The following is an article I received today from Roberto Bottrel, who is serving European churches by helping them multiply via cell-group ministry. If you remember, this very subject is what we talked about the first Sunday we had to go online. You might want to take a listen again, if you have forgotten.
Anyway, enjoy and get ready to embrace the future.
The Church Has Left the Building
We have had many opportunities to experience new things during this crisis. We all had to adapt to the limitations of the quarantine, thus obliging us to question and change basically everything regarding church life. I loved it. It has been a great time to shake many unquestionable and unchangeable “truths” that, as many found out the hard way, were only traditions, church culture, or ordinary habits.
What really matters and will definitely change the church was one fact: the church had to leave the building. And finally, we all had to actually live what we believed: the church is not a building. And I think most churches realized, in practical terms, that it is all about people. Many communities are more alive now in the quarantine than before. There has been more interaction, with members connecting to each other on a daily basis, living real and practical caring, and serving as a loving community. But, unfortunately, this is not happening with all communities. There is a huge difference according to the existing structures (or church model)
1. The cell churches (outward focused) were quite ready for the crisis and had little difficulties to adapt since almost 100% of the members were in a cell group. Everybody was already under the radar and could be looked after and well taken care of by his own small community. And with the mission at hand, they continue to seize the opportunities to reach out to people and make more disciples.
2. The churches that had a small group structure (inward focused) were also better off, although their problem was that usually, they did not get more than 50% onboard in those groups. So what to do with the other 50%? For many, it was frustrating to see that the failure of enrolling all members was now taking its toll.
3. Now, when you think of churches that were based only on Sunday services and activities promoted by church ministries (youth, worship, couples, etc)… what a challenge they are facing. Where is everybody? How are people handling the crisis? Does anybody need help? How can a centralized structure handle this? And even when the pandemic is over, we might still have to face long term gathering limitations. Life may never return to what once was normal. How are these churches going to handle this?
Well, the other day I heard a senior pastor of a great church calling his members to engage in the new small group environment that was being developed and would be implemented in the following weeks. Therefore, I believe everybody will come to the same conclusion as they did: the church can no longer depend solely on large gatherings and centralized activities. That is definitely not how the early church rocked the world in their days. And, definitely, it will not be how we impact ours. Let’s welcome the small communities of believers with a clear mission of making disciples!
Buckle up. Changes ahead.
For more, go to the Joel Comiskey Group.
Right now, we as a nation and as the church are in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic that has some unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances. We are currently mandated by our government to stay at home and practice social distancing. Which, in effect, means no corporate church services. No normal business activities. No hugging our grandchildren or shaking hands with a friend. No picnics at the park, no day trips to the mountains, no shopping at the mall, no having friends over for dinner. All of that has changed.
But so has our culture. Our economy is in a free-fall. Unemployment claims are greater, much greater, than in the time of the great depression. Small businesses are closing at a rate unseen in our lifetime and the future looks dim, at best. Liquor stores and abortion clinics are deemed essential, but churches are not. And since lawlessness has increased greatly, “the love of many,” as Jesus foretold, “has grown cold” (Matt. 24:12).
These are truly desperate times.
But could God be trying to tell us something by all that is happening around us? Is He trying to get a message to us, a warning? And, if so, what is that message and why are we as a people so obstinate and hard of hearing?
We know, from Scripture, that God warns His people primarily in two ways. One, by sending them a prophet, a prophetic voice in their generation to proclaim the words of the Lord. God often sent a Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or John the Baptist to bring His people back to repentance before He chastised them for their sins. Unfortunately, because of our collective pride, we in the West are not particularly open to a modern-day Isaiah or a proclamation of “Thus says the Lord!” from anyone.
So often God warns His people the second way, by a remedial judgment. He allows storms, plagues, war, famine, or pestilence to bring us to our knees and allows us to realize that God is God and we are not. God often humbles us by showing us how much we are not in control.
Could that be what is happening right now? And, if so, what warning are we failing to heed? And what changes do we need to make in our lives right now?
Remember, God is sovereign. That doesn’t mean He is the cause of suffering and death. No, our sin brought that upon us. That blood is on our own hands. But what it does mean is that nothing happens in our lives, good or bad, without His permission. Why? Because He is sovereign. He is good and gracious and holy, but foremost, He is sovereign.
