Kingdom Living

Casting Vision for the Future of the Kingdom

Kingdom Living

The Center of Christianity Has Shifted: 6 Shifts

July 28th, 2021 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

The decline of Christianity in the West has been met with a rise in Christianity in the global South and East. Ministers from other countries are coming to the United States to teach us principles they have learned in multiplying movements. I heard of this possibility a few years ago but I had no idea the degree to which this is actually happening. While Western Christianity has had a lot of ministry drift toward attractional, big box models…the church in South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East is growing like crazy. Here are a few of the shifts that have slowed us down:

In the West we give permission to ministry to the highly trained. In other parts of the world ministry is expected from day 1, especially evangelism, making disciples and planting churches.

In the West the price of admission is high: buy land, hire an architect, raise millions, take a few years to build, go into debt and service the debt from the budget. In other parts of the world they are meeting in homes where there is no need to build or go into debt to advance the kingdom.

In the West we teach information. In other parts of the world they train specific skills.

In the West we consolidate authority. In other parts of the world authority structures are more diffused among more people.

In the West we pray. In other parts of the world they are fasting and praying.

In the West we have little belief in miracles and have more of a secular view of life. In other parts of the world they are seeing miracles with regularity.

These are all broad generalizations so they may not be perfectly accurate for all…but they are generally true. There is a lot we can learn from what others are doing around the world…instead of them looking to us for training we are and will be looking to them for training.

If you want some examples of this look up Shodankeh Johnson in Sierra Leone and Ying Kai and his work in China. Millions are being reached with the gospel, while the church is in decline in the West. It is important we pay attention to this.

If you want a front row seat to sit at the feet of someone who has been part of huge movements, here is Ying Kai. Let me know what you think about his presentation in the comments!

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Can You Articulate the Gospel?

July 11th, 2021 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

In the comments below – articulate the Gospel. Take as much space as you want to fully explain what you believe the good news about Jesus entails.

Second, write a briefer/twitter version of what the gospel is.

Third, give some feedback on how easy or difficult it was to write what you wrote.

Thanks!

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Our Gospel/Evangelism Problem

July 10th, 2021 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

The more I learn about evangelism the more I see we have a gospel problem. This problem is on a number of fronts:

1 – It has become culturally unacceptable to share faith – it communicates that you have a way of life that is better than what someone else has chosen.

2 – The gospel is murkier than ever – not that it is in reality…in reality the gospel is simple. However, after years and years of study and nuance it can be very easy to develop an understanding of the gospel that is basically impossible to articulate to anyone new and that hinders our evangelism.

3 – Ministers are not evangelistic. The tremendous reluctance to share one’s faith isn’t just a cultural/generational issue – it cuts across all levels of maturity and all generations and positions in the kingdom. This means people in the pew aren’t finding good models for evangelism among the more spiritually mature. We have equated spiritual maturity with knowledge over faithfulness.

4 – We lack conviction of what it is we really believe – partly because it has been made fuzzy, partly because identity has been linked to a zillion things other than Jesus, and partly because as a whole our society has lacked certainty – it is hard to share a faith you are uncertain about yourself.

There are more than can be shared but I believe these are major headwinds facing the church today. The good news is that all of this can shift in one generation and I believe that is likely to happen!

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How Cultural Shifts Affect Our Biblical Understanding

July 1st, 2021 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

I was reading through the New American Standard the other day and noticed that in some cases they had made a shift to more gender neutral verbiage when referring to groups of people that were male and female. The idea is that when the Bible says “men” or “he/him” in general instructions that it can get confusing. Why does it get confusing? People used to use the masculine generic – that mixed groups of people would be referred to in male terms in the English language. At some point in the last 30 years this shifted in the English language to use more gender neutral language when referring to groups of both genders.

