Ministry in the Full Gospel

Standard

Ministry in the Full Gospel

Somewhere awhile back in the 20th century (seems odd to say that) a Charismatic Movement broke out calling themselves “Full Gospel” churches. Oddly enough, Google identified 3 churches as related to “Full Gospel” near me in my county of around 100 churches. One was something called the “Full Gospel Tabernacle”, which is probably most like this particular brand of Pentecostalism. Another on the list was the Church of Latter Day Saints just down the road from me, which I’m sure is a bit of a misunderstanding. The last, which surprised me, was my own church, St. Mark United Methodist. So, apparently my credentials for writing about “Full Gospel” ministry is verified by Google. That is just more evidence that the world is confused by the names and terminology we use to place divisions in the Body of Christ.

My brief experience with a Pentecostal congregation leads me to believe that “Full Gospel” to them meant an appropriate worship, reverence, and application of the Holy Spirit in their lives (often, but not always shown by praying/speaking in tongues and prophesying). I’m not a tongue-speaker myself, but there is much that I affirm among that tradition. However, I believe that a better description of what it means to have the full gospel occurs when we move beyond monocultural ministries into multicultural ministries.

Monocultural Ministries

Monocultural ministries often are described as natural, organic, and working with the culture around us. There are lots of ministry models for this, both missional and attractional in emphasis. The underlying premise for them is: like attracts like. You remember those days of booming youth groups and rivalries between churches to attract the upcoming crowd of football players, because if you get the popular kids then the rest will follow? Do you remember the church growth movements that boiled down to “If you build it, they will come.”

And then we ended up with a lot of great big church buildings that remain mostly empty and/or get rented out for daycares, birthday parties, and other community events. Those are not bad things, but they are probably not what the builders envisioned when those churches were built.

That’s the lifecycle of most monocultural ministries. They start with a small passionate core team that wants to win their culture for Christ, they invest heavily, make contacts, and market their idea in the community as the culturally relevant thing to do. It struggles at first, but once it gains a critical mass, it becomes the new cultural outlet for time, energy, direction, and a sense of belonging. If they can weather the growth and potential conflicts over the years, they may have several decades of growth. The big hurdle tends to be passing the torch to the 2nd generation. Generally, if a church can raise up one generation of leaders, it can raise up a dozen generations and last until the community around them completely changes culture.

The struggles of many churches in the United States today may be due more to that second fact than the first. Our church leaders know how to train people like them. However, our cultural landscape has been changing rapidly and their children spend more of their life throughout the week in a foreign culture that raises them as opposed to the church which they only spend 4-8 hours each month at best. Many have dropped out altogether and are no longer part of “Christian” culture, and therefore, we do not know how to raise them to become church leaders like us. We lose our people spiritually because we never had them culturally, and we only know how to minister in one culture. Tweet: We lose our people spiritually because we never had them culturally, and we only know how to minister in one culture.

So, if you live in a low-tech, isolated, third-world country, you may be able to do monocultural ministry well for the long-term. However, much of the European and more and more of the American cultural landscape is showing us that it does not work for us across the generations anymore. So what do we do?

Multicultural Ministries

We can do the same thing that the first generation of Christians did… learn to grow and thrive in multicultural ministries. Oftentimes we think of multicultural ministry as a black/white issue in the U.S., and to a degree, that has been true. Today though, in our very globalized society, it goes much further. It involves race. It involves social-economic status. It involves language. It involves nationality. In every ministry situation built around a monocultural community though, it will essentially come down to Jews and Gentiles. Insiders and Outsiders.

Among anarchists, there may be the thought that the solution to this division is to simply eliminate all insiders and make everyone an outsider. Should you succeed at that, there would be no community though, no hub for people to stick to and find belonging. There is another solution though, something modeled by Jesus and fleshed out in the Early Church. You have to continually, intentionally make the inside group diverse.

