My Smart-Aleck Response

Ministry One to Another?

On Facebook, I posted a comment supporting a recent blog by Neil Cole about why the “organic church movement” is important. One of my smart-aleck Facebook friends responded:

Organic Church Movement? Is that a movement naturally fertilized? Or maybe movement marching only to organ music. Could also be a church movement of Kidneys, Livers and Colons?

So I thought I’d be a smart aleck in responding:

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Going and Owning – And Knowing the Difference

One of my strongest beliefs is that God calls us for a purpose – and gives us individual grace and gifts to match.

As Christ in us is expressed through us, we expand His Kingdom for the blessing of all – wherever He calls us.

Different Grace, Different Gifts, Different Callings

Where He bids us go, and what He bids us do, is different for each – and I have also learned that it often changes with the seasons of our lives.

For some, at this time in their life, it is to go and raise Godly families. For others, it is in the business realm as they create resources and opportunities. For some, it is going out to the fringes of their communities and ministering to those in need.

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Ekklesia: A Modest Manifesto

Ekklesia: A Modest Manifesto

Wherever he went, the Apostle Paul always sparked either revival or riot.

Does our age, and our culture, deserve any less?

Let’s boldly smash our boxes of insular spirituality and cultural lethargy by confidently proclaiming that Jesus is Lord of all.

Let’s reject narcissist Christianity by allowing Jesus in me to be more than about me – and my sensibilities.

Let’s stop foisting our own grace, gifts, callings and motivations on God’s people as normative for all.

Let’s embrace the diversity of His grace, gifts, callings and motivations in the context of true ekklesia – local authentic community where Jesus in us is expressed through us as His multifaceted and participatory Body.

Let’s stop saying everything is about my relationship with Jesus while discounting his Kingship – including His commands and His precepts.

Let’s stop saying I only do what I hear Jesus subjectively tell me, while denying the power and authority of what He also says in His written Word.

Let’s stop proclaiming “Christ is all” while minimizing all that Christ has given for knowing more of Him – including not only His presence in us, but also the plenary authority of Scripture to guide us in sound doctrine, balanced community that affirms objective standards, holy lives that please Him, engaging our culture, and wise counsel from mature believers who model His precepts.

Let’s reject gnostic tendencies that seek to separate the spiritual and the material world of our everyday existence by denying the authority and relevance of Christ – and His body – regarding all of creation.

Let’s stop discounting those who went before us, and their creeds and experiences, by humbly learning what they have to teach us despite the reality that we all have flaws.

Let’s affirm God’s continual sovereign advance through history and reject the spirit of our age and its myopic, isolationist pessimism.

Let’s be discerning about self-proclaimed apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers or other itinerant ministries – and their writings – when they are not themselves presently rooted in, accountable to, coming from, or even able to demonstrate a history of integration into actual, functional, local ekklesia.

Let’s reject the voices of those who try to separate the centrality of Christ from the Great Commission, mission and discipleship.

Let’s unleash God’s people to be fruitful at all stages of their growth, as Christ enables, and stop burdening them with the bondage of our preconceived preconditions of “root before fruit”.

Let’s start embracing balance and maturity – as together we become His disciples through functional, participatory ekklesia that reflects the life of Christ but is also rooted in the authority of His written Word.

Let’s be mighty men and women of God, who once again spark revival or riot as we proclaim the fulness of Christ as merciful Savior, gracious Lord, sovereign King and ultimate Judge to a desperate world.

As such, may we be life-transforming, culture-changing ekklesia once again – the visible Body of Christ which doesn’t merely say come, but goes forth into all the world.


I wrote and posted this on the morning of my birthday, when I officially became a “senior citizen”. It summarizes a lifetime of experience serving the King of Kings. May it be both a present and a challenge to my passion: the wonderful, multifaceted, participatory Body of Christ.

Becoming The Body of Christ

Sure, institutional churches have great programs, services and staff, and lives are touched. But have they produced a mature Body of Christ?

Isn’t this the nub of the matter?

Folks can rationalize all they want and try to read their human traditions back into the Bible, but after it is all said and done, has the institutional church succeeded in seeing a mature Body of Christ emerge?

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Sufficient Grace, Part III

Several have asked how things are going with my health, so I though I’d post a quick update to my prior posts (Sufficient Grace and Sufficient Grace, Part II).

Peace in the Storm

Two weeks ago I was accepted into a NIH Phase II clinical trial which is evaluating two drugs for treating pulmonary fibrosis in scleroderma patients.

That I was accepted is a miracle because my lung function was just below their minimum. It’s a double blind study, so I don’t know which of the two drugs I’m taking (either cytoxan or cellcept), but they are both really strong, serious medications that typically have significant side effects.

My close community of brothers and sisters here in Virginia, and others, have been lifting me up in wonderful prayer. It has been mature prayer, not desperate prayer, rooted in making our requests known but also being at peace in God’s ultimate grace and sovereignty.

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Fathers and Teachers

Fathers and Teachers

I keep hearing from folks who have felt troubled and marginalized by authors and bloggers who seem unable to go beyond their own sensibilities and who seek to make their own gifts and limitations normative for the entire Body of Christ.

In response, I can’t shake this urge to proclaim what I see in scripture and experience daily in our own fellowships: The multifaceted, multi-gifted, multi-called Body of Christ.

I am convinced that God’s heart is passionate about releasing His people to be all that He created them to be – not just in our churches, but in all spheres of life.

Our collective failure to do this – both within the institutional and organic church communities – and the insular, anemic fruit that has resulted, is one of the biggest challenges facing the West today.

Individual Limitations

Here’s the problem I see daily among individual Christians:

Those who are primarily motivated by the heart, feel all must be the same. Those primarily motivated by renewed minds, think all must be the same. Those primarily motivated by transformed wills, act as though all must be the same…

We are post-modern in our sensibilities, so all must be the same. We are called to this, or to that, and so all must be the same. We not are called to this, or to that, and so all must be the same…

Please, everyone, can’t we just stop this nonsense!

Yes, Christ is all. But is He just Lord of YOUR all, or Lord of all?

Is He just heart, or just mind, or just will?

Is He just mercy, or just prophetic, or just ruler, or just giver, or just relational, or just whatever you want or seem to need Him to be?

Is He just generation X, or generation Y?

And let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Has He really surrendered His Lordship over all creation, culture, spheres of human endeavor, nations and history itself, just so He can be all about you and your sensibilities?

For real???

Leadership Limitations

It is bad enough when individuals try to make their own strengths and limitations normative for all. But it is an order of magnitude worse for a leader to do so.

Fathers delight in others exceeding them.

The more I contemplate and reflect on this, and seek the mind of Christ, the more I am coming to believe that these problems are rooted in the difference between a teacher verses a father in the faith.

Both are needed.

But teachers are primarily motivated to reproduce what they have only personally comprehended or experienced. They tend to minister from whom they are, and are very good at laying a foundation based on what they personally understand, but often are not very good at taking us much further.

Fathers (and mothers!) often stand on the foundation laid by the teachers, and may themselves engage in didactic teaching, but their motivation is very different. They tend to focus on who you can be, and are good at helping others be more than themselves and to exceed their own understanding and experiences.

Where teachers delight in replicating what they have personally figured out, fathers delight in us going beyond their own abilities, comprehension, biases and sensibilities.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not an absolute either/or. But there are different core motivations, even though some can operate in both arenas.

Maybe a hands-on father in the faith won’t be motivated to burrow down into all the details to bring us deep understanding on this or that – or be motivated to write many books – like a teacher. Rather, his greatest joy is releasing others to be more than himself.

The joy of a father is for you to exceed him by helping you find your own – and often very different – abilities and calling. He delights in watching you conquer the unknown as you venture into new spheres of endeavor in areas he may not even comprehend, rather than simply conveying and replicating his own motivations and understanding.

