Tag Archives: Church

Praying for Others

The dynamic of prayer in the fellowship of the Saints is a dying art and practice.  Here are some guidelines for the art of what is known as intercession.

in·ter·ces·sion

Moses Prays for Israel
Moses Prays for Israel
/ˌintərˈseSHən/
Noun
  1. The action of intervening on behalf of another.
  2. The action of saying a prayer on behalf of another person.

There are many examples of intercessory prayer in the Bible.  Paul is a good source, he communicated what he prayed to the the people for whom he prayed.  One of the best and most detailed prayer comes from Colossians 1:9-14:

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously
12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (NASB)

So here are the items in Paul’s prayer that you can use to pray for others.

  1. Pray that people be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
  2. Pray that people have spiritual wisdom and understanding.
  3. Pray that people walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
  4. Pray that people please God in every respect.
  5. Pray that people would bear fruit in every good work.
  6. Pray that people would increase in the knowledge of God.
  7. Pray that people would be strengthened with all power so that they would be steadfast and patient.
  8. Pray that people would be filled with joy and would not forget to give thanks to the Father.
  9. Thank God that he qualified them to be a saint in the Light.
  10. Thank God for rescuing them from the domain of Darkness and that they are in the Kingdom of His beloved Son.
  11. Thank God that their sins are forgiven and that they are redeemed.
  12. Thank God that they are in fellowship with you.

Notice that I didn’t do anything special. I just hijacked Paul’s prayer and personalized it.  Paul was praying for actual people in Colossae, pray for the people who sit next to you in church. The following week, share with the person that you prayed for them. Depending on your personal knowledge of the person you are praying for you can be more specific. Depending on your level of study and understanding of the passage you can add detail to your requests.

Some other passages that are intercessory in nature:  Philippians 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:15-21; Ephesians 3:14-21.  List some others in the comments.

 

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I am Thankful for Church

We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.   Paul to the Thessalonians, book 1, chapter 1, verses 2-8.

I am thankful for my church.

It is the place I have been fellowshipping and serving for the last 21 years.  Like Paul, I have been practicing thanksgiving for the church for 21 years.  God is at work in the church.  He is cultivating faith, love and hope in Christ Jesus.  The people are beloved of God and chosen by God.  I have witnessed growth and the imitation of Christ repeatedly.

Are you thankful for your church?  If not, I would recommend a change of attitude.  Here are some reasons to be thankful for your church.

It is a place of faith.  One of the primary graces of God to you and your brothers and sisters in Christ is the gift of faith.  In the church we find people of faith and since faith results in faithfulness, trustworthiness, and loyalty you can find people who will be faithful to you, that you can trust.  Everyone needs those kinds of relationships and they are to be found in the church.

It is a place of love. God is love.  If we love God we will love one another.  The church is a place of love.  Everyone needs people to love them.  The church is a safe place where love rules.

It is a place of hope.  God is in the business of replacing despair with hope.  No matter what the circumstances around us we can find hope in the worship and promise of the church.  God is in charge.  He works all things together for good, He will never leave or forsake us.

In over 50 years of belonging to the church I have found this to be true, and I am thankful for the church.

If you have a different experience, here is my advice:  start being thankful for the church.  Start small.  Be consistent in thanksgiving and then look for people who need a dose of faith, hope or love and start giving it out to them.  Instead of looking for others to love you, build up your faith and give you some hope, be the person who loves, offers a leg up to someone who needs a boost of faith, and find someone who is more desperate than you and inject some hope into their lives.  I guarantee it will change your experience of the gathering on Sunday that we call church.  If you become a reason for someone else to be thankful, you will start to like being a part of the church too.

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People of Grace

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…

God has put a lot of people into my life and as I reflect upon the regular thread of relationships over the years I can see God’s hand of grace.

In High School it was Gary, Kirk, and Peter.  In College it was Ford and Roy. In Seminary it was Jeff and Brad.  In Anaheim Hills it was Terry, John, and Brian.  In Nuevo the list is long! It is all of you, the church.  And I practice giving thanks for you in my every remembrance of you.

The common thread in all these people was their connection to me as the church, the body of Christ.  God placed them in my life for friendship, encouragement, partnership, inspiration, challenge and confrontation.  And I thank God for them, and for all those unnamed as well.

But over the course of years, there were other relationships and contacts.  Not all were good memories.  There was the woman who called me a used car salesman.  There was the friend who turned against me at a time of crisis.  There were people who simply disappeared with no explanation.  And I thank God for these as well.  There were lessons in these relationships as well – lessons tempered and seasoned by the grace of God.

So who are you thankful for in the body?  God has placed people in your path on a regular basis – it is a provision for you from the bounty of His grace.  Make a list of people from your own history and people who are part of your church that you can give thanks for every time you remember them.

God has also put you into the path of many people.  Is your residue a residue of grace? Are they giving thanks for your presence in their lives?

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Olive Grove Church

I have pastored Nuevo Community Church for the past 21 years.  This year we are changing the name of the church to “Olive Grove Church.”  The reason we are changing our name is not simply to be trendy but we feel the need to start a new chapter in the life of the church based on the following philosophy of ministry.  I decided to put this on the blog for those of you who are presently a part of NCC to highlight our direction and give a foundation statement for the name change.  For those of you not a part of NCC I would love to hear your thoughts.  

In order to carry out our mission and purpose,

“Nuevo Community Church exists to glorify God by equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.  The result is that every man, woman and child has the opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel and accept or reject Jesus as their personal Savior”

the following proposal and philosophy of ministry is presented for discussion, emendation, approval, and implementation.

The Scriptures often use the picture of trees, fields, harvest and fruit as the metaphor for both growth and community.  The following is a short list:

  • Psalm 1:3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
  • Jeremiah 17:8 “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
  • Isaiah 44:4 And they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water.’
  • John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
  • Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

This picture of organic growth is an important one for the purposes of the church. Can we make a jump from the metaphor to structure in the church without violating the sense of the text? An affirmative answer reveals an attractive model for personal and corporate growth and reproduction in the church context.

The Believer as a Tree and the Church as a Stream

The Bible often mixes its metaphors. I will take some liberties with this practice to try and paint a picture of church importance and structure.

The godly man is pictured as a tree growing by streams of water. The result is that the tree is strong and fruitful. Water in the Scriptures often signifies the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The believers proximity to the Spirit is the source of sustenance, strength and growth. The Holy Spirit’s main focus of ministry is not purely individualized, rather it is concentrated in the body of Christ, the church.

So the logical jump is the godly man grows when he is attached to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in His church. We believe this to be true and so our other ministry purpose statements reflect this:

“Nuevo Community Church exists to glorify God by equipping the saints for the spiritual service of worship. The result is that every man woman and child who is part of the church in Nuevo will be: Transformed by the renewing their mind; Fulfilling their purpose as a chosen vessel; Called to the praise of the glory of His grace; Cultivating a lifestyle and attitude that are filled with thankfulness.”

and

“Nuevo Community Church exists to glorify God by equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Every man, woman and child who is part of the church in Nuevo will be conformed to the image of Christ and to: Attain to the unity of the faith and Arrive at maturity in Christ by growing in the knowledge of the Son of God.”

The method by which God has designed Christian growth is for the believer to be in active fellowship with His Spirit and His Body, the church.

The Church as a Tree and Stream

As we broaden our focus outward to the ministry and growth of the church, we have a choice. To continue with the model or to introduce a new one.

This is the discussion that the Elders of NCC have needed to have in light of the purchase of land and the possibility of growth: How will our growth be managed? What will it look like?

The typical growth model these days is to just get bigger in one location. Big churches are seen as healthy churches. So we have a Saddleback, Harvest, Revival, etc. Buying a large piece of property may have communicated to some that our growth model would be this particular one. But from the beginning I have tried to discourage that model. We spoke about a campus that housed ministry as opposed to simply being a large meeting place.

“According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, 94% of all existing churches have less than 500 attendees, and two-thirds of these have less than one hundred.  Churches of more than two thousand attendees represent less than one half of one percent of all churches in America.”# This reality speaks to our own view of the future and seeing the value of the smaller church model as more reproducible, more likely to produce discipleship context and community, more likely to encourage initiative-style evangelism.

The philosophy proposed here is that church size and location should have primary geographic Great Commission responsibilities. The primary outreach focus of the local church should be an area within reasonable geographic reach of the main meeting place. In our case: Nuevo-Lakeview-Juniper Flats-Romoland- Perris. An approximate 5 mile radius is the target size.

As far as church size (this is not a dictum and there could be exceptions) it seems that 500-750 people provides a good limitation on the upper end. So the range of people is somewhere in the vicinity of 150-750 for the ideal functioning of a local church.

What is being proposed here is first the adoption of the mission of the local body at NCC to take primary responsibility for the gospel ministry in Nuevo. Second, the embracing the planting of churches to form a “grove” of churches. Our growth and focus is never limited in the Bible to simply our immediate neighborhood; Jerusalem formed a center that led to the uttermost parts of the earth. And so we desire to be global in focus. But we also want to reach our Judea and Samaria. In fact, the vision encompasses a network of Olive Grove Church sites throughout the 215/60/15 corridor and triangle. These Churches that would take primary responsibility for their 5 mile radius.

Our perennial problem is implementation. I am proposing that we spend a good percentage of our energy as a church and board to putting feet to this proposal.

What’s next? The who, what, where, and why questions need to be augmented by the how and when.

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Steve’s Five Points

Steve’s Five Points
(originally Wally’s 5 points, but nobody* knows Wally)

The following 5 points are the essential characteristics of healthy church life.

  1. Exegetical Preaching. The preaching of the church must be based upon God’s Word and the purpose of preaching is to explain a particular text of Scripture  – 2 Timothy 4:2
  2. Genuine Expression of Worship. The church must display genuine worship which points people toward the Creator   –  John 4:21-24.
  3. Emphasis on helping people to share their faith. Personal evangelism must be a high priority for the local church  -Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 1:28; 1 Peter 2:9.
  4. Servanthood. the church must accept all people and truly care for them. An attitude of putting others first and serving Jesus Christ is emphasized  – Philippians 2:1-11.
  5. Love people rather than use them. We want everyone to reach their full potential in Christ and we want to avoid using people to reach our own ends – John 15:12-17.

*”nobody” meaning nobody in Nuevo where I currently pastor.  No disrespect to Wally Norling (May 4, 1925–April 26, 2010) who was the District Superintendent of the Southwestern District of the Evangelical Free Church from 1966 to 1992.  He was responsible for planting over 35 churches during that time and these are “his” five points as communicated to me when I served in the Evangelical Free Church from 1985-1991.

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Leave Your Church…

Here is a trend I am getting tired of…

Glenn Beck, the political broadcaster, is urging people to leave their church if those churches are concerned about social justice.

Today on the Radio Program Pastor’s Perspective (Calvary Chapel with Brian Broderson) a caller was encouraged to take his “tithe” and use it in his own ministry to children at the church instead of giving in the way his church was proscribing.  I did not agree with what the caller was describing, and we never heard the hosts asks for any clarification, nor did they attempt to contact the church leadership, nor did they tell the caller it was inappropriate to call the show for their answer to that internal church issue.  The advice the caller was given I thought was horrific.  Essentially they told him to disregard his pastors, make his own decisions, basically stay at the church in a state of rebellion and do your own thing because your leaders are a bit sketchy. Never once did they give the leadership at the church any benefit of the doubt that the caller may have misrepresented the situation.

I really hate that behavior.

There is a glaring lack of understanding of the nature of the church and the nature of church leadership.  The section in your theology book is called Ecclesiology.  It is important.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Church issues should be dealt with internally.  Check out Matthew 18 for a very clear order of grievance settlement.
  2. Some people know more than others, some people know nothing at all. Who in their right mind would go to Glenn Beck for church answers?  It baffles me.
  3. Beware of people who when they hear of your church problems immediately tell you to leave your church or act unilaterally against your church leadership, especially when they don’t take simple steps to hear the other side.  This is basic.  Those who miss this are novices in things of the church of Christ and should not be trusted as authoritative sources for your life in Christ.
  4. Deciding where to belong in a church community is an important decision, don’t make it lightly and don’t simply make it based on size, programs, music, popularity, building, etc.  You should select a church based on sound doctrine, quality leadership (a plurality of elders is a good Biblical criterion), Biblical teaching, genuine worship, and a fully developed gospel ministry that incorporates social presence with the glory of God being central, locally and globally.
  5. Many people make a decision about a church based on the pastor.  A pastor should have some level of qualification commensurate with the position.  The training that a pastor receives can be more formal (Seminary) or less formal (innumerable quality non-Seminary options), but it must be a demonstrative competence.  It is more than dynamism, entrepreneurial skill, charisma, inheritance, but rather a developed character and competency in leadership, scholarship and things of the Spirit.
  6. Your church leadership is responsible for the care and nurture of your soul (Hebrews 13:17).  Church is not a consumer good, a commodity or a preference.  Church hopping is not a Biblical practice.  Submission is an important characteristic with regard to church behavior.  Authority is vested in the leadership of a local body.  For all of these reasons you should take great care in selecting a church to belong to, and then you should belong!!!  As a pastor I speak of a “call” to the church in Nuevo. You should consider your belonging to the church as a “call” as well.  God placed me here;  I will stay until God places/calls me elsewhere.  I know authority has been abused in many contexts before, nonetheless we are not free to redefine the church of which Christ himself is the head.

More on this in later posts…

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Do We Need the Church?

I mean the institution, the local gathering, the building etc….

Someone asked me for a reason to go to church, and what should be looked for if answered affirmatively.

This really is a legitimate question because there are so many options. In my links here on The Temple I have ample resources for people in terms of information, sermons, Bible studies, etc. With social networking I can keep in contact with multiples of people at the same time. I just spent sometime counseling on Facebook chat while watching the World Series, very efficient. ChurchTV broadcasts live church services complete with a time for offering. Twitter has Bible studies restricted to 140 character comments, really cuts down on that guy in Bible study who won’t keep quiet. So what do we need the church for???

Before I give my reasons for the importance of the live local church, let me be clear: Every Christian belongs in a church, without exception. There is no good reason to be apart from a local Christian fellowship (church) for any length of time. It is not optional. Here are the reasons, they are rooted in our understanding of the Trinity:

The Church and the Father
As a child of the heavenly Father I am not alone, He has many children. We are spoken of as adopted They are gathered together locally in the body of Christ, the Son. Fatherhood is not random nor does a Father isolate His children rather He gathers them together in family units, called the church.

The importance of community cannot be understated. Belonging and identity are solidified in the church. The Father draws us together into the body. There is an underlying strength that goes with belonging to a tribe, and the church is the best tribe as it is sired by the Heavenly Father. It is the best heritage available and to be a son or daughter of the most High God is the best source of identity available. This impartation of belonging and identity occurs in the church and not outside of it.

It is in the body that I find accountability, my weaknesses are exposed in community and good community helps me to strengthen areas of my character that need sharpening. The longer you stay in healthy community the more benefit you receive from this, as our real issues are hard to suppress in community over time.

The Church and the Son
Church and all that goes with being redeemed has to do with more than my individual experience. Healthy church attacks my inclination towards selfishness that is heightened especially in America with a utilitarian mindset, that is, if it isn’t practical or personally beneficial, it isn’t necessary. Church helps me destroy my selfishness. The church was founded by Christ, and he models the behavior and attitude that accompanies church attendance. You cannot be like Christ outside of the church as demonstrated by these two phrases, one said by Christ, one said about Christ: “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve” & “who considered others more important than himself”. These characteristics happen in the context of the church.

The Church and the Spirit
The Spirit of God is the great gift giver and the gifts he gives are intended to be used within the context of the body of Christ.  They are not personal or private, but corporate and public, intended for the edification of the body.  The Holy Spirit is the architect  and engineer as well as the contractor who builds the church.  He supplies the church with the tools necessary for success and for the growth of the church to the glory of God.  Much church weakness can be attributed to the missing members who fail to supply the necessary gifts given to round out the body.

The mission of the believer and the mission of the church have large areas of overlap, it is rare that individual Christian mission would fall outside of ecclesiological support or authority.

To place yourself apart from the body of Christ places you outside the will of God.  To place yourself outside the body of Christ places you outside of the purpose of God for you.  To place yourself outside the body of Christ is to ignore God’s creative intention.

I don’t stand behind these truths because I am a pastor,  I am a pastor because of these truths.

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Getting Along in Church

I ran across a marvelous quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his book Life Together:

“A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God.  A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.”

It reminded me of some basic minstry principles.

God is at work in people, it is His work and He works in His own time. My job is to come alongside and assist.  Much like a nurse in surgery, I simply supply a service to God and His people by ministry.  Since growth is a work of grace in the life of a believer I should show grace to those who are not as “far along” in their maturity process. My job is to help people find their next step in growth not to complain that they aren’t mature.  This is hard because we then have to “put up with” or as Paul puts it “forbear with one another.”

People are the object of God’s love, not program and not event. Often the source of pastoral grumbling comes when the people God has placed in my charge get in the way of my goals.  I get frustrated at inconsistency and immaturity, half-hearted effort, shoddy work and have to remind myself that people in church often are on the way, not finished products.  When I don’t have this view I get caught up in a process by which to manufacture the outward signs of success in ministry.  Large crowds, new programs, “excitement”, and other fun things but not always appropriate to ministry to the body.  This kind of ministry often excludes those who are not easy to deal with or who have little to offer the machine.

Growth in Christ is a life long project not a quick fix. Longevity in ministry is not the norm any more.  Studies vary but show that the average length of time in a church is somewhere around 54 – 58 months (Moving on Moving Forward: A Guide for Pastors in Transition by Michael Anthony and Mick Boersma).  About the same length of time that people finance their car.  You may be shocked by this, but it takes longer than that to arrive at maturity in Christ.  Since we have a short view we have conceded to short term strategies that match that length of service to judge pastoral and church success.

These ideas are critical to the minds of not only pastors, but congregants.  People often switch churches based on marketing and whim.  Problems in church with people and pastors are not necessarily good reasons to move on to another church.  Church is not Starbucks vs. Its a Grind.  Church is community, the Scriptures often using the family metaphor as descriptive of the church.  This is a connective metaphor;  it is hard to leave family.  Even more connective is the body metaphor: I can’t do without my little toe; I am very reluctant to part with it.  When my body is sick, unaffected members don’t jump ship, they suffer together. When we stay at a church over the long haul we begin to learn something we cannot learn on the church circuit.  God doesn’t quit on me; and He is remarkably still at work in you.  Our job is not to complain about one another to one another and to God, rather it is to recognize the path of grace in each and every one.  God is at work in us.  Let me help you on the way.  Help me along the way.

Moving on Moving Forward: A Guide for Pastors in Transition

By Michael J. Anthony, Mick Boersma

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