Lets resurrect the churc.., p.2
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       Let's Resurrect the Church, p.2

           Mark Barnes
 
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CHAPTER ONE – WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE CHURCH?

  Christians keep on asking that ridiculous question: ‘Can the church have a revival?’17 They are wondering whether they will see the sudden mass conversions and breathtaking miracles of the early church we read about in the book of Acts (Bates, Truth Decay). Well, if you are actually asking that question, and you have been a Christian for at least five years, you haven’t studied your Bible enough, or you are not close enough to God, (TAS, What it Means to be a Christian, 39-40).

  Bishop T. D. Jakes wanted a revival in his church but says the Lord spoke to him and said 'I don’t want you to have a revival until you have a funeral'.18 Paul Washer calls for a reformation (Washer 6-12). I call for a resurrection: that is, having every Christian fully crucified and living on the resurrection side of the Cross (McNichols, 73) as I explain throughout this book with the assistance of the timeless writings of TAS.19 If you ask a mature, devout Christian: ‘will there be a church revival’, they should automatically answer along the following lines: ‘Don’t worry about revivals; just ensure that you and your congregation are becoming closer to God through devout worship, prayer and knowledge of God,20 and leave the timings to God’.

  In any case, we should not feel like Christian failures if we don't see the miracles and mass conversions in the book of Acts. TAS says that God used those "… supernatural, extraordinary … phenomenal …" miracles and "… conspicuous …" events to let people know that He was establishing important spiritual principles through His Apostles (TAS, Life in the Spirit, 30-33). Therefore, God does not need to continuously repeat these extraordinary events over and over again. For example, Ananias and Sapphira violated one of God's principles, and they died on the spot (Acts 5:1-11). TAS says, "… many … have done exactly the same thing through this dispensation and have never been smitten in the same way …"

  But, as Clinton Parker says "… the community of faith as portrayed in Acts of Apostles serves as a model church and provides a narrative of the communal nature of Christian discipleship that fosters robust spiritual formation …" (Parker, 164). TAS says “… at the beginning of the Christian era it was the Lord Jesus Who was the one in view; engrossing, enrapturing; not fellowships or movements, but the Lord Himself. That was the day of power, and we have to come back there…" (TAS, The Recovery of Spiritual Power, 87)

  Another ridiculous question is ‘what can we do about dwindling church attendances?’ This is like putting the cart before the horse. Build EVERYONE up to become great Christians.21 Then they will start to see everything from God’s perspective and they will focus on first things first such as placing Christ at the center of everything.22 TAS says "… and righteousness, we have been seeing, is just the reverse of that: no longer 'I' but the Lord, the changing of the center of things, from the self-center to the God-center …"23 Karl Vaters says “… when we put church attendance ahead of knowing Jesus, even chronologically, we can unintentionally send people the wrong message: that salvation is about church attendance …” (A Better Way to Invite People to Church: And to Jesus, by Karl Vaters).

  You see, just hoping or praying or wishing for a revival will not bring about a revival.24 In 2004 Craig Van Gelder said: "The past several decades have seen a seemingly endless obsession with trying to discover strategies to help denominations and congregations become more effective or successful …" (Van Gelder, Understanding Polity …, 41). Yet, the answer is absolutely obvious to TAS who says “… If we want to be in the good pleasure of God we must make everything of the Lord Jesus. If we want to know why it was that God was so wonderfully with the first Christians and Apostles, the explanation is that they only had one Person in view, and everywhere at all times they were magnifying the Lord Jesus …”25

  When Jesus instructed the eleven disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, did they wish, dream, mumble, grumble, gossip, complain, ponder and wonder if there would be a revival (Lk 24:49)? No: they (1) WORSHIPPED Him; “returned to Jerusalem with great (2) JOY; they were continually in the temple (3) PRAISING GOD” (Lk 24:52-53); and “they all joined together constantly in (4) PRAYER …” (Acts 1:14). Parker says "… the early church … followers practiced commitment to three disciplines: teaching, fellowship, and prayer … spiritual instruction was of foremost importance to church life …" (Parker 176-179, 184; Acts 6:4).

  So the Bible gives us the ingredients for the recipe to 'attract' the Holy Spirit (Zscheile, 167): (1) worship (2) joy (3) praise (4) prayer.26 Therefore, the main duty for the corporate church is to motivate the congregation to become closer to Christ through (1) worship, (2) joy, (3) praise and (4) constant prayer (Parker, 161, 181-183). And that is the main point of this book: I believe the structure of the three main types of churches, prevents them from motivating their congregations to high levels of spiritual maturity.

  But I go further into my reasons as the book progresses. And please read all the reference materials that I cite in this book. Most of them are free on the Internet. Joyce Meyer says the problem is that most people do not want to do the HARD WORK of constantly sacrificing their flesh27 to get closer and closer to Christ. Keep in mind ‘flesh’ does not only mean your body, it also includes ‘fleshly desires’ such as being “selfish … very self-centered, self-occupied, [and] self-interested …”28

  TAS says "… We know Gilgal. It is the place where the new generation was circumcised; the place where the reproach of Egypt was rolled away. What does this mean? It means the putting aside of a life in the flesh. Speaking figuratively, it is about the separating work of the Cross. Here all personal interests have come to an end. Every personal standpoint, all holding fast to the 'I' is finished. Only where the flesh has been judged and the old man put into the grave, can God turn to us and make us co-workers in His plan. This is easier said than done. This sounds 'edifying'. But it costs a lot. It costs that which we are. It costs our life … 'if any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me' (Lk 9:23 ASV). "… What God has made us to be in Christ, we must learn to work out in daily life …" (Rom 8:12-17 vide Wilcock). If we want to be His instruments, if we want to be available for Him, so that He can have His rights through us, then let us come over to His side. Let us give up all our rights (1 Cor 15:31 AMP). This is the first step towards heavenly fullness …" (TAS, The Rights of God, 66-67; TAS, Attaining to God's Full Thought).

  When a church has members who "… stay in in the flesh, there is no fellowship, there is no communion, you are all in bits and pieces, all flying at one another … but when you come to the supreme end and deepest work of the Holy Spirit, you find it in the oneness of believers. It takes the deepest work of the Holy Spirit to bring that about, seeing that we still have a nature that is an old nature. We still can be Christians, and yet Corinthian Christians … seeing the self-life is still lurking in some form or another, it takes a mighty work of the Holy Spirit to unite indissolubly even two believers, but to unite a whole church like that is something stupendous …" (TAS, The Gospel According to Paul, 33-35; Tumblin, esp. 71-73; Col 2:2, 3:5).

  And what is the benefit of 'unity' among church members? "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down on the collar of his robe …" (Ps. 133:1-2 NIV; Muthiah, Charismatic Leadership …, 14-16; Fielder, A Spirit of Harmony).

  Parker says "… the term 'fellowship' conveys a sense of harmony and inseparableness created by the Holy Spirit … as the life-transformative instruction purged and purified their hearts, the people of faith developed a deep sense of life and allegiance to each other …" and "… when modern day congregants are committed to teaching, fellowship, and prayer and are experiencing the kind of corporate spirituality exemplified and enabled by the pastoral leader, they can anticipate some positive outcomes in their respective ministry environments in a similar manner to Acts 2:47 …" (Parker 180-184; Callahan, Leadership in Eccle
sial Contexts …, 58-59; Bell, Learning, Changing, and Doing …, 99-101).

