Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Expressing the Spirit (November 2012 Newsletter)

Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. – Acts 2:33

Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost was a bold declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a potent explanation of the overflow of the Spirit at work in the early Church. The Church’s manifestation of the Spirit was evidence of the fulfillment of God’s promises and a demonstration of Christ’s exaltation. Peter’s message was not about an invisible, intangible, unnoticeable and un-manifest work of God, but about the incarnation of God Himself and the outpouring of His Spirit, which could be seen and heard in the lives of the disciples. The Spirit was on display in the Church. There was a bold, ecstatic expression of the power and person of the Holy Spirit that flowed out of the upper room and onto the streets.
The Lord still desires and requires an expression and demonstration of the Spirit in His Church. Jesus promised his followers, “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). The Spirit of Almighty God lives with us and in us. In all of His enormity, power, and goodness, He can still fit within us. We were made to be His temple, carrying, and expressing His person on the earth. He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him (1 Cor 6:17); the Holy Spirit is joined to our spirit, wrapped around the inside of us, making us more like Him and expressing Himself through our soul and body.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians “my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor 2:4). His ministry wasn’t based on his own words, or natural communication at all, but in a demonstration, expression, and manifestation of the Holy Spirit and His power. Later in the same letter, Paul encourages them again to express the Holy Spirit, “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Cor 12:7). Each of us was made to be a vessel for the Holy Spirit and to express Him in a unique way that blesses the Church, the world, and our Heavenly Father. We are meant to grow and display the fruit of the Holy Spirit, expressing His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and temperance to those around us. We are meant to express the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2). In our words of encouragement and blessing, in our praise and worship, in our actions of love and self-sacrifice, we have the ability to show the Spirit of God to the world. Even as Jesus showed God to the world, we are called to be like Him and show God alive in us. We were meant to express the full life of Jesus Christ. “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:10-11). I want my life and actions to be saturated and flooded by the Spirit of God.

Read the rest of the November 2012 Newsletter.
Read past newsletters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Discovery Bible Study Part 4 - Group

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

I'm currently involved in three Discovery Bible Study groups, one of which could be considered a house church or a cell in what we hope would be a multiplying movement. The DBS method, though useful for the individual, is intended for group use. The principles of obedience and inductive participation are vital for any discipleship method, but DBS makes the most of Church Planting Movement or Disciple Making Movement principles, emphasizing multiplication of groups of disciples over Church growth.

One of the groups I'm involved with is the home group I mentioned previously which includes two very new believers, four more mature believers and the occasional unbeliever or member of another religion. We study the book of Luke and take communion together every week. One of the members was led to the Lord in the group, and we have baptized two believers in the Detroit river.

One of the groups is made up of four unbelievers all of whom currently confess one of two eastern religions. I lead the study through the book of Mark.

The third group is a group of leaders and we study through City Team's Church Planters Curriculum.

All of the groups follow an adapted form of the outline below:

The process of the Discovery Bible Study should be simple enough that everyone can follow, literate or not. Remember that we have designed the type of church that we want to see started: simple, obedient, biblical, culturally relevant, and reproductive. The DNA that we want to see developed is this: obedience, prayer, reproduction, genuine concern for the community, and outward focus on the lost. From the first day you should sow the seed of each element that you want to see characterized in the church later.
Section 1: Opening
Ask the following questions to determine how to minister to the person:

  • What are you thankful for this week?
  • What has worried you this week? What do you need to make the situation better? (This will lead to prayer and an opportunity to serve one another.)
  • What are the needs of the people in your community? (This will lead to prayer, compassionate service, and opportunities to make disciples.)
  • How can we help one another with the needs we expressed? (This will become koinonea fellowship, a close community of relationship and meeting one another's needs.)

Section 2: Review
This section starts with the second DBS meeting. Ask the following questions:

  • What did we talk about last week? (accountability)
  • What changed in your life as a result of last week's story and the point of obedience you discovered? (accountability for experience)
  • How did it go when you shared the story with someone else? (accountability for evangelism and reproduction)
  • We identified several needs last week and planned to meet those needs. How did it go? (accountability for meeting one another's needs)
Section 4: Go and Live it Out
Help your DBS group to apply the Scriptures in their lives through obedience to God's Word.
  • Ask, "Who are you going to share this passage with before we meet again?" (evangelism and replication)
  • Say, "From now on, let's practice what we have seen today. It is the truth from the Creator, and we all should live according to that truth."
  • Ask, "When do you want to meet again?" This is a practical question. You will never get people to commit to many weeks of study, but you can give them the option to meet again next week. If they are really seeking, and if the meeting is filling a need, they will tell you that they want to meet again. 
  • If there was a need in section 1 to visit someone or a family in the community, go with two or three people from the group to visit.
- Jerry Trousdale,  Miraculous Movements  p. 194-196

The interaction of believers over the Word of God without an authoritative teacher or preacher (though I believe in and value both) creates an atmosphere of mutual discovery. Members feel a greater responsibility and ownership towards what they feel the Holy Spirit is directly revealing to them about their lives. The focus of the study applies the Word specifically to each member's life and requires a commitment to obedience and evangelism.

David Watson's blog features an excellent post on inductive versus deductive study. The post highlights the principles and design of inductive study and explains why it is preferable to deductive study for discipleship. The writers of much of the material along these lines strongly discourage preaching and teaching, which I understand, though I would point out that preaching and teaching are also vital for evangelism and discipleship and have their place. I believe preaching is a method ordained by God. However, we must swallow our ego and our desire to be heard and discern when to preach and when to allow the Holy Spirit to speak directly to people.

Disciples must learn to hear the Lord and pursue obedience on their own, and they must be able to help others do the same without the presence of teachers and preachers. My desire is to lead  and facilitate discovery in a way that even the least equipped saint can reproduce. Even if someone is not called or equipped to preach and teach, they can open the Word with a group and say, "Lord, what must I do? What do you want to teach us?" We have a promise that we don't need a teacher other than the Holy Spirit and that He teaches us all things (1 John 2:27). Let's rely on that promise. He is the teacher.

There are many (apart from those already mentioned) who offer excellent resources on similar methods:


Check out CityTeam's disciple-making resources and the links below:

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vocalizing the Word

I originally read this from Wesley Hill at Writing in the Dust:

Reading the Bible out loud is a profoundly theological act. After all, it is no accident that the Christian tradition considered the Word to be first and foremost a person. In oral societies, words have so much personal power that they are treated as entities with their own agency. As Walter Ong observes, “In a society where the only known word is the pure, evanescent spoken word, it is easier to think of objects as words than it is to think of words as objects.” Reading out loud gives us a glimpse of the social conditions that made the identification of God with the Word so plausible. Reading the Bible out loud is also practically useful. It helps to answer some of the most pressing questions that arise from the written text. What did Jesus sound like when he stilled the storm, rebuked Peter, or chatted with Martha and Mary? Does it matter that the only leper who showed gratitude for being cured praised God with a loud voice (Luke 17:15)? When Pilate asked if he were the Messiah, how did Jesus say, “You say so”? How do we know, unless we try saying these words out loud ourselves? Of course, vocalizing the words of Scripture is no guarantee that they will be fully and truly understood. Such vocalization is not even a necessary condition for divine revelation, since God can work through any medium. Nevertheless, the Word of God is never more at home, so to speak, than in the sound of the human voice.

Stephen Webb, The Divine Voice: Christian Proclamation and the Theology of Sound

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Ripe Harvest (October 2012 Newsletter)

Jesus Christ is the Lord of a Harvest of innumerable men and women of every tribe and nation and tongue. He offered Himself as a lamb for us and has sent us out as lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3), but He did so with a promise: “Then He said to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Luke 10:2). We are meant to be laborers in an expansive harvest of souls. We’ve been indwelt and equipped by the powerful Holy Spirit who pours the love of God into our hearts (Romans 5:5). Jesus views this world with this love, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). He sees the weariness and depression, the guilt, pain, hurt and corruption of the world. He sees the chaos and the listless drifting of human beings who were meant to have the Lord as their Shepherd. Out of this overflow of compassion He tells His disciples, “‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38). His heart is bursting with the vast multitude of precious individuals before His eyes. Our hearts’ prayer with Him is that the Lord would send more laborers. More hands are needed to reach this valuable harvest in time.
Jesus never disparaged the harvest. There was no concept of a hard harvest in His vocabulary. The harvest is not the problem. “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.’” (John 4:34). Jesus lived and breathed and gained His life and sustenance from obedience to the Father and the accomplishment of God’s will on Earth. He redirects His disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!’” (John 4:35). The harvest is ready now! The fields are white and ripe. Now is the time to harvest. Now is the time to do God’s work. The fields are not the problem. The fields are fruitful. The harvest is plentiful. It is ripe and ready. May the workers be ready and be thrust out into this precious harvest of children made in the image of a loving God.
This month two young men departed sin and death to find life in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit drew them from their lifestyle of sin and convicted them of the righteousness in Christ. It would take more pages to tell their stories, but the Lord answered their cry of pain and oppression and brought them into knowledge of Him. They’re three and two weeks old in the Lord, and I am reminded again of the miracle that occurs in conversion. Both confessed Jesus Christ as their risen Lord, were baptized in water, and have begun to witness to their friends and neighbors. They both need an incubator of prayer and discipleship, and in many ways have to start at the very beginning without a church background and little understanding of the Bible, but I know they are being transformed by beholding the glory of their new Lord. Thanks be to God our Mighty Savior.

Read the rest of the October 2012 Newsletter.
Read past Newsletters.