Moving Forward

We have wonderful teachers, writers and bloggers, and they have taught us much from the perspective of their own journey, their own comprehension, and their own sensibilities.

But we have too few fathers in the Body of Christ these days.

As a father who has birthed and mentored many in the Lord, I make this plea to the gifted teachers among us who have taught me much: Keep writing, blogging and teaching. You have much to offer. But understand that Christ, as head of His body, never intended for your own understanding and experiences to become limiting factors, or God forbid, the new legalism.

He calls all leaders in His Church to enable and equip others. And yes, Christ is all. But “all” is not defined by or limited to your own understanding and sensibilities.

Unless we all grasp this truth – individuals, teachers and fathers alike – we will never become the wonderful, amazing Body of Christ.

This is my passion. This is my calling.

Outside the Box

For most Christians, “church” is the big box where they attend a “service” on Sunday mornings.

If they are super-committed Christians, maybe it means attending additional meetings and programs that emanate from the Box during the rest of the week.

Outside the Box!

It took me years to learn to think – and act – outside that box!

Yes, Christ can be found in the box. But He does His best work, I’ve found, apart from and outside the box.

My spiritual heritage was outside the box. I was birthed into the Kingdom of God during the Jesus Movement and was very active in what we’d now call a network of “organic” or “simple” fellowships. But as the decades passed, I allowed myself to be slowly but surely drawn into the box.

Getting back out required a radical paradigm shift as I honestly and painfully let Scripture strip away my man-made traditions and accumulated expectations.

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Modern Day Pauls?

Modern Day Pauls?

Many tout themselves as modern-day apostles and church planters like Paul, but where’s their Antioch?

Although Paul functioned as an apostolic church planter, his self-expressed credentials included the fact that he continued as an elder – meaning he remained grounded in and part of the local leadership of his home church in Antioch. All too often we ignore the fact that Paul was commissioned and sent by his local church on his apostolic missions, but only after having proven himself over many years in the context of that local, functioning fellowship.

He would then return for a season to his home church in Antioch at the end of his various apostolic, church-planting journeys (except for his last, where history says he was beheaded in Rome), before being sent out again.

Beware of gifted but itinerant men and women who want to “help” your local church as modern-day Paul’s, but lack ongoing community with, roots in, commission from and accountability to another functioning local church.

Some of us have been around long enough to see past incarnations of such floating, unattached “ministries” to local churches.

In the 70′s and 80′s, they proliferated within the Charismatic movement – mainly among those who were certainly gifted but nonetheless could never succeed at finding healthy church with accountable community in their own lives.

Often, they were authors or good aspirational communicators who had exciting ideas, but only answered to themselves. Sometimes, however, they’d form loose associations where they only answered to each other in lieu of having any Antiochs in their lives – which only tended to reinforce the shared theological or dispositional idiosyncrasies which attracted them to each other in the first place.

Without exception, over time problems emerged with each and every of them – and with the churches that affiliated with them. (And I mean that – I can’t think of a single one who did not fall prey to one disqualifying problem or another, often related to pride or just becoming increasingly weird!)

There’s too much of this stuff starting to emerge again today, especially within the “organic” church community. It is fraught with danger, unbiblical, and will only lead to disaster.

~ Jim

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True Leadership

Increasing or Decreasing?

Ever notice the strong correlation between how “big” a Christian leader is and the degree of Christian immaturity in “his” organization (i.e., church, ministry, or whatever)?

May we come to grips with the words of John the Baptist, who told his disciples that Jesus “must increase, but I must decrease.”

This is the true measure of leadership in the Body of Christ.

~ Jim

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Old Covenant Church

I think I’m slowly comprehending the profound cleavage that’s occurring today in how folks understand “Church”.

Old Covenant Church

The Old Covenant was a revelation about God – His nature and precepts – with a tabernacle/temple where people could go to find His presence and a priesthood to help get right with Him.

