The Use and Abuse of Spiritual Authority

         Because of the tendency of good but sometimes immature leaders to respond to selfish or needy people with overbearing authority, and because of the influence of cult figures on so many unwary young people, it is important to be aware of some of the unhealthy extremes leaders can go to in exercising their leadership.

 

Hopefully the checklist below will not only help members of organizations or congregations evaluate the kind of authority they are following, but will also help sincere leaders do some "soul-searching" if they are leading out of insecurity or are responding wrongly to those with needs in their group.

 

I have included at the end of this paper some Biblical principles for leaders to follow in responding to those people in their congregation or group that have need of loving confrontation. I have also included some guidelines on how to respond to leaders when they are wrong.

 

Extremism on the question of authority is easy to find: some go to one extreme and propound a kind of Christian anarchism where everyone is a law unto themselves with no need for accountability or submission; others go to the other extreme and teach a pyramidal authority structure that undermines the priesthood of the believer and exalts authority figures to a place God never intended them to have.  Those who dare to live in the "radical middle" will no doubt make mistakes in finding their way, but will in the end enjoy the rewards of their efforts: deep friendships, godly accountability, the serenity of surrendering others to the Lord and the peace of living in a manner that is pleasing to our Father.

 

I am a bit uncomfortable with those who appoint themselves to be "watch dogs" for the Body of Christ, especially when they are quick to judge or are harsh in their spirit.  Perhaps this is another form of authoritarianism?  Obviously we need those who are called by God to serve the church by discerning the "inroads of apostasy" (I highly recommend the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, Berkeley Christian College, Box 4309, Berkeley, CA 94704), but it is very important that they do their research thoroughly and without bias, and that they pray for those they find to be immature or unbiblical.  Those who do this kind of research have an additional responsibility to be mature, discerning Christians (James 3:1, 5-12).  They need to seek out those they find to be in extremism and give them a chance to both explain themselves and/or repent if they have been wrong (Matthew 5:21-16, 7:1-5; Galatians 6:1-3).  Researchers on cults have no less a responsibility to follow biblical principles of intercession, conversation and church discipline than what they expect from those they are researching in other areas of belief and practice.  I have known of instances where those researching the cults have judged others in the Body of Christ wrongly and have hurt and damaged people to the same extent that they were accusing others of doing.

 

The following contains principles that should be applied equally to all those in the Body of Christ whether pastor, leader or researcher.

 

1. Insistence on sharing all things in common.

Insisting on giving up private ownership can be a way of controlling people's lives.

 

2. Treatment of women.

When women are not given any authority or are not recognized as equals to men through respect for their opinions, then authoritarianism is sure to follow.

 

3. The power of leaders.

The scripture teaches us to submit to those whom the Lord has placed over us (Acts 20:28-31; I Timothy 1:3, 4:11; Titus 1:13, 3:1; Hebrews 13:17). The question is: how much and where. The Bible makes clear that in specific areas leaders do have authority, but there are very definite limits to this authority. For example, a leader does not have the right to tell people what to do in their personal lives. If you think through all the illustrations in the scriptures where elders and apostles were exercising authority, can you think of any instance where any of the leaders in the scripture, even in the crisis days of the early church in Jerusalem, ever tried to dominate or control somebody's life? Even Peter made the clear comment that Ananias and Saphira could have kept all their money and property (the point is that doing what everyone else was doing was not mandatory). The sin was not in what they kept, but in their lying. There are no illustrations in the New Testament that are even remotely similar to the control being exercised by some elders or leaders over God's people today.

Leaders do not have the right to confirm people's personal guidance as to whether they get married, continue working in full-time Christian service or got to another place in that service. It is a privilege to pray with others about their personal guidance but not a right. A leader can obviously give a word of caution or counsel for a person from the word, but that should be shared as a friend. To confuse the two is to bring people under condemnation and make them feel obligated to do what the person is saying because they are an authority figure.

 

4. Turnover in leadership.

If there is a rapid turnover in leadership every two or three years, it could be an indication the leader is not the kind of person who can win long term friendships due to instability in his life or an overbearing personality. It is very important for those in an organization to ask how long do those working up-close stay with their leader. If people do leave, do they feel condemned when they do so? Would they feel comfortable in returning for a visit?

 

5. The leader's reaction under pressure.

If the leader is consistently defensive, it may show that he is insecure, unsure of himself and his work. He may try to exercise a great deal of control over others and is often unsure of himself and may express his insecurity through authoritarianism.

 

6. Exclusiveness.

Any time a group has an exclusive view toward their role in the church, it could be an indication that there is not only pride but authoritarianism. Do they recognize all other committed Christians as believers and a part of the Body of Christ? Beware of those who categorize some Christians as being more special to God, or having a revelation or experience or doctrine that produces the fruit of pride and/or exclusiveness.

 

7. The psychological makeup of a leader.

Does the leader have in his nature a need to control others within his environment? There are some people who; have this psychological flaw. The Lord can use this man, but he must have God break this in his life or he will tend towards authoritarianism and manipulation. Sometimes this trait surfaces in the beginning of a ministry, or it could come out later in a time of crisis or conflict.

 

8. Group conformity.

There is always some need for conformity, particularly amongst organizations that have policies and procedures that are necessary for the accomplishing of their goals. However, these policies and goals should be open for the scrutiny of all in the Body of Christ, and should be made with the counsel of godly people outside of the organization. They should be explained to those who join the organization before any commitment of membership is made so that the individuals understand what would be required of them and expected of them and they can agree to it beforehand.

 

9. Leaving the group.

When individuals want to leave the group are they made to feel guilty or is pressure put on them to stay? Do they feel hurt when they leave? Do they feel like they're second-class Christians, if they are not staying with the group and going back to a local church?

 

10. Possessiveness of staff and fellow workers.

Does the leader make those who wk with him feel obligated to stay? Is there a constant pressure use by the leadership to manipulate people into staying with the group? Do they feel somehow they have to break out in order to leave the group? Is "guidance" or "covering" used as a way of keeping people in the group? This kind of possessiveness can often lead to great hurts and make people feel very condemned for leaving the group.

 

11. Atmosphere of mistrust.

Do the leaders use rules, regulations, scriptures and policies to control people's lives? Or do they create an atmosphere of grace and trust? Do the leaders rely upon people's maturity or do they continually infer that the people cannot be trusted and "laws" must exist to regulate people's behavior? Obviously there must be a certain amount of submission, particularly in missionary organizations that have developed policies and procedures in order to be more efficient in achieving their goals. But even then those policies should be based on trust and not forced on those who disagree. Hopefully potential areas of disagreement will be discovered before a candidate joins the missionary society, but if not they should be given the freedom to leave (if conflict doe arise) with appreciation for one another and a simple agreement that it is best for a parting of the ways.

