GROW

GROW

We have lived in a Christian culture that has in the last several decades focused on the word, GROW. So, GROW became the goal, the focus. GROW was to be accomplished at any cost. There have been all kinds of gimmicks for GROW. Pastors have submitted themselves to outlandish schemes to entice people to come to church like shaving their hair off, taking pies in the face, you name the gimmick; it has been done. Along came Seeker-Sensitive and churches became places for plays, concerts, feel good messages, relaxed atmospheres, anything that would make people of the world feel comfortable. While many of the changes for that purpose were good, the problem usually lie in the compromise of the messages to make the gospel fun or changing the gospel to a people centered semi-psychological therapy. The message of repent and be baptized was lost. Self help replaced conviction and conversion.

GROW is important, but I think we need to return to Bible GROW. Jesus’ idea of GROW is way different than ours. His GROW is a new birth. His GROW is repentance and forgiveness. His GROW is new life and new lifestyle reflecting the conversion. Also, his GROW sometimes meant the loss of followers, people walking away, people not following ever again. His GROW includes severe pruning sometimes.

It is hard for us to think that way. We equate numbers with growth. Our whole economy is based on growing. Corporations are always looking for 20% annual growth. If they do not get that number; they push the sales force and production to get their act together and do better. We judge our companies by their annual performance and place in the stock market.

The kingdom of God is different. GROW means adding souls to the kingdom through life changing conversion. GROW is defined also as becoming more like Jesus through progressive changes internally and externally as the Holy Spirit works. GROW has the component of community where the life change is shared with others. No growth is intended by hype, but by conviction of the Holy Spirit.

There are times where there are large in-gatherings. These come most times in a move of God, a revival of some sort, a world wide event of the Spirit. However, most growth comes from one by one interaction. Then, sadly, there are times of a great falling away as the Lord winnows the harvest. All this is contained in the scriptures, all of this is spoken of by Jesus. He gives parables explaining these things. There is even prophecy of a great falling away.

So, we must direct our attention to Jesus’ definition of GROW. Let the rejoicing be in one who comes out of the darkness, the lost condition, into the glorious light of salvation through repentance and forgiveness.

P. Bill

Platform

PLATFORM

As I mentioned in the opening of last week’s message, Rod Parsley in his keynote address at the Stand Your Ground Conference, spoke of the difference between a stage and a platform. His comment was a stage is for a performance and a platform was to elevate the speaker or singers to be visible for leading. He went on to say that every ministry needs a sub structure, a platform that holds up the leader, the vision, the purpose.

No one can do it alone. Every leader needs folks and structures that take the vision forward. Every leader needs people, supporters, followers who believe in the direction, the vision, and the leader’s capability to take them there. However, the scriptures indicate that where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, or in other translations, they perish.

I have been singular in my vision. I have been consistent in expressing it. It has been my concern for many years, even before becoming pastor here. But since coming I have been working toward, casting vision for, looking for the next generation of leaders to come into existence. I have met resistance, outright objection, counter actions to block that from coming to pass; yet I have held vehemently to that vision.

I have had numerous fine, potential younger leaders driven from the church. Before I came there were a number of young leaders who were driven out and now they serve in other churches. Of all the ones I have worked with during my first years here, there is only one left and he was nearly driven away. We have some more who have come and I am hoping for better things now.

Like the Marines, I am looking for a few good men (and women)! I want young leaders who have that “semper fi” in them (always faithful). This is not limited to teens, twenties. This is not limited to men.This is across the board, multigenerational. Focusing on next generation leadership is not abandoning any age group. If you are older, you are not done! You have the job to mentor, disciple. The reason there is complaint about working with the next generation is that the older generation has not bought into the mandate of Jesus to disciple. The older generation has failed because they became enamored with entertainment in the form of teachings, conferences, self help books. They lost the nitty gritty of getting dirty with ministering to the lost and caring for them. Going to conferences and waving flags and dancing may feel good, but it is not doing the work of the kingdom.

It is time for the younger generation to quit complaining and engage. It is time for the older generation to quit being peevish and critical and accept and encourage the young. Remember, you were young once and had the same complaint leveled at you. Let’s build a platform to support the vision and the leaders.

P. Bill

Stand Your Ground

Cathy and I attended the “Stand Your Ground” conference in Bucyrus last Friday and Saturday. We were invited and cared for by Victory in Truth ministries. J.C. Church is the pastor and is active in statewide and national Christian issues and how they effect government. The list of speakers represented various areas of concern and how Christians must stand their ground. There were around 700 people there and a good third of them were pastors and Christian leaders.

Pastor Church spoke first and stirred everyone with his message and illustrations. The key of his message was that America does not have a political problem; it has a spiritual problem. Rather than it being primarily a political event, it was a spiritual event. The challenge throughout the conference was for the pastors to quit being weak and compromising and to stand their ground. It was a strong call to make the pulpit a place of the Gospel message with themes of born again, repentance, conversion, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

To me, it was encouraging that the message that has resonated in my heart and which we have been working on, and still need to work on, is being heard in the hearts of leaders throughout the country. There is a movement in the making which already has begun to gain momentum. Rod Parsley was the final speaker and he brought the house to its feet numerous times in agreement and excitement. The whole conference was a shot in the arm of courage and resolve.

We really do have a spiritual problem. The aggression of the enemy and the laxity of the saints has laid waste to our morals and culture. The voices of the enemy are loud and clear, aggressive and violent. They have successfully changed moral issues into political issues. They have changed moral issues into civil rights issues. They have made the voice of morality sound illegal. The challenge is for the Christian to find his voice again. This was the prayer of the group, Find your Voice.

Another great concern and topic was the lack of difference between the world and the church. Rod Parsley put it well when he said that there are too many decisions and not enough conversions. Decisions are intellectual and conversions are transformational to the heart and lifestyle. I have long decried that fact.

Another theme was there is too much self help preaching and too little gospel being preached. It is not your better life, but Christ living in you. There is so much to unpack in that statement that it could take weeks.

This movement of God is calling the church back to the basics and defining what those basics are. The Gospel is being placed in the premier place instead of the background. It is time for the saints to find their voice of truth and speak it and stand our ground.

P. Bill

Moving in the Movement

Moving in the Movement

We are in August already. School starts in August. Where did the days go? Camp is over, back to school shopping has started. The stores are packed with school supplies, moms and dads are ready to buy the new clothes and shoes that reflect the growth spurts of summer. The weather has been beautiful the last few days, but much of early summer was so wet that it now seems there was little to no summer.

We have had our big pushes of the summer. We had a wonderful Serve the Valley, the Summer Lunch program was successful, Impact Camp was tremendous. Every venue was productive for the kingdom.

As we move into the latter part of summer and the beginning of fall, we will continue developing the church with our vision and new covenant approach. I knew when we started in this direction that it would take time to develop. With every movement of God there are things to unlearn, learn, and activate. Each movement through the years starts with a specific renewal or developing revelation. It usually ends up in people trying to memorialize the movement and its revelation rather than staying current with the move of God. So, what happens is many get stuck, petrified in the old form. When God begins to reveal more or take us back to basics to clear the excess, the tendency is to baulk and refuse to move. This is when we are challenged by God.

The challenge becomes one of value. Is what we had more important than what we can have? Are our doctrines sacred and guarded or can God show us more? Are our ways of doing things God’s ways or habits we have formed? Is our definition of holiness his, or our interpretation that has led to rigidity and legalism? And, is our expression of church a form that has been developed and comfortable or is it a reflection of the dynamic of the Holy Spirit?

This is why a movement is necessary, but also scary. We are forced to move. Move into territory unfamiliar, uncharted. Also, it is exciting, adventurous, and foreign. One moment we will feel like the explorer and at other times we feel like “lost in the woods.” We will find some things that work and others that fail. I know, we hate failure, but every adventure, every inventor has failed in the process of discovery and revelation.

This is where we have to quit thinking that everything has to be perfect in our pursuit and walk with God. It is a journey and learning the voice of God takes time and trial and error. Learning to walk in the Spirit is a challenge. We miss it a lot. We succeed rarely, but we learn with each attempt. You never get a hit if you never step to the plate and swing. Most great home run hitters also led the team in strike outs. As my mom always told me, “Can’t, never did anything.”

This movement will have its successes and failures, but we are called, commanded to “Just Do it!”

Pastor Bill

Summer Lunch Program

Summer Lunches for Kids

 This summer, we once again had the Summer Lunch Program in the Hitchman Park. This program is designed to give latch key kids a summer lunch. It coincides with the Library Reading program. Mothers and their children who are participating in the reading program come for the lunch and activities before the reading program begins.

This year, Michaela served as the program leader. Along with a lot of the youth group she brought high energy fun things for the kids. The Serve the Valley Churches all contributed to the financial backing and we had Johanna and Patrick involved most of the time. 

There were 50 plus registered over the summer. The average attendance was in the mid 20’s as families came and went through the summer. When we finished this past Monday, the kids were disappointed that it ended. They were having a great time. Michaela and the youth made the summer fun for a bunch of kids. A comment was that many of them never get out to have that level of activities and interaction.

Also, thanks to the Butler Nutrition Center who packed the lunches every Monday and Wednesday. They prepared over 220 lunches with smiles and happy to serve.

Also, Tanya served coffee on a few Wednesdays and engaged the mothers in conversation.

Reaching out to the community is going to take some time to seriously engage them and to begin to see results, but we have already changed the view of the church in the minds of the people. We are also receiving cooperation when we seek to do something in the community. We are slowly becoming a factor in the valley.

Again thanks to Michaela as she has served a limited internship this summer. With the time available, she has done a great job. Thanks.