In 1999 the Spirit of God began to emphasize to me the recognition of the marketplace as part of the Kingdom of God, and since then many began to recognize the biblical mandate to disciple whole nations according to the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28 and Matthew 28:19.
Many if not most scholars consider the Apostle Paul the most important leader in the history of the church with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul’s influence cannot be overstated in spite of him never having oversight of a megachurch (he started small house churches in about 30 cities); he wasn’t always very prosperous (often he spoke about being hungry, thirsty and naked as in 1 Cor. 4:11); he wasn’t a celebrity leader (often he was met by mobs of angry people wanting to kill him as in Acts 9, 14:11, 19); he was not very well known during his lifetime outside the cities and regions in which he planted churches (his fame spread beyond these regions after his lifetime through his letters to the churches); and he was diminutive, not necessarily good looking, and may not have been a great orator (2 Corinthians 10:10).
This says a lot about how today’s standards for measuring success stack up against the values of God laid out in Scripture. I have asked myself the question: If Paul were alive today, based on what is mentioned above, would he ever have been a celebrity preacher or featured on the front pages of newspapers and Christian magazines?
I have been a pastor almost thirty-four years and have been involved in initiating or participated in many local, citywide and national prayer gatherings. God has made it very clear that our first priority as leaders is to spend time with Him before we are sent out to minister (Mark 3:14). The apostle Paul also implores all believers to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In spite of all this, there are many denominational and non-denominational churches that do not have a regular prayer meeting. Consequently, in spite of the many good programs they may have, there is a huge gap in the church.
As a leader who has been the senior pastor of a local church in a major urban context, I have observed a fine line between what many deem healthy and unhealthy churches.
I define a healthy church as one that is relationally functional regarding its top leaders (elders, deacons, trustees, pastors and ministers) and its regular attendees and membership. Also, a healthy church has organic growth based on a balance of outreach and in-reach, or pastoral and evangelistic ministry, as well as discipleship and organizational systems that perpetuate the vision of the church.
Ever since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity divided in the 11th century, some of the greatest fears of the once united Christendom have been realized: fragmentation and division. Even in the 16thcentury, when Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation, there was hope there would only be a few major expressions of the body of Christ. Never in their wildest dreams did the reformers envision all the denominations and various branches and networks of Christianity that have evolved, which has given opportunity for a spirit of lawlessness, independence and empire building among some insecure but gifted leaders.
To read the first part of this teaching “Understanding Common and Special Grace” please click this link.
1-Common grace blesses all men/Special grace saves only some men
As we have seen in part I of this article, in the created order, God bestows His love, mercy, grace and goodness to every creature through what He provides to this world (Read Psalm 145:9). However, we also see that Jesus is only the Lord and Savior of those who believe (Romans 10:9,10). The first is common, the second is special or saving grace
There has been a movement the past four decades amongst various segments of the body of Christ towards embracing the way of Jesus and the apostles as found in the first century church. Extensive writing has been done in this regard by Jeff Reed, the founder of BILD International (www.bild.org) who has given his life over to writing about the Pauline model of church multiplication and leadership development. Most recently, Dr. C. Peter Wagner has started a network of leaders who have been launching a movement of apostolic centers in the United States and beyond! (Peter has a knack for sensing what is practically needed and then galvanizing a movement around it.)
In the New Testament, the word ” disciple” was used to describe Christ’s followers much more than the word “Christian.” Jesus commanded the church to make disciples, not just evangelize the lost (Matthew 28:19). In spite of this lopsided focus, discipleship is not always the norm in the contemporary church. The following eleven indispensable principles are things I have learned as a disciple maker for almost four decades.
As the persecution of the Bible-believing church becomes more intense, there will be a greater manifestation of what I am referring to in this article as the “remnant church.” By remnant church, I am referring to the surviving vestige of the body of Christ that remains true to biblical principles in spite of cultural opposition.
There is always a true remnant left during times of apostasy and persecution. Elijah the prophet found out that God always preserved a remnant, by His grace, that held true to the faith (read 1 Kings 19 and Romans 11:2-5). By remnant church, I am not merely referring to so-called “cultural warrior” churches who seem to always be battling for a cause (which can be part of it, although the gospel is always much bigger than one social cause). I am also not referring to so-called Christian churches that do idiotic things (like burning the Qur’an) or exhibit intentionally hostile (and un-Christ-like) behavior by so-called churches (like the Westboro Baptist Church). (I cringe even calling this group of hate-mongers a church.) I am, however, referring to those of plain and simple faith and obedience to the word of God, which is practiced by humble, people-loving, community-serving, compassionate churches who do not compromise the word of God.
There is a strong individualistic mindset in North America and beyond. While this has many good qualities (which is not the subject of this article ) it also goes against the Hebraic corporate mindset of the scriptures. This has caused preaching, teaching and theology to impose views on the biblical text that is not in accord with the inspired writings of the authors.
The implications regarding this are vast since God knows what is best for us to fulfill our purpose and walk in spiritual and emotional health. It is obvious from Scripture that, it is best if each individual believer learn how to incorporate their life into the context of a faith community.
Nowadays, it is very common, even for people serving in leadership positions, to come to life altering conclusions without including mature leaders in their process. When this happens, it is the (culturally informed) individualistic mindset at work more than adherence to scripture.
The following six points reveal which mindset we are informed by the individualistic or corporate?