You heard it here first…
Everyone loves the poor, until asked to share a meal in their home with one.
Everyone loves mercy, until they have to embrace the actual mess of inconvenient victims.
Everyone loves justice, until it disturbs their comfort zones.
Everyone loves the prophetic, until it exposes sin among them.
Everyone loves grace, until it calls them to repent.
Everyone loves love, until it speaks truth.
Is it any wonder that a generation raised to believe it’s all about them has a hard time grasping that it’s all about God?
They are easy prey for those peddling God’s amazing grace, love and acceptance, while rejecting repentance, truth and change.
The greatest deceptions, however, involve half truths.
Unfortunately, there’s just too much of this going around these days, and it’s terminal when it comes to healthy believers and healthy ekklesia.
Among our fellowships, we keep it real.
We have to. We have no choice.
Continually, people are coming to the Lord through us from places of deep bondage and despair.
“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers.”
1 Cor. 4:15
These days, we are inundated with aspirational books and blogs by articulate but unproven advocates for this and that movement, pet doctrine or agenda …
… while there are too few spiritual moms and dads, quietly laboring without name or fame in committed local fellowships to build strong believers.
Fortunately, God is changing this dynamic.
While some want to instruct and inspire the masses with lofty ideas that have not yet been proven or matured in their own lives …
… effective leaders are content to reproduce in just a few what God has truly taught them.
We all would do well to listen to the latter, and be cautious of the former.
~ Jim Wright
The other morning a young man stopped by the house.
He had been struggling with emotional pain and bondage, and said he hadn’t come earlier because he didn’t want to be a burden.
I shocked him by responding that he and his problems were a burden – that there were other things I could be doing that morning. But, I explained with a huge grin, it was my joy to be burdened by him.
He paused and thought about it, then nodded as he realized I was being totally transparent and real with him. Thus started an amazing time of talking, sharing and ministry.
God is a polyglot: He speaks to different people different ways.
Some primarily hear Him through the language of their heart and feelings, some analytically through their mind, some through the dynamics of action, some through the identity of relationships, and some through the passion of mercy and justice – among other ways.
Problems often arise among His people, however, when we think that our primary language for hearing God is His only language, or is superior to other languages He uses with others.
When we think of redemption we usually think about Christ’s atoning blood which delivered us from our sins. Yes, on the day we personally surrender ourselves to the Lord and ask His forgiveness, He redeems our soul and we become His children.
Christ’s sacrifice was vital. We can now partake in His kingdom here on earth and when we die join Him in heaven. However, I believe that Christ’s act of redemption is far more encompassing then simply making a way for us to enter heaven.
Tim Day, a fellow elder here in Virginia, is co-teaching a Biblical Foundations discipleship class with Sheri Warren and me on Sunday evenings.
That class pulls together folks from indigenous, participatory fellowships that are relating together in our county. Through it, the three of us – with help from other local elders – are helping to lay a foundation of sound doctrine in those churches through their emerging leaders.
Over the last few weeks we have focused on spiritual gifts, and the importance of everyone being able to encourage and minister to one another in our local fellowships as we each use the gifts God gives us for our mutual benefit.
Among the fellowships relating together here in Virginia, we’re seeing a deep hunger for mature discipleship, in-depth training and sound doctrine.
That hunger was reinforced earlier this year, when Miguel Labrador visited several of those fellowships. Miguel, with his wife Claudia, has been a catalyst for the rapid spread of the gospel in Ecuador – where they’ve helped birth many generations of new believers and fellowships over a relatively short time.
Like us, they have a “go and sow” approach – where we go and sow the gospel in existing communities, thus allowing local fellowships, believers and leadership to emerge indigenously within those communities.
This stands in stark contrast to the more common “come and gather” approach, which urges people to organize around a single church with its central building, programs and pastor.
It’s great to write books and blogs promoting the role of women in the church, finding “ekklesia”, and all sorts of other local church issues.
But the rubber meets the road when it comes to those with a history of using the church to sexually prey upon and exploit others.
It is hypocrisy to then defend and promote them, to discount the properly issued warnings of their own local church (see 1 Tim. 5:19-21), to ignore the evidence you personally have seen, and to stand quiet as they continue a campaign of cover up through threats and intimidation against anyone who dares bear witness against them.
When it really matters, do you put your values – and the things you write – over personal friendships and your network of mutual promotion?
It’s time to walk in integrity once again…
God wants leaders who’s public persona, words and values match their private lives.
A number of fellowships relating together here in Virginia have started a Sunday evening discipleship class, focusing on leadership development and laying a foundation of sound doctrine. Most of those attending have a desire to learn and grow in the Lord, so they in turn can help others.
Our initial topic is “Repentance and the Kingdom of God”.
In this journey of faith and fellowship, I keep coming across books and blogs by authors who decry this or that perspective in the Body of Christ, while then arguing that we must see things through the glasses of their own unique perspective – often under very enticing rhetoric.
In essence, their books and blogs express unrealistic aspirations – as they promote some theoretical concept of church and community that looks, thinks and acts just like them.
If truth be told, we’re all guilty – to some extent – of trying to do the same thing.
German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Where the world seeks gain, Christians will renounce it; where it exploits, they will let go; where it oppresses, they will stoop down and lift up the oppressed. Where the world denies justice, Christians will practice compassion; where it hides behind lies, they will speak out for those who cannot speak, and testify for the truth.
Do we really want virtue, justice and truth – especially when they challenge the status quo of our settled lives, churches and ministries?
Do we really value virtue, justice and truth – even if they challenge any self-affirming relationships with Jesus and each other?
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)
May God send prophets among us yet again.
The last several years have been a wonderful journey of seeing folks come to the Lord and fellowships emerge in highly improbable places. In my own life, the roots for this go back to my dad and mom, Bob and Mary Jane Wright.
In the 1970s and 80′s, the Lord used them as pioneers in what we’d now call “organic” church – before that term became popular (even though today it unfortunately can mean nearly anything).
Forty years ago, they helped birth a regional network of open, participatory fellowships in Maryland, where people could find and express the vibrant life of Christ in dynamic gatherings as everyone ministered one to another – rather than having directed, hierarchical meetings.
Yup. It’s true. I killed ekklesia (the Greek word often translated in the New Testament to mean a local “church”). Now, several years later, it’s time to finally come clean and confess.
Although we all love the “glory stories”, we also need to tell of our failures – because it’s our failures which often teach the most.
So here’s my sorry story of having killed a fellowship.
Maybe, by owning up to my failures, it will help others trying to form an organic fellowship, home group, simple church – or whatever you want to call an open, participatory gathering of believers ministering one to another in smaller, relational fellowships.
Last night was the second week in a semester-long class Marianne and I are teaching, through Nathan’s Voice and our fellowships, on pastoral counseling. We had a full house (literally!).
We previously taught this two years ago, and many are now ministering grace and healing in our county to those trapped in the bondage of addictions, past abuse, and controlling emotional wounds.
About half of the class comes from our fellowships, and the rest from other churches in the area.
But this morning, I’m tired…
Several ministries are offering a free class in Pastoral Counseling on Wednesday evenings in Prince William County, Virginia, beginning April 17, 2013, from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.
The class is open to all members of the Body of Christ from local churches (not just “pastors”!), and likely will run about twelve weeks.
To give some idea of the type of counseling we will be teaching others to do, I’ve reprinted below a blog about one session I had with a deeply troubled man last year.
This originally was part of a longer post, which I’ve now split in two. If you haven’t yet, I recommend you first read Part 1.
Small is Beautiful
These days, “small” seems to be the new buzz word – and I generally agree with that focus. When our gatherings become too large, it is impossible for folks to participate in sharing and ministering to each other and freely expressing the life of Christ with one another.
In the New Testament, the imperative to participate – to express the life of Christ in us, among us and through us – extends to our meetings, as well as our throughout-the-week relationships.
I’m not anti-big. There are times when larger gatherings make sense – but not as the main expression of the local Body of Christ, with small groups as mere adjuncts to the big Sunday show or some leader’s grand vision.
Also, if “small” becomes mini one-man shows in someone’s home, community center, jail unit, coffee shop, homeless shelter, work cafeteria or wherever, that misses the whole point.
To keep these problems from happening, we need to restore a proper concept of leadership within the Body of Christ.
I tire of everyone with their “new thing”, hip new labels and conference extravaganzas – as they peddle their amazing new book, ministry, “revelation” or program.
Two recent blogs I liked are:
Giving in Simple Church, by Tim Day.
Like Tim, Marianne and I reject the idea that Christians are obligated to tithe or that the tithe carries over into the New Covenant. But like Tim, we still give at least 10% of our income because we feel that’s what God wants of us personally, as we help and serve others.
Tim’s blog provides some very balanced, practical insight on giving.
The Changing Face of Full-Time Ministry, by Alan Knox.
We need to move past the old mentality of “full-time ministry” and realize that we all are ministering Christ full time.
Both of these brothers, and their blogs, should be on your “must read” list.
Have you ever noticed how those who heavily promote organic food and natural health with the most enthusiasm and sincerity, sometimes look the most sickly and anemic and seem to have the most health problems?
They are reacting to real problems, but have turned their idealistic and seemingly good-sounding concepts into an all consuming idol – to the exclusion of real health which comes from a balanced life.
I’ve also see this among some who are the most ardent proponents of organic church. They’ve fallen prey to unbalanced reactions and aspirations which prevent authentic life and sustainable, healthy fellowships.