The following is an article I received today from Roberto Bottrel, who is serving European churches by helping them multiply via cell-group ministry. If you remember, this very subject is what we talked about the first Sunday we had to go online. You might want to take a listen again, if you have forgotten.
Anyway, enjoy and get ready to embrace the future.
The Church Has Left the Building
We have had many opportunities to experience new things during this crisis. We all had to adapt to the limitations of the quarantine, thus obliging us to question and change basically everything regarding church life. I loved it. It has been a great time to shake many unquestionable and unchangeable “truths” that, as many found out the hard way, were only traditions, church culture, or ordinary habits.
What really matters and will definitely change the church was one fact: the church had to leave the building. And finally, we all had to actually live what we believed: the church is not a building. And I think most churches realized, in practical terms, that it is all about people. Many communities are more alive now in the quarantine than before. There has been more interaction, with members connecting to each other on a daily basis, living real and practical caring, and serving as a loving community. But, unfortunately, this is not happening with all communities. There is a huge difference according to the existing structures (or church model)
1. The cell churches (outward focused) were quite ready for the crisis and had little difficulties to adapt since almost 100% of the members were in a cell group. Everybody was already under the radar and could be looked after and well taken care of by his own small community. And with the mission at hand, they continue to seize the opportunities to reach out to people and make more disciples.
2. The churches that had a small group structure (inward focused) were also better off, although their problem was that usually, they did not get more than 50% onboard in those groups. So what to do with the other 50%? For many, it was frustrating to see that the failure of enrolling all members was now taking its toll.
3. Now, when you think of churches that were based only on Sunday services and activities promoted by church ministries (youth, worship, couples, etc)… what a challenge they are facing. Where is everybody? How are people handling the crisis? Does anybody need help? How can a centralized structure handle this? And even when the pandemic is over, we might still have to face long term gathering limitations. Life may never return to what once was normal. How are these churches going to handle this?
Well, the other day I heard a senior pastor of a great church calling his members to engage in the new small group environment that was being developed and would be implemented in the following weeks. Therefore, I believe everybody will come to the same conclusion as they did: the church can no longer depend solely on large gatherings and centralized activities. That is definitely not how the early church rocked the world in their days. And, definitely, it will not be how we impact ours. Let’s welcome the small communities of believers with a clear mission of making disciples!
Buckle up. Changes ahead.
For more, go to the Joel Comiskey Group.
Right now, we as a nation and as the church are in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic that has some unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances. We are currently mandated by our government to stay at home and practice social distancing. Which, in effect, means no corporate church services. No normal business activities. No hugging our grandchildren or shaking hands with a friend. No picnics at the park, no day trips to the mountains, no shopping at the mall, no having friends over for dinner. All of that has changed.
But so has our culture. Our economy is in a free-fall. Unemployment claims are greater, much greater, than in the time of the great depression. Small businesses are closing at a rate unseen in our lifetime and the future looks dim, at best. Liquor stores and abortion clinics are deemed essential, but churches are not. And since lawlessness has increased greatly, “the love of many,” as Jesus foretold, “has grown cold” (Matt. 24:12).
These are truly desperate times.
But could God be trying to tell us something by all that is happening around us? Is He trying to get a message to us, a warning? And, if so, what is that message and why are we as a people so obstinate and hard of hearing?
We know, from Scripture, that God warns His people primarily in two ways. One, by sending them a prophet, a prophetic voice in their generation to proclaim the words of the Lord. God often sent a Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or John the Baptist to bring His people back to repentance before He chastised them for their sins. Unfortunately, because of our collective pride, we in the West are not particularly open to a modern-day Isaiah or a proclamation of “Thus says the Lord!” from anyone.
So often God warns His people the second way, by a remedial judgment. He allows storms, plagues, war, famine, or pestilence to bring us to our knees and allows us to realize that God is God and we are not. God often humbles us by showing us how much we are not in control.
Could that be what is happening right now? And, if so, what warning are we failing to heed? And what changes do we need to make in our lives right now?
Remember, God is sovereign. That doesn’t mean He is the cause of suffering and death. No, our sin brought that upon us. That blood is on our own hands. But what it does mean is that nothing happens in our lives, good or bad, without His permission. Why? Because He is sovereign. He is good and gracious and holy, but foremost, He is sovereign.
The Blessings and the Curses
In Deuteronomy, we find a list of promises God gave to Israel that also applies to each of us today, as individuals and as a nation (and church). They are found in Deuteronomy 28. In this chapter, God gives His people one grand if/then promise. If they will “diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, (how) to observe carefully all His commandments” (Deut. 28:1), then an incredible, breathtaking list of blessings will follow. In fact, the Lord says “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake (overwhelm) you, (why) because you obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deut. 28:2). Did you catch that? His blessings will literally overtake them (you can’t outrun the blessings of God), and literally overwhelm them.
Would you like to be blessed like that? Then read the rest of the if conditions in Deuteronomy 28:3-14.
But there is a dark side. It is the consequence of not meeting God’s if/then standard. He says:
“But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deut. 28:15).
And as wonderful as the blessings are, the curses are much worse. Much! And we are seeing many of them manifest right before our eyes.
If you are wondering what you and your church can do to prepare your hearts for God’s possible remedial judgments, keep listening. For our days ahead may be dark indeed.
The following is a study on the Prophetic Implications of the Covid 19 virus and Deuteronomy 28.
As a brief word of encouragement today, let’s look at one of the most profound and powerful chapters in all the New Testament, Romans 8. And let’s look at just the last two verses and see if we can get something for today to help us smile.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
In the middle of these uncertain times, when we seem to have more questions than answers, it is always good to rest and meditate on the certainties in God’s word. And this is one of them.
Nor Any Other Created Thing…
As you read and meditate on these two verses, try thinking about it this way:
For I am persuaded, assured, and convinced, that neither the coronavirus or the possible loss of my income, nor the uncertain future and all that is unknown, nor a stock market surge or collapse, nor the graph of active coronavirus cases in my home town increasing or decreasing, nor having my kids around me 24/7 and not quite knowing how to do this homeschool thing, nor social isolation and canceled church services, nor not being able to hug my grandkids and those I love, nor boredom and weight gain from too much comfort food, nor an ever-growing list of to-do projects, nor loneliness, depression, fear, and despair, nor any other thing that might happen during the next thirty days, shall be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now, don’t you feel a bit better? I sure do.
Yesterday was the second Sunday we met together virtually, and I for one can’t wait until we can put aside social distancing and meet again face-to-face. I miss your voice as you sing songs to the Lord and offer prayers to Him for the sake of others. I miss your attentiveness as we look into His Word together and I especially miss our times of fellowship when we can catch up on things and see how everyone’s doing.
But since it appears this ordeal our nation is going through will last for several more weeks (hopefully not longer), I thought it would be encouraging to remember in the face of uncertainty what we do know for certain, and in our world of constant change, what is unchangeable and will remain forever.
Things We Know For Certain
There are so many things in our life right now that we have no control over. How long will the coronavirus last? What’s going to happen to our economy? Am I going to have enough money to pay my bills and feed my family? How can I protect myself and those I love from all of this? And the list of questions seems to be endless.
There are so many uncertainties right now. And nobody can give us any definite answers.
But there are some things that are certain and will never change, no matter what happens. And as long as we keep our heart focused on these unchangeables, we will not get swept away by the swirling tides of doubt, fear, dread, and depression that often follow.
Certainty Number One: God Loves You!
Scripture repeatedly reveals the wonderous fact that God loves you and you are loved by Him. The word that describes the love God has for you is, of course, agapē. This is the highest form of love. It is a covenant love, an altruistic, unconditional love that describes the love God has for His own Son and even for you and me.
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9).
Just think about this statement for a moment. As God the Father loved His own Son, so the Son has chosen to love each of us, regardless of how undeserving we are. This love is not based on what we think we deserve or what good we have done, but on the nature of God whose very essence is love (1 John 4:8). And in every instance cited the word used to describe this kind of love is agapē.
So rest or abide in this love that is unchangeable and will last forever.
Certainty Number Two: God is Sovereign
As you know, my life verse is Psalm 115:3, which reads, “But our God is in heaven; He does what He pleases.” In other words, our God exists beyond what we can touch, see, hear, taste or feel. He resides far above our financial problems or worries about the future. His abode is in heaven and from His throne, He does what He wills. His desire can never be thwarted, delayed, or hindered. Never. This can be either good news or bad. If you trust God and see him as your loving, forgiving, merciful Father, these are very encouraging words. But if you view God through the eyes of an abused child and see Him as an angry, selfish, narcissistic, bully (that many of us may have had as earthly fathers), then His sovereignty becomes frightening.
But the Bible constantly reveals the character of God to us. And His character coincides precisely with the fruits of the Spirit He gives to us. He manifests Himself by the fruits of His character. They are an extension of Himself and only come when He, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, resides in each of us. This is who God is:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
This is a perfect description of your sovereign Father. No need to live in fear or doubt.
So as you see wall-to-wall news coverage on how terrible the coronavirus is and how our economy is going to collapse and how one party is not doing what’s right for the other party or now everybody is a racist… whew. Just remember Certainty One and Two: God is Sovereign, and in His sovereignty, He has chosen to love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
Rest in that love. Abide in that love. Take a deep breath and relax in that love.
And live secure in the fact that God sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and as long as you are in Him, you’ll be okay.
If there’s anything I can do to help you or if you have any specific prayer needs, please let me know.
Until tomorrow or until we see each other again face-to-face,
When we have the discernment that Jesus spoke about to know the “signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3), it becomes clear we are living in the last days. In fact, there are several key signs that bring us to this conclusion.
- The regathering of Israel into their own land
- The surging apostasy
- The coming Middle East peace
- The reuniting of the Roman Empire (East, West, both?)
For the church today, the most important of these prophetic signs is the rising tide of apostasy or defection from God and the Christian faith. We see this happening almost daily within the ranks of the church. As we have already discussed, apostasy means to “depart, revolt, or forsake. It is a deliberate defection from a formerly held religious position.” Apostasy doesn’t necessarily mean a total rejection of God or the authority of His Scripture. Apostasy can come in stages. It usually begins with a defection from a section of Scripture or a specific teaching that is incompatible with the current cultural church mood. Some examples are the issue of homosexuality, divorce, women pastors, abortion, or a myriad of other issues that divide the Body today. And once a small defection takes place, full-blown apostasy is not far behind.
But this shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Jesus said in Matthew 24 the greatest sign of His return was deception. And He warned His disciples about that deception four times (Matt. 24:4, 5,11, 24). He even went so far as to say the deception at the end would be so great that, if it was possible, even the elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24). And the elect includes Peter, Paul, James and John, Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, Spurgeon, Billy Graham, and you and me. That’s a sobering thought that should not be taken lightly.
So what can we do to prepare for the coming apostasy?
The Apostasy is Coming
Or, how do we prevent falling prey to the deception that will only get greater as the Day approaches? Great question. You must know what you believe, and why. You must personally experience God for who He is. You cannot ride on the coattails of another’s faith. Your faith must be your own. And you must understand how overwhelmingly powerful the deception will be in the end times and be prepared.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Has God ever revealed Himself to you in an unmistakable fashion that left no doubt? Has He ever revealed Himself to you through His Word? If so, what was that experience like? How did it change your view of Scripture? Do you hunger for more of Him? Has that hunger led you to read more of His Word? And if not, why?
Once you begin to understand the power of His Word and the wisdom He gives you through His Word, what the world offers is nothing more than pocket change. You, through Him, have more wisdom than the talking heads on CNN. You have more understanding than those who make acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards and spend that time telling you how to live. You are the dwelling place of God Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, which makes you a living sanctuary of the Presence of God.
Tell me what the world has that you don’t. Exactly. Nuthin’!
The following is a study on How to Prepare for the Coming Apostasy and 1 Corinthians 2.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE