Friday, March 30, 2012

The Romans 12 Blueprint for Christ's Church

by Joe McKeever

Think of this chapter as a template, a form (or pattern or framework) which may be laid over the entire 21 verses, and which depict a healthy church.

The word "church" is not used in Romans 12. In fact, it's found only 5 times in the entire Epistle and all are in the final chapter. Yet, there is no question that the Apostle Paul is writing to all the Lord's churches in general and His church at Rome in particular.

Likewise, there is not a single reference to Romans 12 being a pattern for a healthy church. Some things are so obvious it's not necessary to spell them out. The healthy church description of this chapter is one such.

Why does this matter?

The health of the Lord's churches in this 21st century is a major concern for everyone called to shepherd God's people. So many churches that were once healthy and strong, vibrant in their witness and effective in their mission, have fallen onto hard times. Some came under the influence of corrupt leaders, some were hijacked by carnal power-brokers, and some grew discouraged and surrendered to the world.

The typical young adult called into the ministry today has never seen a healthy and strong church. He goes forth to fulfill a mission in the faith that there must be such a church out there somewhere and if not, he is to build one from scratch.

Here is a snapshot of such a healthy church

FOUNDATION: everyone is committed to the Lord. (Romans 12:1-2)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV)

This is about our vertical relationship. It comes before anything else. Without this, there is no church, period.
a) The mercy of God is the starting point. Everything we do is in response to all He has done. (See the previous verses, Romans 11:30-36). The initiative is with Him; we are all responders. "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19). No one not having a great appreciation for God's mercies has ever come face to face with his own depravity and unworthiness.

b) We commit our lives to the Lord God through Jesus Christ. Living sacrifices. We place ourselves on His altar every day of our lives. This means after our initial salvation experience, we daily recommit ourselves to Him. "I die daily" (I Corinthians 15:31). No one is living on remembered blessings or ancient grace.

c) We become focused on the will of God. Knowing that will and obeying it become our chief concern. "What will please the Father?" was the driving force of Jesus' earthly years. Link: see Matthew 11:26 and Luke 10:21.

Summing up: All the Lord's people, but particularly leaders of His church, have been the recipients of His mercy, have committed their lives to Him, and are daily focused on becoming more like Him and doing His will.

FRAMEWORK: everyone is growing in Christ. (Romans 12:3-8)
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (vs. 3)

This is about our internal relationship. In a house, the framework is the massive timbers that form the rafters and joists, the underpinning and studs. It will become invisible to everyone, but if it is absent or done poorly, everything is in jeopardy.

Church members are healthy in relation to:

a) Themselves. They are humble, but not groveling. (vs. 3) They have a solid, balanced view of themselves as sinners saved by grace, as objects of divine grace.

b) The body as a whole. They belong to the entire group, and are not loners.(vs. 4-5) They have a deep appreciation for the whole congregation. The more they love the Lord, the more they treasure one another. Let them backslide and this will be the first thing to go.

c) Their spiritual gifts. They accept their gifts and use them within the congregation in Christ-honoring and body-building ways. (vs. 6-8) (Link: See Paul's indepth teachings on spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12-14.)

Summing up: There is no place for lone rangers within a healthy church. People see themselves as part of the Body of Christ. They do not exalt themselves above others. They are no soloists but performers, so to speak, in the Lord's choir or symphony.

FINISHING: everyone lives by the law of love. (Romans 12:9-21)
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good....

This is the horizontal relationship. As with a house, the finishwork is what people see. They do not notice the foundation or the framework unless something is wrong. In a congregation, they will see the behavior of God's people toward one another and the world.

As Jesus did in Luke 6:27-38, after commanding us to "love," Paul does not stop there but explains what that kind of love within the body looks like. After all, love in scripture is never presented as an emotion, something we feel, but an action, something to be done.

If our love is pure and without guile or hypocrisy, here is what it will look like:

a) This kind of love hates some things.

Followers of Christ will hate what He hated: bad religion, corrupt leaders, and hypocritical do-gooders, for starters.

An unhealthy church will love some of the things it should be despising and opposing. (Abortion, living-together-without marriage, and homosexuality come to mind.)

b) This kind of love values good things.

It's worthwhile to note that this does not say "cling to what is religiously good." After all, "every good and perfect gift comes from Him" (James 1:17). God's people should treasure any music, art, or other expressions that are truly good, and not restrict their approval to the religious, something Scripture does not do. An unhealthy church values unhealthy things.

c) This love puts others before itself (vs. 10).

Seek out and treasure the pastor and church worker who does this and you know you have found a winner. To our everlasting shame, many of us in the ministry devote time and energy and wealth to enhancing our resume' and furthering our career.

An unhealthy church is beset by members vying for first place.

d) This love is grounded in faithfulness to Christ (vs. 11-12).

This is its source, its reservoir. An unhealthy church will skip the daily faithfulness in order to get to the exciting work of serving Him.

e) This love does kind deeds to others, particularly fellow disciples (vs. 13).

Hospitality is a big deal in Scripture. See Hebrews 13:1-2 and Matthew 25:40,45. Also III John, especially the brute Diotrephes who forbids church members from showing hospitality.

An unhealthy church does kindnesses only to the deserving.

f) This love treats enemies kindly (vs. 14,17-20). This is in complete harmony with our Lord's command that we love our enemies (Luke 6:27). We should not fail to see the specifics of this love commanded by Jesus: we are to do good, bless, pray, and give to our tormentors. (see below**)

An unhealthy church attacks its enemies.

g) This love blesses the hurting and the lowly (vs. 15,16).

No student of Scripture--and that should be all of us who follow Jesus--can miss that the hurting and the lowly are favorites of the Lord. And yet, they are the quickest to be deserted by an unhealthy church.

h) This love is an overcoming-with-good force (vs. 21).

An unhealthy church is overcome by evil.

**The Lord fully intends His people to show His kind of love toward those who do us wrong. Our natural instincts kick in here and we want to retaliate. But the Lord's plan is not to destroy our enemies, but to win them over.
When we do loving things toward those who hate us or curse us or threaten us or would forceably take from us, we accomplish 12 things:

We honor God, please Jesus, and cooperate with whatever plans the Holy Spirit has going on here.

We infuriate the devil, puzzle our enemies, and silence the church's critics.

We bless the church, encourage other believers going through equally difficult times, and bear a strong witness to the watching world.

Doing so causes our anger to dissipate, and according to Luke 6:35, two more things happen: our reward in Heaven is great and our reputation for Jesus goes through the roof.

Want to see this principle in action? See Paul and Silas in the Philippians jail. Acts 16:25 and following.
Let us teach Romans 12 to our people as the model for a healthy church, and constantly keep it before them.


by David Wilkerson
[May 19, 1931 - April 27, 2011]

Most Christians don't listen to God. They go to Him only to talk! Yet the Scriptures reveal that any person who was ever used of God learned to remain in His presence until hearing from Him.

Scripture makes it clear that the Lord wants to talk to every one of us: "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left" (Isaiah 30:21).

I heard of a little girl suffering from leukemia who was struggling with the thought of dying. One morning when her mother came into her room, the girl was all aglow and happy. "What has happened to you?" her mother asked.

The little girl answered, "An angel came to me and said I was going on a trip. God came and took my hand and walked with me through a beautiful garden. He told me, 'You're coming here tomorrow to be with Me.'"

God spoke to that little child and took all the pain and fear from her heart. When she left to be with Him the next day, she had total peace.

When you are intimate with Jesus, do you receive direction from Him? Does He tell you what to do and when and how to do it? Some Christians don't believe God does this but Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice . . . and they follow me" (John 10:27).

In your trial, get alone with Jesus and cry, "Lord, You're the only One who can help me. Only You know the way through this trial, so I'm going to stay here till You tell me what to do."

This is the kind of praying that is pleasing to God. It means stopping everything, all activity. Only then will you hear Him speak clearly to your heart: "You must make things right with this person." Or, "Just stand still till next week. Don't get in a hurry. Sit in My presence and trust Me." He will give you clear directions.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


-by Electa Draper, The Denver Post.

A congregation losing its house of worship, once a rare event, is now common in Colorado — part of a national trend of record foreclosures on churches.

The real-estate information company CoStar Group looked at five years of distressed church sales and found only a handful of foreclosures nationwide prior to 2008, when the number jumped to 24. In 2009, the figure was 67.

CoStar Group spokeswoman Angela Brown said the market saw a big spike in 2010 with 135 churches sold after a lender-initiated foreclosure. In 2011, there were 138 such sales. The states with the highest percentages of forced church sales often were those with some of the worst home-foreclosure rates,
including California, Florida and Michigan.

In Colorado, church real-estate specialist Todd Whittaker, president of Service Realty Inc. in Denver, says church foreclosures occur with some regularity now... Other congregations are trying to sell their buildings before it comes to that.

"We're pretty active, but it's because churches are struggling,"

Whittaker said. "Their offerings are way down. Churches need to sell. We have 10 church listings in the Denver area, when normally we have seven or eight, and they are moving slowly. Banks are nervous about lending to churches right now...  I don't see an end to this any time soon."

-Please comment on this topic at the website below-

Friday, March 2, 2012

Can We Build the Church By Being Against the Church?

by Daniel Darling   
It's hard to read a Christian book or blog post or to hear a sermon without hearing some overt or implied criticism of some part of the evangelical Church as a whole. That's not even counting the Twitter feeds of Christians.

 I'm reading a terrific book right on the centrality of the gospel by one of my favorite author/preacher/
bloggers. It's a book that is both challenging me and inspiring me. But even this favorite author can't resist the easy stereotype of "most churches" or "most Christians" or "The Church is ..." It seems nearly impossible for us to build up our ministries without having to use another expression of Christian ministry as a foil.

I know this because I do this myself. In my forthcoming book, I spend a considerable time pushing back against the pressure to be perfect among 2nd-generation kids. I felt (and still feel) it was a legitimate criticism. And yet I wonder at our motives. Are we genuinely concerned about the perceived blind spot in this generation's evangelical movement or are we simply trying to provoke so as to build our own tribes? Are we being truly prophetic or are we trying to position ourselves as more pure than our ministry brothers?

These are questions worth asking ourselves, I think. Now please understand that this is not a plea for squishy, doctrine-free tolerance. I loathe the progressive movements that advocate tolerance for everyone except those whose beliefs they despise. Doctrine is important. Warning our flock about the dangers of aberrant theology is vital for their spiritual lives.

But we could all do better at examining our motives and check our facts. Scoring cheap points in a message or blog post or book based on broad stereotypes of the Body of Christ is both intellectually lazy and it's an insult to the Bride Christ loves.

I want to be faithful in shepherding my flock, which includes speaking the truth about what's false. But I don't want to build my ministry on the foundation of someone else's failures (perceived or real). Let's build our ministries on the unchanging Word of God as our source, on the radical nature of the gospel message. And let's remember that we ourselves are fallible, flawed messengers easily prone to our own errors of judgment.