Letter to a Reluctant Prophet

By Chip Brogden www.theschoolofchrist.org

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Dear Friend,

It is with a certain fearfulness that I respond to your inquiry, for I am not an authority on such things. I can certainly relate to your reluctance at being identified among the company of the prophets when so many false apostles, prophets, and teachers abound. I wish I could point you in a proper direction, but I can only point you towards the Lord. It is He who selects His messengers, and I have nothing to offer you by way of what to do.

At most, perhaps you can look upon me as an example of what NOT to do, and take some word of counsel from a weak brother who has made many mistakes and endured many failures along the way. Perhaps you too will have to make even the same mistakes in order to learn, yet following my advice could perhaps help you to avoid the unnecessary heartache and cruelty inflicted upon yourself and others when thinking that you are doing God a service.

I would counsel you, first of all, to be a Christian. Do not spend too much time focused on that which is prophetic. Do not come to others as a prophet, but as a child. Let Christ be your obsession, not the prophetic word. For “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” There need not be turmoil in your heart about your calling; it is clear that you are among those that are “the Called, according to His purpose.” And what is His purpose? That you be “conformed to the image of His dear Son.” That, above all, is your first calling.

Many are eager to wear the Prophet’s mantle, but are reluctant to bear the Christian’s cross. This cannot be. Given the choice between Christian or Prophet, choose Christian. Serve God as the earthen vessel you are, in the place you find yourself to be. Perhaps the Lord will indeed use you in some prophetic way, but if not then at least you have been faithful with the “one talent” you have been given. God will not give five talents to those who cannot be faithful with one, and will not give ten to those who cannot be faithful with five.

If you are a Christian first you will remember that Continue reading “Letter to a Reluctant Prophet”

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BEYOND TITHING

Not a Formula but a Relationship

Phillip Walters www.backyardbelievers.com

For some time now I have wanted to tackle a practice which is such a sacred cow that to oppose it makes me feel a little like Martin Luther (just a tiny little) standing in front of the church door with a hammer in his hand.

It’s the modern practice of tithing, a practice that, while it has little or no foundation in the New Testament, stands in some churches almost alongside belief in the Trinity or the Virgin Birth. However it is my belief that it is a sacred cow that is made of much the same material as the calf that Aaron built and needs to go.

It is untouchable because much of modern church practice relies on it; and it has to go because, just as Aaron’s calf was a way of worship without relationship, tithing has become for many a similar substitute for being led by the Holy Spirit.

MY JOURNEY

Before getting into dismantling your confidence in the tithe as a thoroughly New Testament practice, let me first give you some of my own background.

Tithing for me started not long after learning to sing ‘Hear the pennies dropping …’ a ditty that I sang fervently every week in Sunday School as I struggled to untie the penny that mum had tied up in the corner of my handkerchief. My parents, though not Christians, sent me and my brothers off to the local Salvation Army and thus my Christian walk began. Thank God for the Salvos!

And, being the good evangelical mob that they were, my youth was spent imbibing everything that was necessary to being a good Christian soldier, including tithing which probably started with my first pay packet (to the dismay of my father). I believed in it and finished up practising and preaching it through most of my adult Christian life, good times and hard times, up until four years ago.

And I preached it well – and not just because my income depended upon it. I preached it from a grace aspect and with no compulsion – well, unless you call the Malachi threat of a curse ‘compulsion’ … but I’ll cover that later.

When the recent teaching about the need to tithe to the one who represents Christ to you came along I was excited and embraced that as well. We separated tithes and offerings, with tithes going for the Ministry, the equivalent of the priesthood (?), and the offering going to pay for the new Worship Centre, the equivalent of the temple (?).

Did those equivalents unsettle anyone? No? Well let’s move on.

So what happened four years ago? I think what happened was I began to be uncomfortable with the way some were interpreting the importance of the tithe and what seemed like a dread of the consequences of not having the tithe into the ‘storehouse’ on time. A week late, it seemed, could seriously dry up the flow of God’s provision and a cheque that the office girl had forgotten to post become a dam to God’s supply, even to those who walked in a lifestyle of extraordinary generosity.

So the questions started. Was God as legalistic as this? Did this at all reflect his character? Where in the New Testament do we find such fastidiousness in giving – except among the Pharisees? What about the ‘grace’ of giving? It was these questions and more that led me to take another look at the tithe, and especially as it related to New Testament practice.

