A Different Model for Church Growth

A Different Model for Church Growth

 

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 2:4

 

No matter what denominational background you are from, and no matter what you believe about what speaking in tongues looks like, I hope that we can all agree that when a sinful, human body is filled with the Holy Spirit of God, that person will eventually speak very differently. On this particular Pentecost in Acts 2, the lives of the disciples of Jesus were changed forever. They went from hiding in an upper room wondering if they were going to die at the hands of Roman soldiers to being filled with God’s Spirit, leaving that room, and not giving a rip if they died. A great heart transformation took place. They were truly empowered to do the work of God.

 

In my own experience, I sought for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in my early twenties, about five to six years after I was saved. I wanted to speak in tongues like the people I saw. If I didn’t speak in tongues, I wanted to interpret someone who did, like the people I saw. One Sunday night, I went forward seeking the Baptism in the Holy Ghost. Every hand in that church connected as they laid their hands on me. All I remember is that something like light filled my darkened soul. Though I didn’t speak in tongues like I thought I would, God gave me a different Spiritual gift. He would actually give me the very first gift on the list mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8: The Word of wisdom through the Spirit. I didn’t know it then, but from that day forward, I had an intense desire to read the Word. I didn’t just desire to read it; my desire was to understand it. Slowly but surely, I began to talk differently. Whereas before all I wanted to talk about was golf, music, movies, video games, and sports, now I wanted to talk about God.

 

Here is the deal: God intends for each of us to have our own flame. He intends for each one of us as members of His body of believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. What we have going on right now in the American church is strange. I observe two types of preachers right now. One type is simply applying a business growth model and appearing very successful. If you find the right location, create the right look, brand a really cool logo, and present any non-offensive part of the Bible Sunday after Sunday with a really high-quality presentation that rivals the entertainment that you find in the world, and if that presentation is presented by a really cool looking dynamic speaker, you are almost guaranteed numerical success.

 

On the other hand (and only slightly better), there are preachers who I believe have a true flame of the Holy Spirit. They really know God and without a doubt are uttering His Words straight from His throne. In many of these churches, people flock to see the Holy Spirit emanate from their pastor/reverend/teacher. The unfortunate part is that the people in the congregation are content to be entertained by their flame. They want their pastor to study the Word and ascend the Holy Mountain to be with God throughout the week. They want their pastor to come down from that mountain with face shining and carrying a powerful word. They want hours and hours of study condensed into nice Cliff’s Notes so they gain understanding without having to labor. As Americans, we love maximum reward for minimum effort.

 

I think God is showing me a third type of model involving Spirit filled preachers that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen put into practice, and I’m sure praying this morning that I get to see it before I draw my last breath on this Earth.

 

Who got filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2?

 

All of them.

 

What would it be like to walk into a room where everyone in the entire room was really filled with the Spirit of God? What if to cultivate this Spirit, a leader had to cut some people loose and allow them to go elsewhere for a season? What if you had to do like Jesus did and run off crowds and crowds of people who wanted the benefits of following Him, but absolutely none of the responsibility in order to keep them away from the twelve who would go on to change the world in three short years? What if a Spirit filled pastor did not mind smaller numbers until each person in the congregation had the fire of God burning inside of them?

 

I’ll tell you the answer.

 

Anyone who encountered such a group of people would be changed forever.

 

The world around that group of people would be changed forever.

 

Lord, please let me see it.

 

Amen.

 

Adam

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Adam’s Valentine

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. – Genesis 2:21

 

I didn’t meet my wife until I was 24 years old. On February 26 of the year 2000, Tonya and I went on our very first date. Up until that time, there were certainly some similarities between the Biblical Adam and me. Bible Adam saw that all the animals were paired up . . . they had a match. He quickly realized that he didn’t have a match. I remember only focusing on what I didn’t have. My friends were getting married and it seemed a constant reminder that I was alone. Would I be alone forever? Was I one of the ones God wanted to be alone?

 

Probably the worst thing this attitude does is make you come across as needy. As long as this neediness prevails, you will be a disaster to your new relationship. I look back on some of my relationships and see just how needy I must have seemed to them. No wonder they ran. I can also look back and see how this worked the other way. Some girls I knew I would never settle down with because of some glaring red flag that God must have been highlighting as if to say, “not the one I made for you.”

 

Genesis 2:21 says God took something out of Adam’s side before He introduced him to Eve. For me, God had me go through a yearlong process of not dating anyone. As soon as I committed to that, I had more opportunities to date than I ever could have imagined. But, I wanted to be obedient to God.

 

The “surgery” performed on me was successful. At the end of that year God changed me. I wouldn’t say that I wasn’t needy at all, but I was WAY less needy. I no longer needed a relationship to define who I was. In fact, I learned to enjoy being at home by myself and just spending time with God and the Bible. I realized that God had performed major surgery on me and took out a cancer that would have been devastating to a marriage.

 

Could you imagine if I had bought into Hollywood’s definition of love and looked for Tonya to “complete me?” No significant other will ever hold up to that kind of pressure or live up to that kind of standard . . . not in the long run. I don’t want Tonya to “need” me in order for her to be happy. I want her to find her fulfillment in God alone. I want Him to be all that she needs. Then, if I am doing the same, she and I are set for life. We will see each other as a gift from God and we will appreciate the gift and certainly take great care of it.

 

No matter what stage of life you are in, find your fulfillment in God alone. I wish I had done this from the time I was saved at 16 years old until the time I met Tonya. I wasted a lot of time trying to do things the world’s way. Do not do the same.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

 

Adam

 

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A Desire to Change

A Desire to Change

 

But you have done more evil than all who were before you, for you have gone and made for yourself other gods and molded images to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back. – 1 Kings 14:10

 

Jeroboam had about as good of a start as anyone could have. A man of God came to him during the reign of Solomon at precisely the time when Solomon began to build public altars to other gods for his foreign wives. The man of God made sure Jeroboam understood why 10 of the tribes were going to be stripped away and be under his rulership.   Unfortunately, just because he had a good start, it did not ensure he would have a good finish.

 

In order to keep people from traveling back to the temple in the southern kingdom of Judah to worship God, Jeroboam decided to do the very thing Solomon did to have the kingdom divided in the first place . . . set up altars of worship to foreign gods. Even though he was divinely warned, even having his arm wither in an instant and then restored in an instant, he refused to change. Once Jeroboam got a taste of power, he could not let it go.

 

I look back over my life on things that were so hard to change. I’m talking about things that seemed impossible to stop doing. Just like Jeroboam, I thought I’d lose the rulership of my own kingdom if I really followed what God was obviously asking me to do. Here’s the thing: I eventually did lose control over my own kingdom, and in the end, it was wonderful.

 

Unfortunately (or fortunately, I don’t know) for us, God never allows us to see what is on the other side of our obedience to Him. He didn’t show me my wife on the other side of obedience to Him regarding my boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. He didn’t show me the financial blessings on the other side of learning to tithe. He certainly didn’t show me true peace and contentment on the other side of studying and applying His Word to my life. Had He shown me the blessings beforehand, I might would have done them for the rewards and not the rewarder.

 

So what does a person do when sin has such a hold on them that they just refuse obedience to God? What do they do when they feel that they absolutely can’t let go of what little bit of perceived control they have over their own life? How do you avoid Jeroboam’s fate?

 

You become poor in spirit. Remember the Sermon on the Mount? Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).

 

Nothing has transformed my life like the five words “Lord, I’m poor in spirit.” When what I want does not line up with what He wants, I just admit it. I pray to Him, “Lord, if you don’t change my heart, I will not change. I can’t do it on my own.”

 

I can’t begin to tell you how He honors this prayer. Don’t think that the prayer will “fix” you or your problems instantly. God has never been into instant. But, it will give you a sense of depending on Him like you’ve never had before. Then, over time, you won’t know how He did it, you won’t even know when He did it, but you will discover that He changed you.

 

You will discover that Jesus is everything He says He is.

 

Later

 

Adam

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A Random Pick

I wrote a new WMD for today.  Unfortunately, as I was reading it this morning, I didn’t write it with a pure, clean heart so I decided not to post it.  I will however give you the link to my website.  I’ve written almost 10 years worth of devotionals now (which is insane to me).  Just browse the site and randomly pick one.  I do this with my Bible all the time . . . sometimes it works . . . sometimes it doesn’t.  🙂

 

Have a blessed week.

 

Adam

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What’s New?

 

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

 

What makes a Christian “new?” What does it even mean to be “new?” I don’t know why, but I’ve been pondering this a lot lately. When I think of a new creation, I think of my two kids. When they entered this world, I had such an awe and wonder that absolutely everything on this planet was brand new to them. When my daughter was born and I said, “Hey Caroline,” and she looked at me with the most piercing eyes. I knew that she recognized my voice.

 

Here I am now 11 years into raising her. For 11 years I’ve been trying to win her heart. Sometimes I feel like I have it. Sometimes I feel a million miles away. Either way, I love the journey of pursuing her, teaching her, and instilling a holy fear of God inside of her. It is still amazing to me that 11 years ago, Caroline was brand new to this world.

 

Twenty-six years ago, I was born again. Ever since that day, God has been pursuing me, and my heart. A 16-year old clueless teenager called his youth group leader because he was too scared to raise his hand and “receive” Jesus in front of his friends. Even though all I did was repeat a simple prayer after him, it was actually the first time I entered the world of “prayer.” It was just crazy to me that I actually talked to God. I asked Him to forgive me for being the way that I was, for hurting the people that I hurt, and for doing the sinful things that I had done and was currently doing. I talked to God and felt the most overwhelming sense of “lightness.“ It was like my weight cut in half in an instant. It was like my soul was just pressure washed.

 

All of a sudden, I cared about stuff I never cared about before. Before Christ, if I cussed, I didn’t care or give it a second thought at all. But, here I was now with something going off inside of me saying, “We don’t talk like that anymore.” All of a sudden, I had the most intense feeling of “this is wrong” when I was sexually immoral in any way. I would look at my Bible and say, “I really need to read that thing.” I had never thought that before. These feelings were all so new.

 

I think Americans highly underestimate the value of that first prayer of repentance to God. A sinful, God-hating, Bible-hating, rule hating, sin-loving person just prayed and asked the God of the universe to change them. I believe it is still the greatest miracle that God performs today. It is absolutely astounding. A sinner just basically said, “I’m nothing like You, Jesus . . . make me like You!” It puts the new believer on the path of communicating with God for the rest of our lives, and for all of eternity.

 

Even after 26 years, there is still so much work left for God to do in my heart, mind, and soul. I’m still in the process of being made new. I think that is the beauty of salvation. A person who gives his or her life to God is in a constant state of being perfected. This perfecting process will go on for all of eternity. My only job is to hold on to Him for dear life. He is the one who makes all things new.

 

If you’ve never experienced the “newness” of God, there is no better day than today to find out just what that feels like.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Lessons from a Fast

Lessons from a Fast

 

When I wept and chastened my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. – Psalm 69:10

 

A reproach is something you are disappointed in, or something in which you disapprove. The author in this verse is saying, “When I fasted, I disapproved of my soul.” I certainly found this to be true. There is something about always being full and content by eating three to five times a day. I don’t think we do it consciously at all, but full bellies make for prideful souls. I realized on this fast that I have been one of them.

 

Ever since the onset of the fast, I have had these dreams. I’m put in these situations where I can take money that doesn’t belong to me, or just simply do the wrong thing. I have failed in every single one of them. In my last dream I gave away a coat that I really liked. Afterwards, I wanted it back, so I lied to get it back. Upon waking up from all of these dreams, I cry out to God, “Lord, is that really what’s inside of me?” My soul became my reproach on this fast. I realize with new clarity that if not for God changing my heart, mind, and soul, I’d still be as lost as ever.

 

Taste and see that the Lord is good. – Psalm 34:8

 

Drinking water only for a period of time is tough. After a few days, the body goes through this initial, main detoxification process. It is kind of miserable. Soon after this, I usually transition into a partial fast like Daniel did. It is crazy how all of a sudden fruits and vegetables taste so good to me. I close my eyes and savor the flavor as if I’d just taken a bite out of a Key-Lime pie on a normal diet. Something is really wrong with the way we eat and the things we eat. If you take a bite of an orange after taking a swig of soda and a bite of a candy bar, it will not taste good at all. Some sort of reset has to happen for you to be able to appreciate that orange again.

 

The same thing happens when you cut off social media and television. I think I get so desensitized by them that when I pick up the Word of God, it isn’t really that special sometimes. I don’t really desire it. However, when you have that clear and sober mind, it is like the most tasteful, wonderful thing to devour. God has opened my eyes to so many things.

 

Now no discipline seems joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11

 

I still would not call fasting pleasant. Like this verse says, it is pure and painful discipline. But, the value of it is immeasurable. I am writing this right before I’m about to break this fast. Something in me does not want to let all of this go. Something in me wonders if I’ll go right back to a prideful heart or if I’ll at least stay aware of how deceitful my heart can be.

 

As I type, I see a glaring problem. I’m wondering if I will be able to keep myself pure and clean. Of course I won’t. That is why I needed Jesus in the first place and why I still need Him now.

 

May we always cling to Him, and put our hope in no other. For there is no other name given under Heaven by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

 

Later

 

Adam

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The Exclusivity of Christianity

 

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6

 

This one verse is so offensive to so many. Every religion or belief system believes that they have the secret to inheriting a better afterlife. Some make it about following rules; others make it about making sure your good outweighs your bad. Christianity is way different. Its foundation is Jesus Christ. No matter what you’ve done, how you’ve lived, or how bad you think you are, Jesus says there is no amount of work that can undo it all. A person’s only hope is to put their trust in Him.

 

Now that I’ve been on the other side of this process for 26 years, I see the beauty of it all. In those early days of trying to be a “good” Christian, my efforts were so futile. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, my efforts never produced heart change. If I chose to forego a sin, it was begrudgingly. Often times, I would complain to God. I would say stuff like, “My friends are out there having fun while I’m here alone reading Your Word.”

 

This went on for 5 years or so. Finally, I said the prayer that I believe changed everything: “Lord, if I’m going to change . . . You are going to have to change me.” For the first time in my life, I threw myself at His mercy. I really placed myself in His hands. There has been nothing like seeing Him literally change my heart’s desires. He really does all the work in a person’s heart. He changes people’s desires so they don’t have to keep His commands, they want to.

 

What about you? Are you still hoping that your good will outweigh your bad and that your afterlife will adjust accordingly. There is zero evidence in the Bible that this will happen. Adam and Eve sinned one time by simply breaking a dietary law and they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. God allows NO sin into His perfect Kingdom. That is scary because I’ve sinned and you’ve sinned.

 

So what do we do?

 

Trust Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.

 

Later

 

Adam

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