Category: Ministry

Articles and updates to encourage and equip ministers as they seek to see God’s Kingdom advance through their Ministry.

Inspirational and Generational

This morning we heard from two young leaders in our fellowship who shared about the importance of having an overflow of God in our lives that impacts our lives and ministries and lasts for generations.

 

 

Daniel Johnson, Associate Pastor of Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship, reminded everybody that “In the Kingdom of God ‘Just-Enough’ is not enough. God wants to give you an overflow!”  He went on to elaborate that we are called to minister out of the overflow of what God is speaking to us, of who God is in us, of His word, and of what God has done and is doing in our lives. If we minister out of the overflow we won’t run dry or burn out!

 

 

After a brief break for fellowship and snacks, we jumped right back into it with Stephen Zarlengo, Young Adults Pastor at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle. Stephen shared that the idea of generations isn’t something humanity created but is a reflection of the Trinity;  something between the Father and Son. It’s out of that overflow that we came into existence. As the church, we need all generations in order to be the proper reflection of the Father. As we value each generation and what they bring to ministry as we work together we will be able to go above and beyond from generation to generation. He left us with this challenge that the roof of the older generation’s lives would become the floors of the younger generations so that we may take the kingdom to a new level.

 

I ENCOURAGE YOU TO FOLLOW ALONG ON THE BLOG, SOCIAL MEDIA AND ON THE LIVESTREAM IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO BE PRESENT…AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ONLINE: WE’LL BE USING THE HASHTAGS #FCACONVENTION AND#OUTOFTHEOVERFLOW THROUGHOUT THE WEEK SO THAT WE CAN ALL BE PART OF WHAT GOD IS DOING IN US AS A FELLOWSHIP AND AS MINISTERS.

Overflowing Joy

Tuesday’s rainy weather could not dampen the spirits of convention goers in New York. The convention theme, “Out of the Overflow,” raised expectations that it would be God’s Spirit, not rain gutters, that would overflow this week.
Associate Pastor Daniel Johnson (Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship, New City, NY), welcomed ministers, missionaries, spouses, and their families to the opening banquet. Noting the “changing face” of the FCA, Pastor Bob Forseth (Philadelphia Church, Seattle), recognized national leaders attending from lands around the world: Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, Argentina, and others.
The evening’s speaker, Brett Hollis (Washington), is a pastor/comedian. He reminded us that, “If you have the Holy Spirit, you have joy! Because the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, and all the rest.”
He spoke of “overflowing joy” for believers (2 Cor. 8:2; Phil. 1:25-26) and challenged pastors who have allowed the constraints and pressures of ministry to put boundaries on their joy. “Paul said his joy knew no bounds,” said Hollis, citing 2 Corinthians 7:3.
“When Jesus died on the cross,” he reminded them, “it wasn’t just so we could get to heaven. It was so we could have joy on the way to heaven.”
If you buy your kids a happy meal that’s missing the toy, your kids aren’t going to be happy, Hollis told the ministers. Then the zinger: “Some of you are a toy short of a happy meal.” Everyone laughed even as they recognized the truth of what he was saying.
He had everyone laughing. It was a great start to what is anticipated to be a great week of meetings!
I encourage you to follow along on the blog, social media and on the Livestream if you are not able to be present…and join the conversation online: We’ll be using the hashtags #fcaconvention and #Outoftheoverflow throughout the week so that we can all be part of what God is doing in us as a fellowship and as ministers.

The Glory of the Latter House!

by Roger Armbruster, Canadian FCA Elder Emeritus

A major shift has come to the FCA landscape in Manitoba over the past seven years, seen in the growing number of First Nations churches and ministers joining our Fellowship. Increasing numbers are sensing that the FCA is a good fit for their ministries, and they are grateful to join a fellowship in heart-felt relationships rather than to be connected by control.

Winnipeg has been called “the Heart of the Continent.” Sadly, it is a heart often fractured and broken along racial and ethnic lines. A recent cover of Maclean’s stated that “Canada has a bigger race problem than America, and it’s ugliest in Winnipeg.”

