Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Becoming the Fullness of Christ and Implementing APEST

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. -Ephesians 4:11-13

How do we become the fullness of Christ?

1. Every disciple builds the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

2. Every disciple must be equipped be the five-fold gifts (Eph. 4:11-13).

3. Equipped ("kitartismos") means acts of restoring: To complete, to heal and to maximize function.

How do we implement the five-fold (APEST)?

4. Make Disciples (UP)

5. Build the Body of Christ (UP/IN)

6. Mobilize the Body of Christ (OUT)

7. Multiply into other Villages/Cells (Church)

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The above post is part of a series that is giving a brief over on what one receives in a non-residential church planting cohort with the Release Initiative

Monday, April 28, 2014

What Does APEST Mean?

In Ephesians 4 we are given the blueprint for Jesus' Church and what it should look like in its full state of unity and maturity. The problem is that for years the Western church has only focused on the role of teacher and shepherd, so much so that we have almost forgotten that there is any other roles within the church. Unless you grew up in an evangelical church like me then you probably also had an evangelist.

The other three roles that are most often ignored in the church today are the apostles, prophets, and at times the evangelists. For most once this full picture of the church is realized it becomes a paradigm shift and if they are rightly understood and applied they should become a welcome gift to the church.

Here is a brief summary of each gift:

Apostles: These are those who are sent ones. They desire to see the gospel of the Kingdom planted where others haven't gone; they are church planters. They are visionaries who see the blueprint for the church that will call God's people to live sent lives and who desire that everyday saints be released into domains to use their gifts to build up the Body. They protect the doctrine and the DNA of the Church. They are "Fatherly" and desire to see new leaders raised up (sons in the faith) and sent out.

Prophets: These are those who are sensitive to the voice and Word of God. They hear from God and communicate God's word to God's people. They call God's people back to God and call God's people to live lives of holiness and justice. They care more about what God has to say than how man will take it. Often, they are our biggest prayer warriors.

Evangelists: These are those who are outwardly focused. They desire to equip the Church in reaching their neighbors with the gospel. They desire the Church to both declare and demonstrate the gospel of the Kingdom. They love to spend time developing relationships with the un-churched and they give their lives to inviting people to be a part of God's family.

Shepherds: These are those who care for the flock. They are concerned with the lives of the congregation. They are counselors, protecting the community that God has entrusted to them. They desire that the Church be a family, praying for, providing for and loving one another.

Teacher: These have the gift to teach and use that gift to build the Church. They often love books and theology. They want the Church to grow into maturity by growing in the Knowledge of Jesus and his ways. They teach Scripture and help apply it to everyday life, guard doctrine and help the Church learn to teach one another.
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The above post is part of a series that is giving a brief over on what one receives in a non-residential church planting cohort with the Release Initiative

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gospel Communities vs. Small Group Mentality

Over the last ten years there has been a huge shift from traditional Sunday school programs to small groups. In my opinion this has been a positive shift, but if by small group one means Sunday school at someones house then the point has been missed. Let me be clear up front that I am all for small groups, gospel communities, missional communities, or whatever you prefer to call them. The important part for me is how this group actually functions, not what you call them.

The list below from Release gives a glimpse at some very broad generalizations between a group functioning as a gospel community and what many groups means when they say small group. Feel free to disagree and comment below.

Gospel Community                                    vs.                               Small Group
 Family Life 24/7                                         vs.                          1 hour meeting a week
 Multiplication                                              vs.                         Addition (assimilation)
Leader Facilitator                                         vs.                          Leader as Teacher
Pastors                                                       vs.                         Bible Study Leader
Goal is building                                            vs.                         Goal is education
Everyone participates                                   vs.                        Few Participate 
Trained Leaders                                           vs.                   Anyone who wants to lead
Evangelistic                                                 vs.                       Assimilation
Geographic/Domains                                    vs.                        Scattered

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Church the City

"Instead of asking, 'How is your church doing', maybe we should ask, 'How is your city doing?'' -Omar Reyes.

Below one can see the difference between working with a church framework or a kingdom framework. For far too long most of us, myself included, have been operating within a church framework, but it is time that we all transition to operating off of a kingdom framework.