This is like many churches today, which do a wonderful job teaching us about the Lord, providing a place and an environment for us to experience His presence, and serving as a bridge between God and His people.

Many are content to go to church to learn about God, feel His presence, and have an anointed and appointed pastor and his worship team mediate from the front. It would be dishonest to deny that those can be truly amazing, life-affirming pillars for one’s faith.

But in the New Testament, is that God’s perfect will?

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Ordained to Fail

Life on a Tight Rope

I feel sorry for those who claim the mantle of “Pastor” – a position and a title never bestowed on anyone anywhere in the New Testament. For example, where did Paul or anyone else ever appoint or recognize a “pastor” over a church?

Over the decades, I’ve seen great dis-functionality among such men and women. They are operating within a framework, and on assumptions and traditions, that God never ordained.

How can someone seriously believe that the Lord intends for anyone to bear that burden or take on such prerogatives over His people? It can’t help but twist you, and eventually you will fail.

The Question of Leadership

The Question of Leadership

When folks first start re-thinking “church” and considering the idea of open, organic, participatory fellowships, the first thing they seem to focus on is the question of leaders and leadership. That was true for me.

Those are important issues, for sure. But the incessant focus on who will lead – and on creating proper leadership structures – typically comes out of the whole institutional church clergy/laity paradigm, which God is now trying to break.

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Mentoring Entrepreneurs

Here’s a TV program that’s been airing in our area about one of the ministries in which I’m involved. I, and others, have been mentoring and working with folks who are gifted with entrepreneurial aptitude. Our focus is helping them start and grow new businesses, based on solid, real-world experience and sound Biblical principles. Often, we work with “alumni” of the local jail.

The host, Liz Charity, starts out interviewing me, then does an on-site interview with one of my protegé’s, Oscar Weeks, who started a road-side pit BBQ business.

Abusive Church Leaders (Part 4) – Civil and Criminal Law

Abusive Church Leaders (Part 4) – Civil and Criminal Law

So you’ve tried to follow the procedure of 1 Tim. 5, as discussed in Part 3 of this series, by investigating and exposing church leaders who abused their positions of power and trust.

But what if you were rebuffed?

Or what if – despite public reprimand, confession and repentance – you reasonably fear that they may continue preying on others or the church is not providing restitution for the harm you’ve been bearing? Scripturally, do you have additional options?

More specifically, is it ever proper to seek help from the courts and secular authorities to deal with pastoral sexual abuse or churches which allowed it to happen? After all, doesn’t 1 Cor. 6 say we should not sue another brother?

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Abusive Church Leaders (Part 2) – How Should We React?

How should we react to an unrepentant pastor who’s used his position of trust and power to prey on women – often after turning to him for spiritual counsel and support during vulnerable times in their lives?

All the theory in the world is great. But one thing I’ve learned from experience is this: Those who want to help these women find justice and closure, and protect others, need an unflinching resolve to stand toe to toe against these predators.

Typically, a predatory pastor is not accustomed to being questioned or challenged by anyone. He often will try to deflect accountability either through intimidation or a charm offensive – or both! These men are master manipulators, and it takes a God-given strength of will to stand firm, force answers, stop the abuse, and expose their evil as a warning to others.

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Abusive Church Leaders (Part 1) – My Personal Angst

Much to my dismay, God keeps bringing people to my door who have been abused by a pastor or other trusted church leader.

Over the last year, I’ve taken on three cases against abusive pastors. Two involve significant embezzlement and fraud by pastors in different churches. A third involves extensive sexual abuse and misconduct by around half a dozen men on the pastoral and ministerial staff at Christ Chapel Assembly of God in Woodbridge, Virginia.

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Understanding the Seven Motivational Gifts

This PowerPoint presentation looks at the seven gifts listed in Romans 12, and the motivations and ways that different people use those differing gifts. More significantly, what is the resulting fruit when your church allows those seven gifts to be fully expressed in its structure, ministries, leadership, meetings and day-to-day fellowship?

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The Church in the New Testament: Its Form, Function and Purpose

Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! In this PowerPoint presentation, all that you think of as “church” is about to be challenged so God can woo us back to being, once more, the multi-faceted, wonderful, exciting Body of Christ.

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My Prayer

How long, Lord, will you continue to tolerate those leaders among us who bring shame on your name and prey on your people?

How long, Lord, will you tolerate those who enable such predators, thus allowing even more harm to your precious children?

For your name’s sake, bring righteousness and judgment.

Purify your Church, Lord, of those building their kingdoms and manipulating your people to advance self interests, rather than Your Kingdom.

Helping or Enabling?

It’s hard cut lose a man you’ve been ministering to and let him ultimately bear the full consequences of the mess he’s made of his life – not to hurt him, but to let him finally hit bottom.

I am friends with and minister to men and women who most people, and many churches, shun (except for arms-length “programs”, if even that). Pick a vice – any vice – and I’ve likely come beside and embraced those in bondage to it: former drug addicts, narc dealers, sex offenders, embezzlers, thieves, gender benders, Satanic ritual abusers and even murderers.

Because I’ve been willing to see past the sin and accept the common humanity we all share – not as one who is perfect but as a someone willing to walk with them as we sort out our individual imperfections together under God’s mercy and grace – some of these folk are now following the Lord.

I love such people, because daily I see how God creates beauty out of their ashes.

I am blessed, because I serve a God who, above all, creates. He takes destruction – what has become void and without form, in the words of Genesis 1 – and brings wonder and life and order. . .

. . . and He delights most of all, I’ve found, in redeeming lives that many think are beyond hope.

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Reboot

God seems to be laying a foundation for yet another of His periodic, history-changing interventions in the affairs of man. Over the last two thousand years there have been many such paradigm shifts, and it’s naive to think that our current, settled status quo will somehow be exempt from the unsettling but progressive advance of His Kingdom.

Paradigm Shifts

This newest paradigm shift is starting with pioneers who realize that God’s primary goal in history is to change not only individuals but also whole cultures and nations — as per the Great Commission.

Likewise, as with all prior interventions in history, His will is being applied to more and more aspects of His creation here on earth, just as it is in heaven — as per the Lord’s Prayer.

We also are coming to realize that the Kingdom of God — His will being done on earth (including all spheres of human endeavor) as it is in heaven — is bigger than the church. Nonetheless, we are beginning to understand that His Kingdom is not going to advance much further unless the church re-discovers her New Testament roots.

Admittedly, there is comfort in the familiar status quo of “church” as we’ve all come to know it. Some, however, are so hungry for God’s Kingdom — as it continues to progressively advance through history — that they’re willing hit to the reboot button and look afresh at God’ s purposes.

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The Lost Art of Dialogue

As last Friday’s church met over a shared meal (nothing fancy — KFC this week!) around a kitchen table, someone asked a question that opened up a great discussion on God’s sovereignty and human will. We must have spent at least an hour in dynamic exchange — with amazing questions, comments and seeking Scripture together as God’s truths opened up for everyone.

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Evangelical Prophets or Martyrs?

I vividly recall leafing through World magazine back in 2006 and reading the unsettling but hardly surprising news that Randall Terry – the firebrand evangelical who formerly headed Operation Rescue and was then financially wiped out following a series of lawsuits by pro-abortionists – had joined the Roman Catholic Church.

“Unsettling,” because it provides further evidence of the growing weariness and disillusionment I’m seeing among spiritual “entrepreneurs” who’ve been laboring within evangelical circles to expand the Kingdom of God in all spheres of life and culture.

“Hardly surprising,” however, as those “on point” for the Kingdom increasingly seek refuge from the prevailing pop-theology (or dare I say lack of theology) and me-focused brand of Christianity that pervades evangelicalism (which includes charismatics and Pentecostals), animates many of our local church and national leaders, and cuts believers off from the great historic doctrines and creeds of our faith.

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