The Blog of Rob Board – Author, speaker, pastor

Archive for August, 2013

USEFULNESS OR RELATIONSHIP?

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven —Luke 10:20

Jesus Christ is saying here, “Don’t rejoice in your successful service for Me, but rejoice because of your right relationship with Me.” The trap you may fall into in Christian work is to rejoice in successful service— rejoicing in the fact that God has used you. Yet you will never be able to measure fully what God will do through you if you do not have a right-standing relationship with Jesus Christ. If you keep your relationship right with Him, then regardless of your circumstances or whoever you encounter each day, He will continue to pour “rivers of living water” through you (John 7:38). And it is actually by His mercy that He does not let you know it. Once you have the right relationship with God through salvation and sanctification, remember that whatever your circumstances may be, you have been placed in them by God. And God uses the reaction of your life to your circumstances to fulfill His purpose, as long as you continue to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7).

Our tendency today is to put the emphasis on service. Beware of the people who make their request for help on the basis of someone’s usefulness. If you make usefulness the test, then Jesus Christ was the greatest failure who ever lived. For the saint, direction and guidance come from God Himself, not some measure of that saint’s usefulness. It is the work that God does through us that counts, not what we do for Him. All that our Lord gives His attention to in a person’s life is that person’s relationship with God— something of great value to His Father. Jesus is “bringing many sons to glory . . .” (Hebrews 2:10).

This short article was from Oswald Chambers.

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CHURCH GROWTH VERSES KINGDOM EXPANSION

CHURCH GROWTH VERSES KINGDOM EXPANSION – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

 

CHURCH GROWTH WILL BE THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL PAGE IN THIS WEBSITE BECAUSE IT WILL SEEM TO ATTACK A “SACRED COW” IN OUR RELIGIOUS SYSTEM !!

 

God is not interested in Church growth that is building large congregations or large super-churches. His plan is to birth people into His family all over the earth and to enable them to grow to maturity in union with Him. He is not limited to building a facility in which to house Himself and develop what we call a congregation, or a church. He will not make a building His home on this earth; He did that only in the Old Covenant. We live under a New Covenant in which God’s home is inside of people that have been born again.

When we spend our time, efforts, and energies inside a building we call “the church” we fundamentally lose our influence on those who do not know Jesus. The “Church” that Jesus said He would build does not need Sunday morning meetings, or Sunday night meetings, or midweek meetings, or youth ministries, or children’s ministries, or men’s and women’s ministries, or great singing, or great speeches to the same people week after week. These type of activities do not create the Church growth Jesus wants. What God wants is people to live like a family and love one another and relate to one another and do about 30 one another’s as recorded in Scripture.

God has a plan for reaching and redeeming all the people’s on this planet. The amazing fact is that if we do it God’s way, it could be done in less than a generation. If this statement is true, then why hasn’t it already been done? Let’s start looking and see if we can the answer to that question.

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In order to properly think about what growth in the Church really is we need to define the term “growth”. Growth can be viewed in two ways:

  1. Growing in numbers in the congregation, or
  2. Growing in spiritual attributes, character, and understanding.

I believe the primary emphasis that I have seen in the church world over the past 35 years when talking about growth has been, ‘How do we get more members in the congregation?’ We talk about growing spiritually, but the real emphasis in our churches seems to be on getting the numbers, doesn’t it? If this is the primary emphasis for church growth, then we need to examine the motives behind this quest.

The simplest answer to the question in this page’s title is “MOTIVE“.

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WHAT IS THE MOTIVE FOR CHURCH GROWTH?

Let’s start by defining what a motive is. It can simply be defined as “why” we do what we do. In other words, or why do we want what we want?

The next issue is the “who” behind the growth question. Who is it that is really concerned about the congregational growth?

Let’s look at the first issue — the “who”.

As a member of a local congregation are you currently doing everything in your ability to bring more people to the church meetings, or are you simply happy if someone else does all the work?

Are you trying to bring people “to church”, or are you actively involved with people working to introduce them to your greatest friend, Jesus?

Is increasing children in God’s family important to you or is the membership of the congregation really something that is priority for you?

Are you simply wanting to increase membership of your church, or children in God’s family?

My experience with this issue finds that the person most desirous of growing the Church is the pastor. The pastor is the one who primarily focuses on growing the congregation because it is “his” church. Have you ever noticed that when people refer to a church group many times they refer to that group as Pastor Bumfellow’s’s church, or Pastor Bloom’s church, or Reverend Brown’s church? Or when you see the church sign it says “so and so church” along with the pastor’s name as though it is his/hers? I was always under the impression that the Church belonged to Jesus, not a pastor. After all, who is the main draw in any congregation? Jesus, or the pastor?

I believe the issue of Church growth has to do with a wrong motive in many cases. Let me explain.

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“Why” do we want church growth?

Most people I know are not really concerned about church growth as long as they are comfortable in their local congregation. If you have friends in the group you go to, and you are involved in a few activities, you’re not really concerned if it grows much. But if you are the pastor, you want the congregation to grow because that is a sign, or measure, of success. If the group is small in numbers the pastor does not feel successful and many times begins to prod the congregation to invite people to “come to church”, or to have special activities to draw visitors.

The meetings of the Church are not a place to invite visitors, it is a place for “the Church” (the “ekklesia – called out ones) to meet. Introduce your visitors to Jesus in your homes, then you can bring them to meetings of the Church because they now are the Church. This is what creates Church growth.

Have you every seen signs out in front of church facilities saying things like “Come grow with us”? Jesus never asked us to invite people to come to a meeting of the Church in order to hear a pastor deliver a speech. He has given us personal responsibility as His ambassadors in fulfilling some very specific commands concerning the growth of His Church.

If the congregation is large, then normally the pastor takes on a role similar to a CEO of a company. He’s busy with a staff to oversee the congregation, and to coordinate the church calendar, and to be involved in district functions, and to be involved in building bigger buildings, etc. I know this because I have been there and done that. The motive for Church growth becomes misplaced when we see growth in this manner.

Our focus or motive for church growth is wrong. We think that we are responsible for the church growing. That is not true. We are responsible to be in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ and simply do what He tells us to do. If we do what we have been instructed to do, He will cause people to be added to His Church.

After all, isn’t it His Church and not our church?

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GOD’S VIEW OF CHURCH GROWTH IS MUCH DIFFERENT THAN OURS

To understand God’s view of growth we first need to understand what is the “Church” as far as He is concerned. I believe He sees the Church in a much different way than we do.

What is the “ekklesia“?

* Those called out of the kingdom of darkness and are born again

What are the main functions of the Church from God’s point of view?

  1. Develop community
  2. Equip the saints to do the work of the ministry
  3. Reach out to those in the kingdom of darkness

You see, it’s a matter of changing our perspective and seeing things from God’s point of view. How do we do this? 

Two things are involved:

  1. See what the Bible, or God’s Word, has to say, and
  2. Let the Holy Spirit “open the eyes of our understanding” to see the kingdom of God.

Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me.”

He also said, “We are seek first the kingdom of God”.

Jesus also said, “I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

He also said, “…unless one is truly born again, he CANNOT SEE the kingdom of God.”And, “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he CANNOT ENTERthe kingdom of God.”

In Acts 2:47 when the Church was performing its three main functions “the Lord was adding to their numbers day by day those who were being saved.” In other words, when the Church was doing what it supposed to do it grows because the Lord God is adding people to it in His designed way. The followers of Jesus are enthusiastically enjoying their LIFE relationship” with Jesus and anything that has “LIFE” grows. Does it not? If your church is not growing, you need to see if there is life in that congregation of people and then see what you’re not doing that is stopping the growth from happening.

I don’t think it gets any clearer than this:

  1. If we lift up Jesus
  2. seek first the kingdom of God
  3. and do the three main functions of the Church
  4. then Jesus simply adds to His Church and the Church grows

There is a big difference between what we add to our churches and what Jesus adds to His Church! It starts with understanding the difference between the Church and the kingdom.

 

WHAT IS “SAVING FAITH”?

FOLLOWING JESUS —  WHAT IS “SAVING FAITH”

MATTHEW 16:24-25 —  “If anyone wishes to comes after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”

When you made the decision to follow Jesus, you made the most important, crucial decision of your life.

But Jesus didn’t offer eternal life to you based on:

“saying the right words”

“Having a warm religious feeling’

“an emotional moment when you felt you ought to do something”

“or that walking the aisle seemed like the appropriate thing to do”

“or a need for assurance that you wouldn’t go to hell”

“or that someone told you to repeat this prayer after me”.

There is one, and only one, way to receive eternal life ( or to be “saved”)

And it isn’t how great many people think it is.

 

In the verses I just read from Matthew 16:24-25 Jesus made it very clear how a person becomes a true follower of His.  When you look at the verses carefully it isn’t difficult to understand what He was talking about.

What did He mean by these verses:

“come after Me”

“deny himself”

“take up his cross”

“follow Me”

Or “lose your life in order to find it?”