Church Framework                                                                Kingdom Framework

Preachers                                                                               Disciples

Church Focus                                                                          City Transformation

Church Growth                                                                        Church Multiplication

Doing Church                                                                           Domain Engagement

Denominational Values                                                             Kingdom Principles

Church Fund Raising                                                                Kingdom Collaboration

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The above post is part of a series that is giving a brief over on what one receives in a non-residential church planting cohort with the Release Initiative

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gospel Rhythms

The below video ties in well with the posts I have been putting out on the Release Initiative. Jeff Vanderstelt is packed full of wisdom and gets Gospel Rhythms. It is fifteen minutes long, but worth every minute of it.


Jeff Vanderstelt: Gospel Rhythms from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Somber Saturday

I am sure that if we could experience this somber Saturday without the hope of Resurrection Sunday that we would sincerely be able to resonant with the followers of Christ in that day. We would be able to experience the doubts that they went through, the depression, and feeling of being wrong. 

But I would also like to point you to Luke 22:46, as J.D. Greear helped me see, that Jesus knew that his disciples would experience the temptation to disbelieve that even the cross of Christ took place and especially the resurrection. It is what we still experience today when people deny the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

Today represents a day where we feel lonely, our skeptics appear right, everything we put our hope in appears to be maybe wrong... we have doubt as the disciples had doubts.

But the difficulty of this scenario is that we, as the disciples, know that Sunday exists and is coming. Everything changes tomorrow, whether I have doubt of it or not, it all changes.

Christ told his followers that the grave would not hold him in that he would raise again to life. It is the most important miracle that ever took place, which has huge implications for everyone everywhere in all of human history.

So continue to reflect and be somber today, but at the same time get ready for a celebration is coming tomorrow! Please celebrate with your local community of faith and create a space for those outside the church to hear the message of the gospel this Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cross - Jesus Dies

This post is a summary of content that I developed in one of my studies overseas to teach Hindus through the metanarrative of Scripture. This lesson focuses in on the death of Christ, which being good friday I thought that it would be a good time to share it with you. 

"God shows his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

First, in essence, Jesus came into the world to die and cover sin.
How did Jesus die?
  • On a cross through crucifixion.
  • Crucifixion is the most excruciating form of death.
  • It was designed for the worst of criminals in society.
  • Jesus was crucified in order to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (Isa. 53:3-4).
Second, Jesus death on the cross finished his purpose for coming.
  • Jesus himself declared "It is Finished," referring to taking on the sin of the world (John 19:30).
  • Jesus came as our atonement (Rom. 4:25).
  • Jesus came and died in our place:
    • Living the life we were meant to live.
    • Dying the death we deserved to die.
    • Ultimately rising from the dead as a way to prove he conquered sin, death, and the grave.
How does the cross satisfy the wrath of God?
  • The result of sin is death so in order for the wrath of God to be appeased someone has to die.
  • In the Old Testament the wrath of God was appeased through an animal blood sacrifice.
  • In the New Testament we see the ultimate and final blood sacrificed required in Jesus.
  • Jesus, dying in our place, died the death that God revealed we deserved.
    • Hebrews 9:22
    • 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • Jesus ended the need for a blood sacrifice.
    How does the death of Christ justify us before God?
    • God deserves justice and will get justice.
    • Because we are not righteous we cannot justify God.
    • Jesus alone, being the perfect man, could justify us before God (Rom. 1:37; 5:16-17).
    How does God redeem us through the cross?
    • Before the cross we were enslaved in our sin with no hope.
    • Through Jesus alone we have been offered a way out to be redeemed.
      • Justified by his grace (Romans 3:24).
      • Jesus gave himself for us (Titus 2:13-14).
      • Christ became cursed for us (Galatians 3:13-14).
      • Redemption through the blood (Ephesians 1:7).
    So whom did Jesus come to die for?
    • Sinners, which includes all of us (1 Tim. 2:6).
    • He came to be the Savior of all people, but only in a saving way for those that believe/are elect (1 Tim. 4:10).
    How is God triumphant through the cross of Christ?
    • Forgives us of all sin.
    • Expiation
      • Our sin is taken away from us and we are made clean through Jesus.
    • Our sin is taken away and put on Jesus.
    At the cross of Christ we see the ultimate love sacrifice of God for us, which makes a way for reconciliation with God.

