A New Church Plant?

Why would anyone want to plant a new church in these last days? I mean, there is a church practically on every corner...right? Everywhere you turn...there is another church. You'll find denominational churches and/or nondenominational churches. Add to that interdenominational churches where folks from "all" denominations are welcomed. You'll even find denominational churches that pose as nondenominational churches as they don't reveal the name of the denomination in the name of the church!
There are Pentecostal churches, Charismatic churches, Spirit-filled churches, traditional churches, seeker-friendly churches and more. So why would anyone want to start a church in America in these latest of the last days?
The numero uno reason of course, would be that God simply said to do it. God knows the needs of folks, beginning with the need for salvation. I believe God would lead to start a new church because many of today's churches are not effective for His kingdom.
Tradition alone is a powerful enemy of the church rendering her ineffective, simply because folks follow it (tradition) more than they follow God's Spirit. They "way things have always been done" seems to have a higher priority than the Holy Spirit's leading for today. Things change. Needs change. Cultures change. No one knows more than the Holy Spirit how to address all the changes. A good example would be a military in today's time attempting to fight a war with 100 year old weapons technology. It won't work!
If I were to be instrumental in planting a church today this is what it would look like. First, it would not be traditional. Why? You can go down the street one block and find at least 3 churches operating in a traditional manner. (You know, the way it has always been done.)
When I say it would not be a traditional church I mean several things. For instance, the church building would not be central to all the activity of the church. Yes, there would be a command post for gathering at least once weekly to learn, train, and celebrate all the ministry done by the church "out there" between meetings. However the focus would be less on one meeting and gathering place, and more on reaching people, outside the walls. The emphasis then would not be on how ornate and elaborate the building could be made or how many polished programs could be in place. With a much lower overhead, the investment of funds (you know, money) would be in people, not the building and all its programs.
With a more outward than inward focus, there would be a need for small group meetings. Small group meetings are not a new concept. As a matter of fact, the church actually began with small group meetings. The difference would be that small groups would promote the building of relationships with people, and sharing the gospel of the kingdom of God outside the church. The emphasis of the small groups would be more on "Go" than "Y'all come".
Next, this new church plant would be nondenominational. No offense to my denominational friends, but planting a nondenominational church at least offers a beginning without the crippling effect of tradition. From that point forward church folks would have to be diligent to stand against the temptation to yield to tradition. There will always be a war against that. Let me emphasize again that this church plant would be nondenominational and non-traditional. I would be most adamant about that.
Moving on, this new church plant would be a Spirit-filled church. A Spirit-filled church is made up of folks who are filled with God's Holy Spirit according to Acts Chapter 2. It is not that people who are not baptized in the Holy Spirit would not be welcomed. They would just need to understand it is a Spirit-filled church and be open to Holy Spirit baptism. All of the manifestations of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 (and more) would be most welcomed. What the world needs now (in addition to love sweet love) is the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit of God....through the church. I love Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 2: 4-5, "And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." You can get persuasive words of human wisdom anywhere, but then that's where your faith will be founded, on human wisdom. But where there is a demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power, one's faith will be founded on the power of God. That's the difference! So this new church plant would be a Spirit-filled church, made up of people who are baptized in the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 2.)
Next, this new church plant would have a heart for the nations of the world. Why? Because Jesus did. He said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16: 15) Jesus also said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end shall come." (Matt. 24: 14)
This new church plant would not be a place for personal agenda. God's agenda would take the highest priority. To be a part of this last days work one might just have to lay down their personal agenda. Having been a pastor for many years I've seen it over and over again. A person comes to a church. They're excited about all God is doing. They want to get involved in ministry. But inside they actually want to use this church to promote their personal agenda. They see a particular church as a potential place to do just that. But when circumstances and the flow of the church do not allow this, they eventually pack up their agenda and move on to the next church. They are always looking for a place which seems to offer opportunities to promote their personal agenda. This new church plant would be a place through which to promote only God's agenda. And I would be most adamant about that too.
And finally this new church plant would be about encouraging followers of Christ to follower hard after Him in these last days. Time is short and there is no time for traditional, agenda promoting games. I also believe that these last days will be the most glorious for the church. We must realize that, examine our hearts before Him, and commit to making what ever changes are necessary (including repentance) to move forward in His awesome plan in these last days. Yes, that's what I would do. Pray for God to raise up churches like this in these last days. The world needs them!


John The Billboard!

