Proclamation & Demonstration…

Before I start I will warn you that this post will be bent towards the Gospel being “Demonstrated”. Obviously, both are necessary & Biblical. However, because we have seemingly focused more on one side (proclaiming) for so long we may need an extreme kick in the butt to move us back towards a healthy balance of both. So, I don’t want any comments about how there must be “both” – let that be a known theme throughout the post. =)

gospel-fight

Many of us who are professed Christians have been raised with a wonderful set of beliefs, doctrinal statements, moral code, and can, if put on the spot, share that set of beliefs with just about anyone. Those who accepted Christ later in life probably became indoctrinated very quickly. We have been taught about the importance of “sharing our faith” (The Gospel) with others. There are TONS of resources on effective ways to “communicate the Gospel”, or proclaim it to others. Many of them are wonderful-a lot of them are not. From handing out Gospel tracks to learning practical ways to share “our story” (Testimony) there seems to be a very strong push in America towards a Proclaimed Gospel….

Over the years we Christians have become very good conversationalists, debaters, authors, persuaders, & defenders of our set of beliefs. There have been thousands of books/blogs written not only on sharing the Gospel (with words), but also defending the Gospel. The Gospel message is powerful in and of itself. But, why has the Gospel (“good news”) been reduced to mere words shared from one person to another? Why have we settled for a proclaimed Gospel masterfully crafted with the right words in order that we may wrap our minds around it? We have become brilliant “wordsmiths” in our pursuit of trying to convince unbelievers they should agree with us, and accept Jesus like we have. Was the Gospel meant to only be “proclaimed”, or did God have something else in mind?

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

Wow. These few verses are littered with the Gospel’s transforming power in the lives of the Thessalonians. It also depicts how the Gospel was proclaimed “with words” AND demonstrated “in power”. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of only trying to convince unbelievers they should “think like I think”, or “believe what I believe”. Oh, and the whole “let’s SHOW them the Gospel with our actions”/”social Gospel” thing is not what I’m talking about either. (Not that those are bad things-just NOT what I’m getting at) In my struggle with this I went to check out what Jesus did…

Throughout the Gospels it would appear as if Jesus’ favorite thing to do was physically heal those in need. In fact, over half the stories of Jesus doing anything in His life involved miracles, and supernatural events taking place. In fact, many times Jesus uses very little words when interacting with those who don’t yet “know Him”. Think about a few off the top of your head… “Your sins are forgiven, rise, take up your mat and walk”, “your faith has healed you”, “Come out of this man you evil spirit!” He then tells that same man, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Does anyone else find it interesting that Jesus did not feel the need to sit down with them for hours to “make sure they understood” what had just happened? It’s also funny that He didn’t enroll them in a “new members class” or discipleship study group. We could go on for hours. The point is that Jesus not only proclaimed His message and the “good news” through teaching, or sharing with words, but he also demonstrated it with POWER. That power was through His Holy Spirit. He gave that same Holy Spirit to US…

John 14:12 says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

newsupdate071508bClick the picture to read about this boy being healed…

Yes, your Bible says it too. Go check. It says that we will do even greater things than those things we see in scripture-because He is going to the Father. Later in Acts we read about the Holy Spirit being left on the earth for The Church as Jesus went to heaven.

We don’t like to think about these things because we can’t wrap our minds around them. We are logical people. Supernatural things & miracles are illogical. We ignore things that we can’t explain with our cunning words, and hide from things we don’t understand. So, we go through our entire lives dismissing them, and convince ourselves that “the supernatural” doesn’t exist. The God I serve is a supernatural God-yes, still.

Frankly, I have no desire to “go to bat” with my life for anything less than a supernaturally powerful, Creator God. Many of us believe in Jesus with our minds. I’m not so sure that as many of us believe in Jesus with our hearts. “Jesus doesn’t live in our minds, He lives in our hearts”, is something my friend Brian Orme said one time that really rocked my boat. We must ask ourselves, “Am I Christian based upon a list of beliefs that I’ve subscribed to, or based upon the POWER of the Holy Spirit moving in my life like we see in 1 Thess. above?”

A quick word of warning for those of you who begin to step out in faith and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit: God is interested in your obedience to Him. HE will produce the fruit. Do not allow worry, fear, or a heavy weight to press down on you as you begin to step out in faith. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) I can promise you from personal experience that as you step out in obedience more the Lord, who sees your faith in little things will trust you with greater things. Walking in the faith and power of the Holy Spirit is not easy. It takes time and practice. It also takes discernment to listen to God’s voice and be LED by the Spirit.

This past week my family and I have spent time begging God for more. More of His Spirit, more power, & more faith. We ask Him to Baptize us with His Holy Spirit, and POUR His Spirit out on us to empower us for works of service. We have been intentionally looking for opportunities to step out in faith, and see the Gospel Demonstrated in Power. Will you join us…?

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Amendment…Ouch.

After going back & reading over my last post, “A Bad Thing…?” and having several close friends (including my wife) point out that some things said may have been a bit harsh, out of line, or taken the wrong way I realized the need for action. My pride screamed out, but then I remembered that these people truly care about me, are kingdom minded, and have no hidden agenda…

My first response was to retaliate to their comments or emails defensively…which I did in some cases (sorry=). After some discussion with friends, and wrestling with the Holy Spirit I realized I needed to do something much different.

