missions and evangelism.
Yet consider the house church. Here you’ll find no salaries. No begging for money. Why? Because we have no professional Christians among us. We are all priests unto God (1 Peter 2:4-11) and all of us are expected to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). We have elders who sometimes receive blessings from God’s people (1 Timothy 5:17) but this is not always in money (nor does 1 Timothy 5:17 teach that it is). We have no upkeep for buildings since we have no buildings. We do take up monies from time to time to support apostles (church planters) or hurting Christians or even the poor (Galatians 2:10). We never use the money for any other purpose than what is stated. We require no tithe. We require no giving to us at all but we do ask disciples of Jesus to give as He commanded (Matthew 6:2-4) but each person has freedom to do with the money the Lord has given to them as they see fit in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
I do believe that churches talk too much about money. It seems much of what is done is often to get more money. Even “evangelism” events are often not completely seeking to reach people with the gospel but rather to get people to come to that said church so that the numbers increase and thus the giving perhaps will increase. More people hopefully equals more money but lost is the condition of their souls before God.
Where are the churches who will faithfully preach Philippians 4:10-13. Sadly, many are true of Revelation 3:17 instead. I pray that we would never be a hindering to someone coming to faith in Jesus over the idol of money.
In my ongoing fictional account of Caleb Payton, the pastor of a seeker/evangelical church who was touched by the Spirit of God after spending a week in prayer, fasting, and studying the holiness of God, we have now come to the point that Caleb has preached the word that God revealed to him in His Word for the church. Caleb preached a hard word on how God’s holiness illuminates our sinfulness and causes us to tremble before the Lord. Like the children of Israel in Exodus 20:21, when we see how holy God is, we realize that apart from the grace given to us in Christ Jesus, who could stand before this God? God’s holiness also shows us that He still takes sin seriously and that Romans 6:23 remains the same: the wages of sin is death.
Following the hard word, the people went home in a daze. They had come that morning to hear another part in Caleb’s series, Family Ties, but instead they heard a word like they had never heard in an evangelical church and that was that God is holy and He hates sin. They came to be entertained, not convicted. They came to leave full of happiness and harmony and not at war with their flesh. They came to hear about a God who is there for them and He loves them and is their Counselor when they are alone but instead they heard that this God is holy and fearsome (Hebrews 12:29) and they heard that His call to them is holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1). They came hand in hand with the world but left with a feeling that they should actually despise this world (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17). They came to hear an upbeat band and a cool, relevant message from the Bible but instead they left feeling like the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5).
Satan was bound to attack. Could the enemy sit by and let this church go from a “happy clappy” church to being serious about God? Could Satan allow this church to begin to pray, to be challenged to holiness, to seek to evangelize their city for the kingdom of Christ? Absolutely not! Satan opposes the plan and purposes of God.
The first call that Caleb received that afternoon was from his associate pastor. The associate simply wondered what had happened that morning? Caleb told him the story about what God had been doing in his life that week and what the Spirit had taught him from the Scriptures. His associate said little but you can sense the fear in his voice for he knew that Caleb’s preaching would spell doom for their church if he continued this route. The associate gently asked him, “Are you going to finish the series then?” Caleb said, “I want to hear from God. I want to preach fresh manna from heaven that the Holy Spirit gives to me from verse by verse studying from the Word of God. I’m tired of stealing sermons. I want to hear from God (John 10:27).”
No sooner had Caleb hung up the phone then he received yet another call. This time it came from his board of elders leader. George Winsome was the lead elder and in a firm voice he told Caleb that he needed to see him this evening at the church. The board of elders wanted to speak to Mr. Payton about the direction of the church and what had happened that morning. Caleb knew that George Winsome was a business man through and through. He was not a man of prayer. He was not committed to evangelism. He cared little about studying the Bible or really seeking God. But he knew business. He had even had leader/teacher John Maxwell come to the church once and speak at a men’s breakfast. George Winsome had left as soon as he could from the church service that morning and it was clear in his voice that he was not happy with Caleb’s sermon. He didn’t like the sermon, the emotions of people weeping and lifting their hands in prayer, etc. He was a man on a mission to save this church from fanatics even if it meant that Caleb had to go. George Winsome believed that Caleb could be reasoned with, however, and shown that if he continued on this path then the church would suffer financially and this would mean that Caleb would not have a job nor many of the other pastors. This “holiness” sermon would be just an old memory soon and church life would get back to normal. This was the goal of George Winsome.
