“Seeking the welfare” of the city of Manchester…

Below is an excellent quote from Howard Snyder that helps us to distinguish between church and kingdom.  We have started to learn the difference at Southside…

Basically kingdom ministry is the goal and and church becomes the fruit, or receptacle, of kingdom ministry.  What is kingdom ministry?  One of the most basic of definitions is: speaking the words and doing the works of Jesus.  Jesus spoke truth at all times, and His words emanated from a heart filled with of deep compassion, empathy, and unconditional love.  The works of Jesus include loving, serving, feeding, prayer for healing, washing feet, speaking the truth in love, a sensitivity to the heart of the Father, etc.  Someone has humorously stated that, “Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Here’s what Paul told the Corinthians:

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?”  1 Corinthians 5:12

Our goal and motivation with outsiders is to speak and act in such a way as to point them to a loving Creator God who is alive and available for an intimate relationship.  (Who wouldn’t want that!?!?)  Notice there is judgement for those of us inside the church.  The Greek word is krinō and it basically means “to call into question” (see also Acts 23:6, 24:21).  There is accountability for our actions as members of God’s Church.

Kingdom is a gospel word — along with grace and cross.  It’s when we hold these three gospel words in appropriate tension that we engage the appropriate biblical expression of the Gospel (e.g. kingdom and grace without the cross will lead us into pluralistic liberalism, kingdom and cross without grace will lead us into moralistic legalism).

With all this in mind consider Snyder’s words:

“The church gets in trouble whenever it thinks it is in the church business rather than the kingdom business. In the church business, people are concerned with church activities, religious behavior in spiritual things. In the kingdom business, people are concerned with kingdom activities, all human behavior and everything God has made, visible and invisible. Kingdom people see human affairs as saturated with scriptural meaning and kingdom significance. Kingdom people seek first the kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world… If the church has one great need, it is this: to be set free for the kingdom of God, to be liberated from itself as it has become in order to be itself as God intends.”[1]

Southside: Lets “go ye…” to Manchester.

If you haven’t already, grab one of those Missional Prayer Guides in the foyer and fill it out (it’s pretty self-explanatory), place it in your Bible, and pull it out a few times a week to pray acquaintances, friends, and family across the page (right to left).  And don’t forget to use a pencil…


[1] Howard A. Snyder. Liberating the Church, The Ecology of Church and Kingdom, Inter-Varsity Press 1983:11.

A History of Spiritual Discernment

This article is an excerpt from Discerning God’s Will Together: A Spiritual Practice for the Church, (Upper Room: 1997) by Danny E. Morris & Charles M. Olsen.

The practice of discernment has roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Human awareness of the presence of God prompts questions: God, what are you up to in the world? What is my part in it? The conviction that divine guidance operates in the human world invites us into a process of discernment.

Discernment was developed in the practice of the early church fathers and mothers and worked out in the experience of the faithful. In the 1600s, St. Ignatius put forth the now classical “Spiritual Exercises” on discernment. What emphases on discernment were occurring after the Jerusalem church in Acts 15 and before Ignatius presented the Spiritual Exercises? The tradition of discernment is remarkable.

Origen, in the third century, saw human thoughts coming from three sources: God, evil spirits, and good spirits. If people could trace their thoughts (discern the spirits), they could find a way to give themselves to the proper spirit, for people are moved by the spirits to good or evil. (2)

John Cassian, in the fourth century, followed Origen’s lead. His twenty-four Conferences presented a study of the Egyptian ideal of a monk. The subject of the second conference was discernment. He saw three sources of thought: God (illumination of Holy Spirit), the devil (who makes sin attractive), and ourselves (thoughts of what we have done or heard). “We must therefore keep a close eye on this threefold scheme of our thoughts and we must exercise wise discretion concerning them as they surface in our hearts. Right from the beginning, we will scrutinize their origins and their causes, deciding our necessary reaction to them in the light of who it is that suggests them.” (3)

Cassian said that discernment is the eye and lamp of the body; he referred to the biblical image of the sound eye that produces light for the body and the diseased eye that makes darkness. The monk who discerns:

  • is kept from veering to the left in carelessness and sin, sluggishness of spirit, and pretext of control;
  • is kept from veering to the right in stupid presumption and excessive fervor beyond restraint. (4)

Cassian also offered the image of the test applied by the money-changer who discerned true gold. We are to place thoughts on the scales of our heart and weigh them with exacting care.

  1. Is it filled with what is good for all?
  2. Is it heavy with the fear of God?
  3. Is it genuine in the feelings which underlie it?
  4. Is it lightweight because of human show or because of some thrust toward novelty?
  5. Has the burden of vainglory lessened its merit or diminished its luster?” (1:21) (5)

For Cassian, humility was the path for the search. A monk was to openly disclose his thoughts to his spiritual guide. Self-disclosure and obedience, which produces humility, leads to discernment.

John Climacus, in the sixth century, had great respect for the insights of Cassian. Climacus was selected to be the abbott at Sinai after living for years as a hermit in the desert. In an effort to be a wise abbott, he wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent, presenting thirty steps for monks to consider. Step number twenty-six is on discernment. He cites Cassian’s work on discernment, which he calls a “beautiful and sublime” philosophy: “From humility comes discernment, from discernment comes insight, and from insight comes foresight. And who would not run this fine race of obedience when such blessings are there ahead of him?” (6) The steps in Climacus’ ladder were arranged in juxtaposition to one another. We should not be surprised to see that number four, “Obedience,” was matched with number twenty-six, “Discernment.”

In Ladder of Divine Ascent, Climacus presents three progressive stages of discernment.

  1. For beginners it is self-understanding;
  2. For intermediates, the spiritual capacity to distinguish the good from what is opposed to it;
  3. For the advanced, direct God-given light, which affects people and the world around them. (7)

The focus of discernment in the early church remained on individuals and on interpersonal relationships. Sensitivity to communal discernment had not yet been developed.

The church in the east and the church in the west developed different patterns of wisdom in discernment and decision making.

