Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Know Your Enemy

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Michael Bynum
Pastor of Vineyard ReCovery Church
February 22, 2016
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Here is Monday's "Greene Street Letters"

Revelation 12:11
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth. The one who accuses them before our God day and night.
There is an event that happens every Saturday, shortly after noon. It begins as a subtle whisper in my head. It has happened for over 18 years. You'd think I'd be use to it by now, but each time it occurs, it is like it is the very time to have happened.
Usually be noon on Saturday, the hay is in the barn when it comes to the meeting that we have that night. I usually try to be home around noon, eat some lunch, and sit down for a bit before I head out to the church. Sitting in my chair, the first assault comes. "You are not prepared for tonight." The voice is soft and low, yet very present in my mind.
Next comes, "You haven't prayed enough."
Did I? Pray that is. Have I spent enough time in prayer about the service tonight? Or did I just schlep through the week, giving no thought to spending time in prayer?
This is usually followed up with "You didn't study enough."
Now this one usually does get me. I don't spend an inordinate amount of time on messages.
As I read my Bible, there will usually come a verse that seems to stand out from the others. I find myself returning over and over to the verse. I will jot down thoughts and point that come to me. By Saturday, I may have a loose framework from which a message will hang. Even then, I hold such very loosely because there has been many, many times when I stood to give a message and God would tell me to junk the whole thing. Those times can be scary because you standing there with nothing to say. Suddenly a thought will enter your mind and you'll chase it like an elusive rabbit only to find a message that burns on your heart.
As the afternoon progresses, the voices of accusation get louder and louder.
"You didn't choose the right songs for worship"....
"Look how anointed the other worship leaders are....and you...you're just pretending to be a worship leader."
See how this works?
The devil truly is our accuser.
His job is to bring doubt to our minds.
After all, his first words to Eve in the Garden were...."Did God really say...."
Then as it nears 7 p.m. the last accusation comes...
"You're not going to have many show up tonight."
That one isn't to bad, because God let me know in no uncertain terms that our meeting would always be small. Such an illumination from God has given me the mind set that we'll have our meeting even if it is just me and God. So that accusation doesn't bother me to much.
Like I said, these voices have plagued me for nigh on 18 years, and yet I finally garnered some real peace about them Saturday. I was at the church....it must have been 4:30 p.m. when I met Jim Bentley in the big room. We stopped to chat and the usual "how are you? What's God doing?" kind of encounters. I confessed to Jim about how the voices were up and running, when it suddenly dawned on me (told you I was not to sharp). The accusations had come every week without fail. Oh yeah, by the way...Jim suffers from the same thing, only his is for the Sunday morning meeting. 
The accusations come every week...
Every week, so far, God has shown up and someone has had an encounter with Him.
Someone comes up and tells me that the message really spoke to them.
Someone gets healed....
Someone gets saved...
Someone comes back to relationship with God after being away for a number of years.
Not this isn't really about me, but that's a pretty good record for someone who was accused of not preparing or doing enough.
Seems to be that being obedient is more important than listening to a bunch of accusations.
Not letting the accusing stop you, or cause you to give up and quit.
I know that I'm not the only one who hears the accusations.
"You'll never recover from your addiction!"
"You've made to big of a mess in your life to ever be free from it!"
And on and on and one the list of accusations pile up, till you feel as though you are going to be crushed under the sheer weight of them.
Don't give into this game the devil plays with all of us who are trying to follow Jesus.
Don't listen to the accusations and remember them for what they truly are.
A plot and a plan to sidetrack you from moving forward into the life Christ has for you.
Philippians 4:8-9
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts (Your mind) on what is true, and honorable, and right and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me----everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
God on you...
mb

Sunday, March 22, 2015

WHAT I WANT TO BLESS AND MULTIPLY IN WORSHIP



WHAT I WANT TO BLESS AND MULTIPLY IN WORSHIP
By John Wimber

A. Servant Leaders
(In hearts, attitudes and actions)

1. People who are elders
(Eager to serve, lovers of the church, humble, their lives are examples to others, they are blameless both in the church and the world, self-controlled, temperate, gentle, not argumentative or hot-headed, married to one spouse and manage their home well and have obedient children, mature believers who are both holy and disciplined.
[1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:2-4].

2. People who are long-term
(Stay at home builders; i.e. pastors and equippers)

B. Servant leaders not caught up in the Rock’ n Roll paradigm

1. My Name [Gen. 11:4]
Versus
His Name [Acts 4:12]

2. My Will [Luke 15:12]
Versus
His Will {Matt. 6:10; 26:39ff]

3. Serve Me [Luke 15:12; Matt. 20:26; 25:26]
Versus
Serve Him [Phil. 2:5-7; Luke 17:10]

C. Profile- Qualities

1. Men and women who are:
a. Called and commissioned to serve [Paul in Acts 9:15; 11:25-26; 13:1-3], whether volunteer, part-time, or full time, paid or not, temporary or permanent.

b. Willing to render humble service, service that is sacrificial in nature [Luke 17:10].

c. Willing to conform to church discipline and eldership requirements [1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9].

2. Some additional general characteristics- Worship leaders are highly visible; therefore I seek those who are:

a. Team players
b. Able to take correction
c. Able to see the larger picture, and not just the worship picture
d. Able to hear from God, leaders, and others
e. Able to worship and lead others into worship
f. Able to equip and raise up equippers
g. Able to understand and to communicate to others about Vineyard worship

D. Things I am concerned about in the near future

1. The propensity toward moving from the simple to the complex:

a. In songs we are writing

b. In the way we are presenting them [i.e. arrangements, performances, etc..]

c. The tendency toward inner focus over and against upward
· Leaving the congregation in the state of an audience
· Performing to please others [models, people, etc.]

THE VALUE OF SMALL GROUPS

Montréal Vineyard

THE VALUE OF SMALL GROUPS
For Pastor’s and Leaders
By John Wimber

Since Jesus trained the Twelve, small groups have effectively made disciples who show a growing commitment to Christ, his cause, and his church.

Small groups are essential to a healthy growing church. When I speak to young pastors who want to plant a church I encourage them to “build from the bottom up” and resist the pressure to go public before infrastructure is established.

For pastors leading churches without small group ministries, identifying leaders and releasing small groups is one of the most vital steps you can take. Yet this process holds dangers, so be aware of four things if this describes your situation.

First, depending on the nature and the activity of the group, you run the risk of violating some basic Vineyard values. For instance, if the small group model you employ excludes worship, fellowship, or gifts of ministry, that model- right from the start- will violate three essential values of the Vineyard. Whatever type of small group you start ought to be faithful to these values.

Second, some small group training models won’t fit certain kinds of churches and cultural situations. Though the program worked for the originator, it wont always work- at least without modifications- for you. Many models have to be contextualized. For example, people working in a “blue collar” kind of setting may need more structure and definition in their groups that executives working in a “white collar” setting.

Third, some pastors assume every person who attends Sunday services- from the elderly to the teenagers- ought to participate in a small group. By everyone they mean, everyone. From my experience however, this is naïve. Young people tend to want a high quantity of relationships as well as a few quality ones. Therefore, they are amenable to being involved in small groups. But the older they get they tend to want fewer relationships with high quality. People older than 50 are less likely to involved themselves in small groups that are large and have turnover. It’s hard for them to undergo so much social change.

Of course the exception is someone who’s been in a small group from the time he was young. My brother-in-law, Bob Fulton, was converted in a small group. He’s now in his fifties and has never been outside of one. So small group life is church life for him.

Fourth, the launching of small groups as a program in a church ought to be done over time, giving people lots of room to opt in or out. To suddenly announce, “beginning next month, we’re going to divide everybody in the church into new groups” can be hurtful and disruptive. I think its wise from a leadership standpoint to give at least a year to that process. Let people try some small groups with those that are the most responsive. Share some literature with leaders in the church so they can get acquainted.

Let them visit other churches that have small groups and then let them get involved in designing their own small groups so they can do something that reflects their own values.

In summary, the purpose of small groups is to make and nurture disciples who evidence a growing commitment to Christ, his cause and his church. The training elements of modeling, and formal and informal teaching, produce a powerful dynamic for maturing believers.

At first groups may be fairly homogenized and reflect the style of the founding pastor. As the church grows other needs will surface and other leadership styles will emerge to meet those needs. In our church we place groups in three broad categories: task, training, and integration.

Every Vineyard should have vibrant small group life. It’s difficult to think of exceptions. I value them so much because the Lord has met me there so many times. If you are starting (or re-starting) small group ministry in your church, I encourage you to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your context. I know he will bless you and your people on your journey together toward him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

INTERCESSION AND SPIRITUAL WARFARE







INTERCESSION AND SPIRITUAL WARFARE
By John Wimber
We are called to pray daily for boldness and opportunity to preach, teach,
and demonstrate the gospel.
Several months ago I went to Australia with a team to minister at conferences in Sydney and Perth. Before leaving we sensed that God wanted to do great things; we also knew there would likely be significant spiritual opposition.
So our 100 member team, which was drawn from the United States and Canada, began interceding in earnest for Australia.
Shortly before we left for Down Under one of our key leaders, Brent Rue (a Vineyard pastor from Lancaster, California), told me about spiritual insights that he had gained while praying. Well, actually he heard from God while sleeping. Let me explain.
One morning while interceding Brent became sleepy, and his personal prayer hour turned into a nap time. However, the Lord gave him a dream that revealed there is a strong spirit that produces rejection in the nation of Australia.
Brent could see that this malevolent, invisible force colors the character of Australia, creating in many people poor selfimages, weakness, and defeat, thus undermining the power of the gospel to free people to live fully for God. It was an evil spirit that possessed, in the words of former missionary Leslie Newbigen, “…power and authority which is real, which is embodied in and exercised by individual human beings, but is not identical with them” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, p. 202).
When Brent told me about his dream I knew that we were about to be thrust into classic spiritual warfare, and our battle plans had to be biblical. One thing was clear: a cavalier or presumptuous approach to an evil spirit of this magnitude and power would have disastrous results for the people to whom we were ministering-and to ourselves.
So how are we to respond to a challenge such as this?

Demolishing strongholds
Scripture teaches that we are called to warfare. It is critical, though, that we understand the rules of war and what we are fighting against. Paul sheds much light on the nature of spiritual warfare in 2 Corinthians 10:36:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.”
Paul teaches that we don’t wage warfare as the world does-lining up on opposite sides, fighting, killing one another. We have an alternative means of warfare; we employ different weapons that have “divine power to demolish strongholds,” and we fight our battles on a different kind of battlefield.
Where does the battle take place? In the hearts and minds of men and women. The strongholds are “arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” The Corinthians were receiving false teaching and rejecting Paul’s message.
What can we learn about spiritual warfare from the Corinthian situation? There is a battle raging for the hearts and minds of men and women, and Satan knows that if we believe his lies we will fail to love and serve God.
In Colossians Paul warns his readers of the influence of malevolent spirits-literally “elementary spirits”-on their thinking. He is alluding to forces that influence the most fundamental values and attitudes of a society: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and basic principles [or elementary spirits] of this world rather than on Christ….And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. …Since you died with Christ to the basic principles [elementary spirits] of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules… ” (Col. 2:8, 15, 20).
Paul teaches that we need discernment to avoid being captivated by deceptive philosophy that is based on worldly traditions and elementary spirits. His point raises at least two questions. How do we receive discernment about these spirits? and, once we gain discernment, what can we do about it?

Four steps
First, we ask God for discernment concerning the nature and activity of the elementary spirits. When Brent interceded God revealed to him that an elementary spirit in Australia inclines many people-including Christians-to struggle with feelings of rejection and inferiority, which lead to an inability to receive God’s grace and acceptance in Christ (Eph. 1:6).
Simply being aware of this influence helped us focus our prayers and preaching during the two weeks of meetings.
If we are open to God and listen for his voice we can be confident that he will speak to us (John 14:26;16:1315)-through dreams, visions, as a “still, small voice,” and, of course, Scripture. In other words, he is a living God who reigns over the earth and talks to his children. All we have to do is listen.
Second, we ask God to prepare our hearts and minds to do the work of the kingdom, and to prepare the people’s hearts and minds to receive the kingdom. Paul frequently interceded that the early Christians might have discernment:
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory end praise of God” (Phil.1:911).
The twofold strategy behind Paul’s prayers is easy to follow. If we are filled with the knowledge of God-and to do so we must remain free from sin-then we will recognize the lies of the devil and reject them. And if the people to whom we minister have their spiritual eyes opened to receive God’s truth, they will be freed from bondage to deception.
Third, we pray that God may anoint our preaching and teaching, and then we preach the truth with boldness: “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Col.4:34).
The proclamation of the word of God is the key to winning the hearts and minds of men and women. We demolish Satan’s strongholds by living in the light of Scripture and manifesting the wisdom of God (Matt. 12:29; Eph. 3:10).
Our prayers, therefore, should focus on asking that the knowledge, insight, and wisdom of God’s truth might be proclaimed through us. That’s exactly how I prayed for Australia. “Lord, shed the light of the truth of your word wherever we go. Demolish the stronghold of rejection through the clear teaching and reception of grace.” (I will say more about this point later in the article.)
Finally, the goal of our preaching is that the people pray, repent, seek God, and humble themselves. Long ago the Lord told Solomon: “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place” (2Chron.7:1415)
These words, spoken to the Old Testament church, equally apply to us. Spiritual battles are won when we act on the truth of the word of God and turn our hearts to him.

Territorial spirits
Brent’s dream points to another aspect of spiritual warfare that Christians are now becoming more aware of: territorial spirits.
Territorial spirits are powerful fallen angels-principalities, powers, dominions, thrones, authorities, rulers-who exercise influence over cities, regions, even nations (Eph. 1:21; 6:10,12; Col. 2:15). They influence every aspect of a culture much as a genetic code influences the makeup of different races. Lesslie Nubigin writes:
“The principalities and powers are real. They are invisible and we cannot locate them in space. They do not exist as disembodied entities floating above this world, or lurking within it. They meet us as embodied in visible and tangible realities-people, nations, and institutions. And they are powerful ” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, p. 207).
Daniel 10:1211:1 offers remarkable insight into territorial spirits. It describes two territorial spirits that exercised authority over Persia and Greece-”the prince of the Persian kingdom” and “the prince of Greece” (10:13,20).
Daniel learned of their presence while praying and fasting. Earlier he had received a disturbing revelation about a “great war,” and he was seeking further understanding.
In answer to his prayer, God dispatched a messenger-described as “a man” (perhaps a high ranking angel)-who appeared to Daniel in a vision. Daniel was so terrified by the vision that his “face turned deathly pale” and he “fell into a deep sleep” (10:9). A “hand” then touched Daniel and “set [him] trembling on [his] hands and knees” (10:10).
The messenger told him to stand up and said, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them” (10:12).
The messenger fought for 24 days against the prince of Persia. Twenty one days into the fight the messenger required help from the angel Michael to overcome what most likely was a demon that exercised influence over the Persian realm.
This passage offers two important insights into how we should pray about territorial spirits. First, it doesn’t teach that we are able to deploy angels to do spiritual warfare. The messenger from God told Daniel that he came in response to Daniel’s prayers to the Father. The Father dispatched angels to Babylon; God alone rules the powers and principalities (Col.1:1517).
Second, the most significant point isn’t the battle itself or which territorial spirit was involved; it’s who won the battle. God defeated Satan. The same point is made in 2 Kings 6:823, where Elisha opens the spiritual eyes of his servant, so he was able to see the victorious army of God.
We look for God’s activity in the world, because he always wins the battle. On the cross, Christ disarmed the powers and principalities. In the end, Christ will destroy them (1 Cor. 15:24).
When I prayed about Australia I asked God to come against the spirit of rejection. If he chose to deploy angels or send his Spirit to bind the territorial spirit, that was his business. My trust is in God and his strategy, and my confidence is in his victory-seeing people pray, repent, and seek God (2 Chron. 7:14).

Ultimate enemy
Cosmic warfare is between fallen and unfallen angels. However, Ephesians 6:12 appears to teach that we engage Satan in pitched, handtohand combat: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I believe that Paul is describing a struggle in which our ultimate enemy is Satan and his demons.
Perhaps a brief synopsis of how armies in Paul’s day conducted warfare will shed more light on how to interpret this passage. In ancient NearEastern conflicts, opposing foot soldiers faced each other on a battlefield, with their generals in the rear (preferably on the highest available ground) overseeing and directing the armies. The generals led through messengers and various signals (flags, hand signals, horns). Everybody fought, but each fought in his own way-foot soldiers, archers, horsemen, messengers, and generals.
Now, the ultimate enemy of every foot soldier was the opposing general, though their preoccupation in the midst of battle was the opposing soldiers.
This is analogous to our situation. We are foot soldiers on a cosmic battlefield, and our ultimate enemy is the evil general, Satan. Under Satan are commanders such as territorial spirits. But we are most likely to have spears thrown at us by his foot soldiers-lowlevel demons.
To deal with these attacks we need, in Paul’s words, weapons with “divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). What are these weapons? and how are we to use them?

Defensive armor
Fortunately, the word of God provides specific instructions about how to fight the war. Ephesians 6:1018 describes six pieces of equipment as analogies for spiritual weapons (plus one other that has no counterpart in Roman armor).
The first five are defensive armor, whose purpose is to equip us to occupy the land:
1. The belt of truth. Putting on God’s truth means living out his word-being honest and sincere in our faith, and not full of religious hypocrisy. So the “belt of truth” refers to Christian character and integrity, a lifestyle that conforms to Scripture.
2. The breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate protected the soldier’s heart. Righteousness is first of all a condition of the heart, and the heart is what determines the course of our lives.
3. Feet fitted with readiness. We are to be prepared to share the gospel of peace at any time, which means knowing how to tell others about Christ and being open to the Holy Spirit’s leading in specific situations.
4. The shield of faith. The shield protected the soldier against dangerous incendiary missiles. When we take the great commission seriously and go on the offensive in challenging Satan’s realm, he fights back with flaming arrows. He attacks us and everything associated with us: our church, spouse, children, business- everything. Our shield against these attacks is faith, a belief in God and in his ability to protect us, having confidence in his word.
5. The helmet of salvation. The helmet, of course, protects the head, the seat of our thought life. Satan bombards us with fear, hatred, suspicion, depression, mistrust, false doctrines, and a host of mental distractions. Thinking Christianly means much more than holding right doctrine; it means cultivating the mind of Christ. Our helmet, our protection, is salvation-deliverance from evil and sitting with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).
Truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, and assurance of salvation grow and mature as we live devoted and obedient lives that are marked by worshipful hearts, prayerful spirits, and minds conformed to the word of God. This is the defensive armor of spiritual warfare, and without it we are vulnerable to Satan’s attack.

Offensive weapons
Of course, we’ve been called to more than defense. The last piece of armor-the sword of the Spirit-is designed for both defense and offense. The sword of the Spirit, Paul writes, “is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
Paul here uses language that can be interpreted to mean a word that is received directly from God and spoken by us. I believe he is referring to words spoken by the power of the Spirit to assist us in defending ourselves against Satan and in inflicting harm on him.
David Watson points out that the spoken word may come through preaching, teaching, witnessing, or prophesying. To be authentic all words must be in accordance with the written word, and all must glorify the living Word, Jesus.
A primary purpose of Jesus’s coming is to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8), and he accomplished it through exposing him as the fraud: “In him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1 :45).
Jesus is the truth, the living Word of God; he is light and there is no darkness in him (1 John 1:5). So whatever he came in contact with he exposed- good as from God, and evil as from Satan. This is how he defeated Satan.
In another place Jesus told the disciples, “How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house” (Matt. 12:29). For the gospel to bear fruit, Satan must be bound. And Satan is bound by exposing his darkness to the light of God’s word!
We employed Jesus’ “exposeandconquer” strategy in Australia. Our team went into the enemy’s domain in order to take back all that the devil had stolen. One of the first things we did was bind the strong man through preaching the truth about God’s grace and acceptance, and thus exposed the spirit of rejection.

Spiritual boldness
Paul also mentions another weapon, one that has no counterpart in Roman armor: praying in the Spirit.
I mentioned earlier in this article that Paul regularly interceded that the believers be filled with the knowledge of God and discernment, for the word of God is the key to destroying satanic strongholds in Christian’s lives. But there is another element to intercession that is critical to the defeat of Satan-prayer that God’s word may be spoken with boldness and power.
A closer look at the apostles’ prayers reveals much about intercession and spiritual warfare. One of the best examples is that of Peter and John in Acts 4. After preaching to the Sanhedrin and receiving threats, they returned to the Jerusalem church and reported what happened to them. Then they called a prayer meeting.
They prayed that God might anoint them to “speak your word with great boldness… [and] stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders…” (Acts 4:2930). God answered their prayers: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).
These are the kind of intercessory prayer meetings that will overcome Satan: appealing to God for boldness to fill our mouths with his words and anoint our hands with his deeds. In other words, praying for power evangelism.
Paul continually prayed for boldness, clarity, and opportunity to preach. He also asked others to pray that he would have ample opportunity and clarity in his preaching: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…” (Eph. 6:19).
Paul’s prayer captures the heart of how our team interceded for Australia: “Lord give us opportunity and boldness to preach your word, that we might unmask, disarm, and render powerless the evil lies of the spirit of rejection that have built a stronghold in the hearts and minds of the people.”
The Lord answered our prayers for Australia. We preached the gospel with an authority that I have rarely experienced before. Over 18,000 people attended the meetings, with hundreds being saved, healed, renewed, and delivered from problems of rejection and defeat. God does truly answer prayer.

