During our season serving a church plant in South Africa, Sweet Bridget and I heard that an elderly woman who lived high in the hills was requesting a pastoral visit. She wanted to be baptized!
While this was certainly a special request, what added even more to this scenario, was the reality that this dear woman was physically disabled—unable to move her feet. Usually, our practice of baptism looks like being fully immersed under water as a picture of dying to sin and coming alive through faith in Christ (Romans 6:1-5)! We often celebrate baptism publicly, surrounded by friends and family, to announce our new life in Jesus and to commit to support new believers on their spiritual journey ahead.
We also recognized that Scripture uses the symbol of water being poured to depict the cleansing and forgiveness that Jesus provides, which has led some faith traditions to sprinkle with water in baptism (Ephesians 5:25-27, Hebrews 10:19-23).
Prepared with a water bottle in hand, we made the trek up to her hut.
When we arrived, she explained: “I’ve believed in Jesus, so I have been born of the Spirit, but I haven’t been water baptized! The Bible says unless we are born of water and the Spirit, we cannot enter the kingdom of God! I’m afraid. I don’t want to die and go to Hell.”
She was referring to the words of Jesus about being born again (John 3:3-8). We were encouraged to let her know she definitely had already been born of water! In fact, every human being has been. When the water breaks and we emerge from our mothers, we are born of water.
Jesus emphasized the need to also be born supernaturally by the Spirit through faith in Him! Once we have been born again by giving our lives to Jesus, as our Lord and Savior, a next step of obedience is to be water baptized to demonstrate we are His followers (Acts 2:36-39).
The next step for this dear woman was to affirm that her faith rested in Jesus alone to save her and to bring her safely home to Himself (1 Peter 1:18-21).
Have you trusted in Jesus as your Leader and Forgiver?Have you been water baptized to demonstrate you are following Him (Matthew 3:13-17)?
I’m certainly glad that our exchange has taken place via private electronic messages and not posted on an open forum.
Your questions and line of reasoning, in your email response to me, were nothing short of stupid!
It’s disgusting how much you need me and my guidance! We can only be grateful that I’m here for you for such a time as this.
How wonderful, on the contrary, to hear that your client highly regards the clergy-laity divide!
It exquisitely limits the Enemy’s workforce when the majority of “Christians” view themselves as passive pew sitters, punching a weekly time clock of church attendance—while the leadership is busy knocking into one another with puffed-up heads, useless debates, and endless divisions.
Reinforce this concept of spiritual hierarchy wherever it may be found, whether in church structure or personal relationships, as it delightfully divides, discourages, and disheartens.
Overall, protect your client from recognizing the strategy of Jesus, who sought to revolutionize the world by creating a level playing field where any average persona non grata can become a public enemy of concern to our organization.
Arguments about titles, roles, and rules are to be strongly encouraged! Emphasize and even overemphasize non-essential topics.
“Overall, protect your client from recognizing the strategy of Jesus, who sought to revolutionize the world by creating a level playing field where any average persona non grata can become a public enemy of concern to our organization…”
Revise and re-revise the bylaws and policy manuals until the cows come home. Underscore any religious pattern of thinking or behavior that will keep more players on the benches and little to none on the field.
Your client seems a miniscule threat in terms of equipping, training, or mobilizing people to pray or work for the Enemy. He’s securely self-focused.
His own theological training and experience nearly guarantee he will be looked to as an authority. His personality is winsome enough that he will shepherd the flock in our direction without the sheep being any the wiser.
You will also do well to ensure that any passages, referencing humility or unity are relegated as compulsory for others and applied only to his personal advantage, while your client holds tightly to his own self-righteousness.
Another hilarious thing in the religious sector (if one is given to laughter) is that with one well-placed fear, doubt, or unnecessary concern one can spin an entire conversation, conference, or series of meetings out of focus into total disarray and ensuing chaos!
Lest you doubt me, I will cite a case study.
I heard from one of our colleagues who inspired a group of church leaders to fully dissociate from one of their own and disregard this other’s so-called “success” because of his unconventional use of untrained “lay leaders” in public ministry.
This individual was part of a divergent movement, which I recognized as one of the blips of concern on the map. He was gathering everyday believers for prayer, training, and deployment in what he termed “disciple-making,” which dangerously upset the religious applecart.
Our esteemed colleague, playing on the other leaders’ fears of becoming obsolete and further underpaid, inspired a discussion on traditional ecclesial titles and roles. Those mentioned previously, like pastor and reverend, came up but even more like elder, deacon, bishop, overseer, et cetera.
