Category Archives: Church

Read an excerpt from “Are We Still Making Disciples”: “Think outside the box, but not outside The Bible”

 

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Think outside the box, but not outside The Bible

So many of the rules of the church have been loosened because we want to seem welcoming to an ever growing segment of society that doesn’t see the need in physically coming to church. While I understand that we need different methods in a different world, there are some things about the church that should be non-negotiable.

I once preached a sermon entitled “When Jesus Is Your Draw”, taken from Luke 5:1-10. In the text, Jesus goes out into the boat with Peter to catch fish. Peter had gone out the night before, as he explained to Jesus, and had caught no fish.

However, even after explaining to Jesus that the fish weren’t biting, Peter says to Jesus, “Nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net”. Once Peter followed Jesus’ instructions, he caught so many fish that his boat couldn’t hold them. There were so many fish that the text says his net broke and he had to call another ship over to take in the overflow of fish.

The text also states that there were so many fish that both boats begin to sink. However, what I always noticed in the text was what didn’t happen. While the net was broken and the boats began to sink, nowhere in the text does it say that any fish got away. Peter had gone back to the same place that he had gone the night before to catch fish, but to no avail. The difference was that Jesus was now in the boat. After this, Jesus told Peter, “From henceforth, thou shalt catch men”.

This text is a great lesson in what we as disciples need to draw people. All we need is Jesus. We’re in a day and time where we’re “marketing” the church in an effort to reach a new generation. I have no qualms about this as this generation responds differently than generations past. You have to reach them through their phones, either by text or social media, and you must do so in ways that grabs their attention.

I’m very active on social media platforms and I use them to promote books, ministry events, and I even post a live video feed from the studio during my radio broadcast. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with different methods to draw people to church.

Where I have a problem is when Jesus comes up missing in the marketing plans. Where I have a problem is when we’re promoting services, but we aren’t promoting the Savior. Jesus is the center of the church, so how do we expect to make disciples of Christ, without promoting Christ?

When what you used to do doesn’t work anymore, you have to come up with a new strategy. Yes, believe it or not, there is a strategy to discipleship. When Jesus sent His disciples out in the 10th Chapter of Matthew, He didn’t do so without giving them instructions. He told them what to do, how to do it, and He even told them what their demeanor should be as they did it. Yes, God is intentional!

However, in the midst of new strategies and new approaches, we can’t water down the Word of God or Jesus in the process. No matter what our approach is, it must be centered on The Word. No matter what we’re doing to grab people’s attention, we must always make Jesus the center of attention. We can think outside the box, but we should never think outside The Bible. If Jesus isn’t the draw, then what we’re doing is in vain.

The world has convinced us that crowds matter when we’re putting on a program. Where we used to believe in “where two or three are gathered”, we now don’t believe it’s worth it unless there are two or three hundred. We’ve been convinced that the flyer can’t be too churchy, or the wording can’t be too Christian. We have buzz words like “fire”, “anointing”, and “breakthrough” that causes people to run to our churches.

We make sure that we have the praise team or the preacher of the moment. In the name of creativity, we do all that we can to draw people to our flame. However, when you’re doing something for The Lord, the who and the why are always more important than the number of people that show up.

No matter what program we put on in church, there ought to be three objectives:

  1. Glorifying God
  2. Getting someone saved
  3. Keeping someone connected to God

I know we like to fill the room, but our main objective should be filling the people up with Jesus. Again, this isn’t to disparage anyone that’s looking for creative ways to fill up the church. In fact, I encourage every church to have some sort of marketing plan that targets the people that are current members (we can’t be so concerned with the fish we don’t have that we neglect the ones that we do), as well as the people that you’d like to see at the church. The point here is that Jesus must still be the main reason we do any of it.

As we see in that Luke 5:1-10 text, when we take Jesus into the world, even in places where we were once unsuccessful, He draws where we once failed. And He’s so powerful, that even when we fill up our churches and people begin to overflow, because He’s the draw and He’s what people came for, no one will get away.

When we make Jesus the center of any program that we’re putting on, we are fulfilling our purpose as the church. When we draw people to Jesus with Jesus, they will stay because of Jesus.

Whatever we do in the church must begin with The Bible. When we come up with ideas, we should ask:

  1. Is this Biblical? – Are there any Scriptures that supports what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re doing it?
  1. Who’s getting the glory? – Is what we’re doing lifting up the name of Jesus or our particular ministry, our cause (if the cause isn’t Christ), or even our invited guests?
  1. Is there an opportunity for someone to be saved? – This is beyond simply opening the doors of the church. Is what we’re doing actually being done to draw people out of the world and to Christ?
  1. Does it point to discipleship? – For those that are in attendance that are already saved, will it cause them to go out and witness to someone else about Christ or just witness about the event?

I know this may seem a little stuffy to some people, and maybe we’ve gotten to a point where we believe we don’t have to mention the name of Jesus every time we invite someone to our church. But if you don’t want to mention the foundation of the church in what you’re doing in the church, supposedly for the church, then one has to wonder if any of it is really about the church. If Jesus isn’t the draw, then what are we really doing?

If we really want to fill the church, there are some tried and true methods that we can use that will ensure that the people that are coming are there for the right reason. Evangelism still works. Witnessing still works. The testimony of your personal life when you’re in the world still works. But no matter what the method, we should all be doing as Peter did. We need to get Jesus in the boat, or in the case of our discussion, in the marketing plan.

Then, we need to develop a nevertheless spirit. Maybe we tried some things the old way and didn’t get the response that we wanted, so then we have to ask ourselves, did we drop the net on our word or on the word of Jesus?

By simply obeying what Jesus said and when He said it, Peter did what he always did when fishing. But when he did it at the command of Jesus, the outcome was completely different. If we’d only follow His Word, we’d catch more fish than we could hold.

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The church is not a destination, it’s a launching pad

Rev JacksonWhat I find most fascinating about the growth of the church in the Bible (Acts) is that it was never accomplished be people that stood still. As Jesus gave His disciples that Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), the operative thing for them was to be mobile. They couldn’t spread the Gospel standing still. They were to tarry for the Holy Spirit, but once the Spirit came (Acts 1:8), they were to get moving. If this is in fact the mandate for Christians (followers of Christ), why are we fighting so hard to stand still?

As I look at the state of some churches today, particularly those without pastors, it seems to me that the Commission has become less important than the building itself. There isn’t as much emphasis on who’s getting up out of their seats and taking the Gospel out into the world as there is on who’s sitting in what particular seat within the church. We’ve forgotten that the church was never meant to be a breeding ground for people that want to stay seated and maintain control of the building. The church is supposed to make disciples that are willing to go.

So how did we get here? Well, it isn’t any one person’s fault. We as a congregation of believers lost sight of what is important. Those that are in leadership became more enamored with what they were doing at home than what they were called to do in the world. Pastors have decided that building bigger churches is the answer to drawing more people, as opposed to making disciples that can go out and draw (sheep will get other sheep).

We’ve placed people in key positions in our churches that don’t do much more than Sunday morning service, so they don’t know the value of ministry away from home. As churches, we’ve focused more on insolation and isolation than we have on exploration, exclamation, and salvation. That mentality is counter to what Christ Himself told us to do.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. It’s imperative that we take care of church business, but we should never do so at the expense of or in place of God’s business. What we’ve failed to realize is that just because we’re taking care of something in the church, that doesn’t necessarily make it God’s business that we’re handling. God’s primary business is salvation. God’s primary business is drawing people to Christ. This isn’t done in business meetings. It’s done through preaching, teaching, and evangelism. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a pulpit or a church building to do either of these things.

When the Word of God takes a back seat to our personal interests in the church, we cease to prepare people for discipleship. Our membership becomes afraid to invite people to church because an argument might break out or the Word isn’t going forth. Opportunities to save souls fall by the wayside because every attempt at ministry is thwarted by “business” and “protocol”. And if teaching is secondary, knowledge is as well. You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t learn what’s not being taught.

If any church is more concerned with who’s in charge than who saves souls, it is in fact a church that’s in peril. It’s human nature to want to be in charge of everything, but it’s spiritual nature to know who’s in charge of everything. Many will come into church and say “This is God’s church”, but very few understand what that really means.

For example, there’s a difference between natural leaders and spiritual leaders. One is good for the world, and one is good for the church. Knowing God gives you the discernment needed to tell one from the other and would eliminate the need to ever argue about what should and shouldn’t be in God’s church.

As our churches have changed, we’ve become more focused on who we can mold into the spiritual leadership that we feel we need, and less focused on making the disciples that the world needs. We’ve forgotten that God will choose His own leaders from those that are converted by looking at their hearts. We’ve forgotten that when we’re in the Spirit, we don’t choose leaders, we simply agree with whom God has already chosen.