When Caleb hung up with George Winsome, he retired to his home office. He fell on his face before God and begin to pray. He wept aloud and asked the Lord to give him strength to stand for the truth no matter what it cost him. He opened his Bible to 1 Corinthians 4:13 and prayed this verse over and over again before the Lord. He prayed that the other pastors and the elders would be touched by the fire of God and that they too would be completely transformed by the grace of God. Tears ran down his face as he looked toward heaven knowing that the enemy was after him. The devil would not let this sermon pass by. He would attack but Caleb prayed Ephesians 6:11, that he might have the wisdom to know the devil’s schemes.
He also prayed that his passion would not be for money. Money had destroyed so many good preachers. No wonder, Caleb wondered, that Paul would say so much to Timothy about money (1 Timothy 6:3-10). So many had sacrificed their passion for Jesus, for prayer, for the Word of God, for missions, on the altar of idolatry called money (Matthew 6:24). Whereas they once preached for the love of God and for the love of souls, they now preached to pay the bills. Even if they heard from God, as Caleb had about holiness, they would not preach that for they knew that the church needed money to survive and they did too for that matter. So few were willing to be like Paul and work if necessary so that they could preach the gospel without compromise. Sadly, compromise abounded. Caleb had not worked a “secular” job since college and now he faced the reality that his pastoral schedule might change if he took a job. He prayed for the Lord to give him wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).
Following his sermon that morning on holiness, the people wept and prayed and cried out to God. Some of the people in the crowd quickly got out of the building out of fear of emotionalism or fear of God or perhaps because they were under strong conviction from the Spirit. Caleb Payton’s message was clear: God is holy and He calls His people to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). To claim to be righteous apart from walking in righteousness is an attack on the very salvation that God has given to us in Jesus Christ (1 John 3:6-9). The Scriptures are clear that Jesus came to set us free from sin (Matthew 1:21) and we are not to be like the world (James 4:4). We are called to imitate Jesus in all that we say and do (1 John 2:6) which means that His Lordship reigns supreme in our lives in every way possible from our marriages to our raising of our children to how we pray and read the Bible to how we share the gospel with the lost. We look at everything from God’s perspective (Philippians 4:8-9).
Caleb knew that this was a defining moment. He knew that the church would have to make a decision: we either are going after crowds or after Jesus. He knew that not only his salary but the salaries of many of the other pastors depended on the church being successful.
After more than an hour after the church service was over, many people remained hungering for the Lord. Caleb himself was lying on his face weeping for souls. He was the only pastor who was on his face before God. All the rest either had left. By the time Caleb rose from prayer, he was the last person left in the room.
Caleb drove home troubled inside. He knew that he had obeyed God yet he knew that most people would not appreciate what had taken place that morning. When he got home, his wife simply took him in her arms and told Caleb, “Be a man of God no matter what.” These words reassured him that he was indeed doing what God wanted him to do.
Caleb Payton braced himself for what he knew would be a fight. As his wife held him, Caleb knew that it was just a matter of time before the phone calls would begin. What had happened to Caleb Payton? The church had never seen a sermon like this nor a call to holiness that Caleb had issued. How do you go from a series called “Family Ties” to a sermon directly from the Word of God on holiness that boldly confronted sin in the lives of these people? How do you go from a church that majored on “the show” of church to pursuing the heart of God in prayer and evangelism?
Caleb had no answers but he was hungry for Jesus Christ to be exalted in His Church (Colossians 1:15-20) and he was ready to pay that price. Little did he know the price he was about to pay.
In my last post I begin the fictional story (though based on many actual events that I have experienced and many others that I have spoken with) of Caleb Payton and how he had heard from God after studying His Word and knew that he needed to preach under the power of the Spirit a convicting sermon on holiness. This would break Caleb from his sermon series called, “Family Ties,” but even more, he knew that many would not like hearing such a hard word from the Bible about holiness (John 6:60). He knew that this church had grown not out of passion for the lost or from the lost being saved but from people leaving other churches to join his church because Caleb’s sermons were cool and relevant, the worship band was awesome, and the multi-media kept people’s attention. Plus Caleb knew that they were a busy church full of activities for the entire family though the power of God or even His presence were but a token thought to the church.
So here he was on Sunday morning on his face before the Lord in his office. All week he had wept and prayed over the souls in the church and his heart was moved by the Word of God to call the people to holiness because of who God is. Caleb knew that over the past year he had preached a sermon series nearly every month that was different. In many ways his sermons were biblical in that he based them somewhat from the Bible. For instance, Caleb had preached in June a sermon series called “Route 66″ that he “borrowed” from another mega-church pastor that was a jet tour through Ephesians. Of course, Caleb knew that much of the book of Ephesians was not discussed including any of the major theological themes such as election, predestination, faith, salvation, depravity, etc. If he had learned anything from the many church conferences he had been to over the years was, “it is a sin to bore your people” and doctrine was boring. But this morning, Caleb knew that his attitude had been wrong. He knew that doctrine matters (1 Timothy 4:16) as how we view God and how we view the world through the lenses of Scripture will affect how we live our lives. Too many people were living sloppy lives because they didn’t know God nor His Word. They were Titus 1:16 completely.
As the hour drew near for the first service, Caleb felt the burden of the Spirit (Habakkuk 1:1 NKJV). It was as if the Spirit was warning him that he was about to face intense suffering for preaching the Word of God (Acts 21:13). He knew that people would react to his sermon. He knew that Satan would attack this day. Yet he also knew that the Holy Spirit was urging him onward through the faithfulness of the Scriptures. While in the midst of Caleb’s intercession that week, the Lord had shown him much grace and had cleansed him from his sins (1 John 1:9). He felt like Isaiah in Isaiah 6:7 when the angel touched Isaiah’s mouth with the hot coal and proclaimed that he had cleansed him from his sins. Caleb felt that the Lord had done that to him as well. He could preach this message on holiness with confidence that God would be glorified through the preaching of His truths (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21).
And so Caleb left his office and made his way toward the main building. He could already hear the band beginning to play some intro music for the morning service. Caleb entered the building and went to the front where he always sat. He greeted one of his leaders and leaned over in his ear and said, “Pray for the Spirit of God to fall on this place today.” The man looked at Caleb with a sense of confusion. Caleb had never said those words before to this leader and this leader was scared as to what they meant. What would happen if the Spirit did fall? Would all that stuff from Acts 2 happen? Would people lose control? What did Caleb Payton mean?
After a long music time (worship they called it), Caleb made his way to the front to welcome the people but suddenly he felt overwhelmed. He sensed the Holy Spirit calling him to pray in front of the church. They needed to hear Caleb pray. They needed to see him weep. They needed to see that he was broken before the Lord. Caleb quickly quoted 2 Corinthians 3:17 to himself and then took the platform. He looked out at the happy, clappy bunch and he said, “Let’s pray.” He began to cry out to God and I mean with tears rolling down his face in agony (Hebrews 5:7). He cried out to God before the people. He urged them, “Pray folks! Pray! Seek God while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). He prayed for revival, for the church, for people to repent, for the lost to be saved, for the nations to tremble before the Lord, for marriages to be healed, for the devil to be defeated, for Jesus to be exalted, for God’s Word to be honored. He kept his eyes closed not out of fear from his leaders but to avoid them as he knew that they would be standing there not really praying and certainly not in agreement over this. He prayed for what seemed like just a few minutes but in reality was close to 10 minutes. He asked the “worship leader” to sing one more song of glory and praise to God before they moved forward. During the song, Caleb begged God to touch the church and to anoint the Word of God that he would preach.
And the Word came forth. Caleb announced that he would hold up on his sermon series and he told the people that the Holy Spirit had led him in a different direction. He told them, “The Spirit is Lord of His Church and He can lead us wherever He desires and so this morning I want you to open your Bibles to the book of 1 Peter 1:15-16.” Caleb begin to preach from 1 Peter 1:15-16 and Hebrews 12:14 and many other New Testament passages on holiness. His main points came from 1 Peter 1:15-16 but he wanted to show the people that God calls His Church to holiness. 2 Corinthians 7:1 was really convicting for Caleb earlier that week and he knew it would hit the people. In his last point, Caleb told the people to turn to 1 John 3:7. Caleb declared, “To declare yourself righteous positionally but not practically is not biblical. If you are living in sin, you are not righteous. Period. You must repent! You must understand that to call yourself a disciple of Jesus is to be righteous in Him but if you are living in sin, you are not righteous and you must repent of your sins this day.”
In the end, Caleb did what he had not done in many years and that was he gave an altar call not for salvation but for people to repent before the Lord. He quoted Joel 1:13-14 and told the people of God to come and repent before the Lord together. Come and cry out to the Lord God to help you repent and to be godly. Enough with this sinning. Enough with playing church. Enough with claiming to love God while living for Satan. Enough of this worldliness (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17). Come and repent!
What happens next? We’ll find out next time.