Supernatural Church

Here are my notes for the final session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

One of the most striking similarities that most churchgoers share with the non-Christian world is their ability to complain about the way the church operates.

1. If you could create the perfect church, what would it look like?

Could that perfect church be accomplished through human talent and strength? Or would it require the power of the Holy Spirit?

We could duplicate most of our successful churches by assembling the right group of talented, winsome people. If a church has the right worship leader, an exciting children’s program, and entertaining speaker, it will grow. But is that really the secret to life changing ministry? Is that how God designed the church to operate? Where does the Holy Spirit fit in that model? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zachariah 4:6

I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for him to come through.

2. Consider your involvement with church life. In what ways do you tend to rely on natural talent as we strive to fulfill the church’s mission?

The tractor illustration from the video segment: We get excited about the tractor, and then we wear ourselves out by pushing it inch by inch through the field. At the end of the harvest, we barely managed to finish the job and end up with just enough food to go around. Tragically, this is how many churches operate; they are built on the sweat and efforts of a few talented but exhausted leaders. When we consult the owner’s manual, however, we find that the tractor is actually designed to run and plow the field on its own. When we discovered that the church was designed to function through the power of the Holy Spirit, it changes everything.

3. Do you see yourself and/or our church pushing and pulling the tractor and enter the time?

Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5 – Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth to address the factions that were dividing the church. Groups were forming around attractive personalities.

4. How does Paul describe human effort as compared to the power of God?

5. According to this passage, why is it so important to rely on the power of the Spirit?

6. Think about the way you minister to the people around you. Can you say, “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)?

There ought to be a real difference between a spirit-filled person and everyone else. As Christians, we have the source of both joy and peace living inside of us. Sometimes the difference isn’t apparent until tragedy strikes.

7. Have you ever witnessed a person manifesting the fruit of the Spirit to a supernatural degree?

The spirit wants to do more than just help us out a bit. He wants to transform us, patiently but steadily, into people who transform the corners of our world. Sometimes we get caught up in everything God wants us to do that we lose sight of who God wants us to be.

We won’t be transformed by simply trying harder. Remember, it’s never about you doing it on your own. It’s about the power of the Spirit in your life.

8. What would it look like for you to cultivate a relationship with the Spirit, allowing him to transform you, rather than simply trying harder on your own?

Perhaps we don’t recognize the Spirit’s power in our lives because we’re not stepping out and doing anything where we desperately need God to show up. Talk to hurting people around you, digging deeper to learn how you can love and serve them, that’s when you need the Holy Spirit, and that’s precisely when he shows up. God works in the most desperate situations so that no one can make it for anything other than by his power. Maybe he will grant you boldness to speak in a frightening situation. Maybe he will give you a divine compassion for the lost and destitute. Maybe he will give you wisdom to say exactly what a person needs to hear at a critical moment in their life. You won’t know what God will do until you get out there and follow His leading.

We absolutely need to step beyond our own abilities. You get praised for using your own talents well. God gets praised when his power accomplishes the humanly impossible.

9. Have you ever walked away from a ministry opportunity because it would take you beyond your natural talents? In what areas would you need the Spirit to empower you in a situation like that?

This is by far the most difficult. It’s time to follow the Spirit’s leading, even if you’re not sure where he’s taking you or how you’ll get through it.

10. What would it look like if every Christian in our church fully submitted themselves to the spirits leading?

11. What practical steps can you take right now to pursue the spirit and live in dependence on Him? Will you rely on your natural abilities, or will you allow the Holy Spirit to use you in incredible ways? If you rely on your own talents, you will be stopped so easily. You will get tired, distracted, overwhelmed, and attacked.

12. Pray that the Spirit of God would radically transform your life from the inside out.

Quotes from The Forgotten God book:

  • I bet you would agree that a group of talented, charismatic leaders can draw a crowd. Find the right creative team, musicians, and speakers, and you can grow any church. It doesn’t even have to be a Christian Church. The fact is that without making a conscious choice to depend on the Holy Spirit, we can do a lot.
  • I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for him to come through. That if he doesn’t come through, I am screwed.
  • We created a whole brand of churches that do not depend on the spirit, the whole culture of Christians who are not disciples, a new group of followers who do not follow.
  • God is not interested in numbers. He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of his bride. He cares about whether people are lovers of him. And while I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus.
  • Regarding Elijah and the prophets of Baal: Is that what happens at the Christian gatherings you attend or does it feel more like what the prophets of Baal experienced before Elijah prayed? We can have a great time singing and dancing ourselves into a frenzy. But at the end of it, fire doesn’t come down from heaven. People leave talking about the people who led rather than the power of God.
  • We all can choose to face life’s issues and circumstances in exactly the same way as someone without the Spirit of God. We worry, strive, and grieve know differently than non-believers. While it is true that we are humans like everyone else. It is also true that we are humans with the Spirit of God willing in us. Yet, whether consciously or not, we essentially say to God, I know you raised Jesus Christ from the dead, but the fact is my problems are just too much for you and I need to deal with them by myself.
  • He desires to do more than “help out” a bit. He wants to completely transform us. He wants to take a timid heart and set it ablaze with strength and courage, so that people know something supernatural has taken place, life change just as miraculous as fire coming down from heaven. He wants to give us wisdom because he is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, (Ephesians 1:17, Isaiah 11:2).
  • What disturbs me most is when we are not really bothered that God living in US has not made much of a noticeable difference.
  • Don’t keep yourselves from praying desperately and courageously put the Spirit to work in your life simply because you are not the prophet Elijah as this verse says, Elijah was a human being with a nature like ours. He was just like us. The key thing about him? He prayed fervently, (James 5:17).
  • I know that I tend to run from situations where I need God, and I think that is true in most every one of us. It is safer to avoid situations where we need God to come through than to stake it all on him and risk God’s silence.
  • The church is tended to be a beautiful place of community. A place where wealth is shared and when one suffers, everyone suffers. A place where one rejoices, everyone rejoice. A place for everyone experiences real love and acceptance in the midst of great honesty about our brokenness. Yet most of the time this is not even close to how we would describe our churches.
  • When we stock up on knowledge without applying it to our lives, we are actually sinning. You would think that learning more about God would be a good thing, and it can be. But when we gain knowledge ABOUT God without responding TO God or assimilating his truth into our lives, then it is not a good thing. According to the Bible, it is sin.

Dealing with Disasters in Life

Kim is visiting her mom in weather-torn Alabama. I assume that many of you watched last week the story which unfold as killer tornadoes swept across the southern states. Don’t forget about the deadly fires that consumed millions of acres and destroyed lives in Texas.

Here’s the question, one which most Christians wonder about, but are sometimes afraid to ask: “God, where are you in all these catastrophes? Couldn’t you have simply spoken a word to still the tornadoes and quench the fires?”

And then there is THE question behind all others: “If God is all-powerful and loving, then why didn’t He stop the tragedies from happening? So He must either not be all-powerful, or not loving, end of story.”

When people experience calamity and heartbreak, is that the end of their story? Consider a man named Job in the Old Testament. He endured an onslaught of disasters that would have driven most people to despair. Try to put yourself into his world as you read about the tornado of adversity that stormed through every area of his life; he lost his business, family, future, kids, (check it out in Job 1:13-16). He was having a very bad day.

Things continued to spiral downward following these events. Job lost his health, was accused by his friends of being the sinner responsible for his losses, and though he valiantly kept his faith through nearly all the ordeal, the haunting questions about God’s goodness and love consumed his thoughts:

“How I wish we had an arbitrator
to step in and let me get on with life—
To break God’s death grip on me,
to free me from this terror so I could breathe again.
Then I’d speak up and state my case boldly.
As things stand, there is no way I can do it” (Job 9:33-35).

In effect, Job is saying, “God, I’d like to meet you in court so you can stand trial for not stopping the disasters. Either you are not all-powerful or not loving, so which is it?”

Much to Job’s surprise, God answers with a hurricane force series of questions that all fit under the category of “Are YOU talking to ME, Job?” It’s not that God was being cruel or evasive, but the answer to our question lies in another question, which is, “Is God in charge or not?”

The answer is a resounding YES, God is in charge! And because I can hold on to this truth like a ship’s mast in a violent storm, I can be sure that by allowing trials in my life He is acting in the most loving way possible for my ultimate good. It is not only possible but absolutely true that our all-powerful God allows tribulations because He is forming us into Christ’s image and has to tell a story of His love for the world, and the salvation of humanity.

That’s why He boldly declares this truth:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

When we are walking through the storms of life and feel like innocent victims in this broken, fallen and sometimes evil world, it is easy to only be aware of the pain and loss, but we can trust and be certain that above the dark clouds is a loving Father who will redeem all evil and reshape it into His perfect plan.

Remember also that pain and trial are instruments that God can use to reach people who are far from Him. As C. S. Lewis brilliantly stated:

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

God is all-powerful and loving. Let’s trust in His plan and share the most powerful and loving message ever proclaimed, the Good News about Jesus Christ, the One who will “wipe every tear from our eyes and make all things new!” (Revelation 21:4).

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Manifesting God’s Glory

Paul’s next stop in Ephesus (Acts 19:1) seemed to display an extra measure of God’s power. It appears that on this third missionary journey God used special demonstrations of power to authenticate His messages and ministers (Acts 19:11).

The first story is theologically interesting since it appears Paul encounters some disciples that believed yet had not receive the Holy Spirit when they first believed (Acts 19:2, 6). The brief interpretation is that this new faith movement needed authenticity and consistency; basically evidence that the movement of Christ was united in both Jerusalem and Ephesus. But these disciples were not already Christians (since all Christians receive the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion, 1 Corinthians 12:13).

These believers were followers (disciples) of John (Acts 19:3), which means they were Old Testament seekers but did not fully understand the Christian faith. Their answer to Paul’s question about receiving the Holy Spirit revealed they were not yet fully Christians. They had not yet received Christian baptism (having been baptized only “into John’s baptism”) which was further evidenced that they were not Christians.

Acts 19:8-10 summarizes the events in Ephesus, the results being that in over two years all the people who lived in the province of Asia heard the gospel (Acts 19:10, 17).

Let’s look at some of the miraculous stuff that happened:

  1. God worked with such power that pieces of cloth, like a handkerchief that had touch Paul brought healing and deliverance from demons (Acts 19:12).
  2. There is the funny story of the seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva (Acts 19:13, 14) who was an exorcist. The demon says that he knows Jesus and knows Paul, but who are you (Acts 19:15). What a slap in the face. The last we see of these sons is flying through the door one by one naked and bleeding (Acts 19:16). Too funny.
  3. People were getting right with God, many believers publicly burning their tools of sorcery (Acts 19:18, 19).

It is almost as if God was showing off! God demonstrated His power in several ways:

God made the Holy Spirit obvious: knowledge of the Old Testament did not help because the Holy Spirit did not take up residence in believers until Pentecost (Acts 2:4). Before that the Spirit did not mark salvation but He did empower people for certain tasks.

God made obvious the blessings of true discipleship: Paul began to disciple people daily (Acts 19:9), and the fruit produced was that the whole region heard the gospel (Acts 19:10). A few well trained soldiers in God’s service is more effective than hundreds of people who have never been discipled.

God made His ambassador obvious: He used the ordinary to do extraordinary things. Attention was brought to Paul because he could be trusted to bring attention to Christ.

God made His power over the occult obvious: with all the magical incantations, witches, wizards and sorcery in Ephesus, God broke through and they began to understand the idea of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18).

God made true repentance obvious: God convicted the city of their error (John 16:8) and the people responded in a practical way (Acts 19:18, 19), producing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).

Application: How do you see God moving through your life? Is there anything that needs to be exposed and eliminated, confessed and repented of? Are you being discipled, daily through your Bible reading and quiet time, or with another man on a regular basis? What prevents you from finding another man to ask if he would like to read and study the Bible each week? The greatest power that God has demonstrated today is the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. People cannot change on their own, how often do men fall back into the same old rut? Christ walks with us, and put other men in our pathway to help strengthen us along the journey.

With Fear and Trembling

Paul leaves Athens and makes his way to Corinth, about 50 miles away (Acts 18:1). He describes his arrival in 1 Corinthians 2, without eloquence or superior wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1), resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) and that he came to them in fear and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3). Interestingly enough, Acts 18:9-10, reveal a vision given to Paul for him not to fear. While Paul had been in danger in many places, there is no biblical evidence that he ever before was warned in a vision not to be afraid.

It is likely that what happened in Athens affected him more than we expect:

  1. Few converts.
  2. Overwhelmed by pagan and polytheistic beliefs.
  3. They wanted to argue philosophy when Paul wanted to discuss the truth.
  4. These few converts failed to produce any fruit, no church was established.
  5. He spent his time in Athens alone.

While Timothy and Silas may have come as he asked, perhaps they were quickly sent elsewhere (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Perhaps Paul just moved on in frustration. It is likely that Paul was focusing on the negative and lost sight of the positive. Have you ever done that?

Have you ever noticed how solitude can affect your state of mind? Perspective changes, we see that everything is bad and cannot see the silver lining. Insecurity can lead to immobilization; sadness turns into depression; intimidation turns into terror.

First Corinthians 2:1 indicates that Paul left Athens feeling intimidated. The child prodigy and former Pharisee must have felt humiliated by their harsh words, calling him a babbler (Acts 17:18). He resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), not relying on his persuasive abilities or theological speeches.

God taught Paul a lesson that day, that without the Spirit, no one can accept or understand the things of God, because to him they are foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 1:23, 2:14). As we speak up for Christ, we cannot believe that we are foolish just because we were not persuasive enough. Paul was weak (1 Corinthians 2:3) which might be interpreted that he was so scared that he became ill. The man had lost his confidence. Perhaps he wondered if the fruit in other cities was the result of God blessing Silas or Barnabas rather than him.

The enemy would love to see God’s servants in self doubt, but Paul writes about a great demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4), which means proof. The abundant fruit produced through his preaching was proof of the Spirit’s power. God often proves Himself when we have the least to offer (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27).

Application: Perhaps God has opened a door for you and you lack confidence. Insecurity can hold people back from the ministry that God has planned for them. There are many wonderful promises in the Bible when we are weak: the Lord is our confidence (Proverbs 3:26), your strength will equal your days (Deuteronomy 33:25), My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Stand strong in the fact that God is the One at work in you, and the ministry He has for us will be accomplish through Him and not our own abilities, creativity, goals, action plans or strength. God has called us to be faithful and not necessarily successful, according to the world’s standards.

Leaders and Bosses

Men, some of you guys are the boss, and I suppose the rest of you have a boss, but have you ever considered what the Bible teaches about the two. It appears that Scripture addresses the issue of leadership more than just being a boss. I guess the contemporary application of slaves and masters (Ephesians 6:5, 9, Colossians 4:1, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18) may resemble the employee/employer relationship, but I sense that Jesus would rather have leaders more than bosses. Many who think they are leading are really just lording over other people (Mark 10:42).

I think that many people confuse leadership with power and control. We tend to believe that a person in a position of authority or someone with a title has their position or title due to their leadership qualities. But, in many cases there is no connection between a position and that person’s leadership ability. Just having a title does not make someone a leader.

Years ago I taught a pastoral ministries course on leadership at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zambia and emphasized that leadership is all about influence. Everyone has the ability to influence others, no matter where you are in the organization. There is a huge difference between being a boss and being a leader. I recently read the following:

  1. The boss drives group members; the leader coaches them.
  2. The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will.
  3. The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.
  4. The boss says “I;” the leader says “we.”
  5. The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace.
  6. The boss says, “Get there on time;” the leader gets there ahead of time.
  7. The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.
  8. The boss knows how it is done; the leader shows how.
  9. The boss makes work a drudgery; the leader makes it a game.
  10. The boss says, “Go;” the leader says, “Let’s go.”

– Author unknown

So, as you consider those over whom you have influence, how can you be a better leader?