HOW GOD USES CATASTROPHES

The conflict in Armenia has taken the lives of many soldiers and displaced over 100,000 people. All the while, the world has kept silent and preferred not to know about it. In November a Russia-brokered peace deal was agreed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It ended six weeks of war in which thousands of people were killed and displaced. In these conditions, the role of the Church has increased. People just have nowhere else to go. The church becomes the only place where people can be helped. The churches have become the beacons of hope for scared and suffering people. They don’t do services on Sundays because of the coronavirus but they continue serving refugees every day sharing their bread and their homes as well as words of comfort and hope. Even before the war, more than 32% of the population lived below the poverty line. Now with the conflict raging on, these alarming rates are growing every day. Asatur Nahapetyan, pastor and general secretary of the Baptist Union of Armenia, anticipates this conflict to linger and asks everyone to get ready for a hard winter. Over 100 families from Karabakh have been placed by Baptists in their homes and 42 people were accommodated in a conference hall in Razdan.

The church with a symbolic name Noah’s Ark (in Ararat) is providing shelter for 40 people. At first, the refugees were really afraid of Christians regarding them as sectarians but now they don’t want to leave. Pastor Araik says that people from Karabakh are not very religious and many of them still retain the Soviet spirit, but there are no atheists in trenches. The church in Ararat has 700 members. They all minister to refugees as one strong united team. “It’s the only place where we are welcomed,” say women refugees, who didn’t want to know anything about God just yesterday. They learned to pray in the church and when their husbands who are on the front lines call their wives many now say, “We didn’t believe in God but it was your prayers that kept us safe” women and children say to their pastor often, “When you pray we sleep well and we stop having nightmares.” Everyone lives on prayers here. It all started on the first day of war when the pastor called the mayor’s office and said that the church was ready to take in refugees. It’s been filled with people since then. It’s important to understand that the church prepared themselves for this ministry even before. The pastor says that successful work with young people changed the way the society viewed the church. “We fed 40 people every Saturday and took hot lunches to 20 families even before the war. Everyone knows us as the ark of hope and salvation. For people, we are not just a religious organization but a charitable organization. Although it’s interesting to see how the state church starts to imitate us. Priest David started doing what we do, preaching the Gospel, visiting people in their homes, meeting them and talking to them. Even the police say to people, ‘contact the church; they’ll help you there.’ Everyone respects us now.” Pastor Vazgen from the church in Abovyan says something similar: “Almost all the refugees that we received in our church have made a decision to follow Jesus.” The church in Artashat is also filled with refugees and it’s also filled with the spirit of hope.

 While evangelical churches of Armenia are serving their people we have an opportunity, even responsibility to pray for this ancient Christian nation.

FUTURE OF AMERICA – Part 1

American Christians, who desire to live godly, conservative, biblically-oriented lives, need to prepare themselves and their families for suffering. The writing has been on the wall for some time, decades even, yet the church has done little to stop it. Instead, like a row of dominoes, she has fallen over on issue after issue. The church has watched while influential institutions and religious leaders denied the miracles of Jesus, rejected the inerrancy of scripture and its history of the Cosmos particularly Noah’s worldwide flood. The time when God judged the world destroying all mankind save eight people. Lawlessness brought on God’s judgement back then and lawlessness will bring it on again. The world is rejecting God’s laws with legalized abortion, gay marriage, adopting transgenderism and even embracing critical race theory. Additionally, we are witnessing apostasy in the church as it conforms to the new world’s standards. Also, we have witnessed many “celebrity pastors”, priests and pastors in denominational churches commit moral failures through affairs and sexual abuse.

Whatever circumstances befall the church in the coming years, we must keep in mind that we have a Saviour who was the perfect propitiation of God’s wrath. In Him, we are predestinated, called, justified, and glorified (Romans 8:30). His blood has covered our sins and set us free from the slavery of sin and death. Regardless of where the world goes and what horrors the church may face, we can rest in these truths, knowing that our greatest and deepest needs have been met in Christ. No amount of emotional, mental, and physical suffering can dislodge us from our Savior’s embrace. As sure as the sun comes up tomorrow, the gospel will remain the power of God for salvation – your salvation. To thrive in a world that hates Jesus (and duly us), we must cling to Christ and His gospel. Before any worldly allegiances, we are Christians. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Should the world burn down around us, we can joyfully sing because we are eternally secure. There is no greater news than this.