We’ve forgotten that we should be launching people into the world that love Christ rather than trying to turn into the next megachurch, turning out the next “hot” preacher, or having the best praise and worship team. The world needs Jesus, and we can’t give it to them if we’re so focused on who’s running the show. We can’t give it to them if our only purpose is to grow membership instead of helping people to grow spiritually.

I’ve heard it said that pastors are CEO’s, but I don’t agree with that. CEO’s make business decisions, but the church is not an organization, it’s an organism. It’s people working together for the cause of discipleship and Kingdom building. A pastor’s primary job is to feed and lead as inspired of God, not control, staff, and promote according to his own wishes. He is supposed to be more concerned with what’s profitable for the souls of the people than he is with financial profit and loss.

Pastors have begun making disciples for themselves and not Christ. The loyalty of the people belongs to man, not the Son of Man, and this has harmed the local church, and we should all be concerned. As I said in a recent lecture, the people should never quote their pastor more than they quote God’s Word. I’m instantly leery of people that love the building more than they love the Builder. I’m concerned when our churches are filled with people that covet a financial report more than they covet Psalms 51:10-13. When we’re more concerned with where we sit than whom we serve, it should give us all pause.

The reason we’re fighting so tough for the control of local churches is because we’re trying to find a place to be seated. Whether those seats are in the pulpit, on a board, or even our favorite pew, we care more about our place in the building than we do our place in the Kingdom. But true disciples are always on the go. They don’t come to church to take a rest. The come to church to be recharged so they can go back out on a mission once again.

Church was never supposed to be a place where we hurry to get there so that we can hold our spot. It was never supposed to be where we land, but where we launch from. It was never meant to be a social club, but rather where we gain the spiritual social skills to reach others. If we aren’t developing these traits in our churches, we’re either in the wrong place, or we’re the wrong people.

In search of the Holy Ghost “push back”

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I only need three minutes of your time.

There’s a serious issue plaguing the local congregations. Because of this issue inside the church walls, we’ve become ineffective outside of them. Many of our communities are dying around us, and we in the local congregations are failing to do anything about it. Why? Because we’re too busy trying to kill one another inside the walls of the church.

This past weekend, our Sunday School lesson was on spiritual deliverance (Luke 8:26-39). When giving the minister’s remarks on the lesson, I stated that we in fact have many demonic spirits within the congregation that keep us from ministering outside of it. But they aren’t just spirits that are only in what we perceive as “hell raisers” in our local churches.

They’re also spirits in anyone that would seek to push hell raisers out of the church into the wilderness, rather than try and rid ourselves of the spirit that’s infected our church, while at the same time looking to save a brother or sister that may be under the influence (James 5:19-20).

2 minutes left.

Here’s what we need to know: Hell raisers are always in attendance because demonic spirits transfer (study that Sunday School text I gave). They’re dedicated to their cause because the one that influences them never takes a day, hour, or minute off.

They’re always on time, they’re always together, they’re always loud, and they always state their position. And as members of the congregation, they have the right to do so. They’re at every meeting, every get together, and every function, and they make their presence known. Even if they don’t win, you will know that they were there. It’s their opposition that’s having the trouble.

Those that oppose this spirit are too meek, too passive, too quiet, and too afraid to speak in hostile situations. They’re living their lives on hope, but not a hope that produces action. They’re being pushed, but they’re unwilling to push back.

Now understand that being “holy spirit filled” is having the ability to give the benefit of the doubt. You’ll never convince me that you’re spirit filled if you can’t do two things:

  1. Not be so ready to believe the worst that you hear about people with no real proof.
  2. Even if you know that the worst is true about the individual, you believe that God can change them.

If we really and truly want to come together, at some point, we’ve got to be more willing to trust God for real change, and less willing to base all that we are on what we feel and past events. Because that’s what spirit filled people do. They accept the fact that the worst of us can be redeemed. But that requires activity. It requires prayer. It requires forgiveness. It requires restoration. And it requires resistance to those spirits that can cause us to believe that unity can only happen on our terms.

1 more minute.

So what is the benefit of a Holy Ghost push back? When we push back spiritually, we let the enemy know that we value unity more than we do confusion, and we show that by speaking out against what’s dividing us. We let the enemy know that we care for one another more than we do our position in the argument. We let the enemy know that we care more about being right with God than we do about winning an argument. We let the devil know that we need healing inside the congregation before we can go out into a sick world and show them what healed us.

Isaiah 54:17 tells us that no weapon formed against us shall prosper, and every tongue that rises against us in judgement, WE shall condemn. This not only means that the attacks of the enemy will fail, but it also means that we have the right to speak against the attacks. We can no longer keep silent about the dangers in the world, but we can’t help any of that if we refuse to speak against the dangers right at home.