The eastern church looked to the wisdom of mystics and ascetics. Bishops sought communal wisdom for the good of the community. Desert fathers and mothers returned to villages where people looked to them for wisdom. The Philokalia (1782) pulled together important sources on discernment, from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries, which would guide the pilgrim in the spiritual life. (8) When God spoke through a spiritual ascetic, debate ended; the ascetic’s capacity to sway others was enormous because discernment was viewed as a gift of God.

Because of their emphasis on the Holy Spirit, the Orthodox churches offer us a unique gift: an understanding of experience through trinitarian structures. The Orthodox see in threes, discerning the presence of God beyond, with, and in experience.

The western church adapted itself to the patterns of the Roman Empire. Early on, Roman law and styles of deliberation were introduced in the church. The great councils of the western church had their roots in the Roman senate, a deliberative body. As the senate debated issues of state, the church argued over issues of doctrine. Participants stood one at a time and presented their arguments, citing authorities who would support them. Then members of the council voted to agree, disagree, or abstain.

The Roman Catholic Church was hierarchical. Cardinals, the great princes of the church, were primary authority figures. The unity of the church was grounded in the authority of the pope. In the western church, discernment was focused by the importance of authority, tradition, unity, and continuity.

Even the monasteries reflected the decision-making patterns of the church in Rome, but with some adaptations. Each monastery had a chapter room where discussion and debate took place. The abbot or abbess may or may not have made final decisions, but the wisdom of the community played a significant role. For Saint Benedict, for instance, the “narrow way” meant walking in another’s discretion and wisdom.

The Dark Ages cast more light on discernment than we are prone to admit. In addition to monastic expressions of faithfulness, the piety of the common people found expression in the mystics of the period. Meister Eckhart and the Friends of God embraced a practical piety that people could understand. Thomas à Kempis, in Of the Imitation of Christ, presented a practical style of discernment that centered on following Christ. (9)

The dawning of the Renaissance took place in the century between the two great councils of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Council of Constance (1415-1418), the powers of the state were present and the schism of the papacy ended. In the Council of Trent (1545-1563), Catholic dogma was formalized in reaction to Protestant tenets of faith, which were considered anathema. The Roman Church defined the authority of Scripture in relationship to tradition and the authority of the pope. Reform, which could have drawn on the practices of discernment, was not included in the agenda of either meeting.

One of the most dynamic centuries in history appeared between these two bookend councils.

During the Council of Constance, John Huss was burned at the stake for invoking the authority of the Bible for discernment. He was the spiritual father of what we know as the Moravian Church.

Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, in Spiritual Exercises, outlined “Rules for Discernment of Spirits.” (10) The list of rules was extensive and unique. Though many of the rules were drawn from time-honored traditions of discernment, others were new. The rules included the importance of imagination, reason, biblical connections, experience, testing the spirits, and feelings. The affective influences were central. People involved in spiritual discernment put matters to the test-resting them in the heart, looking for consolation, which leads toward God in peace, or desolation, which leads away from God in distress. Rules for discernment of spirits were applied primarily to matters of individual discernment, but could be expanded for the purposes of communal discernment.

The writings of the mystics, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, presented another dimension to the process of discernment by introducing the aspect of human desire. Our deepest longings and desires are for God. All other desires are stripped, sometimes painfully, as we find true satisfaction in God and in doing God’s will.

In the Protestant Reformation, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli brought forth the evangelical principles of grace alone through faith and the centrality of Scripture. Scripture was seen as the divine spectacles through which one could discern God’s leading.

The Protestant Reformation, and influence of John Calvin, in particular, with his emphasis on decency and order, planted seeds that eventually grew in the parliamentary culture in England. Calvin, who found himself in a chaotic setting in Geneva, tried to bring about both order and piety while fashioning Geneva into a city of God. A reading of his Institutes of the Christian Religion reveals how western his thinking was. (11) Without question, he bought into the Greek and Roman methods of rational debate. The voting practices of the Swiss Cantons were followed in the church. Indeed, he stretched the meaning of Acts 14, in which Paul and Barnabas appointed elders, to suggest that the people voted on the appointments with a show of hands.

Calvin was a lawyer by training, relying on rules and ordinances to insure that everything was done decently and in order. Calvin both contributes to and limits our inquiry into discernment by placing emphasis on:

  • The importance of church government. “Each church, therefore, had from its beginning a Senate, chosen from godly, grave, and holy men, which had jurisdiction over the correcting of faults. This office of government is necessary for all ages.” (12)
  • The importance of God’s calling those who lead and decide. “In order that noisy and troublesome men should not rashly take upon themselves to teach or to rule, especial care was taken that no one should assume public office in the church without being called.” (13)
  • The place and importance of Christ as the actual Presider. “Now it is Christ’s right to preside over all councils and to have no man share his dignity. But I say that he presides only when the whole assembly is governed by his word and Spirit.” (14)

“If one seeks in Scripture what the authority of councils is, there exists no clearer promise than in this statement of Christ’s: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them’ (Matt.18:20). But that nonetheless refers as much to a little meeting as to a universal council. Christ will be in the midst of a council only if it is gathered together in his name. I deny that they are gathered in his name who, casting aside God, ordain anything according to their own decision; who, not content with the oracles of Scripture, concoct some novelty out of their own heads.” (15)

  • The importance of reason. “The same thing happened to them [councils] that Roman senators of old themselves complained of – senatorial decrees were badly framed. For so long as opinions are counted, not weighed, the better part had often to be overcome by the greater.” (16)
  • The importance of organization, structure, form, and law to bind us together. “We see that some form of organization is necessary in all human society to foster the common peace and maintain concord.” Therefore, if we wish to provide for the safety of the church, we must attend with all diligence to Paul’s command that “all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).

