We’ll be looking at a biblical view of church function by starting with examining the false gospels at large in America today.
But before that, let’s look at some idea’s for structures and functions of the local church:
the gospel – what gospel is preached? How is it lived?
Membership – what are the requirments, markers, training, etc?
spiritual and physical nature – How does the church embrace its dual nature?
leadership and structure – What does leadership look like?
Communion – what does it mean and how is it performed?
Baptism – What does it mean and how is it performed?
worship gatherings/evangelistic gatherings – How does the church gather? Why?
spiritual warfare and spiritual gifts – Is the church battling with weapons in both hands?
the church functioning in the world – How does the church engage and minister to the world?
False Gospels in America
The Ticket to Heaven Gospel – Popularized by Dwight Moody and Charles Finney focusing on a personal savior and the Sinner’s Prayer. Repent of your sins and confess with your mouth and you will be saved, and end up in Heaven when you die. This puts the focus on getting to heaven and bypasses your life here on earth. Sort of a distortion of the gospel of John the Baptist, which was, “Repent!” But repentance is the start, not the fulfillment. The Gospel of Jesus was about the Spirit of God being returned to us, to have fellowship with God. Adam and Eve “died” at the fall, but they did not drop dead in the dirt. They lost something. So what did they lose? How do we get it back? Anxiety about our “final destination” doesn’t lead us to the Lord; it doesn’t lead us to our Ephesians 2:10 works.
Genie in the Lamp Gospel – If you turn to God, He’ll fix your problems. This enslaves people to a new law. It shrinks God down to a manageable size. It puts the focus on God doing something to make your life easier. It puts your will at the center, instead of God’s will. And it puts the relationship into the context of a transaction that is earned or unearned. You’re not healed because you lack faith, you’re poor because you don’t give, you’re not blessed because you’re too sinful. This logic breaks down when you look at rich or healthy people who hate God. It breaks down when you look at righteous people in the Bible who suffered in poverty. This gospel encourages pretending, to pretend that things are better than they are so people won’t think you are sinful, doubtful, selfish, etc.
The Acceptance Gospel – Everyone and everything is ok because God is love. This bypasses the eternal attributes of God – it denies His justice, judgment, and holiness, and redefines love. This desires a God that doesn’t judge or harm in any way. Usually, this is tied to pride on the part of the person accepting this Gospel. It gives them a pass for all their flaws, and demonizes those who would speak out against sin.
The Gospel of the Kingdom
The Gospel of the Kingdom is sell all your possessions, be separate from the world, be separate from the world, follow Jesus, live in the power and dominion of the Holy Spirit. Through this Gospel, we see and understand what others do not see and understand. What is the proper response to this gospel? Live for others and not your self. This is a difference from the false gospels present in America today. This contrasts with the hypocrites of Isaiah 58 trying to impress God and earn His response with their religious actions. Jesus’ Gospel completely changes us, not just our behavior, or our political beliefs, or our traditions. Jesus’ Gospel does not call us to ignore the evil around us, but to overcome it through the Spirit. Jesus’ Gospel calls us to walk in His ways – giving up of our status, position, and privilege to serve those who have not. Our lives are exchanged for His. It is a Gospel of rest – of resting in Grace, in the work of the Spirit, in humility. Jesus’ Gospel is one of transformation. Jesus is the only way to have eternal life – which is to know Him and the One who sent Him.
Derek Webb – A New Law
Madison Greene – The Turning
This episode originally broadcast live on September 25, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO
We will continue our discussion of function and purpose by looking at some analogies of the Church and Christ that we find in Scripture. These pictures display the relationship between Christ and the Church.
Colossians 1:18 – Christ is the head, the church is the body
Ephesians 2:20-21 – Christ is the cornerstone and the church is the temple
2 Corinthians 11:2 – Christ is the beloved and the church is the virgin
1 Peter 5 – Jesus is the shepherd, the church is the flock
Ephesians 2 – Christ is the firstborn, the Church is the household
Revelation 19 – Christ is the bridegroom, the Church is the Bride
Ephesians 2 – Christ is the creator, and the Church is one new man built from two, and built for peace
Matthew 16:18 – Christ is the builder and the Church is His church
The Church is obviously central to God’s heart, to His creation of the universe. And yet he communicates about it more frequently in pictures than in blatant instruction for procedure and positions. As the church, we should take this to heart. We should not neglect the things that are clearly instructed, nor should be divide over the things that are not clearly defined in Scripture. If God wanted the “pastor” to be the focal point of church function, He probably should have mentioned it more than once, and should have given some explanation. We see way more discussion of the “apostle” in scripture, and yet few people could point to one today. Same goes for prophets.
Every local church will be a unique expression of the Lord Jesus Christ in their community. This doesn’t mean “anything goes,” but it does mean that we should focus on our Lord and allow freedom in how He leads.
So let’s re-examine our churches in the light of God’s clear priorities, and His pictures that speak of relationship more than defined systems. If the Church is made up of those who have been born of the Spirit of God and been baptized into the one body of Christ by the one Spirit, then the question is, does that describe your church? Or is your church more accurately described by its meetings, events, buildings, as a group of people (believers and unbelievers) present in the same room at the same time? There is only one church, and only God can add people to it.
