A little over 18 years ago, just 6 months married and working full-time as an emergency nurse, my husband and I found ourselves leading a church. No one was more surprised than us.
We discovered the only way would actually survive this journey was within community. The C3 tribe quickly became our family, which we now love and are dedicated to.
From the moment we were welcomed at our first pastors gathering by Ps John & Danielle Pearce (from whom we had just claimed the title of “youngest pastors in the movement”), to having Greg French help demolish our kitchen on a visiting ministry weekend, we soon realised that ministry was a “whole of life” experience!
We have learned so much, but there is, however, one piece of advice that to this day resonates. It’s advice that I embrace and resist with equal fervor. It challenges me, empowers me and, perhaps a little surprisingly, has come from the guy with whom I have walked hand-in-hand in ministry for almost two decades. It’s advice we have shared with many a wide-eyed, fresh-faced leader and is often met with reactions of surprise, uncertainty, disagreement, and even sheer relief.
“Ministry will take everything you give it, so don’t give it everything.” My husband, Nick Hind.
Ok, before you get your hackles up, let me clarify:
In Acts 6 the disciples are counseled to spend time on the right things. The believers found themselves at a stage of rapid growth and growing complexity. The needs seemed endless and they were learning the lesson that every Pastor will face: there is and always will be something else to do – something urgent, something unavoidable.
We would be foolish to think that success in ministry is defined by the hours we give it.
And yet we can easily live as if just a little bit more time or effort will make all the difference. The challenge is that, as Ps John Pearce says, “there’s always something”!
So if there is always something, then perhaps too, like the disciples, we need to take the time to allow God to be the focus, allow Him to guide us in how we spend each of these precious moments we are given by Him.
There will always be more needed – the demand is endless – so we need to be wise about what we give out, and how we manage ourselves through the many seasons ahead of us.
Here in Canberra, Australia, I see the changing of seasons. Summer has lost its power over the cool dew mornings, the Autumn colors are thinly spread amongst the trees, Winter’s barrenness and dormancy will soon unfold as we allow creation to rest around us.
Each season has a purpose: to rest or to grow; to lay dormant or to produce. Every season shapes the way we live, the way we move through our days. Seasons of full-time work, bi-vocational work, having young children, older children, empty nesting…
Seasons are the way God has designed life.
Taking a moment to reflect on the season that has been, to prepare and embrace the season ahead, will keep us in step with God’s purpose and plan. A regular habit of reflection empowers us to continue to grow. It allows us a moment to reassess, prepare. It allows us to navigate the wrestle we find in the statement, “ministry will take everything you give it, so don’t give it everything.”
By a case for gravity, I don’t mean, what goes up must come down.
What I refer to is a case for dignity, for solemnity, because it appears that we have all but lost the capacity, or even the desire, to present with some sense of gravity – in our words, and our lives.
I apply this to us, to God’s people, because who am I, who are we, to judge the world.
The clamor to be heard, to express an opinion, overwhelms any sense of restraint and sobriety in much communication these days.
Yet, the greatest of people say less, not more.
That is a hallmark of their greatness; less is more and more is less (more or less).
The prophet, Isaiah, speaking of the servant of the Lord when he was being oppressed and afflicted, said “so he opened not his mouth.” He said it twice in the space of one verse. He talked less; we talk too much. Isaiah also stated that the servant of the Lord, would not “cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the streets.” The picture he paints in these verses is of someone who by extreme patience will bring forth justice. It isn’t saying he won’t speak, but that he wouldn’t push himself forward to be heard.
He (Jesus is the Servant) respected Synagogue protocol as to when he could speak. He didn’t walk in and demand his messianic right to minister. On the contrary, he told his disciples to walk away if their voice wasn’t heeded, which thing Paul did, ultimately. The gentle persistence of Jesus accomplished the will and purpose of his Father. He never craved the publicity of the miracles he accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit. However, I digress.
A case for gravity can and should be made for those that lead God’s people, his church. We should be, need to be, described with words such as restraint, simplicity, dignity, and sober-mindedness. These words are easily, but wrongly, interpreted to mean, boring, and out of touch. But if they are (which they aren’t) then so be it because it is precisely these qualities that Paul sets out for anyone in leadership. They are the job description of the necessary qualities of God’s servants.
The list of attributes Timothy is to employ placing leaders over God’s church has nothing in it that speaks of gifts or charisma. It is entirely character-based. Nearly every word in these instructions portrays a dignified, well thought of, and self-disciplined person.