Talk about a different dude. John the Baptist fits the bill. I didn't live back then (believe it or not), but it is evident he was different. For starters, he lived out in the wilderness. Why? Because he wanted to separate himself from everyone else. In all fairness to John, God probably had something to do with that. John the Baptist dressed differently. Yes, I know they all dressed differently back then (from us), but he definitely dressed differently than his contemporaries. I mean come on, a camel skin? Quite different, even in that day. The Bible says he ate differently. Wild honey and locusts. Wild honey? That means he encountered a few bees just to get a meal.
But the thing most unique about John was his message. And even though he lived out in the wilderness (separated), when he preached he went where folks could hear him. Many people were drawn to his preaching because of the message he proclaimed. "Get ready! Prepare your hearts! A new King is coming! He will be the Son of God Almighty!"
Yes, John was different. He was filled with God's Spirit while in his mother's womb. How could he not be different? And what I can clearly see is that John was a foreshadowing of one who later would be part of the body of Jesus Christ. John was a Billboard pointing to the future church. How could John come close to being a pre-representation of a member of God's New Testament church, a Christian? Just listen.
Like John the Baptist, a follower of Christ is in the world...but not OF the world. "Therefore, come out from among their midst and be separate', says the Lord..." (2 Cor. 6:17). A Christian should be separate from the flow of this world's systems. This may be offensive to some, but a Christian, believer, Christ-follower (all are the same) should live "counter-culturally".
Jesus made a controversial statement when He said, "The world hates me, because I testify of it...that its deeds are evil." (See John 7:7) Pretty powerful statement but true. Our very lives should be a testimony that the world and all its deeds are against the flow of the Kingdom of which we are now citizens. Therefore our lives should testify that "this world's systems are evil." And also "But....there is a better way! A new Kingdom with a new King!"
John's the Baptist's message said, "Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin." John's baptism couldn't save anyone as Jesus had not yet offered Himself. Instead his baptism was an outward declaration to the world and all its systems that "I am through with you! I am turning my heart back to the Father. I declare that I am dead to the world, and awaiting the arrival of the One who will make me alive to God!" His message and baptism of repentance called for a commitment (from the heart) to turn back to God; to live for Him. When Jesus came and began to preach, the first thing He said was, "Repent, and believe in the gospel (of the kingdom), for the kingdom of God is here!"
In my humble opinion, John the Baptist's gospel of the kingdom of God explains clearly the significance of water baptism. And the message itself declares that becoming born again involves much more that reading a tract, hearing a short presentation, or even repeating a short prayer after someone else. Salvation, as provided by Jesus' finished work on the cross involves much more than "missing hell and hitting heaven". It involves a total sell out to Jesus Christ now; here; in this life. It is complete death to the world (baptism), and resurrection life to God (being brought up out of the water).
As I said recently in a previous post, in the early church when a person believed in the gospel of the kingdom, (entrusted their entire being to Jesus Christ), they adamantly looked for water to be baptized. It was extremely important because again, it was a declaration. "I am now dead world! And I am now alive to Jesus! I commit my entire life to being a testimony against you world; that your deeds are evil! I am now a citizen of the kingdom of God!  No turning back! No turning back!"
Many of the folks who heard John the Baptist's gospel, and were baptized by him were the very ones who left everything and followed Jesus. Men like Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Their hearts were turned to God in such a way that they would recognize and receive Jesus, God's Son when He came. At the very words "Follow Me." They dropped everything and followed after Jesus. Perhaps Jesus is saying to you today, "Come and truly follow after Me."

Finally, John the Baptist's message and baptism were extremely radical. So radical it cost him his life. We must understand the gospel of the kingdom is extremely radical today. It is subversive to religious, social, and political correctness systems. Today following after Jesus requires living life in a radical manner. Radical because the "narrow path" leads directly against the "broad path" of destruction the world offers. Tell me, will you be a billboard for the Kingdom of God? 

Good News Of A Better Nation

If you have been a follower of Christ for any time (a born again Christian), you've heard the term "gospel" mentioned a time or two. What do you envision when you hear the word "gospel"? I will venture to say most Christ-followers envision a short presentation about Jesus, and His finished work on the cross. One that makes most believers nervous. Some would similarly get a picture of someone (perhaps one's self) handing out tracts in public places. How about standing on the street corner, preaching at the top of one's voice! For some it might be a vision of someone praying a very short "sinner's prayer", while actually repeating the words after another person. All of the above could be visions of the gospel, but not the whole gospel. I want to submit to you that the gospel (good news) is a whole lot more than what we have made it through the past few centuries.