This “friendly” conversation soon became a full-fledged debate with tempers flaring and increasingly more words flying. Of course, this came with the inversely proportional amount of time spent actually listening.
As they heard one another less and less, their argument became more and more heated. Lines drawn in the proverbial sand became deeper and deeper trenches between them.
The division and distraction that ensued was delicious!
In closing, be sure to keep on the forefront of your mind the fact that you are easily replaceable. And if you fail or your initial attempts suggest that you might fail, I will recommend your immediate termination.
There is a long line of underlings, who would be overjoyed to step into your strong-smelling shoes.
“The Reverend” P. Sophresh
(honorary, self-awarded title included just for the dramatic effect of it)
P.S. Those credentials are so easy to acquire online these days that as I wrote the closing words of this memo I went ahead and registered myself for one! The official certificate I printed is prominently displayed on my home office wall.
Oh, what irony and hilarity! You might well do the same if you think it would help you see from behind your client’s eyes. And who says our work isn’t fun?
“We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment. This, to begin with.”
It quite surprised me—as I am sure it did you when you no doubt heard—that I was to be removed from my post for an undesignated period.
My theory, more well-informed of course than most, is that there was a jealousy brewing among some higherups regarding my capabilities and potential qualifications to be promoted to their rank (please keep this tasty tidbit to yourself and refrain from sharing it vertically or horizontally).
I have my finger on something that few others in our organization are aware of.
While some supervisors have their heads deep in the weeds of particular cases and others get bleary-eyed looking at the grander scheme, I have noted some dangerous blips on the map, spiritual trends you might call them, which if left unaddressed could present significant problems for our overarching initiatives and long-range organizational goals.
When my findings are fully recognized, I will no doubt be promoted to a rank much higher than you could ever dream of attaining.
You may have heard it explained that the ranking system our organization employs was uniquely designed for us. Of course, humans have attempted to implement our structure everywhere from their families and corporate org charts to their religious institutions.
It is quite humorous (if one is given to humor) to observe the ensuing disunity, mistrust, and inequality that results.
Some have falsely attributed the origin of our organizational ranking system to the Enemy. Of course, it was our Chief Operating Officer, our Father Below himself, who arranged the levels and ranks for us, with himself firmly fixed at the highest office.
To say the least, I was elated, while reviewing your client’s file, to discover that he is a reverend. And not just a member of the so-called clergy, but one who insists on being addressed by exalted titles like “Pastor,” which he finds ever so much satisfaction in. What’s more, he revels in discussing his rank, experience, and education ad nauseum.
Your weak ramblings in your initial briefing and the lack of clarity in your client plan speak loudly and clearly that you have failed to grasp how simple this assignment can be for you!
This may very well become a backburner account that provides rich dividends, requiring only minimal maintenance—while you can give your attention to taking on additional clientele. In this case, your perceived enemy can very easily become your ally. In fact, he already may be an asset to our cause!
I hope you will soon wake up and smell the coffee in the fellowship hall! Realize, my pea-brained compatriot, you have nothing to fear just because your current client is “religious.”
The world of human religion is an opportunistic playground for us, as it often inherently embraces several foundational pillars, which our organization prizes. A few of which are the love of power, manipulation, domination, control, wealth, rank… need I go on?
If you have done your homework—which would be hard to believe—you may remember that our Enemy addressed this very matter during his incarnate years on this earth.
The Enemy instructed his disciples they were not to be addressed by honorific titles like Rabbi, Teacher, or Father. This was important to him because he, dangerously, knew what was in a human heart.
He recognized humankind is given toward pride. Thus, they jump when the opportunity presents itself to find identity or a sense of worth in position, power, or personal accomplishments.
“The Enemy instructed his disciples they were not to be addressed by honorific titles like Rabbi, Teacher, or Father.” ~Preptor S.
Now, to dig into the proverbial meat of our discourse… I hope you are wearing your sharpest incisors.
There are certain shrill voices in the world today whose canary-like calls are disturbing our peace and rattling the cages of many, who for so long have sat most comfortably in confinement of their own construction. This, of course, is of grave concern to us. We must ensure these noisemakers are silenced—or at the very least stifled.
Contrary to these contrarians, we must reinforce the age-old word on the street and common sense practices that have proven so helpful to our enterprise in recent centuries.
The business of religion and church as usual is our delight.
Especially remember to concentrate firepower on those who seem to possess an undue zeal for genuine spirituality and exhibit a desire to influence or serve others out of a pure heart.
How weak and disgusting!