“Yet since such diversity exists in the customs of men, such variety in their minds, such conflicts in their judgments and dispositions, no organization is sufficiently strong unless constituted with definite laws; nor can any procedure be maintained without some set form. (Nor can Paul’s requirement – that ‘all things be done decently and in order‘ – be met unless order itself and decorum be established through the addition of observances that form, as it were, a bond of union.” (17)

  • The danger of spirituality. Calvin held a basic distrust of the ascetic. This created a division, a split between spirituality and administration. “But in these observances one thing must be guarded against. They are not to be considered necessary for salvation and thus bind consciences by scruples; nor are they to be associated with the worship of God, and piety thus be lodged in them.” (18)

As much as the fathers of the early church speak of it, discernment did not appear in Calvin’s vocabulary. He rightly feared that devotion to the observances could create a kind of salvation system. (Note the devotion and passion with which some people participate in parliamentary process.) But he also erroneously feared associating the observances, or practices, of communal discernment with worship, lest worship be contaminated. Neither did he want to associate piety (spirituality) with church governance because spirituality moves into an area that is beyond the control of reason. Calvin did not demonstrate any practical awareness that the same Hebrew words are used for worship and work. He would have difficulty with a model of worshipful-work. The separation of governance and administration from spirituality – which is the malady of many church boards, councils, and assemblies today – is therefore solidly rooted in the Reformation!

The Anabaptists tried to model their churches on the New Testament church. They involved the whole faith community in decision making. Because of persecutions, Anabaptists were left with a deep distrust of the state and felt that too many churches had compromised discernment by cooperating with the powers of the state.

Following the Reformation, the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Quakers made noteworthy contributions to the practice of discernment. They looked to the presence of the Spirit to provide guidance, listened to the promptings of the Spirit in the gathered community, and followed the Spirit’s lead. Listening in silence fostered the intuitive capacity of the community of Friends.

The communal character of Friends’ understanding and practice of discernment was evident from their beginning and is still the character of Quaker meetings today.

In addition, the Friends brought to discernment the practices of coming to a consensus, the clearness committee, making a minute, and registering non-concurrence.

In the Methodist tradition, discernment has played a role in the spiritual growth of individuals and communities. The Methodist movement created for spiritual nurture and guidance three types of small groups: classes, bands, and the select band.

1.     The class was a small group of people who sought a personal relationship with God. The class leader was appointed by the Wesleys or their assistants and was a person with common sense, an experience of saving grace, and the ability to interpret the Bible to the members of the class. Each week, the leader would inquire about the spiritual state of class members, then offer prayer and guidance suited to the needs expressed by individuals. Spiritual discernment came through interaction with the class leader, who asked questions that led people to think about and to listen for what the Spirit intended for their lives.

2.     The Methodist bands were for people who had experienced new birth or saving faith. While the focus of spiritual formation in the class meeting was “to flee from the wrath to come” and “to watch over one another in love,” the focus of the band meeting was to deepen the participants’ discipleship through obedience to the scriptural command to “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Members of the bands and the select bands were accountable to one another, and the will of God was discerned through dialogue, prayer, and experimentation. (19)

3.     The select society or select band provided guidance and support for people who had either the desire or the experience of perfect love: love of God with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind. All members of the select band (including the Wesleys) were peers. There were no membership restrictions based upon gender or marital status. The group’s focus was on understanding and experiencing perfect love toward God and neighbor. Spiritual discernment was found in the interaction of group members.

In Puritan New England, during the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards was concerned about the excesses of the Great Awakening in which he participated. He wanted to provide people with a way of processing their experiences. In particular, he wanted to help pastors deal with members of their congregations who had been awakened. Believing that most experiences of the Great Awakening were valid, he sought to help people look for signs that would separate the wheat from the chaff and identify experiences that were genuine.

In England, the political advent of rule by law and parliamentary procedure had a powerful impact on the church. The Church of Scotland was run by parliamentary rules. In fact, when the powers of state were consolidated in London, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland took over administration of the city of Edinburgh. Scottish leaders who had practiced and refined parliamentary order in Scotland made their presence felt in the Royal Parliament. When the Presbyterian Church in America was embroiled in new school/old school controversies, it needed procedures by which to conduct meetings. The Scots readily provided the manual.

Church history shows that discernment in Europe was made by a body of elite equals, but the parliaments and town meetings that cropped up in every village in America led the church to embrace a culture of argument and persuasion. From about 1820, many churches adopted a faith that common people would discern the truth if they had the facts. The church’s theology of sin and evil fit in with democracy; government by the people would hold in check the evil intentions of a few.

As denominations developed in the United States, rules and procedures for church assemblies gradually became standardized. In 1871, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church sent a short set of general rules to the presbyteries. The rules were uniform, so there would be no regional variation.

Prior to this, an officer in the United States Army, Henry Martyn Robert, had given thought to the deliberations of religious assemblies. He had been frustrated by the inept ways that meetings were conducted in his American Baptist church. When asked to preside over a church meeting in 1863, he drafted a brief statement of rules of order based on Thomas Jefferson’s rules for the United States Congress. The experience prompted him to expand on the effort, producing what we know as Robert’s Rules of Order. (20) General Robert wanted to standardize them for use in various religious and civic settings so that people would be familiar with a consistent method of making decisions. The effort was calculated to show that the ways religious bodies make decisions is no different from the way other organizations make decisions. Robert’s rules have been widely used in the church. But they are designed as rules for combat useful in any arbitration. (21)

Historian Michael Cartright points out several other interesting developments that occurred at the same time Robert’s Rules of Order was written. Francis Lieber wrote General Orders 100 on the rules of conduct in war. The methods of fighting created so many casualties (note the casualties in the Civil War) that rules were offered to limit casualties and to make war more humane. Lieber’s rules of combat in war have significance for the concept of just war and for restraint in modern wars.

Cartright also related that a friend of his had been appointed pastor of a church in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. On her arrival at the church, she learned that the two previous administrative council meetings had come to an end when council members started throwing chairs at one another. Everyone felt that a significant transition had been made when the first meeting of the council during her pastorate ended without violence. In that case, Robert’s Rules of Order actually did limit combat!

The rules of order are helpful in handling different points of view on designated subjects. The rules are most helpful in highly charged situations and with large groups; although some of the principles – considering one matter at a time, protecting the rights of the minority, assuring the will of the majority – are important, the rules cannot, in and of themselves, provide the structure for spiritual discernment.

Recent developments in leadership theory, not-for-profit board development, and conflict resolution have influenced church administration. Coupled with a resurgence of interest in spirituality and general dissatisfaction with the present operation of church boards and assemblies, they have led to greater interest in the practice of discernment, both personal and communal. The church can now draw on its traditions of spiritual discernment and order its life and ministries according to the will of God.

Additional Resources: Defining Discernment and Some Basic Assumptions About Spiritual Discernment

Endnotes:
2. Origen, On First Principles (New York: Harper & Row, 1966).
3. John Cassian, Conferences (New York: Paulist Press, 1985) 1:20, 54.
4. Ibid., 2:3, 62.
5. Ibid., 1:21, 57.
6. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent (New York: Paulist Press, 1982), 114.
7. Ibid., 229.
8. Kadloubovsy and Palmer, Early Fathers from the Philokalia (London: Faber & Faber, 1954).
9. Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ (New York: Mentor Bock, 1957).
10. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works (New York: Paulist Press, 1964).
11. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960).
12. Ibid., 4.3.8.
13. Ibid., 4.3.10.
14. Ibid., 4.9.1.
15. Ibid., 4.9.2.
16. Ibid., 4.9.8.
17. Ibid., 4.10.27.
18. Ibid., 4.10.27.
19. The Book of Discipline (The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 71.
20. Henry M. Robert III, Robert’s Rules of Order, Revised (New York: Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1979), iv and v.
21. James Turner Johnson, Just War Traditions and the Restraint of War (Princeton University Press, 1981), 62-63, 297-322.

Gospel Shaped Prayer and Passion (Acts 1:12-14)

Series: Gospel Chronicles: How God Shapes and Builds the Church.  A Study in the Book of Acts Part 1

I.      INTRO

A.   Last week we spoke of some implicit core values that were seeded throughout the first two chapters that helped to shape the Jerusalem church as it launched (which we’ll look at next week).

  1. They valued the kingdom of God.
  2. They valued humility and prayer — and as a result they grabbed a hold of unity.
  3. They valued the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  4. They valued contextualized[1] Gospel presentations.
  5. They valued honest, and straight-forward Gospel presentations
  6. They valued an outward missional focus.
  7. They valued discipleship in the context of authentic community.

B.    Today, in our study of the book of Acts, I’d like for us to consider how we can become people of passionate prayer.  Passion driven…fighting unholy passions or getting in touch with God’s holy passions.

C.    I am going to take a different approach than you have probably heard regarding this subject of prayer.

D.   CS Lewis[2] has this fascinating quote that speaks to the issue of passion:
“Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires [i.e., passions] not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (Weight of Glory pgs 25-26).

E.    Most teaching on prayer focuses on petitionary prayer. Today I would like to focus more on preparing our hearts for petitionary prayer.

F.    We will be looking at 4 passages today:  Acts 1:12-14; Lk 11:2-4; Rom 14:17; & Jer 29:7.

G.   Acts 1:12-14 –  

12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

13When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.

14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

H.   I’d like to look closely at the phrase, from v. 14, continually devoting themselves to prayer.  (The NIV Bible says, They all joined together constantly in prayer.)  What  does this mean??  Our English Bibles do not do this phrase justice.

I.      There is one Greek word for the phrase, continually devoting themselves.  And that word is HOMOTHUMADON, which comes from two Greek words:

1.     HOMO – meaning same. homo – same; hetero – different

2.     THUMADON – Comes from the Gk word thumos and is often translated as rage or wrath.  There is, however, a noble thumos that burns for the good of others, for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, and thus it motivates people to act.  Wrath or rage anger is usually personal; born of envy, self-absorption, or vengence. Thumos is often translated as “spirited” or “passion.” It implies a focused indignation or fight.  (It is also the word we get our English trademarked word Thermos[3] from.)

HOMOTHMUDON is used 10 of its 12 NT occurrences in the Book of Acts.[4]

3.     So, our English translations certainly do not do justice to this volatile Greek word.  We can define HOMTHUMADON as: To be together, to become unified with a passionate fierceness and indignation – it’s a crying out for God’s purpose and order to be established.  (Remember, our battle is NOT against flesh and blood [Eph 6:12] – so the fieriness and indignation is not directed toward people – it speaks more of an attitude of desire.)

4.     Today we are going to ask the question – How does this happen?  How does this come about?

II.    BODY

A.   There are 2 holy passions I’d like for us to consider as we pursue passionate prayer for the upcoming season of fruitful ministry here at Southside…

A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.

A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

1.     A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.

a.     Luke’s shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer

2And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come’” [Very important words concerning prayer!]

3‘Give us each day our daily bread.
4‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’

b.     The Lord’s Prayer is a template.  There is both form and spontaneity (like jazz).

c.     Notice how v. 2 is God-focused – or, upward focused and vs. 3-4 begin to teach us about petitionary prayer.  For our purpose today, I’d like to zero-in on vs. 2.

d.     V. 2a — Father, hallowed be Your name

  • We address God as Father (Mat – “Our Father” in a family context)
  • When we pray, we are to begin with God.  Passionate prayer begins with a concern for and a preoccupation with God.
  • When we pray, Hallowed Be Your Name we are both asking for and declaring that God’s reputation, God’s renown, and God’s fame would be set apart esteemed, and honored as holy, — That God’s Name would be worshiped, treasured, and loved.
  • We are speaking (declaring) this both to ourselves.
  • And to our city.  (This is what was going on in the upper room!)
  • May our thoughts and emotions that arise at the mention of Your Name be worthy of God.  We don’t want to treat God lightly, or flippantly.  We don’t want God’s name to be treated as common — or of little consequence.
  • But that God would be primary – and at the center of our hearts and minds.  We seek this for ourselves AND for the people in our city (and around the world).
  • **We don’t need to make bigger commitments regarding prayer, the real need is to believe truer and more lofty thoughts about God…

e.     2b — Your kingdom come…

  • Last week we defined the KOG as the “rule and reign of God.”
    • The Christ Event established the KOG on the earth and it will be consummated when Jesus returns.  (Jesus pulls eternity into the present at stakes it with the Cross.)
    • Meanwhile we have partial but growing access to eternity.  The presence and power of God has been unleashed across the earth. (2 Cor 5:2 [NIV] “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling…”)
  • We position ourselves for passionate prayer by aligning ourselves with the God’s rule and reign in our lives.  This is also what was happening for those 10 days in the upper room (Acts 1:12-14)
  • When we pray: “Your Kingdom Come,” it’s a prayer that seeks to banish all the other modern day idols from our lives (primarily money, sex, and power).
  • Rom 14:17 – 17For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [temporal things], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
    • Gospel fruit – Where God reigns He brings these things into our lives.
    • Righteousness – (It’s like being pregnant – you either are or you aren’t.)  Roms 5 clearly tells us that righteousness is a gift – SO if we are lacking a sense of right standing (before God) there is either poor theology of what God offers us in Jesus OR there is resistance on our part.
    • Peace — Prince of Peace does not rule and reign in your heart?
    • Joy – Perhaps other masters have taken dominion?
    • Christ alone by grace alone, through faith alone (Mat 7:22-23).
  • The primary objective of God’s kingdom is not to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us… (There are still people to be saved from the wrath of hell.)

f.      So what am I saying about positioning ourselves for passionate prayer?

  • Passionate prayer begins with being God-focused, God-centered.  We don’t begin with our petitions, we begin with God.
  • We ELEVATE, WORSHIP, and GLORIFY the NAME of GOD. (Mission exists because worship doesn’t. –John Piper)
  • SURRENDER (ABANDON) your life to the KING.  God will take your sin (infection) and exchange (Luther) for right standing, peace, and joy.
  • Worship is not about the music – it’s, first and foremost, about the heart.
  • Baptism is important (Anabaptists – 16th century)

2.     A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

a.     Jeremiah 29:7 — Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

b.     This verse helps us to refocus toward a KOG orientation.  Church is great, but is not the goal.  Church is the fruit of kingdom activity/ministry.  Kingdom ministry begins with seeking the welfare of the city.

c.     What is our city? In the Bible it was the regional hub.  Paul was urban centric – because he knew if he reached the cities he would reach the culture – and the countryside.  Historians estimate that by 300 AD somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 the population of the Roman Empire was Christian.

d.     If you want to affect your world for Christ, seek the welfare of Manchester; if you want to affect the nations for Christ, seek the welfare of Manchester (the world is coming to Manchester, is it not?).

e.     The is Missional reorientation taking place in churches around the world.  We will be talking/praying about the more in the coming days – here it is in a nutshell…

  • How churches measure success is being redefined.  From “How do we get people to come?” to “How do we equip and mobilize our people to go?”

f.      You might be saying, “I’m already to busy just trying to keep my head above water!”  The missional question is, “How will we – or how do we – best represent Jesus Christ where God already has us?  Family, friends, neighborhoods, work, clubs, sports.”  Are you good news, bad news, or no news?

III.  CONCLUSION

A.    How do we become people of passionate prayer?  Ask God – individually and corporately – to grow IN us and then THROUGH us:

  1. A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.
  2. A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

B.    Next week: Gospel Shaped Mission (Acts 2)


[1] The message never changes, but the methods do.

[2] One of the most prolific and profound Christian authors of the 20th century.

[3] Genericized Trademarks – like Jacuzzi, Cellophane, Google – Thermos is a trademark name for a vacuum flask.

Gospel Shaped Core Values (Overview of Acts 1-2 developing some key core implicit values)

I.     INTRO – Sermon notes from May 8, 2011

A.  Diagnostic weekend – June 9th-12th.

B.  A team of about 7 people will be here to interview as many people from Southside as they can

C.  There will be an all-church meeting on Sun, June 12th where an initial oral report will be presented.

D.  We’ll be asking a lot of you that weekend to come in for an interview and then attend the all-church meeting to participate in the report.

E.  Why study Acts?

  1. Intro Acts Series: The Gospel Chronicles: How God Shapes and Builds the Church.  A Study in the Book of Acts Part 1 – Part 1 (Acts 1-9).
  2. We will be in Acts 1&2 for the next 3 weeks.
  3. In addition to the themes covered in the first few chapters of Acts (that Dana spoke about last week), I can think of at least 3 similarities between Acts 1 and SBF…
  • The Christ followers were a people in transition…as we’ll see, things didn’t turn out the way they expected.
  • In the midst of some anxiety and disappointment, they began to connect the dots and run with a vision they never expected.
  • A relatively few people (120) blossomed into a church that reached its full redemptive purpose.

F.    7 Refocusing questions that we will address here at Southside during this transition season:

  1. Who has God shaped us to be? (Core Values)
  2. Why do we exist as a church? (Biblical Mission)
  3. Where is God leading us in the future? (Fresh Vision)
  4. Whom has God called us to reach? (Ministry Focus)
  5. Which ministry model best facilitates our vision? (Building authentic community)
  6. What ministry goals can we believe God for?
  7. What is our plan for ministry for the next 2-3 years? (Strategic map)

G.    What’s a Core Value?  An enduring belief, a preferred choice.  Core values are the essence of a church’s identity.

  1. Those few, select distinctives that are non-negotiable.
  2. Where is Southside’s God-given potential for greatness?
  3. There is a difference between stated values and practiced values.  Stated values are often religious values that people/churches think they should
    have.  Practiced values are the unique distinctives that a church is actually doing.  Practiced values ask the question, “What are we currently doing that has the potential for greatness?”
  4. There is a difference between implicit values and explicit values.  Implicit values are implied values – while they may be clearly formed or articulated, they are not stated.  Explicit values are definitive and clearly stated.  Churches, with explicit, practiced values know who they are and who they aren’t.  All opportunities for ministry are evaluated in the light of God given values, mission, and vision.

H.   Today we will look at some of the practiced, implicit values that launched the church in Acts.  These implicit values are salted through the first 2 chapters.

I.   We can think of it like a football game – we don’t know what play they called in the huddle, but when they run the play we find out what play was called.

II.   BODY

A.    Implicit Values of Acts (Alternatively known as The Church I Would Join)

1.     They were Kingdom Focused — Acts 1:3 (NAS) “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”  

a.     The Kingdom of God – Quite simply is: The rule and reign of God.

  • The KOG is our destination.
  • Jesus established the Kingdom at his first coming and will consummate the Kingdom at his second coming. Jesus reaches into eternity and pulls it into the present – and stakes it into the ground with the Cross.  “We live in the presence of the future.”  “The already and the not yet.” 
  • As we live in the presence of the future there is paradox (seeming contradiction).  We are saved, but working out our salvation; we are sanctified, yet being sanctified; we are healed yet being healed. It’s both present and future
  • One of the most dynamic aspects of the present reality of the KOG, is that within it is the power that raised Jesus from the dead is made available to us.  The Greek word is dunamis – the same word we get “dynamite” from – and which we find in Acts 1:8. 
  • The Church is the fruit of kingdom activity.
  • The demands of the Kingdom are that we repent; we are to place God first, and follow him at any cost.

b.  Kingdom is a gospel word – along with the Cross and Grace that form a theological construct to help us see the under-girding of the gospel throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation:

  • The Cross – Speaks of the Atoning Work of Jesus Christ
    • This is shorthand for the “5-Fold Christ Event”: 1) Virgin Birth, 2) Miraculous Ministry, 3) Degrading Death, 4) Victorious Resurrection, 5) Missional Ascension of Jesus Christ. 
    • Apart from the atoning work of Christ, we would be forever guilty, ashamed, and condemned before God.
    • The way of God is suffering/humility – and then glory.  This is what baptism is supposed to be about – I will die to my previous life and come alive to God – and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Grace – The unmerited favor of God.  Acceptance is given to us freely at God’s expense.  Martin Luther calls it, “the great exchange.”
    • It’s important that we understand there is common grace and saving grace happens when we take up residence within the KOG.  
    • Definition: All that God is, lavishly poured into you. 
    • Jonathan Edwards speaks of grace as, “the very Holy Ghost dwelling in the soul and acting there as a vital principle.”[1]

2.     They were Humble, Prayerful, & Unified“And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying…14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”   Acts 1:13, 14 (NAS)

a.     Humble prayers of confession and repentance before/with God and one another.

b.     Corporate prayer leading to intercession – reminding the Lord of His word/promises.

c.     Unity is a fruit, not a goal

3.     They were Holy Spirit Empowered

1:4Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5forJohn baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

2:1,4And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place…4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…

a.     John 4:24 — God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

b.     Eph 5:17-21 –  17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, [we apparently need to be continually, or regularly, filled with the HS – Why?  Because we leak!]

19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

    c.  Two points

  • (Jn) We are to seek to live in the healthy tension of spirit and truth.
  • (Eph) HS infilling occurs when our hearts are worshipful, when we are grateful, and we walk in mutual submission.

d.  John Piper: “Mission exists because worship doesn’t.” (Supremacy of God In Missions)

4.  They delivered Contextualized Gospel Presentations16No! What you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel”   Acts 2:15,16 (TLB)

5.  They engaged in Honest/Straightforward Gospel Presentations – Acts 2:23, 36…

23this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

36“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.”

6.  They were Outward Focused (Missional)“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”   Acts 2:41 (NIV)

a.     There is a missional refocusing going on in the Church today.
b.     We are all called to be missionaries.  The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit send us.
c.     Changing metrics…

7.     They were Intentional About Discipleship and Authentic Community (They lived Community in the context of Discipleship) – Acts 2:42-47

And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  44And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;  45and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.  46And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

8.     As a result of living out these values – they were Fruitful

a.     “A sense of awe,” or a healthy fear of the Lord (v.43)

b.     Wonders & signs (v.43)

c.     Community (vs.44-47)

  • Identification
  • Equality
  • Unity
  • Enthusiastic joy
  • Praise
  • Favor with all the people
  • Salvation’s (v.47)

III. CONCLUSION

A.   What does it mean to be Gospel centered? (Or, Christ centered?)

B.    My experience is that the North American Church has lost, or squandered, much of the power – and the breadth of the Gospel.

  1. I have been reminded recently that the Gospel is not advice – it is news.  It is, in fact, the ultimate Good News. Sunday mornings are not the place to give advice.
  2. Gospel-centered ministry is rooted in remembrance.  On Sunday mornings we are to remind one another primarily of what Jesus Christ has done, not what we must do.

C.    Many of us have tended to view the Gospel a message that we responded to many years ago – and then moved on from.  Yet the Gospel is more like an ocean.  It is deep, and wide, and vast.

  1. We are called to view, and engage, and respond to the gospel with every passage of Scripture we read, or study.
  2. I would suggest that the essence of Christian maturity is when the Gospel itself gets worked in – and through our lives.
  3. Here is my goal for you – and for Southside: My aim is that you would experience Jesus (my goal for you is experiential) as the sovereign, risen, living, Lord of the universe – and as the source and the content of your real hope and joy. Two things are necessary:
  • God’s liberating truth
  • God’s liberating grace.

4.  What is the evidence of salvation?

  • Fruitfulness
  • What is your deepest desire?
  • True Christians have conflicted desires to be sure.  True Christians struggle, and sin, and mess up – to be sure. Yet, the deepest desire of the true Christian is for Jesus and the unfolding of the gospel.
  • Non-Christians – and you could say false Christians also have conflicted desires, yet their deepest desire is for themselves, or for ease, or comfort – something other than the person of Jesus Christ.  (The simplest definition of idolatry is making a good thing an ultimate thing.)

Next week: Persistent and Passionate Prayer (Acts 1: 13-14).


[1] Jonathan Edwards, TREATISE ON GRACE.

The Missional Reorientation of the Church

I was recently a part of a diagnostic team that conducted an in-depth analysis of a church on the east coast. One of the important recommendations is for them to turn outward in some fresh new ways. The following article will be included in the final report as an appendix resource…

Missional means adopting the posture of a missionary, learning and adapting to the culture around you while remaining biblically sound. (from Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer)

For the church, the concept of maintenance is the one-word summary of the Christendom church paradigm that has been in place for some 1,710 years since Constantine became Roman emperor[1]and made Christianity the “state religion.” In Western Christendom, the church existed in a friendly environment and occupied the seat of influence, if not power. Today the church has been marginalized, pushed to the edge of western society.[2] The good news for us as 21st century followers of Christ is that God inspired marginalized people to write the Bible to other marginalized people. This is key, and holds great promise and adventure for us in these days ahead.

Intentionally moving from maintenance mode to missional mode involves a theological reorientation that proactively shifts from an ecclesiocentric[3] understanding of mission to a theocentric[4] reconceptualization of Christian mission.[5] In other words, the church becomes the fruit of missional activity, not the goal. As this new paradigm forms, a radical shift begins as missional praxis (practice) takes on fresh perspective. In this sense missional praxis includes missions–and much more. It brings together evangelism and social action and invites every member of the church to contextualize the gospel of Jesus Christ into the subcultures where our lives are spent beyond the church property – neighborhoods, extended family, the workplace, clubs, and other social groupings. Every member becomes a missionary.

The mission of the church, according to the late missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, is not merely an interpretation of history; it is a history making force.[6] Newbigin also noted, that the real challenge for Christianity is the conversion of a culture. During the Enlightenment there was a shift in the location of reliable truth from the story told in the Bible to the “eternal truths of reason,”[7] of which the mathematical physics of Newton offered the supreme model. These “eternal truths of reason,” required no faith and doubted everything except what could be measured and proved.

This emerging missional perspective is further enhanced by author and professor Charles Van Engen’s definition of mission, “God’s mission works primarily through the people of God as they intentionally cross barriers from Church to non-church, faith to non-faith, to proclaim by word and deed the coming of God in Jesus Christ.”[8]

Each local church becomes a missional community described as the pilgrim people of God who are on a journey towards the fullness of the reign of God.[9] Missional communities of faith no longer see the church service as the primary connecting point with those outside the community (of faith). Connecting with those outside happens during the week with those whom God has sovereignly placed in our lives within the various sub-cultures of our own local community. As we personally and authentically engage Christ – and then listen to, serve, love, and share the gospel with those around us, we act as missionaries to our culture.

As churches see their present community as a mission field. Leadership of a mission outpost is practiced with faithfulness and on-going compassion, knowing that for many years to come it will remain a mission outpost. It does not have the goal of becoming a churched-culture local church. The spirit of a mission outpost is one of mission, whereas the spirit of a churched-culture local church is one of maintenance focused on membership vs. salvation, maintenance vs. societal outreach, and dollars vs. meeting specific human hurts and hopes.[10]

Most traditional mission sending agencies in North America and Europe have, in general, failed to recognize that the most urgent contemporary mission field can now be found in our own back yards, and that the most aggressive paganism with which we have to engage is the ideology that now controls the “developed” world.[11]

The entire Bible is to be viewed as a “manual in mission,” or as one missiologist has said, “There is only one scriptural symbol that corresponds to the question of the dynamic and functional relation of the Church to the world. That symbol is mission.”[12] Finally, Van Engen also suggests that leadership effectiveness, as we move toward a missional praxis mindset, need not be measured by accomplishments, but how God’s people are equipped, empowered, inspired, and organized to participate with God’s mission.[13]

Congregations should no longer expect the community to exclusively come to us.  The Great Commission (Mat. 28:18-20) calls us to go.  There is a difference between a go ye church and a come ye church. Local missional praxis ministry involves the people of God crossing barriers to serve the other.  For congregations with well cared for facilities, mix missional outreach with ministries that go off-campus as well as workshops and classes that showcase the campus.

In measuring its effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, “How many visitors have we attracted?” The missional praxis congregation asks, “How many members have we sent?”

Unchurched adults interested in finding a congregation aren’t nearly as likely to visit one in person as a churched person who is shopping for a new congregation. This means effective evangelism must begin outside the church building in relationships between Christians and unbelievers, according to research the attractional model of Church (come ye) generally attracts transfer growth, while a missional model of Church (go ye) generally attracts a higher conversion growth percentage. It’s not either-or, but both-and.


[1] Ogden, Greg. Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry To the People of God. Zondervan, Rev. 2003.

[2] A primary reason for this is that the church has lost much of its moral authority due to imposing a “Christian” moralism without gospel-changed hearts, which often led to cruelty, hypocrisy, and the abuse of power and authority.

[3] Or, church-centered.

[4] To God-centered.

[5] Guder, Darrell L., and Lois Barrett. Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1998:4.

[6] Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1989: 131.

[7] Newbigin, Lesslie. Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship, Eerdmans 1995:73.

[8] Fuller Theological Seminary: MP502, Lecture 1.

[9] Guder: 204

[10] Freeman, Robert E., Fuller Theological Seminary: ML525 Leadership Selection and Training in the Info-Tech Age. Lesson 1 — PARADIGMS OF ADULT TRAINING IN MISSION.

[11] Newbigin, Lesslie. The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (Revised). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995:10.

[12] Bosch, David J. The Why and How of a True Biblical Foundation for Mission. Reprinted as Hermeneutical Principles in the Biblical Foundation for Mission, Evangelical Review of Theology 17(4): 437-451, Oct. 1993.

[13] Van Engen, Charles. God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991: 176.

The Conversion of John Wesley – at 34

One of my historical, or literary, mentors is John Wesley the great revivalist of the eighteenth century and the founder of Methodism.

Wesley grew up in a Christian home, the fifteenth child of Samuel Wesley and his wife Susanna Annesley.  (Samuel and Susanna had nineteen children, of which nine died as infants and four were twins.)  Wesley’s father was a poet and pastor and his mother was particularly devoted, daily committing quality time with each of her children. Wesley attended seminary at Oxford and served as deacon in his father’s church.  Eventually, at the age of thirty-two Wesley decided to serve as a missionary to the Americas.  James Hutton, an acquaintance saw him off when he sailed to Georgia and corresponded with him after he reached America.  Wesley related how a group of Moravians sailing on the same ship sang hymns of praise in the midst of a great storm and how they answered those who asked whether they were afraid,  “We are neither afraid for ourselves nor for our children.”  Hutton in his book relates scenes of the Moravians, after they arrived in Savannah Georgia, felling timber, constructing houses, preaching to the Indians, and holding a song meeting all to the amazement and delight of John Wesley.

Hutton also describes the influence of these Moravians continued to have on John Wesley, “He talked much with the learned August Gottlieb Spangenberg, after he arrived in Georgia.

“My brother,” said Spangenberg to Wesley, “Do you know Jesus Christ?”

“I know,” replied Wesley,  “that Jesus Christ died for my sins.”

“That’s not what I asked you,” pursued Spangenberg, pressing the question further home,

“Do you know Jesus Christ?”  “I hope He has died to save me,” stammered Wesley.

“Do you know yourself?” persisted Spangenberg, who was not content with skin-deep work.

“No,” replied Wesley, and added, “I long to know Jesus Christ.” And Wesley stumbled on as dazed as ever.

“I went to America to convert the Indians,” he wrote, bitterly, in his Journal, on his way home to England; “but oh, who shall convert me?  I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and I believe myself, when no danger is near. But let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, ‘to die is gain.’ I have a sort of fear that when I have spun my last thread I shall perish on the shore. I have learned that I who went to America to convert others was not converted myself.”[1]

The Moravian Peter Bohler was leading a bible study in London’s Fetter Lane. A historian writes, ‘Charles [Wesley, John’s brother] and John were in almost daily contact with Bohler.’

Peter Boehler said one day to John Wesley, “My brother, my brother, that philosophy of yours must be purged away.”

When John Wesley complained, “Ah, how can I preach the faith which I have not got?”

Peter Boehler answered, “Preach faith till you have it, and then, because you have it, you will preach it.”

“’In the evening,’ says Wesley, ‘I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to [his commentary on] Romans.  About a quarter before nine while he was describing the change God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.  I felt I did trust in Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’”[2]

Finally, John Wesley got his breakthrough.  He had already discussed justification by faith with Peter Bohler, but this was different.

At 34 years of age he was finally born again.

After this Wesley followed Whitefield’s example and began preaching both justification by faith and the new birth in the churches. And one by one, the Anglican church leaders resisted him.

It wasn’t long before these newly converted ‘Methodists’, George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley, began to gather others together to seek God for greater blessings.

Although the Wesleys and Whitefield parted ways (Whitefield was a Calvinist and the Wesleys Arminian), over the next 40 years these men would literally change the world.  It’s never too late…


[1] J.E. Hutton, A Short History of the Moravian Church (London: Moravian Publication Office, 1895), p. 189.

[2]. John Wesley Journal, May 24th 1738, Vol. 1. p.103.

The 10 Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality

Linda and I would like to start a time-defined group in Santa Barbara to develop some relationships and consider the topic of emotionally healthy spirituality.  We anticipate using Peter Scazzero‘s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.  The following is a quick overview of an article he wrote…

A person can grow emotionally healthy without Christ. I can think of a number of non-Christian people who are more loving, balanced and civil than many church members I know. At the same time a person can be really into prayer, silence, Scripture, and other Xian disciplines and be emotionally immature and socially maladjusted.  It is the 2 together – emotional health and contemplative spirituality – that release great power to transform our spiritual lives, our small groups and our churches.

The pathway out of this disconnect is radical. That is, it very likely cuts to the root of your entire approach to following Jesus. Trimming a few branches by, for example, attending a prayer retreat or adding a couple of new spiritual disciplines to an already crowded life will not be enough. The enormity of the problem is such that only a revolution in our following of Jesus will bring about the lasting, profound change we long for in our lives.

Before I prescribe this pathway, it is essential for us to clearly identify the primary symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality that continue to wreck havoc in our personal lives and our churches. The following are the top ten symptoms indicating if I am suffering from a bad case of emotionally unhealthy spirituality.

  1. Using God to run from God (e.g. applying Scripture selectively to suit my own purposes, not me doing God’s will.
  2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear (e.g. not being honest with myself and/or others about the feelings, hurts and pains beneath the surface of my life).
  3. Dying to the wrong things (e.g. denying healthy, God-given desires and pleasures of life (friendships, joy, music, beauty, laughter, nature) while finding it difficult to die to my self-protectiveness, defensiveness, a lack of vulnerability and judgmentalism).
  4. Denying the past’s impact on the present (e.g. not considering how my family of origin and significant  people/events from my past have shaped my present).
  5. Dividing life into “secular” and “sacredcompartments (e.g.  compartmentalizing God to “Christian activities” while usually forgetting about him when I am working, shopping, studying or recreating).
  6. Doing for God instead of being with God (e.g. evaluating my spirituality based on how much I am doing for God).
  7. Spiritualizing away conflict (e.g. Missing out on true peace by smoothing over disagreements, burying tensions and avoiding conflict – rather than disrupting the false peace like Jesus).
  8. Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure (e.g. not speaking freely about my weaknesses, failures and mistakes).
  9. Living without limits (e.g. “trying to do it all” or “bite off more than I can chew”).
  10. Judging the spiritual journeys of others (e.g. finding myself occupied and bothered by the faults of others).

What God did in our lives spilled out into the church immediately, beginning with our staff team, then our elder board and eventually the rest of our leadership.

The result has been a rippling effect, very slowly, through the entire church.

Beginning with the staff and elders, interns, ministry and small group leaders– directly and indirectly–we have intentionally integrated the principles that are explained more fully in The Emotionally Healthy Church (Zondervan 2003) and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Nelson, 2006).

Once you go through the door and leave what I am calling “emotionally unhealthy spirituality,” there is no turning back. It is the beginning of a journey that will change your life, your marriage, your church and, ultimately, your ministry!

To see the full article click here.