WHY DO WE MAKE DISCIPLES?

Great to see God raising up young people who understand the purpose of the church is to make disciples who complete the Great Commission. Watch this young couple as they explain the 411 Discipleship Training Course. This is just one of the many initiatives God is raising up for His purposes in the “last days”. You will be encouraged as you learn what is being accomplished to build God’s Kingdom here on earth. I hope you embark on Troy’s 411 program with your partner. It asks the following four questions. WHY?, WHO?, WHAT? & WHEN? Go watch the video and find out why.

CHURCH IN THE END TIMES

The following article by Roger E Olson October 10, 2020 “What Should “Church” Be Like? Answering the Question” is excellent, it is reproduced here in its entirety.

Jesus builds His church

I believe a true Christian church should be one where God is very busy changing lives and influencing its social environment with compassionate actions.

I believe a true Christian church should be countercultural in the sense of resisting accommodation to secular and pagan culture while communicating the gospel in ways people of the culture can at least understand (but without letting go of anything essential to the gospel).

I believe a true Christian church should be an extended family where at least members and regular attenders know each other, share their lives with one another, share their property with each other (not as a common purse necessarily but with genuine generosity), and love one another in spite of differences of race, gender, ethnicity, economic and social status, educational level, etc.

I believe a true Christian church should be one where the preaching and teaching covers the whole of God’s revelation including judgment, conviction, repentance, and conversion—including the call to take great risks for God’s kingdom.

I believe a true Christian Church should be one where the people know the Bible well and are led by the teaching leaders into deeper understanding of its implications for being in the world but not of it.

I believe a true Christian church should select as leaders and teachers only persons deeply committed to Jesus Christ as God, Lord, Savior, and Coming King. The leaders should be broadly and generously orthodox in terms of belief in the Trinity, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, salvation through Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone without neglecting works of love.

I believe a true Christian church should practice loving discipline of members and regular attenders who fall into sin and who do not repent and seek to change.

I believe a true Christian church should require members (including leaders) to avoid worldliness in the sense of ungodly entertainment, conspicuous consumption, immodest dress, membership in organizations that require beliefs and/or ceremonies contrary to the sole Lordship of Jesus Christ (idolatry), sexual immorality, divorce (except in cases of abandonment, abuse, or adultery), identification with hate groups and ideologies, violence (except for self-defense or defense of vulnerable people under attack), gluttony, and extreme individualism manifested in lack of faithful participation in God’s people and their mission.

I believe a true Christian church should never hide its Christian identity.

I believe a true Christian church should preach and teach the Word of God, the gospel, faithfully and in all its dimensions and aspects, live life together in love, worship God enthusiastically, train members and attenders in Christian discipleship for everyday life, reach out to help hurting and vulnerable people live human lives, care for the environment, expect miracles to happen especially in response to fervent prayer, pray for the sick and the hurting, hold members and leaders accountable to their Christian callings, speak truth to power prophetically, encourage members to seek and use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and never be ashamed of Jesus Christ even for the sake of attracting visitors and others to fill empty pews or seats.

Finally, I believe a true Christian church should celebrate the sacraments of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper regularly.

GOD USES CATASTROPHES FOR HIS PURPOSES

Nickey Gumbel, vicar (pastor) at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, developed the world-famous Alpha Courses and has decades of experience with in-person small groups. Like so many, he never considered online groups as a viable option and only transitioned his church’s small groups to online when forced by the coronavirus pandemic. A few short months later, he is a true believer in online groups and their advantages According to Gumbel, here are nine ways that online groups are actually better than in-person groups:

1. Everyone is more relaxed. Think about it: instead of walking into a strange environment, everyone is sitting in their favorite chair at home, they’ve got their coffee or tea (or whatever) fixed just the way they want, and they’re in their comfortable clothes. All of this puts a person at ease, leading to better discussion.

2. Everyone is in their own home. For most, home is a place of solace, and it’s much more inviting to join a group while at home. Some actually have a reluctance to walk into a church building or someone else’s home, so this can be an incredible advantage.

3. Travel time is cut down. This isn’t as big of an issue in smaller towns where distances are reduced, but in larger urban environments, travel time can be a groups killer. For instance, the average commute time where I live (Northern Virginia) is about an hour each way. Adding another meeting with travel time on top of that can be a huge hindrance. Online groups eliminates the travel time.

4. The total meeting time is shortened. Because travel time is eliminated, the total meeting time is shortened, making it easier for people to commit to a group.