  TAS reminds us how difficult it is to keep our ‘flesh’ at bay: “… We may yet have to discover how utterly unfruitful and unprofitable we are, more than we ever thought, because this flesh is a 'die-hard'; it takes a long time to really give up the ghost. It clings to its own ability to do something, and to know something, but nevertheless, however long-drawn-out that may be, and it may be lifelong, there is that from which it begins, where it comes home to us in some way which is a foundational thing, that the old creation is, so far as we are concerned, ruled out as unprofitable to God, and lies under His ban as a worthless thing. Have you got a cross in your history? Have you got a grave in your history? If you have not then you are dwelling in the shadows. You may get flashes and touches, but they will be fleeting, transient, coming and going. If you have a cross and a grave in your experience, in your history, the Holy Spirit has got what He requires, and it is blessedly possible for you to have the abiding of this risen life in which all these values are made good, and growingly good …” (TAS, Knowing God in Christ, 157, 161)

  TAS says “… the whole significance of the Roman letter is this. If we are going to know the life of sovereignty in the Spirit which comes in with chapter 8, we can only know it as we know the life of death in chapter 6. Dying with Christ: that is the way in. The message of the Cross is essential to sift out professors from possessors, pretense from reality, and it raises a very solemn and serious issue for many today. The flesh resents being crucified, resents dying …29 Romans 7 is the chapter of defeat and failure where 'I' occurs 30 times, but Chapter 8 is the deliverance because the word "Spirit" occurs 21 times …" (TAS, The Fullness of Life in Jesus Christ, 24).

  I heard someone on the Christian TV channel interview Noel Voce. Noel was eighty four at the time of the interview and had been pastor of East Fremantle Baptist Church since he was twenty four. That equals sixty years!!! He said the key to be a successful Christian is that Jesus Christ has to be the center of your whole universe.30 TAS seems to agree because he wants us “… to recognize that the Object with whom we are to be occupied all the time is the Lord Jesus Christ inwardly. Apart from that you have only spiritualized psychology; you have only developed in a new form the spirit, the natural spirit of man, and tried to bring him into a spiritual realm …” (TAS, The Recovery of Spiritual Power, 84-85).

  So, if you focus a lot of your time and effort on Christ, Christ will use the Holy Spirit to make you more like Him.31 The Holy Spirit cannot help Himself: His whole existence is to help produce Christ-like character in willing people.32 And willing people are those who keep Christ at the center of their efforts to become more holy. TAS says "… When Christ really captivates, everything happens and anything can happen … Christ had just captivated them [the Philippians]. They had no other thought in life than Christ. They may have had their businesses, their trades, their professions, their different walks of life and occupations in the world, but they had one all-dominating thought, concern and interest: Christ. Christ rested, for them, upon everything … it solved all their problems, cleared up all their difficulties. Oh, this is what we need! If only you and I were like this … captured and captivated … and become: yes, I will use the word: an obsession, a glorious obsession … when we are like that, we are filled with joy …" (TAS, The Gospel According to Paul, 74-76; TAS, The Dynamic of Spiritual Helpfulness; Rodin, 119).

  And that is the primary problem with the Church: a lot of churches have forgotten that Jesus Christ is the center of EVERYTHING.33 Stop for a few seconds and really take in that word ‘EVERYTHING’. This means every single activity of the Church should be directly measured against how useful it will be in glorifying Christ.34 TAS says “… The house of God IS Christ …”,35 and “… for us our knowledge of Christ governs everything in time and eternity …” [and] “… the purpose of all God’s dealings with us is to bring us into greater knowledge of His Son…”36 "… That in all things He might have the pre-eminence …" (Col 1:18; TAS, The Rights of God, 63). George Harpur says "… We tend to think of eternal life as if it were a nicely bound up package handed over to us by God … but … eternal life is the knowledge of God … Life is not just having sins forgiven and the hope of heaven. It is that. But the real issue of eternal life is to know God and be known by Him. It is the relationship which matters …" (Harpur; Alexander, Let Him Who Boasts …, Foster, Life in the Heavenlies …, Madsen, Lessons From Joshua).

  Yet most Christians have only limited knowledge of God. God said “… My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge …” (Hosea 4:6). And why do Christians ask that ridiculous question: ‘Why are youth leaving the church in droves?’ or ‘How do we keep our youth in the church?’ Again, this is like putting the cart before the horse. Let’s use common sense first: It starts at home for every member of the church. The Church should ensure that NO member is so overburdened with church duties that they have insufficient time to spend with their wife and children. The family that plays together stays together (Rimm, Families that play Together … Kinnison, The Pastor as Expert …, 24-26; Miller-McLemore, 115). Jentezen Franklin says too many Christians try to do something big for their church such as missionary work when they should be playing ball with their children.

  But, as TAS says "… the fact is that parents can be utter for God, they can be the most godly, the most pious, and yet their children can be the most renegade. A strange thing, is it not? The disposition to faith and obedience is not in the blood …"37 Of course, you must do your best to bring your children up within a godly environment, but you must be mature enough to understand there is no guarantee your children will become Christians. But your daily prayers should include asking the Lord to turn members of your family into Christians in accordance with his timings, purposes, and plans.

  As soon as my two boys were seven and four years of age, I moved from shift work to Monday to Friday dayshift. I could have earned about fifteen to twenty thousand dollars more per year by staying on shift work, but I kept my word to myself to spend quality time with my kids for the following reasons. I spent two years in the Tasmania Police Academy as a Police Cadet. I was aged 16 when I started. Five other cadets were sons of high ranking police officers. Four of those five got into all sorts of trouble from an early stage. It occurred to me that these high ranking officers had to sacrifice most of their family time to advance in their careers.

  Therefore, I was quite sure that lack of family time impacted heavily on the development in the maturity of their sons. I never forgot that. Right up to age forty five I took one of my sons running training about three to four days per week. He was an excellent one hundred (100) meter athlete, and I did ALL the training with him. My other son wasn’t the sporting type but is very intelligent. When he was a teenager I used to read a few pages of an illustrated science encyclopedia to him at bedtime. I took my kids everywhere and told them every general thing about life. They stayed out of trouble and we are still a very close family for it. That is how you bring up kids. Julie Lowe says “… our conversations should reflect how Christ relates to us. We imitate Him by cultivating deep, rich, nourishing conversations with our children that build relational bridges …” (Lowe).

  I said it takes time to become a fairly mature Christian, but it takes many more years of devotion to attain the fullness of Christ.38 I do not believe I have reached 'fullness of Christ', as I write this line, after nine years of devoted discipleship. This fact doesn’t worry me, because I am satisfied with my continual progression; but I mention it so that you have something to measure your own spiritual growth against. And I believe the test for fullness is two-fold: (1) you still have your ‘first love’ and (2) you have such a deep knowledge of God that you can explain major biblical concepts in ordinary language at a seconds notice. After all, we are all after eternal life, (1 Pet 1:9; 1 Jn 2:25) “… and this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent
...” (John 17:3).

  Michael McNichols says "… Our first love is the love of God …" (McNichols, 59). I believe this ‘first love’ displays itself in that initial excitement you feel when you first discover Christ in a big way; and when you just can't put the Bible down: it becomes an addiction!!39 TAS writes "… 'I remember concerning thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, how thou wentest after me in the wilderness' (Jer 2:2) … That is what love will do. Love will go after its lover in a wilderness where there is nothing to live on. If necessary, it will die of starvation in order to be with its lover …"40 A little further on TAS says "… I cannot let your lampstand remain with a loss of first love …" (TAS, His Great Love, 69-71). TAS says it is when you are “… fully alive to the fact of how great grace there must be for such people (us!) to be loved in such a way…”41 Maintaining that excitement and awe of Christ is the test, I believe, of whether you are still close to God.42

  And it is not easy. TAS says “… the peril is, even in your labor and in your patience and in your conscientiousness and your sincerity and all these works and lost that: the glory and wonder and amazement of being saved at all has been lost …"43 "… there is a lot of devotion and there’s a lot of labor, a lot. Yes, but what He is looking for is that TRUE heart appreciation of HIMSELF, what He has done, and what He has given …" (TAS, Revelation of Jesus Christ, 76). Harry Foster says "… The people who live in the heavenlies believe in Church truth, they rejoice in election and justification, in sanctification and the sealing of the Spirit, but they focus their governing thoughts and their heart's love on the Person of the Savior. He is their first love, and they must make sure to keep Him so … (Foster, Life in the Heavenlies). Romans 12:11 urges us to maintain our zeal and fervor for God. Paul said to Timothy: "… fan into flame the gracious gift of God [that inner fire: the special endowment] which is in you through the laying on of my hands …" (2 Tim 1:6 AMP). John Piper says “… The great quality I want in my associates is one of intensity. Rom 12:8 says that if your gift is leadership, ‘do it with zeal’ …” (Piper, The Marks of a Spiritual Leader).

