What Happened Brother?

The biggest problem in Church today is being lukewarm; affecting the health of the Church, damaging their area of influence, and proving to be fruitless.  

“What’s the biggest challenge that you face in ministry today as a Pastor?”

I am asked this question so many times. They would more often be expecting answers like financial crisis, fundamentalist groups, cultural issues, opposition from the Old school mindset and many of those which might look like a problem.

So the other day, a Pastor asked a few friends who missed Church on Sunday, “what happened bro?” And most of them were like, “Oh Pastor I am not keeping well.” So, the Pastor replied, “I will be praying.” And miraculously one of them was at work the next Monday morning and the other guy rushed to college quite early. Pastors have such powerful prayers you know!!! On another occasion, one guy was very sincere, when he missed Church, the only excuse left was, “I am sorry I slept off.”

It is heights, when people miss Church because of rains, and sing the next Sunday, “with Christ in my vessel I can smile at the storm.” Likewise so many funny stories.

But when they come, they don’t leave. So it’s fun working with them. Maybe the Church at large and the leadership has also missed the point of not reflecting Christ at all times, which we must.

So into my 14th year of Christian ministry, I am once more convinced with what the Bible says in Revelation 3:16 – ”So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” The biggest problem in Church today is being lukewarm. On the other hand, the heroes of the first century Church were men and women of faith, who were on fire for Jesus. One of my Pastors would often remind the congregation, “either be on fire for Jesus, or burn out for Jesus.” So while being lukewarm, one not only affects the health of the Church, but brings enough damage in their area of influence as well. A lukewarm Christian is as dangerous as a fruitless fig tree.

Perhaps the challenges in life has overhauled our relationship with God. Surely, I don’t believe – going to Church makes us a saint, but it’s for sure, a place of reminder in this fast paced life, of what God has done and can do. Bible says in Hebrew 10:25 – “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Life is fast and things are tough. Young people today are bogged down with so much pressure for grades and paycheck. In midst of all this, they need a release point – finding comfort in God. It’s my prayer that Church becomes that place where they can connect with God and enjoy their journey of life.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

When Your Service Overshadows Jesus

I would seek GOD and fail, rather than serve HIM all my life and live under an illusion that my service is what keeps HIS heart open for me and bless me.

Sometimes, no actually a lot of times I feel like I am making a choice to stay blind even though I am standing in the bright light called Jesus. I shut my eyes and live “my way or the way the experiences in past have taught me.” I deliberately choose my way over Jesus. Result? I am wearied and disillusioned.

No, do not get me wrong, I am not going to start preaching on “obedience and serving God is everything.” Actually I am against serving God. Surprised? Yes, I am not in for “serving God” if it makes me feel worthy in HIS eyes. If that service is not from an outflow of the revelation of HIS greatest love for me, then I am against it. I would rather seek GOD all my life and fail, rather than serve HIM all my life and live under an illusion that my service is what keeps HIS heart open for me and bless me.

Jesus, my friend fortunately is not like you and me, and thankfully He is exactly what HE says HE is. Why then do I say that I choose to stay blind? Because I replace what HE says about HIMSELF with what I feel is believable and what I deserve. Yes, I do let the enemy into my head when I believe that I hold real value in God’s eyes because I do things for HIM. If I were JESUS, I would say – “How offensive!!!!”

I know I sound rude and I am sorry that you had to hear it this way. It might crash your world because it did mine. It sure did!! My intention here is to give you clarity on the triangle of Jesus, relationship and service.

 

Here it is :

1. DO YOU BOTH KNOW EACH OTHER? (Matthew 7:22-23 and Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Jesus said this for me to hear and understand that it is not my ministerial work that will become my reason to dwell with HIM when my time comes, but it will be because HE “knew” me and not because of what I supposedly did for HIM. What I claim as intimacy with Christ is just what He repudiates, and with a certain scornful dignity (casted out demons, prophecy…tell you plainly). The word “knew” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word “yada”, the original meaning of which is the sexual intimacy in a marriage. In marriage, you are called to see through each other in your nakedness, exactly the way you are – You open your real self to your spouse and become vulnerable. Did you trust Jesus enough to let you see in your nakedness? Are you letting HIM see who you really are? Love you in your nothingness? Did you even accept the poverty of your soul at HIS feet? Did you know HIM as enough to take care of you in every season of your life just as a husband does to his wife? Or were you too busy casting out demons or always trying to be perfect holding onto it as a trophy that makes HIM love you. Put this trophy down, take off your garment of works and let JESUS see the burdens of your heart, the cares of your of mind, and everything you are.

 

2. WHAT AM I DOING FOR GOD? (John 6:29)
Heard that a lot, so many times from myself. So, you want to labor for GOD? Good! Jesus has answered – “Believe in the one GOD has sent.”

I have done the mistake of thinking that believing here means – “Jesus is the son of God and He has paid the price of my sin.” Nope, it does not. Listen to this – ‘believe’ comes from the German word ‘Belieben’ which means to – ‘hold dear, value highly.’ Your work for God is assessed on the basis of how much you hold HIM dear and value HIM, and let it direct your actions and not the other way round!!

“It is you remaining in HIM that will make you fruitful and not your fruits that will engraft you in HIM”.

After all, what did you even do for Jesus to accept you? Your relationship started with HIM because you believed (valued highly) in HIS love for you.

 

3. FAITH WITHOUT GOOD WORKS? (Romans 1:17)
Ah, the enemy has used this against me for so long. Faith without good works is dead. I used to keep trying to do work for God and feel better for a few days. It felt like always walking under the supervision of a tough boss. It started taking me away from Jesus. Until one day, when I realised I do not feel loved anymore. What is the difference between Jesus and this world if I feel that I have to constantly work to be in a place of favour?

I digged into the Word and found Romans 1:17. I was called to live (be alive) by faith and not by works. What is the original meaning of faith? The root word is ‘pistuo’, original meaning is ‘fidelity, I rest my heart upon, I am loyal to’. So what was my loyalty to Jesus calling me to do when I started feeling like I am loved and accepted because of my works? It called me to drop everything else, and fight and push out these lies from my life to replace them with the truth of GOD. Yes, in that season that was my service to Jesus. Pick up the sword and cut off all lies and submit my polluted mind to Jesus and let HIM renew it.

 

4. SO WORK IS NOT IMPORTANT? (Luke 17:7-10)
Ummm, I think it is. It keeps you motivated and keeps you going. But I have to keep checking my heart and keep praying that I look at my works unto Lord the way HE looks at it. In the word HE asks you –  “Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Now, this servant if he knew how much HIS master loves HIM unconditionally – had his heart yearned for this small appreciation. In fact, he would have kept doing and doing and doing awed by how loved he is. I keep telling myself –  Sneha, do not make Jesus small in your eyes. He loves “you” and is not dependant on what you do for HIM. Check your understanding of HIM. Faith is always to be put in someone or something, it is always relational and it gives you an identity – out of which flows out your vision and hence your responses to life. So, faith navigates your service and not the other way round. Are you faithful to Jesus? Wow, go ahead and change the world for HIM.

 

My prayer for you is that you focus on what was done for you by Jesus and what has made you into more than what you can do and you will become out of it. You will find yourself at the place of serving lovingly !!

Discipleship – Jesus’ View

The early Church grew almost four-hundred fold during the first three decades after Pentecost, and continued to do so for three centuries thereafter. Then what led to the gradual decline?

Webster defines “Disciple” as one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another. “Mathetes” , is its Greek equivalent. In the 4th century B.C., the Greek philosopher Plato, introduced the viewpoint that separated the physical realm from the spiritual. In 335 B.C., Aristotle, his disciple who founded the school “Lyceum,” in Athens, took it a step further. Here, the academic world systematized the Platonic viewpoint and made it transferable. The school birthed doctors, lawyers and teachers, who passionately began to infiltrate their respective realms of influence with this Platonic worldview.

Years later, Rome conquered Greece. However, the Platonic logic continued to penetrate into the Roman culture, insomuch that, some historians did not shy away from using the term, Greco-Roman world. How influencing the power of discipleship!

It was in this context that Jesus enters into the scene and introduces a new teaching, unlike the existing Jewish or Aristotelian models, which only brought about fractions within segments of the socio-economic strata. Judaism was accessible only to the Jews, leaving everyone else (Gentiles) without hope and Aristotelean philosophy only to intellectuals. Jesus came, neither to promote philosophy nor religious fervor. He addressed something much deeper; one that came from the heart, based on “Love.” “For God so ‘loved’ the world…. (John 3:16).” As a result, bringing unity by breaking down barriers of separation (Ephesians 2:14).

Jesus invested three and half years into twelve men, a tax-collector, some fishermen, and others – to whom He commissioned prior to His ascension, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… (Matthew 28:19).” However, they were not ignorant on how to accomplish this task. Primarily, because Jesus had already modeled the process in them, which was a replication of the one between Him and the Father. “I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26).” Moreover, He had given them the new commandment to love one another, just as He had loved them (John 13:34). And it’s the love we have for one other which is the only tangible evidence to the world of being, His true disciples (John 13:35).

History is clear that the early Church grew almost four-hundred fold during the first three decades after Pentecost, and continued to do so remarkably well for three centuries thereafter (Coleman, Robert E., The Master Plan of Discipleship (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001), 30). The reason for this was that a major emphasis was placed on Discipleship. Early church fathers like Ignatius, Bishop at the church of Antioch in Syria, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and Ireneaus, Bishop of Lyons, heavily emphasized discipleship (Wilkins, Michael J., Following the Master, A Biblical Theology of Discipleship (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992); Hull, Bill, The Complete Book of Discipleship (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006)). After this period began a gradual decline, which can be attributed to the lack of effective discipleship, and one doubts if the church is really focused on her obligation to raise up true disciples any longer!

Let’s face it! Somehow, the church has lost the understanding of “Discipleship.” The measurement of growth is quantitative, rather than qualitative. We are eager to lead people to salvation but not disciple them. Salvation in its truest form always leads to discipleship. And discipleship is the “way of life.”

Friends, the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). What marvelous love the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “His Children” – and that is not merely what we are referred to as, but indeed are (1 John 3:1). May the world know by our love that we are “disciples” of Jesus Christ.

Full time ministry?

Have you ever thought to yourself that you want to work at a church or a Christian organization because you have been touched by God’s love and are convicted to serve? Have you been confused between full-time and part-time ministry?

Have you ever thought to yourself that you want to work at a church or a Christian organization because you have been touched by God’s love and are convicted to serve? That’s awesome, but I have often found people directly relating ministry to working at a church or a Christian organization.

The term they use is “full time ministry.” We have the tendency to wrongly use statements and mystify the meaning, sometimes even alter it. Could this phrase have altered the meaning of ministry?

Greek word for ministry is diakoneo which means “to be a servant.” When you understand the gospel of Christ, it brings a lot of changes in you. One of the things that it does to you is that it makes you a servant. Jesus said “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John13:13-15.) We all become servants and yes full time servants regardless of where we work.

Would you disagree if I say “you can work at a church yet not be a minister, and not work in a church but still be a minister.” The point I want to raise is, thinking that ministry happens only in Church can lead us to not be a minister in other places which is not what Christ desires. Christ became a servant and we are to follow him wherever we are.

“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

God first, family second and ministry third?

So many times you hear people say “God is first, family second, ministry third” or for some ministry second and family third. But I wonder if we can really form a hierarchy?

So many times you hear people say “God is first, family second, ministry third” or for some ministry second and family third. But I wonder if we can really form a hierarchy? Isn’t God the first, the second, the third, well isn’t God the center of it all? God is the only being in existence, the reason for whose existence lies within himself said Dr. Ravi Zacharias. All other beings seek for the reason for their existence outside themselves. The very reason of our existence is in God. Everything originates from him. He said “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Forming a hierarchy can trap us in to not taking decision in view of God in these other areas of our life. Colossians 1:18 says “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” In everything he might have the supremacy. He is first in EVERYTHING. So rather than putting God in a pecking order, I feel we should think of him as an axis around which everything revolves.

Jesus said “Because I live, you also will live.” Isn’t it amazing; the assurance that we have in Christ. I found the reason of my existence in Christ and I love him with all my heart, but at times some good sounding statements that people say can steal away the joy that is in Christ. We should weigh everything in the light of God’s word and shouldn’t be afraid to reason these matters. Isaiah 1:18 says “Come now, and let us reason together.”