Contrary to these contrarians, we must reinforce the age-old word on the street and common sense practices that have proven so helpful to our enterprise in recent centuries…
As aforementioned, we must ensure religious mindsets are deeply entrenched. Overtime, as ruts are embossed and reinforced into the soft material of human souls, they will deepen, eventually becoming an inescapable pit.
If we are to ensure this pleasant outcome, we must consistently trumpet, and at times, whisper these essential values into the ears of our clientele.
On the Acquiring of Much Knowledge
We must ensure the focus of our clients remains securely fixed upon knowledge acquisition. Encourage incessant learning paired with insipid obedience.
Keep them ever knowing and rarely if ever doing. Flood them with multitudinous methods, materials, books, and conferences.
Ensure you provide clients enough intellectual fare to gorge themselves for years—if not decades. The exact topics and themes matter little. Most anything will do as long as it “glimmers in the cup,” distracts, and draws attention away from our Enemy.
Again, it goes without saying that electronic media forms are just as useful as tried-and-true paper. Never neglect videos, articles, e-books, links, and cross-references.
Whatever fuels a knowledge-based pursuit of mastery on any subject is to be embraced and made readily available in abundance! With equal force, vehemently discourage applying what is learned to one’s life.
Analysis vs. Synthesis
Ensure any learning pursued focuses strictly on analysis, as opposed to synthesis, which lends itself toward application and problem-solving.
An unfortunate side effect of learning—for some—is the dastardly desire to instruct others. Any dimwit can recognize this presents potential problems.
When a splashing idea’s birth of influence increases, so does its potential to whet the appetite of a wider audience toward implementation of what’s learned and lasting life change.
These dangerous ripple effects can be challenging to control once initiated, so my encouragement is: at all costs, prevent their initial impact from occurring.
This whole chain reaction can be easily diffused by one skilled in our trade.
When a splashing idea’s birth of influence increases, so does its potential to whet the appetite of a wider audience toward implementation of what’s learned and lasting life change.
Emphasize much didactic instruction while steering away from a discovery process.
If this turn of phrase is unfamiliar to you, don’t bother wasting precious productivity to Google it. The concept of discovery-based learning has ancient roots, tracing back to thought leaders throughout the ages, some our allies and some bitter enemies.
Even our chief Enemy himself, during the years he walked the earth in the flesh—making it so challenging for our associates in a certain Middle Eastern locality to perform effectively—demonstrated a high regard for the power questions.
This can be observed in the disproportionately low ratio of questions he answered to those he asked. Certainly, we are a far cry from being given to follow his example.
The concept of discovery-based learning has ancient roots, tracing back to thought leaders throughout the ages, some our allies and some bitter enemies.
Of course, leading questions can be used appropriately to guide wandering minds in our direction; however, our organization has never supported the belief that our clients have the capacity as humans to ponder together deeply enough to discover truth. At the very least, we have developed some convincing theories to explain cases that seem to suggest that disconcerting pattern.
Instead, we prefer to reinforce the influence of highly authoritative—dare I say, domineering—teachers who gather a following and effectively lead others astray toward their cause.
Again, the specificity of the cause is of little import, as long as it impassions and emboldens attitudes, behaviors, and direction distant from our Enemy.
For key leaders like these, we feed and reinforce their pride in their teaching position or title. Any traces of humility can be effectively medicated by excessive attention, praise, and promotion.
The specificity of the cause is of little import, as long as it impassions and emboldens attitudes, behaviors, and direction distant from our Enemy…
This dynamic creates a delightful dependency on human authority figures. These captains, whom we have exalted, owe us immensely; with a little coaching, they can steer the ship in whichever direction best suits our larger global initiatives.
This is a peripheral point, but ethnocentricity is to be highly encouraged. A laser focus on one’s own cultural paradigms and personal experience nearly guarantees that outside-the-box thinking and cross-pollination between trouble makers will be largely thwarted.
It becomes quite easy to explain away some of the more radical “spiritual movements,” taking place in the earth today, which our organization is laboring feverishly to quench, when we can simply suggest:
“Well, that’s a distant part of the world. If the stories are even remotely true, it certainly could never happen here!”
A laser focus on one’s own cultural paradigms and personal experience nearly guarantees that outside-the-box thinking and cross-pollination between trouble makers will be largely thwarted.
Stories can be dangerous things when told from untrained lips and captured by the wrong ears. Inversely, tales, whether true or embellished, can be told to inspire fear, devotion, and any ostensible outcome that a spell-binding oracle desires.
I suppose that suffices for a day’s post. I do intend to continue extending my wisdom online to any and all who will listen, until my furlough is remedied.
