Can You Really Change Your Church? (Megachurch Series)

Megachurch Controversy

When I  write on the church, especially the growing irrelevance of the megachurch movement, people react. I get everything from, “Don’t be so down on other Christians and churches” to “You tell ‘em Ed.” Most of us have strong opinions about church, and some have surprisingly passionate positions on megachurches.

Many of you have asked, “Okay, the irrelevant church is a problem, but what do we do about that?” My answer may surprise you.

What to do?

Everyone wants to solve the big problems in the church, and many consider the irrelevance of the church in general and the move toward megachurches as big problems. Only Jesus, who loves His bride, can transform His church through revival.

But that doesn’t mean that we just pray and wait. We need to take responsibility for our part of the problem.

  • If we think the church is too materialistic, we can give some of our money away to authentic churches or missions…or even the poor. Find a widow and give her some of your money!
  • If we think the church is too shallow, we can study the Bible ourselves and determine to teach others. Find a young Christian and teach him or her the Scriptures.
  • If we think the church ignores evangelism, we can build relationships with non-Christians. Find a non-Christian and make friends with him or her.
  • If we think the church ignores discipleship, we can make disciples. Pour yourself into just one younger believer.

When you honestly finish the sentence, “I think the church is too…,” you’ll know what Jesus wants you to do to make His church better.

You want God to change the church? Give God permission to begin that change with you!

Question: What are some other personal changes you think Christians should make to move the church toward health and impact in our culture? I would love to hear your comments.

Deep Before Wide: A Vision for Returning Discipleship to the Church

Robby Gallaty (Ph.D.) is the Senior Pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN, and the Founder of Replicate Ministries. He is the author of Creating an Atmosphere to Hear God Speak, Unashamed: Taking a Radical Stand for Christ, and Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples. – See more here.

Robby Gallaty —  March 20, 2014

Matt Smethurst:

Pope sat down with Mark Mellinger to discuss his vision for and experience with church-anchored discipleship over the past 25 years. “Discipleship is laboring in the lives of a few to give away your life and the gospel,” explains the founding pastor of Atlanta’s Perimeter Church and author of Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church. “If you want to see lives change, you’ve got to do it life-on-life.”

I highly recommend you watch the the video below.  Randy Pope brings a lot of discipleship experience to the table.

My Question: Why do you think most churches are so preoccupied with wide and so dismissive of deep?

Vital Resources to Liberate You From Legalism

The Battle is Real!

If you’ve been reading this blog you know that you should never underestimate the danger of legalism. “Legalism means making laws that God has not made and treating them as equally authoritative as God’s Word.” (Dr Tom Constable, professor of Bible, Dallas Theological Seminary) It doesn’t lead to holiness, it leads to hiddenness and sin. Legalism never works because it depends upon and energizes the old nature, the flesh. Grace always works because it depends upon and energizes and releases the new nature–who we are in Christ.

Remembering the Jesus Movement: What I wish we had back then!

The legalists attacked us constantly during the Jesus Movement of the 60s and 70s. Here are the resources I have discovered during my decades of Bible study and teaching that I wish I would have known about, or wish would have been available back then:

Classics:

Holiness, the False and the True , by H. A. Ironside. You can usually pick up a used copy on Amazon. Dr. Ironside was one of the great Bible teachers of the Bible Conference movement and a champion for grace. You can also download the ebook at www.inchristalone.org/IronsideHoliness.htm.   The Grace Awakening, by Charles Swindoll. This book has convinced many that the Christian life is best lived by grace, not by works.

My Personal Writing

Living Water: The Gospel of John. I wrote the study notes to this years ago. I still feel it is one of the best ways to introduce unbelievers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can get a free copy from the gracious people at www.livingwater.org.

Beginning In Grace: What the Bible Teaches About Relationship with God. This is the basic discipleship manual we have used at Church of the Open Door. I’ll send you one if you write, email, or you can simply download it here.

My Personal Favorites

The Cure, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch. These men are close friends and warriors for authentic Christianity. Anything they write or produce…get it! wwwtruefaced.com.

The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. This book absolutely rocked my grace world and liberated me from shame and guilt Christianity.

“It was for freedom that Christ set you free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Question: Do you have any resources to add?

3 Ways To Deal With a Legalist

I’ve tried just about every strategy with legalists–kindness, harshness, arguing, citing Bible verses. Finally, in desperation, I decided to examine how Jesus handled them. I’m sure you can find a lot of principles that I’ve missed by reading through all of His encounters with legalists, but here are three steps that have guided me:

Ignore them!

That’s right. Just ignore them. That’s what Jesus did. His disciples picked grain on the Sabbath, didn’t wash their hands properly, and mixed it up with Gentiles. He never explained Himself to the legalists. There was no, “Okay, Mr. Pharisee, we’re going to pick some vegetables here because we’re starving and you’re going to be a little upset. Sorry to discourage you, but I really don’t think your view of the Sabbath is correct.”

He just acted like they were irrelevant to what He was doing.

Because they were … and they still are!

Know Your Bible!

Jesus ignored the legalists until they tried to force their unholy theories of spirituality on His followers. Then He came out with all guns blazing. There was too much at stake.

And there still is today.

In my next blog, I’m going to give you some resources to turn to when a legalist tries to get you to conform to his or her outside-in measurements of righteousness. But you will never be able to stand up to the legalists if you don’t know your Bible.

When the legalists started confusing His followers, He came back at them with Scripture.

Live It Out!

The best way to neutralize the legalists in your life is to live out of who you are in Christ. His Spirit always produces true righteousness in the lives of those who trust Him enough to follow.

So, follow Jesus…honestly, courageously, and radically.

It won’t make them happy, nothing will. But they’ll leave you alone, because you scare them.

Question: Why do you think we’re afraid to stand up to legalists?

 

Discipleship Minute: Death, Taxes, and the Fiscal Cliff. Really!?

 

Two Worldviews?

In a letter to a French political historian, Benjamin Franklin commented on the new constitution of the United States: “Our constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said certain, except death and taxes.”

This is exactly what I’d expect from a great man with the worldview of Benjamin Franklin. Though ole Ben liked the idea of God and the teachings of Jesus, he wasn’t buying into the idea that the Bible was God’s Word or that Jesus was God’s Son. It was this world which mattered most to Franklin because it was all he was sure of.

And if all you know for certain is this world and what you see in it and what you think about it in your own mind, then Franklin’s maxim is absolutely true: In this world nothing can be said certain, except death and taxes.

We Christians claim that this world isn’t all there is. We claim to believe that what we see and hear and think isn’t the final reality. We claim to embrace Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Bible as His Word.

Really?

Then Why?

Then why is it that every time I turn on my computer some Christian is forwarding me a “chicken-little” email from a high-profile Christian leader that tells me the sky is falling because the President or another elected official is raising our taxes?

Then why does the most listened to Christian drive-time talk radio host whine on day after day about the evils of big government instead of the evils of Satan’s strongholds in our neighborhoods and the church’s failure to make a significant difference?

Then why do so many Christians worry more about the day they file their taxes than they worry about the day of Christ when they will stand before Him and give an account of their lives to Him?

We’re supposed to be the ones who live above the cares and challenges of this world because our eye is on another Kingdom in the world to come.

Last Time I Checked…

The last time I checked, we serve another King Who is coming soon…very soon. And when He shows up and I stand before Him, suddenly every concern I ever had about this world, my comfort, my rights, and yes even taxes, will seem small, petty, and selfish.

Because they are! In fact, according to Paul, they’re just “rubbish.” So what are you most concerned about? Your bank account after taxes, or your ledger of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ? Your accountant’s, “I think we saved you a lot of money?” or your Lord’s, “Well done?”

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” –Paul, Philippians 3:8

Discipleship Minute: The Devil Is…

This morning my closest group of friends and I were lamenting the evil in this world and the ways it hurts people we shepherd and love. As were texting one another and praying for these people, it got rethinking about the different views of evil among Christians. I’m not about to try to understand all of the theories of evil, they all have strengths and weaknesses. But there’s one that I feel puts Christians at risk–the one that tells us not to be afraid of the devil.

To be certain, it’s not healthy when Christians live in freezing fear of the devil, but we should have a sobering respect for Jesus’ most personal enemy.

A few years ago I asked a seasoned, second generation missionary statesman from Africa to speak to my emerging leaders’ discipleship/mentoring group.

The first question I asked was the last we would have time for: “Herb,” I asked as he stood in front of twelve of the most devoted disciples in our church, “Here is the future of Church of the Open Door. What is the one insight from all of your time planting churches and making disciples among the tribal groups of Africa that you feel is the most significant lesson these young men need to learn?”

He didn’t hesitate:

“The devil is real!”

For the next hour he told stories of spiritual warfare, demonic oppression, and personal battles with the forces of evil.

And then, he closed with this ominous warning:

“Most of the young missionaries arriving in Africa today don’t want to talk about or even think about the devil. But that’s their undoing. I don’t care what the Bible School and Seminary professors are saying about the reality of the devil. I’m telling you that the devil is real, and if you don’t get that, he’ll get you. He hates you; he hates your family, and he’s out to get you.”

The devil is real. Still not convinced? Consider this:

Ezekiel 28:11-19; Isaiah 14:12-17; Matthew 4:1-11; John 12:31; Revelation 12:10; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:11-18.

Enough said.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Question: Do you feel you know enough about prophecy to give you confidence that Jesus is going to win?

#002: 2 Words Should Guide Discipleship: Relationship and Grace (Podcast)

Series 2 / 2 Disciplemaking 101

Disciplemaking-U

Play

Welcome to my new podcast, DisciplemakingU. It has a lot in common with my Discipleship Minute blogs, it’s dedicated to equipping Christians to make disciples to Jesus Christ. My goal is to help you introduce non-Christians to Jesus and mentor Christians with more passion, make disciples with greater focus, and serve Christ with extraordinary confidence.

I’ve titled the initial series, Disciplemaking 101, because it covers the basic lessons I’ve learned in 40 years of discipling. Forty years of trying something that didn’t work, finding a solution, and having some success. It’s been the greatest adventure of my life, being privileged by the Lord Jesus to make disciples to Him.

The first episode was titled, “Disciplemaking, Before You Begin.” I presented four truths about discplemaking that I’ve discovered that I wish i had known before I mentored that first high school student as Young Life leader in the 70s.

In this podcast I want to persuade you that two words should guide your discipleship:

1. Relationship. Jesus’ invitation to discipleship is an invitation to relationship with him and his people. He invited his disciples to follow him by simply being with him. That’s the simple but dramatic scene of Mark 3:13-14: “Now Jesus went up the mountain and called for those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve (whom he named apostles), so that they could be with him and he could send them….”

Without relationship discipleship seems like teaching cold truths about a warm Savior. Truths about the Christian life, about Christ, about God, about the Bible. But what is Christianity about? What is the Bible about? What is eternal life about? Eternal life is receiving the life of God and sharing that life with Him and his people forever. It’s all about relationship. After all, Christianity is indeed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Relationship integrates biblical truth. Every doctrine, every story, every truth is designed to draw us into a closer relationship with Christ and others. So each lesson moves the students that way—closer to Christ and others.

2. Grace. Consider what discipleship involves! When Paul defended his ministry before King Agrippa he recounts exactly what Jesus told him to do in Acts 26:15-20. Here’s my paraphrase: On the basis who I am and what I have called you to do, I will protect and empower you as I use you to open the eyes of those who believe in Me so that they are delivered form darkness, rescued from the power of Satan, receive forgiveness and an inheritance as they follow Me.

The goal is remarkable—to draw your friends into a closer relationship with the Lord Jesus. More than remarkable, your goal is supernatural! You cannot do this on your own.  The only way you will reach your goal is the same way you received eternal life and grew in your Christian life—by grace. Only God’s Spirit can move a heart closer to Christ.

Grace stimulates Christian growth. Every sin forsaken, every step of obedience, every truth grasped, every attitude changed, every hurt healed is the result of God’s grace. So each move closer to Christ has to happen in this way—by grace, through faith. Spiritual growth requires an atmosphere of grace.

Discipleship isn’t easy or hard … it’s impossible if the Holy Spirit isn’t empowering it. So it’s all about grace …from beginning to end … and the “end” is the moment we meet Jesus.

Focus on Relationship; Emphasize Grace.

You’re going to make a lot of mistakes as a discipler, I know, I’ve made them all.

But if you’ll keep those two words in mind—relationship and grace—you’ll never lose your way.

I pray this podcast encourages you a lot and equips you some so that you can confidence in this awesome opportunity to make disciples.

If you have a question or a comment, feel free to e-mail me.

Discipleship Minute: Can You Really Please a Calculating God?

A God in Our Image

People who have a hard time with the concept of grace view God as a calculating God.

Rejecting the laminated promises of the Bible that eternal life is a gift given freely to all who believe, they insist that it can’t be that “easy.” In their thinking, there must be some “accounting” for sin that keeps certain types of “sinners” out of heaven.

I find it telling that when they calculate which sins God should tolerate because He is loving and which sins He should condemn because He’s just, the “tolerable sins” are the ones they commit. It’s those other sinners who are getting over on God.

These presentations of a calculating God always make me wonder what they’re doing with the realities of everyday life, the revealing ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the wonder of God’s mercy.

My own experience has been that the longer I walk with God, the more I realize how messed up I was the day He redeemed me, and how much more I need His mercy every day.

I’ve come to the point that I’ve just stopped arguing with them. If they want to live under the tyranny and hypocrisy of their calculating God, that’s their business.

Radical Math of Grace

But, I warn them to stay out of my business.

I choose to believe in the uncalculating God of the Bible, who relates to me according to the radical “math” of grace. I choose to follow the Son of God pictured in the Gospels and exalted in the epistles. The God of mercy and love who seeks out sinners of all types and degrees and offers them new life in Him and friendship with Him. The God who, as unimaginable as it may seem–knowing what I know about me–delights in me.

Question: Have you trusted the uncalculating God of the Bible, or are you still trying to measure up to the calculating God of the moralists?

Faith to Rest: Flash Flood Warnings In SoCal!

On January 16th we watched the Colby Fire sweep around the 43 acres of Church of the Open Door. The next day I wrote a blog about how the fire crew saved our cross by backfiring. A lot of people thought that was a close call, but as a former fireman I knew our campus was never in peril.

Now it is. 

But it’s not the fire that’s threatening us, it’s the water falling from the sky in the first huge storm of the year here in Southern California. Flash flood warnings are screaming from our televisions, handheld devices, and telephones. Many of our community have been evacuated, including our missionaries living on campus. We don’t know if we’ll have services Sunday, or how much damage and cleanup we’ll have to address on Monday morning. The last time this happened in the 60s mud flowed down the hillside streets of Glendora.

I’ve spent the morning coordinating with our properties pastor and our communications supervisor making sure we get the word out that we may not be meeting this Sunday. I also wanted to generate as much prayer as I could for our hillside campus and for the dear families in our faith community whose homes are at risk.

 

The experience got me thinking about how Jesus told us He would never forsake us, and why, on our worst day, we’re still a part of one of the most blessed generations of Christians in history.

I imagine Jesus looking over all the churches of all the world, caring for them in troubled times, protecting them from enemies, and weeping when His people are hurting. Jesus’ heart is with His church. It made me think that on one of our worst days as a church, even if we do have to cancel Sunday’s services, it will be the first time in our almost 100-year history. As our Lord looks over us and cares for us this week, our only challenge is the threat of mudslides. There are churches in other parts of our world that will face so much more this Sunday.

And then I got this text from one of my best friends, Kevin Butcher, who is on a trip to help the church of Liberia:

“So, so sorry Ed. Ironic that I get your text while in Liberia…a country that is still a “living disaster” even eleven years after their civil war (ended in 2003). Giving me so much perspective simply being with these Liberian pastors and leaders who are dealing with so much poverty and disease and leftover wounds from all the death and destruction of the civil war.  I am teaching them…but they are actually teaching me.  am praying for your people Ed…for their safety.  And I know…I know COD is going to be alright even if you can’t meet in the building Sunday.  Maybe…maybe even better…”

I can’t imagine the leadership challenges of these dear pastors in Liberia. I can only lead the community of faith God has privileged me to pastor. But I do know that the same Jesus who watches over them is watching over us. I want us to face our comparatively small crisis in the same way those suffering brother and sisters are facing theirs:

Mature churches turn to Jesus in a crisis.

Whether it’s a civil war or a mudslide, Jesus is the One we turn to. Our circumstances may change, but He is the same–yesterday, today, and forever.

Our Theme for 2014 is “Faith to Rest.” We’re asking God to give us the faith to rest in His mercy and grace. We want to live more aware of His loving provision and less preoccupied by our efforts to “make life work.”

Well, here’s another great opportunity to do just that. The county has blocked all access to our campus, but access to our God is never blocked.

“Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help” (Hebrews 4:16).

And right now, Church of the Open Door needs help.

Would you mind praying for us? Of course we want you to pray that our campus will be spared, that we can gather together this Sunday, and that the homes at risk will be saved. But could you also ask God to teach us lessons of faith and rest during the next few days? What a shame it would be to waste the opportunity this crisis brings to our hearts, the opportunity to grow in our faith.

Our theme verse for 2014 comes from the Book of Hebrews: Thus, we must make every effort to enter that rest… (Hebrews 4:11).

I almost think it would be easier to marshall the church to some big sandbag, save the church, campaign. But that option has been ruled out by the authorities. So, let’s keep in mind that someone is watching over our beloved church. His name is Jesus.

All that to say, let’s choose rest.

Question: What has Jesus taught you in the “mudslides” of your life?

 

 

#001: Before You Begin–4 Principles of Discipleship (Podcast)

Series 1 / 2 Disciplemaking 101

Disciplemaking-U

 

Play

Welcome to my new podcast, DisciplemakingU. It has a lot in common with my Discipleship Minute blogs, it’s dedicated to equipping Christians to make disciples to Jesus Christ. My goal is to help you introduce non-Christians to Jesus and mentor Christians with more passion, make disciples with greater focus, and serve Christ with extraordinary confidence.

I’ve titled the initial series, Disciplemaking 101, because it covers the basic lessons I’ve learned in 40 years of discipling. Forty years of trying something that didn’t work, finding a solution, and having some success. It’s been the greatest adventure of my life, being privileged by the Lord Jesus to make disciples to Him.

The first episode titled, “Disciplemaking, Before You Begin.” I want to tell you now what I wish I would have known before I began my journey as a disciplemaker with a high school student so long ago when I was a Young Life leader.

There are four points I want to make to help you in your discipleship of others:

1. You are right in the middle of God’s will. Discipleship is God’s will for every believer, it’s Christ’s Great Commission, our Mandate, our privilege … it is what the Lord Jesus wants us to be about. Making disciples of all the nations is what Jesus told us to do, and the only way that will happen is when individual believers just like you take it seriously and make the commitment to disciple, or mentor one friend. It happens one life at a time.

2. Keep It Simple! Paul put it this way in his second letter to his friend and disciple, Timothy: “And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many other witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 2:2, NET). The NKJV translates it this way: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

The strategy is simple. The things someone, say your Paul, told you—whoever your mentor is, you share those with faithful people who will be capable of passing it on to others. Disciplemaking is the addition that leads to multiplication. If I just share my life and the truths I know about Jesus with one eager disciple who will be able to share it with others, I’ve done my addition part so that God can multiply the impact of my little life.

3. View it as a labor of love. This has to be an expression of your love for Jesus Christ and your love for the one you’re discipling. If you think of this as a task, an assignment, something you need to do to bargain with God or any other perspective other than love, you’re not going to last.

Disciplemaking is hard. Think about it. We’re being used by God as he pulls a life out of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son of His love, we’re cooperating with the Holy Spirit to transform self-absorbed and full of darkness people into the expression of their life God originally designed for humanity—to be other-centered worshipers of God … to be more and more like Jesus Christ.

4. Count the Cost! Taking you back to 2 Timothy 2, after stating the basic strategy in v. 2, Paul is quick to remind Timothy of what it will cost: “Take your care of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).

Think of discplemaking as the frontlines of spiritual warfare, the clash of two kingdoms for the souls of men and women, boys and girls. You can be sure that Jesus’ enemy, Satan, is set against you. Every distraction, discouragement, and disappointment will be hurled your way. The devil will use anything to stop you from launching a new believer into a life of eternal significance as a disciple of the Master.

I pray this podcast encourages you a lot and equips you some so that you can confidence in this awesome opportunity to make disciples.

If you have a question or a comment, feel free to e-mail me.