Source: Equipping The Saints, Vol. 4, No. 2/Spring 1990

GUIDANCE BY THE SPIRIT

Zoe and Granddad Jim

GUIDANCE BY THE SPIRT
by John Wimber

A Change of mind, and of heart, can open leaders to the guidance the Lord wants to give. What is your model of leadership? Where does it come from? Is it biblical?
Many Christian leaders work off a model that views the leader as the chief executive officer. He sets goals, makes plans based on the best available data, strategizes, and in general takes a nonsense approach.
Church leaders also tend to view themselves as professionals. The leader is seen as someone who has accumulated a lot of knowledge about Christianity.
Both these models frequently lead to some success. I have come to believe, however, that neither is suitable as the fundamental approach to leadership in the church. There’s nothing wrong with managerial planning and professional competence per se. Unfortunately, we often allow these tools to exclude dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ and the guidance of his Spirit.
The New Testament model of leadership is different in many respects from these models. It is essentially concerned with personally following a master-ultimately, the Master. In the New Testament a leader is distinguished not so much by administrative skills as by ability to pass on the way of life he has been taught; not so much by what he knows as by whom he knows. His skills and knowledge spring from his relationship with God and a human teacher, and result in a changed character, marked by humility, wisdom, and discernment.
The church today has tried to marry this New Testament model of leadership with the corporate/professional models. The marriage hasn’t worked too well. We pay homage to humility while discarding constant dependence on the Master. Primary reliance on professional management tools replaces reliance on the Lord’s personal presence, initiative, and guidance through his Spirit. We no longer expect his action and direction.

LETTING GOD SPEAK
I’m no stranger to corporate planning. For years I’ve been involved in the church growth movement, which has contributed much to the technical understanding of how to run a church. I have designed five and tenyear master plans for Christian organizations. I am familiar with the process of sorting ideas, establishing goals, putting plans down on paper, and helping people to advance. I am not against planning. I am in favor of planning- after God speaks.
God wants to speak. The challenge lies not in getting God to guide us but in waiting on him faithfully so as to hear him.
At the Vineyard we have experienced discernment regarding where geographically to focus our efforts, what goals to set for growth, how to arrange pastoral structures, when to hold major events, and similar matters. I do not believe there is anything abnormal about this, anything that other churches and groups should not also expect to experience.
To give an example, we believe the Lord is holding back numerical growth in favor of growth in character, and holiness in the Vineyard in Anaheim right now. In 1989 we had a net increase of about 1,200 people-a good growth year for a congregation of 7,500. But the Holy Spirit showed me that in 1990 we would see little numerical growth. Instead we would see significant things going on in people’s lives-the kinds of challenges and activities that usually result in a higher level of perseverance and a more solid commitment. I told the staff to prepare for it. Starting in January of 1990 we did see a decline in the number of new people coming into the church and a shift in what was going on in the lives of many of the leaders and other members.
We also receive discernment for outreach activities. The Lord will give us a sensitivity to some place or group, indicating that we are to go here or there, we are to work with this age group or that age group, we are to use this kind of deployment rather than that kind. As a staff we sense that this is the next move and unite in taking it together.
These decisions involve the use of discernmenttype gifts. We call them loosely “the eyes of God” or “the eyes of the Spirit.” These are gifts such as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the distinguishing of spirits, prophetic gifts, and, less often, tongues and interpretation.
Having had this experience of guidance, we never plan before God speaks. We often find ourselves like a ship at sea without wind, all our sails sagging. We could develop a plan, but there is no impetus for it. The Spirit of God is not speaking.
I should note that we are not very successful at “getting God” to speak. We find there are long periods when we cannot “get anything out of him” that is immediately relevant to planning. And so we spend a significant amount of time, sometimes months on end, simply seeking the Lord and asking him to give direction.
We don’t sit on our hands during those periods when we do not sense new guidance. We have many things that are in place from God speaking to us in the past. We do not abandon them. We mustn’t confuse waiting on the Lord with doing nothing.

GUIDANCE IN PASTORING
In addition to discernment for the church’s corporate life, we have also come to expect discernment about the people we are pastoring. For example, those of us on the pastoral staff often receive a sense from the Lord to ask questions from a member. Even though we have an average attendance of more than 5,000 people, while I am preaching I often know who is not there. I will come off the pulpit and, while my associates are with me, list off some people: “Check on this family, check on that family.” Seeing people in passing, I will sometimes receive discernment about something going on in their lives.
Spiritual insight may concern demonic activity in people’s lives. I will sometimes have a sense of which demons are affecting people and what they are doing in their lives.
God gives other spiritual gifts that are significant tools for pastoral care. There are gifts that I would call “the hands of God,” which have to do with faith healing and miracles; and “the voice of God”-gifts having to do with teaching and preaching, tongues, interpretation, prophecy, and so on. These operate in conjunction with gifts of discernment.

APOSTOLIC WEAKNESS
How do we learn to lead according to the New Testament model of personal dependence on the Master? Unlike the managerial and professional models of leadership, the key is not mastering certain skills or accumulating knowledge. The key is humility-humble character and humble dependence on the Lord.
We must understand that humble servant leadership entails weakness. In our Western world we see no positive association between weakness and leadership. Neither, at first, did Paul. But after asking the Lord three times to remove the difficulty of the thorn in the flesh, Paul heard God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And so, Paul wrote, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Frequently God invites us to accept weakness voluntarily. For instance, we are encouraged to intercession. For people who like to take charge and make things happen, sustained intercession seems like a very weak activity. Yet we are all called to this activity. In 1 Thessalonians Paul tells us: “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith” (3 10).
Fasting likewise is an activity of weakness. We fast in secret, in our closet. We can increase our fasting and prayer without getting immediate results. They may be stored up for some time later in our lifetime or in the lifetimes of others. We cannot manipulate God through prayer and fasting; we cannot get him on our timetable. In all these ways, fasting seems like a weak endeavor.

GROWING IN DISCERNMENT
Growing in servant leadership according to the New Testament model, then, involves growing in discernment. How can we do this?
In the New Testament the most commonly disciplined problem in the church was not immorality but divisiveness, including gossip and the carrying of tales. And so the Scripture is replete with instructions and exhortations about talking charitably. We must discipline ourselves if we are to do this. If we do, we will, as a byproduct, find that the dullness of our spiritual discernment is removed.
Opening ourselves to the Spirit’s gifts of discernment also involves housecleaning. Some months ago, for example, the Lord spoke to me out of Psalm 101 about “no unclean thing will pass my eye.”
“Lord, what’s passing my eye?” I prayed.
I realized it was television. I was not watching a lot of television. But the Spirit of God spoke to me very clearly and said to turn the thing off. We did. Within a matter of days I could sense discernment in my life increasing.
A clean house doesn’t necessarily represent a filled home. We must put aside sin in order to pursue God, so that the Spirit will fill us and manifest his love through us. We must develop a life style in which we go before the Lord and receive from him, and operate out of that.
Much of our trouble in the church today relates directly to our lack of heavenly mindedness. As the apostles often completely missed the significance of Jesus’ words right up to the end of his earthly life, we often miss God’s purposes. We are oblivious to the ways he wants to guide us and work through us.
But the apostles advanced from dullness and lack of discernment to a condition of considerable discernment. Consider Acts 5, in which Peter was able to look into the heart of Ananias and Sapphira and see that they had lied to the Holy Spirit. The point here is not the severity of their punishment, but the clarity of Peter’s discernment.
Much training of Christian leaders today reflects an exclusion of spiritual acumen or ability. As a result, many of us are operating in a spiritual kingdom without much spiritual discernment. For personal reliance on Christ and the Spirit we substitute secular arts of leadership. But more is available to the body of Christ, because the Lord Jesus wants to lead us.
Not all of us will have the same giftedness, but corporately the church can have that same kind of spiritual discernment that we see in Scripture. Our doing so is dependent on our moving away from a worldly focus into the spiritual dimension that is available to every Christian leader to operate in.
Source: Equipping The Saints, Vol. 5, No. 2/Spring 1991

CHARACTERISTICS OF A CHURCH PLANTER

Carl Tuttle and John Wimber

CHARACTERISTICS OF A CHURCH PLANTER
by John Wimber


Exercises a Sense of Call:
Clear Sense of Calling and Confirmation from Overseers
Church planting can be incredibly difficult. The decision to plant will often be deeply and sometimes painfully tested and often in the midst of hard times when growth is slow, leaders you’ve developed decide to leave and the next steps forward seem very unclear. It is during these times that the planter will only endure if they have the sure, unshakeable conviction that, “despite what I’m experiencing now, God has called me to this!”
Such a calling runs deeper than thinking church planting is just a “neat idea” or something you “try out” like you would a diet. In contrary, church planting is such an enormous venture that it requires a clarity of calling that, while not immune to doubt, provides the foundation for tenacity in the midst of adversity and disappointment. Wise pastors will do well to discern the depth and conviction of call in those they are considering sending out into the wilderness adventure of church planting.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter exercises a sense of call:
• What has led them to feel a call to pursue church planting? How have others confirmed their interest in church planting?
• What city, location, and/or type of target group do they anticipate ministering among? How does this fit with their upbringing, church experience, etc.?
• What makes them want to be a Vineyard church?
• What are some examples of times when they have taken initiative to begin and follow through with a project or ministry?
• What is their gut feeling or emotional response when they think about the risks involved in planting a church (i.e., finances, family, emotional stress, etc.)?


Possessing a Faith Driven Vision:
Has a Vision and Clear Philosophy of Ministry
As the God-given ability to “see” what could be, vision is an essential part of the spiritual gift of leadership. It is the necessary component needed to cast a compelling vision for a church that inspires others to want to join. It not only draws people to what lies ahead, however. Vision also communicates and clearly articulates the path to that destination. In that light, simply wanting to “plant a church” is not a “faith-driven, inspiring vision.” You must ask the questions: “What kind of church? What will it look like? What kind of people will it reach? How will I gather people to get on board with that vision?” A church planter must not only be able to describe what kind of church they desire to plant, but they must be able to articulate it in a way that engenders faith, honors God, sell it to and inspire other to get on board. True faith-driven, inspiring vision will accomplish that.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses a faith driven vision:
• What kind of church do they envision? How does this compare with their current/ past church experiences?
• Describe any experience they’ve had in organizing and leading teams of people?
• How have they inspired or excited people about an area of ministry or project in which they were involved (i.e., business or school project, small group, prayer team, mission trip, youth group, etc.)?
• How would they answer someone who’s asking them “why plant a new church”?
• Describe the role that prayer, fasting, Bible study, etc have played in their life in overcoming individual or corporate challenges?