Be advised that my services, including on-site consulting, are available at the right price or to the highest bidder, whichever would be more advantageous to myself.
Presently Available, Though Likely Not Indefinitely,
Distinguished Former Department Head, Messenger of Light Inc.
(Currently on a leave of absence. Seeking opportunities. References available upon request.)
If you’d like to talk more about disciple making that multiplies, reach out to us...
I’m blessed to be sharing a message this Sunday in Junction City, WI on “Making Disciples Who Multiply!” Praying through the Scripture I’ll be sharing from this weekend reminded me of themes I touched on in a message on “The Gift & Call of Singleness.”
No matter your relationship status or your season of life, I pray these thoughts will encourage you to be a multiplier who gathers others for Jesus-like disciple making friendships!
I recently heard about a local church with financial problems that looked to their mission budget as an easy target for cuts.
Sweet Bridget and I served for a time in Africa. Having made such meaningful memories in South Africa, Malawi, and North Africa, part of our heart has been planted there (1 Th. 2:8). It’s heartbreaking to think global mission could be viewed as a low priority.
Last month, we heard Larry Osborne of North Coast Church teach from his book Mission Creep. Jesus gave us one mission (Matt. 28:16-20). But Larry explained the process of drift. When we consistently miss His target of multiplying disciples all over the world who obey Jesus, we tend to shift our aim toward whatever we think we’re good at.
Insert: _______________ …programming, music, food, ad nauseum.
Larry acknowledged North Coast won’t be around forever. He soberly stated, once it’s reached its lifespan, like any human organization, it will cease to exist. Its meeting space will likely be used for another purpose. But the kingdom of God, which they sought to advance, will live on… eternally. Toward kingdom unity, Larry charged church leaders to consider a local missional gift to a neighboring church in need, even one of another denomination.
Jim Cymbala & the Music Conference choir ~ Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York City (10-7-19)
I was in an elder meeting once where a slight mission budget cut was proposed, which would’ve eliminated support for some of our faithful missionaries. I’ll always remember the words of a seasoned elder:
“What message do we send to our church and to our young people if we defund our mission?”
For local churches:
Consider your missionaries an extension of your staff.
Partner based on shared mission and kingdom values.
Feature image credit:
NASA, “On October 7, 2018, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph while orbiting at an altitude of more than 250 miles over Australia” (Earth Enveloped in Airglow).
Have you ever tried to take a walk in someone else’s shoes or to see from behind another’s eyes?
I try to do this whenever I’m involved in drama (whether on or off the stage). It’s the best way I know to emphasize, to feel another’s pain, to suspend judgment, and to listen well.
In preparation for a 40-day journey leading up to Resurrection Sunday, I saturated myself in the Gospel according to Mark. Trying to get into the heart and mind of John Mark was a powerful experience for me.
I pray you’ll discover much as you hear and see his story unfold in the first person. May you get a taste of the sweet fruit that this walk in another’s sandals culminated in for me.
Yesterday was my sabbath, the day I chose this week to rest from everything that feels like work and to refocus on the LORD. Because I have the privilege of serving full-time with our church, I work on Sundays. Though it’s usually a blessed day, it’s far from a rest day. So this week, I chose Saturday to sabbath.
As I drove to the grocery store on my chosen day of rest, I saw two young men on the sidewalk, dancing as they walked to the beat booming from a cell phone that one held (their version of a “boom box on your shoulder,” I suppose).
I heard a whisper, “Tell them about the destiny I have for their lives. Call out the treasure I’ve deposited in them. Invite them to use the gifts I’ve given them for Me.”
I smiled and waved as I drove by. I did this so quickly, I didn’t see if they even noticed.
“Hmm… not exactly what I had in mind,” Holy Spirit whispered. I drove on.
Down a busy road, I saw a minivan parked in an industrial lot with kids peeking out the open doors.
Two adults stood outside with a sign: “Help us get home. God bless”
The whisper: “Stop. Hear about their need. Bring a taste of My Kingdom.”
Wonderings of a calloused heart: “Scammers who go from city to city? A family truly in need? I’ll stop to find out, if they’re still there when I get back from grocery shopping. After all, it’s my sabbath.”
I never found out, as they were gone by the time I drove home. I even excused myself, thinking: I would’ve stopped if I’d had a friend with me. I sensed a sadness in my heart but shook it off to continue on with my sabbath observance.
Today, as I drove from the church building to the beach for our student event, I passed a worn-down house with a woman standing outside in the sun wearing a thick hoody and jeans. The temp was in the high 80s. Her face looked, in a word: “hopeless.” I didn’t have a full word of encouragement to deliver to her, but I was prompted to stop and had one word: “HOPE.”
