Category Archives: Pastors and Leaders

The Balance to Biblical Prosperity

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           I have continually interacted with many different denominations and have been exposed to their various doctrines and traditions. After a few decades of this, something becomes glaringly obvious; No denomination has all the answers, not YOURS, and not MINE.

          To give you some background on myself, I am currently involved in the Pentecostal denomination but I have been involved with Four Square, Full Gospel, Baptist, Methodist and Word Of Faith. Denominational titles mean very little to me because they were all birthed out of disagreement on doctrine. I don’t call myself a “Pentecostal,” or any other church group moniker, but simply say that I am a friend to all who believe on Christ and serve Him.

          Before I was married I led bible studies and mens groups that had a diverse mix of denominations and beliefs and I was constantly challenged to examine what I believe and why I believe it. Sometimes it would serve to strengthen my belief, and sometimes I would be forced to change what I believe based on my new understanding of the Word of God. I think this is a healthy thing.

          I have come to love being around people who challenge my beliefs because it always points me back to the Word, and that is where all the answers are. I have said this many times, “If I am in a group of people who agree with every word I say, then I should probably find a new group.” Not that I am just naturally contrary, but I see the value of relationships that challenge me to be better, stronger, and clearer on what I believe.

          Over a period of 29 years I have been taught that it is God’s will for you to prosper. Over that same period of time I have been challenged just as much that the “Prosperity Message” is a false doctrine, a wrong emphasis, even a doctrine of devils. Because of this, I have continued to revisit the scriptures concerning prosperity and have come to the conclusion that people who resist the doctrine that God wants His people to prosper are completely ignorant of God’s Word concerning the matter. On the flip side, most Christians that are gung-ho about prosperity are equally as ignorant. I see both groups spending entirely too much time defending their position and not enough time pursuing the truth. So I have decided to put my 2cents worth in and I welcome any comments or insights… as long as you have scripture to back it up. Your personal opinion is meaningless if not founded on the word. So, Here we go!

The Bible is absolutely LOADED with promises concerning financial and material blessings.

          Before I prove this with the scripture, let me say this: I understand the bad taste people get in their mouth when they see abuse in this area. I also know that most Christians in the world never grow past being a spiritual toddler so they are very impressionable and easily influenced by others. They have swallowed the religious tradition and ignorant assumptions handed down by their leaders without question, without seeing what God has to say about the matter themselves. Furthermore, there is too much focus, from too many TV preachers on the topic of prosperity that are NOT teaching it the right way. Do yourself a favor, don’t take their word for it and don’t take my word for it, search the scriptures yourself.

          So lets open this up with some “in your face” scripture about YOU being rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9  ~ For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

          That’s right, RICH is a bible word. To understand this scripture you really need to read all of 2 Corinthians 8. Paul is talking about ministry and liberal giving. This is bible. One of the first principles of being prosperous is being a liberal giver. That disqualifies most Christians right there! Being a liberal, cheerful giver is the first step to enjoying biblical prosperity. If you don’t get this right, you will never have faith to receive the promises of material and financial blessings.

          The words “rich” used in this verse have been explained away as meaning spiritual blessing only. They are two slightly different words in the Greek, but look at the definition of rich in the latter part of the verse. This pertains to YOU.

RICH ~ plouteō  1) to be rich, to have abundance. a) of outward possessions.  2) metaph. to be richly supplied. a) is affluent in resources so that he can give blessings of salvation to all.

          Notice the phrase,  “is affluent in resources so that he can give blessings of salvation to all.” Does it take money to give salvation? In many cases, YES. It takes money to do ministry. Even Jesus had a treasurer. It took money to feed and equip His disciples, it took money for travel and lodging, paying taxes, etc. and it still takes money today.

          One of the greatest tragedies of our time is that ministers who have given their life to the call of God and the tending of His sheep live in poverty or struggle financially. In some cases it is the ministers fault for not embracing the gospel of prosperity, in others it is the church council, the deacon board, or the sheep in general for not thinking enough of the gift of God in their lives to insure that finances are never a concern for the minister.

         At the same time, it irks me to see so many televised preachers teach a twisted “prosperity message.” To every truth there is a road and there are ditches on each side. The predominant message on prosperity has the tendency to get people in the ditch of either excess, selfishness, and abuse, or the ditch of ignorance and avoidance. People need to find the truth for themselves so that they can stay on the road, not letting spiritually blind leaders guide them into one ditch or the other.

          On another note, I need to address the popular doctrine of:

“It is God’s will for EVERYONE to prosper financially.”