 

12. Questions and criticisms.

Can members of the group bring up their questions or make constructive criticism without the leadership becoming defensive? Are the leaders secure enough and mature enough in the Lord to encourage people to share hurts or disappointments, or ask questions about things they disagree with without fear of recrimination or being judged as being "critical or rebellious"? Are the leaders accountable to somebody else besides themselves and "the Lord"? Are they open to be corrected?

 

13. Overwork.

Does the leadership make the members of the group or organization feel obligated to work long hours, burning the candle at both ends? Do the leaders drive their people and make them feel guilty for having personal time for hobbies, recreation, letter writing etc.? Leaders can be guilty of burning their people out an placing them under condemnation for wanting the time necessary to be refueled and refreshed in order to keep doing their work with the emotional strength that they need to carry it out.

 

14. Moral impurity.

Often those who become authoritarian or manipulative have compromised morally and are living in sin.

 

15. Role confusion: inspirational and pastoral leadership.

A leader can become authoritarian or abusive in his leadership if he does not learn to distinguish the difference between personal counseling and visionary inspiration. It is one thing to stand in front of a group and inspire the group with "the word of the Lord" for the direction of the group; it is quite another thing to be involved in personal counseling. If the leader approaches his personal counseling in the same style and manner as he would to seek to inspire the whole group with a word from the Lord, he can come across not only very directional but also overbearing or overwhelming to those to whom he is giving counsel. His role in counseling is to remind people of scriptural principles and encourage them to seek the Lord and to put God first in obeying His word. It is not his responsibility to tell people what to do or to correct the errors in their life, but more to encourage them to be open to the Lord and to obey His word.

 

16. Ownership of policies and major decisions.

Do the leaders give the people an opportunity to feel ownership at a grass roots level about decisions that are being made for the group? Are decisions handed down arbitrarily from the top without any opportunity for the staff to participate in the decision? Do the people feel like they can be a part of shaping the policies of the community and not be rebellious if they question them?

 

17. Over emphasis on one person’s responsibility.

Too much emphasis in this area without emphasizing God's grace and mercy produces condemnation and doubt about God's love and forgiveness. It is the loving kindness of God that leads men to repentance.

 

18. Taking too much responsibility to correct the problems in people’s lives and not leaving them free to respond to the Lord when they are ready to do so.

Trying to be the Holy Spirit for people always leads to conflict and hurt.

 

19. Denying people the right of appeal of a decision they disagree with or denying them right of accessibility to go to others for counsel when they disagree with a leader.

To "box" a person in in this way is very unjust and shows that the leader is at the very least exerting undue pressure on the person concerned, and perhaps it indicates the basic insecurity of the leader and his unhealthy need to be in control of the situation.

 

20. Not admitting faults or refusing to lead from a place of vulnerability and transparency.

If the leadership makes mistakes or has somehow been a part of a situation that has been unjust which can include not communicating difficult living situations ahead of time and then blaming people for reacting to them; or not giving people adequate food or heating; or putting them under immature leadership and then blaming them for not cooperating, or exploiting their financial generosity. In all these circumstances we should admit our failures and weaknesses and ask forgiveness from those who have been hurt. If a leader does not do that he will tend to blame others for the reactions and accuse them of "having the wrong attitude" of "being in rebellion." (An excellent book on this subject is The Man Who Could Do No Wrong, by Charles Blair, Chosen Books.)

 

21. Teaching that a leader should always be obeyed no matter what he says because he is "God's anointed," or "you should obey the leader even if he is wrong and leave matters in God’s hand to judge."

We should teach people to obey God and His Word, not men because they are called "leaders." Obviously people need to deal with independence and an unbroken spirit, but that should be dealt with in the opposite spirit: gentleness and love. When there is a need for confrontation over bad attitudes, the following scriptural guidelines should be followed:

(1) Galatians 6:1-3. Go in a spirit of gentleness and humility "looking to ourselves lest we too be tempted. . .".

(2) Proverbs  8:17; Deuteronomy 17:3-4; I Timothy 5:19. Always hear both sides of a matter and thoroughly look into all the points of view before a judgment is made.

(3) James 3:13-18, 5:19-20; Matthew 18:15-18. Follow the spirit of love outlined in these passages. Seek in every way to be redemptive. Never put people in a position where it is hard for them to return or seek counsel or find help from others. Remember that the portions of scripture on church discipline in Matthew are preceded and followed by injunctions to "not despise one of these little ones" (speaking of a straying or lost sheep) and to forgive our brother "seventy times seven" - which does not mean exactly four hundred and ninety!

(4) I Samuel 12:23. Pray for those we are concerned about to make sure we have God's heart for them and we are not reacting to them out of our own hurt or disappointment, event the disappointment that comes out of love for a person that we know could have done much better. We must pray until we have God's heart for a person, then go to them when we sense God has prepared their heart for the correction. Timing can be everything.

(5) Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6. When there is a difficulty with someone's attitude seek the counsel of a mature, older pastor (particularly the pastor of the person involved) on how to respond. There is great protection and wisdom in seeking the counsel of others, especially from older more mature men, outside one's own group or organization. The willingness to seek this counsel show a caution that reflects maturity and real love for what is best for the person involved.

 

The principles above give us guidelines on how to respond to those that we are correcting when we are in a position of leadership or when we are going to a brother or sister in need. But what do we do when the leader over us or any person in a position of authority is wrong, either in their attitude or actions? The following guidelines can be helpful.

 

(1) Make sure the facts are correct. Don't judge a person wrongly, and don't accept a charge against a person on the word of just one other person (Romans 2:12; Deuteronomy 13:12-14; and I Timothy 5:19). It is very important to hear all sides of a conflict before a judgment is made.

(2) Pray for the leader and make sure that you have no critical spirit or root of bitterness in your heart toward them. If you've been hurt or disappointed, make sure that you keep on forgiving until your heart is free of hurt. Make sure you maintain a heart of love since love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8). It is possible to lose objectivity about a situation through taking on the hurts of others. If you counsel with people who have been hurt by an authority figure and you take on their pain you can take sides in the conflict and lose the opportunity to both offer sound biblical counsel to the one hurt (e.g. to forgive and pray for the ones who hurt them) and be a minister of reconciliation and healing in the broken relationship.

(3) Pray for the leader that he will have a revelation from the Lord about the wrong that he's done or that he will know the right thing to do if he needs wisdom in the situation. It's extremely important that we intercede for him as an indication of our genuine commitment to the person and for God's best in the situation.

(4) If a leader has done something wrong and there is no change, seek God in humility if you are to speak to them. If it is an obvious wrong, such as stealing, being involved in a sexual sin, being dishonest etc., and you've gone to them and they do not repent, then go to another godly person in the Body of Christ and ask them to go with you to talk to the person again (Matthew 18:15-18; Luke 17:4).

(5) If there is no response and it is not a matter of serious disobedience to obvious moral principles, then do not go to others in the Body of Christ criticizing and slandering the person concerned. The Bible does speak very strongly about the importance of unity and forgiveness in the Body of Christ. To go to others when you disagree with a decision could put you in a position of causing a greater sin than the one that you are concerned about in the life of the leader. There are strong warnings in the scriptures about taking matters into our own hands and trying to correct them. Even David would not attack Saul in spite of his great sin because God had put him in that position of leadership. David trusted God to bring an answer in the situation (I Samuel 24:6; Numbers 14; Ephesians 4:26, 29, 30-32).

(6) If the leader is authoritarian or immature or very unwise, you have one of two options: you can stay under his authority and continue to pray for him after you've gone to him to share your concern, or you could leave the group. It is important that you do not stay and become critical and bitter. You have the freedom before God to leave at any time that you feel the pressure is too great on you. /but do hot stay and become a source of division. If you do stay you should have the faith that God is going to bring a change in the situation and that He wants you there to be a blessing to others and for your own personal growth. God will vindicate you if you keep your heart right and continue to pray and believe the Lord. If it is a matter of moral impurity or compromise on orthodox doctrines such as the inspiration of the scriptures, the divinity of Christ, the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, his atonement on the cross - then after bringing a warning to the person and they will not change, then you should also leave the group. To stay where there is moral impurity or doctrinal heresy could lead to compromise in your own life.

(7) If you are unsure as to what to do, seek counsel of godly people outside of the group. Go to a mature pastor or a leader in another organization, even if your leaders tell you not to do so! Every believer has that right.

 

At the same time that we point out some of the abuses of authority, it is important to affirm the great need for godly leaders. To become a wise leader means years of experience, which of course includes making mistakes and failing. The scripture gives many examples of failure on the part of those who went on to be greatly used by God, this includes Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Peter, Paul and many others.

 

There is a great need for wise fathers in the Lord who will take Timothys under their wings and encourage them and train them in godliness and wisdom. Where there is abuse of authority obviously there needs to be correction, but even more important there needs to be restoration and the kind of counsel and commitment that redeems one who has failed. The leader who does that is indeed a rare and blessed person. May their kind greatly increase!

 

"The word of the Lord came to me: 'son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ho shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not the shepherds feed the sheep?. . . The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. . . And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. . .So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed, Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. . . For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. . . Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. . But we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children. . . For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God , who calls you into his own kingdom and glory." (II Timothy 2:24, 25a; I Peter 5:1-3; I Corinthians 4:15,17; I Thessalonians 2:7, 11-12).

 

End

Called of God

From the excellent website, churchplanting.com comes this devotional article.  

Called of God

By Peter Sung

And he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” But he had nothing to say. ~ Matthew 22:12

READING: Matthew 22:1-14

Every Christian is at once called to salvation and to ministry. Christians minister because we are called of God. Sometimes a more specific calling is recognized to be on a person and that person is called out by his community to help equip other Christians to do better ministry. It is the responsibility of the church community to discern whether that calling should also include a transition from secular employment to paid full time ministry.

The Greek word for calling is kaleo which means “to call out loud or to invite.” By definition, others must issue an invitation or a call. I cannot invite myself to someone else’s wedding party. That is the prerogative of the host. God does the calling. A church community does the confirming.

Consider your own calling. Who’s calling you? What are they calling you to do? The notion of calling gets tricky with church planting because the church community is yet to form and therefore yet to call. But, if we are indeed called, we answer to someone in some way. To whom are you accountable? As the apostle Paul says, no one can preach unless they are sent. Who is sending you?

Many church planters are rogue, isolated and unaccountable. They have invited themselves to a party without receiving any invitation. Jesus once told a sobering parable about a guest who was not invited and not properly dressed. He was promptly removed from the party lest the guest of honor, his son, be dishonored.

Are you called of God? Has your calling been confirmed by a community? Are you accountable?

Thank you, Father, for calling me and for using others to confirm it. Help me to walk worthy of my high calling with integrity and proper submission. Amen.

NOT ONE KNOW FOLLOWER OF JESUS

Pray for the Manasir

Prays the people group called the Manasir, of Northern Sudan. They are an amalgam of Arabic/Nubian descent, very closed to outside influence. Absolutely unreached, there are no known believers among this tribe of 59,000 people. Although they are hostile to Christians, because they are in the 10/40 window, they've had Christians praying for them for years (the 10/40 window has been an intercessory target for 20+ years), and we can believe the soil is ripe.

Follow @n2Africa on twitter to see tweets about prayer points for this and other unreached people groups.

Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

 

Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

 

1. Jesus is a unique and special revelation of God to humankind. He loves all peoples and will reject no one who comes to him sincerely. God welcomes every person to seek him and to pray to him. He lovingly draws every person to His son, Jesus Christ.

2. Jesus did not come to start a religion called Christianity. He came to stop religion, not start it. Religion is what people do to gain God’s favor or approval in their own way. Jesus is God's way of seeking for people, to offer His acceptance and forgiveness to them

3. There are many ways to God, but they all lead to Jesus...it's as if there are many roads to the top of a mountain, but when people arrive at the top of the mountain, they find Jesus waiting for them with open arms.

4. God will not judge people for rejecting a Jesus they have never heard of.

5. God judges people on the basis of what truth they know and what they do with it. God shines truth into every human heart, and then watches to see if people respond to that light. Those who follow the light they have, are given more.

6. God is a loving and just. The Bible speaks of God as the judge of all the earth. Abraham said about God, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is right?” God knows the hearts of all people. We can trust him to judge people justly and truthfully.

7. God has revealed aspects of himself in every civilization and every culture. It is as if there is a shadow that falls on every religion and civilization, and when one follows that shadow, it leads to the person of Jesus Christ.

8. Jesus made claims about himself (recorded for us in the New Testament), claims that are so unique, that if they are not true, then Jesus cannot be dismissed as a good man gone wrong, but more like a deceiver or deranged mad man. Either he is the truth, or he is liar or a myth created by others.

9. Jesus has revealed himself in such a way that no one is forced to believe him or obey him, but for those who sincerely want to know if he is who he claimed to be, there is sufficient evidence to know he is the Son of God.

10. If you want to know for yourself, the best way to be sure is to read about his life and teachings in the New Testament. If you seek to know him sincerely, and are willing to obey Him, God promises to reveal the truth to all those who seek Him.

 

 

America - Where do you go from here?

OUR DEAR AMERICA - Where do you go From Here?by Wolfgang and Mercy Simson.

From www.revivalschool.com Today, Obama has been re-elected; all the efforts of many Christian leaders, prayer movements, "prophets" and "concerned Americans" who have lobbied, written appeals, articles, books, letters - some have even done films - to warn not to vote for him have come to nothing. Many of them have behaved as if the future of the Kingdom of God is at stake. Well, it is not.

Can we, as foreigners who dearly love you as a people, say a few words into this situation? Because it is evident to us that God has a clear plan with your nation. But many don t seem to see it, and therefore run the danger of fighting the wrong fight, wasting precious time and resources, and even endlessly call upon God to do what he just will not do.

The German weekly Der Spiegel, kind of a German Time Magazine, has a cover picture of Uncle Sam in bed, titled, The American Patient: The decline of a Great Nation. We think this is a prophetic picture. As your friends, we know, acknowledge and admire that America has had a great past. But how will your future look like?

God chastises whom he loves because he knows: pride will come before the fall, and humbleness and brokenness is the only condition he responds to. We personally sense we need to tell you: the destiny of your nation is in God´s hands, not yours. It is not at all about Obama or Romney, it is about God using all the nations in the world according to his global and unchanging plans. Did you ever allow the thought that God in his sovereignty is using Obama like a pawn on his chessboard to humble the US as a nation because he wants to show his grace to a nation gone completely self-sufficient? A nation that is so full of independence, individualism, nationalism and trusting a greed- and fear-based economy that there may be only one way open to heal it from its idolatry and re-align itself with the Kingdom of God: a crisis beyond anything that America has ever seen?

In 2008, God has been challenged by a man standing up in public, preaching to the cheers of a huge crowd: "Yes we can!" We watched it; we saw the tears of excitement in the eyes of the people; the statements were received as if coming from the Messiah himself, and the electoral rallies had all the flavor of a religious revival. "Yes, we can" is the exact opposite of the King of kings saying: "Without me, you can do nothing!"

If God is the one who "deposes kings and raises up others" (Dan 2:21), does it really matter what are the names of the current puppets set in place by God that advance both the New World Order and the Kingdom of God? Neither Herod, Pilate nor Caesar were truly important for the development of the Kingdom. That is exactly why Kingdom people do not play in the Second League, but the First, the one that matters. The one that puts the Kingdom first, and everything else - including their own nation - second.

The problem of the current commotion and insecurities arises when even the people that call themselves after God keep confusing the Kingdom of God with the United States of America. And when that happens, especially through Christians with a public voice, then we have truly lost all perspective of the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the predictions he has made that will precede his coming.

America is being publicly humbled by God; and he is going to use Obama - and those after him - to further advance his agenda that will lead all nations to kneel before that one true King Jesus very soon. If any nation wants to become a tower that reaches up to high heaven, it will be humbled by a God who will not share his glory with people relying on their own strength.

America, where do you go from here? What does this mean for you? The future is going to be very, very rough. Your securities will vanish, the economy will go down, the education system will become even worse, the streets more dangerous, the churches even more divided, the youth even more disillusioned - unless there is a true movement that abandons all those idols mentioned above, and radically repents, makes a radical alignment with the King of the Kingdom of God and his constitution, live the Law of Christ in all areas of life, first and foremost in the areas of sex, money, power and how we "do church". This is a defining moment for you as a nation. You could go down, as the German journalist of `Der Spiegel´ predicted. Or, America could be literally re-invented by Kingdom people who are ready to implode the prevailing myths about America's greatness, and replace it by God´s greatness. The King has even greater things purposed and would fulfill those purpose IF those who call themselves after Jesus the King, would turn away from their self-made religion, self-made churches and religious factions, self-made visions of success, and their self-made, harmless God.

Can we lovingly but urgently call you back at this hour to begin and initiate a movement to reposition and repatriate yourselves into the eternal Kingdom, by submitting yourself not only in theory but also in practical deeds to Jesus the King, starting to obey the King and his liberating decrees in all the areas that count? You might even want to write a declaration of dependence on God and each other, because by idolizing anything else before and over God, you will become illegal aliens in the country that counts, where we all are called to have our home: the Kingdom, the one place where our true citizenship, nationality and allegiance lies (Phil 3:20). This is the only one country that will not be shaken, as it has an unchanging King.

If there is any way that we can help you in this great challenge and task - we want you to know we will.

-PLEASE COMMENT on this article at the website below-

http://www.revivalschool.com/

A Positive Vision for Church

A Positive Vision for Church by Joe Miller

From ChurchPlanting.com

Posted: 22 Nov 2012 08:50 AM PST

When I spoke at the 2011 House Church Conference in Florida, I met many wonderful people committed to living out their faith in a house church. But, when it comes to the discussion between House Church and Legacy Church people, I still pray for a more positive dialogue.  The name calling  along with the “spiritual” pretense that there is only one way to be a “New Testament” church is hackneyed and counterproductive. Books capitalizing on anger, hurts, and bitterness have made publishing houses and individual authors lots of money, but as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to move toward a more positive vision for church.

Tim Chester is a house church guy who shares some of my concerns.  In one of his older posts, he shares reasons why he has not read a lot of books on house church,

When I was first interested in household church I did read a range of material and I found most of it narrow, petty, reductionistic and reactionary. Either it defined itself in terms of what it was against. Or it was obsessed with debates over the minutiae of what may or may not have happened in New Testament churches. It all seemed a world away from the missiological engagement in which I was interested. (I can’t say whether any of this is true of Pagan Christianity having not read the book!) Most of the groups involved seemed insular – more concerned with creating the perfect church than reaching the lost. Obviously I want to be biblical, but I believe there were a variety of church practices and models in the New Testament so that we can be flexible. We can adapt to our context (1 Corinthians 9).

Chester’s observations are insightful and his advice is important for young church planters  Leaders, we must learn to be flexible in our methods of communal worship. That means instead of focusing energy on creating the most “biblical” worship environment, we should focus more on the mission of reaching the lost with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Let each church follow its own collective conscience on ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ to worship and invest more energy encouraging our congregations to live out the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘why’ of the Gospel.

Does God Have a Preference for Our Next President?

My wife asked me just a few minutes ago, "Does God have a preference for our next president?" I told her, "I don't know but I sure don't like it when some people act like they know".

I love these thoughts from Charliesays.It. Very thought provoking.

"Hope can be found in a human being – God’s children wanting to place their hope and trust in human form is nothing new. The desire to make a man king began in I Samuel 8 and hasn’t changed. It’s always easier to see and therefore believe a man will better protect and provide for us.

The other side of this belief produces fear: If “God’s man” is not in office, God’s plan and purpose can be hindered. Nothing is further from the truth. Matter of fact, from a national perspective, God has probably used more secular kings to bring about His will then sacred: Abimelech, Pharaoh, Hiram and Herod to name a few. God’s Word is clear:

He appoints kings and presidents – Romans 13:1 He appoints men that do not know and even oppose His way – Jeremiah 27:5-15 World rulers have always opposed God’s direction but cannot stop it – Psalm 2 Here’s another false notion:

God has an American agenda – Jesus is not an american. His agenda is not political but eternal. Remember His conversation with Pilate (John 18:36)? For this reason I am extremely careful when it comes to watching the news and listening to the radio. Republican, Democrate or libertarian: All argue for an earthly kingdom empowered by a seductive spirit of this world."

How Will I Decide Who to Vote For?

How do we decide who to vote for at election time? I look for the person who's morality includes the widest range of bIblical concerns regarding morality and justice and peace. Biblical immorality includes lust for power, ungodly war, economic exploitation of the poor, support for evil industries (pharmaceuticals, tobacco, etc., who push expired and cancer causing products on third world poor), hatred, sexual impurity in and out of the church, arrogance, greedy lobbyists, self-righteousness, ethno-centrism, racism, and attacking people personally instead of dealing with the issues.

I refuse to jump on political band wagons or use naming calling. i refuse to give my allegiance to any political party. I look for humility, compassion for the poor, a conciliatory approach to other nations, respect for the family, civility in political dialog, and the widest range of biblical morality.

100 Tibetan Buddhists Come to Faith Through Thanka Art

Thanka Art: a Bible for Tibetan Buddhists

All Nations has produced the only complete Biblical Thanka set known to be in existence. A Thanka is a particular kind of Buddhist art form that tells stories. In the same way we use a written alphabet text to encode our sacred messages, the Tibetan Buddhists use this kind of art form to pass on values, stories, and information. A Thanka story is "read" in a spiral from the center of the painting outwards, and is usually painted on a large canvas.

 

For three years, our missionaries worked with a local Tibetan artist to create a Thanka for every book of the Bible, so that Tibetan Buddhists could hear about Jesus in their own heart language: not a "Western" Jesus but one native to their land and native to their people.

 

Pictured below is a Tibetan Buddhist nun who became a Christian after seeing the Genesis Thanka. She still lives in her reclusive Buddhist monastery to be a witness of Christ to her friends there. "Now when I get up," she says, "I put on my robe to signify the blood of Christ. And I'm staying here so that others might have a chance to hear about Jesus!"

It is our hope that ministries will make use of the Thankas to reach out to the 17 million Tibetan Buddhists worldwide. To that end, we are making low resolution copies of all of the Thankas available for free. High resolution copies and canvas prints of the Thankas are also available for a suggested donation which will benefit church planting efforts. Contact us for more information about making use of this unique tool! And below is a gallery of the complete Thanka set. Click "Show more" and on the individual Thankas to see them in detail.

01 Creation
02 Genesis
03 The Flood
04 Tower of Babel

Vision From God and Finishing Well

-Paul- His vision helped him overcome his past. He was responsible for people's deaths and persecution. Phil. 3: it Freed him from guilt and shame. He pressed into the vision the Lord gave him. You can't change your past, but you can pursue your vision. Principle: keep your eyes on the vision. - Joseph - His vision allowed him to endure and overcome adversity. He exp 20 yrs of adversity. God uses the events of today to prepare us for tomorrow. We interpret events through our eyes according to what we see right now and we like it or not...

- Abraham - His vision allowed him to overcome comfort and material blessing. He was a prosperous man. Gen 13. He left his source of prosperity to to follow your dream. His vision inspired faith to leave his place that provided security and comfort.

- Esther - Her vision allowed her to overcome fear. She was in Iran, a Jewess, and her vision allowed her to overcome fear and rescue her people, at risk of her life. Esther 4:16. Women are leaders used by God.

- Gideon - His vision helped him overcome his insecurity. People was hiding. The angel said to him, "...mighty warrior..." Gideon says you got the wrong Gideon! My family is the least in the nation, and I'm the least in the family.

- Joshua - His vision allowed him to overcome his own insecurities and unbelief...self-doubt. And the hindrances and unbelief of others. He had to wait 40 years to see his vision to come to pass. For 40 years he was surrounded by death - he had to wait for people to die off first! Think of AIDs in Africa. He was probably happy when they were gone! He held onto to the promise and he inherited the promise. When joshua acted he didn't ask for the people's opinions, he had seen that for 40 years.

- Moses - His vision helped him overcome failure. He killed an Egyptian. He had to flee for 40 years. The problem he saw was accurate, but his response was wrong. Not 40 years at the spa! Living with guilt and failure for 40 years. When god spoke he was riddled with shame. I can't speak. Don't let past failures keep you from future successes.

- David - His vision helped him overcome lack of formal training. He had not formal training, he's a shepherd boy. He's not a trained warrior. He had a vision, a cause from God. See 1 Samuel 17. The soldiers saw Goliath as a threat to them, but David saw him as a threat to God's purposes. He was trained by fighting a bear and a lion. Goliath was 9 feet tall, his armor weighted 125 pounds. David saw Goliath and started running toward Goliath! He had no training - he had a vision from God.

- New Testament church - Their vision gave them courage to overcome the old ways, to step out in something new, to break out of established patterns of doing "church", to enter the new covenant.

Five Relationships to Help You Finish Well

I've been thinking a lot lately about relationships that help us finish well. There are five that I can think of right away that have been extremely meaningful to me.

1. Spiritual mentors - who develop us. We need people who are further along than us in the race of life, people who keep us on track, ask us pointed questions, and raise concerns with us. Our responsibility to our spiritual mentors is to come to mentoring times well prepared, to have a list of 3-4 questions that are well thought through, and to be transparent without expecting our mentors to be responsible for us. When you anticipate being with them, draw them out in the area of their strengths. Ask them what their expectations or desires are for your mentoring relationship with them. Tap into the books they are reading. If we are to finish well, one major reason is we paid attention to our mentors.
2. Not-yet followers of Jesus - who focus us outside ourselves. The quickest way to get out of touch with real life is to have no discipling relationships with pre-believers. We never grow beyond sharing the good news of Jesus with people. We are never too busy and never too important and never "not-called not-gifted" to be discipling not-yet followers of Jesus to faith. Those who engage the lost, grow. Those who don't, stagnate in their relationship with Jesus. If we are to finish well, a crucial reason we do is that we are engaged in the lives of people outside the "bubble" of Christian culture.
3. Friends - who stick by us. Good friends are there in the hard times and the good times. They "cheer and teer" at the right moments of life. We don't need friends who always agree with us, or who go silent when we are in pain, and who don't ask us the hard questions, but we do need friends who know how to take the "mickey" out of us, who can just hang and enjoy good music or a great pub or movie. Life-time friendships are rare and are to be treasured and invested in wisely.
4. Leaders - who guide us. A wise man once asked me, "Who can say no to you and make it stick?" That's a leader. It sticks because you want it to, not because they are controlling. Leaders are leaders in our lives because they impact our futures, they go before us to model the way, they walk beside us to coach us, and they come behind us to cheer us on. Your leaders may not be your best buddies, but they can be your best friend - in the sense that they they see what you cannot see and they ask what others will not ask. They believe in you, but loyalty does not trump honesty in their relationship with you.
5. Heroes - who inspire us. Choose your heroes well, because they impact you more than you think. You may or may not know them. They may or may not be alive. But you know them in the sense that you have gotten into their story and it has impacted your values and what you aspire for. You want to be like them... you hang on when it is tough because they did. You make good choices when you face impossible circumstances - because they did. They showed courage, faith, and integrity... and that has pointed the way forward to you and stoked your heart to believe you can do it, too.
Joe Paterno made one bad choice and it marred his reputation and caused him to finish life in a crisis of doubt and disrepute. It's not worth it.. nothing is. Those who hang in there, who keep their eye on the goal, who persevere and don't give up, they get the reward, they win the prize at the end of life.
I want to be one of those people. So do you. We can do it with God's help. Hang on to Him - He will see you to the finish line with fire in your heart and victory in your end-of-life resume'.

--

Discipleship is Intentional Relationship

As you know, I am passionate about discipleship. But it often happens that as soon as I speak my passion with some people they get a glazed look in their eye, and then start backing out the door! I think they feel some potential pressure and guilt coming their way, or maybe another program they need to give time to.

But, of course, those are things I don't believe in. I love relationship.
For me, discipleship is relationship. Not just hanging out relationship, but intentional relationship. I love investing in people, encouraging them, trying to discern what God is up to in their lives, and then intentionally identifying with what that is to encourage their walk with God.
In fact, I believe every relationship is a discipling relationship if I am intentional. Some and are deep and involve lots of time, others are not so involved...but every relationship is a gift from God... and an opportunity to invest in people's lives. What a privilege.
So how does it work? This thing called discipleship? How does "intentional relationship" work? First, a couple things it doesn't mean...
It doesn't mean getting ahead of where people are in their journey with God. It doesn't mean imposing an agenda on people. It doesn't mean pressuring people or controlling them. It doesn't mean I'm responsible for them...
Whew! That's a relief!!
God has put me and you in people's lives to serve them, and in some cases, to very deliberately invest in their journey with God. With that in mind, here a few suggestions of things I have found helpful:
1. Ask questions - find out where people are in their journey with God, and start there.
2. Try to discern through prayer and listening how you might encourage the person. That is intentionality...discerning, listening, and praying... then speaking encouragement. When you frame what you say with encouragement you will never be far off the mark.
3. Define the relationship. Figure what people want or expect, then define what you can give, and how, for how long and how often. Be positive, not demanding.
4. Always come back to Scripture - somehow, someway, involve the Word. With pre-Christians, I ask if they would like to discuss some of the teachings and sayings of Jesus. If not, that let's me know that they are not ready for spiritual input, so I will focus on the friendship, and set my expectations accordingly. Then I look for others that I can be more directly involved with spiritually. I keep the friendship with everyone, but search for those who are hungry to learn and grow.
5. Expect obedience. Discipleship is obedience to Jesus. Little obediences lead to big obediences. I suggest small things for people to put into practice or do, or ask what goals or what God is impressing them to do. Then I watch to see how the person does in obeying what God is saying to them.
6. I involve them with others at the same level of spiritual growth... I introduce them to others who are seeking to know Jesus, or others who are already on the journey, depending on where they are.
7. Celebrate weakness of failure if a person is honest about a mistake or need. Make your relationship a safe place for them to grow.
Okay, those are a few ideas. What has helped you be intentional about discipling people? Share with me so I can pass on your ideas. Thanks!!

Fifteen Signs of People Who Don't Finish Well

There are approximately 100 biographies in the Bible, and of those, only 30-35% of the people finished well. Why does it happen? To answer that question, we need to understand what it means to not finish well.  The 15 characteristics below explain why people don't finish well. If any one or a combination of the following traits describes your life - you are a candidate for not finishing well. I encourage you to press in to God that you might finish stronger and more passionate for Jesus than when you began your journey with him. Remember Caleb at the end of his life? He finished well!

 "Remember what God said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me back at Kadesh Barnea? I was forty years old when Moses the servant of God sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land. And I brought back an honest and encouraging report. My companions who went with me discouraged the people, but I stuck to my guns, totally with   God, my God. That was the day that Moses solemnly promised, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance, you and your children's, forever. Yes, you have lived totally for   God  .' Now look at me:  God   has kept me alive, as he promised. It is now forty-five years since God spoke this word to Moses, years in which Israel wandered in the wilderness. Here I am today, eighty-five years old! I'm as strong as I was the day Moses sent me out. I'm as strong as ever in battle, whether coming or going. So give me this hill country that   God   promised me. You yourself heard the report, that the Anakim were there with their great fortress cities. If   God   goes with me, I will drive them out, just as  God said." Joshua 14 - The Message

 

Fifteen Characteristics of People Who Don't Finish Well

  1. You have lost your spiritual passion for the things of God
  2. You are backslidden and away from God
  3. You are resentful toward those who hurt or betrayed you
  4. You are not learning and growing spiritually
  5. You are not discipling others and are not being discipled
  6. You no longer share your faith with pre-Chrisitans
  7. You are cynical and critical about church and spiritual leaders
  8. You have plateaued spiritually – no longer growing
  9. You are isolated and unaccountable in your walk with God
  10. You have hidden sins and habits that grip your life
  11. It has been years since you led someone to faith in Christ
  12. You are not praying for the nations and the lost fervently
  13. You are considering an affair with another person and/or would accept divorce as an easy "out"
  14. Loss of stomach to fight spiritual battles
  15. No faith for the impossible!