    It is Good Friday, the day that we remember the reason that Jesus came to earth to die a bloody gruesome death on the cross in our place. At first look it appears that Christ death was nothing more than death in itself, appearing to some skeptics as proof against the claims of Jesus. But it is only friday and as we will see on Sunday, the resurrection comes and Jesus is Alive!

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Kingdom Principles of Community Transformation

    **The following is from the Release Initiative Kingdom Planter Training Participant Curriculum** 

    Kingdom Principles of Community Transformation
    (Luke 10:1-11)

    1. Start with prayer (v. 2)
              a. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers
              b. Kingdom mentality is an abundance mindset

    2. Three characteristics of a Kingdom Community Developer (v. 3)
              a. Humility/Vulnerable
              b. Kingdom mindset-Counter Intuitive - think what is right, not what feels right. Kingdom principles are contrary to our natural mind.
              c. Courage to obey God and His principles

    3. Total dependency on God (v. 4)
              a. Remove the temptation to be God
              b. The resources for long term development are inherently present people
              c. Avoid distraction - stay focused

    4. Find places of receptivity (vv. 5-7)
              a. You are discovering what God is doing, relationships and opportunities
              b. Look for points of receptivity (tipping points). Look for kids who have a desire to succeed rather than those who have no desire.
              c. Stay in one place and develop a long-term strategy

    5. Receive their gift of giving (v. 7)
              a. Receiving is a position of humility (John 13:8)
              b. Giving is a catalyst for kingdom resources (Luke 6:38)

    6. Heal the sick (v. 9)
              a. Heal ("therapeuo") also means menial attendant, serve them
              b. Service gives us authority to speak

    7. Give a verbal witness of the Kingdom (v. 9)
              a. Say to them "Kingdom is at hand"

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    4 Shifts Needed in the Church to Reach Society

    This week I will continue to share nuggets from Release that I think are useful and noteworthy for us all. The following is simply a list by Scott Venable on four shifts needed within the church in order to reach society.

    1. Shift from needs based to asset based.

    • Serve by what you have
    2. Shift from projects to domains.

    3. Shift from 'for the city' to 'with the city.'
    • Allow the city to use some of your assets.
    • Don't always do your own even, but participate with the city for their events
    4. Shift from managing projects to developing disciples and releasing them.

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Becoming Leaders that Release the People

    Leaders in the church often struggle with releasing the people to do the work of ministry because most often they are insecure. It feels good to have a good audience, especially when you are the one preaching or teaching and it is a valid fear that the crowd will not come if you fully release them as the church. But as leaders it is our responsibility to equip and release the people God has entrusted to us. If each disciple were simply equipped and released to engage intentionally in his or her domains, Jesus will build his church through us. 

    Here are some helpful ways to become a "Releasing Pastor" by Bob Roberts Jr.:

    FROM BEING GENERAL CONTROLLER TO BEING PRIMARY LEADER
    A lot of pastors, myself included, have dreams and visions of what the church God has called them to is to look like. I think we have too big a vision that God wants to do through us, and too small a vision of what he wants to do through everyday disciples. 

    As pastors, we can see salvation and church growth as the primary end of our vision - God sees so much more. In order for the Great Commission to be fulfilled, for Jesus to be magnified, and for our world to be changed much, much more than that will be required. Even if they don't believe our gospel, our world is in need of the disciples of Jesus living like disciples, loving and serving others. The problem is, in our context we really haven't seen it that much so it has limited what we dream of.

    FROM BEING THE HERO TO BEING THE HERO MAKER
    One of the benefits of being at a church long term and starting it is you have led many of those people to faith in Christ, and you see many of the changes that have come. I remember in the early days of our church there were news stories on our name, how we "advertised" and how our worship services were different. Those interviews always included me. Not anymore. I love when the media calls our church because of work we do with Vietnamese, Mexicans, Muslims, city makeovers, special needs - and they have to interview our members!

    I used to think the senior pastor was the chief spokesperson for the church - I don't anymore. The senior pastor is the one who defers to the stories of the people in the church. My story is their story - or I don't have a story, if I want to be a pastor. You celebrate those heroes, and as you celebrate them and tell their stories and they tell the stories, other people begin to believe their calls and dreams are also possible and begin to move forward.

    FROM FOCUSING ON JUST THEIR NEEDS TO FOCUSING ON THEIR CALL
    Every single Sunday, we should be "calling" out people to the ministry - and it shouldn't be merely vocational ministers like me, but the masses, the everyday disciples. That means when I call them out, most of them will still be a part of our church. Sadly, the body of Christ is way ahead of pastors in terms of seeing the world and the body of Christ being salt and light - we still hold them captive to our buildings, programs, ministries, and agendas. THEY must be our agenda. 

    FROM BEING THE PREACHER/TEACHER TO BEING THE PREACHER/EQUIPPER
    If this is the kind of church you are going to lead, it will impact how you preach, what your new members class is, how you disciple, how you do body life, the classes that you offer - and everything else. 

    FROM SPEAKING FROM THE MOUNTAIN TO CRAWLING IN THE TRENCHES
    As pastors we can speak from on high like a Moses. I believe the model of the 21st century will be more like a Joshua than a Moses. We will have to get dirty in our city - know the needs of our city and the gifts of our people. A pastor becomes the connector - releaser. If you don't know your city, if you don't know your people - all you can do is exegete Scripture for self improvement. If you know your city, exegesis becomes truth that determines and undergirds what God has called everyone to do. The pastor should know more about their city than anyone else. 

    Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    Engaging Domains of Society

    This past weekend I took part in the second phase of the Release Initiative Spring 2014 cohort. During this two day intensive we looked at the last two components that make up DNA: Society and Church. Even though I have only known these brothers for a couple of months, there is such a deep bond with them as we sincerely desire to see the people that we minister to in our context equipped and released. There is too much content to give you everything from Release, and I would encourage you to consider going through Release; but I do want to spend the next several posts to give you a glimpse into what it is to reverse engineer how most of us think about church planting in the West.

    The first area that I would like to look at is Society. Society is composed of groups of people who work and live within their own areas or domains. We need to see people in their domains of society converge.

    WHY IS SOCIETY SO IMPORTANT?

    Those who assume leadership in these spheres of influence have the potential to completely reshape their city; its values, priorities and practices. In directing his people to bless their cities and the nations of the world, God is calling us to engage domains as a way of seeing Gods kingdom come to people and cities. 

    HOW DOES THIS CONCEPT LOOK IN REAL LIFE?

    Instead of only seeing individuals sent out as missionaries we must start asking ourself, "What if the church were the missionary?" God has uniquely placed each of us and each person in our local church within domains. And within those domains God has orchestrated people that only the person in those domains can connect with. 

    But as leaders within the church it is our job to help people discover their domains and release them (Eph. 4). If we would simply equip our people as everyday disciples to see themselves as everyday missionaries by engaging their domains of society then the need to create a bunch of programs to attract people to the church will cease to exist. As people start to engage domains of society, Jesus will build his church.

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    Release Cohort Intensive Two


    For the next several days I will be in Chicago for the second Release Initiative church planting intensive cohort. I have had many people ask me about Release since the first cohort in February and all of the proceeding blog post that came out of it. Before I go any further let me be clear in saying that I cannot recommend Release enough! If you are considering planting a church or even leading a church now and want to instill Kingdom DNA then Release is for you.

    The Release Initiative focuses on training guys in foundational Kingdom DNA and then sends them out to plant the gospel of the Kingdom in cities around the world. The core DNA is Kingdom, Disciple, Society, and Church with each having sub-categories underneath them. In the words of Director Sam Smith, "A simple way to phrase the DNA of Release would be: As we make Disciples of the Kingdom, and send them out to engage all domains of Society, Jesus will build his Church."

    The second intensive cohort will go deeper into the Society and Church components of the DNA. Below is a brief glimpse of what that will look like and I am looking forward to taking you all deeper on here once returning from the intensive. 

    SOCIETY:
    Society is composed of groups of people who work within their own areas of expertise or “domains.” These core structures of society do not change. The people working within these domains meet the basic needs of society and keep it functioning. The domains of society become crucial in the transformation of a city. Those who assume leadership in these spheres of influence have the potential to completely reshape their city; its values, priorities, and practices. In directing his people to bless their cities and the nations of the world, God is calling us to engage domains as a way of seeing God’s Kingdom come to people and cities.
    CHURCH:
    Our DNA of Kingdom Disciples compels us to engage SOCIETY and then watch God build His CHURCH. The church consists of all true believers in Jesus Christ throughout all time. The Kingdom manifests itself through the church. Thus, experientially, it provides a foretaste of the future reign of God. It exists only because of Jesus Christ and is mandated with extending His mission in the world.

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    Are Church Teachings on Homosexuality Driving Millennials Away from Faith?

    The recent controversy within the evangelical world over World Vision has taken many different paths and I have intentional chosen not to jump on the bandwagon of let me see how many blog hits I can get because I am blogging on the hot topic issue. The conservative evangelical voice has been represented by people like Al Mohler and Russell Moore, whereas the more liberal voice has been represented by the likes of Rachel Held Evans.

    My purpose in this post is not to address the controversy within itself because that battle has been fought and there are many wounds on both sides as a result. My purpose is to look at another component though, a component that involves Millennials, which includes me. The question has been posed recently, "Are church teachings on homosexuality driving Millennials away from faith?"

    Evans has concluded in her recent CNN article that the teachings of the church are in fact driving away a generation, the Millennials. But I really think that the wrong question is being asked here because we all know that we can go out and find a group of people, including a church, that fits all of our preferences and opinions. The better question, the purer question would be, "are the teachings of Jesus found in Scripture on homosexuality driving millennials away from faith?"

    You see the two questions seem similar but are very different in nature and notice that I do not attack any of the points brought up by Evans because once again she is asking the wrong question. If it is the teaching on homosexuality driving them away from faith and their church then I believe most millennials will just go find a different church, one led by a guy like Rob Bell, who matches their personal preference over biblical precedent.

    But if it is the teachings from the Bible, God's Word that is driving millennials away then there is a very different issue. And please hear it loud and clear from this millennial, GO! If it the teachings of the one that represents love then please leave the church with my blessing as you leave.

    So my question for the evangelical millennials is this: Is it worth it?

    Is your personal preference on gay marriage worth ignoring the biblical precedent?

    Is it worth leaving the church because the God of love who sent his son to die in your place also teaches that any sexual relationship outside of marriage is wrong and sinful?

    Is it worth the "victory" of our fellow brothers and sisters within the LGBT to lie to them about what the Bible says in a loving and gracious way?

    Is it worth the "victory" of being for gay marriage only to realize that you are ignoring the sense inside of you saying, "this is wrong!"

    I, for one, love the people inside the LGBT community, I sincerely do. And I believe that people like Evans sincerely do as well and I am glad to hear that she is done arguing (I doubt it) and wants to move on to loving and serving people. But I do want all of those in the LGBT community and all my fellow evangelical millennials to know what the historical document of the Bible actually teaches.

    It seems that evangelicalism has pushed Evans back to following Jesus, which I am all for, so if the result of this whole thing has been to push evangelicals back to following Jesus then I for one, think that it may have been worth it.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Putting Away Childish Ways

    When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1 Corinthians 13:11

    For years now I have continued to hold onto my childish ways by refusing to grow up and shave. This morning in my quiet time I became extremely convicted of this and the fact that continuing to be a child has caused much pain and heartache on my own family and led to a lack of employment. Today is a new day and I have finally put away my childish ways and decided to embrace being a grown up by shaving my face and having a proper mustache as all men should. I remember my own father having a beard in his twenties, but since then he has always had a manly mustache. Today is my day to embrace manhood, so here is my new and improved manly look.

    If you are struggling with shaving yourself then I encourage you to check out this Bible study about embracing manhood