Extract from article in Patheos: Persecution: The New Reality for Biblical Christianity in America by Jack lee

DANGERS CONFRONTING THE WORLD

The chief dangers that confront the world today are politics without God, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without the justifying work of the Holy Spirit.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has revealed its Davos 2021 Agenda, confirming the annual gathering of political and business elites next month will be a digital event heralding the public unveiling of its Great Reset Initiative (essentially a one-world government). “This global pandemic has demonstrated again how interconnected we are. We have to restore a functioning system of smart global cooperation structured to address the challenges of the next 50 years. The Great Reset will require us to integrate all stakeholders of global society into a community of common interest, purpose, and action,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

What the world really needs is a “church reset”. Churches back to their New Testament roots as described in the Book of Acts. This includes upholding the inerrancy of God’s Word and its account of the history of the Cosmos including the miraculous. The miraculous events of creation, Noah’s worldwide flood, the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel which created the nations, Jesus incarnation, and resurrection.

God does intervene in history to alter reality. He has done it in the past and will continue to do so in the future. His Word tells us that the catastrophic world events unfolding right now signal Jesus’ return to this earth is not too far distant.

It seems that for many liberal theologians those “mighty, saving acts of God and of judgement” are symbolic, images, rather than extra-mental realities. As a result, theology takes on a whole new nonsensical meaning. It no longer explains anything but only expresses the effects symbols might and perhaps should have in the spiritual lives of individuals and groups. Moreover, they are oblivious to the promise of Jesus second coming as are the scoffers described by Peter “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.2 Peter 3:3-4

Churches must undergo a reset that begins with getting back to the authority and truth of God’s Word and then obeying His commandment to complete the Great Commission to share the Gospel with others, to make disciples who will, in turn, make disciples. The church described in the Book of Acts and by Jesus in Matthew.

I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.Matthew 16:16

The “keys” signify the authority given to Christ’s church to stand against the powers of “Hades,” or Hell. The church needs to start walking in this authority

MAKING DISCIPLES IS THE BIBLICAL MANDATE

Where in the Bible are we commanded to plant churches?” The simple and obvious response is, “it is not commanded.” Indeed, J.D. Payne points out, “nowhere in the Bible is the church commanded to plant churches” (Apostolic Church Planting, 114).

So it seems that making disciples is the mandate and church planting is the outcome.

In the New Testament, a disciple is more than someone who grows in their theological knowledge of God. A disciple fellowships with other believers, worships in a community, and prays like those assembled in a house in Acts 4. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, a disciple then boldly declares the word of God such that more and more people become followers of Jesus.

This understanding of a disciple is highlighted throughout the New Testament. Through a study of the early movement in Ephesus, we see at least thirteen characteristics common to them all.

  • Disciples are respectful of people and culture when they engage in God’s mission (Acts 19:7, 37).
  • Disciples surrender to God’s will and maintain the work of their first love in a theocentrically focused missiological theology (Eph 1; Eph 5:18-19; Rev 2:4).
  • Disciples declare the mystery of Christ to the nations (Eph 3:4-10, 1 Tim 2:1-4).
  • Disciples are equipped by movement leaders for ministry (Eph 4:12; 1 Timothy).
  • Disciples exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Eph 4-5).
  • Disciples are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses (Eph 5:18-19, 2 Tim 1:7).
  • Disciples are godly fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, employees and employers (Eph 5:22-6:9).
  • Disciples pray for opportunities to share the gospel because they know God is most glorified when more people are worshipping him (Eph 6:18-20, 1 Tim 2:1-4).
  • Disciples stand up for the marginalized (1 Tim 2:8-15, 5:3-16; Rev 2:6).
  • Disciples learn sound doctrine from movement leaders who can teach (1 Tim 4:7).
  • Disciples are willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel (2 Tim 1:8).
  • Disciples are committed to multiplying more disciples (2 Tim 2:2).
  • Disciples defend the faith against false teaching (Rev 2:2).

Extracts from an article “Is Church Planting a Biblical Mandate?” October 28, 2020 by Jackson Wu

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.

WANT TO BE USED BY GOD? FOLLOW MICHAEL TODD’S LEAD

More good sense from Michael Todd on church. Michael says many house churches stream Transformation Church’s services and use them to supplement small-group discussions. He’s very encouraged by this development, saying it reminds him of both the early church and Netflix all at once.

“It takes me back to Acts 2:42, where people gathered in homes, shared what they had, read the apostles’ teachings and talked about it,” Todd says. “Well, that’s what they’re doing on social media. They’re sharing about it. Friends are finding out about it. … We’re not facilitating it or doing anything. The reason Netflix blows up is because they provide content, but you decide how you want to watch it and how you want to use it. And as we’ve done that, we’ve seen salvation skyrocket. We’ve seen people get baptized. We’ve seen people go from being drug addicts or in different lifestyles or shacking up to being convicted or getting married.”

Transformation Church

Transformation Church has been particularly effective at reaching a diverse cross-section of young Millennials and Generation Z, a group often described by demographers as uninterested in religion. Todd disputes that point; he says what they are really uninterested in are frauds.

“They’re leaving the church because the church, in many respects, is a big business and a facade,” Todd says. “That’s why they’re leaving. This is the most authentic, self-aware generation that we’ve had in a long time, and they can smell a fake from a mile away. I think that’s why I’m appealing to this generation: Because they see it’s real. It’s authentic. If churches and leaders would value authenticity more, their Millennial and Gen Z attendance would go up tremendously.”

Put simply, if young adults are going to do something, they want to be 100% all-in, without any reservations. They don’t want to play church politics, pretend to be someone else or compartmentalize Christianity to Sunday meetings. They want to be free to be fully who God created them to be and hold nothing back in pursuit of Jesus. Because of that, Todd believes they can represent a threat to some “old guard” Christian leaders, but that they can also change the world for God.

“Nobody can tell me Millennials are not interested in God,” Todd says. “They’re not interested in a big business with no power. They can’t do that. …These young people? If they’re committed to something, they’re getting a tattoo of it, they’re changing their license plates to “SOLD OUT,” they’re telling all their friends. And so, it’s a bigger decision because they can’t do anything halfway.”

Todd says the beautiful thing about Transformation Church is that it’s as diverse as the kingdom of God. Whether young or old, digital or in-person, black or white, the movement is united around loving and obeying Jesus. And Todd says it’s his honor to serve as their pastor.

FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH BUILT UPON APOSTLES AND PROPHETS

The bible says that the foundation of the church is built upon apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.

You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22

Today’s religious system has primarily built churches on the three offices modern believers are comfortable with—pastors, teachers, and evangelists; as powerful as that is, this is not the foundation Christ established. Why? One reason can be found in a simple definition of the word apostle and prophet. The word apostle relates to a mission or sent one, and the word prophet relates to some type of vision. We need prophets and prophecy because it is how God chose to build his church.

“In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28

God’s plan all along was a generation of sons and daughters that could hear his voice, see like He sees, feel His heart, and know what to do. 

God has made it possible through the love of the Father, the sacrifice of Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to empower every human being so that they can share in fulfilling the prayer Christ taught us to pray that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Worth repeating: God the Father through the atoning work of Jesus has provided all believers with the indwelling Holy Spirit to equip us all for the good works He has preordained for us to do. He wants us all to be armed and equipped with a mission and a vision. 

“Why am I on this earth?” is one of the great questions of life. God has made it possible with the indwelling Holy Spirit to not only know the answer to that question but to be empowered to carry out the work He wants us to do.

However, each day we need to submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Just as Jesus said to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not My will, but Your will be done”, likewise, we need to submit daily to the Holy Spirit so that we don’t grieve Him or quench His work in our lives

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

Let me give a plug for my book to those of you who are called to business – Build a Kingdom Business – Empowered by the Holy Spirit, It is available on Amazon as a ebook or from me (ron@bakb.com.au) as a trade paperback book.

HELPFUL ADVICE FOR A VIBRANT CHURCH

It is interesting to read the comments of a pastor from  the Grace Capital City, which meets at the Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, D.C. It is a growing congregation, with Lead Pastor Chris Moerman estimating that about 80 percent of its membership is millennial. Whilst I believe church growth can be a problem and the ideal church is the one described in the Book of Acts which is home groups, Chris Moerman makes some useful comments on how to reach millennial’s.

“I would attribute this growth to a combination of genuine and authentic relationships, a vibrant spirituality expressed through worship, teaching and community, and a passion to give people a vision for God’s work in their lives that impacts not just their Sunday’s at church, but their everyday existence,” Moerman added.