  TAS says it is easy to lose your zeal through “… familiarity and association with it all …”44 Do you think Jesus Christ showed a 'reasonable' amount of zeal for God's house? NO: zeal for the Father's house CONSUMED Him (Ps 69:9; Jn 2:17). Microsoft synonyms for 'consume' include 'devour' and 'guzzle'. They are heavy words which lead me to believe that the words 'consume' and 'obsession' are synonymous in this context. The NIV says 'consumed': the ASV says 'eaten me up'; in the BBE 'zeal' is 'fire' and 'consumed' is 'passion'; and in the DBY 'consumed' is 'devoured'. TAS says "… Elisha cannot be dissuaded or discouraged from being zealous, but follows his master Elijah, until he becomes witness of his wonderful ascension. This is what God must have in us to build on. There must be in us something of the zeal that inspired Elisha …" (TAS, The Rights of God, 65; Martin, Dwelling in the Divine Life, 130).

  Your excitement should be evidenced by a keen desire to pray, thank and worship God, and a constant desire to increase your knowledge of Christ through Bible study.45 Tim Clinton says that to maintain faith you must "consume God's Word and follow it closely". In my experience, this keenness should be similar to an alcoholic desperately looking for a drink of alcohol. Paul said “…To me to live IS Christ…”46 Your devotion to Christ must border on an obsession you have to constantly hold back from taking control of your life.47 This might appear to clash with the concept of remaining meek. But meekness doesn’t mean weakness, it means being full of passion for Christ but being kept in step by Christ, just like a rider controlling a horse by using the bit in the horse’s mouth.48 Look at the amount of effort even an experienced jockey has to use to hold a racehorse back until the start of a race. You should be like that racehorse.

  Psalm 119:20 says "My soul is CONSUMED with longing for your laws at all times." (NIV). It does not say 'some of the time': it says "at ALL times". Psalm 119:97 says "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." (NIV). Psalm 42:1-2 says "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God …" King David said "You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water … (Ps. 63:1) … My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God …" (Ps 84:2). Sounds like a beautiful obsession to me!!

  I only know these things because I have been both:49 a half-hearted Christian when I was young (1 Cor 15:2 AMP); and then a WHOLEHEARTED50 Christian when I came back to Christ at age forty-seven. And this keenness and obsession (TAS, The Burning Fire of the Spirit, 28-30; Ps. 27:4 AMP) must come naturally, not forced. Just like alcohol drives the alcoholic’s passion for another drink, if you get very close to Jesus Christ and stay there, the Holy Spirit will provide you with that passion for Jesus Christ. It is like receiving an injection of spiritual steroids.51 Eric Alexander says "… The fullness of the Spirit produces a love of Scripture …" (Alexander, A Question of Priorities).

  Jeremiah was tortured for speaking God's truth, but he was so passionate about Israel's sinning against God that he couldn't help but shout out the truth even if he didn’t want to because "… my heart becomes a burning fire shut up in my bones. And I am weary of enduring and holding it in; I cannot endure it [nor contain it any longer] …" (Jer 20:1-18 via Brueggemann, 13). TAS says "… Those in whom the Spirit of God is at work find that although they may be in such a position as to be completely helpless and hopeless in the matter of knowing and understanding the Lord, at this juncture they find they have to know, they must know, they cannot just leave it there and give up …" (TAS, His Great Love, 6-7).

  And, can mature members and pastoral team of your church describe the major biblical teachings in simple language, so that almost anyone can understand? If not, why not? I believe the major doctrines are (1) The Kingdom of God52 (2) Righteousness versus unrighteousness,53 and (3) Holiness (holy or righteous behavior / sanctification).54 TAS says: “… THE thing which, and which alone justifies, and gives meaning to any local company of the Lord’s people, is not the people and not their procedure, not their forms, but CHRIST! CHRIST is met, CHRIST is found. Anybody who is seeking Christ will find Him there and whether they are seeking Him or not they will meet Him if they go there. It is Christ! …”55 People are turned off churches if the church they walk into has no ‘vibe’ of Christ or they sense internal fighting. YOU, the church leader or leadership team, are responsible for ensuring that Christ is projected out through the church leaders in a vibrant and real way.

  TAS says “… ALL ministry must have as its IMMEDIATE object, the increase and the building up of Christ in His people … not that it is interesting, informative or anything else …”56 and “… it is very clear that the 40 days were days of Life. Two men went to Emmaus, half-dead, nine-tenths dead, and they go back over those few miles as men who had been raised from the dead … there was Life coming in all the time in those 40 days … There ought to be Life in the assembly, in the church. That is a priestly ministry. If people do not get Life amongst us, we are failing in our real vocation … (TAS, Knowing God in Christ, 148) for all God’s interest and activity with us, Christ is the first and the last. He is set forth, sealed, anointed, and there only shall we find an opened heaven …” (TAS, All Things in Christ, 165).

  Just after I came back to Christ at forty-seven, I watched Televangelist Benny Hinn on free-to-air TV on nightshift when I was working in a police watch house. Benny constantly uses the terms Jesus Christ, Christ and Christos all throughout his sermons. He is one of the few who does. Non-Christians (and even some Christians!!) would probably think Benny is bonkers, but it hit me in a wonderful way, because it taught me that Jesus Christ is at the center of the Christian faith and that we must keep Him there.57 But it still took a few more years before I was naturally able to link Christ to everything about Christianity. So, just b
e patient, and keep at it until it 'clicks' into place. I guarantee you it is a wonderful feeling when it does. TAS says: "'Seek ye first His Kingdom and His righteousness' … it means that you and I are to seek in the first place and at all times to be Christ-like … to bring the likeness, the nature and character of God into the situation…" (TAS, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 46, 52).

  In 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, Paul said: “… I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified …” In explaining Paul’s comment, TAS says “… The world is ruled out. The natural man is ruled out. The Church represents a perfect Divine order, and that makes demands upon all who claim to be in it and we find one fundamental demand right here at the beginning of this corrective letter: 'I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified' … here we touch the mystery of the very nature of the church. It is Christ from heaven, nothing of this world, Christ corporately expressed … the increase of Christ [is] the one object of the Divine Order …”58 and “… the Church becomes the vessel … of the work of the sovereign government of God … and the Church is the result, embodiment, of the Kingdom …” (TAS, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 36-37). But TAS warns that if your ministry does not “… provide for an immediate increase of the Lord Jesus, [it] is not the ministry of the Holy Ghost …”59

  For me all of this seems to mean that the Holy Spirit will not assist a church in any activity not connected to an increase in Christ.60 TAS says “… if you and I are according to ourselves, according to one another, according to nature, according to the world, according to anything that is not Christ the Holy Spirit does not operate …”61 So, unless you think TAS had no idea what he was talking about, or you just want to stay at a comfortable half-hearted Christian state to keep that regular pay cheque coming (Greg Jones, 110), you had better do everything you need to make Christ the center of EVERY church activity, and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.62

  But, some Christian organizations look at it differently. Pastor Amy Butler addresses problems such as decline in church attendance by urging leaders to “… make it our priority to perpetually reframe the narrative from scarcity to abundance … when congregations speak in narratives of decline and death, desperation and fear, we are crippling our ability to think in new ways and take action toward the next expression of our lives together …” (Owen, Connecting the Dots Outside the Boundaries).

  Sorry Amy, but I call that modern managerial gobbledygook!! I am not singling out Amy for any purpose other than the fact that when I typed “Church Health” into Google in November 2015, the “Center For Healthy Churches” appeared on the first page, and Bill Owen’s article was in there and mentioned Amy. You see, I like direct speech as opposed to spin. Compared to Amy, how did the Apostle Paul address the Corinth Church? He preached Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:1-2), and he (Paul) “… planted, Apollos watered, but GOD was causing the growth …” (1 Cor 3:6).

