Friday, 30 September 2011

The Bermudas

This week I met a friendly couple from the Bermudas. The Bermudas is the oldest British colony (1609); an island of only 20 sq mi - yet it has the world's highest GDP per capita. My thoughts: British colonialism wasn't all a bad thing in the region; and being a small, island-nation evidently is no cause for poverty.

The ingredients that make great nations haven't changed. The ingredients that made great nations in the past are the same ingredients that can still make nations great today. We only need to identify those ingredients - taking care not to throw-out the good with the bad - and once again include those ingredients in our own situation - and even improve on it.

God bless the UK and may God bless every small island-nation in the world! May all families and nations of the world be blessed in Him!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

God and Government

Are government and spirituality inseparable?

God promised Abraham that in his seed (Christ) all families of the earth would be blessed. The best blessing is justification. But wherever the blessing of justification has the opportunity to overflow into other areas of life besides an individual's spirit - areas such as business, family, relatives, tribe or nation (including a nation's government) it ought to be celebrated.

One example in history where we have seen an overflow of the spiritual work of Christ overflow from individuals into a nation and its government, is the example of the United States of America. Canada is another example. And Australia. And we are seeing it to varying degrees in every nation in the world. The Gospel is not only giving individuals the promise of eternal life - the affect of the Gospel is also overflowing from individuals, affecting nations at every level, for good - to varying degrees.

Celebrating our justification is by far the best thing. But where that has overflowed into other levels of national life too, let's celebrate that also!

So why not identify the type of godly impact that has been possible throughout history and the nations, wherever godliness has had the opportunity.

Persecution will be with us until Jesus comes. But in some countries, the church manages to overcome Satan's clutches on society to the extent that the Church begins to have an impact on all levels of society such as government.

Principles of governing are therefore no less spiritual than principles of parenting, or principles of self-discipline. The spiritual, inward work of the Gospel has a distinct overflow into national life, including into government - wherever the opportunity exists.

Praise God for places (nations) where that opportunity has arisen. And praise God for the positive impact on other nations through a nation where the Gospel has had the opportunity to impact its government.

For example, praise God for the positive impact on the world of nations like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - nations whose own governments have each historically experienced a positive impact from true followers of Christ (i.e., from the church).

Praise God for the positive impact of businesses operating on Biblical principles (capitalism).

And Praise God for the positive impact on other nations through the body of Christ in those nations.

But still the best thing is to be justified. Nothing compares with heaven.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pastors and Ministry Gifts

1. I would say a person can be said to stand in a particular ministry office - such as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher - if:

a) the person has a personal call and gift from God to stand in that office - and knows it;

b) the person is doing the stuff;

c) others eventually recognize it, including other leaders who are willing to endorse them; and

d) they are successful at it.

2. I think it's beneficial that a person correctly identifies his ministry gift; for example:

a) there is a difference between a believer who prophesies, and someone who occupies the office of a prophet. All believers may prophesy, including children - but a prophet is someone who is recognized as a leader in a church quite apart from his prophesying;

b) if someone is known to prophesy regularly using the simple gift of prophecy, yet does not occupy the office of prophet, then the person would be better to find his place as a member of a church-congregation rather than see himself as a prophet exercising a leadership role in a church;

c) there is a difference between someone who is called to plant a new church, and someone who is called to bring a specialist ministry to the body of Christ;

d) if someone is called to plant a church, then it will be successful - the congregation will be healthy and growing - and the church should ultimately have pastors and be led by pastors;

e) if someone is called to bring a specialist ministry rather than to plant a new church, then he should do so without attempting to plant a new church or to be a pastor; for example:

i) if the person is a gifted evangelist, better that he goes out and does the work of an evangelist rather than pastor or plant a church;