5. Childcare becomes so much easier. Unless your small group meets on Sunday morning at church when children’s activities are going on, childcare for young families can be a deal breaker for in-person groups. Gumbel shared about a single mom that was able to join an online group precisely because it was online and she didn’t have to try and arrange childcare for her kids.

6. The conversation flows better because everyone knows each other’s names. Even in groups that have met for awhile, people aren’t confident that they know everyone’s names. This can lead to reduced interaction out of fear of getting someone’s name wrong. When you’re on an online group meeting like Zoom, everyone’s name appears by their screen. As simple as that sounds, this is actually a big deal. Everyone knows everyone’s name!

7. There’s an easier out if you don’t like the group. People like to have an exit strategy before they try something new (like a small group). Think about the hurdles facing someone debating whether or not to try out a small group for the first time: they’re walking into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. If they don’t like the group, they’re stuck there at least for the rest of the meeting, longer if they feel a social obligation to continue. With online meetings, there’s an easier out: just get off the call. This easier out actually incentivizes people to try something new.

8. People tend to be more open online than in person. Call this the social media effect. Have you ever noticed how people tend to share more openly (even when they shouldn’t) online? It’s as if the screen gives them a sense of transparency where they can share how they really feel. This works for online small groups as well. Gumbel shared in his podcast interview that after leading in-person groups for decades, he was shocked at just how quickly his new online group shared and how quickly they went deep. Also, a good leader can make sure that all participate in the meeting, with the mute button. he can make sure no one person dominates the meeting.

9. Group dropout rates are reduced. A final positive aspect that Gumbel noted was that in his short time leading online groups, the dropout rates seem to have reduced. In any in-person group you start, the number you start with is hardly ever the number you finish with. It’s too easy for people to talk themselves out of getting dressed up, getting back in their car after a long day’s work to go to small group. If you’re not feeling well, if you’re got a lot to do, if childcare falls through (or any number of other things), you miss the group. With an online group, people tend to stick longer, leading to reduced dropout rates.

Likewise, I am a Board Member of International Christian Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) Australia and have been blessed greatly with the use of Zoom not only for meetings with Australian delegates but we now have Zoom meetings for Asia and the World for leaders and potential new members.

DENOMINATIONAL CHURCHES IN DECLINE

The German bishops’ conference has announced that a record number of people are leaving the Catholic Church, with some 272,771 exiting the faith community during 2019.  That number indicates 56,000 more compared to the 216,000 who left in 2018. The previous record number occurred in 2014, with 218,000 deciding to leave the communion.  The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Batzing of Limburg, lamented the figures and noted that a large drop in baptism and wedding ceremonies demonstrated the “erosion of a personal attachment to the Church.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, left, and Georg Baetzing, right, Bishop of Limburg and new President of the German Bishops’ Conference

The loss of members did not occur exclusively within the Catholic Church with the German Protestant Church (EKD) experiencing a similar decline, losing 270,000 people in 2019, which is an increase of 22 percent on the previous year. 

In Germany, the decline of half a million people in one year confirms what Jesus told His disciples would happen in the last days before He returns to rule and reign with a rod of iron. Jesus said there would be a great falling away in the church.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5

MORE WISDOM FROM FRANCIS CHAN ON THE FUTURE CHURCH

Francis Chan, the Cornerstone Church founder said he believes God has given the Church an opportunity in the pandemic to grow and become “deeply intimate” with Him. Chan said he believes God is using the crisis to wake up Christians.

Chan questioned how effective the Church has been with religious freedom when compared to places like China where the Church is persecuted.

“When you look at the places where there is religious freedom and you compare those places to where there is not religious freedom, what have we done with the freedom? It’s just weakened the Church,” he said.

I’m grateful for the people who fight for religious freedom. I’m grateful to have it. At the same time, I’m not really afraid of losing it because I look at how the church is flourishing and how it actually looks like the Church of Scripture where there is persecution. And again, I’m not saying I’m wanting that or desiring that. But what I am wanting is to see a pure Church where people are devoted, they’re serious and they understand what it means to really follow Jesus. Then we can really be a light to the world,” Chan explained.

“God does not put us in a situation where we can’t be deeply, deeply, intimate with him and growing with one another. Man don’t miss this,” he said, noting that it’s a great opportunity for parents to become more hands one with the spiritual development of their children.

GREAT COMMISSION UNDER THREAT

In 2015, Michelle Higgins, a Black pastor and organizer, stood up before tens of thousands of people at a popular evangelical conference in St Louis, Missouri, and told them that, as she put it, “mission work was really an exercise in exporting racism, and that evangelicalism was a moral protection for white supremacy.”

Higgins criticized the pro-life movement as “a big spectacle” on Monday in St. Louis where 16,000 evangelical Christian students gathered together.

