Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Poverty - Roots and Fruits

What I like about this article - Calls us to be proactive, do our best, and believe in the goodness of God, as opposed to being passive, grumbling and complaining, waiting for others/God to do something for us.

What I dont like about this article - Suggests that success is always in the plan of God for all, so long as we keep trying and not give up. Disasters and failures (akin to poverty) seem to have no place in the theology of this article. But the bible clearly teaches about the poor and poverty. Did not Paul say that he had learned how to be content in all circumstances, in poverty and in abandance.

Poverty - Roots and Fruits – John Garfield

The Sound of Poverty - I want to suggest a simple axiom that will help us understand why it's hard to let go of poverty in both theology and practice. "If we believe we're inherently sinful it's nearly impossible to believe that God would want us to be successful in promotions or finances or influence or mountains." Success would simply be a platform for greater levels of sinfulness. To make this point stick, I want to share a couple of paragraphs I received in a newsletter this week. Listen to the tone.
Worshipping Success - Though you may find it hard to believe, there is an addiction more subtle and more powerful than either drugs or pornography. It’s older than prostitution, more prevalent than alcohol, more addictive than cocaine. It doesn’t discriminate between male and female, black or white, young or old, rich or poor. Its strength is greater than all other addictions combined. It’s as rampant in the Church as it is in the world. It leaves the body unscathed but destroys the soul. The vast majority of people addicted have little if any understanding of its power or perils.
The history of the worship of success dates back to Lucifer, the rebellious archangel who wanted to relegate God to a subordinate role and take the ‘top gun’ position for himself. This desire for success soon spread throughout the earth like a cancer, reaching its pinnacle with mankind seeking to build a tower and to make for themselves a name. What a contrast in attitudes we find between Genesis 11 and 12. Chapter 11 exposes man striving for recognition, while chapter 12 we find God promising humble Abraham that He would make his name great.
We could also add a verse:
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap ! and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Tim 6:9-10 NIV
Why Choose Poverty! - Both the exhortation in the paragraphs and the Paul's warning have their place. However, what we've received in our hearts from an overemphasis on those warnings produced a foundation for poverty in our lives. Those words are so strong that we would never risk success at the possible expense of our salvation. We view ourselves as too sin-oriented to ever trust ourselves with success. We dial our initiative back to just waiting for God (or someone else) to do something so we can flow with it. Our only goal is to stay in the boat - no walking on water.
Responsibility is Key to Spiritual Success - We've often heard that it's easier to get God's people out of Egypt than to get Egypt out of God's people. It's very true. Israel wandered 40 years in a desert that could have been crossed in a couple of weeks at a leisurely walk. The "slave mentality" left the people wanting others to do everything for them. They wouldn't take responsibility; they stuck with their programming to: 1) do as they were told, 2) expect someone else to take care of them, and 3) complain about the whole process.
Slaves will not fight for themselves or for God; they cannot be trusted in spiritual warfare. Although Israel was armed with the weapons for battle when they left Egypt they didn't have the mind for it. Sadly - that describes the present, passive state of many believers today. We have the armor, but not the attitude.
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle. Ex 13:17-18 NIV
Caleb had a different spirit. He was willing to take responsibility to inherit his land. He was anything but passive. He didn't expect anyone else to fight his battles for him even when he was 85.
But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. Num 14:23-24 NIV
So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. Josh 14:10-12 NIV
Maturity Is? - Contrary to popular belief, spiritual maturity comes when we are willing to say yes to success. We're not called to be monks; we're called to take mountains! We not only have to agree to the possibility of success, we have to take the steps to make it happen ourselves. This may surprise you, but God will not hand your inheritance to you until you have the stomach to kill some giants and the ability to manage finances. Yes, it's yours in the will of God, but God is waiting for you to show some initiative. That's how real spiritual maturity works. The idea that God does it all while we believe and pray and obey is simply a false concept rooted in poverty theology... Good for slaves - bad for Kings.
It's your responsibility before God to manage your inheritance and make your dream come true. Slaves will wait and murmur and try to sound spiritual doing it; you cannot. You are a steward of the dream in your heart. God expects you to use wisdom, management, finances, business plans, and take some risks to make it happen. His favor will follow your initiative. You won't get guidance on every detail. God has left many decisions to your free will. How specific is, "Be fruitful and multiply"? You're created in His image to have dominion over the earth and you carry His will in your heart.
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion... Gen 1:27-28 NKJV
PS: You're going to experience a few setbacks along the way. It's OK. Keep going. Learn from your mistakes. Take responsibility for your success in the Kingdom.
John & Sue

Church As Family, A Communiy, Not A Corporation

Church As Family by Frank Viola

Surprisingly, the Bible never defines the church. Instead, it presents it through a number of different metaphors. One of the reasons why the New Testament gives us numerous metaphors to depict the church is because the church is too comprehensive and rich to be captured by a single definition or metaphor. Unfortunately, our tendency is to latch on to one particular metaphor and understand the ekklesia through it alone. But by latching on to just one metaphor—whether it be the body, the army, the temple, the bride, the vineyard, or the city—we lose the message that the other metaphors convey. The result: Our view of the church will become limited at best or lopsided at worst.

The Chief Metaphor
Do you know what metaphor for the church dominates the New Testament? It’s the family.

The writings of Paul, Peter, and John in particular are punctuated with the language and imagery of family. (See Gal. 6:10;Rom. 8:29; Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 5:1–2; 3:15; 1 Peter 2:2; 1 John 2:12–13, etc.)
While the New Testament authors depict the church with a variety of different images, their favorite image is the family. Familial terms like “new birth,” “children of God,” “sons of God,” “brethren,” “fathers,” “brothers,” “sisters,” and “household” saturate the New Testament writings.
In all of Paul’s letters to the churches, he speaks to the “brethren”—a term that includes both brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul uses this familial term more than 130 times in his epistles. So without question, the New Testament is filled with the language and imagery of family.

In stark contrast, the dominating metaphor that’s typically constructed for the church today is the business corporation. The pastor is the CEO. The clergy and/or staff is upper management. Evangelism is sales and marketing. The congregation is the clientele. And there is competition with other corporations (“churches”) in the same town.
But the corporation metaphor has a major problem. Not only is it glaringly absent from the New Testament, it does violence to the spirit of Christianity. Because from God’s standpoint, the church is primarily a family. His family, in fact.
Most Christians have no trouble giving glib assent to the idea that the church is a family. Yet giving mental assent to the family nature of the church is vastly different from fleshing out its sober implications. It would do us well to look closely at the family metaphor and discuss the practical implications that are connected with it. As you read through each aspect, I want to challenge you to compare your church to each one. Ask yourself this question: Is my church living in the reality of being the family of God?

(1) The Members Take Care of One AnotherBecause the church is family, its members take care of one another. Think about the natural family (assuming that it’s healthy). Families take care of their own. Isn’t it true that you take care of your natural blood? And they take care of you? If your mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter has a problem, do you say, “Sorry, don’t bother me,” or do you take care of them?
A true family takes care of its own, does it not?
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14–17)
This passage puts a finger on the meaning of real faith. Real faith expresses itself in acts of love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. To paraphrase James, “If you say you have faith, but you neglect your brother or sister who is in physical need … then your faith is dead.” The “action” James is talking about is not prayer or Bible study, but acts of love toward our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

(2) The Members Spend Time Together

Because the church is family, the members take time to know one another. That is, they spend time together outside of scheduled meetings.
Question: Do the members of your church see one another only during scheduled services? Are you in contact with them during the week? Do you share meals together? Consider the organic instincts of the Jerusalem church at work:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.… Every day they continued to meet together.… They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. (Acts 2:42, 46)
The early Christians had lives that interacted with one another. This was the church’s DNA at work. If we follow our spiritual instincts, we will have an innate desire to gather together often. Why? Because the Holy Spirit serves as a kind of magnet that organically draws Christians together. The Holy Spirit puts within the hearts of all genuine believers a desire for authentic community.
The Bible says that the Jerusalem church met daily. Interestingly, the assembly in Jerusalem wasn’t the only church that gathered together on a daily basis. Some thirty years later, the writer of Hebrews exhorts the Christians to “encourage one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). And yet today, in most contemporary churches, the only fellowship time that one gets is two minutes when the pastor says, “Turn around and greet the people behind you.”
On Sunday mornings, we clock in and we clock out. Granted, we may grab a little more time in the parking lot as we make a beeline to our car. But can we really call that fellowship? Let’s be honest: For many Christians, the church is simply an event one attends once or twice a week, and that’s all.

(3) The Family is Community not CorporationAgain, the New Testament writers never use the imagery of a business corporation to depict the church. Unlike many modern “churches,” the early Christians knew nothing of spending colossal figures on building programs and projects at the expense of bearing the burdens of their fellow brethren.
In this way, many contemporary churches have essentially become nothing more than high-powered enterprises that bear more resemblance to General Motors than they do to the apostolic community.
A great many churches have succumbed to the intoxicating seductions of an individualistic, materialistic, business-oriented, consumer-driven, self-serving society. And when everything is boiled down, the success of the enterprise rests upon the shoulders of the CEO—the pastor.

In short, the church that’s introduced to us in Scripture is a loving household, not a business. It’s a living organism, not a static organization. It’s the corporate expression of Jesus Christ, not a religious corporation. It’s the community of the King, not a well-oiled hierarchical machine.
As such, when the church is functioning according to its nature, it offers:
• interdependence instead of independence
• wholeness instead of fragmentation
• participation instead of spectatorship
• connectedness instead of isolation
• solidarity instead of individualism
• spontaneity instead of institutionalization
• relationship instead of programs
• servitude instead of dominance
• enrichment instead of insecurity
• freedom instead of bondage
• community instead of corporation
• bonding instead of detachment.

In the language of the apostles, the church is composed of infants, little children, young men, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers—the language and imagery of family (1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Tim. 5:1–2; James 2:15; 1 John 2:13–14).

(The above article has been adapted from Reimagining Church. Visit for details.)
Frank Viola is an author, conference speaker, and church planter. He is the author of Pagan Christianity? (co-authored with George Barna) and the new book, Reimagining Church (David C. Cook, 2008) which presents a powerful vision of organic church life that’s marked by authentic community, Christ-centerdness, and meetings where every member of the body ministers according to his or her gifts.