So then, what about membership?
Today, we have varying church membership requirements. Some “churches” have no memebership recognition, some require that members be baptized in that church building in a certain manner, some require letters from past churches, some require tithing, some people have to sign covenants, some require classes. Where do all these varying requirements come from? The Bible? Or have we invented them along the way?
The most significant sign of of “membership” in scripture is having received the Holy Spirit. So then, can you receive the Holy Spirit and NOT be a member of God’s church?
Membership in the church, which was entrance into the community of the Church, was based on the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. There is no other church membership requirement listed. The church is a community of Spirit-transformed people. There are many people in Scripture who are not baptized, or have no baptism recorded. Baptism isn’t a requirement, but a response. It is displayed as a response to the reception of the Gospel in Scripture. It should be a shared, celebratory event, not a legalistic requirement.
The danger here is not necessarily in what you do or don’t do. It is how you view what you do, and how you view membership. Do your laws apply to Jesus, to Scripture, to the heart of God displayed in the works of the Spirit we see in Acts and elsewhere? Or can we agree on God and the things He makes clear, and give freedom and grace to those who vary on things God never bothered to nail down?
Why do theology and ecclesiology matter? Because they affect our definitions, our language, our thinking, and our expectations. The Church we find in Scripture is communicated by God most often by relational pictures, and exressed as a people transformed by the Spirit, living life together in a fallen world, to steward the mysteries of God and care for the entire creation. Do our physical tools help us be the church, or do they consume our time and treasures on an unbiblical organization? How can we discern this? Discover what the Church is supposed to do to see of the tools fit the job. Let’s see if our tasks, function, and purpose all line up.
The Church is primarily spiritual and eternal. Physical tools are not eternal. We must indentify the world so that we can be separate from it but minister to it, without falling prey to its ways. We can’t have a vague, amorphous definition, because we can abuse that as liberty to do anything. If there is confusion here, it can lead people into fruitless endeavors. With the prevelance of event-based ministry and friendship evangelism, it is easy to assume that your current passions are always a valid pathway for ministry. The problem is that this is self-focused. God’s works for you might have nothing to do with your present passions and interests. Or your present passions and interests could be informed by sinful desires and false ideas. It is better to lay down your will at the foot of Jesus and ask Him to transform your mind. To identify the enemy and get to know the heart and ways of your Master. When we commit corporately to indentify the ways of the world and separate ouselves from them, to serve God by serving others, then we establish a filter to view our ministry efforts. We have commited to sacrifice, consecration, seeking the will of God.
For those seeking revival, take note. We will never find revival if we participate in low-cost ways of ministry. The power in the early church was that the commitment cost your life. It required a severe reprioritization. It required commitment and sacrifice. It desired a thirst for God’s truth and love that pushed past our flesh and the world’s demands. When we commit as a church to the sacrificial way of Christ, then we will deter people set on fulfilling their own desires. God’s will and character will be declared in the presence of costly love, instead of in the presence of an event-filled organization that requires little sacrifice.
Have you added faith to your life? Or have you “lost your life” in order to receive the hope of Jesus?
The Gospel is an exchange of life – your life for Jesus’ life. You’ve been bought with a price. You cannot add Jesus to your life. You cannot hold on to something else. Jesus is not here to take care of your problems so you can pursue what you want. Jesus wants you to pursue Him with all of your mind, soul, and strength.
So how can the church get fixed? This is a trick question. The assumption is that there is a broken thing that needs fixed. In fact, there is a false thing that needs abandoned. If it were a matter of “fixing”, here is what that to-do list would look like
leave its denomination
dissolve its corporation
remove all unbiblical staff positions, programs, and events
stop its open sunday services
For many churches, these very things define its nature. So in effect, it would have to cease to exist. We must come outside the camp to minister how Jesus did (Hebrews 13).
“Here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” This picture is carried in Galatians 4 (two covenants/two women/two mountains/two cities). One is about doing and one is about being. We whould be a place where the Holy Spirit dwells. The New Jerusalem comes down out of Heaven.
When we go to the Bible to find the description of how to structure the church, we do not find what you would expect. There is not a lack of information, but a lack of information concerning a system. Most of the information describes a group of people sharing life. The instruction is about empowerment, sharing, loving, sacrificing, fellowship, teaching.
In this tension of being and doing, we must make sure our doing is birthed from our being. Do not simply switch your activities and assume that it is better. You are still focusing on your activity. Do not become pridful in your actions, regardless of how righteous they may be. Rest in being the church, and do what flows out of that. The Holy Spirit should be our central motivator. He can motivate some to do something, and not others. Or He may motivate all to do something, but participate in their unique way.
So what then do we do? We must remove the leaven of the pharisees. First, know your gospel! What did Jesus preach? What do you preach? Are you preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, as Jesus did? Jesus’ Gospel focused on death to self. It was not centered around sin, but on denying your self. Repentance is vital, and sin should not be taken lightly. But repentance is the start, not the center. His Gospel leads us to be separate from the world. It is central to the church; there is no church outside the Gospel. The Gospel of the Kingdom involves obedience to God’s commands. It requires sacrifice and suffering on behalf of those who hate you. The church is formed from Jesus’ Gospel. If we structure a church around our design, it distorts the gospel, and removes our source of power.