Was that her name? Was that what she needed to hear?
I slowed down as I drove by. While I stalled like a child delaying bedtime, she began walking toward a side door and entered the house. I deliberated turning around to knock and share some “hope.” I didn’t.
At our beach event, the sister who shared an anointed message spoke on stepping out in faith and listening to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to work through us to speak to and touch others. Ouch… “I’m listening, LORD.”
I returned to that house after the beach. When I knocked, I learned firsthand the importance of timely, immediate obedience.
A man gruffly asked, “What do you want?”
“This might seem out of the ordinary, but I felt God…”
I didn’t get to see the lady who needed hope.
Holy Spirit, draw her nearer to Jesus and bring other Christ followers into her life who will share Your hope!
Jesus worked miracles on the sabbath, and it triggered the religious crowd (Matthew 12:9-14). He didn’t stop to touch everyone or fix every problem. But He did stop every time His Father asked Him to (John 5:19). No matter what day it was.
Followers of Jesus do need regular rest (Mark 2:27-28). But, we take no break from obeying Abba, from following the promptings of His Spirit.
Following Jesus is not my “job.” I refuse to become a “professional” Christian. If you minister to others for your livelihood, you might be tempted to think of your service as your source and yourself as a professional.
I am not a “professional” Christian, however. It is not my day job to follow Jesus. It is not even my duty. It is my honor and privilege. He died for me. I live for Him.
“Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.”
I willingly choose, in response to His love, to live for Him.
I need to repent.
I am not a 9-to-5, punch-in/punch-out “Christian.” I live on mission.
I am not part of the religious crowd. I live in relationship with Holy Spirit.
I am not a duty and obligation, “have to” kind of guy. I get to serve the most wonderful Master! Living for His glory is my joy!
I’ve learned recently from a friend that repentance is much more than feeling sorrow over my sin or even just asking for forgiveness.
In Acts 26:18, Paul retells the mission that Jesus gave him:
“…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”
Paul says he obeyed this calling by preaching “that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (v. 20).
All the facets of verse 18 fulfilled in preaching repentance!
Peter shared that repentance brings times of refreshing from the Presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19).
I’ve discovered: repentance is turning from sin to face Abba, declaring, “This old pattern is not who I am. I embrace You! I believe what You say about me is true!”
We are called to live lives of repentance. We are ambassadors of His Kingdom, ministers of reconciliation, those who run with the good news of His love!
Lord Jesus, tenderize my heart. You died and rose again, so we can live in relationship with You, be filled with Your Spirit, and demonstrate the reality of Your resurrection. You rose from the dead and so nothing is impossible for You!
I am a student, a learner, an obedient follower, walking in the footsteps of my Master, led by His Spirit. I rest: daily and weekly. I can’t fix everything. I’m not the savior or messiah. But I do know Him. And I follow Him. What He says goes. As a disciple of Jesus, I will obey Him without question or hesitation. I love Him, and I trust His heart that much.
I am not a “professional” Christian. I am following Jesus. How about you?
I’m so grateful that Jesus connected me with godly mentors early in my spiritual walk who encouraged me to love God’s Word and prioritize listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice.
I learned then to practice 360 degree listening, which I still do today! From the beginning to the end of the day, I posture my heart to listen to everything Jesus wants to say through the common themes of His Word, His whisper, conversations with others, and the circumstances of our lives that together create a complete circle wherein we can hear and be led by His Spirit.
We learn to recognize His voice by spending time in the Bible. We’ll only hear Him if we’re willing to quiet our hearts and listen. We test everything we hear according to His written Word. Here are a few questions I like to use for listening prayer. You might spend a few minutes asking the LORD one or more of these questions each day and writing or drawing what you hear, see, or feel as He leads and guides you nearer to His heart and deeper into His will:
a. What is something amazing about You I need to know?
b. What lies am I believing? What is Your truth about this?
c. What’s holding me back from being everything You created me to be?
d. Who do I need to forgive?
e. Who do I need to love? How?
f. Is there anything You shared with me today that would be a blessing to someone else?
g. Would You like me to share any of this with others? Who?
During a time in my life when I was facing discouragement, the LORD encouraged me through a conversation with a mentor. He told me, “God is always speaking, so ask Him what He’s saying and listen.”
Consider taking a 30-minute, mini vacation today and listening to what He has on His heart to share with you. Let’s cultivate hearts that love His Presence and delight to hear His voice!
Here’s a message I was blessed to share on hearing God’s voice from the life story of our brother Elijah in 1 Kings 19: