Tuesday, November 25

The Big Picture

Felicity Dale recently shared a post entitled What in the world is God up to? on her blog Simply Church. With the media political viewpoint on events in today's world we often do not see or hear about what God is doing in the midst of the nations. With Felicity's permission I reprint her encouraging post below.

  • There are probably more Christians in China now than members of the Communist Party.
  • In Asia, the T4T training has resulted in more than 1.7 million baptisms over the past 10 years.
  • In India, a Hindu nation, one house church network with which I am familiar, is seeing around one million baptisms per year.
  • Now seems to be God’s time for the Muslim world. In one nation we know, there are thousands of house churches. In another area of the Middle East, there is a movement that has more than 12,000 house churches.
  • A Buddhist nation has seen more than 110,000 new believers in the past 10 years.
  • In 1991, when the Communists lost control of Mongolia, there were maybe 4 or 5 known Christians. Estimates are that now, just over 20 years later, there are around 100,000.
  • In Africa, Rolland and Heidi Baker have seen more than 10,000 new churches formed in Mozambique and the surrounding nations.
    A few years ago, all of this would have seemed impossible. We may not be seeing huge numbers here in the West, but God is on the move in much of the rest of the world. Most (not all) the examples I’ve given here have occurred with disciple making movements/church planting movements. In these movements, the emphasis is on what is going on outside of the traditional church building. Ordinary believers are making disciples and leading small groups that eventually meet as churches.
    I know that numbers are not everything, but they are an indication of what God is up to. Several years ago, Wolfgang Simson did a survey of the largest churches in the world. If you include networks of churches that meet in homes, then numbers one through 19 are networks of house churches and number 20, at the time of his survey, was Paul Yonggi Cho’s church in Seoul, Korea.
    Throughout the world, God is using ordinary people—just like you—to start churches. What is there to stop you doing the same?

Monday, November 3

Neil Cole's "Primal Fire: Reigniting the Church with the Five Gifts of Jesus"

I ended up highlighting 138 separate passages in this book. What a gold mine of insight about the Eph. 4 APEST team and how they function! So much of what is written in these pages expresses my own heartbeat concerning the forgotten and yet-needed roles of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. We need the APEST functions as much today as when they were first given to the church in the first century.

I found the author's treatment of 1 Timothy 3 passage to be especially thought-provoking. Cole points out, for example, that some translators assume the role of 'overseer' in 3:1 to be an 'office' and hence, "stopped translating and started teaching something that Paul did not intend." In 3:8-13 I found his suggestion compelling that, "the roles of deacon and deaconess are the fulfillment of the equipping gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11—that is, deacons and deaconesses are the mature apostles, prophets , evangelists, shepherds, and teachers who equip the saints for the work of service." He goes on to state,

"From this perspective, an elder’s role is less broad in influence than that of a deacon or deaconess, and more focused on a specific spiritual family (what we would see as an oikos, which is a spiritual household of faith or a missional community). As such, the necessary abilities for the elder’s role are more specifically defined, and teaching is essential to that more limited role. In contrast, perhaps deacons and deaconesses are capable of many more ministry assignments (five, to be specific) on a broader scale, only one of which would be as “teacher.” That is, deacons may serve as apostles, prophets, evangelists, or shepherds."

I also resonated with the description of apostles and prophets (AP) being the START AND GO team, while evangelists, shepherds and teachers make up the STAY AND GROW team building upon the foundation set by the AP team. If you've ever wondered about what each of these five functions entail, this book does a wonderful job in spelling out how these work together and how each is needed.

The book repeatedly emphasizes something I have long believed and taught others, that each of the APEST are there to equip the saints for the work of service. They do not exist to be DOING the work themselves, but "for the EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." Since this goal has not yet been reached, there is still the ongoing need of modern apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to be about the appointed tasks. Cole does a good job in pointing out counterfeits to the real thing.

All in all, this is an excellent and much needed read for the greater Body of Christ, especially those in church leadership roles. We need to get back into a more Biblical balance in regards to being servants first and foremost.