Session 6d: Important Discoveries by Randy Weener

I represent church multiplication, which I often think of as the R and D of the church. We’re out there seeking out what’s coming and reporting back. So think of the Scouts before the wagon train, checking out what’s on the horizon coming back and report. So as I look at what’s happened in the last 18 months, I’m also looking at what we can anticipate for the future. And I want to frame my opening conversations around Ephesians four, particularly as these past 18 months have affected leaders of churches where Paul in Ephesians four says that Christ himself has given to the church, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints for ministry and how these past 18 months have affected. Particularly those five gifts. I don’t believe that those are just random of the 22 or 25, wherever you count gifts in the new Testament, that these are really selected carefully by Paul Alan Hirsch brought that to our attention a few years back and his forgotten ways book.

So let me just think of the two that probably are most prominent in most, any gathering of RCA or CRC people would be shepherds and teachers. So the shepherds this past year and a half, I’ve had a bit of an identity crisis. How do I care for my people when I can’t be with them? I can’t visit him in the hospital. I can’t go to the nursing home. I can’t have coffee with him. I may not even be able to be present for a Memorial service or how do we do a wedding? So they had, they’ve had to adjust to how do I do shepherding in this new least, hopefully temporary climate teachers had the same sort of issues. How do I preach? Which is that’s my identity. When I can’t see my people face to face, I’m just looking into the camera on my iPhone or whatever technology they’re having to be using.

And how do I get feedback and whether I’m actually connecting or not. So they’ve had this identity crisis as well. And when we think about it, most people I think have gotten into church ministry, carries ministry because of those two gifts, shepherd and teacher. And to be honest, that’s what most of us who went to seminary retrained to be shepherds and teachers. But I want to say a word about the other three gifts here this morning, because I think this is a missing piece. And during this last pandemic season, these are the gifts that have really kind of come to the fore and treated it very differently. So I want to specifically talk about the apostles and evangelists. First of all, apostles, those who are sent those who seize the day, those who, who see opportunity and in the multiplication field, we have a lot of pastors or planters who have epistatic evangelistic gifts as really been encouraging to see them saying, this is the day we’ve been praying for, for revival.

God is opening huge opportunities for us because everybody around the globe has experienced some kind of a trauma and they’ve experienced disequilibrium or disorientation as we talked about yesterday. And now they’re finally open to the gospel. I mean, even people who, who may have it all together and feel like life is working well for them suddenly got thrown off balance. And this is our opportunity to be able to share the good news of Christ with them. So they seize the day they move from survival to expansion. So a story for a couple of our Hispanic planters down in Florida, one of them very quickly decided that his audience was going to be an online audience and quickly gathered because he was preaching in Spanish, a global audience and quickly had 400 people in discipleship groups around the globe. Uh, because he now had the world at his foot at his footstool instead of just his local congregation.

We have another pastor who decided to start teaching the Heidelberg catechism in Spanish on Saturday mornings. And that group has now grown to 800 people on Saturday mornings learning the Heidelberg catechism, which most of us learned to dislike at some point earlier in our lives, but they are fully embracing and are using this period as an expansion of their outreach and influence heard, uh, Len speak Len sweet speak, uh, back in fall of 2020 in the midst of the unveiling, really of the intensity of the pandemic. And as you know, Len sweets is a futurist and he said this, as it relates to these five gifts of Ephesians four, he said that the future pastors are going to be profits and healers. And we’ll kind of throw the healer in with the shepherd gift. First of all, profits. Now I’m also admitting that apostle is not a word that is normally used in a couple of years ago.

We were apologizing for using the word of palace. Apostil, it’s just not a gift that we recognize within our two denominations, very well and profits. I think we all, uh, whether we’ve named them as such or not, uh, profits are often the ones that, Hey, they’re always the ones that are kind of stirring the pot. They’re always telling us what we’re doing wrong. Let’s keep them off the team because they’re kind of, uh, so we, we kind of push them to the edges, the evangelists, why don’t you just go work for young life or something in a parachurch organization? So we have a history of repelling, the apes, the apostles prophets evangelists. What I’m saying is that they are going to be critical for us going forward. So Len Swedes picks up the theme of profits being the future of the pastor moving. He says from prophesizing forward, moving to prophesying forward versus planning forward.

So we have a history, again, highly educated people that we strategize for the future. We really concentrate on, on best practices. How do we move forward? He’s saying the future is going to have to be determined more by, by prophecy or spiritual listening, discerning, uh, it’s more like a quarterback throwing, not to where the player is, but where the end is, is going to. So it’s going to living on past practices is not going to work in a very rapidly changing world. And he says, the profits will be the artists and the musicians. Won’t be the first time that the artists, the musicians will be the profits, but they need to have stage and we need to be listening to them. I think also we talk about profits being four tellers and fourth tellers. That whole, what you just heard is that the Protestant BT fourth tellers, which means they are our moral compass.

Truth-tellers talking about mercy and justice. The other thing you said that future leaders will be healers. So 80% of the world’s population now has experienced the trauma and many of them, four or five trauma events. And we have people all around us who are suffering physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. This is the place for the church to step in. As healers. We have a couple of planters in Wyoming, Michigan, who this fall are doing some training for the community, not for the church, but for their community around trauma. This is an opportunity for the church to step into this void where basically the, all the populations dealing with these pains. And let me just add a little push for us, reformers that this there’s a supernatural healing too. This isn’t just counseling. This isn’t just therapy. Uh, Jesus said, go heal. The sick cast out demons preach the gospel for somewhere along the way.

We said that was no longer our ministry, but it is, it has to be going forward. Healing is not just for the church, for the communities that we live in. And these are parts of the signs and wonders that Jesus and the apostles, he used to get an opening and a hearing for the gospel shifting gears. It was about, uh, probably two or three years ago. I heard ed Stetser speaking. And he said, we really have three mountains. The first hill would be those who are committed Christians. That middle mountain would be the nominal Christians. And the third mountain would be the non-Christians. So this is pre pandemic. And he said that over time, what we’re going to see is that middle mountain that, that nominal Christian mountain going away now thinking about the past, it was good. It was good to be a part of a church because it was good for business.

If you were a politician, it was good to be related to a church. You know, I knew families that had family businesses and each member went to a different church because it was a good to have good rapport with a greater community in the future that in the present, actually that doesn’t matter so much anymore. In fact, it might actually be a liability to some in the future. I think we’re going to experience the pain of being Christians in this culture and it’s coming quicker than we thought it would. And I think COVID has just collapsed that center, that center mountain very, very rapidly just accelerated the whole thing. So what we have is about 30% of the church, which would be that committed Christian, who are carrying the day. So if your finances are still good, it’s because they picked up the ball and ran extra hard with it.

And that 30% may never come back. Um, so along the way, also the church has become a nonessential. You think back to the past, the church would have been stepping into traumas like we’re experiencing right now. It was, it wasn’t even possible for pastors eat in the hospitals. But if you had a six month training as a massage therapist, you were essential, but pastors with multiple degrees were not, we have pushed, we’ve allowed ourselves to become so part of the edge that we’re no longer essentials and need to earn our way back in to that day. Uh, one thing I’ve said earlier this morning, and that’s the reason I had asked Brian to speak to us is, uh, another thought is our discipleship was not as healthy, healthy as we thought it would be. And most of us have been disappointed or basically beat up by people who we thought were spiritually mature and who, uh, who came after us.

In fact, during this past season. So interestingly I heard David Wang speak a couple of weeks ago, he’s from Biola university and they did some research on, uh, on this COVID series. Uh, this COVID season, particularly around anxiety. And he said, uh, you listed a few predictors of those with lower anxiety. And here’s the one that really grabbed my attention. Those with authoritarian, yeah, those who live in a black and white world, those who live in their echo chambers. And he said, the rise of the authoritarian beliefs was threefold. If you have authoritarian beliefs, you have a sense of control.

Second, if you live with authoritarian beliefs, you have a sense of security and third, you have a sense of community. So while I was trying to beat my head against the wall, how come we become so polarized in this culture, there is so much gray area that people can’t control that they’re following authoritarian leaders, whether it’s in the church or in politics, for those three reasons, they’re not necessarily good ones. Uh, just to, to make it sound a little bit better. He also identified these predictors of lower levels of anxiety for those who, uh, church attendance, gratitude and forgiveness of others. So we do have those to offer, but I think for the future of the church, what skills do we need to develop in ourselves, in our people we need to help our people learn to live in the gap, uh, to take on the ministry of reconciliation, which has been given to the church. We need people who can be examples of being able not to see eye to eye, but still walk hand in hand.

They’re hard to find these days. And in order to develop them, we will probably have to develop some skills in anger management, in conflict resolution and assertiveness. We’re also going to have to learn how to live by grace. It’s the center of our gospel, starting with grace, for ourselves, be gracious with ourselves as leaders gracious with other believers and expressing grace to the world as well. And I think as pastors, more than ever, uh, learning to attend to our soul care, a lot of people came in depleted already into this pandemic and have suffered the consequences. Many have already left ministry

We have to redefine, or probably better said define what a disciple is. This was, Brian was trying to tell us this morning, there are some definitions that we never thought we’d have to define. What does a disciple, what does a church? What does the gospel we’re really getting down to the core of, if we can’t define it, how do we, how do we help people become one? How do we become the church become one. So defining what disciples are. It doesn’t happen just by osmosis. We need some clear pathways towards discipleship that any member who’s following us would know what their logical next step would be. The reveal study of Willow Creek. A few years back already showed this that, you know, we need to help people learn to feed themselves and not depend upon us or the church to feed them. So redefining disciple, defining disciple, helping people, them also redefining the church.

This is sort of an interesting conversation that’s been going on. What’s our minimal ecclesiology. What’s our minimal caused ecclesiology. We’re working right now with micro churches or fresh expressions of churches. They’re churches that will be led not by ordained clergy or even commissioned pastors, but people who have a calling to particular people, group their neighborhood, their, their apartment complex, the people they work with a hobby that they have. And how do we release them as send them from the church as an extension of our congregations with Alan Hirsch’s, right? Which I believe he is where 60% of this population who do not go to church will not go to one of the churches that already exists. That means we’re all fighting over 40% of the population, but what about that 60%? How does the church go to them because they’re not going to come to us. And so these fresh expressions will become more and more important. How permission giving will we be for these expressions that may not fit well into our books, that church order or ability to count and control.

And then, uh, finally, um, David Brooks, a writer for the Atlantic says that we are in a cultural convulsion and that these cultural convulsions happen about every 60 years. So just winding the clock back to when the 1960s, what was happening to the 1960s, Rachel unrest, Vietnam, Martin Luther came, believe it or not had a 28% approval rating and that mid sixties sexual revolution. And it was the Hong Kong flu. A million people died from that flu sound familiar here we are 60 years later. And one of the things that they learned from that cultural convulsion of the last, uh, last, uh, century was that people were beginning to, to question their sources of authority and look for new sources of authority. So in the church, what happened at that period of time was that the mainline churches did not step into that gap. They weren’t listened to anymore. That was the rise of the vineyard and the Calvary chapels 1975 was the beginning of Willow Creek. Other voices began to fill that, that gap.

And one of the things that they learn, uh, just a warning was that there was a larger than normal Exodus of pastors from the ministry in the 1970s. So they had, they basically said, we’ve helped you through this trauma, this crisis, this convulsion you’ve made it to the finish line. And we’re outta here might be something for us to be aware of as we move ahead, that we’ll have pastors who may help their congregations get to the finish line when we can, we can look maybe better at least at the rear view mirror of this pandemic, but will they stay in ministry after that? Time’s up. Uh, if we go back to our small groups, timing at noon, okay. We’ll finish up at that point. So you got a 23 minutes either here or outdoors.

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