  So, there you have it. What is the right way to run a church? Amy says we need to think in “new ways”. Jesus said “I am the Way”. Why do you need new ways when “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever?” (Heb 13:8; Goff, 55-56). I understand that "… God's mission is, paradoxically, changeless and ever changing … (Rev. 21:5-6) … It is changeless as Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega; it is also ever changing because it meets us precisely in our particular contexts for, in Jesus Christ, God makes all things new. These two complexities, discernment and context, encourage us to abandon our solution-oriented drive and to embrace the dynamic relationality of a life of faith. We are not called to a solution but to an approach …" (Forney, To the One Outside the Gate …, 56).

  And, in my opinion, the correct "approach" is to hang on the vine, which is Jesus Christ,63 and He will, in his good time, show you how to "… reclaim … humanity back to relationship with the Creator …" in the context of your particular culture; your particular generation; your particular personality traits; and your life experience. "Happy [blessed, considered fortunate, to be admired] is the man who finds [skillful and godly] wisdom, and the man who gains understanding and insight [learning from God's word and life's experiences] …" (Prov 3:13 AMP) "Get wisdom, get understanding …" (Prov 4:5). "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way" (Ps 25:9 AMP). "Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose." (Ps 25:12, 14 AMP; Eph 1:17)

  Amy says “reframe the narrative from scarcity to abundance”. Jesus promises ‘abundant’ knowledge of the kingdom of heaven (Matt 13:11-13 NIV and NLT) to those who seek Him; and, in relation to financial and spiritual abundance, 2 Corinthians 9, titled “God Loves a Cheerful Giver” (NIV) says that God will bless generous givers spiritually and financially.64 Amy says we are “crippling our ability to think …” Paul says “… do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the RENEWING of your mind. THEN you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is: his good, pleasing and perfect will …” (Rom 12:2; Kinnison, The Pastor as Expert …, 29-30).

  Paul "… urged his readers to resist the influences of the world's way of thinking and instead allow a renewal process to work at the center of consciousness and progressively make the whole life new …" (Parker 179) Parker says "… the early church experienced spiritual vitality, not because of gimmicky techniques, but because it focused on the priority of biblical teaching … and experienced transformation through personal follow-up study of biblical instruction that provided the direction necessary to conduct their lives in a manner that countered the world in which they lived …" (Parker, 179-180).

  In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses terms such as “in Christ”, and, “in Him”, around 180-200 times.65 In this sixteen line article, neither Bill nor Amy mention God or Jesus Christ: therefore, they have not renewed their minds to think and talk like Jesus Christ: (TAS, All Things in Christ, 185, 192, 194) I believe they are conforming to the pattern of this world: in this case: ‘management speak’. It has been rained down on us, ad nauseam, since the early 1990s. Most people do not like management speak and riddles. The Guardian says the expressions: “… thinking outside the box … going forward … [and] let’s touch base … were identified as the top three most overused pieces of jargon …” (The 13 worst office jargon phrases staff love to hate, by Chris Smith).

  According to TAS: “… Christian service … has come to be a realm in which all the acquisitive, ambitious, obtrusive, assertive, self-seeking, and numerous other elements of the natural man have been vented and taken hold …66 It has created a system in which human distinctions are the order of the day … We need an adjustment of our minds by a true spiritual perception of the real nature of service …” (TAS, The Servant of the Lord, 13-14; Bell, Learning, Changing, and Doing …, 99-105).

  I do not know how Amy’s organization puts its policies into practice. For all I know they might be very Christ-centered in their practical application. But, please be careful of the words and methods you use in Christian service because TAS warns us that “… it is possible to engage in service in connection with the gospel according to methods which may appear attractive and successful, but which are not in conformity to the will of God. The Lord gauges our service, not by its success, but by our faithfulness to Him … The fire will consume, not purify. Not the man himself is to be burned but his work, work which, figuratively, consists of wood, hay, or stubble, work that has been done in the energy of the natural will, rather than by faithful adherence to the instruction of God’s Word under the guidance of the Spirit …” (TAS, The Servant of the Lord, 53; TAS, The Rights of God, 38-40).

  You can follow any advice you want, but Jesus says “… take up your Cross and follow Me …” (Matt 16:24; 1 Cor 15:31 AMP). Just keep your eyes on Jesus Christ. Preach Christ (Akerlund, 89-90). As Scott Hagley says "… The evangelist who preaches Christ is simply bearing witness to the decisive event in human history. In Christ, the cosmic reign of the Father has c
ome even though it is hidden …" (Hagley, 67). Most churches electronically record their sermons, so there is a way to check whether your church is focused on Christ. Go back over a few of your sermons, starting with the most recent, and see if any sermon related every topic to Christ.67 AND make sure each sermon provides the congregation with practical examples to work on (TAS, The Burning Fire of the Spirit, 6-7; Martin, Dwelling in the Divine Life, 129).

  For example, at a church I attended, a couple of men in the ministry team were doing theological studies at university. This required them to preach a sermon at the church. One of the men preached a sermon on communication. He preached from the heart by including the fact that he knew he needed to improve on his communication toward his wife. BUT, at this level, an experienced Christian should be linking everything back to Christ (Akerlund, 89-90). For example, he should have said that Christ perfected the nine fruit of the spirit in Gal 5:22, and therefore we should pray to God using biblical examples of each of the fruit of the spirit to allow God to help us grow a Christ-like attitude, and that our communication habits will become more like Christ as we pray and study (TAS, His Great Love, 44; Motyer; 1 Pet 1:15-16).

  He should have given real life stories from his work or home where he did not communicate properly and how he should have communicated in those situations: AND how he has improved his communication skills since then through prayer, Bible study and practice (Parker, 161-162; Martin, Dwelling in the Divine Life, 130). This is how the congregation learns to apply Christianity to real life situations. And that man had attained a high rank in the armed forces: surely he has some relevant stories to tell?? (Akerlund, 81-90) He didn’t tell one!! This indicates to me that he was not a Spirit-filled Christian. Of course, I hope him, and everyone on earth, actually reaches that level of fullness in Christ, but I want to point out the difference between a half-Christian and a wholehearted Christian.

  Robert Muthiah tells us the importance of being a 'storyteller'. He says that out of the three overlapping spheres of pastoral leadership (i.e.; implemental, relational, and interpretive) he puts most of his focus on "… interpretive leadership because it is arguably the most important sphere in connection with Christian practices …" (Muthiah, Christian Practices …, 198). Robert says the "… interpretive sphere can be further understood by looking at Scott Cormode's 'Gardener' model of pastoral leadership. The role of the Gardener is to till the soil and cultivate the plant … it is 'the vocabulary that a minister plants in the congregation, the stories that she sows, and the theological categories that she cultivates [which] bear fruit when the congregation uses those words, stories, and categories to interpret their world.' The focus of the Gardener is not on action, but on creating and pointing out meanings (which in turn inspire action) … such interpretive work happens through vehicles such as Bible studies, discernment groups, informal conversations, Sunday school classes, and preaching …" (Muthiah, Christian Practices …, 194, 197).

  If you are preaching to children, you should occasionally have a couple of kids volunteer to do a small play in front of the congregation on topics such as gossip and how to respond to gossip by politely refusing to get involved in it. Kids relate to this. They will remember these plays for years, possibly their whole lives. (Akerlund, 81-84) If we have the chance to teach kids, then we have a responsibility to not just preach and say 'don’t get involved in gossip because it is wrong according to this and that part of the Bible'. There is nothing technically wrong with preaching like that, but a small play where we have a few kids starting gossip and spreading the gossip around, and then repeating the scenario showing how we should biblically respond to gossip, will teach them how to react in reality. Most people know gossip is wrong, even most young kids, but we have to go one step further and teach them biblical methods of dealing with it.

  Jesus Christ is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of His Church. Jesus is the HEAD of the Church and Christians are the BODY of the Church. In our jobs here on earth, we have to take into account whether or not our line managers and company CEO will agree to a particular plan or project. And the project must be in line with the company’s main purpose. The church is no different. For any church sermon, church project or ministry, you have to be sure there is verifiable evidence that it will glorify Christ. You have to visualize that you are spiritually seated in heaven with Jesus Christ, just as the Bible says.68

  TAS says “… That is what ‘in the heavenlies’ means: how things are viewed from above; not what they look like and seem to be from the earthly standpoint …”69 I like the way Jesuit Priest Pierre Teilhard de Chandin said "… 'We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience' …" (Russell, 83). It is easier said than done, I know, but that is the wonderful, continual spiritual battle we fight day in and day out to become 'overcomers': bit by bit; little by little (Deut 7:22; 2 Cor 3:18).

  If you are not constantly referring everything back to Christ when you preach or teach, you are not close enough to Christ.70 According to John Piper “… the goal of a good teacher is the transformation of all life and thought into a Christ-honoring unity ...” (Piper, The Marks of a Spiritual Leader).71 TAS says "… our lives, in every respect, are to be governed by the interests of the Lord Jesus …"72 and "… He [God] has presented us with a Man … Any truth, doctrine, theme, subject which is not a revelation of Christ, and a ministration of Him, and which does not bring into Christ and make Christ Himself greater and fuller in the life, has missed its intention, has been divorced and separated from the purpose of God, and does not stand with God at all ..." (TAS, All Things in Christ, 218-220; TAS, Christ the Power of God, 38).

  The problem is that being Christ-centered does not happen automatically when you become a Christian. Even if you are a devout disciple of Christ, it still takes several years, in my case about eight years of continual devotion, before Christ just naturally becomes the center of your whole thinking. And after eight years, I believe I still need at least a couple more years for some of the major doctrines of God to soak in fully. And whose fault is that? The churches I attended. They had five years to teach me the three basic doctrines yet I cannot remember ONE sermon, or Bible study about them. I did not come across succinct, understandable explanations of these three doctrines until I found them in Theodore (TAS) Austin-Sparks books in year 2015: EIGHT YEARS into my Christian journey. This simply should not happen to any Christian. Is it any wonder I am not happy with the modern church. That is why I am writing this book: I want to radically change Christianity as soon as possible from lukewarm to on fire.

  If Christ-centeredness has not yet ‘clicked’ with you, just keep going until it does. (TAS, Spiritual Maturity, 86) And don’t give up until it does. But, on the other hand, just because you have been a Christian for twenty years doesn’t mean you are automatically close enough to Christ.73 Christ-centeredness doesn’t just automatically ‘click’ into place after a certain amount of time that you have been worshipping Christ. TAS says he developed great knowledge of the Bible over many years, and was a church preacher and biblical teacher, but eventually realized that he didn’t have Christ ‘in him’: it was head knowledge or intellectual knowledge.74 There is a big difference between knowing Christ as an ‘external’ savior who is on the ‘outside’ of you, as opposed to getting Christ on the ‘inside’ of you.75 TAS says "… the Lord does not accept our head knowledge of Christianity and all its aspects. The Lord does not accept all our informed mind about the church and the cross and what not. The Lord looks right into our hearts, and says, 'How much have I got of you? How much are you still holding on to your own way and your own will, you own course and your own program and your own interests? I do not ask how much you have got into your head, but how much have I got of your heart …" (TAS, The Foundations of an Exemplary Christian Life; 1 Thess 1:9-10).

  TAS says "… no amount of natural, accumulated, studied knowledge can touch spiritual things. There is value in Bible study
but … though you know your Bible throughout … that will get [you] nowhere when [you] come to deal with spiritual things … I have got to have something extra to that: a spiritual understanding, spiritual knowledge. Something has got to come from God by way of illumination and revelation into my own heart concerning God's thoughts in this Book … your really vital training will be practical, in the spiritual realm … on the basis of the Cross … Bible knowledge and all that kind of thing is … in a sense, indispensable foundation and addition, but the thing is to know the Lord … knowing Him as your influence …" (TAS, The Cross, the Church, and the Kingdom, 26-28, 31; TAS, The Rights of God, 67).

  I think a lot of it can be put down to lack of understanding. I believe there are millions of Christians who genuinely believe that once you put your faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit automatically makes you more Christ-like over a period of time. I am convinced that this is incorrect (TAS, Spiritual Maturity, 12-14). I know the Bible says that we are “saved by faith, not by works” (Eph 2:8-9; Rom 3:27-28, 11:6), but in this context ‘works’ means religious works such as sacrificing animals and obeying the Ten Commandments for the sake of trying to please God.76 That is religious ‘works’. But under the New Covenant, we are considered to be in right standing (legally righteous) with God if we genuinely put our faith in Christ.77

  But then we start the lifelong journey of making a continual and reasonable78 ‘effort’ of becoming holier and more and more transformed into the image and likeness of Christ by working on the fruit of the Spirit79 ‘Effort’ can mean ‘work’ but in the context of the book of Romans I believe ‘effort’ means constantly doing what the eleven disciples did when they waited at Jerusalem for Pentecost. Their ‘work / effort’ consisted of "(1) WORSHIP … great (2) JOY … continually in the temple (3) PRAISING GOD" (Luke 24:52-53); and “… joining together constantly in (4) PRAYER …” (Acts 1:14; Parker, 161; Madsen, Lessons From Joshua). So, to use modern English, you could say they ‘worked’ on their faith in Christ by making an ‘effort’ towards God. Harry Foster says that "… By constant use of the verbal form which is translated 'Let us …' the writer [of Hebrews] entreats us to be resolutely active in our Christian growth … we have been born by reason of God's will, but we will not grow up into that will without constant effort on our part …" (Bringing Many Sons to Glory).

  2 Peter 1:5-8 says "For this very reason, applying your diligence [to the divine promises, make every effort] in [exercising] your faith to, develop moral excellence, and in moral excellence, knowledge (insight, understanding), and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, steadfastness, and in your steadfastness, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly affection … for as these qualities are yours and are increasing … they will keep you from being useless and unproductive in regard to the true knowledge and greater understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ …" (AMP). See the difference: ‘works’ in the Old Testament referred to religious duties and activities, whereas ‘work’ in the New Testament means making a continuous ‘effort’ to offer spiritual sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1).

  For example, in my first book HTBAC, I explain that to become more Christ-like we should work on the fruit of the Spirit, namely, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control”.80 Please make the ‘effort’ to find examples of those nine fruit of the Spirit and pray those examples to God asking Him to help you produce these fruit of the Spirit. This obviously takes effort, but it is not ‘work’ or ‘works’ in the Old Testament sense. And you keep praying daily to God about these fruit of the Spirit for months if necessary, until you are sure you have grown sufficiently in this area of your life that you are confident you can replace prayers about the fruit of the Spirit for something else. I don’t care how long you have been a Christian; if you are still a bit angry, or lack patience; start praying for the fruit of the Spirit daily until you notice significant improvement in your behavior.

  Christians who aren’t totally devoted to Christ may never reach the point of being Christ-centered. But pride will cause them to take offense at any suggestion that they are not fully indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Please do not be offended. Be careful because pride hides. Please don’t automatically think that because you are a Christian, your pride instantly goes away. It doesn’t. You will fight pride for most of your life. TAS says: "… oh, how subtle are our hearts. You and I perhaps are ready to be utterly for the Lord. We mean well, and we mean it thoroughly … and yet, God knows that we are all the time defeated in our very sincerity by secret motives, and nothing but a test position can prove whether we actually mean it … it [pride] is there, it is always there, it is always present: some form of self-congratulations …"81

  Pride is what caused Lucifer to think he was more important than the Son of God.82 Imagine truly believing that you could run the universe as well as God? It almost sounds unbelievable, but Lucifer’s actions show how tragically deceptive pride is.83 And Lucifer’s punishment: banishment from heaven; renamed as Satan or the Devil; and eternal damnation in Hell. TAS says "… but it is the question … of God being all in all, the Lord being Lord, and there being no other lordship: the lordship of our will, our likes, our dislikes, our preferences, our prejudices, our selectiveness, and all that belongs to us: that rises up and disputes the place and way and will of God …" (TAS, The Cross, the Church, and the Kingdom, 60).