- Sober-minded – not given to the fanciful. Reflective, not reactionary, neither thinking too much nor too little of oneself.
- Self-controlled – control of appetites, needs, and wants. Calm under pressure; slow to react.
- Respectable – showing grace towards and respect of others, having earned standing in the community, not given to extremes, nor consumptive of commodities.
- Hospitable – a house open to others, one who welcomes, not exclusive but inclusive, the table is for all.
- Not a drunkard – not given to dissipation, able to enjoy what is legitimate but not captured by it; this is pleasure with restraint.
- Not violent (but gentle) – able to resolve conflict without fists, not a physical bully, someone able to maintain peace under duress.
- Not quarrelsome – no need to win arguments, especially to prove intellectual or academic superiority or make a point, a kind person, silent around fools and the contrary.
- Not a lover of money (which is idolatry) – able to be the same person with or without whether in lack or in abundance, not deceitful, or a scammer/schemer. Money is a gift to this person, not a possession.
What sort of person is this?
It is a person who displays gravitas – maturity, and bearing.
Regal bearing need not be the domain of the aristocracy. A person who expresses grace and kindness has gravitas, regardless of their social status. Another word for this is dignity. A dignified person is one who knows have to handle themselves in any setting – when to talk, when to be silent, when to come, when to go.
It is a person who shows restraint.
They aren’t just restrained in being able to control their feelings so as not to spill invective on others, or lash out, but someone who doesn’t live over the top, who isn’t a walking advertisement for conspicuous consumption, who is careful not to belittle others with what they have and what others don’t.
Paul wrote to this last point in his letter to the Corinthians, where the poor and rich (both in God’s church) were advised how to do community together in such a way that the poor of God’s people got to eat at the same table in the house church/es as the rich. The rich ate before the poor thus belittling them with the plenty they exclusively enjoyed, while the poor starved. Paul said it was for this reason people were weak and ill, some having died.
Another word for restraint is simplicity. How much do you need at any one time? There is a place for God’s people in the West to examine our lives – how we live, how much we spend on the frivolous, the unnecessary. Our consumeristic clutter is not to our advantage; it makes us no happier.
A leader should live with restraint dictating parameters to decisions and lifestyles.
The New Testament gives good grounds for gravity in living – in appearance, speech, behavior, and lifestyle. In fact, it is required of the leaders of God’s church.
This is my case for gravity.
 I Corinthians 5:12-13.
 Isaiah 53:7.
 Isaiah 42:1-4.
 Acts 28:26-31.
 I Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9.
 We can rightly assume that gifts mattered, but character leads to competency.
 People disqualify themselves from leadership in God’s church who don’t open their arms and homes, as a lot of discipleship is done around the table.
 Paul’s claim to be able to do all things through Christ is premised on/contextualized by him being able to be in abundance or lack. Either way didn’t change him. This takes strength.
 Dignity can at times be seen in deportment and appearance: not drawing attention yet well-groomed, fitting in yet not standing out – in a self-seeking manner.
Without prayer the New Testament doesn’t work.
You cannot come to Christ except through prayer.
Draw near to Him in prayer. When you are soft, when you are hard. When you are sinful, when you are holy. When you are full of doubt and when you are full of faith. When you have failed and when you have succeeded.
In His Presence you’ll find all you need.
This is where we learn to lead.
In prayer we learn to preach.
In prayer we get wisdom and strategy from Heaven.
In prayer our attitude is made right.
God gives us strength in prayer.
There is no relationship with God, except through prayer.
Prayer is not saying some words to God.
It is crying out to Him from our spirit.
We cannot express faith without prayer.
We hear His voice in prayer.
We find Him when we seek Him.
The only place where we cast our burdens on the Lord is in prayer.
Is any among you suffering? Let him pray!
Not seek out the pastors.
Not get some counselling.
Not take some medication.
Not ask others to pray.
Let him pray.
The point of pain is to get us to pray.
Pain makes us focus on what really matters.
‘How long will you be stricken?’ How long is it going to take, and how much pain will it take before you will turn to Him in prayer?
It is in prayer we repent.
It is in prayer we find faith.
It is in prayer we wait on the Lord and rise up with wings like eagles.
It is in prayer we equal our output with our input.
What is a wilderness season?
There is no such thing to the praying person. There is always fat in the bones, waters in the desert, food on the table for the praying soul, because God means more to that person than what He can do for them.
It is in prayer that we thank God.
It is in prayer that we worship and praise Him.
Paul tells us to pray all the time, never ceasing.
It is not an occasional exercise.
It is a continual state, and this state begins at the beginning of every day.
If we do not set aside time for prayer every day, we will lose our relationship with God.
Many Christians have started, but not finished their race.
They failed to develop a prayer life.
Praying men don’t sin. Sinning men don’t pray.
If we do sin, prayer is where we find our way back.
Prayer is your spirit breathing.
Prayer is the church breathing.
If we don’t eat food we can last maybe 6 weeks.
If we don’t drink fluids, maybe 3-4 days.
However, without breath, we die within minutes.
Our prayer life should be as continual as our breathing life.
Whatever shuts down our prayer life needs to be shut down.
The greatest entertainment is the presence of God.
If we are seeking the pleasures of this world we will forsake the ‘fountain of living waters’.
We spend so much money on that which is not bread. It has no spiritual nutrition, no resurrection life, no communion with eternity. We spend money for counsel, for wisdom, for advice, for entertainment, yet it ‘does not satisfy’.
‘Come, buy wine and milk without price’, for no money at all.
Prayer is completely free.
Drinking from the river of God is completely free.
We ignore it to our peril.
Prayer is the secret to effective ministry.
Without it, no life inhabits our abilities.
We may have gifts, talents, personality, charm, yet without the Spirit of God, we are mere flesh creating things that are temporal.
We create eternal things from eternal life.
We find eternal life in prayer.
In prayer we grow strong.
We are Samson without hair when we are without prayer.
We are grinding in the basement, without vision, no eyes to see, not only grinding corn but also grinding our teeth with regret, remorse, and revenge.
If we allow prayer to grow again like Samson’s hair, we will regain our strength and hear again from God, emerge from the basement and bring destruction to the enemy.
Prayer is an everyday habit, without which we will die.
It is in prayer we gather up our manna for the day.
If we don’t we are living on yesterday’s manna.
Ministries that rise on talent will fall and die if they are prayerless.
The chiefest of delights is to draw near to God.
The only place to do this is in prayer.
Prayer is key to New Creation living.
It’s here we cry Abba Father.
It’s here we are filled with the Holy Spirit in an upper Room.
It is here the church is birthed on the river bank.
It is here Paul receives back his sight.
It is here Peter sees the vision of the Gentiles entering the Church.
It is in prayer that prison doors are broken open and prisoners are set free.
It is here we are told by James that the sick are healed and the dead are raised.
Pray at the start of anything.
Pray through everything.
Pray at the end of things.
The secret of all things.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
One of the greatest privileges is to be called to plant a church or lead a church, it is a joy and great adventure! To be shepherds of God’s people is a great responsibility. Our foundation is to lead “after God’s own heart”.
“Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will lead you with knowledge and understanding”. Jeremiah 3:15
Our emotional health will however play a large part in how we lead. Emotional health can be seen by others. It becomes visible when we are under pressure, in a crisis or making difficult decisions. Our emotional health ultimately affects others and those we lead. Therefore, we need to continually tend to our inner life, our emotional health.
Paul told his leaders to: “keep watch over yourselves and all of the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” Acts 20:28
3 Keys to Maintaining Emotional Health
1. Pursue the Fruits of the Spirit
The daily pursuit of the fruit of the Spirit helps us to keep watch over ourselves. The gifts of the Spirit are freely given to us by God, we are to be stewards of our gifts, but the fruit of the Spirit is produced in us as we “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). Gifts are given, fruit is produced. Pursue all of the fruit! Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Couple them together, as an example, self-control without kindness is simply restraint. When we keep in step with the Spirit, we develop the ability to build others up and become careful not to move beyond our authority over others. Paul’s apostolic authority was constructive, not destructive.
“The authority the Lord gave me for building you up not tearing you down”. 2 Corinthians 3:10
An emotionally healthy leader builds others up.
2. Guard your Thoughts
Guarding your thoughts! Our thought life plays a huge part in our emotional health, as very often our thoughts precede our emotions. When we are dependant on the Holy Spirit we can learn to “hear” our thoughts. Hope has a sound in your mind and in turn lifts your heart, fills you with strength. Hopelessness equally has a sound and takes us to despair. Thanksgiving has a sound, self-pity has a sound. When we learn to “hear” our thoughts and move towards the ways of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed by the renewal of our mind.
“Lord help me to gird up the loins of my mind and may I press forward towards the mark for the prize of my high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Charles Spurgeon
3. Restore your Soul
Learn well the way of restoring your soul. We are all unique and we need to rest to lead effectively. Learning to rest will help you become a leader of longevity. Remembering also that Jesus gives us rest for our soul and prayer is our ultimate life source.
“Whatever is your best time in the day, give that to communion with God.” Hudson Taylor
Prayer is a relationship. We need to pray for our churches, but we also need to leave room in our prayer for our relationship with the Lord. Just you and Him!
You will always be busy in ministry; Jesus’ disciples were so busy that they didn’t even have time to eat (Mark 6:31a). But Jesus said to them,
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31b
Jesus gives you permission to leave the crowds and be with him, to restore your soul. He has indeed begun a good work in you. Go well!
A theme consistent with, and constantly repeated by, scripture is the goodness and majesty of God’s creation, attested so beautifully in Psalm 19.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
This Psalm has been divided into three segments that follow on one from the other: verses 1-6, 7-11, and 12-14.
Psalm 19:1-6 speaks as though creation itself talks – which it does. It tells us, loud and clear that the heavens, and the sky above, declare and proclaim God’s glory and handiwork. Who could doubt this looking at the night sky, especially when unimpeded by the ambient light of cities? The heavens are spectacularly glorious, strewn with glory like diamonds scattered on midnight blue. The colours of the nebulae and the galaxies pale the finest of the Great Masters palettes. A Real Master has been at work here.
Creation speaks to us; it is telling us of God’s majesty, His goodness, and power – exemplified in the sun, which is portrayed as a strong man running his course with joy. What a magnificent and vibrant description.
Psalm 19:7-11 develops this theme of Creation talk stating that, even though God is apprehended in creation, he is known more clearly and perfectly as he speaks and reveals himself in scripture. In other words, creation is good, but his law is perfect. God speaks of himself in what we see, but God speaks transformatively to us in what we hear. Creation doesn’t redeem us; his word, his law does.
The Psalmist sees delight and joy in his Law; as these verses list the many wonderful ways that God’s word speaks to us: it revives, it makes wise, rejoices the heart, and it enlightens. This is because his law is: perfect, sure, pure, true, righteous, more valuable than gold, sweeter than honey, a warning, and a reason for reward.
Creation speaks in declarative terms (V1-6), the Law of Lord is perfect and transformative (V7-11), and now the final part of the Psalm speaks to the inner person, the hidden person, the compromised person. These verses invite the Lord to look inside of us, into the ruin of the human condition, asking him to moderate and tell us what we don’t and can’t know of ourselves, because of the deceptiveness of the human heart. The Psalmist’s prayer is that the Lord would keep him, and by inference us, from errors, hidden faults and presumptuous sins. It is these that obfuscate the pictures of creation and law.
We may know of God in his creation, and experience him in his word, yet we don’t truly know ourselves. Only God does. It isn’t just a Creator we need to know and appreciate, it is a Redeemer, the Lord, we must experience – my rock and my redeemer. Only he can keep us from the folly and danger we pose to ourselves.
Psalm 19 directs us to contemplate God’s majesty in creation and see him in the perfection of his law. But it also reminds us of the all too human creatures we are, and our need for a redeemer, one who knows, one who sees and saves.
We can look upon the heavens in awe, agree with the wonder of his Law, and yet hardly know ourselves. To this end, David’s heartfelt prayer in the last stanza of this Psalm is that we would be kept from the danger we are to ourselves, from faults and sins that have dominion over us.
His prayer is that our words would be acceptable, as the words of God are – the words of creation and the words of the law of God.
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There is no doubt 2020 was a defining year for the church globally, shaping and shaking our very understanding of what the church is and how we continue to plant, grow and multiply in the midst of a global pandemic. Over the past couple of decades technology has been a huge part of innovative and emerging church models and strategies, but to be fair, the church historically has been quite a slow adopter when it comes to embracing new practices and methods.
For better or worse, 2020 has fast-tracked the adoption process and forced churches (some kicking and screaming) into the digital era. But with this quick pivot, has come some structural and strategic whiplash that is now in need of a framework to help us move into the future with clarity and strength.
It’s important for us to acknowledge that the world is still in a highly volatile social climate with constantly changing government restrictions, health alerts, travel bans, lockdowns, hot spots, and more – because of this, churches are all in different phases of change, some are still operating solely online, some are gathering with restrictions, some have hybrid models, the list goes on. On top of this, even within our own movement, exists a broad spectrum of churches: mono and multi-site, attractional and missional, urban and rural.
The truth is churches all around the world have implemented brilliant and creative ways to cultivate and sustain healthy community in the digital space. What I don’t want to do here is be too specific or prescriptive in the way it should outwork in your context.
What I’d rather attempt to do is provide some guiding principles and a digital framework that will allow you to interpret and navigate the best strategic direction for you.
Before I dive into the principles, I’ll say this: when thinking through our digital strategy, I think it’s important we make decisions with a post-Covid view in mind. Although there will of course be decisions we need to make for the immediate season, as much as possible we should be trying to form a strategic direction that is looking beyond the current circumstances and without a crisis lens.
Here we go….
Principle #1: The world was already digital.
87% of the developed world’s population is online, over half the world’s population are now under 30 and considered “digital natives” and 50% of the world’s internet usage is now via mobile devices and rising rapidly.
What we must realise is we don’t have online people and offline people, we just have people, and the vast majority of them live in the physical and digital worlds simultaneously. Therefore our digital approach needs to be designed with all of our people in mind.
Principle #2: Digital needs to be a culture more than a team, department or location.
If you follow the evolution of new and emerging digital products that tech companies are producing, they have a clear goal – create products that integrate, not compete, with real life. In the same way, our digital strategy should complement our physical strategy, in fact, they shouldn’t be two different strategies at all. We need one strategy for our people that leverages the strengths of both digital and physical.
It’s not about creating a digital version of church; it’s about asking the question ‘how do we integrate the strengths of both digital and physical to help people engage even more with Christ and community?’ I would suggest avoiding the trap of delegating digital to become a silo within your structure, and instead integrate it as a core culture of your whole church and team.
Principle #3: The digital world plays by different rules.
One of the common trends that emerged as churches ventured into the digital space, is a trend that similarly occurred when broadcasters first transitioned from radio to television… instead of creating TV shows, they just filmed their existing radio show. What we end up doing is using new technology to keep doing an old thing – or in our language, we fill new wineskins with old wine.
What we need to do is start creating things that are made for the medium, not just copy and pasting from another context. We need to ruthlessly challenge old ways of thinking and old modes of operation, because suddenly the barriers of time and space, buildings and time slots, don’t exist.
Principle #4: Digital is public, very public.
A couple of years ago I travelled to Iceland, on every tourist’s to-do list is to swim in the thermal pools, but there’s something they don’t tell you on the brochure: before you’re allowed to swim, you have to strip down and shower naked in a room full of strangers to wash off any nasty oils on your skin, so you don’t contaminate the thousand-year-old natural spring. Needless to say, if you don’t want everyone watching, be very careful what pool you decide to swim in.
We need to take great care in knowing the purpose of our content, and where it should be placed. I like to categorise the purpose of digital content into two main pools: reaching and resourcing – defining our content’s purpose helps give us a better idea of what platform we position it on.
Principle #5: Digital is a crowded house.
Due to the borderless nature of the digital landscape, we need to guard against the temptation to try and reach everyone. The problem with trying to reach everyone is that we spread ourselves so thin that we end up reaching no one. The fact is hundreds of thousands of churches all around the world are trying to carve out their space in the digital world. Imagine every church in your city all meeting in the same venue, at the same time… it could get ugly.
As leaders, we must stay true to who God has called us to reach and build our digital strategy with them in mind.
I’m praying you’ll be filled again with the spirit of wisdom and revelation as you lead God’s church faithfully into the future.
Holiness, without which no one will see God, has become either a despised term or, worse, a forgotten one.
We most easily associate holiness with a list of prohibitions, and we are well enough versed in scripture to know that “do’s and don’ts” don’t make the Kingdom. It was strict prohibitions in regards to the normal enjoyment of foods and sex (in marriage) that Paul reminded Timothy had infiltrated the church and were a sign of the teaching of demons. We don’t want a return to those days.
But has our freedom become our snare? Is holiness ever best defined as the things we forbid ourselves and others? Could we have fallen into the trap of, in trying to reach the world, it covertly reaching us? Yes, no, and yes.