Today, her criticisms are gaining ground. “For the last five hundred years, Christianity has been influenced by Martin Luther’s effort to decentralize the church,” Lisa Sharon Harper, the founder of a progressive evangelical religious group freedomroad.us, told me. “For the next five hundred years, the principle effort will be decolonization.”

More important than how Harper and others conceive of the last 500 years is what they predict for the ensuing 500: decolonization. And this is necessitated because of what has happened over the past half-millennia (or, at least, since 1619), the global project of white supremacy: “mission work was really an exercise in exporting racism, and that evangelicalism was a moral protection for white supremacy.” There you have it.

These are arid and divisive ideas, ones that are infecting certain quadrants of American Christianity. Left unchecked, they will cause problems for Christian fulfillment of the Great Commission.

WHAT GOD IS DOING IN THE USA

God is at work using individuals who are humble and committed to doing His work, His way. In the world’s eyes they are usually “nobodies” but in His eyes they are “somebodies”.

Take a look at this video and be inspired to step out as God intends for you to complete His mission where He has placed you.

noplaceleft.net is a movement of movements aimed at getting to no place left where Christ is not made known in our generation. Check them out for materials you can use for discipling people for Christ in your area of influence.

BEARING FRUIT AFTER 44 YEARS

We are never too old to be a true disciple of Christ, i.e. a disciple who makes more disciples. Listen to the amazing testimony of this Dutch couple who are now living the Christian life and bringing others to Christ. They are excited about what God is doing and will do each day. They are energised, happy, joyful and could not go back to the old church life that they lived for 44 years. You will be challenged by their testimony and hopefully it will cause you to follow their lead and connect with the The Last Reformation (TLR).

HOW TO BE PART OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

God is reviving His church, to restore it back to the church as described in the Book of Acts. This is a must watch video for those interested to know what God is doing at this time in the USA. People selling their homes and going as God leads, to make disciples as God instructed. The barriers of the institutional church are being broken down and true, John 17 unity is being restored. It is exciting to hear the testimonies of these transformed Christians. I hope you will be inspired to get in step with what the Holy Spirit is calling you to do in these last days before Jesus returns.

CHURCH AFTER COVID19

Most of you know what I believe God has already revealed to us in His Word about church. He initially set it up as described in the Book of Acts. Church was held in homes and small groups which is ideal for making disciples who in turn will make disciples. This is how church will be, once again, in the coming tribulation prior to Jesus return.

Phil Miglioratti • The #ReimagineFORUM Pray Network has provided a useful guide for church leaders to use post Covid19.

This guide is all about what God calls the church to do: disciple its members and impact its community with the Gospel.

Resist the temptation to merely reopen your church. Instead, reimagine how a church lives out faith, hope, and love in the shadow of a pandemic. Invite the Holy Spirit to take you (pastors, lead teams, affinity groups, congregations) on a journey of rethinking by:

  1. Assessing how the new normal impacts the calling and gifting of your congregation
  2. Blessing your constituents but also the diverse peoples in your community
  3. Confessing your fear and declaring your faith to move into the future

Make a fearless assessment of the new normal.

  • Have we made meaningful connections with every member? Attender?
  • Have we developed systems to identify practical needs of our families? Our community?
  • Are we identifying the degree of difficulty each person/family has experienced?
  • Have we surveyed our membership to know how to serve their:
    • Practical needs?
    • Emotional pains?
    • Spiritual status?
  • Gather (virtual, if not safe to meet in person) leadership to prayerfully discern:
    • Strengths – what new capabilities have we discovered in our people?
    • Weaknesses – in what ways has our ministry capacity decreased?
    • Opportunities – which needs or new options are we facing?
    • Resources – what undiscovered, unexpected resources have surfaced?
    • Risks/Rewards – have we counted the cost of making changes? Doing nothing?

Begin to daily ask for the mind of Christ so that you (personally but also with congregational ministers) discern how to reimagine how to develop:

  • Experiential worship
  • Enthusiastic (“in; theos/God”) fellowship
  • Equipped leadership
  • Extreme discipleship
  • Extravagant stewardship
  • Engaging citizenship

Pursue a Spirit-led, Scripture-fed journey. God always wants to move you on to a new level of service. Therefore, it should lead you to begin a new chapter of ministry. Your congregation or team may be called upon to make a radical change or to re-calibrate systems or reorient programs. Focus on Jesus. Fear less. Fear wisely. Follow Jesus… to the places where Almighty God is already at work; He is inviting you to serve in the power of the Holy Spirit. As you step out miracles will follow.