Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Successive Generations of Pastors and the Need For Revival

Last week I received a timely attachment from a good friend of mine who is a pastor. The following, I believe, is taken out of Philipps Commentary on the Gospel of John. I was in awe of how it resonated in my heart and prompted a greater passion to pray. Being a third or fourth generation Calvary Chapel Pastor I was challenged. I read it to our staff on a recent retreat, and they were also challenged. I think it speaks for itself, as it highlights the danger that any church movement can face moving forward. And how important it is to pass on what we received to the next generation coming behind us.  

J.PHILLIPS: 
"By the time that John took up his pen to write his gospel, his epistles, and the Apocalypse, the first century of the Christian era was about to close. As an old man he looked out on a world much different from the one he had known as a boy. Jerusalem was no more. The Jewish people had been uprooted and scattered to the ends of the earth. The church was spreading over the entire world, too, and had already endured the terrible persecutions of Nero and Domitian. The roots of apostasy were everywhere. Gnosticism threatened to change Christianity into something that was unrecognizable. Peter was gone, James was gone, and the apostle Paul was gone. 
    John wrote for the third generation of Christians. By its third generation, a movement stands in desperate need of revival, or else it will either dissapear altogether or linger on as a ghost of its former self. In the first generation "truth" is a conviction. Those who hold a conviction hold it dearly. They do not know the meaning of the word compromise. They are willing to die for what they believe to be true. In the second generation the conviction becomes a belief. 
     Sons hold the truths they have been taught by their fathers and defend their beliefs in discussion and debate. The keen edge of conviction, however, has been blunted, and adherence to a body of beliefs inherited from the fathers is not so much a passion as a persuasion. In the third generation, the belief becomes opinion. By then some members of the movement are willing to trade in their opinions for anything that promises to be a fair exchange. They feel it is time for a change, they start talking about renewal, and they look to the world for ideas. 
    John wrote for just such a third generation. He wrote with a sense of urgency. He did not write, as did the synoptics, from the viewpoint of an infant church; he wrote from the standpoint of an infirm church, one that was in dire peril from persecution without and subversion within."   

Praying for the Lord to makes us desperate for revival. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Word for Calvary Chapel Pastors

Every new year I reflect on what the Lord has done in the past, and  then pray for His guidance in the future. This February marks 20 years of pastoral ministry for me. I was taken from the janitorial closet of Costa Mesa, and by God's grace placed in the ministry. I was ordained to the ministry at the age of 23. After teaching and preaching for the last two decades I do not claim to know everything, but I have learned some important lessons. It has been an amazing journey. It started with the planting our first church in the South East of Florida. Then after ten years of ministry we were called back to California to pastor in San Juan Capistrano. I am so thankful that the Lord allowed me to be a part of the Calvary Chapel Churches. The example that we were given through the ministry of Pastor Chuck Smith and others in that first generation, have built a solid foundation for us to continue to build upon.
There are certain distinctive's that make Calvary Chapels unique. Although the churches are considered autonomous, there is also a sense of continuity among the fellowships. There are particular characteristics that are consistent. If you visit a Calvary in California, or a Calvary in Texas, you have an expectation that the Word of God will be preached; and that the Holy Spirit is at work. The size of the church is not the most important thing, for the churches vary in size. The building location isn't the most important thing either. Calvary Chapel pastors will meet anywhere they can. There are men meeting in living rooms, and others meeting in roller rinks. Regardless of where we meet, there are always certain things that you come to expect and appreciate about Calvary Chapel churches. Nevertheless over the last couple of years I have observed some things that I find concerning, and feel needed to be addressed. I am not speaking as a delegate of an association, but only as a pastor of a Calvary Chapel. I don't claim to have any authority other than what the Bible grants to believers through Jesus Christ.
To some people, what I share may not seem that important, but to others, they will bear witness. Let it be understood that I am primarily writing with the Calvary Chapel Pastor in mind. The pastor, who like myself, is following in the footsteps of other men who have gone before us. I am writing to the pastor that is wondering if he should be doing something different then what he has been doing. I am writing to the pastor who is observing some practices being introduced that seem foreign to what he has been taught. I am writing to the pastor who may think he is being critical when in reality he is being discerning.
 What I would like to address are not the Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith such as: the Virgin Birth of Christ, the Atonement through the Blood of Christ, or the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead, ect.. What I would like to present are some of what may be classified as more peripheral issues, but are still important. The reason they are important is there seems to be a subtle shift in certain places from these things that have proven to be affective and a blessing. This by no means is a complete list. Instead they are things that have been heavy on my heart the last two years.

#1. Church Planting: Today there are more seminars and meetings on church planting then ever before. We have resources available in the form of books, conferences, seminars, webinars, blogs, coaching, and more on "How To Plant Churches". There have been methods developed on how to reach metropolitan cities. Tools have been presented on how to affect the culture. Creative ideas have been suggested on how to be, "intentional,missional and communal." You can learn how to develop a team, and go in a plant a church in a particular area. I believe that many of these ideas can be helpful. I think many of the resources are affective. Yet I would like to write to the pastor who is thinking about planting a church and doesn't have a team. He doesn't have a method. The word, "Missional" isn't in his vocabulary. But he has a heart for a place, and a calling on his life, and the fire of the Spirit of God within his soul. I want that man to know that it is okay to step out in faith with absolutely nothing but your Bible and faith in an all powerful God. I believe that God calls a particular man, to a particular place, at a particular time, and anoints that man, so that HE can use that man, to plant a church. The Lord is the one who builds the church. And unless the Lord builds the house, you labor in vain. The church is not a corporation, its the body of Christ. It is not a franchise, but a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore if there is to be any lasting work, it won't be due to our personality, ingenuity or "vibe" you have created at the "venue" your at . It must be a Work of the Holy Spirit, not by your might, or your power. 

#2 Church Leadership: I realize that there has been some differing of opinion on the leadership structure within a church. Some see the wisdom in a "plurality of elders". Therefore they have many teachers teaching, and various men filling the pulpit on a rotation basis. They find it beneficial to share the weight of responsibility in that area. Others feel that "congregationally led" churches are the route to go. I imagine that there are more models of leadership than these. Also we have seen "word replacements" being used in recent days. By that I mean we have replaced "Senior Pastor" for "Lead Pastor", which in different places means different things. Again I speak as a Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor. The model that we have been given, was that there is a Senior Pastor, with assisting pastors that help oversee the work of the ministry. I am writing to the pastor that is wondering, "Should I call myself the lead or the senior?" The truth is, you can call yourself whatever you want, ultimately we are called to be servants, under rowers, bond slaves... But God has called you to shepherd the flock of God, you are the Senior pastor of that fellowship. "Senior" doesn't imply you are the "lord over all" but instead you are the "servant of all". So be what you are! You are called to be a shepherd, which means you need to be there for the sheep. It's great to take trips to the mission field, in fact I think every senior pastor should. You will be a better pastor to your congregation because of a mission trip. But don't forget your main responsibility is to the flock of God that has been entrusted to you. It's a blessing to have men around you that you trust who will carry on in your absence, but you and I need to be with the flock of God, that is our responsibility. We are not hirelings, we are shepherds. 

#3 Expositional Teaching: One of the definite hallmarks of Calvary Chapels has been the consistency in Bible Teaching. The model that we have followed which has helped to produce mature believers is teaching through the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. "Simply teaching the Bible Simply". There are some today who are getting away from teaching through the Bible. They teach  "from the Bible" instead of "teaching the Bible. Over the years there have been occasions where I felt the LORD wanted me to pause and go a little deeper in a series of teachings. Perhaps in the area of prophecy, or the miracles of Jesus, or the Sermon on the Mount..ect... I believe we ought to be led by the Holy Spirit in these matters, and that there is nothing wrong with teaching God's people in this way. However I am writing to the pastor who is wondering should I become a more of a topical preacher instead of a biblical expositor?  Should I work more on my presentation than my exposition? Should I incorporate more physical illustrations to make my points come across clearer?" The affective and proven model we have been given is to teach people "the whole council of the Word of God". Our people may never open the Book of Leviticus and discover how it points to Jesus if we don't take them through it. In the volume of the book it is written concerning Jesus. Keep teaching expositionally. Continue to develop your skill as a teacher. Listen to other solid expositors, read commentaries that are true to the text. Don't get off on the tangent of constant quotes, and sound bites, and endless illustrations, without scripture. Presentation is important and should be developed, but anointing from the Holy Spirit in preparation and delivery is even more important. Have the people in the church bring their Bibles. If you want to post the passages on the screen thats awesome, but have your people learn to open their bibles and see it for themselves. There are great "communicators" out there, but there is a need for great "expositors". 

The following three topics are a little more invasive than the previous three:  

#4 Careful in Liberty: One thing that has seemed to surface over the years is that of the pastors liberties. There are pockets of discussions on what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable for the pastor. Questions raised concerning what we we have the freedom to do, and not to do. Some have even gone so far as to boast of such liberties among members of their congregations or other pastors on their staff. There are places where Men's Bible studies and retreats are incorporating "Bible and brew" among the brothers. I am writing to the pastor who is wondering if he should loosen up. I am writing to the pastor that has observed others and said, "Maybe I am too legalistic on this point." Paul said in his pastoral epistles that the pastor "shouldn't be given to wine." I understand that there are some who want to tear apart the greek language to find a loophole for this practice in their lives.  Typically the rationale and the parameters are as follows "If you have a glass of wine with dinner in your home, with your wife, and your family that is not a big deal. Even Jesus turned water into wine."  For them that maybe true... but I am writing to the pastor who questions if his standards have been too high. Listen, don't compromise, don't give the enemy opportunity to take you back to the old life. I can honestly say, of all the counseling I have done over the last 20 plus years, not one GOOD THING has ever come where alcohol was involved. I haven't seen the body built up, but I have seen families torn apart. I haven't seen anyone strengthened, but I have seen some physically paralyzed. To go down that road as a minister, is to think we are stronger than we are. I would exhort the pastor to stay clear of it completely. Your children will never be able to say, "Well my dad drank and he was a pastor." Your congregation will never be able to say, "our pastor does it so its okay." Pastors and Alcohol

#5 Self Promotion: This subject right here is a touchy one. We live in a world that is far different then the one that many of us grew up in. I remember being in high school and getting the OC Register to see my name in  a tiny little font under the sports section listing my ranking in the county for wrestling. Oh the joy I experienced of cutting out my name and showing my friends...yeah! This was long before the selfie.  Today you can be your own self promoter. There is no need for the newspaper, you can be your own press agent. You can promote your own thing. Granted, the technology that we have is a blessing in order to get the Gospel out. People all over the world have access to the Good News because of it. We rejoice in the ongoing reports as we see what God is doing around the world, through various ministries. Yet I am writing to the pastor who may have struggled like me, with wanting others to know what he was doing. The struggle of letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing. The battle with elevating yourself in a tweet,vine, post, ect. The danger of using Jesus to promote self. There is a slippery slope found within this social media craze we are inundated with. It is easy to get wrapped up in it, begin loosing balance, and forget that we are nothing but a voice crying in the wilderness. To forget that JESUS must increase and we must decrease. I am not writing to judge anyones actions except my own. We don't always know our own hearts, and what our real motives are. Yet if promotion becomes more about self, and less about the savior we are in danger of robbing God of something that belongs to Him alone, "GLORY". The glory of God was something that satan wanted for himself. Robbing God of His glory is devilish in nature and must be avoided at all costs. May we learn to be okay with being anonymous and unknown to men, but well known to God. Let another man praise us and not our own lips. "Oh to become nothing in deep reality, and as a worker, study only one thing-to become poorer and lower and more helpless, that Christ may work all in you."-Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender. 

#6 Women Preaching in Pulpits: There are various movements of churches around the country that have very powerful women who are referred to as pastors or preachers. (to me these two are synonymous). They fill pulpits on Sunday mornings around the globe teaching men and women through God's Word. Some of them are extremely gifted in their ability to communicate. Many pentecostal groups have a husband and wife who are pastors of the church and their picture is posted in the foyer of their fellowship. Let me begin by saying that women in the church play a vital role. If it wasn't for the ladies serving in the church many of the ministries would not continue. I am grateful for the godly women who serve in our fellowship. However the Bible indicates that their role is limited. Women were not called to be pastors in the church, which would also imply functioning in the role of a pastor within the church. A women could be prime minister, the president of a country, the ceo of a company, but the Bible says a woman is not called to be the pastor within the church, (1 Timothy 2:11-14,) The following provides wonderful clarity on the subject from Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones "The apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy (1 Tim 2:11-15), prohibits it directly. He says quite specifically that he does not allow a women to teach or preach. ‘Ah yes’, we say, as we read that letter, ‘He was only thinking of his own age and time; but you know times have changed since then, and we must not be bound. Paul was thinking of certain semi-civilized people in Corinth and places like that’. But the Scripture does not say that. It says, ‘Let the women learn in silence with all subjection, but I suffer not a woman to teach nor usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence’. ‘Ah, but that was only temporary legislation’, we say. Paul puts it like this: ‘For Adam was first formed, the Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in child bearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety’.Paul does not say that it was only for the time being; he takes it right back to the Fall and shows that it is an abiding principle. It is something that is true, therefore, of the age in which we live. But thus you see, we argue with Scripture. Instead of taking its plain teaching, we say that times have changed-when it suits our thesis we say it is no longer relevant’. . . .If you want to avoid terrible disillusionment at the day of judgment, face Scripture as it is. Do not argue with it, do not try to manipulate it, do not twist; face it, receive it and submit to it whatever the cost." Also another great link to consider: women as pastors
        There are those that are beginning to put their wives in the pulpit to fill in for them in their services. I am not talking about a lady sharing a testimony of a para-church organization. Nor am I referring to a testimony shared about a missionary trip by one of the sisters in the fellowship. I am talking about the exercising of authority through the means of exposition of biblical doctrine. There are conferences being held where women are teaching Biblical doctrine to both "men and women". This practice is often justified as being under "a covering." Also it is explained that the "exercising of authority" as Paul described it,  doesn't mean women teaching from the pulpit to men and women. However I cannot think of any other way one exercises authority within the church then in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. Any authority that I have in the church, I believe comes from the presentation and the preaching of God's Word.  I am writing to the pastor who is wondering, "Am I doing this right? Should I rethink how we have done things? Should I incorporate more of a female presence as others are doing? " No. Keep doing what you are doing. Keep preaching the Word, Keep Loving Gods people. Keep discipling and raising up leaders.  Continue to be a shepherd to the flock of God. Be a Calvary Chapel Pastor of a Calvary Chapel church if that is what you are. If others veer off don't go that direction. 
As Calvary Chapel Pastors in our churches, we are not claiming to be better than anyone else, we are simply part of the body of Christ. Nor are we saying we cannot rejoice in other works that God is doing through other ministries. Nor are we to judge or compare ourselves to others in that regard.  Neither should we shy away from laboring toward unity and partnering with other ministries that God is using; even with those ministries that we may not see eye to eye with on every peripheral practice. Yet at the same time there are things that make us who we are.  Therefore do not waver in these last days. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A life verse for Calvary Chapel Churches