I challenge anyone that’s being overrun by demonic spirits within your local congregation to spiritually push back. Not against the individuals that may be affected, but against the behavior. Push back against opposition that exists for the sake of opposition, and not for a defined principle or ideal, backed by Scripture. Push back against that spirit because that’s your true enemy, not the person you’re focusing on. Meek doesn’t have to mean weak. Find your push back!

Things I learned at church…

Rev JacksonSooner or later, we in the church will have to take responsibility for what we’ve done to influence the negative behavior of the world. Didn’t expect that from the Reverend, huh? Yes, we often talk about how worldly ways are creeping up into the church, and that’s very true and it’s a very real issue. However, we often fail to realize that we’re doing damage to the world as often as they’re doing damage to us. The world may not be fighting us as much as they’re fighting us back for what we’ve done to them.

The church used to be a symbol of peace, love, hope, and salvation for the wayward souls of the world. They knew where they were wrong, but they saw us as the hope that they could one day get right. But we’ve changed. We’ve blurred the lines. We’re not what we used to be. We beat on them as much as the unsaved does. We’re no longer doing the missionary work we’re called to do. Our most active auxiliaries now are The Complaint Board, The Backbiting Board, The Judgment Ministry, The “I Won’t Forgive Or Forget” Team, and The “You Ain’t Been Called” Outreach Program.

It’s true, some of the worst behaviors we’ll ever learn, we’ll learn in the church. We’re overly concerned about the world coming in and tainting us, without realizing that we’re already tainted. We shouldn’t fear the world coming in because that was actually God’s plan. What we need to do is better prepare the people that are a part of us, so that they’re able to receive the world when they come and impart Christ onto them, instead of teaching them how to fight people by using a few scriptures that they’ve memorized, but don’t understand.

With that being said, here are seven things I’ve learned from “Christians” during my 40 plus years in church. See if you can identify:

1. Some people will only follow a leader if they can lead them – In a place where leadership is desperately needed, it appears that many are actually looking for glorified sheep of their own. The problem is everyone’s an expert, but never a student. They claim to want leadership that will listen to their concerns and guide them, but what they really want is someone that they can control. And in the event that they get a leader that they can’t control, they assume someone else is controlling that person. It couldn’t be that this person is following God’s orders, and those orders just happen to be contrary to their thinking, oh no. As I’ve always stated, those that plot and scheme will always assume that everyone is plotting and scheming. I submit to you that sheep need a shepherd, and if your leader is following you, you’ll both end up lost because you’re both sheep.

2. Those that contribute the least will always have the most to say – Have you ever been having a political conversation with someone that has all of the answers for the country, but they’re not a registered voter? They give you excuses like “my vote won’t matter” or “it’s all a conspiracy”. Then why are you here in America? Why are you complaining? Church is no different. The people that contribute the least in church, whether it’s time, effort, or money, are always the ones filled with suggestions and complaints. They’re the first to tell you what to do with an account full of money that they’ve contributed little to nothing to. They’re just like people that don’t wanna pay taxes, but somehow expects the government to take care of and protect them. Which leads me to my next point…

3. People will only work when conditions are “ideal” (Which means they’ll never work) – There are people in church that will tell you that the only reason they won’t work or contribute is because “things aren’t right”. But once they do get right, they’ll jump on board. What they’re really saying is “I want it done my way and I work when I want to, not when the church needs me”. But when are conditions ideal for discipleship? When people sought to be disciples of Jesus (Luke 9:57-62, Matthew 8:19-22), He explained to them that conditions aren’t always favorable. He told them: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head”.

There is no comfortable way to serve God. It’s hard work, but the pay is out of this world! If the church must be perfect for you to work in it, I gather that you’ll never do a thing of substance there. The church doesn’t need workers to keep it perfect, it needs workers because it’s perpetually imperfect. As Jesus ended that discourse on discipleship, He said: “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God”. If God isn’t worth the sacrifice, especially when things aren’t perfect, then you aren’t worth the Kingdom.

4. Forgiveness is sometimes just a word. Some people stay mad forever and ever! – For a group of people that have been saved by a graceful and forgiving God, we sure are on short supply of forgiveness. We say we’ve forgiven and are ready to move forward, but no church member is really ready to move forward if they’re standing still (see previous point) while talking about the past and old issues. True forgiveness is about disconnecting from the past so that you can move forward. However, the first time something happens that we don’t agree with, we connect it to a 20 year old issue that we’ve allegedly let go of. There seems to be no such thing as water under the bridge. We assume that talking about it doesn’t mean we’re not over it, but I challenge that theory.