The Blessings and the Curses
In Deuteronomy, we find a list of promises God gave to Israel that also applies to each of us today, as individuals and as a nation (and church). They are found in Deuteronomy 28. In this chapter, God gives His people one grand if/then promise. If they will “diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, (how) to observe carefully all His commandments” (Deut. 28:1), then an incredible, breathtaking list of blessings will follow. In fact, the Lord says “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake (overwhelm) you, (why) because you obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deut. 28:2). Did you catch that? His blessings will literally overtake them (you can’t outrun the blessings of God), and literally overwhelm them.
Would you like to be blessed like that? Then read the rest of the if conditions in Deuteronomy 28:3-14.
But there is a dark side. It is the consequence of not meeting God’s if/then standard. He says:
“But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deut. 28:15).
And as wonderful as the blessings are, the curses are much worse. Much! And we are seeing many of them manifest right before our eyes.
If you are wondering what you and your church can do to prepare your hearts for God’s possible remedial judgments, keep listening. For our days ahead may be dark indeed.
The following is a study on the Prophetic Implications of the Covid 19 virus and Deuteronomy 28.
When we have the discernment that Jesus spoke about to know the “signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3), it becomes clear we are living in the last days. In fact, there are several key signs that bring us to this conclusion.
- The regathering of Israel into their own land
- The surging apostasy
- The coming Middle East peace
- The reuniting of the Roman Empire (East, West, both?)
For the church today, the most important of these prophetic signs is the rising tide of apostasy or defection from God and the Christian faith. We see this happening almost daily within the ranks of the church. As we have already discussed, apostasy means to “depart, revolt, or forsake. It is a deliberate defection from a formerly held religious position.” Apostasy doesn’t necessarily mean a total rejection of God or the authority of His Scripture. Apostasy can come in stages. It usually begins with a defection from a section of Scripture or a specific teaching that is incompatible with the current cultural church mood. Some examples are the issue of homosexuality, divorce, women pastors, abortion, or a myriad of other issues that divide the Body today. And once a small defection takes place, full-blown apostasy is not far behind.
But this shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Jesus said in Matthew 24 the greatest sign of His return was deception. And He warned His disciples about that deception four times (Matt. 24:4, 5,11, 24). He even went so far as to say the deception at the end would be so great that, if it was possible, even the elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24). And the elect includes Peter, Paul, James and John, Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, Spurgeon, Billy Graham, and you and me. That’s a sobering thought that should not be taken lightly.
So what can we do to prepare for the coming apostasy?
The Apostasy is Coming
Or, how do we prevent falling prey to the deception that will only get greater as the Day approaches? Great question. You must know what you believe, and why. You must personally experience God for who He is. You cannot ride on the coattails of another’s faith. Your faith must be your own. And you must understand how overwhelmingly powerful the deception will be in the end times and be prepared.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Has God ever revealed Himself to you in an unmistakable fashion that left no doubt? Has He ever revealed Himself to you through His Word? If so, what was that experience like? How did it change your view of Scripture? Do you hunger for more of Him? Has that hunger led you to read more of His Word? And if not, why?
Once you begin to understand the power of His Word and the wisdom He gives you through His Word, what the world offers is nothing more than pocket change. You, through Him, have more wisdom than the talking heads on CNN. You have more understanding than those who make acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards and spend that time telling you how to live. You are the dwelling place of God Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, which makes you a living sanctuary of the Presence of God.
Tell me what the world has that you don’t. Exactly. Nuthin’!
The following is a study on How to Prepare for the Coming Apostasy and 1 Corinthians 2.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
As the Scriptures claim, one of the greatest signs of the end is the mass defection or apostasy from the Christian faith by those who once claimed to be believers. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, warns that the “Spirit expressly says that (when) in latter times (who) some (what) will depart from the faith, (how) giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). This great apostasy is characterized by a rebellion or revolt against God and His Word. And it is promoted by those who once claimed Jesus as Lord but are now “giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” Peter says “scoffers will come in the last days” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Jude calls them “mockers” (Jude 17-19).
So what are we to do in the face of this great apostasy? How do we answer skeptics when they demand we “prove our God exists?” How do we defend our faith in the unseen God? What are we to do? Historically, the answer has been to study up on apologetics and be prepared to go toe to toe with those who demand answers from us void of faith. But is that the real purpose of apologetics? I’m not so sure.
For the message (or, preaching) of the cross is foolishness (mōría – folly, absurdity, moronic, stupid, senseless, foolhardy, insane) to (who) those who are perishing (or, being destroyed completely, to render
void), but to (who) us who are being saved (to deliver, make whole, preserve safe from danger, loss, or destruction) it (the message of the cross) is the power (dúnamis) of God – 1 Corinthians 1:18.
Our faith in the cross of Christ is moronic to those who are perishing. Period. And apologetics won’t change that fact. Think about it, our God doesn’t need defending. He can take care of Himself. And you cannot lead someone to Christ by logically answering all their questions about faith and the Scriptures to their satisfaction. Why? Because faith in Him is a gift from God and, before God imparts faith to the individual, the lost are incapable of believing the Gospel. To them, our faith in the cross of Christ is moronic.
So, is apologetics important? Absolutely. But not necessarily in the way you think.
The purpose of apologetics is for you to have all your questions answered about God and salvation and to allow your faith to grow strong. It is not for the direct benefit of the lost. This is what 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 shows in graphic detail. It has always been God’s plan to thwart man’s wisdom by revealing Himself through something man considers foolish. He does this to bring to nothing the wisdom of this world and, in turn, exalt faith in Him as the key that opens the door of salvation. Consider the following from 1 Corinthians 1:21-22:
Question: Where is the wise (or, respected, learned philosophers and experts)?
Question: Where is the scribe (or, writers, scholars)?
Question: Where is the disputer (or, debater, reasoner, influencer) of this age?
Question: Has not (who) God made (what) foolish the wisdom of this world (kósmos)
For since, in the (what) wisdom of God, the world through (its) wisdom did not know (ginōskō – or choose to know) God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (foolishness to those who are perishing) to save those who believe (faith).
The reason for apologetics is for you to be secure in your faith and not necessarily to convince someone by the power of your arguments to receive Christ. That is a sovereign act of God alone. And prior to the impartation of faith in the elect, our most important argument is foolishness (stupid, ridiculous, moronic, insane) to those who are perishing. Jesus never gave signs for others to believe in Him.
So let me ask you just a few questions about your belief vs. God’s wisdom.
- Do you believe in the creation account in Genesis?
- Do you believe in the virgin birth?
- Do you believe in the floating ax head?
- Do you believe in the lion’s den or the fiery furnace?
- Do you believe in the fall of Jericho?
- Do you believe a good God sometimes does things that don’t seem so good to us today?
- Do you believe God rewards faith and punishes unbelief?
Are there parts of His Word that you don’t believe? If so, you are on very dangerous ground. Why? Because Jesus said the deception in the last days would be so great that, if it was possible, even the elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24). And that includes you and me.
As we see the day of His return approaching, it is vital to know what we believe to be true. For help in securing your belief against apostasy, keep listening.
The following is a study on the Limitations of Apologetics as found in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
Jesus chastised the religious elite of His day for their confidence in predicting things like the weather, but not being able to discern the signs of the times. In fact, He called them hypocrites. Remember? “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” – Matthew 16:2-3. I wonder if He would say the same about His church today? After all, it appears we all seem to know everything about everything. Just ask us.
It seems we resemble those that Isaiah was called to address.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight – Isaiah 5:20-21.
But there is one prophetic statement of Jesus regarding the times before us that is hard for many, including me, to understand. That is until today. Jesus said “because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). Got that. He also promised that “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). How is that possible? How can our love for our spouse or children grow so cold we will treat them as enemies to the extent of hatred and betrayal? (Matt. 24:10). How can that be true? What sort of perverted human would turn on his own family for the sake of himself? What kind of depraved mind or personality disorder would produce sociopaths with a love this cold?
In a word, it’s called narcissism. And it is the ultimate end-time personality disorder.
In general, narcissism or narcissistic traits can be described as follows:
- They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
- They have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration.
- They expect and demand to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it.
- They exaggerate their achievements and talents.
- They are preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
- They believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people.’
- They monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior (which is just about everyone).
- They expect and demand special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations.
- They habitually take advantage of others to get what they want.
- They have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
- They are envious of others and believe others envy them.
- They behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious.
- They Insist on having the best of everything because they are entitled.
And they are everywhere! They multiply like kudzu.
Narcissism may very well be the ultimate personality disorder of the end-times. And it certainly fits the Laodicean church model. In fact, psychologists believe that in the last 15 years over 30% of our population now registers on the narcissism spectrum. And that number grows daily.
So what are we to do? Great question. Keep listening to find out more.
The following is a study on Narcissism and the End Times.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE