When the Truth is No Longer

Each generation within the life of a local congregation has a valuable contribution to make to the life of the Church.  Those in their golden years have wisdom to share, gained from a full lifespan.  Those in family rearing years bring strength, stability, growth and energy to the congregation. A young pastor can bring new life to a stagnant environment in the same way that an experienced leader can help a congregation reach new levels of influence in the community.

We all have our gifts to bring to the Church. According to Ephesians 4, the Body of Christ grows toward maturity when each of us finds, develops and contributes that which God can do through us, each of us individually.

The following essay is from a young man, possibly a future pastor, in ministry internship at the Teen Mania Honor Academy.  Is there a message here that can add to the life if your church?  I think there is.

Truth is No Longer Known as Truth,

But We Think Our Lies Are True

Truth is a precious gift that God gave to us, but over time we have misinterpreted and tried to change it to make us look better or even more inviting. Therefore, we need to provoke a revival in our action and silence our tongues, or just let the word of truth speak for us, because Truth is God, and God is the Word and the Word will change your life and the lives of others. Through truth the Gospel can be brought to many nations and change the world one life at a time. But if we were to keep following the traditions we started, we will tear the body of Christ apart. At the end of our days, Satan will not only have won the souls of many creations of our Lord, but there is a possibility he will win the souls of some of our pastors because he has corrupted their minds and converted them to believe more in the traditions they are following than the God who saved them.

In the book The Christian in Complete Amour, by William Gurnall, it says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made upon salvation,” (34) but talking with many pastors and youth pastors in the last couple of months I find that this is an aspect that we seem to have forgotten. I do not want to say that all pastors don’t confess the faith or truth with their mouth, but I think some of them have been blinded to the truth because they think too highly on one subject and not a different one. When a pastor does not agree with something in the Bible it is easy for him to make something up and preach it as truth. It is also so easy for a pastor to get prideful in what he is doing because “he is the leader” and he can never be wrong, for if he was wrong then who would follow him? They are under so many heavy burdens; it is easy to become overwhelmed sometimes. So they will change what they are saying, or just say something that sounds good to keep people in their seat of the church building. But yet, what is the church? Is it an organization, or a body of people? 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, “For we are all baptized by the Holy Spirit into one Body – whether Jews or Greeks- slaves or free- and we were all given the Spirit to drink”. This can be thought to say the people inside the building are the church. But in reality, it is everyone who is living every aspect of their lives to passionately pursue Christ. We are a mobile body that is working to change the world, for Jesus Christ is Lord. If we are to do this, we need to be a loving family and united among our brothers. But yet, when we go in to different churches you can just look at the congregation to see if there is a loving attitude in the church. Jesus, when he was in his ministry, would look for the broken, the sick, and the criminals. But some of our pastors today look for the ones that have it all together. They think unless you are a good, white American you cannot be a good follower of Jesus Christ. Wherever this thinking came from it needs to be forgotten right away, because that is the opposite of what Jesus did. We have the truth about everything we need to do, but yet we misinterpret it so it will fit our little world that we want. Instead of following what Jesus did and living our lives to follow him, it is like we are breaking one of the commandments: do not create an idol among the lord. We think of ourselves as great, but yet God is the great one.

Paul was also very clear about what we should be doing with each other while we are in the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul talks about how, as bodies of Christ, we should not be divided with worldly views. I was at a church in Sandusky, Michigan, and there was another small church on the other side of this small town. But the church where I was doing the concert and this other church did not have anything to do with each other. There was a fight that happened in the past that forced people to leave one of the churches, and the elders of that church felt that they were attacked when the other church on the other side of town was planted. They were divided by their denominational differences. One church felt pride in the number of people and thought that was more important than God, when they should have looked to the truth of what God was doing to draw the lost and rebuild the church (meaning the people, not the building). This is one of the many examples of a truth that is plain and simple in the Bible that people have lost sight of the purpose and thought of themselves instead of the Lord. We have so many other different denomination and church styles. You have a different type of church for every kind of man. But wait, I thought we were supposed to be changed when Jesus came into our lives. There are some pastors who I know who will say, “The American church is like a shopping mall; there is a different style for every type of American in our country”. The pastors of these churches will only talk about the parts of the Bible that will attract the people to keep coming to their building, to make the offering plate bigger so they can impact their city better. But yet, if you are following what God wants you to have your church do and learn, won’t the true followers of Jesus Christ be drawn to your building and join your church family? If we were to follow the Bible we would take to heart Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The body should be transforming the world and not the other way around. But the pastors of our churches are too afraid to lose the number of people; they will teach half truths or not talk about the deep and condemning parts of the Bible. We just make the Bible say what we want instead of saying what the Bible says and conforming to this world. People do not understand how big the gift of truth is, so they just do with it as they wish.

As future leaders who are being influenced by the leaders that are heading the wrong direction, we need to realize this is happening. We need to realize when a pastor is wrong and help him be turned back to the truth. But we need to not condemn them for what they are doing. When we confront like that, we as Christians get the reputation of being a condemning religion and not the loving one we are. We need to understand this life is all about sacrifice. We do not matter. If our bodies want to sin, we need to tell them no. If we are attracted to people of the same sex, we need to say NO. If we want riches, we need to give most of them away and look to God for more blessing. It is really all about having nothing because God has everything. So there really needs to be a revival of truth in the church. We need more leaders that will lead people to Christ and not a building. We need leaders that are not lost in the teaching because they need a quota in their offering plates, but ones who will understand that God has everything, so if you are doing His bidding He will keep us here. If it is God’s will for you to have a church there, then it is God’s bill to keep it up. Look to Him to provide and teach all aspects of the truth of what we are reading in God’s word.

I am not saying that I am all wise with what we need to change, or to say that I have all the answers to our problems. But I do think that people are so used to hearing the Song of Redemption that they need deeper truth. We need to start teaching the Truth of God’s wrath and how we need to live a life of excellence because mercy is not there to let us do what we want, but to make up for the few times we do wrong. If we had to live with just the law and judgment, well you have read the Old Testament so you know what they had to do. Why don’t we let truth speak for itself? As Paul stated in Corinthians 2:1-2; “For I did not come to you with eloquence of speech or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you testimony of God. For I resolved to know Christ and Him crucified.” Just let the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection speak for itself. As we bring people in to are buildings and get them “saved” a lot of the time we will never teach them to get past that part. We say the Christianity is a journey but do not teach past salvation in are churches. Service after service we are showing more people how to be saved over and over again but never bring them to the next level. Because we never show reasons people need to live with excellence and the real reason for grace, and reasons to read the Bible they never do. So, our preachers will falsely teach them and their souls will fall into the never ending fire in the depths of hell. They will not even know where they are going because they were thought wrong. Then when followers of Christ come to the end of their days, what will the Father say to us when He judges us. Do we want to be responsible for thousands of souls that were sent to Hell because we never brought unity to the Body of Christ and confronted the preachers? How is our high priest looking at His bride when He sees homosexual pastors or pastors that are holding anger inside? Are leaders sending their people to hell? It is something that breaks my heart. What are we doing about it? What are we going to change about the body of Christ to bring it back to the white and spotless lamb that Jesus is coming back for?

In conclusion, I do not want it to seem like I am another heretic that is blasting the church because of what is happening in the world today. I also do not want you who are reading this to think I know all the answers and I am trying to fix the church to what I think it should be. I just know what God has been showing me on how He wants His bride to be. If you were to ask me more, I would probably just look in the Bible to answer your questions and then ask you to check me on it. That is the main source for all knowledge, under the Holy Spirit and God himself. But the issues that I bring up are breaking my heart because it is turning people away from the truth of who God loves. Also the false teaching that “Christians” are saved and can do anything they want because they are under grace, as long as they go to church on Sunday. So, I write this in warning and love to the Body of Christ because I have heard unsaved people dying and we’re not going crazy about it. I really think we should. Jesus said in His last order to his people, “GO and make disciples of all nations”; not people that go to church. My heart goes out to the church leaders that have been looking at truth as a lie and trying to change it to make them or their building look better. I pray that they might look at their own ways and come back to be a true disciple, a follower of Jesus and His word.

Inspiring

Metaphor: “Satan patches the fox’s skin of seducers with the lion’s skin of persecutors.” (32)

Imagery “Christ opened his heart; you would soon see the foundations of the prison shaken, its doors thrown open and the chains falling off.” (44)

By Ben Burns, 2009

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The Short List – Life’s Prime Directive

short listFor more than 20 years, Bill Butterworth has build his career speaking, writing and counseling others onto pathways of deeper faith and higher quality relationships. His training, experience and passion have combined to create this latest book, The Short List. Published by Tyndale (2009) The Short List addresses the question that most American’s struggle with throughout their lives. What is really important? What will outlast me?

What will I be remembered for that is of real value?

Bill answers these questions out of personal stories from his family. In the end, Bill’s conclusion is that the relationships he has with his family and his God complete the short list. “In a life full of choices, there are only four that matter” Bill says. The 8 chapters of the book unpack those 4 prime priorities.

Bill sets up each of the four items on his list with a story from his family. For example, his lesson of love is set up by a story from his son’s little league days. Love and little league? Yes, they blend like espresso, milk and a touch of cinnamon when looked at through a lens of positive relationships. What is really important in life? Being a genuinely loving person, and knowing how to apply unreserved and influential loving behavior to your most important relationships is item One on Bill’s short list.

I would tell you the other 3, but then you wouldn’t need to pick up the book, and this book really needs to be read in today’s digitally segmented, post-modern world. What really lasts isn’t found in the 24 hr news cycle or the latest Internet social networking craze. Often what is important plays at our feet when we are too engrossed in the former. I recommend Bill Butterworth’s The Short List. As a summer read, it will aid the reader in recovering what is really important, and provide a plan for obtaining, practicing and mastering life’s short list.

Tim Burns featured as a Guest Blogger

Check out Tim’s latest blog entry, as a guest on http://www.devodiva.com/

Even a Broken Clock is Right Twice a Day.

As my wife and I settled in for movie night, the romantic comedy He’s Just Not That into You unfolded on the flat screen. We followed the somewhat interconnected relational missteps of nine people for 129 minutes. As the credits neared, the narrator, or narratress as the case may be, finally divulged the movie’s thesis.

Finding true love is the exception to the rule, the unexpected twist in life’s third act” It seemed that this romantic tragedy which have been theatrically reproduced is the norm, or so we were told. “Maybe we are so focused on finding a happy ending, we can’t learn how to read the signs. How to tell those who want us from those who don’t, the ones who will stay from the ones who will leave. Maybe a happy ending doesn’t include a wonderful guy. Maybe it’s you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over . . . maybe it’s just moving on.

Or maybe the happy ending is this. . . knowing that through all the unreturned phone calls, broken hearts, blunders and misread signals, pain and embarrassment, you never gave up hope” With the narratress’ final thought ringing in my ears, the music score surfaced and ended poignantly.

Save me”

How does this statement on 21st century love and life fit on a ministry blog? Glad you asked. This picture of dysfunctional love and life is on daily display, front and center in the main gallery of our culture’s lifeflow. To a great extent, what Christian’s would call broken life has become normal life of the dominant, post-Christian, post-modern social order we call contemporary. This new normal is the culture we, as Christ followers, are called to engage.

As Christ follows we are called to disciple the nations, not to separate ourselves from this emotionally damaged generation. For when we do, we thereby communicate that we are somehow better, and by comparison the hurting person is somehow less. This isn’t the way Christ interacted with his world . . . the woman at the well in Samaria, Mary Magdalene, Simon the outcast tax collector.

Yet even in the movie’s sadly narcissistic and slightly damaged conclusion, the writer sowed a small seed of truth. Life isn’t about the happy ending, or about what you get out of a relationship. Life is about finding wholeness. After that pearl of great price is unearthed and understood, a person is ready to share that life, and his or her own, with another. Thereby we become a blessing, instead of demanding to be somehow fulfilled and completed by another. Before we can give we have to receive.

As Christ followers, we know, and have the source of that blessing in our midst. We know personally the One who will genuinely love and never leave. We meet in closed circles to discuss Him, learn about Him, and make sure we are really part of His group.

Yet the world is still wondering, wandering, lost and needing to be saved.

Will we break out of our comfort zones? When will those outside the walls of our churches hear that real love is not the exception th the rule. When will they see? When will we go and tell them . . . with our lives, our actions and our words?

Now Blogging for NavPress and Tyndale

Editor Timothy Burns is now blogging and reviewing new releases for Tyndale House and Navpress Publishers.

Engedi Church – a Small Congregation with Big Ideas.

