As the President of Hobby Lobby, Steve Green has accumulated quite a fortune. One of the ways he uses it (apart from his charitable projects) is building the Green Collection – which includes more than 30,000 biblical manuscripts and artifacts. Many of the manuscripts are quite ancient, including some pieces of the Dead Sea scrolls.
One ancient manuscript is called the “Wicked Bible” because of the one word it is missing; the word “not”. Printed in 1631, this Bible mistakenly omitted the crucial word in its listing of the 10 Commandments, so that it reads “Thou shall commit adultery”. Hmmm.. I wonder why that one word was left out of that one commandment? Of all the words that could be left out of a massive number of verses, that’s the one the printer left out?
It got me to thinking about the way we read the Bible today, and what we might leave out. How many times do we subconsciously edit the Bible so that it says what we want it to say? (How many live by the words “You can serve God and Money”?)
When the Bible says something we feel uncomfortable with, it is good to remember how glad we are that the promises of God are written as they are. And that whatever it says that might make us feel uncomfortable actually has a great “upside” when we follow it.
The “Wicked Bible” might be a valuable piece for a collection of rare manuscripts, but the Bible as written is actually a lot more precious!
Our son Daniel a link to a video of an elderly couple having fun playing a piano duet… he said “This will be you guys!” The video went viral on the web — if you want a smile, check it out (it’s just 75 seconds long)
I’d like that to be Linda and I someday! The sense of humor, fun, appreciation of each other and of the simple things of life — I want those to be trademarks of who we no matter how long we live. Today is a good day to live out those traits.
As I write this I hear Linda downstairs playing piano – I think I’ll go surprise her and add some harmony.
Enjoy the gift of this day that God has given you!
Early one morning more than 10 years ago I sat in our church’s prayer room asking “But can it work here?”
I had just read Joel Comiskey’s book Home Cell Group Explosion. I was captivated as I read about churches in Latin America which grew to amazing sizes while producing high quality disciples. The promise of a church which made disciples which made disciples was pulling me strongly.
But suburban Pittsburgh is a long way from Latin America. Would it work here? In prayer that morning I sensed God giving me two seemingly contradictory answers: 1) “What you read won’t work in Pittsburgh”, and, 2) “do it” (implement cell ministry at our church).
As we became a cell-based ministry I was pleased at the results in the lives of our people, and I was highly committed to the foundational principles. It was “working” in many ways. We have grown significantly in both number and maturity. But I knew that God had also shown me “it won’t work here”, and I didn’t know what to make of this contradiction.
Today I realize that God was showing me that copying what happened in Bogata or elsewhere would not work in Pittsburgh; I would need to keep listening to the Spirit about how to shape the ministry around the key biblical principals while learning from others.
For example, our Encounter Retreat is different in many ways from the ones in Bogata or Baton Rouge. Yet, yesterday I was moved to tears as I read accounts of last weekend’s Encounter: a man with no feeling in his feet and walking for years with a cane left healed and no longer uses a cane. A couple that had been ready for divorce and to walk away from God has been transformed. They recommitted to God and to each other – they’re glowing and testifying to God’s power. They credit their group for embracing them with love and guiding them toward the weekend.
I hear so many leaders ask the same question: Will it work here? Answer: What they are doing elsewhere won’t work for you, but the Holy Spirit will show you how to employ the key principles where you are.
Jim Hylton recently spoke at Crossroads on the subject of healing. It was thrilling to hear the reports of people being healed, and to see believers learning themselves how to pray for healing.
I believe churches should equip their people to pray for healing. Jesus told his followers to preach the gospel and to heal the sick. Healing expresses the Kingdom of God in a unique way.
People most effective in healing prayer share a few traits:
1. They listen to God. He will often reveal underlying factors causing the illness and how to pray in response.
2. They pray with expectation — faith that God can and wants to heal.
–> They have compassion.
Some years ago, Jim worked closely with John Wimber, one of the most respected and effective leaders in the area of healing prayer. When I asked him about Wimber, Jim said he was the most compassionate man he had ever known.
It is interesting that this is the quality Jim noted. Wimber was an exceptional, trail-blazing leader; he formed the Vineyard network of churches, taught a pioneering class on signs and wonder at Fuller Seminary, planted a church which quickly grew to over 5,000, created a distinctive style of worship music, and preached all over the world. Pioneering leaders generally can’t afford to be compassionate. Yet what Jim noted about John was that he was the most compassionate man he ever knew.
I asked Jim if John’s compassion was key to his effectiveness at healing, and Jim said, “certainly”. After all, the New Testament tells us that Jesus, filled with compassion, healed others.
We can grow in our ability to pray for healing by asking God to pour into us more of his compassion for hurting people.
The shooter who killed over 90 people in Norway was initially identified as right wing and a fundamentalist Christian who was fighting against multi-culturism. I cringed at the thought of many secular people across Europe connecting “Christian” with “violence”.
Since then we have learned that he was not motivated by religious fervor – he wrote that he was not a very religious man. But still, the question remained, how could someone possibly feel justified in killing so many young people in cold blood?
We can never really understand the mind of someone who would do something this, but it is clear that this man’s convictions become more important to him than anything else – even the lives of teen-agers. They became a sort of idol to him.
While we may never consider a murderous rampage in defense of our ideas, it is worth reflecting on whether we have ever treated someone else poorly while defending a conviction. How many, in the midst of an opinionated argument, will say hurtful and cruel things. Later, after calming down, it might look different.
We are to love the Lord will all our hearts, and then others as ourselves… our convictions need to be a distant third.
Have you invited a friend or family member only to have them say “no”… repeatedly? It can be frustrating and discouraging. UIt may be time to stop talking with them about the church and start talking to them about Jesus.
As I said in my last blog entry, 20 years ago most people would be open to accepting an invitation from a friend to attend a relevant worship service. There are still many who will do so, but today most (maybe most) preChristians are not interested in going to a service, no matter how cool it might be.
Reaching preChristians today requires a different strategy than 20 years ago. Now, instead of only inviting people to come to worship with us, we need to go to them with the message of Jesus.
When speaking with someone who doesn’t go to church, you need to discern whether to talk with that person about the church or about Jesus. Some will respond to an invitation to worship. So go for it!
For those who won’t respond, we need to talk with them about Jesus. They may not be open to attending a service, but they may be open to discussing their beliefs and hearing about how Christ has changed your life.
After all, our mission isn’t really to get them to come to worship, it is to help them find their way back to God.
It is important that we get equipped to share our faith in Jesus with others, because that’s what will reach the 60% of preChristians who won’t step into our building.. at least not at first. Many preChristians say “Jesus yes, Church no”. Yet, when they start to respond to the Gospel, they become a new person and the Holy Spirit will help them realize that the church is essential to their following Jesus.
So to penetrate the world today we need more than a great worship service. We need to equip believers to connect with preChristians and to learn how to share their faith. This is much more effective than a postcard invite in the mail, because the most compelling evidence to the Gospel is a changed life.
Twenty years ago when we started Crossroads Church, our goal was to create a church that unreached people would want to attend and in the process be transformed by Christ. So, we spent a lot of time and resources on developing an engaging worship experience and a welcoming atmosphere. Crossroads continued growth would indicate we were fairly successful at meeting that goal.
Now, 20 years later, not only has my hair line changed, so have the perspectives of unreached people. 20 years ago about 75% of unreached people were open to an invitation to a relevant worship service if invited by a friend. Today, that number has fallen to around 40%. Yes there are still many people who will respond to an invitation to worship, but an increasing number, maybe even more than 60%, will not. It doesn’t matter how excellent the music is, how inspiring the message, or appealing the kids ministry – that 60% aren’t coming. In order to reach an increasingly secular society, churches once again need to change their approach or risk vanishing, like the Church of England may do. “Religion Today Summaries” reports:
“The Church of England’s quickly aging congregations means the denomination will be almost extinct in 2020 unless something is done to attract young people back to the church. … Rev. Dr. Patrick Richmond says. “2020 apparently is when our congregations start falling through the floor because of natural wastage, that is people dying… Another 10 years on, some extrapolations put the Church of England as no longer functionally extant at all.” According to the UK Telegraph, other Synod members compared the church’s direction to a company’s “perfectly and impeccably manage[d] into failure.”
The answer is not to try to attract young people to church, the answer is for the church to reactivate its mission and send its members out daily to offer Christ to a dying world. This will look a lot different than starting a worship band or running cool videos (neither of which are wrong). The 60% (much higher in the U.K) are not coming; we need to be going to them. That means unconventional but effective disciple-making in neighborhoods and workplaces. I’ll say more on that in my next blog.
It’s hard to believe, but it was 20 years ago this month that I was appointed to start Crossroads Church.
My District Superintendent was rather reluctant to tell me of the appointment, thinking, I suppose, that it wasn’t so good to be appointed to a church with no people, no building and no land. But I was thrilled for the opportunity.
Right from the beginning I was convinced that Crossroads would become a large church. I had no clue, though, that we would have multiple campuses nor be working in Mozambique as we are.
These days the leadership team and I are praying over how we can catalyze a movement of Kingdom-minded people who multiply churches and bring the life of Jesus into every sphere of life. That won’t be easy, but then again, ministry hasn’t been easy so far either. The best part is it is not by our power nor ingenuity that this will occur – it is the power of God working among us.
