“What is the one thing Jesus absolutely had to do before God could raise him from the dead?” Thursday, Aug 20 2009 

“What is the one thing Jesus absolutely had to do before God could raise him from the dead?” That’s the question I asked to begin a sermon preached in the now extinct St. Thomas projects of New Orleans. (Yes, I did a little street preaching in my younger days.) The responses varied. Some said, “He had to live a sinless life and obey God in everything.” Others responded, “He had to work miracles and set a good example.”  Then one young man in the middle of the crowd answered, “He had to die.” That was it. Everything else in Jesus’ life was significant and necessary for many things, but the one thing Jesus absolutely had to do before God could raise him from the dead was to die.

I then had a follow up question: “What is the one thing we absolutely have to do before we can live the resurrected life of Christ in us?” The answer is the same. There would have been no resurrection of Christ if there was no death on the cross; and there can be no resurrected life for us if there is no crucified life in us. Paul addressed this very thing when he wrote, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal.2:20) In order to have Christ live in me, I must die to my self.

“Dying to self” has become a Christian buzz phrase of sorts, but what does that mean on a practical level? Well, I think it means we commit our lives to Christ, no longer claim our lives as our own, and fully surrender to his lordship. We acknowledge that we are no longer living to serve ourselves, but we’re living to serve him. We exchange our control of our life for his control of our life. That is “being crucified with Christ” and dying to self.

The problem with many Christians (and I use the term loosely) is that they have not changed who they serve, but merely changed the way they serve themselves. People who desire to be first, to be in control, to always be right, to be noticed by others, praised by others, and admired by others can be seen in the church as well as the world. The difference is, those in the church tend to put a religious spin on their self-interests. I know, because I use to be one of those people, and in some ways, I still am. The trouble with a crucified life is that, although the commitment to be crucified is immediate, the death process can be long and painful.

 But God is faithful and patient. Over the years he has gently and lovingly pointed out many areas in my life that needed to be surrendered. There were self-centered areas in me to which I was totally oblivious; now, they seem embarrassingly obvious. These were areas which God had to reveal. I couldn’t see myself; none of us can truly see ourselves. The following stories are just a few examples of how God has worked in my life.

 I always loved to preach. I would spend hours on end preparing a sermon. One day God spoke to my spirit and asked, “If I told you to record every sermon, and also told you that no one would hear them while you were still alive, or would ever know who preached them, would you still put as much effort into preparing them?” I’m not sure how I answered, but I’ve never preached the same again.

In the same fashion, another time God asked, “If I told you to always give anonymously, and never tell anyone what you give or that you give anything at all, would you still give as much?” This question changed my whole attitude toward giving. Please don’t ask me how it has changed. I’m not allowed to tell.

On another occasion I was forced to make a decision between my desire (and it was a strong desire) to be in the “professional ministry” and what I knew was best for my children. I could have easily justified my desire to pursue my “ministry” career as doing the work of the Lord. Only because of loving conviction from God regarding areas in my life that needed to be crucified was I able to make the right decision. It was painful at the time, but I’ve never regretted it.

In our church meeting last Monday night the subject of suffering was brought up. One of our members was reading the account of Jesus’ prayer before his arrest: “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Mt. 26:39)  He realized that the way of God’s will can be a way of suffering. It’s not that God wants us to suffer, it’s that he wants us to die. Dying can be painful, but it is necessary if we want to rise and live that glorious life of Christ in us.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with the organic church, or the church in general. Well, the church is about being and making disciples. In order to be a disciple, one must commit to following Jesus to the cross. Jesus himself said, “… anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk.14:27 NIV) If we miss this vital element of being a disciple, we probably miss it when making disciples. The result is a social organization of individuals trying to serve themselves in religious fashion, complete with political power plays and agendas. Such a group needs to be controlled by a hierarchical authoritative leadership structure.

However, when a group of people who are dying to their own desires while surrendering to the lordship of Jesus come together, the result is quite different. It shapes itself more like a functioning body than a rigidly controlled organization. Problems can still arise. Dying is a process; but it is a process headed in the right direction.

