‘Believing God for a Prophetically Relevant Church’ by Doug Clay

201304_098_Prophet_art In the fall 2013 issue of Enrichment, Doug Clay writes:

Prophetic relevance does not mean reciting a litany of passages from Minor Prophets in the Old Testament about God’s judgment on people. It does not mean getting in the face of others with a bullhorn to your mouth and a placard in your hand. It does not mean standing on the steps in a sports stadium shouting “Repent or die!”

No, the practical way to have a prophetic voice in a secular culture when the world’s values are not the same is learning the art and practicing the science of demonstrating courtesy, expressing sympathy, and speaking honestly.

Sometimes our mere presence can make a deep and lasting impression. Job’s friends did the right thing the first 7 days after he went through his series of horrific events. They just stayed with him and wept. They said nothing (Job 2:12,13).

Before we try to change culture by passing out tracts to strangers or conducting mass evangelism rallies, perhaps a better method is to develop a relationship with one or two people. Before we start railing on them about their advocacy of cultural issues that are not aligned with our values, we should show them courtesy, express sympathy and speak honestly — and thus earn the right to present the gospel to them.

Read the whole thing here.

Review of ‘The Kingdom Net’ by Joseph Castleberry

The Kingdom Net Joseph Castleberry, The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus (Springfield, MO: My Healthy Church, 2013). Paperback / Kindle

The subtitle of The Kingdom Net—“learning to network like Jesus”—might mislead you into thinking that this is yet another business book misappropriating Jesus’ life and teachings to help you advance your career. It isn’t. Or rather, to the extent that it helps you advance your career, The Kingdom Net does so by redefining your career in terms of the kingdom of God and his missionary purposes for humanity. Whether you’re a Bible-quoting evangelist or a business-minded entrepreneur, this redefinition ensures that you’re investing your time, treasure, and talents in worthy projects.

Joseph Castleberry is president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. In the course of his career, he has served in a variety of roles, including pastor, missionary, community development entrepreneur, and educator—all of which require competence in social networking as part of their respective skillsets.

Drawing on his rich and varied life experiences, he sketches a vision of kingdom networking that combines equal parts theological reflection, biblical example, and practical advice. You’ll learn about the kingdom of God, missio dei, the mission of humanity, and the mission of the church. You’ll also learn how to meet people, maintain contacts, drop names appropriately, and write thank you notes. And, as the book’s subtitle suggests, you’ll also learn from the New Testament how Jesus used social networking to advance the kingdom of God. (And Paul too!)

Indeed, Castleberry writes, “The kingdom of God is a network.” This network has a primary purpose of enfolding flesh-and-blood people into the life and purposes of God. Consequently, Castleberry concludes, “The growth of the kingdom is the growth of God’s people net.” In God’s kingdom—and there alone—humanity truly flourishes.

As a minister, I highly recommend this valuable book to my fellow clergy. However, I also think it’s a good gift for graduates as they commence their careers. Finally, I’d recommend it to business people who want to lead significant lives, not merely successful ones.

Full disclosure: I am a personal friend and occasional student of Joe Castleberry. Additionally, I work for the Assemblies of God, which is the parent company of My Healthy Church, but not for MHC.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

‘Believing God for Jesus-Style Leaders’ by Jim Bradford

photo In the fall 2013 issue of Enrichment, Jim Bradford writes:

Louis Pasteur lived at a time when thousands of people died each year of rabies. Pasteur, a scientist, had worked for years on a vaccine. Just as he was about to begin experimenting on himself, a rabid dog bit Joseph Meister, a 9-year-old boy. The boy’s mother begged Pasteur to experiment on her son. Pasteur injected Joseph for 10 days, and the boy lived.

Decades later, of all the things Louis Pasteur could have asked to have written on his gravestone, he asked for just three words: Joseph Meister Lived. Those words frame the legacy of Christ’s living church. People will live eternally because of our investment in Christ’s mission. Our calling is not to focus on ourselves or play to the preferences of people who think more like spiritual consumers than servant ministers. It is to proclaim the gospel and mobilize Christ’s church to do all it can to reach spiritually lost people.

The great missionary pastor from Canada, Oswald J. Smith, wrote in his convicting book, The Cry of the World, “We should have kept before us our Lord’s post-Resurrection commands. We should have evangelized the world. Otherwise we have no ground for our existence as a church. There is no reason why we should have churches unless they are reaching out to those who have never heard.”

Change is difficult in many of our churches, and change for change’s sake is a useless exercise. But change that is motivated and necessitated by our mission to effectively reach people is change that we must never give up on. Missional leaders courageously solve problems and remove obstacles to reaching lost and hurting people. Missional leaders relentlessly seek results and find ways to get things done. Missional leaders never take refuge in the predictable or the familiar or the safe. Jesus said, “Go,” so they do not “sit.”

Read the whole thing here.

‘Believing God for Spirit-Empowerment’ by Alton Garrison

201304_084_Spirit_art From the fall 2013 issue of Enrichment:

Sadly, it appears that believers in many corners of the church are either abandoning Spirit-empowerment or have failed to access it in the first place. I fear that if the Holy Spirit were taken completely from a church, many elements of the work of that church would go on as if nothing had happened.

What a travesty of what every church was meant to be. And can this also be true of our personal lives? Are many of us in our area of ministry calling churning out “Christian” activity day to day that has no touch of God on it?

Without that touch, most powerfully brought about through the Holy Spirit’s infilling and influence, believers hobble their effective participation in the Great Commission. A.W. Tozer offered this observation, counterintuitive at first blush to the follower of Christ anxious to be of service in the Kingdom: “The popular notion that the first obligation of the church is to spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth is false.Her first obligation is to be spiritually worthy to spread it. [Emphasis his.] Our Lord said, ‘Go ye,’ but He also said, ‘Tarry ye,’ and the tarrying had to come before the going. Had the disciples gone forth as missionaries before the Day of Pentecost it would have been an overwhelming spiritual disaster.”

I believe churches that have diluted the original mission statement of our Lord merit the warning issued to the prophet Jeremiah: “ ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water’ ” (2:13). Such churches have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof in their half-hearted acquisition of the Spirit’s leading and power. These churches have cut themselves off from the spring of living water and subsequently have nothing with which to fill their cisterns. What is left is an empty shell, merely an empty hull of theology.

These churches are Pentecostal sometimes — when it is convenient, when it is safe, when it is socially correct. Such believers are part-time Pentecostals. They have traded holiness for hype; they have forgotten righteousness in their pursuit of ritual; they have mastered the form of religion while sacrificing the force of the Spirit.

Part-time Pentecostals are high-maintenance/low-impact Christians. They boast of great authority, but are devastated at the first attack of the enemy. They know all their biblical rights, but recognize few of their responsibilities.

There is only one antidote to such a crisis. It is breathtaking in its possibility, it is awesome in its power, and it is liberating in its effect. It is quite simply the anointing. The anointing is the power of the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day there is no better definition. The anointing is the power of God to do the work of God in an ungodly world.

Read the whole thing here.


Believing God for Greater Things: An Interview with George O. Wood

201304_078_Interview_art The theme of the fall 2013 issue of Enrichment is “Believe,” which was also the theme of the 55th General Council in Orlando, Florida. Enrichment interviewed Dr. George O. Wood about this theme. In the final question, he offered words of encouragement to pastors struggling to believe in their current season of ministry: 

My parents were pioneer ministers in the Fellowship. Their names were never in the “lights.” They were not well known. They were never asked to speak at a district council or General Council — in fact, they could not even afford to go to most of them. They labored in hard places with little visible result. But today the works they established are all flourishing — and some with amazing results. My mother used to say to me, “On that day, God will not ask us if we have been successful, He will ask us have we been faithful.” That’s a word of encouragement I constantly give. All God asks us is to pray hard, work hard, believe hard — and then leave the results in His hands.

Read the whole interview here.

Review of ‘Your Next Pastor’ by Warren D. Bullock

YourNextPastor Warren D. Bullock, Your Next Pastor: Guidelines for Finding God’s Person for Your Church (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2013). $12.99, 168 pages. Paperback / Kindle

Few decisions are more important to a local Christian congregation than the choice of its pastor. Pastors function as their congregation’s theologian-in-chief, not to mention as the public face of its mission, vision, and values. If, as John Maxwell says, “everything rises and falls on leadership,” then the life of a congregation rises and falls with the man or woman it calls to be its leader.

Warren D. Bullock is an Assemblies of God minister who has served his fellowship in a variety of positions, both at the local-church level and in denominational leadership. With Your Next Pastor, He has written an excellent how-to book for pastoral search committees that reflects his seasoned experience. Although this book was published by the AG’s publishing house, it is useful for any congregationally governed church, whatever its denominational affiliation.

The book walks pastoral search committee members through seven phases: the lead pastor’s resignation, managing the transition, systems for pastoral search committee, screening candidates, interviewing candidates, presenting the candidate to the congregation, and welcoming the new lead pastor. It includes ten appendixes with draft language of committee communications on various topics.

I have never served on a pastoral search committee. As a candidate for a pastorate, however, I have observed up close the diligent work of just such a committee and wish that all pastoral candidates could have such a positive experience. If church boards and pastoral search committees implemented Bullock’s guidelines, I’m confident the search process would function in a healthy and efficient manner for all parties.

Highly recommended to church board and pastoral search committee members!

Full disclosure: I am an employee of the Assemblies of God, which is the parent company of Gospel Publishing House. I am not employed by GPH, however.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘Lincoln Unbound’ by Rich Lowry

LincolnUnbound Rich Lowry, Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream—And How We Can Do It Again (New York: Broadside Books, 2013). $26.00, 288 pages. Hardcover / Kindle

Two score and seventeen years ago, historian David Herbert Donald noted the tendency of politicians to appropriate Abraham Lincoln’s name and words in support of their preferred policies. Borrowing a phrase from Illinois Republican pol Everett Dirksen, Donald titled this phenomenon, “getting right with Lincoln.”

Between the Civil War and the dawn of the New Deal, this appropriation was done solely by Republicans (or ex-Republican Bull Moosers like Teddy Roosevelt). Then, in 1932, casting about for a usable past, Teddy’s cousin Franklin began appropriating Lincoln’s name and words for Democratic Party initiatives. Since FDR, progressives have routinely claimed Lincoln as one of their own. Indeed, in 2008, Illinois Senator Barack Obama verged on presenting himself as Lincoln redivivus.

Lincoln Unbound by National Review editor Rich Lowry sets out to reclaim Lincoln for the Grand Old Party by putting Lincoln’s ideology and policies in biographical perspective. Raised dirt-poor on the American frontier, Lincoln dreamed of escaping the hard, dreary life of working the land. Like many other young men on the make, he turned to Henry Clay’s Whig Party, whose “American system” of moral improvement, infrastructure development, and protectionist policies aimed to create a new America, unlike the vision of self-sufficient yeoman farmers so beloved by partisans of Jefferson and Jackson. Lincoln the Railsplitter became Lincoln the Railroad Supporter. Indeed, he seemed never to have found an industrial innovation he didn’t like.

He never liked slavery, however. Like most Whigs, he was content to attempt to limit the extent of slavery. Henry Clay—Lincoln’s “beau ideal of a statesman”—had negotiated the Missouri Compromise of 1820, limiting slavery to the South (Missouri excepted). The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, negotiated by Stephen Douglass, had effectively repealed the Compromise and allowed new states to decide, through “popular sovereignty,” whether they would be slave or free. All this negotiating came to naught, however, when Roger Taney’s Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dred Scott, effectively legalizing slavery in all states of the Union and pushing the country to war.

Lincoln, whose national political career had been limited to a single ineffective term in the House of Representatives, battled Stephen Douglass for the Illinois Senate seat in 1858. In their famous seven debates, he ridiculed the notion of popular sovereignty, critiqued the Supreme Court’s ruling, and argued that whether whites and blacks were equal, they were equal before the law. And he lost. But his arguments brought him national fame, and in 1860 when he won the presidential election as a Republican and led the Union through four long years of war to victory and emancipation.

Lowry’s book narrates Lincoln’s life and ideas succinctly and winsomely. This narration occupies the vast majority of the book. It is the final chapter, appropriating Lincoln’s ideas for today, that will be the most controversial for many readers. Lowry writes:

So, what would Lincoln do today? His essential formula wouldn’t have to change much: Economic growth. Policies to enhance the market and ensure that it is as fluid and flexible as possible. Education. An ethic of self-reliance, free of control or dependence on others. And a commitment to order and self-regulating conduct. We should be a strenuous society that demands individual exertion and rewards it, and that is open to all, without favor or prejudice. We should be a country where you can make your way and you have to make your way (p. 207).

How to do that specifically? Lowry offers a raft of “my own policy preferences,” quickly adding, “without presuming Lincoln would have necessarily endorsed any of them” (p. 208).

And thus the problem of getting right with Lincoln. We know who Lincoln was, what he believed, what policies he pursued and when in power enacted. But we cannot “necessarily” know what Lincoln would do today, because our times are not his. And perhaps Lincoln’s ideas would’ve evolved with changing circumstances

As much as I agreed with many of Lowry’s proposals, indeed seeing them as logical extensions of Lincoln’s ideas, I can’t help but think that what America and American conservatism need today is not Lincoln redivivus—or the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan—but similar Declaration-loving, Constitution-following politicians who propose sound solutions to the problems we fact today, and work successfully to see them enacted. Personally, as much as I love all things Lincoln, I’d rather see that kind of politician unbound.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Excerpt from ‘Relentless: Pursuing a Life that Matters’ by Dave Donaldson and Terry Glaspey

201304_046_relent_art Here’s an excerpt from Dave Donaldson’s new book, Relentless: Pursuing a Life that Matters, which was published in the fall 2013 issue of Enrichment:

Sharing is the only solution to bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. By sharing we can rescue our brothers and sisters from injustice, teach them to fish, and show them where to find the pond of opportunity. By sharing our time, expertise, and resources, we can save and improve lives.

Sharing is God’s plan for church growth. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. … Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).

Paul started a relief program to help the Jerusalem church alleviate poverty in the city. To fund the initiative, Paul traveled throughout Asia Minor asking Christians to donate funds to feed the hungry (Romans 15:26). As a result of Paul’s journeys to help the suffering, he planted churches in Asia Minor, and the gospel spread throughout the world.

The only way most people in the world will discover Jesus’ love is when they see it demonstrated by the offer of a cup of water to the thirsty or a piece of bread for the hungry. Mother Teresa said: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kind­ness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

Paul declared there would be eternal results from sharing: “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God” (2 Corinthians 9:13). But sowing is a verb and requires obedience: “Others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ” (2 Corinthians 9:13).

Read the whole thing here.

Review of ‘Global Witness to Pentecost’ by Jordan Daniel May

GlobalWitness toPentecost Jordan Daniel May, Global Witness to Pentecost: The Testimony of ‘Other Tongues’ (Cleveland, TN: Cherohala Press, 2013). $12.95, 152 pages. Paperback / Kindle

One of the hallmarks of Pentecostalism is speaking in tongues, a practice first recorded in Acts 2:4: “All of them [i.e., the disciples of Jesus] were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (NIV). In Greek, the word translated “tongues” is glossais. The NIV marginal note lists “languages” as an alternative translation. In Acts 2:6, Luke notes that the crowd “heard their own language being spoken,” where “language” translates the Greek word dialekto, from which we get the word dialect. A few verses later, members of the crowd say, “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues” (2:11), where “tongues” once again translates glossais. Given that “tongues” and “languages” are used synonymously here, the correct assumption is that on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples spoke human languages unknown to them but known to their hearers.

Obviously, such as practice is miraculous in character. Moreover, linguists who have studied contemporary glossolalia have described it as “only a façade of language,” in William J. Samarin’s description. Thus, we come to a dilemma: One horn is the precedent of Pentecost, where disciples of Jesus miraculously spoke known human languages. The other horn is linguistic evidence that much contemporary glossolalia is not any known human language.

Traditionally, Pentecostals have resolved this dilemma in two ways: First, they argue that much contemporary glossolalia is a “heavenly language,” what Paul called “the tongues…of angels” in 1 Corinthians 13:1. Second, they argue that contemporary Pentecostals do in fact occasionally speak in human languages they have not learned.

Global Witness to Pentecost by Jordan Daniel May compiles 88 testimonies where persons have spoken in tongues or have witnessed someone else speaking in tongues where the tongue is a known human language. (If you include an incident mentioned in the Foreword, the book includes an 89th testimony.)

The author describes his methodology this way: “I attempted to verify each testimony with more than one witness (when feasible). It was my desire to have as many sources per testimony as possible… Those testimonies I was able to verify, I included. If I was unable to confirm a testimony, then it was eliminated. Put plainly, if I had a doubt, I left it out. In the end, I can honestly say I did my best to verify each story” (p. xiii).

He goes on to note that “no amount of documentation will satisfy a critic” (p. xiii). So, a skeptic of Pentecostalism—whether an atheist who denies the miraculous or a Christian cessationist who denies that miracles happen today—will find nits to pick in these testimonies. As a Pentecostal, however, I view these testimonies as eyewitness accounts. Given that I personally know three individuals who report such miracles—George O. Wood (pp. xi, 97), Joseph Castleberry (p. 16), and Byron Klaus (pp. 69, 103)—I am inclined to credit their reports. The author’s reports are drawn largely from the Assemblies of God and from the last five decades. It would be a valuable research project to compile more such testimonies (perhaps online), from both historical and contemporary sources, for further study.

Full Disclosure: I am the son of George O. Wood, mentioned above, who wrote the Foreword to Global Witness to Pentecost.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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