“Missional” has been the buzz-word among evangelical churches for several years now. Many conferences, books, blogs, and even seminary curricula are dedicated to the idea that the church must be missional in order to be relevant today. If you want your book to sell, just insert the word “Missional” in the title.
Broadly speaking, the idea of being missional is to be outward (“extermally”) focused as a church; that is, to move out from behind the walls of the building to impact the surrounding community. This is a vital and important reminder.
Practically though, for many churches, to be “missional” has become synonymous with engaging in projects like tutoring in schools, working at food pantries, or doing any number of noble good deeds. These are worthwhile activities through which the Church should leaven society. However, I must ask, is this the mission for which Jesus trained his 12? I think it falls short to define “missional” in terms of good deeds done for the community.
Jesus’ mission was to usher in the Kingdom of God (not completely – for that will not happen until the end). The Kingdom is “life when God is in charge”. Jesus came preaching and demonstrating the Kingdom of God. For 3 years he taught his 12 to fulfill the mission so they could do so when he left .
In Luke 4 Jesus announced his mission, then immediately launched his ministry by 1) casting out a demon (Luke 4:31-36) 2) healing the sick (Luke 4:38-41) and 3) preaching the good news of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43-44)
After several chapters of watching and helping Jesus do these 3 things, the disciples get their turn. In Luke 9, Jesus sends out the disciples on their first mission, and what does he tell them to do? The same three things they watched him do: preach the gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons. “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.“(Luke 9:1-2) And reading the book of Acts we see the whole church doing a lot of those 3 activities as they fulfill the Great Commission.
I haven’t heard many “missional” speakers/teachers urge us to do those 3 things Jesus told his followers to do. Why not? Have we succumbed to rationalism — reading the Bible with a filter over our eyes which strains out anything that smacks of the supernatural? Is it easier to say “your sins are forgiven” than “rise up and walk”?
I am not suggesting that we eliminate helping the poor from our definition of what it means to be missional. But it is far too narrow (and ineffectual) to define missional primarily in these terms. We also need to reclaim our missional heritage by doing that which only Jesus’ Church can do: preach the Gospel, and demonstrate the Kingdom of God through healing the body and spirit by the power of God. The great moves of God around the globe are marked with many of the signs found in the book of Acts. In order to fulfill the Great Commission we need to equip members of our churches with all the tools God provides.
Next month we will be offering a workshop at our church on how to pray for the sick. I look forward to seeing many followers of Jesus become missional as they fan out into their neighborhoods and workplaces, equipped to demonstrate the love of God through the power of God.
Spiritual gifts are essential tools God gives us, his people, in order to fulfill his Kingdom mission. We each need to be instructed in the nature of use of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1) A spiritual gift is a special ability God gives to Christ-follower for the purpose of service. They are different from the fruit of the Sprit (which are character traits). List of gifts can be found in 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and elsewhere.
One of the truths about gifts that I don’t often hear taught is that they are amplification of common Christian traits.
For example, some people have the gift of helps. They love to work behind the scenes to help others in practical ways. While not every believer will have this gift, we are all to pitch in and help when the occasion requires it.
We are all called, for instance, to share our faith. But some are uniquely gifted so that people come to Christ more frequently when they share their faith. They have the gift of evangelism.
Even those with the same gift will have it in different proportions. One evangelist may be effective in leading hundreds to Christ, while someone like Billy Graham leads millions.
Spiritual gifts are not a “have it or you don’t” proposition — it is a matter of proportion.
Unless we understand this, our spiritual growth will be stunted as we shrink back from basic Christian ministry in the name of giftedness. ” I can’t talk to that person about Jesus, I don’t have the gift of evangelism.” Or, “I can’t pray for that person to be healed because I don’t have the gift of healing.” Minister as the occasion requires, but spend more of your time in areas you are most gifted.
Spiritual gifts are not given by God to limit how we respond to needs. They simply add to the strength of the Church as those with extra abilities use their gifts as tools for the upbuilding of the Kingdom.
Steve Cordle is the founding and lead pastor of Crossroads Church, a small group-based congregation with five locations in the Pittsburgh metro area. He also leads a18movement, a non-profit dedicated catalyzing church plants globally. Steve is the author of three books: A Jesus-Shaped Life, Hear it, See it, Risk it, and The Church in Many Houses. He coaches pastors and church planters in the United States and Western Europe. He enjoys running, playing classical piano, and all Pittsburgh sports. Steve is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary (M. Div) and United Theological Seminary (D. Min). Steve and his wife, Linda, have three grown sons, three daughters-in-love, and three grandchildren.
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