 

These are serious words describing a life-changing relationship” with Jesus Christ.  Actually, what we have in these verses is Jesus’ own definition of “faith”.  The true faith that grants eternal life.

Many have tried to water down the real New Testament meaning of faith by saying things like,

“faith is taking God at His word”

Or “faith is trusting God to do what He said He would do”

Or “Faith is  believing what you can’t see”

These are all nice, but they don’t communicate the reality of the kind of living faith demanded by the Lord Jesus.

Before we talk about the details of becoming a believer in Jesus, a follower of His, it will be helpful to examine what the Bible itself has to say about faith.  Just how does God’s word define faith?

HEBREWS 11:1 —  “Now faith is the reality of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen”  ( my translation of the Greek text)

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

According to God’s word, FAITH IS REALITY AND PROOF.

The Greek word translated “reality” ( often translated “substance” or “assurance” or “the title deed” ) was used in the first century to designate real estate and other accumulated personal property.  It is a very tangible term.

The word translated “proof”  ( sometimes translated “evidence” or “conviction” ) was a legal term used to describe the evidence which gave strength to the legal case, allowing it to be brought to a higher court.  On the basis of this weighty evidence, a legal position could be demonstrated to be true or false.

According to Hebrews 11:1 faith is much more than a mental assent.  It involves the utmost in reality and proof.

What kind of reality and proof?

The kind Jesus described in Matthew 16:

come……deny yourself…..take up your cross…..follow Me

This is the reality and proof of a personal relationship with Jesus.  The reality of the relationship is demonstrated by the proof of a transformed life. 

Merely to say that you are “accepting “Jesus or “trusting” Him is not to have or demonstrate the faith that brings personal salvation.

As Hebrews 11:1 says, saving faith is having a life-response which not only claims a title-deed to eternal life in His kingdom, but also demonstrates (proves or gives evidence) that you have truly turned your life of self-centeredness over to His Lordship.

Saving faith isn’t a fleeting emotional desire, not is it blind acceptance.  Faith is not simply accepting a set of facts.  Faith is not simply having an intellectual belief in the teachings of Jesus.

Saving faith is the reality of following Jesus which, by its very nature, gives evidence of a transformed life.

In the epistle written by James, he put it, the “faith” that fails to produce a changed life is not the kind of faith which brings one to salvation.

James 1:21-22; 2:14, 18-19, 26

“ Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word (the gospel) implanted which is able to save your souls.  But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves…What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works (corresponding actions)?  Can that faith save him?  But someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works’; show me your faith without the works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works.  You believe that God is one.  You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works (corresponding actions) is dead.”

As we have seen, saving faith is one’s life-response to Jesus.  Now we know that one is not saved by works — that is heresy!!!  But the quality of genuine saving faith is show in the scriptures to be that which is living and productive.

Saving faith is sharing a common “real estate” with Jesus in the kingdom of God (“come after Me”, “follow Me”) by denying one’s self and taking up ones cross.  The cross is an instrument of death.  Death to your old life in the kingdom of darkness.  It is symbolic of your total commitment to Jesus—total abandonment to His desires.

The cross of self-death, which must be taken up in order to follow Him, produces evidence of one’s relationship to Jesus because one is then walking (following) in a NEW DIRECTIONS.

THIS IS WHAT REPENTANCE  REALLY MEANS.

As you can see, faith can be a confusing concept to understand.  So from now on when I speak of faith, be sure that you understand it to mean the life-changing kind of faith taught in the Bible.

The verb form of the noun “faith” found in the New Testament is translated as “believe”.

It means “to have faith” or, literally, “to faith”.

We don’t have such a verb as “to faith” in English, so we use “believe”.

Whenever you see the words “faith” ( noun) and “believe” (verb) in the New Testament, remember that they are speaking of one and the same thing—–

·          One emphasizes the fact of itbelieve

·         The other the action of it —  faith

 

Jesus said if you would place your faith in (believe in ) Him that He would grant you eternal and abundant life.  The word believe in the N.T. means to cling to, rely upon, trust in, & obey.  Not just have a mental belief.

He didn’t say just to believe about Him, but to make a life-response to Him —  to give up yourself to His Lordship.

We need to have a crystal clear understanding of the word “believe” that we see in the new testament.

To have saving faith is different than to simply “believe” as a mental assent that is what many people have.

Satan himself and all of his demons “believe” in God, but they do not have salvation because they are not submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and they have not put their “faith” in Him with evidence of their corresponding actions.