Engedi Church ( http://www.engedichurch.com ) began meeting in a school cafe on Oct 5, 2005. A daughter of large and successful Central Wesleyan Church (CWC) in Holland Mi., Engedi was birthed by Pastor Brian Aulick and a small group of congregants who wanted to be less anchored in tradition and more freely focused on areas of living in a discipling community and engaging social outreach. This is not to say that Central Wesleyan was not concerned about these issues. As a growing church on Michigan’s west coast, CWC is a traditional Wesleyan church which has a great reputation and impact in the community. Those involved in Engedi simply wanted to shift their focus, not start a new denomination.

In our interview, Pastor Brian Aulick said he never planned on a church plant. Engedi started as a small group within CWC. After 5 years, the senior pastor suggested that Brian plant the unique congregation in order to expand their outreach and impact. Brian and Engedi members are more highly connected to living out their faith every day of the week. The group wanted to be more intentional in helping people serve in the community during the week.

Engedi was named after the small oasis which hid David from King Saul during the years he evaded Saul in wilderness. Engedi is a small valley, just off the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. In a parched region void of vegetation, a small stream breaks across the rocks, and falls down in the Engedi Valley, creating a cool lush retreat of green plants and animal life. The Engedi oasis was often a place where weary travelers stopped for refreshment and refueling. In this image Pastor Brian fashions this growing congregation.

Those who make Engedi their church home are called partners, not members. Each partner is called to, and willingly agrees to pursue a more deliberate, intentional Christian life. This paradigm is also promoted by Dr. Randy Carlson, speaker, writer and radio host with Family Life Communications. (www.theintentionallife.com) Partners commit to core practices, each of which linked to core values. The practical emphasis placed on these 5 core values make Engedi unique, and transformational for both partners and the community around them.

CABLE – A Means to Tie It All Together. Built on the acronym CABLE, the Engedi partners agree to practice the following.

C: To Care for others needs. The first core value is not restricted to those who come to church with you, or those you know. Each CABLE group is asked to have a community outreach project, such as collecting food for the local food bank, or mentoring local students.
A: To Acknowledge the journey with others regularly. Living your faith isn’t just a Sunday thing, and partners of Engedi intentionally seek out time to fellowship with others, and as Paul wrote: “Build up each other in the faith”
B: To Bless others weekly. “If the gospel is hidden, it is hidden to those who are perishing” Engedi partners seek to communicate, bless and give to others in some way that reflects the way Jesus would.
L: To Learn God’s word and to Listen to God’s voice. Being led by God’s spirit is, or should be an every day thing. By purposefully practicing God’s presence, Engedi partners seek to be an active partner with God’s work in everyday life.
E: To Eat with others. Jesus practiced what may sound simple – He slowed down to eat with those who knew him, and those who didn’t. Fellowship that happens over a meal can open doors to share more than just food. Relationships are built, and partners use relational evangelism to draw those who don’t know Christ a step or two nearer.

Tapping Ministry Resources from the Entire Church Body.

I became a member at Trinity Church shortly after they moved from a campus in East Lansing to a larger location on the city’s south side. The congregation had outgrown their prior facility, and with no available undeveloped land at their suburban setting, the congregation purchased land, built a new building, and relocated. Church growth and relocation is not in itself noteworthy. What makes Trinity’s move unique is that they successfully completed this major upheaval without the leadership of a head pastor.

As discussed prior, Trinity has a spiritually strong congregation, which is built on an equally strong foundation provided from two large governing bodies: elders and deacons respectively. Because the church is filled with spiritually, relationally, and emotionally maturing believers, the monumental tasks associated with this kind of change occurred smoothly, and with minimal disruption of the church’s ministry activity.

In my interview with Jeff Schneider, he related that a small staff of elders stepped forward to engage the process, and shepherd the rest of the leaders in this direction. Anyone associated with a church building project knows the importance of strong leadership. Yet, rather than relying on a single person, Trinity church’s strength comes from an Eph. 4 view of church life and leadership.

Eph 4.2-13 (NIV)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

God’s model for ministry and church life is that each believer should be raised up to engage their own spiritual gifts. When each of us accepts this charge, and a church leaders empower and equip believers to live according to his model, the church grows strong, and we move, as described in Ephesians, toward unity in the faith, maturity, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

What makes Trinity’s church relocation noteworthy in my book is that the peaceful and successful outcome is evidence of the spiritually mature congregation, which itself grew from a biblical model of discipleship –  decentralized leadership,  and a community, or body ministry paradigm. Jeff was more humble when he described the events. “It was a God thing.”