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.
I love this quote, “The definition of a fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do.” So true. But as a culture, we have always had a love/hate relationship with total commitment and self-abandonment. We admire those whose commitment leads them to do great things, like win an Olympic Medal or lose a tremendous amount of weight. And we applaud their commitment because we value the object of their goals. But on the other hand, we detest the commitment of terrorists, idealogues, and others like that. We brand them as activists, fanatics, or extremists.
But in Jesus’ day, this is exactly how the world saw His followers. They were activists who wanted nothing more than to see the entire world come to the same understanding they had regarding Christ. They were extremists who sacrificed everything for a cause greater than themselves. And they were fanatics, no longer interested in the things of this world because they had their life focused on something unseen, mystical, and illogical.
And of these, the Lord said the “world was not worthy” of them (Heb. 11:18). My, how we have changed today.
Today, the church falls into two main camps. One, the camp where our relationship with Christ is defined by rule-keeping and our ability to follow the law. And two, those who view their relationship with Jesus as something profitable to add to their already busy lives, much like sprinkles on a cupcake or sweetener to our coffee. But there is another option. And these are the ones whose relationship with Christ is not based on guilt, religious duty, the hope of heaven and eternal reward, or the fear of hell and eternal punishment. No, this select group is drawn to Christ because of His overwhelming beauty and glory and the irresistible power of His Kingdom. The very kingdom we are commanded to proclaim today. Remember? We are to proclaim, like Jesus, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). And we are to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matt. 4:23)
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matt. 9:35)
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)
But what is the “Gospel of the Kingdom”?
The Gospel of the Kingdom
In the first century, the words “gospel” and “evangelize” referred to heralding the good news that a new emperor had been installed in the Roman Empire. Heralds would go out to proclaim the good news, informing people that a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing had begun. They then exhorted people to get down on their knees to worship the new emperor, their rightful king. The apostles used the same term to describe the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God. The gospel that the apostles preached was the announcement, the heralding, that Jesus of Nazareth had become this world’s true Emperor (Lord), launching a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing, and because of it, everything has changed.
And it was this message that turned the world upside-down during the first century. But it is a message seldom preached today. Did you ever wonder why?
Once we begin to see the glory of Christ and the wonder of His Kingdom, everything changes. He is no longer a historical figure, but Someone we literally adore and long to be with. He is Someone we will gladly abandon all to follow. Are you interested in knowing more about this glorious Christ and His wondrous Kingdom? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on What it Means to Embrace the Kingdom of God.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
As we begin our study on John the Baptist, we are going to take the Scripture accounts of his life from all four gospels and merge them into one single narrative. But rest assured, all you will see is nothing but Scripture. Nothing has been added. This helps us get a complete view of John’s incredible ministry, the man Jesus said was without rival in all of humanity (Matthew 11:11).
The following is the beginning of John’s ministry as told from Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:4-8 and Luke 3:1-18.
(LK) Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
(MT) In those days John the Baptist (MK) came baptizing in the wilderness (MT) of Judea. (LK) And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, (MT) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, (LK) saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” (MT) Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. (MK) Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, (MT) and all the region around the Jordan went out to him (MK) and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
(MT) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, (LK) he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, (MT) “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (LK) So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”
Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, (MK) and he preached, (LK) saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water (MT) unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry, [and] (MK) whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but (LK) He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.
But there is so much more. And note the substance of John’s preaching. It was of repentance and the coming Kingdom of Heaven. Are they both related? Absolutely.
The Word of God Came to John
Did you catch the open phrase of John’s ministry? It says “the word of God came to John in the wilderness” (Luke 3:2). How did that happen? What was that like? Does God still reveal Himself to others as He did to John? Or has that time of specific, intimate instruction from God to man somehow ceased? And if the “word of God” doesn’t come to individuals today, did God stop transmitting or did we stop receiving? These are important questions you must answer for yourself as you grow in your understanding of Him. But remember, God can do anything He wants to anyone under any circumstance and at any time that pleases Him, period. And He doesn’t ask you or me for permission or how comfortable we feel about what He is doing. We just hang on for the ride.
That’s why it says in Ephesians 3:20-21:
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Did you get that? Ask or think. It may take a measure of faith to ask God for something, but it takes even less to think it. And God can do “exceedingly abundantly” beyond what we dream about in the solitude of our mind late at night but would never allow it to pass our lips and be heard by others. God has them both covered.
Join with us as we look at the life of the greatest man that ever lived, according to Jesus. And I think He is a perfect judge of character. Don’t you?
The following is a study on the Beginning of the Ministry of John the Baptist and the Preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
We will not all be equal in heaven. Now we’re not talking about salvation, but of rewards. All of us are equal in regards to salvation because it is a gift given freely to those who believe. In this, there is no question. But what we do with our salvation is another matter. And we will be rewarded for our faithfulness to Him in this life. Consider the following:
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with (1) gold, silver, precious stones, (2) wood, hay, straw, each one’s (personal) work will become clear; (how) for the Day will declare it, (how) because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s (personal) work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures (gold, silver, precious stones), he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned (wood, hay, straw), he will suffer loss (of reward); but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Charles Stanley also spoke of this in his book, Eternal Security. He said, “Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not. Some will reign with Christ; others will not (2 Timothy 2:12). Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (Luke 12:21, 33). Some will be given true riches; others will not. Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not. Some will rule and reign with Christ; others will not. Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life. It is true that there will be equality in terms of our inclusion in the kingdom of God, but not in our rank and privilege.”
Does this sound troubling to you? Maybe confusing? If so, keep listening to learn more.
The following is a study on the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage Ceremony of the Lamb.
To download the slides for this message, click – HERE
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If you’ll take the time, you’ll find the core message of Jesus was about the kingdom of God. Over and over again we find summary verses like this one:
Matthew 4:23 – And Jesus went about all Galilee, (1) teaching in their synagogues, (2) preaching the gospel of (what) the kingdom, and (3) healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.
In fact, Jesus said the object of the gospel He preached, and commanded us to preach, is the kingdom of God. Consider what Jesus said in His olivet discourse:
Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of (what) the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
There are also certain kingdom characteristics in the lives of believers that the Scriptures point out to us as signs of His kingdom. In essence, when believers manifest certain characteristics of the kingdom in their lives, we can know the kingdom of God is present. And, conversely, when a believer doesn’t manifest these kingdom characteristics, we can also safely assume the kingdom of God is far from them.
This is a sobering thought. Character, holiness, and sanctification matter. Do you want to discover more about the signs of life in the kingdom? Then keep listening.
The following is a study of Acts 4:32-5:16.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
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