Disciple Making Skills:
Creates Opportunities to Develop Leaders and Give Ministry Away
The undeniable truth is, it takes a person with a certain mix of gifts and catalytic abilities to pull off planting a church. Among the most important qualities that they must possess is the ability to attract and lead other leaders. This entails not only the internal spiritual authority, but also the basic, pragmatic competence it takes to grow a church and attract, motivate and train others around them to lead, as well. If a church planter can lead people to Christ and nurture them, but at the same time cannot develop and lead leaders, he will not be able to build much more than a large home group. The church will never grow beyond what the church planter himself can directly oversee and lead.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses disciple making skills:
• What are the characteristics of a disciple and how would they build these characteristics into the life of a new believer?
• Give an example of the type of small groups they have led? How did they train and release other to serve in the group?
• How would they decide which areas of ministry individuals in a new church plant should participate in?
• Explain a time when they have had to correct or confront someone about an area in his or her life? What was it like for them?


People Gathering Skills:
The Ability to Gather People and Call them into Action
The process of gathering people happens in different ways in different people. Some accomplish that well through one-on-one conversations where their gifts and attractive qualities are best revealed. Others find that large groups where they can communicate, teach and cast vision is their natural arena for gathering people. Regardless of what facet is used to express this ability, having the skills to gather people is one of the most fundamental abilities required of a church planter. If the potential church planter experiences difficulties in being able to attract and gather people before planting a church, it is unlikely that they will be able to do it well once they’ve started.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses people gathering skills:
• In what ways have they gathered people to groups or projects in the past
• What plans would they have for gathering new people in a church plant?
• What ideas do they have about how they would assimilate newcomers into relationship with them and then get them involved in the church?
• To what degree does spending time with people give them energy or tire them? If married, are there differences between them and their spouse? How have they dealt with this in the past?
• How have they been vulnerable or transparent to help others feel free to do the same?


Healthy Communication Skills:
Applies Scripture in a Genuine and Effective Manner
A church planter needs to show the ability to communicate and apply Scripture in a compelling way. Keeping in mind that people have varying levels of skill and style in this area, requiring healthy communication skills does not mean requiring the planter to deliver “sermonic pyrotechnics” or have the verbal affluence of those leading America’s largest churches. Yet, it is clearly evident that church leadership is a communication-intensive enterprise and that healthy church culture is created through effective communication. Having this ability does not mean they are great and does not mean that they will improved significantly or even dramatically during their first few years of ministry. But it does mean that, as a pastor, they are first and foremost one who preaches the Word. And as Scripture unyieldingly recognizes, a pastor must be “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2).
Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses healthy communication skills:


• Explain what training or experience they’ve had in teaching or preaching? At what point is their progress in understanding and teaching the Bible?
• How would they describe their style of teaching? What are areas that they would like to improve? What’s the role of the Holy Spirit in teaching?
• How would they combine careful planning and listening to God to decide their topics and approach to weekly teaching?
• How well are they able to talk about their thoughts and feelings with others?
• What would they like a visitor to experience from the time they drive up until the time they leave their worship gathering? What values does each part of the gathering communicate?


Creative Evangelistic Skills:
Showing Significant Evidence of Gathering the Unchurched
The church planter must show evidence of being able to reach the unchurched, the prime people with whom we hope to build churches. As the Vineyard continues to “up the ante” in this area and intentionally wave the flag of evangelism, we want to identify those potential planters who have a lot of heart and at least some skills for growing churches by way of evangelism.
While core gifting and skill in evangelism vary from pastor to pastor, good news has been discovered by a study conducted by George Barna and included in his book, Evangelism That Works (Gospel Light Books, 1995). He found that churches growing by way of evangelism were led by senior pastors who do not have the spiritual gift of evangelism. This fascinating and liberating statistic revealed that to have effective evangelism, one must only be passionate about it, which overpowers any natural giftedness and is enough to motivate their churches to be evangelistically focused. They consistently find ways to make heroes out of the natural evangelists and gatherers who are part of their congregations and have worked heard to learn to communicate the gospel in relevant and compelling ways to unbelievers who are coming to their Sunday services.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses creative evangelistic skills:
• Tell me about the last time that they participated in leading someone to Jesus?
• Describe any experience they have had in training other to lead their friends to Jesus? What approach would they take in a church plant?
• What kinds of activities or strategies would they use to reach their target group?


Intentional Planning Skills:
Demonstrating the Self-Confidence to be a Lead Pastor
As church planting itself is a very large, long-term project, the church planter must show capabilities of being able to plan out such large, long-term projects in a prayerful and intentional way. Too often people begin a church plant only being able to envision and have clarity to pursue the first few steps without a big-picture idea of exactly what it is they’re trying to build. It might also be that, while they have a big-picture vision, they may lack the abilities to strategically and measurably plan out concrete steps necessary to carry out that vision.
Similarly, some people have mistaken notions regarding the role of planning. Rather than recognizing the Biblical mandate for human plans done under the leading of the Holy Spirit, the counsel of others, in submission to the sovereignty of God, they take a more “mystical” or “spiritualist” approach which suggests that “planning” is somehow contrary to faith or walking in the Spirit. Our understanding, however, is that such an approach is neither wise nor Biblical and that the best planters are those who pray for God’s direction ahead of time, plan prayerfully and then execute the plans.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses intentional planning skills:
• How do they currently manage your own time? What have they found to be the best process for them in planning?
• How would they make decisions in church planting? How do they respond to opposition to their plans?
• Based on their needs, personality, and gifts what kinds of leaders do they need to place around them to be more effective?
• What would be their top priorities for the first two years of church planting?
• How good are they at seeking God for answers, asking for advice, and getting more training?


Financial Management Skills:
Debt Free and Self Disciplined Use of Money
Church planting doesn’t require you to be a financial genius, but it does require that one knows how to handles money wisely, is out of debt and has a realistic understanding of the financial needs of a church plant in the beginning years. Debt or irresponsibility with money are prime “plant killers,” as there are typically financial pressures that accompany the first few years of a church plant. Additionally, financial planning and management skills are a must. Many church planters overlook elements that require additional capital in the first year or two of the plant (i.e., buying a sound system, renting space, purchasing children’s ministry supplies, paying for printing and advertising, obtaining necessary office and computer equipment, etc).


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses financial management skills:
• How do they approach budgeting and spending? What kind of budgeting or financial planning experience have they had?
• Has personal debt or controlling credit card spending ever been a problem for them? Please explain.
• How faithful and consistent would they say they are in tithing and giving generous offerings? How long have they been tithing?
• How comfortable would they say they are with teaching Biblical principles of giving and asking others to financially support the work to which God has called them?


Vineyard Values and Methods:
Understanding and Familiarity with Our Values and Methods
As the church planter desires to reproduce a Vineyard church, they must understand firsthand the essential values of the Vineyard church life. Vineyard values and methods include our theological commitments to be “empowered evangelicals” who are committed to conservative, evangelical theology, expository preaching and an emphasis on Scripture, evangelism, thoughtful discipleship as well as ministering the power of the Spirit and spiritual gifts.
A grasping of our style is also necessary, meaning an approach that avoids hype, believes that you can’t manufacture the work of the Holy Spirit who, with the church, is able, willing and free to break in and carry on his work in a non-spectacular, non-manipulative and surprising way. We follow hard after God and believe that his grace and mercy change people’s hearts more powerfully than human or religious “regulations.”
We value contemporary worship that connects people to God in ways that change us and reorient us. We value taking risks. We value ministry to the poor. We value leadership in the church as a result of functional reality, not a position or reward.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses Vineyard values and methods:
• What exposure have they had to Vineyard values, styles, and methods?
• What values of the Vineyard are most important to them?
• Are they familiar with the Vineyard’s Theological and Philosophical Statements? To what extent do they agree with them?
• Describe their first experiences with the Vineyard. How well do they feel the Vineyard fits with who they are?
• What extent of experience have they had ministering in the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit? How comfortable are they in leading or training other to function in kingdom ministry?
Solid Marriage and Family or Healthy Singleness:


Family Involvement and Agreement in Ministry Roles
A married church planter must be in a solid marriage and with a spouse who supports and agrees to be involved some way in the church plant. The husband and wife need to be on the same page in regards to God’s calling for them and God’s timing for the things of their call. Waiting until there is solid and agreed footing for the couple is better than undertaking the church planting process and paying the consequences in the marriage and the church.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses a solid marriage and family or healthy singleness:
• If married, how do they and their spouse use their gifts and talents to complement each other? (If single: How well developed are their friendships? Whom do they look to as a main source of emotional support?)
• Rate themselves on their ability to make personal friends together. (If single: How well do they maintain healthy boundaries between themselves and persons of the opposite sex? Are there any unresolved sexual temptations that might lead them into moral failure?)
• To what degree does their spouse feel a call to church planting? Are there any issues with children that would make it difficult? (If single: How do their parents or other family members feel about the possibility of them planting a Vineyard church?)
• How would they assess their ability to pray together as a couple? (If single: How do they feel about planting a church as a single person?).


Emotional Maturity:
Adjusts to Changes, Challenges, and Correction
The church planter must have the tenacity and desire to adjust to changes, challenges and corrections. This means they have a track record of teachability, learning from their mistakes and attempting at it again. Do they have it in them to overcome failure and return? As changes, challenges, mistakes and failures are all one piece of the experience of church planting, these characteristics must be present for the planter to survive.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses emotional maturity:
• Have they ever had their integrity challenged or their motives questioned? If so, how did they handle it?
• How do they deal with people they feel are difficult? How have they handled someone quitting or not following through on a commitment?
• Explain a time when they received correction from one of their leaders. How did they respond?
• How do they handle crisis situations? To what degree are they able to maintain a positive attitude?
• What is one of the most painful experiences they’ve had? How has this affected their life?


Vital Spiritual Life:
Has a Personal Lifestyle of Worship and Intimacy with God
The planter has to have evidence of a strong lifestyle of worship and prayer, starting the plant with a depth of spiritual strength and at a spiritual “high point.” We should be cautious when someone deeply questions their faith, are in spiritual deserts or has not genuinely grasped the whole idea of intimacy with God.
The heart habits in which one learns to walk in God’s presence and hear God for themselves have to be developed to be sent out to plant. A vital spiritual life is, in fact, fundamental to all other components and the “well” out of which ministry must flow for years to come. If that well is dry or has never been dug properly, the spiritual resources so desperately needed in church planting will be inadequate to the task that will be required in the days ahead.


Here are sample questions we ask to determine whether the potential church planter possesses a vital spiritual life:
• Describe their spiritual condition and their current relationship with God.
• How have they responded to emotionally, physically, or spiritual difficult seasons in their life?
• What spiritual disciplines have they practiced? As a general rule, how much time a day do they set aside for prayer, worship, and Bible study?
• How have they or will they balance ministry and their own spiritual growth?

• Is there any area of their life or character in which they are currently struggling with sin?