And my conclusion? Continue reading “BEYOND TITHING”

John Fischer: Being Around Not-Yet Christians

This is an excellent article by John Fischer which should help us relax and be more confident in our quest to share Jesus.

Coming Alongside

I am normally not a fan of ten steps to this or five ways to do that. But for one of my recent talks I came up with these six things to remember about being around those who may not yet be Christians, and thought some of you might find it useful.

1) Assume everyone is searching for God. Why? Because everyone is. We were created this way. God has purposely frustrated humanity by creating us with eternity in our hearts, yet with an inability to fathom what that is or what it means (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11). He has done this so that we might reach out for him and find him though He is not far from any of us for in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:27-28).

2) Come alongside. This is really the crux of it all. Just walk alongside people and enter into their lives. Listen. Talk. Laugh. Cry. Find out where you can contribute and what you can learn. There’s something to give and something to receive in every relationship.

3) Point. You don’t tell someone what the truth is; you point to it. “There it is over there,” or “Here it is in my life.” This is why we need to learn to identify truth in the context of the world around us. Truth isn’t religious. You don’t have to get into a certain posture to see it. It’s not something that hasn’t been there all along.

4) Find out what people already know before you set out to tell them anything. Don’t ever think you have to clear the table and start over. This is why it’s so important to listen first. Find out what’s already on the table that you can use.

5) You don’t have to tell everything you know. Just the next thing.

6) You don’t have to correct everything someone says that is wrong. You are not the protector and defender of truth. You don’t have to decide where to draw the line. You don’t even have to be concerned if someone may be walking away with the wrong idea. You are not that smart anyway because you don’t know what’s in someone’s head. As long as they have something to think about, that’s a good thing.

And now here’s the one final thing that makes all this possible. It is the most important of all. (This is the one thing that makes all six of these make sense.) We don’t save anybody, convince anybody, “win” anybody to Christ or close the deal. All that is God’s business. The Holy Spirit is doing this all on His own terms and timetable. We are not salesmen, marketing reps, counselors or prosecutors. We are just friends who come alongside.

John’s Fischtank is found here.

COLGATE CHRISTIANS

” …though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to toothbrushteach you … all over again. ” (Hebrews 5:12)

I have often wondered what period of time the write to the Hebrews was referring to when he said ‘by this time’ you ought to be teachers. Was it 5 months, 5 years, 15 years or (for somechurch goers) 50 years? And was he seriously referring to all those he was addressing (as it seems he is) or just those ‘called’ to be teachers.

At the same time I have wondered whether there is a connect here with the Willow Creek discovery that the longer a person was attending the church the more disgruntled or dissatisfied many became with the church.

Could it be that there is a ‘use by’ date on what we absorb through our teachers and, if we don’t get out and teach it ourselves, we have to go through the same stuff  “… all over again.” (Hebrews 5:12), a process which puts many teachers and preachers (especially those that get a buzz out of the weekly delivery of  “a good word this week, Pastor”) into the position of being what I call ‘Colgate preachers’. Let me explain.

The basics of the Gospel, like a toothbrush, is really very simple. However in order to keep people buying toothbrushes Colgate have to cleverly reinventing the thing. Again, and again, and again. A new bump here or flexible twist there, new colours and bristle arrangements and new marketing techniques, all designed to keep customers coming and keep them happy.

And unfortunately many pastors are caught up in a similar pattern. A new twist here and a fresh revelation there, hang the message on Abraham this week then next month use Paul, all brought to a consumer driven congregation with a clever use of PowerPoint and the latest gadgetry. The same basic message but redesigned to keep them engaged and keep them coming. Even the Pastor can be fooled into thinking he has something new.

The writer to the Hebrews seems to suggest, however, that the teacher’s objective should be less about keeping them coming and more about getting them going! In fact he gives us a warning of what will happen if they do not become fruitful. In chapter 6 verse 7 he writes:

‘Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.’ (Hebrews 6:7-8)

What are the thorns and thistles other than the whinges and dissatisfactions that are often rife in our churches, usually coming from folk who have sat under a steady diet of  ‘colgate’ teaching for years. And the blessing of God? Perhaps the greater revelation of Christ that the writer longs to bring?

Unfortunately those of us in ‘ministry’ often only have ourselves to blame.

  1. We have fostered a preaching style and a meeting style that only makes room for a few rather gifted members to teach anyway. As opposed to the New Testament pattern of a proliferation of home based opportunities for every believer to receive ‘a word of instruction, a revelation… all …  for the strengthening of the church’. Offering the microphone to anyone who has something to say will never produce that kind of participation.
  2.  We have assumed and subliminally taught people that unless they sit under a weekly dose of ‘the word’ they will not grow. But, as I have suggested, there are many that would be better staying away on a Sunday morning and instead taking what they already have and sharing it with a friend over coffee or a fishing line. Rather than fall apart, every sermon they’ve ever heard would come to life as the Holy Spirit opened up opportunties for them to become teachers of the word themselves.
  3. We have failed to take note of the purpose of the the ‘five fold’ gifts of Christ to the church, which is to prepare God’s people for ministry. The church is meant to be a people movement with each believer equipped to give an account of the hope they have within them and experience the joy of walking with someone on their journey into faith.
  4. Perhaps a bit of a reality check might be in order as well. I don’t mind admitting that I get a buzz out of preaching and teaching. It was often the highlight of my week, especially if it received a bit of praise (see my previous post on preaching). This can however blind us to the danger of (1) making people reliant on us and (2) believing that we (and our gifting) are indispensable.

As Willow Creek discovered, sitting under a weekly dose of the word may be healthy for new believers but maintaining that healthy smile comes about by learning to brush daily with Jesus rather than waiting  for the weekly Colgate sermon. Walking in daily obedience to the promptings of His spirit will brighten anyone’s smile.

THE BARKADAS OF JESUS

MOLONG NACUADSC00521

The third apostle we met on our trip to the Philippines was Molong Nacua (pronounced naquah). I met Molong on the internet whilst surfing for house churches in the Philippines. His writings connected with my spirit and we finished up spending 5 wonderful days with him and his wife Lisa and their extended family on the Central Philippines island of Cebu.

The story of Molong (or as he says, ‘Long’ for short) is one of a gradual journey through traditional style church (youth pastor, worship leader) to traditional style homechurch (doing the same but in a house) to a less structured homechurch (but still based on attending a weekly meeting), to his current passion, simply building a company of disciples for Jesus.  While we were with him he coined the phrase ‘The Barkadas of Jesus’ to describe them – a barkada being a wonderful Filipino word referring to a company of friends joined in a common bond of friendship and loyalty. No set meeting times or programs but what he refers to as a life of ‘intention – relational discipleship’, mainly based on reading the Bible, learning to listen to the Spirit and learning how to disciple a friend for Jesus. We did a lot of listening and talking while we were with him but the highlight of our visit was an unintentional demonstration of the ‘barkada’.

It happened when a young recently graduated high school student, Jommie, turned up with his friend Julian, who he had recently invited to become a disciple of Jesus. Jommie had been discipled two months earlier, beginning with the same invitation, by Albert, who had been discipled by Molong. Albert had baptised Jommie the Saturday before we arrived  and now Jommie was ready to baptise Julian.

So we headed down to the sea to baptise him. Two days later however, the three boys turn up at Molong’s house with a new friend, Louey Dan, a not-yet-believer who they were working on. Over lunch the Gospel was explained to Louey Dan and an invitation given to become a disciple of Jesus. He was ready, having observed his young friends for some time. An hour later Julian, baptised only two days earlier, was praying over his friend as he baptised him into Christ.

Later, as we celebrated over Dunkin Donuts, I took the opportunity to quiz the members of this growing Barkada of Jesus about what they had done and how deep was their grasp of the Gospel. Each man impressed me with his grasp of repentance and faith, one of the most articulate being Louey Dan.  We finished our donuts and the boys hung around for a meal with Molong and Lisa and then headed home.

And three days later we headed back home ourselves, back to our own nation of Australia with a whole new understanding of what Jesus meant when He simply said (my paraphrase),

“Go and preach the Gospel, making disciples, baptising them and teaching them to obey me. And lo I am with you to the end … every day, not mainly on Sundays, not mainly in your meetings, not mainly via the Pastor, but moment by moment, day by day, until I come again.”

You can catch up with Molong’s writings at the new blogsite we are building together, The Barkadas of Jesus.  It’s still in in the building stage but you might like to bookmark it.  But be warned. It could change your thinking about the nature of church.

Here’s a Youtube of the new barkada.