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Sending Churches: The Fund for Theological Education has underwritten a study of congregations that consistently send people into ministry. In summary, the following are five characteristics of those congregations:
∑ Lay people are in ministry. Through collaboration with their pastors, lay people come to see that they can lead and do ministry and then want to push further.
∑ People can be who they are. Ministry is not stereotyped and authenticity is valued.
∑ There is room to explore. People are invited to think expansively and creatively.
∑ Education is taken seriously. Pastors challenge members with contemporary theological scholarship and demanding biblical study and awaken a passion for learning more.
∑ The call is boldly named.
∑ The full report can be found in the Winter 2001 issue of Horizons newsletter: www.thefund.org/publications/
∑ newsletters/v4n1/index.html (EXPLORER #45)
In 1877, a stone called the Fresco Inscription was found in Bethphage. The picture on the stone depicts two mean untying a donkey and its colt. Matthew 21:2 verifies that two of Jesus disciples want into Bethphage and untied a donkey and its colt. Here is evidence to combat those skeptical of the Bibleís authenticity.
From Philadelphia came to my Seminary to speak.
Wrote a new book about Christianity and the environment.
His first stop on promo tour was Princeton Theological Seminary.
I was a seminary student and I was looking forward to hearing him speak.
Tony got up and was animated and funny as usual,
Then came the time to promo his new book that he wrote,
He held it up high and said,
"I was overcome with emotion when I first read this book",
He paused a moment
"I mean when I wrote this book"
We all laughed, he was caught, he moved on with his talk.
Paul is not using a Ghost Writer.
He has dictated this letter, up to this point, verse 21.
He wants the Corinthians to know its authenticity.
"It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend his faults. If you are angry with a man, or hate him, it is not hard to go to him and stab him with words; but so to love a man that you cannot bear to see the stain of sin upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words, that is frie...
I find more marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatever.
We need to find the courage to say NO to the things and people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity.
The authenticity of Worship can be discerned if we really knew what was happening in the spiritual realm while we worship. At a certain point in our life, amidst great persecution from the enemy, as we worshipped the Lord with songs of praise and thanksgiving, my wife saw very few angels appearing on the scene after the worship and often the presence of the enemy rather than Jesus. This confused and perplexed us. We asked Jesus why this was so and the Holy Spirit pointed out that the quality of the worship determines the outcome and results. In Family worship, the enemy distracts often children and they do not take part in the worship, which dulls the quality of the worship. The tactics of the enemy are very subtle and their aim is to make the worship powerless. They may irritate infants/babies making then cry excessively and spoil the effectiveness of the worship. Spirits of laziness, irritation, anger, lethargy and others may try to dull the worship. Not only family worship. Church worship loses its effectiveness because of the nonparticipation of certain members. Nonparticipation does not necessarily mean they do not sing/pray. They may do all that but their mind is somewhere else. Like a few days back in our church worship, things did not seem to be flowing smoothly though we were praising with songs. On inquiring of the Lord He showed my wife through a vision that all but one of the church members were sitting around a table enjoying a banquet in the presence of Jesus. One sat aloof (not with us) eating his own food. Unless the mind of each member is on Christ during worship, the effectiveness and eventually the outcome suffers.
When the Holy Spirit taught us these things, we put a renewed effort in our family worship and the results were really breathtaking. As soon as we worshipped the Lord with all our body, mind, spirit, soul and strength and concentrated on Jesus in worship, the presence of the angels of God just increased by leaps and bounds. The whole house was filled with angels and the presence of Jesus was instantaneous. An enemy approached but could not get through anywhere near us for such was the enormous presence of the angels of God.
REFUSAL TO BELIEVE
I once served a very wealthy congregation. Over the years the different members had donated various items to the church, many of which were quite valuable. The stained glass windows were valued and tens of thousands of dollars each; The communion table was an intricately carved piece of art, from a world famous artist in Germany - I have no idea how much that was worth; One of the many nativity sets the church owned was a life size set, with beautiful animals and very regal magi, worth tens of thousands of dollars, the list goes on and on - but the most prized item was a painting of the Madonna given to the church in the 1930s. It was housed in a special room that was temperature controlled and very secure.
Congregation members loved this painting. Brides would have their picture taken with it, and many a new baptized baby had his or her picture taken by this Madonna painting. A small pamphlet was even written about this valuable painting and given to visitors who toured the church.
A toilet overflowed in the basement causing extensive damage downstairs, and an unbearable odor lingered for weeks. This caused the trustees to check the current value of the long list of items the church possessed for insurance purposes. So, a well-renowned art dealer was contacted to appraise the various works of art in the church.
The man appraised the various items in the church and he saved the famous painting for last, as the trustees did not want the dealer in the room alone with the painting. Finally, the time came for the art dealer to appraise the Madonna painting. The trustees showed the art dealer into the room and were delighted with the astonished look on the art dealers face.
The art dealer quietly took the painting down and slowly looked the painting over. One of the trustees could not contain himself and blurted out, "So, how much is it worth?"
"Well," said the art dealer, "I need to give the painting a more detailed examination, but I am quite impressed, my first thought that it is worth...seven, maybe eight thousand dollars. This is the best forgery of this painting I have ever seen."
This clearly agitated the trustees and one shot back, "What are you talking about? This painting must be worth several hundred thousand dollars. This is no forgery, you donít know what you are talking about."
The art dealer didnít miss a beat and cooly replied. "If you donít believe me, you can go see the original yourself, it is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City."
Believe it or not, there were some in the congregation...
ďAuthenticity is the exact opposite of what you find in some churches. Instead of an atmosphere of honesty and humility, there is pretending, role-playing, politicking, and superficial politeness but shallow conversation. People wear masks, keep their guard up, and act as if everything is rosy in their lives. These attitudes are the death of real fellowship.Ē Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life
That Thursday evening, just as Isabel was reaching the peak of her fury, we were watching TV news of the storm. A reporter, standing on the beach at Nags Head, rain hat blowing all over the place, was telling us how the high waves were producing a storm surge. Reporters are obliged to speak from the storm, to give authenticity to their report. While interesting, the report was not particularly relevant to our situation some 90 miles inland. Suddenly we lost power. The storm was howling & trees started falling....