          Is this true? Yes, and no. Like any good Father, God wants only the richest and best for His kids. That being said, money may not always be the best thing for children, especially immature ones, (which make up the majority of the Body of Christ)

          If you give a ten year old $1000. and told him/her to do whatever they want, spend it however they want, they would likely go crazy and buy a bunch of electronic devices, video games, useless toys, and enough junk food and candy to put them in a sugar coma. The money would not only be wasted, but none of these things are going to do anything to help them spiritually or give glory to God, and in truth, could actually hurt them.

          I have a relative that has been in and out of prison all his life. He’s never learned any responsibility, abused drugs, and has no respect for anyone. He only thinks of himself. The worst thing that could happen is for him to suddenly come into a large sum of money. He does not have the character or restraint to keep himself out of trouble and money would just give him more opportunities to screw up and self destruct.

          He believes that if he had money everything would change, but money doesn’t change your character, it only serves to magnify it and make it more evident. Many Christians have this same mentality. They seek and pursue financial blessing far more than their own spiritual progress and live a life full of frustration and disappointment, always looking for blessings that never come. Look at a couple of verses and you will see God’s heart on this matter.

3 John 1:2 ~ Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

          This is not just a letter from the Apostle John to “the beloved Gaius”, But to ALL people, for ALL time.

          Prospering in your soul is important. The more prosperous you are in your soul is a reflection of how mature and developed you are spiritually. A maturing soul indicates a growing likeness to the character of God and an increase in spiritual maturity. Notice that John stated his desire for Gaius to prosper and be in health AS HIS SOUL PROSPERS. John said this by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it indicates that there is an important connection between YOU prospering and being in health and the prosperity of your soul. Look at another verse that makes this clear.

Joshua 1:7-8 7Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

           In this passage we see that prosperity and success is dependant on keeping God’s Word in your mouth, meditating on it, and DOING IT. This is not just Old Testament Law, but a spiritual principle that we see throughout the bible and still applies to us today. This causes you to grow spiritually, prosper in your soul, and develop strong Godly character, and when you do this, God said THEN you will make your way prosperous, and THEN you will have good success. Why is it that so many believers that are hot on the prosperity message choose to ignore this?

          That being said, just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean you have good character. Just because God has an inheritance for you does not mean He will give it to you knowing it will hurt you. He is a better father than that. You may be thinking of the prodigal son mentioned in Luke 15, how he asked for his inheritance, the father gave it to him, and then he wasted it and brought himself to total ruin. What you need to realize is, the son was a grown young man not a child. He was mature enough to leave home on his own. This is a warning to mature Christians.

          I have three boys from the age of 12 to 18 years old. Everything I have, they will inherit. If my 12-year-old asked me for his portion of the inheritance now, should I give it to him and let him go and do as he pleases? I would be a terrible father if I did that. He has a lot to learn and a lot of maturing to do yet. I have to believe that God is at least as responsible as I am.

          This raises another issue that most Christians are completely confused on. Spiritual maturity and just how mature people THINK they are. I will just say this point-blank; If you have been a Christian for only a few years, say, less than ten, regardless of your commitment and how much you have learned, you are not a mature Christian. On the other hand, if you have been a Christian for 60 years, that does not mean that you are mature spiritually. Spiritual growth does not happen automatically.

          The point is, just because you have grown some spiritually and prospered in your soul a little doesn’t mean that you can handle the responsibility that comes with money. Regardless of that, the promise of prosperity is STILL yours.

           Another twisted belief we see prevalent in the  Church is that IF someone is blessed financially, they are mature and understand biblical principles concerning prosperity. This is a huge problem in the church for many reasons. One mistake  I see Pastors make continually is putting a person in a position of authority based solely on the fact that they are prosperous, and are big givers to the ministry. Pastors feel that because of big financial support, a person should have some influence and a voice about the workings of the ministry. Or they allow them a title and position to insure their continued financial support. You will find that NO WHERE in the Bible. This is a recipe for disaster, and more Church splits and other hardships have come from this mistake than any I can think of.

          Rarely will you see prosperity come all at once. When it does, it is usually followed by destruction. Just look at most of the young entertainers in our culture.

“Prosperity is a journey that is travelled in the vehicle of faith, navigated by wisdom, and fueled by love for God and His people.”

          The purpose of the journey is not prosperity in itself, but to ever be maturing into Christ-likeness. All of the experiences, the ups and downs, good and bad times, the rich relationships, the successes and failures, are all tools to help shape and define the character of God that is just aching to rise to the surface and show up in our life.

          It is the life of the Spirit in Christ, and adherence and commitment to God’s word in all these circumstances that prospers our souls and insures our prosperity.

2 Corinthians 1:20 ~ For all the promises of God IN HIM (in Christ) are yea, and IN HIM Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

          “If your focus is prosperity and not the journey of living the Spirit filled life in Christ…you may never arrive at your destination.”

          In a nutshell, I think this is a balanced understanding of the prosperity message as God intended it, and I will leave you with this one thought that will help put it in perspective;

“If your primary focus as a Christian is health and wealth for yourself, you have reduced the gospel to a self serving, powerless theology that brings a reproach on Christ.”

          That being said; Here are some rich promises from God’s word to show you what God thinks of prosperity.

Psalm 84:11 ~ For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

Hebrews 11:6 ~ But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Proverbs 3:8-10 ~  8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. 9 Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: 10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

Deuteronomy 8:18 ~ But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.

Luke 6:38 ~ Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Psalm 35:27 ~ Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.

Proverbs 22:4 ~ By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.

2 Corinthians 8:9 ~ For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

Matthew 19:29 ~ And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

JC

~What Makes A Healthy Church?~

river church

This is a metaphor that paints a clear picture of two very distinct church models.

 The River model, and the Lake model.

First off, what is church? How do we define it? How we think about church and what makes a successful church will determine how effective we are at pastoring and leading God’s people. Do you have “Lake” vision for the church or “River” vision?

A River and a Lake are made of the same stuff, water, but Rivers and Lakes work very differently. Lakes are limited to either growing or shrinking while Rivers change and move. They have momentum and power and they transport people and goods, taking them further along than where they entered the River. Also, a river can change course, which is an option available only to moving things.

Lake model churches are static and they lack the vital process of discipleship, of developing and maturing people to the point that God sends them out to go make more disciples. They lack direction on how members should progress in faith. The measure of success is a larger congregation, not a fruitful one, and if a pastor looses a mature member of the body that is answering God’s call they see it as a loss, not a victory.

The Lake model forces you to invest a lot of attention, time and finances on material things and programs that the people can attend. Success is measured in attendance and growing a congregation not the healthy growth of the people.

The thing that I appreciate most about my pastors is that they are committed to investing in people. They get excited about seeing people fulfill their purpose, grow in their gifts, function effectively in the body of Christ and answer the call to ministry. They measure success in reproducing people of like faith. They understand the “River” process.

“How many people showed up?” …is Lake thinking.

“What happened to the ones that did show up?” …is River thinking.

Ezekiel 47:9 ~ And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.

If pastors have a heart to invest in, and develop people, knowing they will leave, they will have an urgency to help them through the process. By getting everyone in their church ready for a possible departure they will ensure the health and vitality of those whom God decides to keep in their church. If they remember that their responsibility is to produce fruit, they will rejoice when God decides to ship the fruit.

The challenges that we face today in building a strong body of equipped believers is greater than ever. The commitment to invest in, and disciple people must be foremost in our thinking. How we measure success in our church will help determine how successful the church will be.

Matthew 28:19 ~ Go therefore  and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

How To Deal With Goats In The Church

This is mainly for all the pastors out there but it is important that we all know this principle and understand how to identify a goats behavior. As pastors, you know how to shepherd the sheep and protect them from wolves. You know what to do FOR the sheep and you know what do TO the wolves. But what do you do with goats?

They are there! They are either in your congregation now, they have been or will be. Goats are like tares, you can’t remove them because Jesus said you would just hurt the sheep. Matthew 13:29 So how do you deal with goats?

First lets define what a goat is; A goat is one who likes to hang out with the sheep, eat the sheep’s food, go where the sheep go and do what the sheep do. But goats don’t like to listen to the shepherd. Goats will only follow a shepherd when it serves their own purpose and their own agenda. By the way goats always have an agenda. 

A goat may be a big contributor financially but they give a lot of money because they want recognition, respect, and to gain some form of control in the congregation. They may even become pushy about it. They may serve in areas of the church faithfully because they eventually want some form of authority or a certain position with a title. Typically a goat will have an elevated opinion of their own spiritual maturity, to the point of believing that they are just as mature and spiritual as anyone in the church, including the pastor.

The clincher is that goats have a real problem with any kind of correction. If an elder or the pastor has cause to bring any kind of correction, they usually get offended and leave the church. While they are leaving they will gossip to everyone that will listen and lobby for support of their sad “goatly” cause. Goats will ALWAYS feel like you owe them something, at the very least an apology. Any people come to mind yet? If you have been in the ministry any length of time you recognize the pattern I just described.

So how do you deal with the goats? You can’t shepherd them because they do not want to be shepherded and yet they wish to remain in the fold. There is always a chance that they will convert and become sheep but until that happens  …. What do you do? Here is what Jesus does to goats on the day of judgment;

Matthew 25:32 ~And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

But what do you do with goats?

 First and foremost, you LOVE them! Love never fails and love is the best way to preach Christ to a person who really isn’t interested in listening unless it serves them.

Second, Goats don’t really know who they are. They suffer from an identity crisis, so it is important to preach a clear gospel message about their identity in Christ.

Thirdly, YOU MILK THEM. The only way to deal with a goat, apart from loving them and teaching them truth is to milk them. Milk them for everything that they choose to give and every service that they choose to provide. Love them, but watch them! Watch who they associate with because eventually goats will flock together. Make sure they don’t cause division within the body and convert a sheep to a goats way of thinking, BUT MILK THEM. If you do put them in charge of something make sure that it is task oriented only and that they are NOT in charge of other people. The desire to control sheep is at the root of every goats agenda.

This may sound cold and unloving but it is not. Milking a goat is an important part of the goats learning process. Goats will typically get offended and leave after they have “given so much” and were not recognized or appreciated. They may do this a number of times before they realize that THEY are the problem and humble themselves and repent. Some goats will never repent and they will be separated at the day of judgment. The goats have a terrible fate awaiting them.

Matthew 13:24-42  Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. 31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. 33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. 36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

As a pastor, you are responsible for the sheep, not the goats. However, protecting the flock from goats is an issue most pastors will face repeatedly. God will allow Satan to send goats into your midst for their perfecting and for yours. Remember to love them but never let a goat gain any kind of control. Allow them to give to the ministry in any way that benefits you and your flock, but watch them…and pray for them. Above all, be merciful, compassionate, and love them. Remember that Jesus saw fit to pay the same price for their redemption as yours.

JC

~ Prophetic Ministry ~

One of the big mistakes that the church has made over the last century is to devalue the prophetic ministry. That grace and gift from the Lord is necessary for the maturing and perfecting of the saints. Without exposure to prophetic and apostolic ministry believers become deficient in the “experience” of the gospel. Churches have focused on the evangelist, pastor and teacher and have become learning centers that have all the fluff and show of Christianity but deny the power that MUST be present to grow a strong mature people.

We must allow for the development of young prophets and give them room to grow and make mistakes within our midst . The leadership must encourage and nurture these individuals and provide them with sound council and accountability while assuring them a safe place to grow and develop.

Face it; prophetically gifted people tend to be different. They are going to be misunderstood and even avoided because they operate on a slightly different wavelength and to fit into a local church setting can be one of the most challenging of all tests for them. Few understand them, and therefore, few will trust them. If they can remain faithful and endure the misunderstandings and rejection while growing in love their maturity will fashion them into vessels of great use to the Lord. Those who separate themselves because of the rejection rarely have a fruitful ministry and often will go on to be used more by the enemy than the Lord, bringing division and destruction to the body.

Few pastors or church leaders are able to recognize true prophetic gifts and callings when they are still immature. The main reason is that a lot of Christians claim to be “prophets” when in reality, they wouldn’t know a prophet if he came down the street with a red hat on. Most pastors and church leaders have been hurt and burned by those who claim to be prophets more than they have been helped by them, so they are understandably hesitant to embrace anyone who claims to be a prophet. Even so, the prophets need the church, and the church needs the prophets just as much.

Pastors should learn to recognize a prophetic grace or gifting in a young Christian and help them discover their purpose and how they fit in the body. For the most part, church leadership has failed to distinguish between the grace, the gift, the calling and the commissioning. As we see in the Book of Acts, Paul was called as an apostle many years before he was commissioned to that ministry. As far as we can tell, between Paul’s calling and his commissioning range between eight and fourteen years. It is clear in Acts and from Paul’s letters that this time was spent in preparation, and that during this time, he ministered as a prophet and a teacher.

If you are wondering whether you have been commissioned yet, then you haven’t. When the real thing happens, it will be clear, and you will know that it came from God and not just men. Until then, we are in training, and the more significant your calling is, the more intense and usually longer and harder your training will be.

As one who is prophetically gifted I have had to learn a lot of this the hard way. Being different and having no mentor early on, I made a ton of mistakes. Not understanding why I do the things I do led me to model another prophet that I respected and was respected by my entire denomination. This was a huge mistake and brought serious correction from the Lord. Each prophet in Scripture was unique.  God uses that uniqueness to relate to all of His people in a personal way. For this reason, we should never copy anyone else. We can learn from others, but must focus on the Lord, beholding His glory and being changed into His image, if we are to become who WE are created to be.