The question came up in our conversation on this on Facebook of whether or not we would even be having this discussion without a broader cultural shift. I don’t believe we would. That if things hadn’t shifted in English that we wouldn’t have shifted our translation because people would understand and use the masculine generic. And that’s a good thing in this instance – a place where cultural changes led us to more accurately and actually more literally translate the Bible. Translating the Greek anthropos (where we get anthropology) to be solely masculine is not the primary definition of the word. The word is primarily about humanity at large, which is male and female. Which means older translations that used masculine generic did so because our culture did that and people understood it – not because it was a literal translation!

Cultural shifts can (not always but can) open our eyes up to see things we never noticed before. It took WWII and the Nazi persecution of the Jews before biblical scholars really started diving into second temple/first century Judaism. Instead of just reading the Old Testament through Luther and others (who missed the point on many things in Judaism because they read the OT through their lens of conflict and dispute with the Catholic church) they started reading what the Jews around the first century actually said about themselves and it was hugely helpful! This means that our understanding of parts of the Old Testament and first century Judaism was a culturally influenced view from the 1500s until the 1970s! It took a cultural shift and world war for us to begin to look at it fresh. So that’s one example of where cultural shifts created deeper biblical insights.

There are other instances where cultural shifts can lead us into places that get us further from what the Bible teaches and in my opinion this has been especially true since the 1960s on sexual ethics.

It is very important we tune ourselves into historical theological interpretations to see the flow of thinking over time so we can assess where we have landed and what has been thought in the past. This can open our eyes to either appreciate how our view has developed (or not) or to cause us to question where we have landed based on the saints of old and how they saw things. They didn’t get everything right but they should be considered. If your view has never been brought up in 2000 years it doesn’t make it automatically wrong but it should cause you to question it a bit more!

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Miracles Didn’t Stop in the First Century – Primary Sources

June 11th, 2021 · 6 Comments · Bible, Miracles

I heard many times that the miracles stopped in the first century. They said the Holy Spirit didn’t give the gifts for two main reasons:

1 – It took the apostles laying on hands to impart the gifts per Acts 19

2 – The miracles were only to confirm the Word/New Testament so once it was written the gifts were no longer needed.

As with many things, this was a conclusion reached before the study was done and then the Bible retrofitted to support the view.

Did it require the apostles to pass on gifts?

No – read Acts 10.

Was the purpose of the gifts to verify the Word? Yes.

Was the purpose of the gifts ONLY to verify the Word? No.

Healing miracles were actually designed, get this, to heal a hurting person. The idea that there was only one reason for the gifts doesn’t hold up.

God can pass on gifts without any human intermediary. This was pointed out but we were taught those were “special” occasions but how do we really know that? That is based on a limited data set (Acts) without us really knowing what else God did at the time…except we do know what else God did from outside the Bible.

The early church fathers recorded miracles and Holy Spirit gifts hundreds of years later. What is more, these weren’t rare instances…over and over they state that these were happening a lot. In fact, Craig Keener (in his book on Miracles, which is invaluable) states that miracles were a primary evidence that let to the majority of conversions based on what the early church fathers said,

“Second and third century Christian apologists depict not only apostolic leaders but also ordinary Christians as miracle workers. Before the 300s exorcisms proved to be a major factor in the spread of Christianity; in the 300s exorcisms and miracles are the most explicit cause of conversions to Christianity mentioned in early Christians sources.”

Keener, Miracles

The last thing I want to do is give you the evidence so you can look it up for yourself and know what was said. This isn’t hard to find and it is a shame no one took the time to look this up before teaching the view I outlined above.

First, rabbinic sources note early Christian miracles. Some of these were opponents to Christianity and yet they didn’t deny it happened but openly acknowledged it.