Leading Change

Note: I have attempted to lead change and failed several times in my leadership journey. And I have successfully led change on other occasions. The article below is from the excellent site, www.churchplanting.com   I would add to the significant wisdom in this guest article, change has to be values based, and not for the sake of innovation or inspiration. When it is values based, then the sacrifices necessary to make change are worth enduring because they are made for something we believe in deeply. 

The first two points are the most crucial in making change: a genuine sense of urgency and forming a guiding coalition. Enjoy, Floyd

Like most of you, I’m sure; I read a fair amount of the classic as well as “new arrival” works in the field of leadership and management. If translated thoughtfully and processed with theological care, learnings from this body of work could enhance your ministry as a church planter. Consider, as an example, the eight-stage process developed in 1996 by Dr. John Kotter – then of the Harvard Business School (www.johnkotter.com) – as related to navigating a group, team, organization, or church through the challenging waters of change. Unlike many strategic leadership taxonomies, this one is best followed in sequential order.

1. Establish a sense of urgency

  • Examine the contextual realities
  • Identify and discuss crises, potential disruptions, or major opportunities

2. Create a guiding coalition

  • Assemble a group with enough expertise and credibility to lead change
  • Take time to build the group into a true team

3. Develop a vision and strategy for the change effort

  • Focus on the “why” even more than the “how”
  • Develop primary and contingency strategies for achieving the change

4. Communicate the change vision

  • Use every means and occasion possible to consistently communicate the new vision and need for change
  • Motivate the guiding coalition to model behaviors expected post-change

5. Empower broad-based action

  • Strive to eliminate structural obstacles in your church to the change
  • Adjust or change systems that could undermine the vision for change
  • Encourage risk taking as well as “out of the box” thinking and action

6. Generate short-term wins

  • Plan for and even “create” visible improvements in performance or “wins”
  • Opening recognize and celebrate those “wins” no matter how small
  1. Consolidate gains and produce more change
  • Use growing credibility to make further changes that advance the transforming vision
  • Reinvigorate the change process with new themes, projects, and change agents

8. Anchor the new approaches in the church culture

  • Articulate the connections between new behaviors and ministry effectiveness
  • Proactively develop means to ensure leadership development, reproduction, and succession to minimize discontinuity

Read more here: Learning from the Business Gurus | ChurchPlanting.com

 

It's How You Finish That Counts

It's not how you start the race, nor what happens in the middle of the race, but it's how you finish the race of life that really counts. The Bible speaks of life as a race. There is no question about whether you will grow weary or falter along the way, it happens to us all, the question is how you will respond when you that happens.

How do you want to be remembered after you die? Will others speak of you after you have gone with respect and admiration? Or will they remember that you failed morally, or abandoned your calling, or that you turned back on the Lord? Will they remember a person who never stopped growing spiritually, or someone who lost their spiritual passion and direction in life? Will they remember a man or a woman who burned with love for the Lord and the lost, or a person who burned out and faded from the scene?

Jesus has died for us to give us grace to be saved, and grace to live victoriously. He offers saving grace and living grace - it is our task to take hold of that grace. Paul the apostle wrote about "taking hold of that which has taken hold of us".

1 Corinthians 9:24-25:

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run  in such a way as to get the prize.  25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown  that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Hebrews 12:1:

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every weight that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run  with perseverance  the race marked out for us.

Can you imagine running a marathon with a heavy pack on your back? And bags of groceries in your hands? No way. Lay aside the 'weights' that hinder you running with freedom the race God has set before you.

There are weights that hinder us from running well:

1. Not sticking to the basics of loving Jesus, loving the lost, and loving others in our spiritual family.

2. Losing focus on glorifying God.

3. Not building deep discipling relationships.

4. Stop learning.

5. Lack of humility over mistakes and sins.

6. Resentment and offense toward people who hurt and disappoint us.

7. Compromise of our personal integrity.

8. Spiritual plateau: not stirring our spiritual passion.

 

We all need five kinds of relationships to help us finish well:

1. Models - to inspire us

2. Mentors - to develop us

3. Prayer partners - to strengthen us

4. Life long friends - to stick with us

5. Spiritual leaders - to guide us

 

Has Satan defeated you? Have you compromised or sinned? As you burned out? Had it with the church?

God's grace is there to restore you and bring you back to the race. but your part is to humble yourself to God surrender your self to the Lord.

 

 

Changing the City With the Gospel Takes a Movement

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/09/03/changing-the-city-with-the-gospel-takes-a-movement/ Changing the City with the Gospel Takes a Movement

When a church or a church network begins to grow rapidly in a city, it is only natural for the people within the ministry to feel that God is making a difference in that place. Often, however, what is really going on is "Christian reconfiguration." When churches grow, they typically do so by drawing believers out of less vital churches. This can be a good thing if the Christians in these growing churches are being better discipled and if their gifts are being effectively deployed. Nevertheless, if this is the key dynamic, then the overall body of Christ in the city is not growing; it is simply reconfiguring. Reaching an entire city, then, takes more than having some effective churches in it, or even having a burst of revival energy and new converts. Changing the city with the gospel takes a movement.

When a gospel city movement occurs, the whole body of Christ grows faster than the population so that the percentage of Christians in the city rises. We call this a movement because it consists of an energy that extends across multiple denominations and networks. It does not reside in a single church or set of leaders or in any particular command center, and its forward motion does not depend on any one organization. It is organic and self-propagating, the result of a set of forces that interact, support, sustain, and stimulate one another. We can also call it a gospel ecosystem. Just as a biological ecosystem is made of interdependent organisms, systems, and natural forces, a gospel ecosystem is made of interdependent organizations, individuals, ideas, and spiritual and human forces. When all the elements of an ecosystem are in place and in balance, the entire system produces health and growth as a whole for the elements themselves.

Can we produce a gospel city movement? No. A movement is the result of two sets of factors. Take for example, a garden. A garden flourishes because of the skill and diligence of the gardener and the condition of the soil and the weather. The first set of factors---gardening---is the way we humanly contribute to the movement. This encompasses a self-sustaining, naturally growing set of ministries and networks, which we will look at in more detail below.

