Understanding Revelation Part 8

Chapter 5 describes Jesus in two ways. These are amazing to understand. Let’s dig in!

The Amazing Power of the Small Church in Times of Crisis

Since the genesis of the Christian church in the early 1st century, God has blessed the missional efforts of His people. In the last 2000 years, we have seen small, medium, and large congregations emerge as an expression of mutual care and corporate worship. Functionally, the Church has changed very little since these humble beginnings. Sure, technology and culture have helped to evolve discipleship methods but the basic staples of service, spiritual formation, and proclamation have stayed consistent These evolutions are needed, and should stay steady in anything we do as pastors and leaders. I however think that there have been some misunderstandings and false idols that have been constructed within the Church we have come to love.

The apostle Paul spoke of this mentality in a few of his letters to the relatively new Christian church. In his first letter to the Corinthians, for example, not only was he addressing basic doctrinal issues and Christian behavior, but he also touched on the concept of following leaders merely for their charisma. These teachers were great at their presentation, but the content pertaining to the sovereignty and work of Christ was blatantly false. These are things I have been reflecting on lately.

I have been thinking about what Paul would say about the world we are currently in as a Church. My guess is (taking clues from his writings) he wouldn’t concern himself much with the things we do as a Christian leadership culture. We spend a lot of time reading books, and going to conferences in order to learn from men and women who have built empires…and who no longer call themselves servants but “influencers”. I wonder what our beloved apostle would say about the Kingdom validity of a local congregation merely based on attendance and financial status. If Paul walked into a church and saw a bunch of people all carrying coffee in the same hand, wearing the same kind of scarves, with the same skin color, similar socio-economic backgrounds and a facility that is brand new and immaculate…I wonder what his observations would be. Just a thought… Nothing wrong with a new building, but often aesthetics becomes the focus.

There is something happening in our world currently that begs to be mentioned. In a time where churches have to be flexible and sustainable for the long term due to this pandemic, I actually believe smaller churches are best suited for this task. Small churches are nimbler in times of crisis and are set up better to take on the charge to intimately serve their neighbor. Megachurches are wonderful expressions of worship and programs…but I have felt burdened for the mere financial overhead of daily operations that exist. Especially in a context in which they are not having regular physical services for the purpose of safety. Also, I don’t want to be crass in the way that I say this…but there are churches out there who thrive on the addiction to their programs they have created in the community. I’m sure there is a better way to say that (and I will get reamed for it), but I am not sure how else to express the idea.

One of the largest misconceptions of the smaller church has to do with financial resources. The idea is, a small church can’t possibility be a valid expression of the kingdom of God unless money is pouring in and constant enthusiasm is being created. Pastor David Platt said it best when he observed, “The greatest hindrance to the advancement of the gospel may be our attempt to do the work of God apart from the power of God.” In this address he was saying that we have become really good at piling resources around us so that we are no longer in need of God’s intervention. We can even grow our churches through psychology, marketing, and manufactured excitement. Let’s look at Paul once again and his thought pattern evidenced in scripture. In many of his letters, Paul actually makes a plea to other churches to support the churches of lesser means. He even acknowledges the vitality of their work. This is counter-cultural to our Darwinian view of congregational support. So, let’s just agree that all sizes and financial statuses are valid. My purpose in these statements is not to “bash” or condemn larger churches…only to establish a respect for smaller ones.

Right now, we are seeing an amazing reawakening of the small church like never before. Leaders are coming up with new ideas on how to engage and serve their communities. Sure, many of these congregations don’t have the most polished or professional presentations, but why would that matter? I suppose that would only matter if we were trying to attract people to charisma or prowess. This is unbiblical, and we need to melt down that golden calf.

That’s my two cents.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

New Bible Study Curriculum

Hello All!

I wanted to introduce you to a new Bible Study curriculum that is being developed. It is called “The Genesis Lens”. I am proud to be a part of this project!