  So please humble yourself before God daily by praying to Him to prevent pride creeping in and taking over (Ps 26:2 AMP; Alexander, Let Him Who Boasts …). Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is all about ATTITUDE.84 "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit … it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart…" (Heb 4:12 AMP) You cannot fail if your DAILY attitude is something like this: ‘I know I have a Masters in Divinity and have been a pastor for twenty years, but EVERY day I am going to presume that I still don’t know enough about Christ, and pray to God to keep my pride under control.’

  Unless that is your attitude, you have pride, and it is hiding. And this is extremely dangerous because you can become the Devil's playground without fully realizing it. Poul Madsen says there were many false prophets in the Old Testament who "… did not seem to have been conscious deceivers but they themselves believed what they said … we can argue for what we think is right as though it were God's truth, whereas actually it comes from our own deceitful hearts. Mankind has fallen so deeply into deception that it is all too possible for any of us to be false without knowing it. Only true humility can save us from that … (1 Kings 22:11) … now the false may not be a deliberate deceiver, but can be led astray by his own ideas or impulses … (Jer 23:21-22) …" (Israel's Prophets). TAS says that when the Thessalonians listened to Paul preaching, "… their minds and hearts were free from prejudice … they were open in heart from the outset … and that created a capacity for discerning what was of God … if you entertain prejudice, if you have already judged it, if you have already come to a fixed position … you have already sabotaged the work of the Holy Spirit, and you will never know if the thing is of God … you must … [have] this attitude: 'Now, if there is anything of the Lord … I am ready for that, no matter through whom it comes, how it comes, where it comes …'" (TAS, The Gospel According to Paul, 93-95).

  TAS says “… the true child of God is not self-assertive, does not keep himself or herself in view, does not put on airs to attract attention,85 is always seeking as far as possible to be hidden in the Lord and to keep Him in view.86 The Lord is everything and such a sense maintains a true humility … the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is of great price … (1 Pet 3:4; Alexander, Let Him Who Boasts …) that is the church. These things can be felt, can be sensed, can be discerned in the 40 days, and they are great elements in the making of the church, and they tell us what the assembly ought to be; the assembly is only the aggregate of the individual; the assembly can never be more than its indiv
idual members are …” (TAS, Knowing God in Christ, 115, 161).

  That was the very attitude of the great Apostle Paul.87 If you chop up your pride like Paul did, you will be willing to consult with others even if you are considered an expert in your field. One way to do this is to continually talk about your view on Bible doctrines with other Christians. For example, if you are preparing a sermon on the topic of ‘righteousness’, talk it over with other Christians and let them read your sermon outline, even if you think you are one hundred per cent correct. Then ask for their input. And if their input is good, thank them, then include it in your sermon and mention their input to the congregation.

  And we should educate each other by ensuring we tell each other about our sources of information. For example, if someone gives you their view on the sermon topic, ask them what their source is in case you are unaware of that source: for example, a particular book. Then you can check that source book out and this way you learn about each major biblical topic from many different angles (Jinkins, Leadership and Theory …, 209). When you start your own church, ensure everyone can check out your sources, and encourage them to read your source books. John Piper says “… Everyone should be involved in ministry. Everyone should be seeking to lead others to the point where they bring glory to God by the way they think and feel and act …” (Piper, The Marks of a Spiritual Leader).

  For example you could place a ‘Recommended reading’ tab on your Church Website. And after you start your full-time church, remind the congregation every now and then to check out your recommended readings on the church Website. This is how you should pastor a church: always encouraging and educating. Technically there is nothing wrong with just creating and updating your recommended readings, but YOUR main job as a pastor is to ensure progressive increase in your congregation.88 But just setting and forgetting your recommended readings is depriving your flock of essential learning.

  If one of your congregation wants to know more about a biblical topic, depending on the circumstances and time constraints you can discuss the topic with them and then encourage them to read your recommended readings relative to that topic; then catch up with them later on and go through the topic with them by discussing what they have read. I have found dozens of excellent and educational books by TAS (Theodore Austin-Sparks) FREE on the Internet since year 2012. Recommend that the person read those FREE books first. Then encourage that person to get together with you or a Bible study group after reading them to discuss and round off their learning of that topic. If that person has the means and Internet connection but does not read the FREE books, then you know that person is not (yet) sufficiently devoted to Christ to absorb any extra education outside of sermons and Bible study groups.

  You can easily tell if a person is Christ-centered, because they cannot help but bring almost every Christian topic back to Christ.89 TAS says “… we are miserable if we cannot talk about Jesus Christ, if there is no place for Him …”90 You can hear, feel, sense and see their depth of devotion towards Christ.91 If you don’t believe me, TAS says “… the Holy Spirit is committed to one end … to fill all things with Christ. And if you want to know what it means when it says: ‘they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’ … you can see by the effect. They simply talked about the Lord Jesus: they preached Christ. Everywhere they went it was Christ; they were bringing Christ with them wherever they went. As far as they were allowed, as far as consent was given and openness of heart was provided, they so to speak ‘filled’ people with Christ …” (TAS, The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations, 27).

  Are you and your church members eager to talk about Christ? Or is everyone happy doing what non-Christians do: gossip, whine, and tell each other how hard their miserable lives are!!! TAS says "… naturally, we may be inclined to be rather miserable people: always taking a miserable view, always going down in the dumps. Now, when the Holy Spirit takes charge of us, the miserably inclined people become joyful92 … when you begin to feel miserable about yourself, repudiate it93 … are you in just the same spiritual position today as you were [10, 20, 30 years ago] Well, that would be a miserable existence! You ought to be moving with the Lord continually, and moving with the Lord means coming into an ever-growing experience of the Lord, and growing in knowledge of the Lord94 … oh, how difficult it is to get a lot of Christians to forget themselves. They're just about as miserable as anybody could be but they're always hugging their miserable selves. They seem to love to talk about their misery … you can't get them to give it up. They almost love to be miserable …" (TAS, Right Standing with God, 20).

  TAS tells us that "… The Cross, rightly apprehended, is a wonderful delivering power from all littleness; from our poor, miserable, contemptible, little selves95 … fellowship is essential … indispensable (Parker, 161). It is a principle of growth. You will be greater or smaller in your measure of Christ according to your recognition and observance of that principle. But, mark you, it is not artificial, it is not institutional, it is not something that we organize: it is organic, it is by life and by love (Muthiah, Charismatic Leadership …, 19) … it comes from Christ within. Paul put his finger upon that very thing in the church in Corinth, when he found rival circles there … no wonder then, that we find a poor, mean, miserable measure of spiritual growth at Corinth at that time. Thank God, we have another side to the story later on. They evidently got over it, on the basis, the principle, of the Cross …"96

  Now, I am not angry at individual Christians who are not Christ-centered even if they have been worshipping Christ for many years, because I believe a whole generation or possibly several generations of Christians have not been taught the Gospel of Christ deeply and thoroughly enough.97 TAS says this was a problem when he wrote about it in 1931.98 And I claim the problem is just as bad as I write this in 2016. That is 85 years people. That is close to one century. That is why I am kicking and screaming at you from this book: I hope you agree that 85 years is way too long. You see, if Christians are taught and led by Christ-centered, Spirit-filled Christians, they will also become Christ-centered, Spirit-filled Christian leaders: it is contagious.99 TAS says "… leadership is essentially a matter of the gift and power of inspiration: a contagious influence, an emanating spiritual energy, and a potent example …"100

  Sally Dyck says that "… leadership requires courage, and courage is fueled by imagination … imagination isn’t something that spins mythical tales, but imagination is really vision: the ability to see beyond what is and what can be through the presence and power of God … the ancient prophets imagined what could happen if things continued the way they were going (in a bad way), and also what God's preferred future would be for the people …" (Dyck, 127).101 TAS says "… when the Lord Jesus is in His right place, the life of the child of God is secured, is established, is confirmed, and grows; there is spiritual growth and maturity … this growth in spiritual intelligence and understanding … is coming about because Jesus has such a large place …" (TAS, The Gospel According to Paul, 86-87).