Peace,

Bob

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“Why seek ye the living among the dead?” Wednesday, Aug 5 2009 

Several months ago, our home church community (when we were still part of an institutional church) dedicated one week to pray for direction. We each agreed to  set aside a portion of time during that week to individually seek an explicit word from God, and then share it with the group. As I prayed, I asked God to give me a word directly from the scriptures so that I could be assured it was from him. Immediately, the passage from Luke 24:5 popped into my mind: “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” The thought was so sudden and emphatic it shocked me. The fact that I was surprised to have such a quick and obvious answer to prayer should have been conviction enough, but when I considered the implications, I was extremely humbled.

Not wanting to miss, or misapply, what God was specifically saying to me, I went to the original context of the statement. That particular passage in Luke describes women who were looking for Jesus; but they were not looking for a living Jesus. They were looking for the Jesus they saw die on a cross. They were looking for the Jesus they buried. They wanted to honor him by properly preparing his body according to Jewish tradition. They wanted to honor the memory of his life. They were looking to honor a great leader and prophet who was; they were not looking for one who is.

I began to see that we do the same today. We look for the “historical” Jesus: the Jesus who was, not the Jesus who is. We study the things he taught, make pilgrimages to the places he dwelt, and marvel at the stories of his life on earth; we look for the Jesus who was. Now, I believe these things just mentioned are good and profitable, but only in the context of his present life. Paul clearly states in Romans 10: 9 that if we if we confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus, and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. It is the LIVING Lord we should be seeking. We need to live what we believe in every aspect of lives. We need to live the living Jesus.

We somehow feel that we, like the women at the tomb, need to honor the memory of Jesus. We want to be his living legacy by carrying on his work. Noble as it sounds, I don’t believe it is what God desires. God doesn’t want us to be Christ’s living legacy, but the living Christ’s body. We, the church, should be acting like a body controlled by a divine living head. Instead, we act like an organization, complete with business plans we call mission statements, CEOs we call senior pastors, and marketing strategies we call outreach programs.

Neil Cole writes, “In many of the churches in the West, ministry is done for Jesus, but not by Jesus-and therein lies a big difference.” (pg.54) Can you imagine what would happen if we stopped doing things for him and began allowing him to do things through us? Can you imagine if we lived life in total awareness of and surrender to the living Christ? Can you imagine?

 

Works Cited

Cole, Neil. ORGANIC CHURCH: GROWING FAITH WHERE LIFE HAPPENS. San Francisco : Josey-Bass, 2005.

Do You Want To Be Ordained? Thursday, Jul 30 2009 

I was ordained in 1986 (yes, I’m that old) by The Irish Channel Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational Christian church located in the heart of New Orleans. My official certificate says that I was ordained to the work of the Gospel Ministry. There were no exams that needed to be passed, nor were there any diplomas that needed to be earned as a prerequisite. All that was needed was recognition. The members of The Irish Channel Christian Fellowship recognized my work with the inner-city youth of the area and wanted me to continue doing what I had been doing for the previous three years, but on a full time basis. I could have been hired without being ordained, but the elders of the church felt the recognition of “being set apart for a particular work” was important. So, after a rather ritualistic type ceremony, the elders laid their hands on me, prayed for me, and I was ordained. The Sunday morning church bulletins listed me as Reverend Bob Kuhn. It seemed a little uncomfortable at first, but I began to like it after a while.

One day, about a year later, I was driving with a traveling evangelist who was preaching a week long revival service at our church. He began to ask me questions about my ministry at the church. When he asked me from what seminary I graduated, I honestly replied that I was still in seminary. He was surprised and said that he thought I had been ordained. When I again honestly replied that I had been ordained, he became upset and went into a mild tirade about the problems with non-denominational churches ordaining “untrained” people. He asked me how I could possibly feel equipped for ministry without the proper educational credentials. I, once again honestly, told him that I didn’t know what proper training or credentials were, but all I knew was that one day I was the manager of a parts department and the next day I was working for a church and being called Reverend. He became very quiet and seemed to pout a little. 

I’ve often thought about that evangelist and wondered why he was so upset. The only reason I can think of is that my ordination somehow, in his mind, minimized his. He was ordained into the Presbyterian Church. In order to become a Presbyterian minister, one must have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from an approved seminary before becoming a candidate for ordination. Then a grueling series of interviews by a group of senior Presbyterian ministers takes place, and if approved, the candidate then qualifies to be ordained. For someone to just walk off the street and get the same type of certificate he had framed in his office at home must have been depressing. And what does all that mean regarding my ordination? Is it real, or just pretend?

Well, I’m not called Reverend anymore, but I must confess, I like my ordination certificate. I think it’s a cool representation of the fact that a body of believers whom I love and respect recognized God’s call on my life. But, everyone has a call from God on their lives. They may not all be the same, but they’re equally important. My ordination certificate is like my Father’s Day cup from my kids. I like it, not because I think I’m the only father in the world, or some kind of super special father, but because I am a father, and that’s special enough for me.

So, how about giving every born again believer an ordination certificate. All Christians have a special call on their lives. Let’s recognize that special call and ordain them. Those of you who believe in a clergy/laity distinction, please don’t get upset. I’m not proposing that we honor you less. I’m just saying that we should honor each other more.

If you want to be ordained into the ministry of God, come to our church fellowship on Monday nights and we’ll be sure to accommodate you. For more information on being ordained, becoming a priest, or being a disciple of Christ, please post a comment on this blog.

Peace,

Bob

FROM ETERNITY TO HERE Blog Circuit Tuesday, Jun 9 2009 

The following questions were asked of Frank Viola regarding his new book “From Eternity to Here”:

Since the church is a result of the mission of God and not the other way around, why did you choose to write PAGAN CHRISTIANITY and REIMAGINING CHURCH before FROM ETERNITY TO HERE?

One reason is because deconstruction should precede construction. If a building has a faulty foundation, it must be torn down first. Then a new one built in its place. Pagan Christianity deconstructs. Reimagining Church constructs. Then From Eternity presents the big, sweeping epic picture explaining why the church is so important to God in the first place. And how He views it. How He views us. Getting behind His eyes is life-changing.

Do you think that FROM ETERNITY TO HERE gives more clarity to PAGAN CHRISTIANITY and REIMAGINING CHURCH? And if so, would you recommend that readers revisit your earlier works after reading FROM ETERNITY TO HERE? 

Yes, absolutely. In fact, I’ve received numerous letters from people who didn’t know what to think about Pagan Christianity (after reading it) or who were deathly afraid to read it (based on ominous warnings from people). Then, after reading From Eternity, they said Pagan Christianity made sense to them. It gave them a larger context to fit it into and to understand the spirit in which it was written. Incidentally, I’ve explained on my blog recently how all my books work together.

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OTHER BLOGS PARTICIPATING IN THE “FROM ETERNITY TO HERE” BLOG CIRCUIT

Enjoy the reviews and the Q and A:

—–

Out of Ur – http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2009/05/viola.html

Shapevine – www.Shapevine.com (June newsletter)

Brian Eberly – http://www.brianeberly.com

DashHouse.com – http://www.DashHouse.com/

Greg Boyd – http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/

Vision Advance – http://vision2advance.blogspot.com/

David Flowers – http://ddflowers.wordpress.com

Kingdom Grace – http://kingdomgrace.wordpress.com

Captain’s Blog – http://www.captainestes.blogspot.com/

Christine Sine – http://godspace.wordpress.com

Darin Hufford – The Free Believers Network – www.freebelievers.com

Zoecarnate – http://zoecarnate.wordpress.com

Church Planting Novice – www.churchplantingnovice.wordpress.com

Staying Focused – http://kimmartinezstayingfocused.wordpress.com/

Take Your Vitamin Z – www.takeyourvitaminz.blogspot.com

Jeff Goins – http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org

Bunny Trails – http://bunny-trails.blogspot.com

Matt Cleaver – http://mattcleaver.com

Jason T. Berggren – http://blog.jasonberggren.com/

Simple Church – http://www.simplechurchjournal.com/

Emerging from Montana – http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/

Parable Life – http://www.theparablelife.blogspot.com

Oikos Australia – http://www.oikos.org.au/blog/

West Coast Witness – www.WestCoastWitness.com

Keith Giles – http://www.Keith.Giles.com

Consuming Worship — http://www.consumingworship.org

Tasha Via – www.tashavia.blogspot.com

Andrew Courtright – www.andrewcourtright.blogspot.com

ShowMeTheMooneys! – http://www.showmethemooneys.com/

Leaving Salem, Blog of Ronnie McBrayer – http://leavingsalem.wordpress.com/ 

Jason Coker – pastoralia.missionaltribe.org 

From Knowledge to Wisdom – http://isthistheway.typepad.com/

Home Brewed Christianity – http://www.homebrewedchristianity.com

Dispossessed – http://kblog.kevinjbowman.com

Dandelion Seeds – http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/Dandelionseeds

David Brodsky’s Blog- “Flip the tape Deck” – http://flipthetapedeck.blogspot.com/

Chaordic Journey – http://jeffrhodes.wordpress.com

Renee Martin – http://www.reneemartinmusic.com/profiles/blog/list

Bob Kuhn – https://organicchurchnola.wordpress.com/

Living with Freaks: www.livingwithfreaks.com

Real Worship – http://therealworshipleader.com

Fervent Worship – http://ferventworship.blogspot.com

Julie Ferwerda Blog – www.JulieFerwerda.comwww.OneMillionArrows.com

What’s With Christina?! – http://w2christina.blogspot.com

Irreligious Canuck – http://www.irreligiouscanuck.com

This day on the journey – http://guychmieleski.blogspot.com

Live and Move: Thoughts on Authentic Christianity – http://liveandmove.blogspot.com/

Spiritual Journey With God – http://www.elvineve.blogspot.com/

 Dries Conje – http://www.echurch.co.za / http://www.thejesusfeed.com / http://www.bookdisciple.com.

Journey with Others – http://journeywithothers.blogspot.com

On Now to the Third Level – www.080808onnowto.blogspot.com

Christine Moers – www.welcometomybrain.net

Breaking Point – http://marybethstockdale.wordpress.com

Hand to the Plough – http://www.handtotheplough.com.au

Jon Reid – http://jonreid.blogs.com/oneanother/welcome-pilgrim.html

Weblight – www.blog.worldwidewebservices.se

D. L. Webster – http://gzmproductions.com/dlwebster

Searching for the Whole-Hearted Life – wholeheartedlife.blogspot.com

What is the Organic Church Movement? Thursday, Apr 23 2009 

There are probably as many definitions for “organic church” as there are for “church” itself. Like any movement or expression, there are those who like what they think it is, those who hate what they think it is, and those who think it’s cool just because it’s different. For the above mentioned reasons, I feel it is important to communicate what I “think it is” – or more specifically – what I mean when I use the term “organic church.”

In order to better understand the term as it is most commonly used, I appeal to those who have practical experience in the movement and have written extensively on the subject. The following quote is from George Barna and Frank Viola:

An organic church is a living breathing, dynamic, mutually participatory, every-member-functioning, Christ centered, communal expression of the body of Christ. (xxxi)

Neil Cole writes:

What is consistent in both Organic Church and Organic Leadership is my belief that the kingdom of God is relational, spiritual, and natural – without all the artificial stuff we tend to use to prop up our ministries today.  It is not necessary for people to work as professionals in the church to make it happen. When church and her leadership are natural and organic, they reproduce spontaneously and movements will result.(15)

So, you may ask, “Well … what do you mean by organic church, Bob?” I’m glad you asked.  By “organic church” I mean an expression of the church that involves communities of growing and reproducing disciples of Jesus Christ who function as a body with the living, resurrected Christ as their only head.

This implies a very flat organizational structure, with every member having direct access to the head: Jesus himself.  Every member is both being discipled, and discipling others. Every member participates in the worship, teaching, and ministry of the community.  Every member is involved in God’s mission to this world. Every member is encouraged to hear directly from God and to share what He is saying.

The commitment level is high, but never forced; it is a commitment of desire, not of obligation. There is leadership, but it is relational leadership, not positional leadership. There is submission, but not to any individual leader (except Jesus) or to any hierarchical group of leaders, but one to another. There is mutual respect, one for another.

An important element of the organic church community is its desire to have as much “substance” with as little “form” as possible.  Some “formal elements” will be added as needs arise, but only those elements that are necessary (or at least conducive) to the central mission of becoming and making disciples of Christ.

I know this description of the organic church is far from complete and I am sure there will be many questions and comments regarding this particular expression of the church.  However, I hope this is a good starting place.  Please feel free to share your thoughts, encouragements, questions and concerns.

Peace,

Bob

 Works Cited

Barna, George, and Frank Viola. Pagan Christianity? – Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale HP, 2008.

Cole, Neil. ORGANIC LEADERSHIP: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009.

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