John Gooding wrote a book about our fellowship that is well worth the read. The title is “The Regions Beyond” and the subtitle is “Impacting the World from a Small Church in a Small Town”. The book is an outgrowth from a dissertation. The fact that John is one of only a handful among our 2500 preachers who has higher education in religious or biblical studies just reinforces the uniqueness of the book: the Holy Spirit can take broken people, heal them and set them on course to touch the world if they will surrender to the will of God for their lives.
John’s introduction concluded with this statement: “The research for this book was to find core elements that led a broken church out of brokenness to spiritual health and world impact. This is not a history, formula, or step-by-step guide for revival. It is an example of what God can do with a common people who seek to faithfully obey God.”
The beginning of the book is heavily footnoted (his dissertation) but becomes more freewheeling as the book progresses. My incomplete understanding of footnoting is that you can’t just say what you think is true; you must find someone else who says its true and use him as your footnote to validate your statement. Whether it was his sources or his thinking; it came together in the first chapter to galvanize my thinking about salvation and what it means to be a Christian.
The first chapter was entitled “If Truly Christian”. It centered on Romans 12:1-2 as the measuring stick of the Christian experience. Rom 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. NKJV His thoughts on these verses permeated my preaching for a couple of weeks and I still refer to those revelations that we all share together now in current preaching.
Here are some quotes:
“For Paul in Romans 12:2 transform carries the meaning of an invisible process in a Christian already begun in this present life. It is a process that leads to a new moral life in Christ by the Spirit.”
“Paul with a beseeching urgency warns believers not to follow the pattern of thinking that is found in unbelievers. This requires a living sacrifice to the reasonableness of the call and will of God. The life of the world is unreasonable. The old mind boasts of knowing God but the renewed mind does the will of God. Its decisions recognize what is good, acceptable and perfect. These are moral criteria for evaluating life.”
“The transformation and renewal are set in the larger context of ministry in the body of Christ. To think ‘soberly (Rom. 12:3)’ is to think with a sound or right mind. The transformation of a believer is, therefore, a work that also transforms the culture of the church. Change that is merely outward in form is inadequate for salvation. It is simply becoming more religious.”
“It means knowing the will or wants of God (Rom 2:18) on a daily or ongoing basis and living accordingly.”
“The terminology of renewal is unique to Christian literature. Renewal of the mind involves the ability to discern or test the will of God. The process is: first the Word of God and the Spirit of God renew the mind, then one is able to discern and desire the will of God and is then increasingly transformed by it.”
“This is the challenge for every beleaguered church. There must be renewal individually and therefore corporately.”
The second chapter highlights the words “make disciples” in the great commission given in Mt. 28:16-20. He ties “making disciples” to our transformations that create a church that becomes a “distinctive people” that evangelizes, plants churches and goes into “Regions Beyond” starting churches that are indigenous. This takes us through his remaining chapters to his final question: “Will it Last?”.
Here are some quotes:
“’Only when we emphasize evangelism above all else will it receive its due.’ We cannot simply put evangelism on a longer to do list and hope that the Christian community (believers) will carry it out with the appropriate passion.”
“The proclamation of the gospel is often seen as an end in itself. Proclamation either alone or proclamation with a decision are seen as a completed process…The Great Commission, however, does not imply that proclamation is the end of the task. It does not imply that church growth is the end of the task. Yet both of these viewpoints are common and both circumvent the true issue of the Great Commission—making disciples.”
“The product of the church is a disciple…It is about making disciples for the multiplying of the work by adding committed laborers.”
“There is, according to Graham Duncan, a clear link between the command to make disciples in Mt. 28 and the command in Rom. 12 to be transformed. Transformation and the disciplines demanded by discipleship are linked. Discipline releases rather than hampers true growth.”
“It was a faith he said was ‘verified empirically, as the Bible becomes validated in everyday life.’”
“The task of the church is to make disciples. This implies evangelism and conversion. Transformation requires a relationship between the disciple and the disciple maker. The relationship is a unique and vitally important one. Without it there can be no spiritual transformation or impartation of spiritual life into the disciple. Discipleship is meant to be a long-term, stable relationship that allows for spiritual growth and maturity—transformation.”
“…one cannot be transformed without a corresponding change or transformation in the person and circumstances of their life.”
“For Hievert the more Hebrew and biblical view of transformation is both a point and process. That is, it has simple beginning of turning from wherever or whatever one is but it produces radical and lifelong consequences. Turning perhaps involves a minimal commitment to follow him in a lifelong series of decisions after an initial turning.”
“The confession ‘Jesus is Lord’ must make sense in daily living.”