Does that sound like Affirmative Action? Probably, but it has a different purpose. Diversity among core leadership is not about giving every culture what it deserves. It is about modeling on a small scale how every culture submits to Jesus as Savior and Lord and how Jesus brings us all together as redemptive cultures1. That model (modeling being one of the most primary forms of teaching) becomes a hub that then is able to draw a much greater, much more diverse crowd together, and show them how to live together in Christ. This multicultural ministry gets to the heart of the story of the Rich Young Ruler when Peter asks, “if this man cannot be saved, then what hope to we have?” Jesus reply is the same to us, when contemplating multicultural ministries: “With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” What does this have to do with multicultural ministry? That rich young ruler was the epitome of the “in crowd”.

Jesus, instead built a core of 12 disciples that, under normal circumstances, would never have stayed under the same roof or ate at the same dinner tables. Tax collectors, fishermen, revolutionaries, people from priestly families… and women! Don’t forget Mary and Martha who tagged right along with the guys. The Samaritan woman who was one of the first evangelists was arguably chosen by Jesus as he left the Twelve and sought her out on that hot afternoon in Samaria. Yes, Jesus created a multicultural church, and it was only by an act of God that they came together in the first place.

Where have I experienced this kind of ministry? I was invited to help pastor a leadership team of international students doing ministry at Campbellsville University. Their vision is to bring all people of all cultures together in the name of Christ. It is challenging work, particularly when almost half of our students in the ministry are not proficient English speakers. It is a place we pray for spiritual gifts of communication.

I have experienced this ministry meeting with Hispanic Pastors from all across Kentucky. I hear there stories, struggling with ministry, making ends meet, having very migratory congregations, and dealing with a wide range of cultures within their own context and people who do not always see eye to eye (Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Salvadorans, Columbians, etc.) Some have said that ministry was much easier in their home countries where it was monocultural. I listen and learn all I can from them.

Finally, there is my own multicultural experience at church. We are a small, fairly traditionally led, about 95% white, English speaking church. However, we have been blessed with a 4 or 5 year sister-relationship with a primarily African American church in town. We worship together several times a year and often participate together in community-wide ministries. It’s not just a show though. Our members greet each other in Wal-Mart. We pastors work together. Both our congregations only have a small degree of diversity, but the people who bring us new kinds of culture are celebrated for the gifts they are as people, not just as token cultural representatives. We learn from each other and we make each other better – often in joyous ways, and sometimes as iron sharpens iron.

We are not there yet… not by a long shot. But we keep moving forward. We celebrate the work God is doing in us, because without Him, none of this is possible. We learn from our mistakes by repenting, giving grace, and offering healing. We don’t give up on one another just because we cannot understand each other at times. We pray, and God keeps us humble and in awe of what He can do as He creates a redemptive community that we could never even imagine.

Click to Tweet!

  1. Yes, I’m using the plural here, not because I think there are multiple saviors and lords, but because we are not all called to be the same part of the Body of Christ, yet each is valued on their own terms as people who bring the redemptive power of Christ into the world.

The Promise of Teamwork

Standard

The Promise of Teamwork

Numbers 11:24-30

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

John 7:37-39

Rivers of Living Water

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. “

Sometimes teamwork feels like a burden and a hassle. There are so many tasks that just seem simpler doing them myself. Less communication. Potentially less criticism of the work. Beneath that there is a desire for control, which comes across in at least two different ways. First, it gives us direct input into the projects we are invested in as a form of active conntrol. This is the kind of control we typically attribute to those with ‘’control issues” (i.e. they always have to be the ones giving orders). There is another, more passive form of control though. Passive-aggressive controllers seek to condense the amount of work to the things in their immediate influence. It is the other side of the coin. Whereas active controllers jump up to do any taste that comes their way, passive controllers will neglect, discourage, or sabotage any task or ideas for tasks that they will not do themselves. The passive approach is not necessarily lazier than active control, it requires more subtlety and social stamina.

While small aspects of both forms of control are probably helpful in leadership at times, neither form is ideal. The ideal way to get work done is through teamwork (and there are more reasons for that than I can fit here). Let me give you two good reasons:

  1. Both the Old Testament and New Testament promote teamwork as a superior form of work and leadership. In fact, I would go even further and suggest that all the commands God gives us find a fundation in teamwork.
  2. To accomplish a vision bigger than ourselves we need to work with others.

Everyone has off days. Everyone gets sick. All of us deal with the reality that our lives here on earth are temporary. You see the struggle to work as a team (especially among leaders) parallel the success and adaptability of businesses all over the world. Most businesses are fortunate if they can last 40 years without closing or selling out. The number of businesses that outlive their founders is substantially less. (Perhaps we should bear that in mind when we make comments about running our churches or our governments like a business!) If something is going to grow and outlast us, we have to teach it how to do so today, not just wishfully imagine it will magically figure it all out they day we retire.

Teamwork is a gift. God could have left us on our own, fighting with each other and our own selfish natures. Instead, He gave us His Spirit which always gives us more blessing than we can hold, more work than we can do, more hope than we can use, and norejoy than we can share. The Holy Spirit makes teamwork happen whenever it pours into us… and coincidentally I believe, it only pours out in us When we are gathered into tears over the work that God has for us. It does not empower controlling people. It only comes to those who are asking for help.

How has teamwork blessed your service to God?

How has the Holy Spirit empowered your teams?

What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Standard

This is a somewhat common saying and rhetorical question that some people use to make the point that the last statement made in the discussion is off-topic and not related to the issue at hand. I however, am one of those people who always have to wonder and wander and often chase rabbit trails, so… what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? And what does the price of tea in China have to do with anything.

I doubt very much that this is a Chinese saying. There is a note of sarcasm and bluntness to it that is absent from most polite Chinese conversation and especially business conversations. So I’m going to blame the British instead. If you want blunt sarcasm, you will be hard pressed to find people wielding it with more expertise than the BBC, where banter is a sport like the NFL in the US.

I think there is an underlying point to this though. If we wind the clock back a century, we would discover the time when it was boasted that the sun never set on the British Empire. All across the globe, they had colonies and nations purchased by blood and gold. One of the more important places was China, which, along with India and other places in Southeast Asia grew an enormous amount of tea. This tea was then shipped off to Europe and England specifically, to supply millions of residents during their obligatory tea-time each day.

That is a bit of an exaggeration, of course – I’m sure there were many people whose jobs did not afford them a “tea time”. But perhaps not. As you may recall, Boston Harbor, in 1776 was not filled with British oil or lumber, nor the native corn, blueberries, or pumpkins. They filled it with tea – most of which was probably not grown in England at all, but came to the colonists by way of some of those Asian countries who so expertly produce it. The price of tea went up (through some political taxes levied) and suddenly we have the birth of a new nation. So, the price of tea in China really does matter.

We’ve been told that we live in a global economy today, and that globalization seems to grow with each passing year. England did not invent this. The Roman Empire had this going 2000 years ago and the Persians and Babylonians dealt with this in their own ways before that. Ironically, it was Great Britain that decided to leave the economy last year with the popularized (Brexit) from the European Union, months after they denied Scotland the right to independence from the United Kingdom. Looking through history, it seems that those who have power want everyone to be unified, while those who are without want to be left alone. No one wants to be controlled, but many will jump at the chance of being the Controller themselves.

Jesus has some clear teaching on how we are to interact with this globalization within His Kingdom. In John 17, Jesus prays:

““My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John‬ ‭17:20-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

‭‭We hold that desire of Jesus for unity in line with Paul’s teaching to the Church in Corinth when he writes to them:

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I donʼt need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I donʼt need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” – 1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:12-27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

‭‭

The biggest issue we face in a globalized economy is the issue of control. Who is in control? Are all parties being treated fairly (because equally is not always the same as fair or right)? Are all parties being supported? This question is at the heart of our trade politics, our immigration policies, and the recent changes (as well as the former changes) in healthcare insurance. Are we living up to the biblical standard in Christ’s Kingdom? Are we trying to?

  • What group of people do you have authority over in your life?
  • Do you weep with them when they weep and rejoice with them in their celebrations?
  • What do you need to do or who do you need to support for God to be glorified more in the body of Christ?