The Church Refugee Sanity Guide – Part Nine – Evangelism Taking the Dread Out of Evangelism

Taking the terror out of evangelism. Church Refugee Sanity Guide Part Nine

Church Refugee Sanity Guide – Part Nine – Evangelism

In this installment of the Church Refugee Sanity Guide, I take a fresh look at the topic of evangelism and discipleship apart from traditional theology, mindsets, and methods.

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The First Fruits of Conversion The End of Retributive Violence

First Fruits of Conversion

First Fruits of Conversion

The following is a brief true story from a friend of mine of the conversion of a Papua New Guinea tribesman named “Pully.” The author of this guest blog, Nate Ham, knew Pully personally.  I would earnestly pray that any conversion would have as much Holy Spirit ethical substance as Pully’s. I pray that we could live in as much gospel authenticity as this simple, elderly man, from Papua New Guinea. I would ask you, in the midst of much of the theological clamor today regarding God and retributive violence, to humbly and prayerfully consider the many and deep implications of Pully’s story.

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Christ Who is My Life In the Garden with Christ - Michael Turner

Christ Who is My LIfe

Christ Who is My LIfe

I personally know the individual in this news release, and his journey. Perhaps this story from The Fig Tree (an online journal in the Pacific Northwest) has more impact on myself than it might you. However, Mike’s story captures so much wisdom and so much of the essence of what being alive in Christ means, that I wanted to share it. So many think that the pinnacle of spirituality is to be the leader of a megachurch in the USA or to have your book become a best-seller and be in demand as a conference speaker. It is not. It is so much more than pulpits, sermons, and singing. Michael has learned what it means. Mike exemplifies what it means to be a “minister” in the grace of the new covenant. If you sometimes feel like your lot in life makes you “insignificant” in any way, I hope Mike’s story encourages you today.

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Idealism Without Action A Deceptive Dead End

Idealism without Action - A Deceptive Dead End

Idealism without Action – A Deceptive Dead End

Anyone can wax eloquent about what could, or should be, versus what currently “is.” Idealism without action is a delusional dead end. Preachers, teachers, prophetic types, “apostolic visionaries,” dreamers, philosophers–whatever your language tradition might call them–are particularly vulnerable to irrelevant idealism. It is better to incarnate imperfection, than to romanticize about a never-seen ideal.  Jesus can do a lot with folks who will simply “get to it” imperfectly, rather than “talk about it” ideally.

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Revising Revival: Part 2 There's No "If-you" in the New Covenant

Revival - A New Covenant Perspective

2 Chr. 7:14 – A New Covenant Perspective

2 Chr 7:14 is used by many as the pillar verse for virtually every revival ministry. The problem is, our definition and expectations of revival are often strongly influenced by our non-New Covenant thinking and theology, our religious culture, our political and social culture, and unresolved ego issues. This second installment in this series examines the difference between old and new covenant promises as it relates to our understanding and application of 2 Chr. 7:14 and our expectations of revival.

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It's Just a Bag of Beans

It’s Just a Bag of Beans Bible Knowledge Without Application

The individual goal in this life is transformation into the image of Christ so that the life of Christ might be manifest in the earth. The goal is not “doctrine and Bible study.” Few things are more inoculating against the manifestation of the life and ethics of Christ, than listening to sermon upon sermon without any correlated obedience to the one we heard last week. It is like collecting coffee beans and believing you have a cup of coffee. We don’t. We have a potential cup of coffee.

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Love Must Be Free

God’s kingdom is one of freedom. Nothing is forced. Even the good things are not forced upon us. If we try to “force” (persuade) God’s good things on others, we misrepresent our Father and we have failed in love, even with good intentions, message, motive, and methods–good “kingdom stuff.”

Forced love is rape. We try to force truth/love (God is love, God is truth) on people who do not even want to be inseminated, and call it “evangelizing.” People do not need to hear our “stuff,” even our good stuff. People need to smell an aroma of the Bread of Life, take a bite out of us, and because the taste is of the Bread of Life, experience DIVINELY CREATED APPETITE. Then they will be ready to hear about, more accurately, eat of, the One we say we represent. Telling people about the Bread of Life, and becoming the One Loaf with others for the world to feed on, to taste and see of THE Bread of Life, are two unrelated universes.

Telling people is like reading a restaurant menu to someone, but never buying them a meal. They heard about food accurately, but they have eaten nothing, so they still go away hungry. They’ve “heard the gospel” and now they are “accountable for their soul” and we’ve “done our bit for Jesus.” One is shortcut Christian religion, the other is the costly reality of the Way, Truth, and the Life that the world is hungry to see. Gospel proclamation is not about “sowing the seed of the Word” into the world, the gospel is proclaimed by sowing US into the world as seed (Mt. 13:38).

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2013: Sink or Swim . . . Together!

MP900390096Statistics may tell us many things, but they do not always tell us the truth. God’s redemptive action in history always trumps statistics. The ten spies reported the facts. God had  a higher reality.

However, to deny trends or to deny what statistics indicate is like playing in the band while the Titanic is sinking. Denial of the obvious is a particularly unique form of spiritual blindness. All the false prophets promised Israel that things were not that bad, and that their captivity wouldn’t last long. Their message found willing listeners. They were wrong.

All indicators are that the church in the West is in decline, not only numerically but also in substance and influence. Some might argue that if we are talking about “institutional” forms of “Christendom”–the nineteen or seventeen hundred-year-old counterfeit of Jesus’s kingdom–“good riddance” might be an appropriate response. Alas, the problem is unrelated to the structure of our gatherings, the quality of our theology, or the effectiveness of our practices, but rather the condition of our hearts.

Every time I point out a negative fact or trend, regarding our true state, I am met with: “but our church is not like that,”  “you shouldn’t criticize the church,” “there’s no such thing as a perfect church,” “we are the pure remnant,” “you should come and hear my pastor,” and other canards of denial. Funny, how a collection of wonderful churches, full of wonderful people, doing wonderful things for Jesus, results in overall spiritual and societal decline. Of course, MY church is wonderful,  the “other guy’s” church has problems.

Shiloh was a place of many wonderful interactions between God and Israel. However, it was reduced to a pile of rocks and overgrown vegetation when the substance of the life of God was lost in favor of much talk about God. External conformity to God’s demands without corresponding internal transformation is the DNA of decline.

A fire unattended and unfueled inevitably goes out. There’s a reason Paul exhorted Timothy to “fan the flame” of his faith: it’s prone to going out! An irrelevant pile of ashes of historical glory provides neither heat nor light. Real Christianity is always present. It’s hot. It’s alive. Anyone who actually lives like Jesus is really alive from the dead, will be a threat to people (and the institutions to which they belong) who have a philosophy of resurrection based on the Bible. We can handle a baby in a manger or a dead man on a cross. A baby and a dead man are not threats to how we want to do “our religion.” Let anyone actually live out of His resurrection life, well, that won’t be tolerated.  It’s a bush that doesn’t burn, and a fire that needs no fuel. That will not be allowed. It’s unmanageable.

Occasional, isolated, and cheerful exceptions at a local level, do not negate the overall trend in the West.  As leaders, we need to sound a clear alarm. The Church Universal, the Bride of Christ, is an eternal, unstoppable force. God’s redemptive reach is uniquely effective when impossibility and brokenness produce a cry for deliverance within hearts humbled by unpleasant circumstances. God’s hold on the future, and His determination for His bride, are not in question. Our participation with Him in it, is another matter.

Any local expression, regardless of how “wonderful our pastor” is or how “dynamic our worship team” is or “how relational we are,”  is not guaranteed existence and continuity: Ephesus–gone; Thessalonica–gone; Sardis–gone; churches in North Africa–gone; Europe–secularized, etc. You and I, and our “wonderful assemblies”  are not immune any more than our predecessors. When the talk of God exceeds the life of God, we are on the pathway to extinction, not withstanding our pious rhetoric and prayer for “revival.” God is not interested in reviving Bible philosophy clubs that happen to have a great lecture, great music, and a nice meal once or twice a week.

