Ed Stetzer joined us at the Newfrontiers USA Leaders conference, Equipped for Mission, this past October. At the conference, he spoke at three main sessions, sharing some observations and encouragements for us as a movement and for the Church in America as a whole. Bryan Mowrey got a few minutes to sit down with Ed and hear a little bit more.
In this video, Ed speaks encourages the pastors of average sized churches. He challenges us to love, lead and pastor the people God has given us well. This is the final of four interviews. View the first video here.
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Ed Stetzer joined us at the Newfrontiers USA Leaders conference, Equipped for Mission, this past October. At the conference, he spoke at three main sessions, sharing some observations and encouragements for us as a movement and for the Church in America as a whole. Bryan Mowrey got a few minutes to sit down with Ed and hear a little bit more. In this video, Ed dismisses poor statisticians and comments on the actual state of the church. It is the third of four interviews so check back later for more! (View the first video here.)
Ed Stetzer joined us at the Newfrontiers USA Leaders conference, Equipped for Mission, this past October. At the conference, he spoke at three main sessions, sharing some observations and encouragements for us as a movement and for the Church in America as a whole. Bryan Mowrey got a few minutes to sit down with Ed and hear a little bit more. In this video, Ed comments on Andrew Wilson's blog and also about pastors that seem to be more concerned with methods and tools than vision and values. This is the second of four interviews so check back later for more! (View the first video here.)
Ed Stetzer joined us at the Newfrontiers USA Leaders conference, Equipped for Mission, this past October. At the conference, he spoke at three main sessions, sharing some observations and encouragements for us as a movement and for the Church in America as a whole. Bryan Mowrey got a few minutes to sit down with Ed and hear a little bit more. In this video, Ed uses one word to describe the state of the Church in America today. This is the first of four interviews so check back later for more!
Terry started by reading Ephesians 6:10-20. While God has given us wonderful joy, we also must wear armor. There is wonderful provision of armor for different aspects of the conflict.
This armor is uniquely fitted for people that know God. It's not just common sense - it is supernatural and uniquely appropriate for believers. The bibles teaching on anything (even marriage) is not common sense - it is supernaturally revealed truth. The gospel is foolishness to those that don't know God. Our armor has a supernatural origin.
"What is truth?" There is A truth - the truth that was once delivered to the saints. Jesus said, "I am the truth." God has spoken and revealed truth and that is the truth that we need to put on day by day. People can't "return to God" anymore because those we are trying to reach have never known him. We have to deconstruct peoples' value systems and way of thinking. We are not into self-help, but a truth that has come down to us from heaven. Truth that changes the way we live. The truth of God is like a mold into which we were poured. When someone says, "I just don't feel God loves me," we can just remind them of the truth! Get in line with truth! Not accumulating knowledge but being strengthened and transformed by the truth.
This covers your heart and emotions. Much of the enemy's attacks will go for our heart and emotions. We cannot make ourselves feel better by our own efforts. God has imputed Christ's righteousness to us. We did not earn it - it was never our own but was a gift from Jesus. Our "good days" are as filthy rags in God's sight. We need to be able to clothe ourselves in the righteousness God has given us. After a season of success, if we don't have a breastplate of righteousness, we will be so discouraged by a season with less apparent fruitfulness. A breastplate of performance leaves us totally vulnerable.
We need to be rooted and grounded. We need to have our feet secure. "By our breathless chase after relevance (without faithfulness) we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant." - Os Guinness. We cannot keep changing ground as new trends arise. Luther stood as a lone voice, but he stood. We need to be fighting relevant battles. Joshua 10:8-9 - "I have given you this city....so they marched all night." We need to be people that don't just have truth in our libraries but in our lives.
The good fight of faith defends against the flaming darts of the enemies. Roman shields were often dunked in water before battle so that the shield could extinguish the flaming arrows of enemies. The shield can take away the pain of the fiery arrows. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: "Faith is an activity. It is something that has to be exercise. It doesn't come into operation itself, you have to put it into operation." Faith isn't automatic - it needs to be consciously put into action. You need to take out the shield of faith if you want it to defend you against the flaming darts of the enemy.
This is the only offensive weapon. God wants us to have truth accessible so that we can take it into battle. Divinely powerful truth.
Salvation is multifaceted. Jesus saves us from more things and in more ways than we realize. Ultimately, He will save us from the wrath of God that is to come. We guard our minds with the hope of our future. Salvation in the present can still sometimes be really painful. We need to keep our mind fixed on heavenly things. Peter says to set our hope fully at the grace that is to come to us at Jesus' return. Salvation pulls us into the future. Our helmet is the hope of our salvation. Despite the hardship and difficulties all around us, we must have the eternal perspective. Glory is coming to us from heaven when these mortal bodies get swallowed up by immortality.
John started by reading 2 Samuel 10:1-12 and praying that we'd be men and women that listen to God. Dakota Meyer recently received the medal of honor (first one in 41 years) and he insists he is not a hero. He risked his life and saved dozens of soldiers under heavy fire. "I reconciled the fact that I would be killed. But if I had a hundred more opportunities, I would do it a hundred more times... I'm no hero. I'm only doing what Marines do."
Leadership is courage. Mutual dependence and humbly walking together. It is a willingness to risk ourselves, being embarrassed, failing and more, all for the glory of God. There is no sacrifice on the part of the leader. It is a joy! We have many heroes among us that have taken great steps of faith. Linda Lanferman said, "It's one thing to inadvertently get caught in the battle. But it is another thing to know there is a battle and to run into it. Some men are ambitious for position, but big men are ambitious for principle." Joab was bold and courageous in leadership (1 Sam 10:11-12). Leadership is about "leaving it all on the field" and inspiring courage in others.
The OT was a shadow of the reality of the NT. In the OT, God raised up individual heroes and in the NT, God raises up teams of leaders. Jesus raised up a team of leaders - the disciples. He wanted their team leadership to demonstrate the Trinity. God speaks to us personally but not individualistically. It is about joining up with His mission.
Doing more together than we could do apart requires humble teamwork. We are not a network or a group of pastors - we are a family. We are leaders and churches together on mission. Humility is eager to receive input. We need to look out for one another and help one another. The proud can't do this - it's only possible for the humble. Humility is only possible when you are swimming in the grace of God. Healthy relationships only happen in an environment of grace.
Good leaders help people find the right position for their gifting. We need each other! Every gift exists to equip the church and push the mission forward. None of us can say we don't need each other (1 Cor 12:18-31). As leaders, we must be content moving in the gifts God has graced us with.
The key to multiplying our efforts is to understand that we need each other! It is the cause of God that brings us together. It's not about being in the "inner circle" but about being on a mission with God and his people.
Being courageous doesn't mean forgetting the risk. Courageous men look at the risks and move forward anyway. Risk is any action that exposes people to the possibility of loss. It is unloving to play it safe - to rob our people from taking risks and seeing God move in power. God loves honesty and in the midst of our honesty, He will meet us, diminish the issues of our lives and make Himself big. We can be courageous because it's not about us - it's about our people! We know God can give us the victory; he may not but we know he is able! We take risks for the glory of God and the blessing of his people. Never forget why God called us - it's not about us but about them. It's not about "me and my ministry," or approval or to please people, it's about blessing the people of God.
"May the Lord do what seems good to him." This doesn't mean it won't be painful, but I know it will be good. Difficult experiences are essential for God to teach us things. We can't glory in the things we accomplish. Our challenge isn't to succeed but to be faithful. God is the one with the scorecard and He loves our faith. This is about being faithful to him and his cause. God gives the increase! The root of our courage is in God's sovereignty - this shouldn't lead us to fatalism and inactivity but to courage and bold faith. As we walkin in this, the Kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our God and of his Christ.
Terry started by sharing some news from Newfrontiers churches around the world.
All of Ephesians builds to the warrior cry of Ephesians 6. We need to be warriors in this battle. The flesh, the world, and the devil - we are in conflict! So Paul says, be strong in the Lord. During times of transition in the bible, you often hear God saying the words, "Be strong." We battle, Paul says, against world forces of this darkness. Confidence is a big part of victory - it makes a huge difference in how a person operates. The scriptures say, "Be aware of who you are!" Isaiah 52 - Awake and clothe yourselves with strength. You were dead, now you are alive. You were far off, now you are near. You used to be darkness but now you are light. If we are going to be strong, we must know who we are!
As soldiers, we should not be surprised by trials. Stop being regularly surprised by the battles and the trials. We are in a battle; we are in THE battle. Church planters have real conflict and lots of battles - we cannot be shocked! The battle even gets into the home.
Fear can cripple us and prevent us from inheriting what God has for us. Fear is Satan's great weapon - especially to make you think God has turned against you. Don't even entertain thoughts of failure. "There is no more retreat. We'll either hold this position or die trying." We must trust God. Don't yield to fear or be surprised by the battle.
The Greek text doesn't say, "Be strong," but "Be strengthened." God is not telling us to be self-sufficient with self-control and personal strength. God wants us "to be strengthened in the Lord." Don't just try to be strong like some other heroes - receive strength from God. Passive imperative - Be (command) strengthened (passive). Psalm 46 - Relax; cease striving and know that I am God. Be strengthened - I have called you and known you and chose you and love you. Being strengthened isn't about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. It's about knowing God is God!
1 Samuel 30:6 - During a difficult time, David strengthened himself in God. He found security and identity in God. Before he got guidance for the next steps, he strengthened himself in the Lord. We must learn to get before God and be still and know that He is God. It's not pretending that the river Jordan or the Jericho wall isn't there - it's seeing it and then finding strength in God. Romans 8:28 - we know that all things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to his purpose. We must know that the things we can't manage, God is in charge of. You are either at the mercy of how things turn out or you are the apple of his eye.
God knows that we're human and chooses the weak things and the things that everyone else has written off. Paul had a thorn. He wasn't stoic, just pretending like the thorn didn't exist. He pleaded for God to take it away. It was when God spoke to him about grace, he knew God had made him sufficient. 2 Cor 12 and Philippians 4:13. "I must take care to cultivate communion with Christ. For while that will never be the basis of my peace, mark that, it will be the channel of it." -Spurgeon. How well we are communing with God isn't the basis of our peace - Jesus perfect life, death and resurrection are the basis. Yet the channel of it, our ability to enjoy the goodness of God, is our communion with Jesus.
During trials, there is no middle ground. You either go down in despair or up into the joy of God. You can go below the clouds or above them? We are joined to a fruit imparting Spirit! The only way we can stand strong through trials is to find strength in the Lord. We must go above the clouds and behold God, being still and knowing that He is God. God wants a people that know that He is all that He says He is.
When Jesus said to the cripple, take up your bed and walk, that was what he could now do! The impartation of supernatural power comes from God's words and their response of faith. Jesus power takes you from what you were and into a new person - stepping into the power of his presence. The gospel healings show us how the Gospel works. Faith is shown in action - stretching out a hand, stepping into the River Jordan, going and washing in the river. Gideon was not a mighty warrior when God called him one. But certainly once God had called him, he became a valiant warrior! It is time to step into his glorious provision of grace for all he has called us to do. Engage with Him and believe Him!
The root of the human problem is unbelief - not believing God. Faith pleases God and honors his trustworthiness. Faith says, the obstacles look big, but You are bigger. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
How can the church provoke the world through good deeds? 1 Peter 4 :10 Using our gifts to meet the needs of others, for the glory of Jesus. In the church, we need to adopt a posture of subversive agents of the Kingdom of God. We must maintain a faithful presence in a fallen world. We are now aliens in this present world. Part of the challenge in our mission is leading our churches to engage the world in mission.
Majority of people in the majority of churches are not engaged in any meaningful ministry or mission. People are getting blessed without being a blessing. According to 1 Peter 4, every one of us are engaged in ministry and mission as good stewards of God's grace. Why is this true?
The assumption is that every Christian has received gifts. God gives us gifts to serve others. It has become normal in American churches (and elsewhere) to sit in a church week after week, doing nothing, and still call oneself a follower of Jesus. For most people, church is a spectator activity. Minority of people were engaged in serving one another, but an even lower percentage serve those in the wider community. Making real mission disciples isn't impossible, but often it seems it is untried. The system we have created and nourished often has a negative outcome we didn't want.
Don't be discouraged by the outlandish stories that conference speakers tell! Most church plants don't hit 100 people until around four years of life. When you teach people that going to church is like going to a theater, don't be surprised when they act like a show-goer! We build churches that teach people to be passive spectators. People are pushed towards inactivity when all are called to activity! Evangelicalism looks a lot like the Catholic Church of Ed's youth - where one person hears from God and everyone else is a passive receiver of that revelation. We teach people that they need a priest when because of what God has done in Christ, we are a Kingdom of priests! Everyone must use their gifts. In our churches, there is a "class" of people that everyone thinks is responsible for doing the ministry and mission. Every Christian is called into ministry when God calls us to Himself in Jesus.
Manager and steward are translated from the same work in the New Testament. A manager takes care of things that do not belong to them. Ed used to rule his local Burger King (with an iron fist!). He managed that store for someone else. He WAS a manager, whether or not he was a good one. The question Peter is begging is what kind of manager will you be? The American Church has consumed consumerism. Membership is more about the bodily term than being a member of an organization. We are managing our gifts in community with other members that want to use their gifts. If we are going to take the beachhead, we need to mobilize all the troops and help them to take up their arms! Don't invite people to become customers of the spiritual wares at our church; I want co-laborers. It is easier to grow a church on recruitment than reconciliation. If our churches are filled with customers that like our flavor, rather than co-laborers in the gospel, it will destroy us as a movement.
The totality of the church is called to be engaged in mission and ministry because God has empowered us to do it. Leaders, unfortunately, disempower the ones God has empowered. Too many pastors gain strength from the unhealthy patterns that develop around them. Ed started to like it too much when his followers praised and appreciated and he realized his identity was wrapped up in his relationship with his people. That's called co-dependence. Most pastors are in a co-dependent relationship with their congregation. Then the church inordinately needs the help of the pastor. Pastors shouldn't do the work that their people can do! We would rather do for people what they should do and it hurts them, it hurts us and it hurts the mission. Stop doing things that God has called your congregation to do! Too many people are riding in the wagon instead of helping to push it along. Like Susan Boyle, even the world knows that there ought to be a place where even people that are unexpected can use their gifts in a marvelous way.
We love to worship and that worship brings God glory. God does get his glory when we sing. But God gets lots of glory when we serve. God will not get the glory He deserves if we are busy leading for our own glory. He has created a KINGDOM of priests, not a priest. We must break that cycle of co-dependence in church life. Don't let the customers outweigh the co-laborers. Leaders are called to help people rely less on us and more on God. God gave the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4 to equip the saints, not give people a title! People that are rowing the boat have a lot less energy to rock the boat.
"What we know" and "who we are" does not always align in the church. Be willing to do what it takes to say, "I'm not going to be the center of this" and "it is unacceptable to just sit here and passively sit by." Customers can attract more customers, but we don't need more customers; we need co-laborers that will use the gifts God has given them.
The world is broken, but God has a plan. Happiness doesn't always exist because stuff happens. The world is in an ongoing cycle of being broken and then fixed. The church is meant to be an agent of restoration.
Over eighty times in the gospel, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God comes when the King comes. Jesus was obsessed with the Kingdom of God. Repent, the Kingdom is here. God's plan has always been to have the King restore order to his Kingdom. 2 Sam 7 "I will establish the throne of his Kingdom forever." The OT points to the Kingdom that would be coming near, fulfilled in Matthew 4.
Preaching the good news, healing the sick and casting out demons are all about the Kingdom. Most were expecting Jesus' Kingdom to overthrow the Romans. Jesus basically said, in my Kingdom, no one was sick or broken in His Kingdom. BB Warfield: When the King came, he brought Heaven with him. Repent BECAUSE...why should we repent?
Repent because... the Kingdom of Heaven
A. God: The reign of God has always been real. Psalm 47 God rules over everything from Heaven. He is a great King over all the earth! He has always ruled the universe from his throne in heaven.B. World: Ephesians 2 There was never a time when God was not sovereign. When early Christians said, "He is Lord" it was totally subversive. We were dead men walking without God's intervention.C. Christians: Colossians 1.14-15 The world is broken! Yet Jesus has delivered us from the domain darkness but redeemed us and transferred us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves. We are now slaves of Christ and citizens of his Kingdom.
Repent because the Kingdom of heaven...has come.
Our hearts are broken because the world is broken. Is the Kingdom really here? Matthew 11 - "Are you the One?" "Go and report what you hear and see!" The judgement part is coming but not yet. The Kingdom of God is here and future. Inaugurated Eschatology - The idea that the Kingdom has begun but has not yet finished. GE Ladd says, "The Kingdom is a present reality and yet it is a future blessing." It is a realm men can enter now and yet they will receive it in the future. God's Kingdom is a present Kingdom. How do we engage the brokenness of the world around us? Isaiah 9:6 This prophecy has yet to be fully fulfilled - we live between the times. At the end of the book, Jesus wins, but just before that, it looks like it gets pretty bad.
D-Day turned the tide. The end of the war had begun. The fighting raged on for another year. More people died during that final year than in the rest of the war. On D-Day, the end of the war was inaugurated, but on VE Day, the Kingdom of God had been consummated. We live between the Friday of the crucifixion and the Sunday of the victorious resurection. It's Saturday on planet Earth.
The Kingdom of heaven is near.
In the Civil War, the Confederacy illegally seceded from the United States of America. It was a rebellion that was never authorized or fully recognized by the Union. East Tennessee said, "we refuse to succeed from the Union" and they had to secede from Tennessee to do it. East Tennessee was the rebellion against the rebellion. That's what Christians are. The world is in rebellion against the legitimate, rightful rebellion of a Sovereign God. But because we have been made new in Christ, we can rebel against the rebellion.
Idolatry is the rebellion against God. We can refuse to worship the idols of the world. We know the world is passing away but God is making us new in Christ! We are now ambassadors for Christ. The world is pleading, "Join the rebellion," but we can stand firm in rebellion against the rebellion.
As citizens of the Kingdom, we are actually a sign and an instrument of the Kingdom of God. Every knee will bow before King Jesus. Our role is to announce that the Kingdom of God is here.
We skipped repentance at the start. But now we know why we should repent - because God's Kingdom is at hand. Repentance is a gift of grace God uses to redeem us. We've been part of the rebellion and we get to repent of that because the Kingdom is at hand. Repent - change your mind about something - because the Kingdom of God is at hand. In a lot of ways, Tennessee is trying to invade East Tennessee again. It'll be harder to be a Christian in 5 years and even harder in 10. Our answer is to be so distinctly different in the way that we live that people would see something so radically different that we have not joined in the rebellion against God. For too long, the church has dressed differently from the world and lived just the same. May we shock our neighbors with our lives over and over and over again.
Ed started by looking at the North American context. John Knox said “Give me Scotland” and Ed wants us to see our North American context in the same way. He started by being observational with our context (session 1), God’s plan in Jesus (session 2), Engaging God’s people in God’s mission (session 3).
The situation where we are: Don’t believe the hype that Christianity in America is on the way out, like in Europe. 87% of statistics are made up on the spot! 2009 - predicted end of Christianity in America. Stats have been made up “A huge percentage of high schoolers drop out of church when they go to college” - made up! Christianity in America will not survive another decade unless we do something now! Crises sell books and conferences but they don’t solve problems. Most with bad news have a program to fix their news. If stats point to “Hey I’ve got a program to fix it!” don’t trust the hope. 1 Chron 1:32 - Men and women of Isichar. Trends to watch and be aware of, but we need to understand what’s going on.
A. Great Recession - From a church perspective. The US economy will eventually come out of recession, but churches will likely lag behind. Historically, the worse the economy gets, the protestant church grows in membership. Economy bad, church good! Scarcity brings clarity and enables us to focus more on the mission. The Pursuit of Happiness has people jaded.
B. Sexual Brokenness/Confusion - John Ortberg “If you want to get a crowd, teach on sex, the end times, and will there be sex in the end times?” Biggest Obama controversy - Rick Warren praying (“homophobe”). Traditional view of marriage/sexuality is now the controversial view. “Pornified” - what was talked about in secret is now mainstream. The people in our churches have been “pornifed” - our view of sexuality is shaped by pornography. As leaders, we need to be aware that most people in our churches are struggling with serious sexual issues. Must hold up a beautiful picture biblical of biblical sexuality.
C. Gender Realities - The world does not get when people get up and talk about complimentarianism. At first, churches just didn’t talk about it. You can’t keep it secret anymore, so we need to be open and talk about it! The response, “This is the way we’ve always done it” won’t cut it anymore! Let them reject the scriptures view, not my view. D. Intolerance - “It’s not that you disagree, it’s that you are unjust in what you are doing.” The Christian view is perceived as “unjust.” The intolerance to biblical views are. In the next decade, there will be clearer division between what a Christian is and what Christian is not. The number of people that identify as Christians has declined, but the reality is that they are checking a demographic box and are only nominal christians. 2% more evangelicals in America since 1972. Mainline media cannot differentiate between mainline protestants and evangelicals. Nominal Christianity is on the decline, Robust Christianity is on the rise. Charismatic groups growing fastest in Protestantism. The future of america doesn’t look like Europe, it looks like the Pacific Northwest. Progressive culture with a radical church clearly stating what it is to be a Christian.
A. The church has to navigate the post-seeker context. “The WillowBack Movement” The wave of seekers that were “coming back” have either come back or they will not come back the same way. Those that were most successful in the last paradigm will always have trouble in the next paradigm. Not about have a cool church to invite people to - anyone that would have come is either with us or won’t come that way. If you build the church “attractionally,” the percentage of people that will positively respond is declining. Incarnational ministry in the office, the neighborhood and the family is the way forward.
B. Regaining confidence in the gospel - Some people want a bigger, more holistic gospel. The gospel has been oversimplified, beyond what it actually is. The gospel is not just “pray this prayer.” Others want a bloodier, cross-centered gospel. People are lacking confidence in the gospel.Is this all there is in the gospel? When you understand all that the gospel is, you will never ask that question.
C. Evangelical Confusion - if John MacArther, Joel Osteen and Brian McLaren are all listed as evangelical, then there is a pretty broad spectrum. Check out the Gospel Coalition.
D. Rethinking Discipleship - 55% of respondents felt they were growing, while only 3.5% showed a statistical change in measurable areas. Everyone thinks they are growing.
E. Networking in church planting is one of the best trends in the church A lot of people in America have a man-crush on Terry Virgo and love Newfrontiers in general, because we are swimming against a cultural tide - clarity in the gospel, gender, sexuality, etc. In Newfrontiers, we are at an opportune moment. Go, run - God is laying church planting on the hearts of many that want to walk with networks like us. “I want a society where not everyone thinks they are a Christian but that the church would live in such a way that people that Christianity was beautiful.”
Confluence is a place where the reformed, the charismatic, and the mission-minded converge to equip and serve the church to transform communities. Our authors are mostly leaders in the Newfrontiers family of churches. Read more.
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