Today I wanted to take a moment to bring an update regarding God’s direction for Mary and I.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
For a while we have known that Mary and I’s time in Rogers, Arkansas is finished and have been wrestling with where to go from here, whether back to China, or somewhere else in the U.S.
I have a tremendous desire to return to China in order to serve the body there, especially to help look out after the brethren we know there, and, for a time I allowed that desire to lead our plans rather than waiting upon the Lord to make clear and straight paths for us.
As we were pursuingg plans to return to China, we had a number of very good teaching jobs presenting themselves, even some that seemed secure. But, I did not have the same peace of Christ with me as I usually do, so we had been continuing in prayer to see the Lord’s will.
I asked the Lord to close doors of employment to places that He did not want us to go to and received emails or calls that night from every school we were talking to informing me that the positions were no longer available.
Then, in October, the Lord miraculously answered a prayer to provide me the means to go down to New Orleans for the Priority One conference by having a brother whom I hadn’t spoken to in almost three years contact me and tell me that he wanted to pay for the whole trip! While I was there the Lord began placing His fire, zeal, and vision in me for the work that He is calling us to in the U.S. now.
We began asking God for two things: 1) that He would give us the transcendent peace of Christ in our hearts for the work He would have us do, and 2) that He would confirm it by providing the necessary employment and provision.
Just before Thanksgiving the Lord confirmed the peace that was entering my heart in October by bringing a job offer to Mary in Kansas City for a teaching position in a school system that is very difficult to get jobs in, during the hardest time of the year to find teaching jobs, and provides the provision necessary to do the work we feel called to do.
And, as seems to be the usual case for us, we had very little notice before we needed to be in Kansas City; we will be moving tomorrow on December 6th!
Although we are not moving back to China, and, I’ve felt the chastisement of the Lord for allowing myself to make plans according to the desire of my heart rather than the confirmed direction of the Lord, I am not forgetting the brethren in China: we are looking into recording Bible studies for them and meeting with them live online after they watch them to answer questions and do followup ministry.
The Lord has made straight paths for Mary and I, and sent to us the refreshing clarity of His will, and we are ever thankful for this!
MINISTERING IN KANSAS CITY
Regarding the work set before us in Kansas City, I feel both overjoyed and utterly and completely insufficient! Yet I boast in the confidence which God has given to us in Christ!
I continue to seek further revelation and understanding of the Lord’s will but want to take to providing this update on what has been revealed to us regarding the Lord’s calling.
Although I hadn’t put it into these words yet, after talking to brother Shannon about these things, he told me, “it sounds like you’re being led to plant a Church”, and that seems like an accurate description to me.
The ministry that the Lord has been showing me to do is as follows:
- Prayer and worship
- The Ministry of the Word
I know that regardless of the size of our assembly, whether 3 or 30,000, we will not organize into the 501c3 Tax structure that American churches have traditionally organized into. The Church is not an inanimate organization! We are the living body of Christ, and I do not wish to be anything more or less than that.
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” ~John 4:23-24
It is amazing to me that God says He is searching for those who worship Him in spirit and truth!
There is perhaps no greater aim for a person’s life than to apply himself or herself heartily to worshipping God in spirit and truth, offering the whole of their life to God as a living sacrifice of praise! Worship is not to be dead and dutiful, nor offered with zealous flames of false fire!
IN ALL THINGS
The first thing God is showing me regarding the ministry of worship is that we are bound and hindered in our worship: it is hindered by things like apathy, the need for entertainment, and the traditions of men that nullify the commandments of God. Some churches may have zealous worship services, while others may be orderly, but they are both dead because their concern is not for the things of God, but for men (whether entertainment or tradition, both are equally defiling to worship).
“Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” ~1 Corinthians 10:31
“If anyone speaks, let it be as it were the very words of God. If anyone serves, let it be as of the strength which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” ~1 Peter 4:11 (cf John 13:31
We need to bring the whole of our lives through the gates of “spirit and truth” to worship God! We do not belong to ourselves anymore because we have been bought with the blood of Christ, therefore, we need to learn how to offer every element of our life as living worship to God!
Those who paint, let them bring glory to God in the assembly with their art, those who sing, do likewise, those who dance, do likewise, those who write poetry, likewise! And, let us not forget those who handle money wisely, let them likewise bring glory to God in the assembly!
It is time for the Church to get zealous about doing all things to the glory of God! We should be carefully considering each and every one of our skills and diligently seeking for ways to offer them to God for His glory!
LET ALL CREATION WORSHIP
Can a city on top of a hill be hidden? Does anyone light a candle and set a basket over it? Why, then, is our worship hidden behind four walls?
The Lord showed me that we need to declare the praises of God before all creation! And, to that end, we will take days to meet together in public places, like parks and the backyards of our brethren, to worship God.
When we meet in the backyards of our brother’s and sister’s houses, we will go with them to invite their neighbors to join us in worship.
Something the Lord has been showing me is how interconnected all ministries are, even as “there is One Spirit who gives many gifts”.
Prayer and worship are not independent of one another.
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” ~Isaiah 56:7
It was from within the house of prayer that the sacrifices of praise were offered to God with joy! And you, my brothers and sisters, are the Lord’s house of prayer!
DOOR TO DOOR PRAYER MINISTRY
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” ~John 15:7-8
The bearing of fruit through prayer is appointed to bring glory to God!
Even as much as the ministry of prayer begins in the quietude of the prayer closet and moves out into the Church assembly, it must not stop there! Prayer should proceed out as a sweet smelling aroma to God before all men by which He is glorified.
We will go door to door to pray for the people around us. Our aim is to minister to the needs of those who are heavy laden that God may be glorified before their eyes and drive away their unbelief! We pray that those who do not know the gospel will get a chance to have the gospel preached to them in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit- Lord let it be so!
STREET EVANGELISM AND PRAYER
Just as the ministry of worship is interconnected with prayer, so also is the ministry of prayer interconnected with the word (something we’ll look at closer in a moment).
We are going to do a lot of street evangelism. But, alongside the ministry of the word we will have brethren whose ministry will be to offer prayer to people on the street who are hurting and discouraged. I truly believe this is the heart of outreach and it will be one of our focuses.
IN THE ASSEMBLY
“These all continued [in the upper room] with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” ~Acts 1:14
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” ~Colossians 4:2
It is not impossible to build a large ministry without prayer. But it is impossible to build one that glorifies God without it!
Prayer composes the assembly and from it flows our worship, speaking, and ministering.
HOSPITAL PRAYER VISITS
At the judgment seat of Christ, the Lord is going to say to many who cast out demons in His name “depart from me you worker of iniquity… for, I was sick and you did not visit me!”
Visiting the sick, whether or not they attend our assembly, in hospitals is one of the avenues in which we will take our prayer outside.
THE PRAYER CLOSET
Jesus’ first commandment regarding prayer is to “go into your closet and pray”. Our private time spent in our prayer closets composes everything else we do: from it will flow our praises to God, our speaking “as the oracles of God”, and every other thing we do.
This is an entirely private ministry. Therefore no one will be accountable to anyone else for their prayer closet except to God! We will simply be here to encourage and exhort our brothers in this direction for their edification.
REGARDING THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD
“One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” ~Proverbs 28:9
This has been something that the Lord really convicted my heart of: even if we have prayer around the clock, if we have turned away from hearing His word, and His judgments and statutes are not welcome in our midst, we are only building “houses of abomination” to God!
Prayer cannot be isolated from the word any more than it can be isolated from worship!
ONLINE BIBLE STUDIES
This is how we will connect with our brethren in China and continue providing Bible studies for public access online. These will be conducted through our dropbox account, skype, dedicatedfaith.org, and YouTube.
COFFEE SHOP BIBLE STUDIES
This ministry is going to be a ministry expressly devoted to ministering to the brothers and sisters in Christ that we meet who are disconnected from, and discouraged by, the local church. This ministry will focus on “strengthening the arms that hang down and the feeble knees”.
IN THE ASSEMBLY
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” ~Acts 2:42
Every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God is bread for our nourishment. It is by the famine of the word that so many today are famished, weak, starving, and dying! This is why we do not put time constraints on God’s word.
Notice that the ministry of the word is not segregated from fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer? Neither should it be today! We will employ all God’s blessings for the edification of the Church together.
Our assembly meeting is where we will focus on equipping our brothers and sisters for that good work of service that the Lord has entrusted to them.
STREET EVANGELISM AND PRAYER
As covered above, this is one of the key points in which we will answer Jesus’ commission to “go out into all the world”.
REGARDING THE MINISTRY OF SERVICE
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” ~Matthew 20:25-28
Are we greater than our master? If Jesus served, shall we then sit down in luxury and serve not?
Service is one of the major things that the Lord has been dealing with me on since our return to the U.S. (even before we returned).
How many of us can genuinely call ourselves “servants” of the Lord? This needs to change.
SHARE ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2
The bearing of each other’s burden is the fulfillment of the law of Christ.
“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him? My little children, let’s not love in word only, or with the tongue only, but in deed and truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and persuade our hearts before him” ~1 John 3:17-19
Where is this in the Church today?
There is so much attention given to perishing matters in churches right now, but, where is the fulfillment of the law of Christ among us?
This is why the ministry of service will be among the ministries of worship/prayer, and the ministry of the word.
Jesus did not say that He will stand in judgment and ask why you did not pray longer, though your lack of prayer may be one of the roots of things that you will be judged for, but He did say that He will ask why you did not serve others.
To do this requires that the Church organizes herself in such a way that she can harness her resources effectively to be applied towards meeting her various needs.
I’ve been seeking God’s counsel on this matter for some time.
I see a lot of problems that hitch a ride into the Church on the coattails of the traditional way of tithing directly to the Church. It tends to create a “tithe and retire” approach to service. When I was pastoring in Louisiana I heard so many people say “we tithed, now its your responsibility”. Today, tithing seems to pass the responsibility for actively serving the needs of others onto someone else, and I believe that is deplorable.
Therefore, as I continue to seek the Lord’s counsel in prayer and in the word, I believe what we are going to do is to teach the brethren how to set up their own personal ministry funds and tithe weekly directly into these accounts, which they then will be personally responsible for ministering over directly.
We will call upon men and women in the Church who have knowledge and financial expertise to help the brethren learn how to manage their money in such a way that will support active service (both to meet short term needs in the Church and longterm needs).
Each brother that I have spoken to regarding this matter has confirmed to me with various word of caution that this will require diligent discipleship and accountability. As each person in the Church begins to take back their personal responsibility to serve the body of Christ, there will be temptation for misuse of the gifts God has entrusted to them.
The account of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) serves as a sobering reminder of how serious this is. The consequences of lying to the Holy Spirit regarding your service to the Kingdom of God is severe! Yet, that does not mean that we do not serve! It means that we “conduct ourselves with fear and trembling throughout our stay on this earth” and walk uprightly before the Lord!
This follows the same exact idea expressed above except it uses personal belongings and money to meet the needs of those who are outside our fellowship and may or may not be believers. We will actively look for needs and then bring those needs before the Church. When we hear of people who need furniture, clothing, food, transportation, or accommodation, we will bring this before our assembly and seek to meet those needs.
THE MINISTRY OF CARING
People’s needs cannot always be met with material supply.
Whenever we see someone who has been hospitalized or is enduring some other personal trial, the body of Christ will surround this person with the support they need to bear through it. If they’re in the hospital, we may make sure their household chores are taken care of and their children get to school on time, and they are visited regularly by those they love!
WE NEED PRAYERS
The things that I’ve highlighted above are things that I’ve felt the Lord leading me towards, but, they are not things that can happen overnight.
I honestly feel utterly and completely incapable of doing this on my own, but, I am leaning more on the grace of Christ.
So we have some prayer requests that we’re asking your continual support in:
1) The Lord send us like-minded brothers and sisters to encourage Mary and I and serve alongside us.
2) The Lord give us wisdom, patience, and perseverance to faithful administer these things.
3) The grace of the Lord would causes us to become sufficient ministers of the Lord’s ministry of reconciliation.
Again, I thank you all for your prayers and the support you give.