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! Zechariah 4:6-7 


When the nation of Israel came back from captivity they set to the task of rebuilding the temple. They realized that the worship of the one true God must be central to their existence. However as they began to build they became discouraged. They had successfully laid the foundation, but due to persecution and difficulty they quit and went back to building their own houses leaving the temple incomplete. The Lord then raised up His prophets Haggai and Zechariah to come along side of the people. Through their ministry the work of the temple resumed and was eventually completed. 
One of the encouraging words in the midst of the work was found here in Zechariah 4. It appears that Zerubbabel thought that the task before him had to be completed through his might, and power. It seemed as though a mountain stood before him that couldn't be removed. The Lord then told His servant that the work would be done through the Spirit. 

In many ways this verse has been a hallmark of the Calvary Chapel movement and its churches. Pastor Chuck always pointed us to the fact that the ministries we were involved with were in great need of the power of the Holy Spirit. You can have power, human ingenuity, even talented people,  but those things could never accomplish what the Spirit of God can accomplish. For many of us we set out to plant and pastor churches with this promise in mind. We were aware of our own inadequacy. We knew that apart from the Lord we could do nothing. A trust in God and His Word were the tools to build the church. The foundation was Jesus, and we just went for it. We came to find out that this promise is true. The Spirit of God can level the mountains that we could never move. The Lord can make a way in a community, or even another country. He isn't limited by anything. 

Yet as I reflect a little more on this passage of scripture I begin to think of the future of the Calvary Chapel churches. I believe we need a fresh reminder and discovery of this promise. I consider the many mountains that seem to surround us at the present time. I realize that they are too great for us to remove, but they are not too great for the LORD to remove. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I believe we must continue to stick to what we know. That we continue to faithfully teach the Word of God, chapter by chapter verse by verse declaring the whole council of God. That we remain dependent upon the power of the Spirit, and that our prayers are directed toward that end. Lord pour out Your Spirit in these last days. Bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Give us boldness to continue to proclaim the truth without compromise. 
I also feel that it is imperative that we don't look around at the way others are building, and how they are building in making comparisons. In each individual church we have enough to be held accountable for. Let's simply do our job to the best of our ability and let other people do theirs. God uses different churches to minister to different people. The gifts and the callings that He distributes are not the same for everyone. I want to use the talents I have been entrusted with in order to be a faithful steward before my master returns. Stay focused, be faithful, do your best, and leave the outcome to the Lord. 

I realize in my own life and ministry after 20 years of pastoral ministry I am still completely powerless and ineffective without Jesus. I know that apart from my savior and His Spirit I can do nothing. Like so many of my brothers across this world there is a desire to see a greater work of Gods Spirit. Let's not let up, let's not shrink back, let's press on, push forward, continue to advance in the Spiritual battle. And may the Lord grant us a greater measure of the outpouring of His Spirit in our churches in the coming year. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Watch, Wait, and See

LOOK among the nations and WATCH, be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you, Habakkuk 1:5
I will stand my WATCH and set myself on a rampart and WATCH to SEE what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected. Habakkuk 2:1

The prophet Habakkuk was informed that a work of God was about to begin. Yet the work that was to be done, Habakkuk wouldn't believe it even if he was informed in advance. Sometimes we think we have the Lord figured out. We imagine in our minds the way He will provide, or the doors He will open. We develop a predisposition as to how the will of God will unfold in our lives. But so often things don't go the way we planned. It is in those moments that we come to realize the Lord is much better at writing our story than we are. The Lord told Habakkuk to do three things, LOOK, WATCH and BE ASTOUNDED.  Habakkuk wasn't the one who would be doing the work, God was. The Lord was the one who would do the work that was going to amaze the prophet. The plan unfolding would surpass his ability to understand. At that moment Habakkuk made a decision, he would put himself in a place to wait,watch, and see what the Lord would do. He was going to have to live by faith and trust God. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

He has shown you

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Your God. Micah 6:8

When we go to the Word of God we do so with an expectation, or at least we should. We should desire and anticipate the Lord speaking to us. He speaks through His Word. Now I wish that I could say every morning was some amazing revelation and insight that I had never seen before, but that is not always the case. Sometimes I read and I know what the context is, I know what the background is, but I am struggling to find application for my life. Yet that doesn't mean the Lord isn't speaking. God's Word does not return void. Then there are times where we say, "Lord please show me something..." and the response is right here in Micah, "He has shown you..". The Lord has shown you, and now your either going to need to take a step of faith, or your gonna have to wait on Him to bring it to pass. In the mean time continue to do justly, love mercy, and especially walk in humility before God. As we do He will continue to unfold His plans and purpose for us. We have no idea whats around the corner, but we know the Lord has already gone before us. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Star Of Bethlehem

When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Matthew 2:10

This is the time of year when everyone is preparing for Christmas. Lights go up on the house, trees are decorated, and oh yes, Christmas cookies are made. You know, the sugar cookies decorated like snow men, trees, and candy canes? The ones with the sprinkles and frosting?  You get the idea. Christmas carols are sung, gifts are purchased and wrapped.  Yet its easy to loose the real meaning in all the activity isn't it?

In Luke chapter 2 we read of the arrival of the KING of KINGS and the LORD of LORDS, as Jesus was born in a stable. The Son of God became a man, so that we could one day become Sons of God. Angels sang His praises, shepherds came and worshipped Him. Yet Matthew is the only one who records what took place after the birth of Jesus. There was a group of wise men that were searching for the King who would be the Savior of the World. The Lord gave them a supernatural sign in creation of a star. That star led them right to Jesus. The Bible says that when they saw the star they rejoiced. Why? Because they were getting closer to Jesus. The closer they got the greater their joy became. Until when they finally saw Jesus they fell down and worshipped Him and presented their gifts to Him. 

Folks today there is no star pointing people to the Savior. We are now the ones who are to shine in the darkness of this world, directing people to Jesus. Jesus said we are the light of the world. We are like a city that is set upon a hill that cannot be hidden.We aren't to hide our light but to let it shine. Daniel put it this way, "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever." Daniel 12:3 

May the Lord help us this Christmas season to shine brightly in the midst of the darkness. 

Link to the JOY OF CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: The Search is Over: Matthew 2

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Shortcuts

For you have need of endurance so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. Hebrews 10:36

Shortcut: an accelerated way of doing or achieving something.
Driving  down the street this morning I noticed a group of people riding bicycles. They weren't riding Huffy Beach cruisers like I used to have, no they were riding road bikes. They wore bike shorts and bike shirts and had aerodynamic bike helmets. As I sat at the stoplight I watched the bikers approach a steep hill, and as they pedalled forward, no one was getting off their bikes. None of them were going to stop, they were going to the top. Then all of the sudden, out of nowhere, I saw a lady on a motorized bicycle pass them all, quickly going up the hill. It made me laugh as I heard one of the bikers say out loud, "No Fair!" The motorized bicyclist found a shortcut. 
Its seems that we are always looking for shortcuts in life. Cliff-notes instead of the whole book, diet pills instead of exercise. We want instant gratification, instead of patient persistence. Although there are times when a shortcut might be okay, there are somethings in life that you have to simply press through. In those seasons we might look at someone else who isn't struggling and think, "it isn't fair." We may face the temptation to quit and give up all together. There are many examples in the scriptures of people who took, what appeared the be the easier route, but it ended up being more difficult down the road.  Its in traversing the hills of life, that character is being developed. Its in the challenges and struggles of life that we grow deeper and become stronger in the Lord. This Christian life is a journey with many peaks and valleys. It's filled with joys and sorrows, and endurance is needed. But at the end of the road there is Jesus and Glory and Heaven and Eternity!!!! It will all be worth it when our race is over.