Doing Church

” For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20 ESV

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When I initially submitted my first dissertation proposal on “doing church,” the Chair turned me down. In his opinion, the subject matter was too vast and the research too difficult. His recommendation was to find another topic more easily digested. I did. However the subject of doing church still intrigues me.

When most of us think of church, we picture a building or an institution. In America we may even think of a legal corporation. Some of us may associate church with a specific denomination. Others are more open.

When we think of how church is conducted, most of us will associate a church service as the only way of doing church. Yes there are a variety. The Catholic and Greek Orthodox have their rituals and traditions with a short message. The Protestants have their contemporary music with a more lengthier message. The Amish and Mennonite’s have a more yesterday act. Yet, how many other ways are there to do church?

What has intrigued me is how Church is more than a meeting held in an official place. When one understands that Church is a Body of people (Eph. 1:22-23) who come together to worship God, the venues become worldwide.

When your immediate family comes together with an everyday heart and mind of worshiping God, isn’t Church in session? When two or more of you come together in the workplace in the Spirit of serving God and man, isn’t Church in session? When you are driving on the freeway with a fellow believer with a heart to glorify God, isn’t Church in session?

The fact Church is much larger than most of us ever contemplated, makes how Church is conducted even more than what most of us ever practice.

So the next time you are in the marketplace, ask yourself how can you best glorify God through your work, relationships, and deeds. In so behaving, are you not doing Church?

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Founder & Executive Director
Marketplace Bible Institute
& Resource Center, Inc
Author of e-Books:
* Great Business Emulates a Good God
* Be Radical…Follow Christ!
* Simply The Messenger
* Unequally Married

Theology 101

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:9

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Why is theology important?

Recently we had a lively discussion regarding the importance of theology. The majority of the group believed that the Bible was all that they needed. That theology was man’s attempt to lead people astray. They looked at the Bible through the eyes of one simple worldview. They admitted that all they knew was what they initially learned. They didn’t want to take the time to understand why their brothers and sisters in other denominations believed what they do. As far as they were concern, what they believed was right and others were wrong. They didn’t realize that everyone already has a theological belief. The question is “what is yours?”

First, theology is simply the study of God. It studies the Bible from a wholesome point of view. Instead of extracting pieces of the Word at a time, it looks to bring all the pieces together to form a coherently understanding of God’s hand in the matter.

There is a study of God for a multitude of different subjects. For example, the theology of salvation, the theology of grace, the theology of creation, the theology of the Kingdom of God, the theology of (add whatever subject you can think of and there probably is already a formal study on the matter).

The thought that what one believes may not be absolutely correct bothers some people. The idea that others may have more truth on a subject matter may also be humbling for a few.
The relevancy of any theological belief is simply the Christ-like fruit it bears. If love, joy, and peace is the mainstay of a person’s life, then maybe one may want to listen and learn. We all have a theological belief system in play. The question comes to how close is the study to reality and truth. Of course reality and truth is measured through one person: Jesus Christ. And yes there is a theology of Christ, called Christology.

The more we come to know and understand God, the more we are humbled and at awe of His divine work and physical masterpiece. The better we understand the beliefs of others, the easier it becomes to communicate and relate with them. Therefore, when one’s theology is grounded in Christ, His Word, and Spirit, the journey through life becomes more immeasurable with gratitude, love, and joy.

I may not agree with others theological position at times, but I do love and respect them. My heart fully understands that whoever may be closer to the truth, God in His time will reveal that to us too. The important thing is to continue grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is a simple theological position that every mature believer I meet quickly agrees too. And so do I.

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Executive Chair, Consultant, Encourager
Marketplace Bible Institute
& Resource Center, Inc
Author of e-Books:
* Great Business Emulates a Good God
* Be Radical…Follow Christ!
* Simply The Messenger
* Unequally Married

Learn. Integrate. Grow.

 

MINISTRY INSIGHTS FROM A TENT MAKER

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Paul worked for 1 ½ years with a husband and wife team (Aquila and Priscilla) while conducting missionary work in Corinth (Acts 18:2).  While working as a tent maker, he continued to teach the Word in the local synagogue.  It is of interest how he employed the word “work” throughout his life and teachings, especially in relationship to what God is doing and what His people are doing.  The importance of work is highlighted throughout his letters.

Luke quotes Paul in Acts 20:32-35, ”You yourselves know that these hands of  mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give, than to receive.'”

In the letter from Ephesians 4:28 Paul writes, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. In 1 Thess 4:11-12 he writes, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

In the above scriptures Paul emphasized the point of working to support oneself and one’s family rather than live as a beggar dependent on others for necessities. Paul himself demonstrated the importance of having a skill (tent making) that provides a service to others (shelter) and a livelihood for oneself. A Christian is to gladly work “unto the Lord” (Col 3:22-24).  The work one does should not glorify oneself, but God.  In addition, the work should be a means to provide for those less fortunate – “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Also, as work relates to fulfilling God’s plan, He writes in Titus 1:7 that “an overseer is entrusted with God’s work.” Barnabas and Paul was set apart by the Holy Spirit for this work (Act 13:2-3). And not only were they commissioned for this work, but had to support themselves in the process (I Cor 9:6).  He again writes how one’s work for the Lord must stand the test of trials, difficulties, problems,  especially when we shall all be evaluated at the end of this age (I Cor 3:10-15).

He was primarily focused on the Lord’s work and only labored to support himself and his team, not to gain riches. He practiced what he preached.  The work of the Lord was the priority in his life and for all those that the Lord calls (I Cor 15:58, 16:9,10).  While working his craft, he contemplated and compared the physical craft of tent making to the spiritual work God is completing in us as a church and as an individual. His analogy of the body working together as a team with all its parts supporting one another is but one example of lessons learned while working (I Cor 12:12-13).

All tent-makers need to stand up and rejoice.  It is an example for all people everywhere that the craft, skill, profession, and work we perform is more than just to feed ourselves.  It’s a means of grace that we practice.  When we work, we are able to support those less fortunate than ourselves and therefore practice love of our neighbor.  When we work, we learn how God operates in our lives.  When we work, we are able to compare and better understand the spiritual realities we face each day.  When we work, we are able to express ourselves by the results of our labor.  When we work, we contribute to the community we reside in.  There are many valuable lessons we learn while we work. To paraphrase Jesus, “God works, and so do I.”

What other insights of ministry do you think Paul may have received while engaged as a tent maker?

Dr. Mike

WHAT ARE SOME MINISTRY ACTIVITIES THAT REFLECT A BELIEF IN THE APOSTLE’S CREED STATEMENT ABOUT “GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY?”

There are a number of activities that turn belief in the Apostle’s Creed’s statement “God, the Father Almighty” into ministerial activities.  They include: 1):pro-life activities – from making decisions to keep ones baby to foster homes for the discarded child. 2) creation education – from Christian schools teaching creation to individual ministries emphasizing the factual account of creation rather than evolution. 3) exercising creativity – God is Creator and His creation reflects His artistic skills.  Ministries that emphasize the Arts in worship or the writing and development of music, books, film that glorifies God and His Life is an expression of creativity that focuses on God as Father and Creator. 4) Stewardship – God is a Steward of His creation.  He practices conservation and effective management of His creation.  Ministries that teach proper stewardship of ones resources is a prime example.  Also, ministries that focuses on the environment and conservation of our resources is another means of expressing these types of activities.  5) Restoring Father/Son relationships – Ministries that provide counseling or activities that improves the bond between Fathers and their children is another example of a ministry built on the belief of God as our Father.

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All the above ministries are practiced by certain individuals in our local church.  Coming from a small church with very few formal church-wide ministries, most ministries are conducted by a few individuals motivated and led to fulfill their calling in life.  These ministries include all the above from one degree to another.

One approach to emphasis our God’s Authority is to conduct a series of sermons  about His relationship to us as a healthy Father.  Taking scriptures from Genesis, the Gospels, and Epistles, we can show His desire to have a close, intimate relationship with His children.

Isn’t it amazing the many activities we conduct only mimic our Heavenly Father God’s attributes?  What other ministry activities would you add to the list?

Dr. Mike

WHAT WOULD A JOB DESCRIPTION LOOK LIKE BASED ON LUKE 4:18-19?

 

          “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”    Luke 4:18-19

Work for Christ

           When a person reads the above scripture which our Lord quoted at the start of His ministry, one must first stop reading after verse eighteen to allow the total impact of that one verse to capture the real meaning of ministry. It emphasizes that the motivation comes from God through the Spirit and is not the fulfillment of a personal goal or ambition. The influence of the Holy Spirit is so strong that a person cannot run or hide from it, but must confront it and accept it as his/hers destiny.  It is not a personal career choice, but the acceptance of a calling from God that is demonstrated by one’s fruit and the results produced by action.

It is an assurance that as long as the person follows the lead of the Holy Spirit in one’s ministry, one is doing God’s work and will therefore prosper (in God’s Way) and fulfill God’s intentions. When one is anointed by our Lord, his ministry and life style will reflect that of his boss.  He will be an ambassador of Christ knowing that he has been set apart to fulfill an assignment in the Kingdom of God for His glory.

If one was to prepare a job description based on this scripture, we first need to answer several questions. They include: Who are you primarily accountable to for your ministry?  What is the good news?  What is real freedom?  What is true recovery?  Who are the poor, the prisoner, the blind, and the oppressed? How do you best preach, proclaim, recover, and release? What is the Lord’s favor?        When do you know your assignment is completed?

The first part identifies who you work for and who is in charge of your ministry.  It identifies whose lead you must follow and who you are answerable to. It states where your authority comes from and who your partners in ministry likewise submit to.

The first part also identifies the source of the good news.  It is not my good news, not my community’s good news, not my country’s good news, and not really even my church’s good news.  It is the good news of Jesus Christ which the Spirit reveals to those called and given ears to hear and a mind to understand. It is a message that can be verbally preached, visually preached, artistically preached, musically preached, orally preached, scripturally preached, historically preached, scientifically preached, and even genealogically preached.

The scripture likewise identifies who our “customer” is.  They are “the poor”, “the prisoner”, “the blind”, and “the oppressed.  All are conditions that may occur physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The customer base or market literally encompasses all mankind. Every person who has ever lived falls into some category which places him under at least one of these conditions.

It focuses on the outcome and end result that is achieved through ministry. The “poor” have good news preached to them; prisoners have freedom to look forward to; the blind are able to see; the oppressed are set free; and the year of the Lord’s favor is proclaimed. The best way to communicate your message to your audience is dependent on the resources at your disposal and your strengths. The key is to identify the needs of your audience and communicate the message that applies to them.

How would you summarize the meaning of ministry as described in Luke 4:18-19? Also, if you had to make a job description from this scripture, what would you include?

Dr. Mike

WHO ARE YOU FOLLOWING?

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself;

he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.

Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.”

John 5:19 (Jesus’ reply to a question)

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            Isn’t it amazing that over a long-term relationship like marriage how two people can anticipate what the other is going to do or say while the statement or activity has just begun? We all know people who have been married for over fifty years and have become “one” in their mannerism, appearance, and focus.  Isn’t that same physical relationship a mirror image of the type of spiritual relationship that Jesus taught and managed to maintain with His Father?

Jesus was on a mission.  His entire focus was to complete and to fulfill scripture. In the process, He relied on following the lead of His Father. His personal ambitions were set aside (Luke 4:1:13) after the desert test. He denied Himself and followed the path of the cross towards His destiny.

Many local churches should find this encouraging that their mission is not to become a “great church” in the eyes of the world or community, but to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.  Many times this may deny them of new buildings, programs or worldly goals, but in return, the Holy Spirit will lead them to serve unselfishly, humbly, without fanfare or worldly recognition as Christ did in His time.

Most recently in my own life I had a Jonah experience.  I was being led to except a new job assignment within an organization that operates in a Hindu culture. Like Jonah, I knew God wanted His message delivered but I didn’t want to be the person to deliver it. Instead, I made every excuse possible to avoid the situation.  The bottom line though, God has a way to accomplish His will and in His love and patience will work with the individuals involved.  Like Jonah, I finally made the decision to fulfill my part of delivering God’s word to people He has chosen. Life is much simpler when we step aside; seek God’s direction as He leads us and follow His work rather than build for our glory and image.  When the work is His, we will be truly amazed at what can be accomplished.

What is our Heavenly Father showing you at this time in your life that you may be fighting him to pursue?

Dr. Mike

“BE STILL…” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

           “Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

Palms 46:10 (NIV)

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             In today’s culture, where multiple activities, performance-orientation, and the push to achieve greater results are the showcase of a successful life, it is easy to get caught up living the same trap, being so busy that God is pushed out of the picture and the relationship becomes stranded. When we become the center of attention rather than God, and the self is more important in the equation than God, we have lost our greatest strength.  By always first applying Palms 46:10 in the equation, it allows us to focus our lives and participate with “God’s work through us” rather than jump into our work “hoping God will bless it.”  When we stop ourselves to focus on God first, God allows us to capture a better glimpse of his majesty and power.

Every relationship takes time to build and the more intimate relationship even takes greater time. In Luke 10:38-41, Mary sits still before Jesus listening to His teaching while her sister Martha is busy with the necessary activity to provide for the hospitality of their guests. Jesus even states that Mary has chosen the better of the two. In my early twenties when we were very performance-oriented and moved mountains before even asked to, we approached life from the perspective of starting first, then asking God’s blessing on it after starting, and wonder how come things wouldn’t work out as planned. It took awhile to learn how to determine whether a project was my ministry, the church’s or God’s.  It took time to reach the point where we wouldn’t even begin a project until we “first heard from God”.  Over time, we leaned the difference between seeing the hand of God on a project versus only our hand.  Many times God had to intervene to safe us from ourselves.

Of the various individuals who have impacted me, none other than George Mueller would qualify for the top ten list.  His faith to perform a work and wait on God to provide is a lesson for all to take heart.  His experience and confirmation of God’s involvement was constantly demonstrated by the miracles of assistance without asking anyone but God in prayer. He ministered to over 10,000 children without asking for assistance from anyone but God. Therefore, he knew God’s hand was involved through the entire process and it strengthen him during the low moments of his ministry.

Trust begins with baby steps and over time leads to the Mueller experience. Since we are all on a journey of transformation in Christ, why not stop kidding ourselves and begin to live the adventurous life of a saint. I assure you. If you started a written journal today, you would find by life-end a story worth publishing into a Hollywood movie.  It all starts with “Being Still…”

Dr. Mike

What will it take for you to be still for one day?