You can have a lovely private stateroom on a cruise liner, but if there’s a hole in the hull, the pleasantries of your stateroom will not save you from going down with the ship. Any of our local situations might be quite positive. However we will sink or float together in this matter. There is ONE Body. Daniel went into captivity with Israel. Jeremiah was not spared the rigors of Israel’s “divine chastisement” at the hands of a Babylonian invader.

Incarnational living in Christ does not exempt any of us from the travails of the culture we may worship or live in.  Rather, we will be the representative agents of God as we go into captivity together. God will “seed” us among the captives. The first Son was seeded into earth’s darkness and captivity, and all subsequent sons and daughters will be also.

Let each of us, in our assigned spheres of life and ministry, be sober and more resolute than we have ever been. Let’s burn. Let’s be hot. Let’s be light. Let’s remember that the ultimate act of spiritual warfare is not prophetic intercession or a spiritual warfare conference. It is a converted/transformed, soul who lives a transformed vibrant life in right relationship with God, one another, and humanity.

I pray God give each of us divine energy for every day that we have breath, that our lives may count for something other than American creature comforts and perpetuation of a way of life that may be filled with material blessings, but does not reflect Jesus’s kingdom interests.

In it together with you to the end . . .

Copyright 2012,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

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Fully Alive

Anyone who has ever seriously pondered the human condition for any length of time, normally ends up at a universal set of basic questions:  “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” and “Where do I belong?”

Everyone, if still at all for a moment in his or her thoughts, longs for these things: a sense of being, a sense of purpose, and a sense of belonging. Our secular culture does a poor job of addressing these questions, (In our individualistic culture, particularly the sense of belonging). Our education system is based on acquiring information, not soul-wellness and life-functionality skills.

The soul pain that can come from never answering these questions is the source of much substance abuse. We will either find answers to these questions or we will medicate the pain of their absence. Some forms of medication are culturally, socially, and legally more acceptable than others. Being a workaholic is more acceptable to us than being an alcoholic, and being addicted to religion is more acceptable than being addicted to heroin, but these are all just narcotics for the soul, because we don’t know who we are, why we are here, and where we belong.

Often people turn to “the church” or “religion” looking for these answers, only to be sadly disappointed. Hoping to find meaningful answers to the deepest questions of the human soul, honest inquirers are instead met with insipid moralism, institutional inertia, corruption, ambition, the love of money, organizational politics, and petty jealousies. In many cases, Christianity, as it is commonly known and expressed, is the poster-child for irrelevance to anything that matters to the human soul. This should not be so, and it is to our great shame that those who profess Christ are often so inept at sharing what really matters. For this, we ask forgiveness.

It can be difficult to understand that it is often necessary to separate what Jesus Christ offers from what the “church” offers. They are not the same. In Him, you will discover that you are loved, and your identity in Him is: “beloved son/daughter/child.” In Him, you will discover that you are graced from heaven with unique talents and abilities that only you can provide to a world that needs them and is waiting for them. In Him, you will discover that there is a family, a real family, not an organization, of other fellow pilgrims where you belong in loving relationship.

A friend of mine once counseled me with advice that changed my life. Knowing my own inclination to try to work hard to make life better for myself (and others) he told me: “Steve, the world is not waiting for you to be more perfect. The world is waiting for you to be fully alive.”

What does it mean to be fully alive? To know who I am, to know what I have to give, and to know where to give it. Jesus is alive from the dead, so I can be fully alive. You can be too.

Copyright 2012,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

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“Revival:” Revive What?

Recently I was privileged to do a podcast with my friends, Stevie Bremner and SJ Hill, on the topic of “revival.” If you are interested in listening in to this conversation where we talk about the issue from a grace-based, new covenant perspective, rather than the straining, striving, performance-based, “What is it going to take to get God to do what we think He ought to do?” perspective, you can find it at the link below from Stevie’s ministry:

http://firenederland.podbean.com/2012/04/29/episode-91-revive-what/

If you regularly subscribe to this blog, I apologize for the duplicate posting . . . trying to sort some technical issues at this end.

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