“In this New Testament language we have something far more important than a casual relationship, common acquaintance, teacher-student relationship, or a master-slave relationship. There is uniqueness to the disciple maker-disciple relationship. The father-son language in contrast to pedagogue-student language tells us something akin to a genetic transfer of life occurs. It is not simply transferring of the pedagogue’s notes onto the notebooks of the students.”
“’For the little band of Christians at Philippi, constantly in danger of seduction by the majority pagan culture, there was no better textbook than the lives of those who bore the burden of leadership. Discipleship still depends on identifying examples, saints, people worthy of imitation.’”
“Indeed the making of disciples is a different matter than gathering a crowd or getting people to be followers or imitators. There must be inward transformation that matches the outward conformity.”
“The local church possesses the incredible reality of the Christian experience. Christianity is about relationships. It is not some cloud of theological jargon but a group of people who know each other, meet regularly to hear from God, and enjoy Jesus and each other’s presence.”
“There is something more than obedience or keeping the rules in discipline. Children, soldiers, students and disciples are all to come under discipline. There is more to be gained from discipline than obedience. ‘The aim of child discipline, or military, or academic, or religious, is a disciplined character which goes beyond the minimum demands of these specific disciplines and permeates the whole life. Imposed discipline…must lead to self-discipline.’ The ability to make decisions and order life by subjugating self is crucial for church building.”
Pastor Gooding has been using the Jesus Movement of the 60’s and 70’s as a comparison to the fellowship established by the Prescott Foursquare Church of Pastor Mitchell in the 70’s. It was the Jesus Movement that brought young people into the church and then it was the dynamics of transformed lives, discipleship and church planting that brought the Church to its current place of leadership church over 2500 other churches around the world.
The question was asked about the Jesus Movement: “Would it last?” He asks the same question about the Christian Fellowship Ministry that sprang from that broken down Foursquare church in Prescott Arizona.
In answering this question he takes some thoughts from the English preacher G. Campbell Morgan about the Zechariah 4:6 “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit”. Not by might (an amassing of an army with resources) nor by power (the vigorous use of amassed army and resources). He also has to take a look at the man Pastor Wayman Mitchell. I like how he addresses this here: “Another issue that requires greater mention is that of leadership. During the course of writing the dissertation there were a number of times the author was asked for more information about Waymna Mitchell. He was an intriguing figure to the author’s committee and peers.”
Here are a few quotes from his last chapter that help us see his conclusions:
Quoting Morgan: “Not by anything man can do, can man do anything for God. We are very far from believing that.”
“Of course, G. Campbell Morgan was not negating that we need to amass our resources and be relentless in the call of Christ. The point he was making is simply that without the presence of the Holy Spirit, our efforts are not enough.”
“The question to be asked, after nearly fifty years as a Fellowship, is the same one asked by Enroth, Ericson and Peter’s in 1972. Their book The Jesus People: Old Time Religion in the Age of Aquarius was the first substantial look at the Jesus people. Their question was, is it a stirring or is it a real movement?”
“The sustainability of the CFM largely rests on the ability to maintain its core evangelism for conversions, empowered discipleship of converts and a focus on church planting.”
“The conclusion of this project is that principles of evangelism, discipleship and church planting brought about a transformation in the Prescott congregation and a ministry that brought them out of brokenness to a place of dignity and influence throughout the world.”
“Two things are necessary. One, is a disciple willing to allow a pastor to speak into his life. And two, a pastor with enough courage to speak into his life. In the CFM, conversion of sinners and empowered discipleship led to church planting. It led to the multiplication of disciples and churches.”
Here are my own thoughts on ‘will it last?’. Here is a quote from a previous blog entry:
“While doing the series on “Stewardship” I came across this description of the end of John Wesley’s life from Wikipedia: “Because of his charitable nature he died poor, leaving as the result of his life’s work 135,000 members and 541 itinerant preachers under the name “Methodist”. It has been said that “when John Wesley was carried to his grave, he left behind him a good library of books, a well-worn clergyman’s gown” and the Methodist Church.”
From Newsmax’ article: Pastor Mitchell: “Wayman Mitchell is the founder of Christian Fellowship Ministries, a Pentecostal Bible-based fellowship of 2,100 churches in 112 nations. Personal evangelism and church planting are basic foundations of his organization, which grew out of early concert ministries he used to convert former hippies in the 1970s.”
Pastor Mitchell will be leaving behind, given more years of life, 2500 to 3500 itinerant preachers doing battle with the forces of darkness as we watch the unfolding prophetic calendar.”
I think the comparison could portend to the future of the fellowship. I would like to add this thought. Pastor Gooding does such a good job as describing the fellowship as a group of people who are each in themselves seeking to do the will of God. What sustains us is not our successes, which at times can seem inconsequential, but our understanding of positioning and standing to fight in the place God has us. Our measurement ceases to be the measurement of the world but an internal measurement of doing the will of God.