Paul answered a rhetorical question in Romans 5 where anyone following the logical consistency of his argument would conclude that we are “to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Paul came to the conclusion that with the law essentially forcing an increase in sin, God, in grace, abounded all the more in righteousness – to us.
So then, his opponents conjected, the more we sin, the more God’s grace is made manifest. That is where logic takes you, and I suspect that is the unstated conclusion in any theology that overemphasizes grace and underappreciates sin (not that we are wanting to appreciate sin – you know what I mean).
Paul is adamant that our freedom is never an excuse for sin, and that freedom is always to be modified by the exercise of love.
In regards to being an excuse to sin, Paul reminds us that we are dead to sin by being in union with Jesus’s death and resurrection by baptism – how therefore can we continue in sin, when dead to it?
In regards to freedom and love, we are to moderate our freedom (and remember this often related to the practice or not of various aspects of the law in regards to holy days, food, Sabbaths, and the exercise of conscience) by our love for others. The truly free believer has no need to exercise their freedom if it offends a weaker brother or sister – and they do, like grace, abound. Love demands something better than an insistencece on freedoms.
Holiness is better defined as:
- a life lived to the glory and majesty of God,
- a life that exhibits the nature and reflection of God in Jesus Christ,
- a life glorious and enviable,
- a bright life of moral integrity and beauty,
- a life where restraint is more to be admired than excess,
- a life more defined by what we can do than by what we can’t.
In holiness there are some things we don’t practise, some behaviours we are to avoid, but these are not what it is to define holiness.
God’s holiness includes his separation from sin, but that isn’t its place of origin. Holiness is part of that divine essence that makes God so “other” to us that it is only by revelation that we know anything about God in the first place. Firstly, God is a lofty mystery and inconceivable majesty. It is this that separates us from God – this is his holiness. To be a part of this, in and through Christ, is surely much more than a list of what we don’t do.
There is a porous membrane between God’s church and the world. However, it is only meant to allow the church to reach and evangelise the world, not the world to reach and evangelise the church.
We have become so familiar with the world that we have all but forgotten the nature of the ‘called out ones’ and the desire of God to form and inhabit a people that are actually separate from the world and all that defines it – power (militaristic and oppressive), division, unrighteousness, moral corruption, the rule of principalities and powers (demonic and human), etc.
Christians, especially in the West, are often barely recognisable from the world around them – in thinking and in living. We have umbilical cords attaching us to the life of the world, from which we feed.
These are not simple matters, but they do simply matter.
Appealing to the Corinthians in his second letter, Paul reminds them that God’s church is a temple, a place of his Spirit’s dwelling. This has implications and promises attached to it.
It was God’s presence that made Israel different from all the other nations, leading Moses to ask of God, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” It meant everything to them, it should mean the same to us – God’s Holy Spirit with, around, defining, comforting and changing us.
Before expanding on the temple metaphor, Paul asks a series of self-evident questions about unequal yoking, partnership and fellowship. His point is that believers and unbelievers, righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, temple and idols, have no common ground; they are unequally yoked if linked. He then states that to be the temple requires separation of the believer from partnership of and fellowship with the world. The two don’t mix – oil and water. And yet you’d think we have made a way for them to mix because separation and difference are difficult to differentiate.
But God’s promise is that he would be a father, and we would be his sons and daughters if we come out from, and not otherwise. Because of this Paul appeals to them to be free of “every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” This is not easily done, but it is worth doing.
Every age requires the church to, in some ways, redefine holiness, as it becomes quickly anachronistic.
Whilst there are many things we can do and enjoy with biblical impunity/freedom there are some things we are wise to not involve ourselves in.
I have no intention of writing a list and falling into the prescriptive trap, but we should all be alert to what makes us worldly(un)wise.
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The ministry of healing is core to the identity of Pentecostalism. It is a distinctive that’s modeled on Jesus’ ministry, who always combined healing with proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Understandably, this makes the proclamation of the Kingdom relevant by making the Word incarnational to the human experience. It shows how the Kingdom of God can affect one’s existence by providing empirical evidence that can be observed or physically experienced. This has been a key to the growth of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement which now represents more than a quarter of all global Christians.
There are, however, extremes in Pentecostal healing ministry theology and culture, affecting both attitudes towards medicine and science, and those who are permanently disabled.
A belief that wholeness can only be attributed to the physically able creates a perception that those with permanent disabilities are living somewhere beneath their best life.
This is alienating towards people with disabilities and permanent illnesses, making them feel somewhat excluded from the able body group and thereby undermining the church’s first priority of inclusion and community.
What is wholeness from a biblical standard?
Before the fall it would appear that Adam and Eve were completely whole physically, emotionally, and psychologically. In Genesis, we read man and woman were made in His image and God declared that what He had made was “very good”. The definition here, amongst other things, is “exceedingly good, cheerful, at ease, joyful, loving, kindness, well”. All these attributes imply they were perfect in their thought patterns conducive to good health and emotional wellbeing. They experienced no shame or guilt until the fall and then their image was marred. This has affected all humanity throughout the ages.
Through Jesus, redemption came to mankind. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17 “we are a new creation,” however this is a spiritual formation process, and “the believer lives in between the now and not yet”. This means wholeness will always be somewhat limited to our mortality this side of Heaven and can only be realized to that extent. Healing or wholeness may be fully available but can never be fully appropriated for “now I know in part; then I shall know fully”. 1 Cor 13:12
Andy Stanley once asked the question, “is it a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed?”. There seem to be many spiritual tensions that need to be managed in the church’s mandate to proclaim the kingdom of God and make disciples of all nations, including healing the sick. To have faith that God can heal and at the same time accepting not all will be healed requires dialectical thinking to manage this tension.
If physical healing is the priority, then at what point does one accept the permanence of disability for one person and maintain faith for healing for another?
However, if the priority is for people to be in Christ, who offers the fullness of life through meaning and purpose, then the goal is for people to flourish in life regardless if they’re able-bodied or disabled.
This may better define the role of healing ministry within the church.
A disability does not limit one from flourishing, in fact, it may enhance their meaning and purpose in life. An example of such a life is Fanny Jane Crosby who was permanently blind six weeks after her birth and yet wrote over nine thousand hymns including some of the most famous hymns of all time.
It may be necessary for us Pentecostals to revise theology surrounding healing ministry that better prioritizes inclusion and community, that is, to “bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame”. At the same time in the process of theological revision, the challenge is not to erode and compromise faith for healing. The ministry of healing is a Pentecostal distinctive, and in the quest to become more inclusive and acceptable, there may also be a danger of losing identity.
Healing ministry has contributed to the explosive growth of Pentecostal churches and not giving up this spiritual territory seems to be equally important, even if it means making some uncomfortable. As faith for healing is generally about taking a risk, and challenging the status quo, and not just bringing comfort to what is.
Brown, Candy Gunther. Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011
Wimber, John and Springer, Kevin. Power Healing. Hachette: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986
Clifton, Shane. “The Dark Side of Prayer for Healing” Pneuma 36 204 -225 (2014)
Allen, E. Anthony. “What is the Churches Healing Ministry?” International Review of Mission Vol. 90 Issue 356-357 (2001)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton: Good News Publishers, 2001
Strong, James. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009
Nikkanen, Markus. “Participation in and with Christ” Ex Auditu Vol. 33 (2017)
Stanley, Andy. “The Upside of Tension” Vialogue (August 5, 2010)
Alexander, Kimberley Ervin. Pentecostal Healing. Blandford Forum: Deo Publishing, 2006
Carlson, Lindsey. “Fanny Crosby: Her Story, Her Song” Revive Our Hearts (Feb 25, 2016)
Wright, N.T. “Mind, Spirit, Soul and Body: All for One and One for All Reflections on Paul’s Anthropology in his Complex Contexts” NTWright Page (March 2011)
What an incredible season we are living in! Despite the state of the world today, the words of Jesus still rings true!
Matthew 16:18: “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
The church that Christ is building on this earth is an advancing church, and Jesus is returning for a radiant and a glorious Bride.
I believe that God is allowing everything that can be shaken to be shaken so that what isn’t shaken will remain. As written in Ephesians 6: “after having done all, the saints must know what it means to stand.”
Putting on the armour of God culminates the believer’s life into a lifestyle of prayer. Prayer keeps the armour alive and active in a believers life. At the same time, the armour keeps our prayer pure and true.
Paul, after writing on the armour of God, continues on to prayer.
Ephesians 6:18: “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
“Praying always” means to stay connected to the Father continually. Talking to God about anything and everything is the kind of living that opens up our lives to the flow of God’s power.
“In The Spirit”
Paul gives us a key when praying: “with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” Praying in the Spirit is praying empowered by the Spirit (1 Cor 14:4) and it is also praying prayers directed by the Spirit.