But the second set of factors in a movement---the conditions---belong completely to God. He can open individual hearts ("soil") to the Word ("seed") in any numbers he sovereignly chooses. And he can also open a culture to the gospel as a whole ("weather"). How does God do this? Sometimes he brings about a crisis of belief within the dominant culture. Two of the great Christian movements---the early church of the second and third centuries and the church in China in the twentieth and twentieth first centuries---were stimulated by crisis of confidence within their societies. The belief in the gods of Rome---and belief in orthodox Marxism in China---began falling apart as plausible worldviews. There was broad disaffection toward the older "faiths" among the population at large. This combination of cultural crisis and popular disillusionment with old ways of belief can supercharge a Christian movement and lift it to greater heights than it can reach in a culture that is indifferent (rather than hostile) to Christians. There can also be catastrophes that lead people of a culture to look to spiritual resources, as when the Japanese domination of Korea after 1905 became a context for the large number of conversions to Christianity that began around that time.

In short, we cannot produce a gospel movement without the providential work of the Holy Spirit. A movement is an ecosystem that is empowered and blessed by God's Spirit.

What is the ecosystem that the Holy Spirit uses to produce a gospel city movement? I picture it as three concentric circles:

First Ring --- Contextual Theological Vision

At the very core of the ecosystem is a way of communicating and embodying the gospel that is contextualized to the city's culture and is fruitful in converting and discipling its people, a shared commitment to communicating the gospel to a particular place in a particular time. Churches that catalyze gospel movements in cities do not all share the same worship style, come from the same denomination, or reach the same demographic. They do, however, generally share much of the same basic "DNA": they are gospel centered, attentive to their culture, balanced, missional/evangelistic, growing, and self-replicating. In short, they have a relative consensus on the Center Church theological vision---a set of biblically grounded, contextual strategic stances and emphases that help bring sound doctrine to bear on the people who live in this particular moment.

Second Ring --- Church Planting and Church Renewal Movements

The second layer is a number of church multiplication movements producing a set of new and growing churches, each using the effective means of ministry within their different denominations and traditions.

Many look at cities and see a number of existing churches, often occupying building that are nearly empty. It is natural to think, "The first thing we need to is to renew the existing churches with the gospel." Indeed, but the establishment of new churches in a city is a key to renewing the older churches. New churches introduce new ideas and win the unchurched and non-Christians to Christ at a generally higher rate than older churches. They provide spiritual oxygen to the communities and networks of Christians who do the heavy lifting over decades of time to reach and renew cities. They provide the primary venue for discipleship and the multiplication of believers, as well as serve as the indigenous financial engine for the ministry initiatives.

Third Ring --- Specialized Ministries

Based in the churches, yet also stimulating and sustaining the churches, this third ring consists of a complex of specialty ministries, institutions, networks, and relationships. There are at least seven types of elements in this third ring.

1. A prayer movement uniting churches across traditions in visionary intercession for the city. The history of revivals shows the vital importance of corporate, prevailing, visionary intercessory prayer for the city and the body of Christ. Praying for your city is a biblical directive (Jer 29:4-7). Coming together in prayer is something a wide variety of believers can do. It doesn't require a lot of negotiation and theological parsing to pray. Prayer brings people together. And this very activity is catalytic for creating friendships and relationships across denominational and organizational bounderies. Partnerships with Christians who are similar to and yet different from you stimulates growth and innovation.

2. A number of specialized evangelistic ministries, reaching particular groups (business people, mothers, ethnicities, and the like). Of particular importance are effective campus and youth ministries. Many of the city church's future members and leaders are best found in the city's colleges and schools. While students who graduate from colleges in university towns must leave the area to get jobs, graduates form urban universities do not. Students won to Christ and given a vision for living in the city can remain in the churches they joined during their school years and become emerging leaders in the urban body of Christ. Winning the youth of a city wins city natives who understand the culture well.

3. An array of justice and mercy ministries, addressing every possible social problem and neighborhood. As the evangelicals provided leadership in the 1830s, we need today an urban "benevolent empire" of Christians banding together in various nonprofits and other voluntary organizations to address the needs of the city. Christians of the city must become renowned for their care for their neighbors, for this is one of the key ways that Jesus will become renowned.

4. Faith and work initiatives and fellowships in which Christians from across the city gather with others in the same profession. Networks of Christians in business, the media, the arts, government, and the academy should come together to help each other work with accountability, excellence, and Christian distinctiveness.

6. Systems for attracting, developing, and training urban church and ministry leaders. The act of training usually entails good theological education, but a dynamic city leadership system will include additional components such as well-developed internship programs and connections to campus ministries.

7. An unusual unity of Christian city leaders. Church and movements leaders, heads of institutions, business leaders, academics, and others must know one another and provide vision and direction for the whole city. They must be more concerned about reaching the whole city and growing the whole body of Christ than about increasing their own tribe and kingdom.

When all of these ecosystems elements are strong and in place, they stimulate and increase one another and the movement becomes self-sustaining.

**********

This article is an excerpt from Tim Keller's new book, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, released today by Zondervan.

Tim Keller is the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, New York. He is also co-founder and vice president of The Gospel Coalition. For more resources by Tim Keller visit Redeemer City to City.

God Returns to the City!

Many years ago my wife and I had the opportunity to live and work in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, Holland. The "Red Light District" was flourishing in those days, with thousands of prostitutes sitting behind windows and live sex shows running through the night. We prayed and ministered with faith and hope that the Red Light District would be closed down some day. Our workers decided, as an act of faith, to call the Red Light district the "promise land". We believed that the city belonged to the Lord, not to the devil. "The whole earth is the Lord's..." Recently I received a letter from Janneke Stuji, one of the leaders of the House of Prayer, located in the heart of the Red Light District. This is what she had to say about God at work in the city and in that neighborhood:

"The Lord has done many things: 51 windows were closed in 2008, 18 houses were sold with the brothels and windows. But reality is……………That still many women are standing behind the window and people are ended up in slavery through human trafficking.

 I am one of the leaders of the House of Prayer, the Tabernacle of the Nations, in de Red Light District (building next to former Cleft) and every day we look out of our windows and see the ladies and the men.

 It is amazing what the Lord has done in all these years and we are all very excited about what He is going to do!

A few weeks ago there was an article in one of our neutral newspapers Het Parool and on the front page was written: “ God returns in the city” and this was an article of 3 pages about all the new Church plants in the city that many people go there and they are really impacting different neighborhoods".

If God can do this in one of the most notorious cities in the world, He can do it for you as well!