Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Becoming the Church

In many ways the church was unprepared for the acceleration that has hit us. As the church was building on values that affirmed stability, security, predictability, and standardization, the era of change seemed to catch us by surprise. This is ironic when you consider that the church was intended to be a revolution – a movement, not an institution.
Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force: Daring to become the Church GOD had in mind

My heart longs for the Church to be the Church. With this in mind, I am well aware that major changes are necessary for the Church as we know it today. The Church was never intended to be static, passive or stationary – whereas, Scripture paints a beautiful portrait of a Church on the advance, penetrating and influencing all spheres of society. In order for the Church to fulfill its God-given mandate, apostolic leadership must create new models (wineskins) for equipping believers to be a catalyst for change within their sphere of influence. This demands a new outlook regarding the role of the believer in relationship to what it means to be the Church. This is contingent upon utilizing a God-initiated strategy and corresponding structures that facilitate the equipping of the disciple-catalyst for kingdom influence within their sphere.

No longer can the Church afford to be self-absorbed, intent upon the survival and propagation of its own institutional existence, elevating its array of programs, activities, and in-house busyness at the expense of impacting its community. A worldview that disengages disciples from penetrating the spheres within the community is inadequate in a landscape that is changing rapidly. The Church at large has become impotent in changing the world, while the world has become quite adept at changing the Church. Peter Wagner, author of The Changing Church, soberly writes that “Even after 10 years, we cannot point to a single city in the United States that has undergone a sociologically verifiable transformation! “ This must change. But how?

The apostolic influence has yet to be unleashed upon the Church to the degree that is needed to bring about a new kingdom advancement mindset that is sorely lacking in the Church as a whole. Nevertheless, there remains humble, obscure apostolic vessels who are on the advance, blazing new trails for others to follow, penetrating all spheres within society. The traditional mindset sought expansion and growth of the immediate infrastructure and size of congregation – even to the detriment of the community at large. What I am advocating is the need to see the Church differently so that we can impact culture and society. Often we are immersed in our own perception of what the Church should look like that could inhibit our own influence within our sphere. Are you willing to change your perception of what the Church should look like?

This reminds me of an experience I had as a campus minister at my alma mater, Bridgewater College (BC). As a student I had started a ministry called RIOT Campus Ministry. After graduating, the Lord called me to minister on college campuses. During this time I became friends with a great guy, Doug Granger, who was starting a Campus Crusade for Christ chapter at BC. Often we would get together to pray for the campus and for one another. At the beginning of my third year of ministry, (1999) I was sensing the Lord calling me to lay down RIOT at BC in order to focus more on building up the overall work that God was doing on the campus through other groups. Was I willing to lay down my own dreams in order to expand God’s kingdom? Was I willing to pray in obscurity with the students for the growth and expansion of CCC? I had spent countless hours as a student and campus minister laboring in prayer for God to move on that campus; my heart genuinely yearned to see a move of God’s Spirit on the campus. I had invested a lot, but…I was also holding to my own ambitions of proving myself capable through the building of a ministry. My perception of what the ministry should look like was intertwined with my desire to build my own reputation.

The Lord led me to John 12:23-24 – “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” I had to wrestle in prayer for a season to come to a place where I could accurately discern that this was indeed the Lord’s leading. There was grace to lay down my perception of success so that the Lord could do His work in and through me. Furthermore, we did have a “funeral” for RIOT, burying a RIOT frisbee on the campus. In faith our band of radical believers on a chilly autumn night declared that this seed was going to be planted in the ground so that it would die and produce many seeds! Seeds of revival and transformation on that campus!

It has been over seven years since that night. And I honestly don't know what has transpired over the years on the campus. Recently I came across a short retreat video on YouTube of the CCC chapter at BC that highlighted what God is doing among a group of BC students. Also I read an article about a believer on the football team who is impacting the BC campus for the glory of God! Possibly this is a trickle of the things that I had longed to see birthed on that campus.

Disciple-catalysts must be willing to sacrifice personal ambitions and agendas for the sake of the Cause of Christ to be exalted within the city church and community. Are you willing to change your perception of what you believe the Church should look like so that you can advance God's kingdom within your sphere? Is there personal ambition in your heart that is seeking self-glorification? It is a process that the Lord is committed to walk us through so that He can impact culture and society through us, the apostolic Church!

For His Cause,

Brian Francis Hume

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Questions to Ponder

John Piper has a distinct voice within the Body of Christ, trumpeting the supremacy of Christ. He is a pastor and author of numerous books that I highly recommend, including Don’t Waste Your Life. Here are several quotes from this book that I want to share with you:

God created me – and you – to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion – namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.” (31)

We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life.” (32)

God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.” (37)

These rich quotes beg several questions for us to ruminate upon:

  • Do I enjoy God?
  • Is it my passion to display his supreme excellence in all spheres of life?
  • Have I taken the time recently to “pray and think and dream and plan and work” the call to make Christ known in my sphere of influence?
  • Have I made the most of Christ and his awe-inspiring supremacy in my life - or am I seeking grandiose dreams for myself?

I have discovered that learning to ask the right questions can unleash powerful results. It seems that the Lord uses provoking questions as a catalyst for transformation. Be intentional about planning to set aside quality time to seek the Lord. Regardless of what season you have been in, He wants you to draw near to Him. Allow the Spirit of God to brood over you as you take time to ponder over these questions. We all need hearts ablazed with holy passion for His supremacy in our lives. Start wherever you are today.

This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2

For His Cause,

Brian Francis Hume

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Extend Your Grasp Beyond Your Reach

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20, 21

Do you ever feel like you are not making a difference in the world today? As you scan the breaking news, are you overwhelmed with helplessness to change the world? Often we resign ourselves to a mentality to simply survive in our hectic world, oblivious that God can do immeasurably more than what we can imagine! I want to share an insight with you that could revolutionize your perspective: Give up on changing the world. That’s right! Forget about it! Instead, focus on changing your world. Make a difference in your God-ordained sphere by influencing those within your reach.

Apostolic minded people are Christ-centered, mission focused – with the intent to impact their particular sphere of influence. The word apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos, meaning sent one; connoting that one is on a mission with a specific purpose. God has sent you to your family, friends, neighborhood, workplace, church, community, etc., to do immeasurably more than what you can imagine! It is God’s will for you to be apostolic, intentionally advancing His kingdom within your sphere.

As we reach out to our sphere of influence, it can have a greater impact then what we originally intend. Don’t bypass the seemingly insignificant relationships and events in your life. Remember this powerful truth: small causes can have big effects. This was the premise of Malcolm Gladwell’s pivotal work – The Tipping Point. It is a business book that is centered on the idea of change within a complex and chaotic system. It is a hot book among scholars, business-minded people, social change engineers and apostolic- motivated believers. The author posits that “We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that sometimes big changes follow from small events, and that sometimes these changes can happen very quickly.”

Is it possible that we are on the verge of great changes as a result of your perceived “insignificant” causes (reaching out to others) within your God-given sphere? Remember that the byproduct of apostolic mission is impact that transcends your own sphere. As you reach those within your sphere (small cause), your grasp will extend beyond your world (big effects) to the world around you!