My second thought was to DELETE the blog post, which would be the easy thing to do. I then realized that I truly wanted my wrestle to be SEEN, or READ by anyone who reads my blog. I wanted it to be evident how easy it is for us (me in this case) to slip into challenging and questioning the motives of others, which can be very dangerous.

I wrote the last post rather quickly, and with little pre-post revisions. I did not run it by anyone first, and had a bit of a bad taste in my mouth based upon the experiences I mentioned in the post itself. (By no means an attempt to justify)

So, I wanted to “go on the record” with an amendment to my last entry. Again, I do not want to remove the post, but paint a full picture. May these two entries be a lesson learned the hard way, with hopes that others can avoid falling into such traps.

In the post I challenged the motives, and reasons behind why many pastors plant churches. What I unintentionally did was generalize, and group all pastors into that category. That is not fair. I made the attack that they only plant churches if it benefits them in some way, etc. I did not realize how harshly this came across, and want to retract that statement. I realize now that it was completely unnecessary at getting across the point I was making in the first place. Silly Aaron.

I am embarrased by the fact that I accidentally allowed myself to make a very general statement that lumped a lot of really great guys into a category that they did not belong. I felt terrible as I realized that our BIGGEST financial supporter could have been lumped into that category based upon my EXTREME, and unnecesary comment. (They would be the FARTHEST thing from my description in the last post)

My wife gently pointed out to me that by making such an accusation I was doing the very thing to these wrongly accused pastors that SOME others have done to us in the past. We, and many other like-minded individiuals have been lumped into the category of “rebellious”, “house-church”, “wound-lickers”, etc. Morgan challenged me with something that many of us in the “simple church” world are constantly wrestling with: “Be careful, lest you become what you hate”. In other words, I was upset that some pastors had delegitimized some of our student church planters, & grouped them in with some angry, upper-middle class, baby-boomer, “house church” people. It led me to retaliate by doing the same thing to them that I was upset at them for doing to me. Silly Aaron.

My whole point in the previous post was that young people who are passionate/apostolic need some good ol’ spiritual fathers to encourage, release, and affirm them. (I could have fit that into a 140 character twitter update!) But NO, I just had to bring out some unneeded, below-the-belt jabs; for these I apologize, especially if you accidentally got generalized.

I would, however, encourage every “church planter” or pastor of a church that plants churches to always check your motives. In our organization we try to check ours on a regular basis. About a year into things we realized that we had fallen back into a numbers trap by trying to start a bunch of churches “in our network” (Duh, so we could take credit for them, and show everyone how much God was using us…) Praise Christ that He revealed that evil in our…MY heart, and led us to make proper changes.

Sometimes the enemy sneaks in to pervert the most good-intentioned things, making them evil at the core, but pretty on the outside.

To sum it all up: OMIT the entire first four paragraphs of the previous post. =)

Thank you all for your grace.

Feels Good To Let Go…

Whew. I am feeling overwhelmed by the crazy amounts of reading I have done in the past week revolving around Dan Kimball’s blog, and Neil Cole/Alan Hirsch and many others response to it. If you are unfamiliar with these conversations that is not a bad thing. It is basically a bunch of guys discussing…debating, etc. how to “do” church, that their way of “doing” church is better, and seemingly defending the way they do things. (Not all. Many of the guys have stayed very chill, and much of the conversation has been healthy-a few undeserved jabs here and there)

I started following the conversations that erupted in the comments sections and have finally stopped participating today. I can’t say I have much to add. Everyone seems to have their mind made up. Everyone has their strong, and solid points that prove this way or that. I feel no need give a long explanation here. I also have no energy left to try and convince any Christians why we (Me, my wife, our community, our organization-“Intentional Gatherings”)  do things the way we do. I could spend the next hour writing an elaborate response in order to try and convince other Christians….or I could go spend some time with one of the disciples in our community, or our next door neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus….It “Feels Good To Let Go”. Anyhow, this statement by Frost pretty much sums up how I feel:

“Our christology should lead to our missiology which in turn will lead to our ecclesiology. In other words, the way we understand the gospels and the character of God revealed to us in Jesus will affect our way of thinking about our mission in the world. If we get our christology right, it will lead to a right missiology. If we engage missionally in a godly fashion, issues such as how to ‘do’ church (ecclesiology) will take care of themselves.” -Michale Frost-

I’ve posted on this topic before. Christ called us to go and make disciples, not plant churches. He also did not call us to, or even suggest that we “go to church”. He sure as HELL did not intend for us to lose sight of making disciples by getting distracted debating with other believers “how to do church”. If we are making disciples then communities of faith should be naturally birthing. (Read the book “Church Planting Movements“, or any of the previous posts I’ve written about the book)

Also, I would encourage ALL of you who are actively pursuing this conversation through the blogs, and comment sections to visit Neil Cole’s blog if you haven’t already. Start at “Misguided Misgivings 1″. They are all very short. Dan and Neil get into a very healthy discussion in the comments section. Read those. They are very informative, and answer MANY of the questions brought up throughout the various posts.