Do not miss the Gospel of Jesus by accepting and preaching a gospel of man. You will miss out on the fulness of Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 11 and beware.
We will continue discovering the purpose and function of the Church by looking at God’s images and patterns found in Scripture.
To recap, the modern American church is at its fastest rate of decline, and largely measures its success in physical terms (buildings, budgets, and butts). However, God’s church is spiritual and eternal, universal and local.
Critically examine your faith and church experience. Are the things you agree to in scripture evident in your life? Are you experiencing your theology, or are you disconnected from it?
Jesus Christ is building His church and it is not the result of human effort 1. the only true foundation of the Church is the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
2. All revelation is a work of the Spirit of God and not of man (1 Corinthians 2) 3. The Church of Jesus Christ is not the work of man but of God, therefore, the nature of the church should reflect this truth
We must check our goals and motivations. If the plan is to “plant a church”, what does that mean? Does it mean assembling a team, finding a building, etc? Or do you desire to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, preach the Gospel, and make disciples? The hard work required to “build the church” is of a spiritual nature, so it requires spiritual eyes and ears. It is costly work that requires love and sacrifice, and it is harder and more fruitful than crafting an event where you can invite people, believers and unbelievers alike, in the hopes they will like you. These physical approaches bypass the reality that there is a real spiritual war going on, that people are enslaved by satan in strongholds.
“Friendship evangelism” and related methods have all come into existance after the events and penning of Scripture. So we often find ourselves trying to implant that concept back into Scripture. When we assume our modern ways are good, best, or not modern at all, then we miss out on what we actually find in Scripture. We miss the disconnect between the ways of Jesus and the ways of modern man. We know three things for sure about what Jesus did:
He did all things out of love (1 Corinthians 16:14; 1 John 4:16)
He did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19)
He was obedient even unto death (Philippians 2:8)
Knowing these three things about Jesus’ actions should contextualize all He did. When He defended the woman caught in adultery and when He called people white-washed tombs, it was out of love, obedient, and reflected what the Father was doing. We should approach our own actions the same way. We should not find a methodology and try to fit Jesus into it.
What is the mystery of the Church? The mystery has to be revealed. Colossians 1:24-29 states that the mystery is Christ in you, the hope of Glory. Paul calls the Church “the fellowship of the mystery.” The church is not a building or organization, but people with Christ in them.
When Israel discovered they had “polluted the assembly” by marrying foreign wives, they mourned, they gathered, they took it seriously and made a plan, and they repented. What is your response to signs of polluting the assembly?
If you want to see your church the way God sees it, you have to first see His Church and the way He sees it. You must understand the real thing to recognize something that is off course. Let’s look at some of God’s patterns
Creation and Marriage of Adam and Eve – This denotes intimate fellowship. When we fill our assemblies with people who are opposed to God (prideful, unbelievers, etc), it destroys the intimate fellowship. The directive given to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful, multiply, subdue, rule. When we focus on church structure, it keeps us inwardly focused, instead of outwardly focused to rule creation
Tabernacle of Moses – This denotes God’s work in the sacrifice of Christ. When we are focused on self-preservation, then we are not a sacrificial presence on the earth.
Tabernacle of David – This denotes that God’s grace is extended to everyone. This picture of grace is distorted into inviting believers and unbelievers into the worship gathering, and not extending grace to people outside the church building. This sometimes turns into misguided and self-centered political activism, looking for that route to be the solution to our problems
Ezekiel’s Temple – This speaks of a spiritual priesthood. Two priesthoods are mentioned. Who are you ministering to?
We an also look at the New Testament pictures of the Church. These display the spiritual and organic nature of the Church; not referring to buildings, structures, events, programming, etc.
Body of Christ
Temple of God
Church of the Firstborn
Bride of Christ
Let’s examine the spiritual context of the Church.
The Universal Church, displayed in pictures of the Kingdom found in 1 Chronicles 12, the Kingdom. This is also the Historical Church, found in Hebrews 11, which dislpays the foundation that has been laid. Also, Scripture declares the church throughout the world, which is birthed from the Greate Commission taking the Gospel to all the earth.
The Kingdom of God is seen in God’s purpose from Genesis 1:26-28. We see it in the reproducing of seed in Genesis 12; the accomplishing of His pleasure in Genesis 24; and the seed being scattered and reproduced in Genesis 48.
The Great Commission focuses on disciples and reaching the Nations with the Gospel
God’s redemptive purpose – The church coming against the enemy to set captives free. We have to get back to opposing satan and his strongholds on a spiritual level in our community on a regular basis instead of through politics or on social media.
The church is not built by human effort. God builds His church, and He does it His way. He uses pictures to reveal the church to men. These pictures reveal something about God – this shows that He is our God and we are His people; that His church declares His glory. “You are the Christ” – this declaration is where the church is built. Doing things, being places, attending meetings, having habits do not add you to the church.
When God interacts with people, the interactions often involve the Land: Garden, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos. The pattern is God heals the people, and THEN He heals the land. A healed people are designed to steward a healed land. This is purpose. With wounded people in the presence of a wounded land, we are trying to fabricate stewardship. The PEOPLE are bigger than the individual. The LAND is bigger than the people. Church life is not any kind of meeting, no matter how elaborate or simple. But ecclesia is a life lived in a land with others and God.
Current church structure is focused on the Sunday morning meeting. All the energy is ramped up for the Big Show. But most people are not satisfied with that, so we add sunday school, specified small groups, events, ministries, etc. We organize things to focus on the meeting at a set time, inside a set building, and then bemoan the fact that people are not out in the community, so we try to manufacture programs to get them “outside the walls.” We craft a system that focuses on a once-a-week meeting, and when that proves lacking, we try to add events and concerns to people’s already full lives. This is not what they signed on for. This was not the original deal. The Good News of the Kingdom is a transformational reality for your whole life. It is by its nature self-sacrificial and all-encompassing. We should be encouraging a community of people who are sharing life together, working and ministering together, who then gather to celebrate this life, praise our God, testify to His deeds, share our joys and concerns.
We should not use physical things to birth spiritual things, but use them as a tool, and use them properly, and use them alongside spiritual weapons. The church, God’s people, should have compassion, as Jesus did.
Jesus is building His church also on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and not simply the biblical ones, but those living today. The Bible is immensely important, but we cannot simply stare at it, study it, and miss the bigness of God, the vastness of the Kingdom, the immensity of our call. If we merely disect the word, we will be like those of whom Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” We should be motivated and moved by the Bible to LIVE, and to walk with the Holy Spirit in the world.
Do you hate the church? Do we hate the church? What is the church? God’s church is the collection of saved sinners living life in a fallen world, with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The religious systems of man are not the church, but merely a counterfeit. That doesn’t mean spirit-filled believers can’t be involved with them, or lead them, or that the traditional church system can’t do good things in the world. But they are two different things.
The foundation of the church is the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This is in 1 Corinthians 3:11 – for no man can lay a foundation, other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. The only way a person can be added to the church is through the Holy Spirit revealing them the truth of who Jesus Christ is. This is the only way to get fruit that lasts.
What is the most effective way to communicate the Gospel? Is it to gather people for an activity? Is it by making them your friend? Is it a game night, movie night, car show, hunting trip, bike ride, concert, bounce house? Or is it by obeying Christ? To prove that we believe who He says He is, that we have been pierced by His grace, that we live in a Kingdom that forgives sin and gives you what you could never earn by your performance? Is it to love because we first were loved? Why should anyone be motivated to come to Jesus if your thoughts, words, and actions communicate that you never did? This is not a matter of being perfect or the most righteous; it’s a matter of changing what you treasure and acting like Christ is your King. If you don’t live what you preach, you negate what you preach.
What do you preach? What is the loudest part of your gospel? Is it your political beliefs? Is it your work ethic? Is it your purity codes? Is it your religious festivals? Is it your concerts? Or is it your love borne out of the immensity of grace? What is it we’re supposed to be proclaiming? The mystery of the Church – Christ in us. The church is the fellowship of the mystery. God in man. The Kingdom in our midst.
The transformation the Holy Spirit brings is not a cessation of sin. It is a total heart transplant. It is forsaking the world. It is humility. It is serving others. It is submitting to God. It is laying down our rights, dreams, defenses, and taking up our cross. It is following the Master. To become Christ-like, you must lay down your life for people who hate you.
The Gospel changes how we interact with people. It changes how we view the world. It changes where our hope is placed. It should change your interactions with the rest of creation.
The decline of the church – its health as an institution and its status in our culture
The way we see our church – using physical tools to try to get spiritual results
Trying to get purpose out of function instead of allowing purpose to define function
The Church is primarily spiritual in nature
Physical things should only be midwives; tools to loosen satan’s grip. Not using things of the world to attract people to the Gospel.
What you draw them with is what you draw them to.
Do you see your church the way Jesus sees your church? How does Jesus see your church? Jesus’ church has a design defined by Him. Here are some of His patterns from scripture:
Creation and marriage of Adam and Eve – God’s purpose came before people’s function; intimate fellowship; grace-covered state; stewarding over creation in obedience to God; this brings glory to God.
Tabernacle of Moses – demonstrates God’s work in the sacrifice of Christ. The tabernacle was symbolic of God’s presence with the people, and of the impending appearance and sacrifice of Christ. The church today should also be representing God’s presence and the sacrificial nature of Christ.
The Tabernacle of David – God’s grace manifested in salvation to the Gentiles
Temple of Solomon – God’s glory revealed through His presence amongst His people
Temple of Ezekiel – pattern of priesthood in service and ministry.
We must examine our purpose and our function, and discern which is leading. If we adopt an incorrect purpose, it will lead us to bad functioning. If we try to create purpose by functioning, we are performing a transaction. We don’t do nice things for our spouses so that they will love us. We love them, and so do nice things for them. When we have a false purpose, or attract with functioning, and let our tasks and activities lead, we will attract people to those things. They will never find real purpose. They will not find intimate fellowship found in unity in the Spirit.
David Crowder Band – A Beautiful Collision
Audio Adrenaline – Jesus Movement
This episode originally broadcast live on September 11, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO
There are numerous statistics that express a decline in the state of the church in America. This includes things like attendance, doctrinal literacy, giving, etc. A Barna report says the number of “post-Christian” individuals has increased to 44% (as of 2015; most current/relevant article can be found here: https://www.barna.com/research/post-christian-cities-america-2017/). Why is this important?
It depends on your context. If you are worried about the survival of an institution, then these statistics should be alarming. If you are concerned with the Gospel setting captives free to make disciples and follow the Holy Spirit, these statistics take on a more nuanced nature.
One of the sources of this “decline” is the confusion of purpose and function.
What is purpose? It is your vision. It is your reason for existing. It is your motivation. What is function? It is what you do. It is what your purpose drives you to do. It will guide your tasks and how you perform them.
If we get purpose and function backwards, then we are never going to achieve what God has designed us to do. Many churches function in a way to sustain themselves – their salaries, mortgages, programs, etc. Many people function in survival mode. And you don’t have to go to the inner cities to find people living this way. Functioning by self-preservation does not lead to the healthiest decisions. When we function out of survival mode, we won’t live by God’s design – we are merely trying to stay alive. Our options appear to be (and often are) limited. This is the stronghold of poverty – having limited options because of a concern with resources and survival. Your power to choose has been enslaved to your wants and needs.
We should discover our God-given purpose and allow it to define our function.
You and your church When you communicate about your church, what do you mention first? Attendance, programs, preaching, music, serving opportunities? What Gospel do you preach? Does it matter how you preach the Gospel? Must you obey the Gospel you preach? Are you adding to or removing from the Gospel and leading people into bondage or hypocrisy?
The church is becoming obsolete in the culture. We have neglected the fulness of the Gospel and the desolation in our midst, so that our doctrine becomes separate from our works, and our works appear small and our doctrine becomes meaningless. The church, historically, was a massive force to bring value to human life. It shaped culture because people lived differently. Because they were obedient to God. Now there is a glut of answers and solutions to all of life’s ills. There are groups, politicians, and celebrities “doing something” about issues, and the church looks irrelevant in comparison, even though we all know that “Jesus is the answer.” If that is true, then He has to truly be the answer, and we have to be willing to be His body, His hands and feet, to answer the call. Jesus did not look at us in our need and say, “You don’t deserve it! I’m going to keep what’s mine.” He responded with grace.
The church has been taken captive by the natural realm. The primary nature of the Church should be spiritual. The very souls of the poor, foreign, undesirable, are invisible, eternal, spiritual things. This makes them vitally important in the Kingdom. The natural things associated with the church (buildings, programs, money, etc) are all temporary and are burned up in the end.
Fruit comes from the Spirit! It is not created by physical things.
Friendship evangelism is a bait-and-switch. It has so infiltrated many modern views of ministry and evangelism. This blurs our vision as we face a dark world in need of a Savior and His devoted followers. It taints our definition of the Gospel. It defined our churches in every way from architecture to graphic design to service schedules. It causes us to judge others for how they minister. It paralyzes people when facing their lost friends, family, and neighbors.
Who builds the Church? Christ builds His body, His spiritual temple. We get to partner merely as servants of the Holy Spirit. However, the church tries to build itself using physical tools and ways. Only the interaction with the Gospel and the Holy Spirit can add people to the spiritual Body of Christ. Our tools, no matter how impressive they are, are completely useless if they don’t accomplish what we need, if they are functioning separate from the Holy Spirit. Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.
What is the Church supposed to be? Let’s look at the “real deal”.
It is universal – everyone added to the Book of Life. Only Jesus can open that book.
The Local Church – the only division the Bible recognizes for the church is regional. And they were still interconnected. Denominations are wrong. They are borne out of divisions caused by the works of man.
The Body of Christ – a supernature being filled with the Holy Spirit
The Bride of Christ – Pure and devoted to their Lord
Before we move on to testimonies, we have to back up and cover some scripture of rhema and art
Acts 2:14 Peter asks crowd to give heed to his “rhema”
Acts 5:20 go speak to the people the whole “rhema” of this life. In other words, declare what I’ve revealed to you. You can’t speak “rhema” without the Holy Spirit accompanying you.
If the truest form of expression comes when the Holy Spirit inspires and accompanies it, then some of the worst forms of corruption of that come in the form of contracts concerning “worship music” and sermons. If we contractually obligate Christians to produce albums and teachings, then they are motivated by money and job security to fill space. The Holy Spirit can certainly transcend these human limitations, but why would we not reorient ourselves to work fully in communion with Him?
Godly creative exrpession is to art what Rhema is to Logos. People can learn the skills of art, and be really good at it. But doing those things in communion with the Holy Spirit connect to something deeper. Our relationship with God can inspire others to engage a relationship with God.
We emphasize communicating testimonies in creative expression. We have done this (Mark, Mark, and Jason are musicians), and we encourage it in others. Testimonies are authentic; they are a weapon; and the tell of what God has done. Testimonies declare that God is who He says He is, and that He is their Lord.
Psalm 66:5,16 Come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men…come and hear all who fear God and I will tell of what He’s done for my soul.
Expressing with Authority
People were moved by what Jesus preached because He taught with authority. It wasn’t just His conviction (which some preachers do not have), but that He did what He taught. He was passionate about what He taught – things that He knew, did, and had a deep conviction of. He lived what He taught. Deep conviction backed up with a steadfast walk shakes people.