The Genesis Lens has four goals: produce passion for scripture, develop study tools, understand the unity of scripture, and build community. Once the initial study is complete, study materials will be available for teachers to conduct a Genesis Lens study locally.

Everything is still in “construction phase”…but I invite you to take a look at the website! Listen to the podcast as well!

https://www.throughthegenesislens.com/

Thank you!

 

 

Building Blocks Video Teaching series

At my church, I am doing a teaching series on Wednesday evenings called “Building Blocks”. The purpose of this series is to aquaint people with the structure, literary styles, and some major themes of scripture. It has been a fun experience.

Click below to go to the YouTube playlist for these videos.

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A New Ministry Model

ministry modelWhether or not I have consciously realized it, I have been on a quest for over a decade to discover the perfect ministry model. In pastoral circles, we use the phrase “ministry model” to categorize a system of programs and ideas that lead the pastor on a trajectory of success in their respective calling.

In ministry, according to what most instructors, consultants, books and mentors tell us is that success in the role of a pastor has more to do with people accumulated under our scope of ministry than anything else. The bigger the church or program grows (in the shortest time possible), the more successful the ministry. In recent years, I have challenged leaders to redefine success as “a consistent and unwavering focus on God’s mission in the world.” So, in essence, I guess you could say that I am challenging our definition of success.

I know what you are thinking. I am a heretic when it comes to ministry preparation. I hear the justification all the time that the interaction of the Holy Spirit in the life of ministry automatically means exponential growth. “Biblically, anything that the Holy Spirit has [his] hand in grows quickly…” is a phrase or inference that is often conveyed. This, however, is actually not always true. When this justification is brought up, the mental image of the massive growth of the New Testament Pentecost event is visualized. The spiritual domino effect of this was mind boggling. In many people’s minds, when the Holy Spirit is unleashed and active, this is what happens. Things go crazy and, as scripture says “people are added to the group daily”. There is not much wrong with this thought process, but it doesn’t give a full look at a larger story. The fact is, when we truly look at scripture as a unified story, we realize that the Holy Spirit has initiated growth on many different levels and in many different ways. At times, we see the Holy Spirit’s transformative power in one on one interactions. Other times, we see power unleashed through the healing of a man or woman. In even more rare occasions, we see massive groups converted in bulk. Whatever the case may be, there is great evidence to suggest that God’s awesome power is not limited by our metrics, and He is creative. Keep in mind, Jesus’ ministry was not one based on rapid expansion but consistent commitment to His purpose on earth.

My heart has been heavy for a long time concerning ministry preparation. I feel like we, as a Christian culture, have adopted a “Henry Ford” model of education and training (assembly line). It seems as if pastors have stepped into a process in which they are given a “cookie cutter” system of practices and expectations to help them be successful in the task of attracting large crowds. In the same way, whether it is purposeful or not, we are being told that there are only certain personality mixes that are eligible for pastoral ministry. I will write about this concept in my next blog post.

I think we need to rethink the way we do ministry. Passing clergy through an assembly line of preparation is simply not Biblical. I also think we need to consider a new model of ministry. There are 3 things I think we need to emphasize in this new thrust (which is not new at all):

  1. Shepherd shaped development– Too often, we are calling a new minister to seek to be someone God has never called to them be. We think that, in the best case scenario, and if everything goes well, this pastor will become the local community celebrity and gain a massive following (as long as God “blesses” them). Instead, when a leader does not reach that expectation, they become frustrated and even question their ministerial call. What if we put more effort to teach new pastors to become a shepherd? The position of shepherd implies not only a mentality of guiding, but also sending. A shepherd will send the herd forward, and when they need it, come alongside and direct. When a pastor is shepherd, they dedicate themselves to a community, and they spend energy in making sure that each person is cared for, and loved. They develop trust and deeper concern. It is hard and messy. It is not easy. It will frustrate the leader. It is immensely worth the time.

  1. Pastor as Healer – Sometimes, as Christians, we get a wrong impression about the word “healing”. Perhaps we cringe or our mind drifts to televangelists who misunderstood the gifts of the Spirit. In this context, the word healer and soother could be interchangeable. The idea is that a leader can and should seek to be an influence that provides care, infuses peace, and speaks life into everyone they encounter. Also, the minister should develop a desire to see that other leaders are brought through rejuvenation.

  1. Minister as a trainer/ mentor – There is nothing more satisfying than to experience someone, that you have poured time and energy into, grow and take ownership of their own area of ministry. This person may have started out as skeptical about the Gospel, but now they are leading others to Jesus! This is energizing! Pastors across the board should be doing this. I know that many leaders would say that their role is to pour into a smaller group so that this small group can pour into the masses. This is absolutely true. This would be a great example of what this concept looks like in a larger ministry setting.

Let me be clear. I have nothing against the larger worship communities and I think that they can be incredible assets to the Kingdom of God. My problem is that we often expect every leader to look the same and we base success off of statistics and sometimes arbitrary metrics. I understand that many are only trying to harness these principles for efficiency…and many are doing this….but let’s not take these ideas and consider every other ministry arbitrary if they are not “falling in line”. Some leaders are gifted and called to lead smaller communities, and they should be encouraged, and equipped to develop passionate disciples in that context.

In my next blog post, I will speak about the personalities that make up a church and the internal wiring of a pastor. I think we are being told, as implied before, that only a certain type of person is a valid candidate for ministry. Spoiler alert: scripture counteracts this idea.

Love you all,

-Landon DeCrastos

The Problem With Obedience

obedienceThe struggle is real. A 4 year old boy in a department store. If you are a parent today, and have raised a son to this level of maturity you could write the story yourself. The fact is, there are times in life in which a normal human being must go to a store of their choice and buy things such as clothes for oneself or gift items for another. This is a pretty mundane occurence.

The difficulty comes when this individual, and their significant other have created another human being in the relatively recent past and this miniture human seems to think this store is a neutral zone in which the house rules no longer apply. The end result is discipline…justice.

It can be frustrating when interacting with a child and trying to embed in their heart and mind the concept of obedience. Our son in a runner. When he is placed in a situation in which him and his sister out number the adult supervision, he makes it a point to make whatever adult is in attendance work for their accolades. At the end of the experience we find a parent who just can’t seem to keep their sanity. When in a store with a short amount of time to finish errands, my son will make the decision to play tag at the most inconvenient times. This causes an obvious safety problem. Deep within us is the fear that someone will snatch him up when he is out of view. This concept has been conveyed to him regularly, and it will stick for a period of time.

The Israelites in the Old Testament behaved in the same way. God sent prophet after prophet to keep them pointed in the right direction. He gave them moral and social law, not to burden them, but to make their lives run more efficiently. He gave them spirit filled leaders, who were not perfect, but were put into place to lead by example. God’s people would obey and live in holy abundance, but when things became more difficult, they would fall away into a more convenient pattern of life. The creator of the universe desired to show His children love through provision, miracles, and mercy. These people had such trouble staying in an attitude of obedience.

There is a problem with obedience. It is unnatural. In the depths of who we are, we have a constant impulse to follow our own way. There is something temporarily satisfying about creating our own solutions to the problems and hardships of life. It feels good to be in control…especially when things go somewhat well. Obedience takes us out of our element and puts our future in God’s hands. It makes us admit that our abilities do not measure up. The Israelites found out time after time that God’s way is right, and the guidance He gave was not oppressive but meant to make their life run in the way in which it was created. Why, then, do we reject God’s way time after time? I think, because, we have to admit our own weakness.

How many times have you reflected on your life and realized it didn’t go as planned? Of these instances, how many times did you realized you followed what felt right instead of what was right? The enemy of our souls wants us to follow our impulses. When we give our heart and life to God, our impulses become missional and our desires become His.

Don’t reject obedience. Pray for His wisdom.

-Landon DeCrastos