This is powerful. When we pray led by the Spirit we are praying for the win!
Jesus prayed, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. The key is to tap into what heaven in saying. I have found that He often wants to lead us into specific underlying issues that need to be addressed first before full breakthrough comes.
However, the opposite of praying in the spirit is praying in the flesh. Praying in the Spirit needs to first be accompanied by wearing the full armour of God. If not, it is possible to find yourself praying for something that is completely opposite from the will of God.
We need to familiarize ourselves with truth, we need to deeply study the Word (the belt of truth), we need the Word to transform our thinking (the helmet of salvation), we need to firmly tighten the breastplate of righteousness around our heart to keep us from praying from a place of selfish ambition, pride and lust.
Paul goes on to say, “being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication.”
This means to have the alertness of a guard at night. To be on alert with a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around us. We can only remain faithful when we are devoted to prayer. In prayer, we continually allow God to forgive us, cleanse us, teach us, and strengthen us to obey Him.
“And For Me”
In the last few verses, Paul encouraged the church to pray for all the saints and for himself. It’s interesting to me that Paul looked for prayers outside his own in order to be strengthened.
Never underestimate your prayers for others. It makes a difference more often than you think.
I believe the church will not just be known as a place where you can find great worship, where you can find a great Word, a place where love abounds and great community is built, but that this community will also be known as a House of Prayer. That it will be known as a place of power and spiritual authority. It will be a place where Kings and Priest meet to decree and declare the Word of the Lord over the land and its people.
In this hour, we need every soldier on board.
Will you join what God wants to establish here on the earth? It’s not complicated when you realise it’s about listening in to the heartbeat of God and praying powerful prayers led by the Spirit all the while fully dressed in the armour of God.
And this, my friends, is how we pray prayers for the win!
Covid has been a season in which we have all been reminded that community is the core of who we are – as Christians and as C3.
Also, isolation and restrictions in gathering do have an emotional and mental health impact on our outlook and wellbeing.
As humans, we have an inherent desire to connect with one another in meaningful ways, and the reason we have this, is because God created us with the need to be in community.
In Genesis 1:26 NKJV, God said, “Let us make man in our image and our likeness.” In those 10 words, there are three references to God’s very unique nature.
The words “us” and “our” are the core doctrine of the Trinity, referring to the fact that God himself exists in community.
The creation account provides us with an amazing window into the very nature of God, in whose image we are created, and since God exists in community, we are meant to as well!
The need for relationship was part of God’s created order.
In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone, so I will make a helper suitable for him.” From the very beginning, the creator of the universe realised we could not live on our own, so he made a way for us to connect to others in order to grow and develop in our understanding of the importance of community.
Remember the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks? His character, Chuck Noland is stranded on a tropical island after a plane crash and he has to give up everything he once knew to learn how to survive physically, emotionally and mentally in his new environment: isolation.
To keep his sanity, he creates a make-believe person named Wilson out of a volleyball that drifts ashore from the plane wreckage.
During his four years of being stranded on the island, Wilson and Chuck face and overcome many storms together, but when Chuck and Wilson make their final attempt to be rescued by building a raft and setting sail, another storm sweeps over them at sea, almost destroying the raft and sadly causing Wilson to be lost.
Chuck, having lost his one and only friend, floats aimlessly at sea. Through a stroke of unbelievable luck, a commercial tanker finds and rescues Chuck, who is now an emotionally depleted man.
Cast Away so accurately displays our need for relationship and community, which was hard-wired into our DNA from the day we were created.
A wonderful example of what community looks like is seen in Acts 2:42-47.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
From these verses, it’s clear that if we want to experience life as God intended for us, and maintain emotionally and mentally healthy lives, we need to intentionally commit to building community. This is one of the primary reasons for church: to gather in community with God and others.
The Bible tells us how we are to live, and outwork our faith, with one another. In fact, there are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament. These passages remind us how much emphasis scripture places on our obligation as Christians to love and care for one another in order to experience the fullness of all God has planned for us.
Read: Rom 15:5,6; Phil 2:1-4; Col 3:12-17; and 1 Thes 5:11-13.
Life is all about relationships! So, as we come out of Covid isolation and restrictions, “let us not forsake in gathering together” in community.
Let’s renew our love for gathering in the House of God and gathering with one another.
See you in church, C3, because we are better together.