People desire authenticity because it is a connection to something that can be known. It is proof that truth and love are attainable, that loneliness is not the only option. Authenticity in expression means that the expression is not just a product or filler, but that it bridges the gap between our experiences. This desire for authenticity puts a wedge within our religious experience. The modern church strives to be “authentic”, but kills that effort by its striving. Authentic followers are living sacrifices.
To be authentic, we need to find our identity, and we can only find that in Christ.
Godly creative expression is done with authority – it is done as an outpouring of what we know and do, it is done in communion with the Holy Spirit.
Why are you creating? Is it just to fill space? Is it to attract people to your self? Are you just adding bible words to chords? What inspires it? What is the motivation? What power is there in something contrived? Our creations have more power when they come from a place of authority – of an outpouring of our experience.
What is the vision of Godly creative expression? God’s vision for creative expression will depend on what His vision is for the church in a certain place at a certain time. He will be expressing what He is doing through mankind’s expression. If this is the case, then the church is missing out by programming and recycling “worship music.” The bible speaks of EVERYONE bringing a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song, for the purposes of teaching and edifying. This means that God can move corporately in a church BODY and express Himself at that time through new and old expressions. “Worship music”, or any artistic function within the church, should not be seen as entertaining, but in some way prophetic, in that it is expressing who God is and what He is doing.
If the creative expression of who God is and what He is doing is limited, stifled, etc., then its power is greatly decreased. The praises cannot be heard, the rebukes are not received, the encouragements are silenced. He cheapen the arts to “oh, that’s pretty” or “oh, that’s cool” or “i really like this song”.
So…how are urban renewal, reformation of the church, and reformation of creative expression all the same thing? Because they are all concerned with God’s patterns, having a relationship with God, being filled with His Spirit, walking in His ways. When we are in line with God’s ways, we are declaring His glory, we are expressing His diving attributes. When we do that, we will be ministering. You will be living out Isaiah 61. When we do this, our hearts are full of the good things of God, and they overflow in our various abilities. We do that together, corporately, as a body. Within this context, the only reason any art exists is because we have encountered our Lord and we can’t help but to express it, or we so desire to encounter Him that we call out in lament.
As the church has become corrupted in America, and Americanized the Gospel, it brought its arts right along with it and turned ministry into an industry. If we leave the world and allign our hearts with God’s, then we will find ourselves in the trenches of spiritual warfare, and shoulder to shoulder not only with our brothers and sisters, but with Jesus Himself, and that results in the restoration of dark places, including inner cities. As we live among those who need love and need the Lord, and humble ourselves, instead of exalting ourselves like the builders of Babel, then what we do create, express, and build will communicate who God is and what He does.
When we return to God’s patterns, we will be loving, we will be expressing, and we will be living the church the way that He designed.
Keith Green – Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful
Shawn Groves – Blank Page
This episode originally broadcast live on September 4, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO
Let’s start over with the idea that humanity was designed by the Creator. We were meant to live a certain way. When God created everything, He called it good. Mankind quickly decided that we wanted to live our own way instead of God’s way. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God here to earth, to return the Spirit of God to mankind, and show them how to live with God as their Lord.
In this episode, we begin discussing man living by their own design with some (seemingly) silly examples (like robots). This moves to the idea that the the modern, western world is beginning to acknowledge the effects of pain. However, mankind still chooses to live by their own design – we look for our own solutions, as opposed to obeying God.
For example, many results of abuse include “bad behavior”. People lack the basic abilities to interact with other humans in healthy ways. They can’t focus in school. They take offense easily. They constantly feel their very existence is threatened. The consequences of those actions are alienation, more abuse, or punishment. When this happens on a very large scale, we end up with generational oppression. In America, this generally manifests in racism and all its tangents.
The penal system is one of punishment. It is a transactional relationship. When people get pushed to their limits, they get focused on their “needs” or inconveniences, and start reacting out of demands, which turns everything into a transaction. This leads to many people feeling disrespected or neglected much of the time.
Secular responses to deep pain will always fall short. They will only be the best of human strength and wisdom, which will forever be insufficient.
The answer is God’s love. Genuine care. Loving by serving. Walking in the Spirit, walking united as the Body. God can break down great things through humble obedience. We have seen Him break racial stereotypes and expand the boundaries of our “family” to include people that don’t look like us. We’ve experienced plenty of rejection, as well. But if we remain in a state of transaction, we will always be offended and always be withholding love from those who need it most.
The systems of the world are largely transactional. Business, banking, government, taxes, etc. We create “machines” to manage our world, and all those machines run on transaction. This means we are regularly investing our selves into machines that do not allow us to function on a human level. This tears at our humanity, and makes it hard to differentiate those interactions from ones with other humans. It is certainly nice for things to run like a well oiled machine, but humanity rarely does, so we cannot hold that expectation over ourselves. We cannot “transact” with other humans and think that it will result in healthy relationships.
Real love is not transactional. Transactional relationships do not make room for love. Economic exchanges are “fair” and based on expectations. Love is sacrificial. Grace is undeserved; it cannot be deserved. When we apply economic principals to our relationship with God we will be very disappointed, and miss the amazing acts of love He is doing right before our eyes.
As we continue to explore pain and its effects, we will talk about vows – how pain changes our belief systems and causes us to make decisions that can last a lifetime.
The most destructive pain isn’t any specific kind of act or occurance, but rather whatever affects your sense of worth.
Many people make vows in an instance of abuse. This is a decision the victim makes concerning what they will allow in their life, or what they will pursue. Vows are so powerful because they are made to defend the victim’s very existance. It changes fundamentally their motivations and how they interpret the world around them. This essentially changes who you are. People also make vows of revenge – a decision to punish the abuser or those like the abuser through manipulation, etc. The vow becomes the mechanism by which the victim navigates the world – they now have something they can trust in.
A vow prevents you from becoming who God made you to be. It injects into your very identity something outside of God’s plan, something that is entirely self-focused and born in pain and extreme emotion. If we simply look at the destructive behavior that manifests as the result of abuse, we will never reach healing. We have to go to the vow and undo its binds. A vow binds a person by perpetuating the abuse. It creates a false reality where the abuse is constant and can never be let go. A vow ensures that the victim will perpetually be a victim.
Sometimes vows are known; the victim is actively and knowingly choosing to live out a decision. They constantly justify behavior. Conscious or not, this is a way of repainting reality. It also secures the victim identity. It sets the person up to be “failed” in every situation, because they are always defending themselves, whether or not attacks are coming, which means in their eyes, they are always being attacked, let down, betrayed, disrespected, etc.
Some people end up ministering out of a vow to make sure their pain would never happen to someone else. This sets you up to work in your flesh and strive against God. The Holy Spirit is the one that enters into us and unpacks our pain and bondage. Many church-attenders in America don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real person of God. If you never experience the Holy Spirit, and only hear others talk about Him in vague terms, then the Holy Spirit can be anything. If you want freedom, you have to seek the Holy Spirit.
How do I recover from what’s happened to me? God has given us something better than what the world has to offer – His Holy Spirit. Through accepting the grace of the sacrifice of Jesus and pursuing the Holy Spirit, our healing is guaranteed. God does not play games nor send us confusing answers.
So what do you do? First, learn to forgive. Forgive your abusers. Forgive God. Forgive yourself. Forgive the countless perceived abuses and slights that come every day. A large part of forgiveness is allowing guilt to rest on the offending party. Also, you must fully realize the depth of the pain and destruction that occurred to you. If you simply think “Oh, they said mean things and shouldn’t have”, you have not realized the depth of the pain, and so are not truly forgiving them for what happened. If you are crushed by the realization that the abuser stole your very identity with their words, now you are truly forgiving them, and ready to undo the lies and chains that resulted from that destruction.
Secondly, you have to admit the weakness you were in at the time of the attack, instead of applying that original incident to your current condition. You have to look at the abuse through the eyes of a child, or with a clear and compassionate eye toward your circumstances at the time of the abuse. This doesn’t just mean your physical prowess or ability to defend or avoid, but also understanding the magnitude of the abuse at that time in your life.
Third, get help from someone that knows about the topic. Seek a body of believers working in their spiritual gifts.
Learn to trust again. If you can never trust God or others, there is no hope for you. You are left with only your own imperfect hands to save you. Trust just a few people that are worthy of trust and start the process.
For more help healing from past pains, please see the books Love: No Strings Attached and Pain and Pretending by Rich Buhler.
Most people we encounter are carrying around the weight of unresolved pain from their past. Some people are aware, and some are not. Some pain is caused by cataclysmic events, and some is the result of subtle conditioning over long periods of time. However, most “victims” display similar patterns of behavior. We do not feel you can effectively minister and set captives free without understanding how pain affects people’s lives.
The pain we’re discussing is the pain that attacks your sense of identity, your sense of self worth. It changes how you view your self and the world. While most people recognize lasting effects of pain (PTSD, aversions, etc.), there are pains that are kept hidden or are forgotten, or we never recognize to what depths it has affected our understanding of our selves.
Pain changes what we believe – it subjects us to lies. Anytime something attacks the core of who we are, whether dramatic or subtle, we have to respond. We have to find ways to continue to live with the pain. Many of these ways are destructive and bind us.
The effects of abuse early in your life changes the way you process information, view relationships, your self, and God. Children largely perceive the world through their relationships. When relationship is violated, part of our world and our understanding of the world is destroyed. And anchor of our existance has been removed.
It is vital to understand pain and its effects in a ministry setting. We should not seek to change behavior, but to set captives free. The family, church, and community should all be a safe place for children to live and be nurtured. However, satan wants to destroy, so he infiltrates our families, churches, and communities. He destroys one person at a time. Therefore, if we intervene on a personal level and create nurturing communities of faith, knit together by love, faith, spiritual gifts, discipleship, spiritual authority, then we will truly take part in the work of redemption. Loving, transparent community is in some ways necessary to get free from pain – trusted friends can see your blindspots and your destructive behavior patterns. Spiritual gifts and spiritual warfare are necessary in bringing people to freedom. Understanding how the brain reacts to traumatic events also helps to have compassion on the victim.
Sin causes pain, and pain then causes sin. Pain causes people to distrust God, to protect themselves, to lash out, to believe lies, etc. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and He formed the church as a tool to take part in this. The Law was insufficient to remove sin and heal pain. Grace, in all its fullness, destroys the lies, shame, and guilt that surrounds and perverts us, and allows us to be healed by God. In order to destroy the works of the devil, we have to understand how he’s working.
Beautiful Eulogy – According to God. From their album “Instruments of Mercy” available at www.humblebeast.com. Used by permission.
We discuss the history and implications of the pagan holiday of Halloween, and what it means to be separate from the world. When you think of Halloween, are you legalistic, defensive, indifferent, unconcerned, infatuated? Why do Christians participate in a pagan holiday, and why this one and not the dozens of other ones? How do you remain separate from the world? How does that affect your decisions and desires? We see Halloween as a pagan holiday with a history rooted in occult spiritual practices, and whose modern day incarnation is a highly commercialized event that focuses on frivolous spending, death, violence, demons, fear, and lust. Instead of writing a new law of what activities we should or shouldn’t do, we look at the values of the Kingdom of God, and see what we want to proclaim.
There are groups that set up “safe zones” for Halloween. If it is just a fun holiday about costumes and candy, why is this necessary? Despite what some say, October 31 does have higher crime rates, just not of sexual assaults. We want “safe scary”. Real scary is unsafe. Murder, rape, vandalism, robbery, dismemberment. These things are actually scary, and life altering or ending. A real “haunted house” is one with gun shots going off right outside or thieves breaking in to steal. Why is it required to have “safe zones” on this holiday if it doesn’t promote evil?
What about other non-Christian holidays, like New Year’s and Labor Day? It’s not about celebrating something not based in Christian beliefs. Look at what you are celebrating, not simply activities you are participating in. What does the holiday exalt? Fear, horror, lust, wickedness, violence, pain, demons, indulgence. It’s the second largest spending holiday in the US. Money spent on candy, costumes, decorations. The same approach can be brought to blatantly Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter. What are you doing and what are you celebrating? Are you celebrating commercialism and pagan traditions, or something significant about the life of Christ?
So let’s look at the celtic holiday of Samhain.
Practices and Traditions of Samhain/Halloween
Trick-or-Treating – Historically, the holiday was about souls coming back to bless or curse people. People offered soul cakes to them. Children started to mimic them and demand cakes in order to avoid mischief. Also related to “souling”, a practice of people going door-to-door asking for treats and prayers. Also related to guising, doing performances to get food and money.
Jack-o-lanterns – carving hideous faces into pumpkins, etc to scare spirits away. Also, carved pumpkins end up in the trash, instead of in food, and become a huge waste problem.
Costumes – people would try to look like evil spirits, in recognition of the holiday and mimicking spirits, or scaring them away
bobbing for apples – a divination practice
Mirror divination practices
Christians had a holiday where they would honor saints who have died – All Saint’s Day. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III moved the holiday to line up with Samhain (which was also effectively the pagan new year).
Is it valid to say that present-day Halloween is just a commercial event with no connection to its pagan roots? Is this a valid idea within the Kingdom of God? Why do we even care? What’s the deal? So what? Are we legalistic? We’re talking about a context of living in two realms. Let’s look at God’s heart, what He brought, what the apostles were teaching and doing, what it means to be full of the Holy Spirit (and not other spirits), and that we shouldn’t joke lightheartedly about demons and put pictures of them around our homes. Instead of making a list of things we could or shouldn’t do, let’s look at what it means to be the church. Let’s not allow a pagan holiday to create a false context for us. Do you believe in a spirit realm? Do you believe in a devil? Do you believe you need to be separate from such things? The kindom of satan is about creating and spreading lies. Halloween does not induce fear of God, but of created things. Halloween makes light of spiritually corrupt practices, such as seances, violence, and divination. It becomes a gateway and an opportunity to become desensitized to such things. Peer pressure, even from within the church, makes you feel like a goofball for not wanting to participate in this holiday.
Many people can rationalize away the “original intents” of Halloween. However, simply look around at its present day manifestation. It’s not all princesses and superheroes. It’s haunted houses, violent horror movies, costumes that celebrate death, decay, and lust. Even the candy isn’t just candy…it’s images of skulls, human limbs, ghosts, and other things that typically induce fear. It certainly stresses fun, but fun generally in the context of spiritualism, gore, and fear.
Why is Halloween seen as an evangelistic opportunity? What makes it exceptional? Does this validate it? Why do we not apply this logic to other pagan practices and holidays? How many Christians celebrate Ramadan in order to evangelize? Does the fact that you could share the Gospel mean you have to participate in the practice? Coming up with a “christian alternative” in order to compete for attention or numbers is just as much conforming to the world. How about we let the holiday die by not participating? Christian “haunted house” alternatives focus on fear, and utilizing fear to scare you to Jesus, so your golden ticket to heaven gets punched. This is a terrible and expensive tactic, and delivers an incomplete gospel clothed in the ways of the world.
Stop rationalizing and look at what you’re doing and exalting
Who are you serving?
Don’t pretend the spirit realm doesn’t exist or that you have control over it
Why are you celebrating a make-believe holiday that requires safe zones?
What are you filling your head, heart, and time with?