  Therefore, I believe the spiritual malaise in the 21st Century Church has been caused, at least in part, by several generations of Christians who may be unaware that they have NOT reached Christian maturity. TAS says “… the spiritual meagerness, smallness, poverty, and consequent weakness of very many of God’s people is a crying tragedy today …” (TAS, Leadership, 61) and “… The true Christ, the Christ of God, the Christ of Scriptures, the Christ of eternity, the Christ of the incarnation, the Christ of the earthly life and teaching and miracles, the Christ of Calvary, the Christ of resurrection, the Christ of ascension, and the Christ of coming again, may all be present in an intellectual way. It is possible to be like that, even as an assembly of what is called the church. It may be in a mystical way, an artistic way, but not have Christ present in a living, spiritual way. The church is not that, and the assembly is not that which is Christ present after this manner. It is that in which Christ is spiritually, livingly present as truly in Person as He wa
s here in the days of His flesh …” (TAS, Knowing God in Christ, 94).

  It takes hard work to become fully indwelt with the Holy Spirit102 because God says you will only find Him if you DILIGENTLY seek Him (Heb 11:6). Microsoft synonyms for ‘diligent’ include: hard work; assiduous; industrious; and meticulous. In my Christian experience this means hard work over a long period of time, not just a couple of months.103 But it doesn’t include working diligently on church administrative duties to the detriment of your daily walk and daily growth in Christ. Paul said to Timothy "… devote yourself to … preaching and to teaching … practice and work hard on these things; be absorbed in them [completely occupied in your ministry], so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself [concentrate on your personal development], and to your teaching …" (1 Tim 4:13-15 AMP). So, please understand that I just want to give every Christian a jolt and motivate them to seek Christ harder than ever before (TAS, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 49-50).

  Therefore, when you start your own church, you should not just preach from the Bible for the sake of it; or operate home groups just for Christians to keep in touch.104 No: every time you preach you should be aiming to teach every person in the congregation how to get closer to Christ, (Akerlund, 89-90; Parker, 161) just like I do in my first book HTBAC.105 Dwight Zscheile says "… Christian leadership is not ultimately for its own sake, but so that the world may see and know the love of God in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit …" (Zscheile, The Trinity …, 62). According to John Piper: “… Col 3:17 says, ‘Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ 1 Cor 2:16 speaks of the spiritual man as having the mind of Christ. A spiritual leader knows that all of life, down to its smallest detail, has to do with God …” (Piper, The Marks of a Spiritual Leader). After all, Al Fasol says that “… preaching is the declaration of God’s good news of redemption in Christ …” (Fasol, Christian Leadership – The Church).

  And, yes, home groups and Bible study groups are important for Christians to support and care for each other, but the church MUST ensure that at every one of these meetings there is proper teaching about Christ that will make each person and the church more like Christ.106 TAS stresses how important spiritual growth is among the church: “… It seems to me that the New Testament assumes that increase, along the line of expansion, that is, the adding to the church, comes by spiritual increase in the church along the line of spiritual growth amongst the Lord’s people … It would almost seem that the church has forgotten this. In a very considerable circle there is a great concern for the evangelism side of the church’s life and work … but so often … the essential background of that work is overlooked, namely, an indispensable building-up and teaching ministry. (Akerlund, 88-89; Kinnison, The Pastor as Expert …, 24-25; 2 Tim 2:2) The result is that the church is seeking to move out to meet the world situation with inadequate spiritual resources, and is very largely weak in face of the difficulties, and the results are of such a character as hardly to be an expression of the real power of God and fullness of Christ …"107

  TAS also says "… what weighs with me is not whether my movement is successful, whether I am getting a lot of followers, whether there are all the manifestations outwardly of success; what weighs with me is the measure of Christ in those with whom I have to do … Christ formed in you, that is my concern … not extensiveness, not bigness, not popularity, not keeping in with the world so that it is said that his is a successful ministry, and a successful movement. That is worldliness. I am dead to all that. I am crucified with Christ to all that … the thing that matters is Christ, the measure of Christ in you. You see how the world can creep in, and how worldly we can become almost imperceptibly by taking account of things outwardly; of how men will think and talk, what they will say, the attitude they will take, of the measure of our popularity, the talk of our success …”108 Please read these two articles by Karl Vaters to see the danger of becoming obsessed with growing a big church: If It's Okay for a Church to Be Small, Why Do I Feel So Bad When It Is? and Perry Noble, NewSpring Church and Our Obsession with Numbers.

  In our time (2016) I have noticed that not many Christians are being taught the elementary facts about God, especially Genesis. Therefore, many Christians have swallowed the concept of evolution by easily agreeing that each 'day' of Creation in Genesis could mean long periods of time. Genesis is the first book in the Bible and its opening line is: “In the beginning, GOD …” So, if God is the beginning, we have to learn everything about HIM first. (Akerlund, 91-92) TAS says: “… The church is not an assemblage of people; a congregation; a society of those who have given an assent to certain creedal statements or doctrinal expressions. The church is the living, experiential embodiment of a Life. The church is the expression of a spiritual state, a spiritual condition … we are the House of God only on condition that a certain spiritual state obtains, and the House of God, the church, does not exist if that spiritual condition does not obtain …” (TAS, Knowing God in Christ, 38-39).

  I will give you a few personal examples of little things I believe make churches seem more like clubs or societies:

  EXAMPLE NUMBER 1: ‘Eddie the edge-trimmer’:

  I love this one. It is not a gigantic deal in itself, but shows how woeful some churches are. I volunteered to mow the large grounds of a church I attended. One day, I was asked to purchase a petrol-operated edge-trimmer with church money. I was asked to buy a fairly basic one. The purchase went okay, and I used the edge trimmer whenever I needed to. One day, another member of that church asked me whether I thought the church should have purchased a bigger edge trimmer. I didn’t want to get involved in gossip or an argument, and after decades of witnessing death, anger and destruction as a police officer, small stuff just does not interest me. So I replied that I had no problems with the edge trimmer, and that I didn’t take part in the decision process; I just purchased what I was asked to. Now, I never heard any more about it, but you can easily conclude that members of the church came to know about the purchase, but then they wondered whether a small edge trimmer was good enough value for money for a large church allotment.

  This problem should never have happened in the first place: not in the House of God. This method was never going to bring any glory to Christ because it caused at least a small amount of dissension and rumor.109 And I don’t think a fully Christ-centered Christian would give a hoot about an edge-trimmer. (Devil 1 … Church 0). How SHOULD this have been done? Church officials should have asked for somebody to donate an edge trimmer to the church. The announcement should have included THOROUGH teaching that generous giving such as this results in spiritual and material growth for the giver and the Church according to 2 Corinthians 9. Then, if anyone in the church thought that the ‘donated’ edge trimmer was too small for the job, they can be politely reminded that they are free to donate a bigger edge trimmer and also reap the rewards of sowing generously in accordance with 2 Corinthians 9. This option means (Church 1 … Devil 0). Gee, that was difficult to work out wasn’t it Christians? But, you keep on doing it your 20th Century way church people, because the Devil loves getting an easy laugh at the expense of the church.110 But it makes by blood boil (Ps 69:9; Jn 2:17; 2 Cor 11:28-29).

  Let’s have a look at the principle of ‘generous sowing’. I have spent about five years at three different churches, yet none of them have even mentioned or explained generous sowing. I was a police prosecutor for seventeen years so I became pretty cluey about understanding difficult parts of the law. Yet, no matter how many different versions of the New Testament I read, they ALL say the same thing about generous sowing in 2 Corinthians 9: ‘Give generously and God will reward you with spiritual and material growth.’ Yet most churches don’t even mention it. Why not? I believe the ‘play-it-safe’ churches don’t want to risk getting anything in the Bible wrong except for the completely obvious. And I agree that religion and wealth has caused massive controversy over the past few decades especially with the emergence of evange
listic mega-churches. For example, it is obvious that the Bible says God and Jesus Christ exist. The Bible obviously says we should pray to God. These are such basic facts that churches can’t get them wrong.

  But, when it comes to the Bible being linked to financial and material gain, it appears a lot of churches are so frightened of getting it wrong that they stick to the basics. I understand the apprehension, and so does John and Di Finkelde, who provide a wonderful outline of this problem in their blog titled "14 Reasons Why Pastors Avoid Preaching About Money". Please read their blog at growahealthychurch.com. But, I believe every church has the responsibility of working out these biblical financial principles and explaining and applying them to their church. Again, you check the Bible and find that Agur the son of Jakeh asked God to: “… give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God”. (Prov 30:7-9; Hicks, Reframing …, 75). So there you have it: if you are a truly devoted Spirit-filled Christian you will not want to become too rich or, as Agur says, it could make you too comfortable and cause you to forget God. The solution from Agur’s example is financial balance. The apostle Paul said "… Let your character … be free from the love of money [shun greed: be financially ethical], being content with what you have …" (Heb 13:5 AMP). Please read Douglas Hicks' essay about pastoral salaries titled: "Reframing the Economics of Pastoral Leadership" (arl-jrl), and Poul Madsen's article titled: Real Security.

  TAS says "… It is a mark of going on when we can come to the place where it is true before God that we have let go all the prosperity and success even of Christian work and Christian ministry as men would count it … It is alright, the Lord knows; it is for Him to give or withhold: I am not going to make a line for those prizes: I am not going to allow those things to influence my walk with God: ambition is not going to dictate my course, is a sure sign of growth …"111

  I recommend, therefore, that if it looks like you are coming into some money, pray to God and frequently ask Him to help you maintain a balanced approach to any extra income. Find an example such as the Queensland Baptist Union “Remuneration Guidelines” (qb.com.au. Accessed November 2nd 2015). This is a ten page document that is updated every year, and shows all the calculations they use to set a pastors annual wage, fringe benefits, superannuation, and allowances. This is wonderful transparency which is easy to follow. Work your own out if you want, but I recommend you make it fair and transparent.

  Here is another practical example of balanced financial living for Christians. Bill and Vonette Bright started the Christian Crusade for Christ (CCC), which by 1996, had “world revenues” of nearly $300 million. Wendy Zoba says that “… While Bill Bright epitomizes the hardball business wizard in his orchestration of CCC’s (Campus Crusade for Christ) mission, on a personal level, he defies his entrepreneurial persona by renouncing personal wealth and material gain … For example, in 1997 the Bright's yearly income was $48,000. Bill does not accept speaking fees and has no savings account (though Vonette has a small one). The luxury condo they live in was donated to CCC (they pay $1,000 a month rent). They do not own a car, and they have no property …”112

  I know some biblical principles are difficult to understand.113 But the Bible clearly says the CHURCH has the responsibility of understanding the complex wisdom of God and presenting it to the world (Ephesians 3:10). Therefore, every established / experienced church should be able to interpret 'doctrines' or 'principles' such as 'Sowing Generously'. TAS says “… There should be a living, opened, unveiled ministry of the things of the Lord, not speaking in parables and in types, but the mystery no longer a mystery, revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets …” (TAS, Knowing God in Christ, 144). Callahan and Eblen (210) cite research which "… rated the knowledge of Scripture as the most important theological competency …" for a pastoral leader.

  If your church cannot explain all the doctrines in the Bible, it is not a church but a Christian club. (TAS, Knowing God in Christ, 38-39) TAS says “… The church is the corporate expression of a divine illumination. Eyes have been opened, things which could not be seen by men in nature have come to the knowledge of those whose spiritual eyes have been opened and enlightened by the grace and Spirit of God … so the church is the place of divine illumination, and the central and inclusive Object of the illumination is Christ…” (TAS, Knowing God in Christ, 41).

  Jesus Christ commended the seven churches in Asia for their many strong points, but He was not satisfied with second best: He still found areas of concern in almost every church.114 Therefore, if any church does not break down biblical principles into practical advice for any person to understand, then they are failing the Lord Jesus Christ.115 That church should repent to Christ and study, study, study (Parker 168; Josh 1:8), pray, pray, pray, until it can work out AND explain ANY biblical principle. It is the responsibility of every church to know and be able to explain these principles BEFORE they open their doors for the first time. TAS says Christ "… has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father …"116 and "… the priests’ lips were to teach knowledge, the priests’ business was to interpret the things of God, to make them plain; just as Ezra stood up and expounded the Word, read it and gave the meaning thereof …" (TAS, Knowing God in Christ, 143; Parker, 161).

  Go to any extreme to remind yourself and others that your whole focus is on increasing Jesus Christ. Even if you have to put a sign on the outside and inside of your church office that says: “How will this increase Christ?”117 TAS says “… That is the very nature of the new creation; that all things are of Christ and we are forbidden to have anything else. The Holy Spirit calls upon us to regard everything just in the light of Christ. How far is that Christ? How far does that accord with Christ? Let us remember that we are thinking about the great values of Christ risen ...”118

  If someone comes into your church office and says ‘I think we should plant some flowers in the bare garden area near the front door of the church’, you should say, ‘How will this increase Christ?’ If they say, ‘It would look much better.’ You should say, ‘There is no increase in Christ in that activity. Say to them: "Even if you are willing to buy the flowers, plant them, water them, and care for them, someone else will most likely criticize it, start some gossip about it, claim some type of allergy to them, or even accuse you of trying to pander up to me (the pastor). So if there is nothing there, there is nothing to complain about!" Then, offer that person an opportunity to increase Christ.

  For example, you could start a conversation about their Christian journey. Or, let’s say you have more than one computer in your admin / office area. Offer that person the opportunity to look up Internet sites about Christianity such as subscription journals that will increase the measure of Christ in you and the other person, because you will both be on a computer, and you can advise each other of any interesting books, journals, blogs or articles you come across (e.g.; Small, 59). Then you can check out the interesting ones together to see if there is information that might be useful in a church sermon or for the general education of the congregation.

  See what I mean? It is one thing to say no to a proposal by another person (in this case ‘flowers’): it is another thing to be able to redirect that person to some activity that focusses on Christ. Notice that I recommend you both use a computer and check out different sites? If you have the time, always, always, always, try to do an activity WITH another Christian. This builds trust,119 personal relationships,120 as well as building up both of your knowledge about Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven.121 That’s what it is all about: connecting people (including yourself!) with Christ (Osborne). (Church 1 … Devil 0). This is another reason I recommend you take your time opening your church. Prior to opening your church (full-time) you should already have purchased at least two computers; Internet access to subscription articles, journals and sites about Christianity.
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  Then, you can assist devoted Christians to undertake theological studies using your church computers. Can I just add an endnote about the ‘flowers’ scenario! For example, if there are already plants in the church garden and you are advised that someone is allergic to them, or the particular flowers attract bees and someone in your congregation is allergic to bees, or someone could hurt themselves on a plant (e.g.; a cactus); get rid of the plants yourself or get a professional to remove them if necessary. If it costs money, pay for it yourself if possible. Otherwise someone will most likely start gossip such as: ‘The money WOULD have been better spent on …’ or ‘I am a qualified landscaper and I could have done it for half the price’. Trust me; there are petty, nitpickers in almost every church and almost every area of life who could do it all much better than you and anybody else!!

  In order to prevent gossip, make sure you tell the congregation that you removed the plants yourself or paid for their removal out of your own pocket. Inform them of the cost, if any, and display the payment method (e.g.: cheque) on a screen during the next service. You say to me, ‘why bother?’ Because you are educating the church in a subtle but professional way that: (1) you know people will cause trouble and start gossip over small stuff; and (2) you are educating the next generation of pastors how to stop gossip from starting in the first place. Thom S. Rainer says one of the four ways pastors are hindered in their attempts at church revitalization is that they “… spend too much time trying to placate nagging critics …” (Rainer, Four Major Ways Pastors Hinder Church Revitalization). So give them nothing to nag about.

 
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