“At The Table Church, we’re passionate about Jesus, we create ministry around peoples’ gifts and empower them to put those gifts into action. We also have fun, do our best to love people well and we’re obsessed with helping people experience community. All of these things resonate with millennial’s, but I think everyone is hungry for the same thing.” We’ve discovered that millennial’s are looking for the many things other age demographics are. They’re looking for a church where the mission is clear and the path to getting engaged in community is simple and easy,”

Lum told CP that “keeping a clear mission” and helping people “use their gifts in the context of community” have enabled his church to stay vibrant.

“Congregations should look like the cities where God has planted them. If you’re in a city exploding with young people, then your church should definitely be reaching young people,” said Lum.

“Pastoring millennials requires a different approach to giving, but I think it’s a healthy and much needed transition. Millennials don’t give out of guilt or obligation, but instead they want to know that their generosity is making an impact.” Lum added that a key feature of giving in his church was “transparency,” adding that “everything is an open book.” “We provide quarterly financial updates that highlight the impact of our congregants’ investment in our church and our community,” he said.

While some majority-millennial churches are thriving, others have become a source of concern for what some believe is too great a focus on reaching out to one generation.

Jessica Lair with New Season church, a multi generational, multi ethnic congregation in Sacramento, California, told CP about a time when she worked with a millennial-centred church in Los Angeles.

Lair argues that millennial-centred churches deprive themselves of good spiritual wisdom from other age groups. “We as a generation need to quit with the attitude of ‘we can do it better,’ because sometimes, we can’t do it better,” wrote Lair, herself a millennial. “We as millennial’s NEED the generation before us. I have learned more life lessons at a multi-generational church in seven months than I did at a millennial church in two years.”

GOD IS PRUNING HIS CHURCH

More great wisdom from Francis Chan. Since Francis Chan walked away from the church he had in California boasting of over 5000 members I knew Francis was hearing from God. Church from then on for Francis was no more buildings, no paid pastors and accountability of all members.

God is using the coronavirus pandemic as a time to “prune the Church and cut off branches that aren’t bearing fruit,” ultimately allowing the Body of Christ to become more “fruitful,” according to popular speaker and author Francis Chan.

Chan, former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday participated in the Q 2020 Virtual Summit, an annual event that equips Christian leaders to thoughtfully engage culture from a Christian worldview.

“I hear a lot of talk of people being concerned about whether their church is going to survive,” Chan, speaking via Livestream, told host Gabe Lyons. “The illustration I think of is, if I had a diamond right here, and I just smash it with a hammer, what would happen to that diamond? Nothing. If it’s a real diamond, if it shatters, it wasn’t real.”

He pointed out that in Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

“This is going to be a group that the gates of Hell can’t stand against,” Chan explained. “No virus, no government, no economic this or that, life, death, nothing. And so we as believers are supposed to trust the words of Jesus and go, ‘The Church is going to be fine. If anything, this is the time where God is going to prune the Church and cut off branches that aren’t bearing fruit, but it’s only going to become more fruitful.’”

“And so with that type of confidence, we have to move forward and go, what’s the worst thing that happened to me? I die and receive the award I’ve been … longing for my whole life. We can be fearless.”

Statistics from a recent Barna Group survey found that six to nine percent of pastors are unsure or not confident that their church will survive the coronavirus pandemic. Forty-two percent of pastors said giving was “significantly” down and 28 percent said it was “slightly” down. Only around a quarter said it stayed the same.

Additionally, nearly a quarter of American churches (22 percent) have already reduced staff hours, reduced compensation, or laid off employees.

In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, the Crazy Love author stressed that “God knew you and I were going to be alive at this time, adding: “We were literally made for this, prepared for this.”

BUILDING YOUR KINGDOM OR THE KINGDOM OF GOD?

An important video for pastors but also for all saints. It will help them understand what has happened to the church in becoming an institution. A long way from the church in the beginning, as described in the Book of Acts.

A great testimony from a former Methodist pastor who eventually had to resign from his church. A holy spirit filled pastor, speaking in tongues, and intent on taking the church out into the marketplace was not wanted by most of the church. The good news is that before he resigned many in the church became spirit filled believers and of course a church split resulted. You need to listen to his story and understand what is wrong with the institutional church. Hopefully, it will challenge many to get into prayer to find out what God is calling them to do at this climactic time in the history of His planet. The Bible reveals that we are in the “end times”. Two important “end times” signs given by Jesus to His disciples in the Olivet Discourse; 1. rebirth of Israel as a nation has occurred and 2. apostasy in the church is happening.