First, the gospel is more than a short presentation; a tract; a short prayer. It is more than "How to miss hell and hit heaven". The gospel is good news of a new kingdom, ruled by a new king. The gospel presentation should always include how to enter this kingdom and come under the sovereign rule of this new king, Jesus Christ...today!

The gospel of the kingdom was first preached by John the Baptist. Jesus said, "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it." (Luke 16: 16) John preached a powerful message designed by the Holy Spirit to turn the hearts of Israel back to their Father, so that when Jesus came they would recognize Him as God's Son. Many of those who received John's message a bit later believed in Jesus; left all, and followed Him. Some of those were Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

Jesus also came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. "Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness." (Matthew 9: 35)

To more clearly understand the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God we must understand the message of John the Baptist. John's message establishes the true significance of water baptism. More on than a bit later.

First of all, John himself was a foreshadowing of what a member of the body of Christ would look like. Here are just a few of his characteristics that point us to the characteristics of the ekklesia, the called out ones (the church). He lived a life separated from the ways of the world, especially the religious ways. Yet when he preached the gospel of the kingdom, it was always where the public would hear him. He dressed differently and he ate differently. John did not conform to the world. His message was subversive to the current religious, political, and social systems. John's message astonished many, and offended others. He eventually lost his life because of his calling and message.

John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This was a powerful message. In essence he was saying "Turn 180 degrees away from your sin. This will point you to God, our Father. Make your hearts ready for the coming of the King, the Son of God. He is where you will find not only eternal life, but freedom from the guilt of all your sin." His message was about water baptism. In other words, the baptism that John was preaching (and preforming) was an outward declaration of an inward decision to turn back to God. This baptism declared that "I am through with this world. I am now dead to this world's religious, social, and political systems. I await the coming King, who sovereignly rules over my life as well as the entire universe." The only difference is that today, one says, "I give my life to serve the King of Kings who sovereignly rules over my life and the entire universe."

John's baptism of repentance should shed new light on our own view of water baptism. Is it not an outward declaration of being dead to this world, but alive to a new King? As we are submerged in the water, we are being buried. When we are brought up out of the water, we are alive to a new King, and a citizen of a new Kingdom! Today water baptism is simply a formality. When one prays the sinner's prayer they are usually scheduled to be water baptized at some convenient, later time. It was not that way with the early church. When a person entrusted their entire being to Jesus, they immediately sought out water to be baptized in. Why? Because it was an outward declaration/demonstration that they were through with ALL of the world's systems. They were dead, being buried, and severed from the world. But almost simultaneously they were being raised alive to new life, in a new Kingdom, serving the King of Kings!

In Acts Chapter 8 when Phillip preached Jesus to the Ethiopian he (the Ethiopian) immediately saw some water and said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" And Phillip said, "If you believe with all your heart (in Jesus) you may." His response, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." He had just heard the gospel of the kingdom of God. Water baptism was essential in declaring outwardly and immediately what he believed on the inside. This is the message John the Baptist and Jesus preached. This is the message Paul and the Apostles preached. This is the gospel of the kingdom, and it must be preached today, not just by pastors and preachers....but by all of us! This is the message that changes the world!

In Summary, the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God is this: Sell all! Sell out! Forsake the world, and follow after Jesus. Can you imagine what would happen in our world if just Christians would get hold of this message! It would literally change the world! Matthew Chapter 16 asks you and me two very vital questions. "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? The answer is nothing. The second question: "What will a man give in exchange for his soul? The answer: EVERYTHING! This is the true message of the gospel of the kingdom. We find our soul when we give up everything and follow after Jesus. (See the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark Chapter 10) Until John the Baptist God's requirement of righteousness could only be attained to by keeping the whole Law perfectly. The rich young ruler actually believed he had kept the crucial commandments and was in right-standing with God. But since John had preached his message of repentance, and since the King had arrived, and the gospel of the kingdom was now being preached, he lacked only one thing. Sell everything. Give the proceeds to the poor. Come and follow after Jesus. There's where you'll find your soul! The Scripture says this rich young ruler went away grieved (and lost) because he couldn't give up everything for the sake of the gospel (Jesus).

Could this be you? Are you so friendly with the world you would struggle to give up everything simply to follow after Jesus? Are you so tied to this world that you are not really following hard after Jesus? Could this be a reason why so many Christians look no different from the world? What would happen if people who claimed to be followers of Christ, forsook the world and started following after Jesus? Wow!

I have committed to preaching this message wherever God opens the door. I truly believe it is crucial in these last days. John's message, Jesus' message, the Apostle's messages where a demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God. Should we be any different?