ii) if someone is called to bring revival and the presence of God to a city, then it's better if he holds meetings just to do that, and encourages people to belong to a church, rather than try to plant a church and pastor it - unless his primary calling is to plant a church or to be a pastor, ahead of his calling to bring refreshing to the body of Christ in the city (usually - there may be exceptions); A pastor may be able to do a little bit of evangelism, prophesying, hold revival and refreshing meetings, and short-term missions without prioritizing those things - but pastoring is not something a person can do just a little bit of without prioritizing it - pastoring is something that if it is going to be done at all, it must be prioritized - otherwise it won't be done adequately, and the congregation will be affected. Therefore if pastoring isn't a person's priority, then he probably shouldn't pastor or plant a church - he should instead focus on the specialist ministry God has given him (there can be exceptions, of course);

f) Just because a person decides to start a new church, or to pastor a church, does not necessarily mean God called and gifted him to be a pastor;

g) If he is not a pastor, then he ought to desire that everyone in his meetings either finds a church to belong to and is led by those pastors, or he ought to desire that the group itself eventually has pastors appointed over it if it doesn't already and that the group is led by those pastors;

h) Once a new church-plant has matured to the point that pastors have been appointed in it, the leadership of the church should be handed to those pastors - rather than retained by the founding minister, unless the founding minister's priority-calling is to continue as the resident leader of that church. Otherwise, any relationship that continues to exist between the pastors and the founder should be a voluntary one - one that gratefully acknowledges the founder's gift and call but based more on mutual respect rather than an imposed hierarchy.

Monday, 19 September 2011


Not everyone who goes out and wins souls and starts gathering them is an apostle, evangelist, or pastor though. I feel conscientious about the importance of really knowing what our call is before attempting to stand in a particular ministry office. I'm almost certain some have tried to plant a new church, when perhaps they were gifted to hold public revival/refreshing meetings. I'm almost certain others try to plant a new church, when what they perhaps could be doing is establish an outreach ministry. Or become a missionary. Or fulfill whatever ministry they have while remaining connected to their church and its pastors. We can be slightly wrong about our calling, and hence, about our objective. It can make a difference! We can think of ourself as a pastor or apostle all we like, but if it isn't our call and gift - if we weren't actually meant to leave our church - or if we are meant to encourage the people attending our meetings not to think of our meetings as a church but rather to encourage them to find a church - if we get that wrong, it is going to have an affect. (I'm not necessarily saying these things about anyone in this Thread, but about others whom I have met over the years. I don't know the circumstances of everyone in this Thread. I'm speaking generically, rather than specifically about anyone in this Thread.) I would say when a person who starts a new work does happen to be a genuine apostle, that it is still nonetheless God's pattern for the church to eventually be handed over by the apostle and then led by permanent, resident pastors rather than by the apostle. The apostle will, by nature of his apostolic calling, eventually spend most of his time away from the church, fulfilling his apostolic calling. It's the pastors who will stay with the flock more permanently. If the founding 'apostle' instead remains permanently in the church and never places it in the hands of pastors and never travels on, then it may be that he is really a pastor rather than an apostle. If he is really a pastor, then the work will flourish - because that's his true calling, and because God planned that pastors and not apostles would be the permanent leaders of local churches. In such a case, I would call the founding 'apostle' a pastor, rather than an apostle, even though he may also be an apostle in a sense. Pastors stay - apostles move on. If the founder of the work is not called to be a pastor yet remains in charge of the work, my obsevation over the years is that the work begins to dwindle, and often I've seen them eventually close down completely - even though the founder may have been a gifted apostle. It's because God's pattern is for pastors - not an apostle - to eventually govern the church. Apostles usually aren't called to pastor permanently. Another thing I've seen happen is that a founding apostle recognizes he isn't a pastor, so he appoints pastors to work under him - yet he himself remains in charge, almost like a senior-pastor. I still have not seen this work. The apostle acts really no differently to how a 'senior pastor' acts in a regular church. It keeps him away from his apostolic calling. The pastors in effect become puppets to the apostle. They are never really free to be responsible to directly to God for the flock, but responsible instead to their 'apostle'. Eventually the pastors develop precisely the same frustrations they had in their regular church before they left. I haven't seen it work. To me, a true apostle hands the church over to pastors, and moves on - thoroughly moves on - or at least, thoroughly lets go. Thereafter, it is the pastors and not the apostle who have the responsibility for the day-to-day running of the church. At that point the relationship between apostle and pastors becomes a voluntary one. The apostle may visit the church from time to time - but the pastors don't remain as puppets on his strings. He handed it over. It's like a father visiting his adult sons. A father doens't barge in without knocking. His sons have grown now to be the heads of their own houses. But the sons honour their father and voluntarily welcome him in when he visits. If an apostle doesn't reach that type of relationship with the pastors he appoints, then the work is still in its infancy, in my opinion. I've been watching these scenarios play-out for three decades. I could be too coscientious - or, this might be helpful.

More on Pastoring

I would say what makes a person a pastor is a personal call and gift from God. It's something the person has on the inside. No man can give it to him. He knows that he knows he has it. It's not something he just decides to do out of necessity, nor of frustration. It's divine. It's true that a person can already be doing the stuff, and only later be given the title in the minds of others. But I would also say that while it's true that a person can enter a God-given calling before any man recognizes it, if his call is genuine, it will eventually be recognized in two ways: First, by his success; and Second, by other men - including other leaders - who will eventually recognize it and affirm it. Paul the Apostle is an example of this. So, perhaps, is John Wesley. Paul began preaching the Gospel before any man called him. Eventually he went to Jerusalem to become acquainted with the Apostles and Elders - perhaps to double-check that he himself was on the right track. After hearing of the success of Paul's work, the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem unanimously extended to Paul the right hands of fellowship and defined his ministry. Peter even wrote an endorsement of Paul's doctrine, in one of his own Epistles. Paul also had a local body of recognized Prophets and Teachers in his own sending-church at Antioch, men who heard from God about Paul's calling and who laid hands on him at the beginning of a new phase of his ministry. The laying on of hands equates to ordination. The same can be said of John Wesley. But even success and recognition may not be proof enough that someone is called by God to be a pastor. It's something the person himself also needs to know deep inside himself. I heard brother Hagin say once that he pastored (successfully) for 14 years before he got the revelation that he was never called to be a pastor. After God showed him, he assumed he was meant to be an evangelist. So he evangelized for some time, with a certain amount of success. But then, after seeking God more intently, it was revealed to him that he was never called to be an Evangelist either: he was called to be a Prophet and a Teacher. Once Hagin got his ministry in-line with his true calling, he quickly became known all over the world. Hagin says that it's possible for a minister to spend his whole life busy in ministry and yet not do what he was really called to do. Sobering. Hagin also taught that we can hinder our ministry if we don't prioritize our callings properly. His calling was to be Prophet and Teacher. God placed prophecy ahead of teaching. So long as Hagin prioritized his prophetic ministry, he fulfilled God's will. When he prioritized his Teaching ministry, it slowed his ministry down. Hagin also taught that when a person is called to pastor, he needs to prioritize pastoring. That's a reason few prophets will be called to be pastors - because although if a man is a pastor he needs to prioritize pastoring, yet prophecy is ahead of "governments" - so pastor/prophet will be a rare mix of ministries. Usually prophets won't be called to pastor - not longterm, at least. I really do think we ought to be more intentional about discovering our calling, rather than just to leave a church out of frustration, start our own group, and think of ourself as a "pastor" just because we are trying to do the stuff - even if we are doing it with a measure of success. What is the Holy Spirit saying? I think I've seen plenty of examples, over my 32 years as a Christian, of ministers hitting the sweet-spot in their callings, and others who appeared to struggle to identify it. Could this be helpful, or am I being too conscientious?


No matter whether a church meets in a park, in homes, or in a church-building, my feeling is that every church ought to be led by pastors, or aiming to eventually be led by pastors. Witnessing Christians can start a new group; so can an Evangelist, or Apostles - but no matter who starts it, my feeling is that the goal of every group should be to eventually see pastors appointed who can carry-on the responsibility of serving, feeding, teaching and leading the flock. The group will be unlikely to reach full maturity if it continues to be led by regular believers, an evangelist and perhaps even by an apostle. In the New Testament, I see that pastors were eventually appointed in each church, to take-on the responsibility for the flock. Each of us ought to desire to relate to God-called pastors, as closely as circumstances allow. Obviously it takes time in a new group before qualified pastors can become recognized. And imprisoned Christians meeting together in solitary confinement might not have the opportunity to relate naturally with pastors. So, it's not always possible. But if any group is deliberately avoiding the role of pastors - when circumstances don't necessitate it - then I think that group will have difficulty maturing fully. I've seen it happen over and over again. Someone feels the structured church is too restrictive. So he starts his own group. If he's not gifted and called by God into the office of pastor, or if no pastors are ever appointed, the group remains small and some groups eventually fizzle out completely. The group doesn't end-up achieving better results than the church they left. In contrast to that, the house-church movement in China has an ordained leadership. It even has denominational structure. Chinese culture knows little of operating outside of respect for leadership and structure. That's part of the reason why the house-church movement in China has been able to mature further than many house-churches that I've observed in Australia seem to have. I do know of one house-church movement in Queensland that seems to be succeeding, although I don't have enough information yet to say for sure. One thing I know: it has ordained leadership - good, strong, mature leadership - men in recognized ministry roles. Any group will only be as strong as its leadership - whether the group meets in parks, homes or church-buildings. It is God who has ordained that pastors should have a role in leading each local assembly. Any group which ignores that will lack something somewhere along the line. It's true that it is God, and not man, who calls someone to be a pastor. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Not everyone who sets-out to be a pastor was called by God to be one. When a man's call to shepherding is genuine, you can see it by just looking at the sheep, at his flock. The sheep will be healthy and the flock will mostly likely be growing in number too - because healthy mature sheep usually reproduce. It's important that we know our calling. Success will come easier if we function in our calling. If someone is running a home-group or a group that meets in a park or any sort of meeting in any sort of building, it pays for him to consider whether pastoring is really his calling. If he has a genuine calling to the office of pastor, then the growth of the flock both in health and in numbers will prove it - longterm. If pastoring isn't his calling, then he ought to want to encourage the group to relate appropriately to pastors - or, if God wills, he ought to have the goal of eventually seeing pastors appointed in and over the group. Everyone needs pastors. An outreach ministry may not necessarily be a church. A revival meeting is not necessary meant to become a new church. These events may be just meant to fuel the existing churches. It pays to know! I feel it's important for us not to be vague and indistinct about whether or not we are called to pastor or to start a new 'church'. If a person starts a new group, I feel it is helpful for him to know from the outset whether the group is meant to be a 'church' in its own right (in which case he ought to want the group to eventually be led by pastors), or whether the group is meant to just be part of an existing church (a pastoral arm of the church, or an evangelistic outreach of the church) - or whether the meeting is just meant to be a meeting that makes a spiritual contribution (brings revival and refreshing) to existing churches. If we get our own calling right, then what we do can benefit the body of Christ optimally. It's true that all believers can minister and shepherd - it's true that any gathering of two or three believers can be called 'church' in a sense - but it's not true that everyone is called and gifted by God to be a pastor - and it is not true that a group of believers can do just as well if they avoid the importance of having pastors. It's true that pastors can wrongly lord it over the flock. But if that is happening, it is important that a person responds to it appropriately rather than stepping outside of his own calling. It's true that pastors ought to have a heart to equip and release. But sometimes pastors know best when a person is ready. Equipping is part of the role of a minister. But Paul also used the clause "...OVER whom..." when he wrote: "...OVER WHOM the Holy Ghost has made you OVERSEERS..." speaking of pastors. It IS Scriptural to speak of pastors as being OVER the flock. Paul spoke of those who "...RULE well...". He also said, "...God hath placed in the church...GOVERNMENTS..." It's true that God, not man, chooses pastors. But it is not true that it isn't necessary for a man's calling to eventually become recognized by others, including by other leaders. Abuses of leadership can and do happen in both structured churches and house-churches. But that is a problem with the leader's maturity - not a problem with the office of "pastors" itself. If we respond to it within our calling, we will be part of the solution. If we react by stepping outside our calling, we may fail to reach our own full potential. If I'm called to be a nut that holds one of the bicycle's wheels on, I can be a gold-plated nut. Better for a nut to be the nut on the bicycle that it's meant to be, than for the nut to say to itself, "I don't like this bicycle - I'm going to detach myself and ride off down the street all by myself as if I'm a bicycle." I see some ministers who are called to bring revival and refreshing to existing churches in a city - but they are trying to start a new 'church'. Consequently, the impact and scope and focus of their revivalist ministry becomes limited. I see some evangelists who are so successful when they travel in evangelism - but they pastored a church, and it eventually folded. Then they quit traveling as well because they were discouraged. I've seen others who stayed in their church - and they ended-up contributing to their church, and even got to minister to the lost in their city and to other churches worldwide too. I've seen some who held revival meetings without starting a new church. They personally remained connected to their church. They encouraged the attendees of their revival meetings to belong to a church. It worked. Even other pastors liked them! I've seen others who were called to plant their own church - and it worked. They were meant to do it. No-one can call himself to be a pastor or to plant what is meant to become a new church. But he that is called of God. I don't say this to restrict anyone or to deny any good things being done by anyone. I say it only because I think an orange tree will be more appreciated by its owner if it focuses on producing sweeter oranges instead of on trying to produce bananas. My feelings on this could be wrong though. I welcome comment on it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Nation is...

A nation/economy is as sophisticated as its vocabulary; as strong as its unity; as prosperous as its individuals/private companies - and as exalted as its righteousness.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Baby Dedication or Blessing Services

Am I the only person who sometimes senses a certain dryness about some baby-dedication services?

In my opinion, parents can bring their child to be blessed by a minister of the Gospel - but only the parents or guardian can dedicate their child to the Lord.

Blessing or dedication: there is a difference - and attempting to do the wrong one can give a wrong message.

The idea that a child must be brought to a minister of the Gospel to be dedicated to the Lord is, in my opinion, a carry-over from the pre-reformation days, and from Old Covenant days, in two ways:

Firstly, in pre-reformation days, the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers was obscured - the clergy was put on a pedestal above the laity. Only the priests could do certain things. But the Reformation uncovered the truth that all believers have the same access to God and to spiritual things. Parents can dedicate their own children to the Lord. It isn't necessary to bring a child to a Pastor to do so.

Secondly, in pre-reformation churches, babies were christened. Many evangelical churches now understand that was unbiblical. But it seems we have carried-over into our churches this need to perform some ritual for children. And it isn't necessary!

I think, if parents want to, they can dedicate their child to the Lord publicly at church - but it is only the parents or guardian, and not the Pastor, who can do so. A pastor has no more authority to dedicate your child to the Lord than he has to write cheques in your name. But a Pastor can bless your child. Jesus laid his hands on children and blessed them. So can a Pastor.

In fact, so can any believer - it doesn't have to be a Pastor. But if you want it to be a Pastor, or any other minister of the Gospel, that's fine, of course.

You can even have people lay hands on your children and bless them over and over again - it doesn't have to happen only once.

But that's different to ritually bringing your child to a Pastor so he can do the dedicating.

Blessing or dedicating - there is a difference.

It's better to remind ourselves that we're not under the Old Covenant anymore, when only priests had certain rights of access to the things of God. In the New Covenant, all believers do.

Under the Old Covenant, male babies were to be circumcised. But today, it isn't spiritually necessary to be circumcised. It is not necessary to replace circumcision today with a baby dedication ceremony!

A baby dedication or blessing ought to be carried out and spoken of in terms that expresses new covenant realities, not Old Covenant realities, and not pre-reformation mispractices. It will feel more anointed!

Even so, God looks at the heart.

New People's Army (NPA)

Since 1969, the NPA has probably had nearly 40,000 fighting members or more. I wonder: could those 40,000 people have achieved more for the Philippines if instead of forming a guerrilla army, they pooled their educational, technical, financial and entrepreneurial resources and formed a corporation?

By now their free-enterprise corporation could have spread all over the Philippines; it could have created employment and wealth for multiple thousands of Filipinos - and if there is a better system than capitalism, their corporation could have modelled it within their corporation, for the whole nation of the Philippines to envy and imitate: without firing even a single bullet. Sure, the strategy would have required diligence and self-responsibility.

But under the NPA's strategy, multiple millions of Pesos has been spent; an estimated 40,000 people have been killed or disadvantaged in the conflict; and it could be argued - without necessarily apportioning blame - that very little has been produced; and the NPA's membership is now dwindling.

So with the benefit of hindsight, which strategy would have benefited Filipinos more - a corporation, or the armed struggle? Just wondering.

This Post is not a criticism of anyone's or any Party's desire for a better life for Filipinos: we all desire that for all the people of the Philippines, and for all the people of the world. The question is: how best to achieve it.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Stoicism Can Be a Form of Indifference

Stoicism in the face of poverty is often praised - the British stiff upper lip - the Japanese' stoic response in the recent earthquake and tsunami, etc, to the extent that we may even subconsciously feel like it's an ungodly trait to desire to be a bit better off.

There are circumstances where stoicism in the face of hardship can be a godly trait. For example, when believers have been persecuted and their goods confiscated, for their faith. But stoicism in the face of an avoidable state of poverty, rather than being godly, can be a form of ignorance, indifference, false piety, stubbornness, irresponsibility or ungodly tolerance.

Some causes of poverty:

1) Persecution

2) Reaping what one has sown

3) Judgment

4) When an ungodly nation reaps what it has sown, or incurs judgment from God, it can have effects on the circumstances even of godly individuals in the nation through no fault of their own

5) Being robbed by Satan, perhaps through ignorance or indifference

Stoicism in the face of causes #1 and #4 may be godly - but stoicism in causes #2 #3 and #5 could be plain dullness in regard to what is really going on. Enduring poverty with patience, accepting it with 'piety', stoically waiting for something to change one day, complacently accepting it as one's lot in life for now, tolerating it and making-do, would not at all be godly in such cases - it would be more like someone acting deaf, blind, asleep, careless or just plain irresponsible.

If you realize your suffering poverty as a result of any one of those avoidable causes, make a silent adjustment of attitude inside. Relinquish your false sense of piety and unnecessary tolerance. Change your behavior if necessary. Calmly demand prosperity. Nothing less, nothing else should do!

It isn't godly to contribute to the cause of poverty. God takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servants! Renounce the grip of avoidable poverty, and its causes, and demand the flow of prosperity today!

Remain in Your Calling

Do what God gifted & called you to do. Your job description is within you. Often it is not what some other job or ministry description requires you to do.

One reason many are distracted from their calling is money: it's often easier to accept a job or ministry role that has a regular salary attached, rather than have to believe God for extraordinary irregular sources of provision.

God has one method for supporting pastors - another method for supporting evangelists, and still another method for supporting prophets. Trust God to support you along the way of your calling.

Another reason some budding prophets and evangelists go into pastoring instead of staying with their calling, is for ministry opportunity. Perhaps someone has a prophetic or evangelistic vision in his heart and felt he didn't see enough immediate opportunity to fulfill it in his church: so he imagined leading his own church would be the solution.

The result is that he either has to spend a lot of time pastoring instead of being the prophet and evangelist he sought-out to be; or if he prioritizes his rightful calling as a prophet and teacher, his church suffers from pastoral neglect, with the result that he never ends-up with as large a congregation in which to express his gift as the congregation he left. So, going into pastoring ends-up proving counter-productive.

Instead of pastoring himself, better to co-operate with pastors, trusting God to support and provide opportunities to fulfill his prophetic or evangelistic calling, either in his church or to the wider body of Christ.

Stay with your calling. Prove it. Magnify your office. Trust God in it. Remain correctly positioned, related and functioning. Trust God for provision, His way. Experience the fruitfulness and fulfillment of doing the will of God and standing in it.