Second, here are the early church fathers,

Augustine of Hippo
He was a skeptic of the miracles in his day – which makes me trust what he said here even more because he wasn’t eager to accept it as true until he saw it himself,

“A miracle that happened at Milan while I was there, when a blind man had his sight restored…I have been concerned that such accounts should be published because I saw that signs of divine power like those of the older days were frequently occurring in modern times too…many miracles have occurred there (at Hippo) and to my certain knowledge many miracles have occurred there which are not recorded in the published documents and nearly 70 of these documents have been produced at the time of writing – City of God, 22.8

Origen

Against Celsus 1.46 – “And there are still preserved among Christians traces of that Holy Spirit which appeared in the form of a dove. They expel evil spirits, and perform many cures, and foresee certain events, according to the will of the Logos. And although Celsus, or the Jew whom he has introduced, may treat with mockery what I am going to say, I shall say it nevertheless — that many have been converted to Christianity as if against their will, some sort of spirit having suddenly transformed their minds from a hatred of the doctrine to a readiness to die in its defense, and having appeared to them either in a waking vision or a dream of the night.”

Against Celsus 1.67 – “And the name of Jesus can still remove distractions from the minds of men, and expel demons, and also take away diseases;”

Cyprian

“And this also is done in the present day, in that the devil is scourged, and burned, and tortured by exorcists, by the human voice, and by divine power;” – Epistle 75, 15

Tertullian

“The clerk of one of them who was liable to be thrown upon the ground by an evil spirit, was set free from his affliction; as was also the relative of another, and the little boy of a third. How many men of rank (to say nothing of common people) have been delivered from devils, and healed of diseases!” – Scapulam, 4

Irenaeus in Against Heresies,

“men were saved both from most wicked spirits, and from all kinds of demons, and from every sort of apostate power” – 2.6.2

Talking to those who didn’t believe in the miracles,

“And so far are they from being able to raise the dead, as the Lord raised them, and the apostles did by means of prayer, and as has been frequently done in the brotherhood on account of some necessity—the entire Church in that particular locality entreating [the boon] with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man has returned, and he has been bestowed in answer to the prayers of the saints.” – 2.31.2

“Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ” – 2.32.4-5

More could be mentioned: Athanasius, Basel, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Athansius, etc.

Were they all making it up? Where is the refutation? They are stating these things were common and were like what happened in the first century.

If you prefer to have this content in video, you can watch it here

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Thriving on Negativity and Chaos

June 6th, 2021 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

My training started out in clinical psychology. And that means you are always trying to figure out what is wrong with people and systems. For years, I really struggled with negativity and looking for problems…dwelling on difficult things. Someone would tell me good news and I could instantly think of a way it could go wrong and wasn’t afraid to say so.

God a new car? Did you hear about the recall?

Got that promotion you have been wanting? You know that means a new set of demands you may not be up for.

You see how it goes…maybe you know first hand how this works?

Man was that messed up! It is obvious in retrospect but not in the moment.

It has taken me quite some time of soul searching to come to understand just how unhelpful that kind of approach to life really is. In reality, it was thriving on chaos and it took me a while to understand that the world has chaos enough without me adding to the pile. There is so much joy that is missed…so much rejoicing with those who rejoice that is avoided. It is hard to make and keep friends when you approach life from a clinical perspective.

I finally learned to create and maintain filters on my language – to take those thoughts and hold them captive to Christ and find them wanting in comparison to the thoughts of Jesus.

We are not enslaved to our negative thoughts. By the grace of God we can convert our thinking and embrace the celebration of what is going well in the world without having to conjure up potential issues that might (but probably won’t) come up along the way.

This conversion of thinking brings true freedom!

Do you struggle with this or am I the only crazy one?

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Pray Specifically

May 13th, 2021 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

We have seen over and over that when we pray specific prayers, God answers in specific ways. When you pray a specific prayer and you see the specific answer, it is a lot easier to credit God. If you pray generic prayers it is harder to pinpoint the answer. God may or may not have done something with your prayer…you may not know because the prayer was so general that it is hard to know if it happened or not.

At Backyard church we do our best to pray about everything. Every decision must be prayed over. If we realize we don’t know what we are doing, we stop and pray some more. It is important to not move ahead until you believe God has given the direction.

The result of this kind of prayer has been the growth of our faith, the deepening of our relationships with God and each other, and plenty of praise to the God who is present, powerful and who answers our prayers.

I really don’t think there is any way forward for the church in the West without prayer being the strategy. Not new programs. Not new staff. Not new worship.

Prayer.

Specific prayer.

Then we get to watch God work and answer. This leads us to a deeper understand of and appreciation for the power of God working in real time. That in turn emboldens us to press harder, love deeper, and reach further into the lives of those around us because we know God is with us and God will help us!

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Rejecting Christian Nationalism

May 10th, 2021 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

What has become more and more apparent over the last 10-20 years is that Christian nationalism is a massive gospel compromise that must be addressed. There are appropriate reactions and responses to blending the Christian faith with the nation…then there are overreactions as well.

One of the overreactions I have seen is that a lot of Christians have begun refusing to pray for the U.S.A. There are a variety of reasons for this (3 that come to mind for me) and caused me to go back to the scriptures to see what the Bible says about this. So I created a video to share my thoughts on this – the reasons people don’t pray for the USA, what the Bible says, a cautionary, and some practical advice at the end…see what you think!

Do you pray for the USA, if so what do you pray for?

If you don’t, why not?

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A Message To The Young Men Out There

April 17th, 2021 · 7 Comments · Uncategorized

We live in a world where no one is allowed to be okay…all in the name of making sure everyone is okay. Something is supposed to upset you all the time…and what is supposed to upset you the most young man, is you. You are upsetting, so they say. The message is that you are not right…that something is always the matter. Even if you get slightly upset you are guilty of a microaggression. If you show assertiveness, you are being oppressive. You just can’t seem to get it right.

Young men need to hear that by and large they are normal. Perfectly normal. There are outliers and there are times any one of us gets out of line from time to time but for the most part what has usually been ascribed as natural parts of being male have been labeled as problematic.

Someone needs to be telling our young men that being a problem is not baked into your DNA…it is baked into the outlook of those who want to find problems in everyone and bring disruption and chaos into the systems as they have traditionally existed.

Is it possible for a young man to get out of line? Of course…but being male doesn’t make you automatically bad and it doesn’t make you toxic because you don’t live up to someone else’s expectations for what men should look like who most likely have never had a healthy male example for them to see the benefits of.

So carry on young men. Don’t let people get you down. You are just as much an image bearer with that Y chromosome as anyone else. And yes, we do need accountability for the actual moments when someone is being toxic…but you aren’t toxic for being male.

I want my two boys to understand this. I want my grand kids to understand this. I want their future wives to understand this…how are we ever going to get along until we stop demonizing people for normal things like race and gender?

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How Funerals Skewed Our View of Death & Resurrection

April 1st, 2021 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Having preached a fair number of funerals there are a few objectives for most preachers preaching a funeral:

1 – Honor the life of the deceased
2 – Comfort the family and friends
3 – Reflect the wishes of the deceased and family

Now, that second one is well intended but often results in the construction and perpetuation of unbiblical theology. With a desire to let everyone know the deceased is okay and with the Lord there is often a big push to make death seem like a friend. It is talked about like a passageway…something that is spiritually neutral.

But death isn’t neutral at all. In the Bible death is the wages of sin (Rom 6:23). Death is an enemy Christ defeats (1 Cor 15:26). Death is tossed into the lake of fire along with the devil and is judged (Rev 20:14). How much of that have you ever been exposed to at a funeral?

Death is ugly. Death leads to decay…the marring of the visage of our loved ones (not pretty, heartbreaking really). Death is not our friend. Death is not just a pathway to be with the Lord. Death is personal…a personal force of evil. Death stands opposed to the plan and people of God.

The flip side of this is resurrection. Once you have a biblical view of death you can have a biblical view and appreciation of resurrection. Resurrection is the undoing of the effects of sin and death. To raise a dead person back to life in the body. It is our final hope – that our bodies will be raised. Resurrection is not our souls rising but our new creation bodies rising…and that is what makes resurrection the sure sign of victory over death (per 1 Cor 15) in that the effects of death are reversed and the resurrected person on the last great day is raised to be like Christ – incorruptible/undecayable.

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