For example, if someone broke your heart years ago, but you rebounded nicely into a nice marriage with the love of your life, you don’t spend all of your days talking about your ex. You’re over it and you’ve moved on. That’s forgiveness. You remember what happened, but you don’t waste time talking about it anymore because you don’t want it disturbing your peace. You remember the pain it caused, but you’re not hurt anymore. That’s healing.

Scripture tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21), and the reason some issues won’t die in the church is because people keep bringing them back up and implanting them on a new generation of believers. I submit to you that if someone joins your local church and you feel it’s your job to tell them who to “watch out for”, if you mention anyone other than Satan because he’s not pleased that they’ve turned their life over to Christ, you have unresolved issues and the person they really need to watch out for is you.

5. Everyone’s a witness, but no one’s a criminal – Speaking of forgiveness, isn’t it strange that sometimes in church, everyone is owed forgiveness, but no one owes? We all know who messed up things in the church, but we fail to see our hand in it? Never realizing that even inactivity can be sinful if you know what’s right and did nothing to confront wrong (Luke 12:48). We saw what everybody else did, but it would take an O.J. Simpson-sized trial to convict us, and we’d still expect the glove not to fit. We’re so aware of everyone else’s shortcomings, but are surprised to find out that we’re guilty too.

Even as I’m writing this piece, I have my faults just like everyone else. Scripture tells us that we’ll often look past our greatest sin to see the smallest fault in someone else’s life (Matthew 7:3-5). But how much stronger would all of our churches be if we just took care of the wrong in our lives? If everyone on the block maintained their own lawns, we’d live in a beautiful neighborhood.

6. Anyone that disagrees with you is an enemy – Disharmony doesn’t come from disagreements alone. It comes from people’s inability to accept the fact that they’ve been disagreed with. Church folks are the worst at this. They fear individual thinking. They see every dissenting opinion as an attack on their own intelligence. Heaven forbid that someone has a differing point of view.

No one has ever grown without someone else challenging their thinking on their most dearly held beliefs. Even if you never change your mind and come to agree with the person disagreeing with you, it should force you to strengthen your argument. It should force you to further research your position to find out why you feel the way that you feel. And if you find out you’re wrong, you should be strong enough to own that and change.

When you have close relationships, especially the ones we should have in the Christian community, you should be able to handle a difference of opinion here and there, even if it becomes heated because we’re passionate, without having to promise to be mortal enemies afterwards. More than anything, we have to accept the fact that there’s a difference between what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s opinion. Right is right, wrong is wrong, but an opinion is how I feel about it. And we all have a right to one.

7. Many have scripture in their heads, but not in their hearts – Herein is the crux of the matter. All that we have discussed here is a matter of scripture. Not just the memorization of scripture, but the application of scripture. Even good, well-meaning Christians struggle with this one. Many people in the church can tell you what the Bible says, but they can’t always show you how they’re living it. Bible class is still the least attended of all services in the church, and that’s true no matter how large or small the congregation is. And that’s not the fault of the church (unless it’s not offered), it’s the fault of the Christian that refuses teaching.

Consider how we learned the secular songs that we love. Once we’ve committed to them, we learn them “by heart”. It’s written in our hearts to the point where if we hear a song that we grew up on 20 years ago, we not only know all of the words, but we remember all the dance steps that went with it. We don’t blandly recite them without feeling either. We apply them with emotion. The memory of such songs elicit a response. Scripture should be the same way. We shouldn’t repeat scripture without a desire to act something out. Knowing scripture is important, but living it out brings about a change in your life.


What we learn in church determines how we affect the world around us. We can’t show love in the world if we can’t show love to those that we call brother and sister. That’s even true in a secular sense. If you don’t have a sense of love for those that you call family, those outside the family have no chance. If we really want to know why the world is bringing a lack of love into the church, it may be because we keep sending people that lack love out into the world.

So what have you learned in church? That’s a rhetorical question that begs for an answer. We must remember that some of the “messed up” people in the world got messed up at church. The feeling of superiority of a few people that know a few scriptures and give a few dollars in church, but have issues with everyone in the church because they don’t live the love they claim, is crippling us.

We can no longer allow just anyone to be our voice, whether inside or outside of the church. “Jesus is the head of the church” is just a catchphrase for some people, not a mandate. There needs to be a new shift. And much of the negative that we’ve learned in the church needs to be unlearned for our own sakes.