The city’s considerable First Nations population plays an important part in the city’s makeup. Some 70,000 residents (about 11%) of Winnipeg are of First Nations descent, vastly exceeding the national average of 4.3 percent.

So here is the heart of the nation, Winnipeg, fractured and broken along ethnic and racial lines, with the greatest pain felt in the hearts of the aboriginal people, the host people of the land.

Could it be that these places of greatest pain may be destined to become places of greatest healing and reconciliation? Jesus said, “He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

Many Canadian believers have a growing sense that the First Nations, the deeply wounded descendants of the original inhabitants of the land, hold a key to release forgiveness and healing throughout our land. They feel that as the First Nations are healed, our land will be healed. Perhaps Canada, the only nation on earth with a leaf as a national emblem on its flag, can find a redemptive purpose. “The leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations (ethnos)” (Revelation 22:2).

This can only happen in God’s Presence!

Much of this healing—and a desire to partner with other ethnic and people groups—has been taking place at First Nations Family Worship Centre (FNFWC), an FCA congregation in Winnipeg pastored by Raymond and Jean McLean.

FNFWC has seen a shift in its praise and worship over the past couple of years, moving more and more toward songs focused on our victory in Christ—lifting up the Name of Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords over all nations. This shift has not come without some resistance, but it is nonetheless pointing the way forward on a journey of transformation as they behold the beauty of the Lord (2 Cor. 2:18).

As a result, FNFWC felt impressed to bring in the new year of 2017 by hosting a special praise and worship event to bring together several congregations from different ethnic groups—to assemble together around the throne of grace. The sense has been that the greater the forgiveness, the greater the release of spiritual authority to bring healing to the nations.

More and more of the native youth, in particular, are entering into the high praises of God. Many of them think nothing of worshiping in a service for a couple of hours before the main message begins. Often people healed and born again during that worship. This rising generation is willing to move beyond the past to find their inheritance and destiny in the presence of God! As one of the songs declares, “There’s an army rising up that will break every chain!” The devil has tried to destroy this generation through abortion, domestic violence, and suicide. Yet God is preserving a “righteous seed” from among them that the devil has missed!

FNFWC hosted “SHIFT 2017” December 30 to January 1, with their own worship band and choir beginning each evening’s event. But they then mingled the anointing with other congregations and ethnic groups, sharing together in reconciliation and worship.

The first evening they hosted the worship team from Maranatha Niverville, a primarily white FCA congregation. The next evening, they welcomed the Tabernacle of the New Covenant, a Congolese congregation with roots in Africa.

Followers of Christ Fellowship 20th Anniversary Celebration, November 6 – 7, 2015.

Then, on New Year’s Day, one of the FCA Filipino congregations, the Followers of Christ Fellowship, joined with the First Nations. A powerful connection was made between the two. The Filipinos and the First Nations found that they have so much in common—especially that they both reveled in the presence of God, celebrating Jesus’ victory and Satan’s defeat! Their shared worship brought the anointing of the oil of joy to a new level, breaking bondages and bringing greater freedom to people!

This was a remarkable event considering most churches among some 40 different ethnic communities in Winnipeg have, until recently, stayed primarily within their ethno-centric and cultural boundaries. Few bridges have been built to other ethnic communities, even within the Body of Christ.

But the shift witnessed in First Nations Family Worship Centre is trending further. Among the 56,400 Filipinos in Winnipeg in 2011—8.7% of the city’s population, highest in any major Canadian city—are 20 congregations, 2 of which are FCA: Amazing Grace Ministry, pastored by Mercedes Coronia and the Followers of Christ Fellowship, pastored by Randy Casilian, which joined SHIFT 2017 at FNFWC.

There certainly was a shift in the atmosphere and a new level of anointing at the New Year’s gathering. Alisa Tina Moose, the main worship leader from the First Nations Family Worship Centre, described the event later: “What an awesome weekend at SHIFT 2017!… I’m just in awe of what God is doing!”

In Psalm 133, the Bible compares the unity of God’s people to the anointing oil flowing down from Aaron’s head to his beard and his body and even further—to the lower edge of his garments. What a picture of the anointing that flows from Christ, our Head, down to the different parts of his Body as they come together in unity!

The SHIFT weekend seemed like a small taste of what it will be like when the people from every tribe, nation, ethnicity, and language flow together and worship in one accord around the throne of God! He is building a “house of prayer for all the nations (ethnos)”—the hope for all of the nations (Mark 11:17). Jesus is the hope and the desire of all nations as “the glory of this latter house will be greater than of the former” (Haggai 2:7-9).

Unity in worship at SHIFT 2017

Confront? Or Conform?

by Richard Doebler

What do we do when facing a tidal wave of sinful culture? The answer depends on whether our goal is simply to survive the onslaught—or turn the tide. In other words, do we want to retreat and withdraw to protect ourselves? Or advance to effect change in society?

When I saw the January, 2017 issue of National Geographic touting the “gender revolution” with a 9-year-old boy-turned-girl from Kansas City on the cover, I did a double-take. Then I opened the magazine and began to read.

I’ve always appreciated the insights into strange customs and foreign cultures provided by National Geographic’s amazing photography and stories. Occasionally, though, I’m disturbed by what I find.

Is the magazine merely “reporting” on culture here, or is something else going on in this issue? Are the editors pushing an agenda?

We know everyone has a bias—his or her own worldview. Christian believers have a strong bias, and that’s as it should be. But for reporters who claim to be neutral in their writing, when does telling a story shift to promoting a cause?

It’s no surprise

We should not be surprised when secular magazines cross the line to push a particular agenda.

I don’t expect non-Christians to think like—let alone act like—Christians. (It’s hard enough to get Christians to act like Christians, but that’s a topic for another time.) Furthermore, I don’t expect secular humanists, sociologists, and anthropologists to listen to—let alone respect—the opinions of their political or theological adversaries.

They perceive themselves to be educated elites. So why should they listen with open minds to other points of view? They generally disregard anyone beneath their academic standing. Worse, if an intellectual equal (someone with conservative views) contradicts their opinion, they often resort to mocking derision rather than open dialogue. If he’s not liberal, they think, he’s obviously not educated.

This, of course, betrays their bias. Many agenda-driven secularists listen only to those who reinforce their own views. So what should Christians do in the face of such prejudice? How should we push back? How can we engage in a conversation with people who refuse to listen?

I have friends who canceled their subscription to National Geographic. That’s one response: make a statement by boycotting the magazine. If only hundreds do that, of course, the magazine will not notice or care. If hundreds of thousands interrupt the revenue stream, however, National Geographic will notice. They might even care.

But I’m not so sure.

Another way

For my part, I haven’t canceled my subscription. I will continue to read National Geographic. I do this not to support secularists, but to understand them. I want to be informed for the debate. Know thine enemy, as it were. How can I poke holes in their logic if I don’t know their logic or what they say? Unlike them, I want to demonstrate an open mind and a willingness to listen. I hope to maintain some legitimacy to participate in the cultural discussion, adding my voice to theirs.

When I write to editors or simply have a private discussion, I try not to lecture as much as ask questions that may reveal the fallacies of their thinking. Typically they won’t consider another point of view, so I try to catch them off-guard with difficult questions. At the same time, I trust God’s Spirit to convict their hearts, something I cannot do.

We might, for example, ask National Geographic why this gender-bending phenomenon (like so many prepubescent activities) is not simply a “phase” these children may be going through. A friend pointed me to findings from the American College of Pediatricians (ACP), which says “as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.”

Here’s another: Is the ACP wrong when it says: “Conditioning children into believing that a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse”?

Pushing back

Others will disagree that dialogue is a way to deal with culture in these troubled times. That’s fine, as long as they push back in some way.

I am not opposed to boycotts and cancellations or other more public forms of protest. They can be legitimate responses to confronting the secular agenda. I’m only saying there is room enough to push back in multiple ways on several different fronts.

Whatever we do, we must not give in or conform to society. Writing to Christians surrounded by the Roman culture, Paul said, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2).

To see our world transformed, God calls us to be transformed. We need renewed minds and determined spirits so we will not give in to the pressures of the world around us. Instead of conforming to society, we must confront it—but in a winsome, engaging way.

“…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” Peter wrote to the first-century church. “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Pet. 3:15-16).

Paul, steeped in his Jewish upbringing before converting to follow Christ, could not have been a missionary to the Greek and Roman cultures without understanding them. He saw how important it was to connect to those he hoped to reach. In Athens, for instance, he quoted Greek philosophers familiar to his audience (Acts 17:28). He became a “slave” to people, he said, in order “to win as many as possible” (1 Cor. 9:19). So he identified with them and even became like them (1 Cor. 9:22). He urged the Colossians to “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:5-6).

Salt and light

Jesus also spoke of salt, calling his disciples to be light penetrating the darkness and salt covering the earth (Matt 5:13-16).

Last week I stepped outside onto rain-slick ice and suddenly lost my footing, crashing painfully down on concrete steps. Defeated, I crawled back inside the house. I still have scrapes and scabs from that mishap.

The sad thing about that incident? At the very moment I fell, a bag of salt sat inside my house, ready to spread and melt the sidewalk ice. But instead of being outside on the ice where it could do some good, the salt was still inside the house, still in the bag.

When, unprepared, we encounter the icy cold ways of the world, we can expect a fall. Saltless, we can be defeated, left to crawl back to the safety of our Christian communities, bruised and beaten.

Salt does no good if it stays inside, safe and dry. So can we do some good? Our goal should not be to protect ourselves but to effect a change. Let’s spread out into society. Let’s engage our culture. Let’s get out from our secular-free zones. Let’s be salt and light that penetrates our world.

Grace and Truth: The Mystery of Christmas

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14, NIV).

It’s a mystery how a supernatural God could become flesh and live among broken, sinful people!

How could God become human? Holy and sinful don’t mix. How could he be fully God and fully human? How could he come full of grace and full of truth? The math just doesn’t add up. Fill a bucket 100% full of water, and you’ve got 0% room for anything else.

Scholars and theologians have long wrestled with these questions. Their attempts have led to frustration, arguments, and worse — church divisions, heresies, wars. Finite minds cannot grasp the infinite.

And yet we try, perhaps because the attempt offers us a glimpse into God’s transcendence. We cannot comprehend him, but we are better for trying.

So we try to unravel the mysteries of John 1:14, searching for clues about an incomprehensible God, described in the old hymn as “Immortal, invisible, God only wise / in light inaccessible hid from our eyes…”

“Full of grace”

The concept of “grace” is by itself a mystery to many. An ice skater or dancer can display “grace” in her performance; my insurance bill may offer a “grace” period; someone can say “grace” before a meal. But society doesn’t really grasp the full significance of the grace of God.

The translators of the Contemporary English Version considered the term grace too vague, too difficult for the modern ear, so they used other words to translate the Greek charis, words such as “kindness” or “favor.”

(I’m not sure why the translators thought removing the term from their translation would help people understand grace better. Can you imagine an owner’s manual eliminating terms too “sophisticated” for anyone under the age of 12: Don’t say, “LED,” say, “Light Emitting Diode.” Even better say, “Little, tiny twinkling light.”)

But the term grace appears occasionally even in secular spaces.

During the recent evacuation of Aleppo, Syria, during a bitter civil war that has killed thousands (including many civilians), the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appealed for “grace” to save lives: “Russia and Assad have a moment where they are in a dominant position to show a little grace,” he said

He could have asked for kindness or favor. Instead, he asked for grace.

The need for old-fashioned grace remains, even in our modern times, even if secular minds don’t get it.

Jesus came “full of grace,” which is to say he came to save lives and bring them out of spiritual conflict and war — out from sin’s domination and control, out from the consequences of living among rebels (and, in our case, the consequences of being rebels), out from hopelessness and despair.

Grace brings peace to wars raging within our hearts and souls. Grace offers freedom from sin — as well as from people or substance or hurts that enslave us. Grace pardons us when we deserve consequences. Grace infuses us with the hope necessary to overcome despair.

We need grace — and Jesus came full of God’s grace.

“Full of truth”

Church people are often very good at “truth” — defining right from wrong. Legalists at heart, they’re good at setting rules. They know how to lay down the law.

Of course, it’s not just church people. Everyone, it seems, has opinions on what is true and what is not.

On a plane recently, I had a conversation that eventually led to me being challenged: “Why should a baker be able to refuse service to a gay couple just because he’s offended by their private choices?”

“Let me ask you a question,” I said. “Can you imagine any behavior bad enough that a business owner should be able to refuse service?”

“I don’t think so,” she said.

“Well, what if one of your customers paid you only with bad checks? They all bounced. Would you have the right to refuse service for such a customer? Or what if a person had too much to drink? Would a bartender have the right to refuse him service?”

“Well, of course,” she responded. “If something is against the law or threatens the safety of others, you don’t have to serve them.”

“Okay,” I said. “So there are behaviors that cross a line. The next question is who gets to say what is right and what is wrong? Who gets to tell us what behaviors are objectionable?”

She thought a moment and chuckled. “Well, I want to be the one to tell you what’s right or wrong.” She saw my point: somebody has to draw the line. Society needs standards — a basis for what is acceptable and what is not, for what is true and what isn’t.

Her problem is our problem: as humans we chafe at the idea of rules imposed on us by others. We don’t want our style cramped. We don’t want others telling us what we can and cannot do. Instead, we want standards that line up with our personal preferences. We want to set the rules for ourselves.

When someone else violates our rules, we know a great injustice has occurred. A wrong has been done. If someone cuts in front of us in line at a crowded store, we are offended. If people cheat us or harm us or steal from us, we want justice. We want wrongs (according to our definition) made right.

On the other hand, if we violate our own rules, we hope others will give us grace: I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean to. I don’t know what came over me. I wasn’t paying attention. Please forgive me. Let me make it up to you.

The truth is: we need grace

Most us, judged by even our own standards, do not measure up. So we need grace. However, we need more than grace; we also need truth.” That’s why Jesus had to come “full of grace and truth.”

We need truth because without truth — without absolutes or standards — there is no need for grace: If there are no laws, there are no lawbreakers. If there are no lawbreakers, there is no one who needs forgiveness.

To put it another way: without lines, you can’t go out of bounds. Grace is needed because we have crossed the lines of God’s truth.

Jesus did not come to dismantle the truth or somehow to blur the distinction between right and wrong. No, he came “full of truth” — not full of laws or rules, but “full of truth.”

God’s truth, at its core, is more than a list of rules or laws. When it’s linked to grace, God’s truth can transform a human heart.

“The law was given through Moses” (John 1:17a) — but the law by itself could not change us.

Moses teaches us that our problem is sin. The Old Covenant shows us that sin cannot be conquered by self-discipline, good intentions, or will power. Trying to obey the truth, trying to be good, trying to follow the straight and narrow cannot untwist our twisted hearts. We need more than truth.

“The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The fullness of truth and the fullness of grace are miraculously, mysteriously blended together in the person of Jesus.  He is the Word of truth who by grace became flesh.

This is the mystery of Christmas — the miracle that can never be fully explained. Because of Jesus, truth convicts us of sin…but also because of Jesus, grace offers us forgiveness. Because of Jesus, truth reveals our own unworthiness…but grace, also because of Jesus, transforms our hearts and makes us worthy.

Because of Jesus — because of Christmas — we can experience what we can never fully comprehend: God in human flesh, living among us, full of grace and truth.

Now there’s a mystery we can live with.

— by Richard Doebler