The Courageous Example of John MacArthur

It’s been impossible for me to miss the controversy that’s been brewing in Southern California between Governor Gavin Newsom and Sun Valley’s Grace Community Church as led by their pastor-teacher, John MacArthur.

As a former member of Grace (and custodian), and graduate of The Master’s Seminary, it’s been interesting for me to consider his recent refusal to comply with the governor’s unconstitutional (and therefore, illegal) order against gatherings in places of worship. His boldness and courage are a stark contrast to the myriad of evangelical leaders who kneeled at the feet of the social justice mob just a couple short months prior and are criticizing him for taking a stand on the lordship of Jesus over human government.

This entire situation has me curiously pondering: What is it that makes a “John MacArthur?” What keeps him from the mad rush to find the middle ground on every issue? What has caused him to take stand after stand over the past fifty years yet remain unmoved because “the Bible says so?” I remember him saying once that he’s never once cared about what people are going to think about him—how’s that even possible?

Examples in the Past

As I consider these questions, I am reminded of church history class and the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (1978). A beloved college professor of mine made us memorize paragraphs from that statement.  After he died in 2002, his wife gave me his audiocassettes of that council.  The names on those tapes are a “who’s who” of the glory days of 20th-century evangelicalism—men like J.I. Packer, Norman Geisler, Gleason Archer, Edwin Yamauchi, John Gerstner, R.C. Sproul, James Montgomery Boice, Francis Shaeffer, and almost 300 others.  Many of the signatories were giants in the church of their day.

As one of those who signed it, John MacArthur (at that time, a 39-year-old pastor) is in their rarified air. He is one of the last men standing of a fading generation who knew the truth, loved the truth, defended the truth, and were not at all afraid to contend for it either.

His life has made me wonder: Who is alive today that will take his place in evangelicalism? At over 80 years old, who will fill the leadership vacuum when he’s taken to heaven? Where are the leaders who are ready and happy to take the social media mob head-on, both inside and outside of the church, and refuse to back down? They do not exist, as far as I know. He is the last of a dying breed I’m sure many are happy to see go, but I’m terrified to lose. Far too many of our 21st century evangelical leaders are better at being politicians or motivational speakers than they are at being warriors, and this is at a cultural moment when we have a desperate need for warriors.

This, again, causes me to ask, why? I think it’s because those men grew up in an era before relativism had the cultural dominance it does now. They lived in a world where right was right, wrong was wrong, the truth was the truth, lies were lies, and sin was sin. These faithful men saw it on the horizon and warned Christians against its potential to undermine every single thing evangelicals believe.

Emptiness in the Present

That is not our world at all.  Evil is good; good is evil (Isa 5:20). Nothing is right or wrong except what our politically correct masters tell us is. The intent of an author is impossible to determine. Power is oppressive. Feelings determine our decisions. Truth is not objective; it is merely a personal or societal construct. Lies and hypocrisy are useful tools that help advance one’s agenda. The ends justify the means. In the church, we baptized the fear of man (also known as co-dependency or peer-pressure) and turned it into a ministry philosophy, assuming that, “If the non-Christian world likes us—thinks we’re helpful, cool and relevant—they’ll like Jesus too.”

Everything leftover is considered “gray area,” as if non-essential doctrines for salvation mean “unimportant” for the faithfulness and courage of a church leader. Where conviction was once found, we now found deflecting or straw-man sentiments like:

  • “There are good people on all sides.”
  • “They may be in error but they are such a nice person.”
  • “I want to be known by what I am for, not against.”
  • “It must be nice to have all the answers.”
  • “My truth is my truth. Your truth is your truth.”
  • “The Pharisees were good at pointing things out too.”

This is the cultural air that I’ve breathed since I was born.  Most adults my age (43) and younger consider relativism “just the way it is.”  As Allan Bloom once said, denying it is like trying to convince people that 2 + 2 isn’t 4 (which was embarrassingly attempted recently).

Emasculation in the Future

In a culture where relativism reigns, a culture without reality, without truth, without right and wrong answers, pastors will have a hard time going beyond, “Well, there are 4 views on that.”  Without doing the hard work of determining which views best match the Bible through exegesis and logical argumentation, pastors simply do not have the tools to do what MacArthur’s doing now. Instead, they’ve become convinced that the only stand they should take is not taking a stand (unless it’s a stand the culture approves of) and standing against anyone who does. So, I predict we’ll see more and more Christian leaders cave to the culture, call it heroic, get affirmation from their cheering section for being relevant or shrewd or loving or reasonable, all while assuring their deadened consciences that they’ll take a stand when it “really matters.”

No, they won’t! This is wishful thinking at best and self-delusion at worst for one overwhelming reason: John MacArthur can do what he’s doing because he has convictions, but relativism makes convictions impossible. In a world where there is no truth, there’s nothing to take a stand on. Oh, people will have convictions—don’t get me wrong—but instead of coming from the truth (John 17:17), they will come uncritically from their upbringing, a hierarchy they trust, heroes they admire, or the cultural overlords who are all too ready to choose their convictions for them.

Without convictions that are well thought out and deeply rooted in the bedrock of Scripture, pastors cannot have courage. We’ll never have the bravery we’re seeing in John MacArthur. Truth leads to convictions and convictions produce courage. Without convictions, the church will continue to be led by “men without chests” (C.S. Lewis) who genuflect before the mob, who won’t have the fortitude needed to stand in these dark days, but who will feign courage by passionately criticizing nobody but those who have it. Wavering and weak, many will seek to insulate themselves from ever being a target of the world’s hatred, something Jesus told His followers to expect and embrace (John 15:18-20). In Christ’s mind, it seems that we have a choice to make: we can be faithful or popular.  All of us, sooner or later, will be forced to choose and we can only choose one!

In the end, you may not agree with John MacArthur, but he doesn’t care, and neither should you. What you should be asking about John MacArthur is not, “Do I agree with what he’s doing?” Instead ask, “Will I have his courage when it’s my turn to stand?” Courage is the lesson young pastors (and a ton of older ones) should be learning from John MacArthur right now. Thank God for him.

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Jon Benzinger (@jonbenz) is the Lead Pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona (@rbcgilbert). He has a passion for teaching God’s word and has been doing so in both the local church and academia for nearly twenty years. He lives with his wife and three children in Queen Creek, Arizona.

When Your Enemy Falls

How should a Christian respond when an “enemy” falls?

Like any human being, a Christian is not immune to the temptations of gloating, celebrating, or even berating with an “I told you so” or two. Certainly we all will experience a heavenly moment when the wicked who have wronged us face a righteous judge (we will face Him too), but it is also possible that those who’ve wounded us will face consequences here on earth. It could be through prison time, termination of their employment, or public embarrassment. Or the “darker side” of consequences like physical injury, destruction of livelihood, or even death. In all of these, there is a part of our flesh that wants to pummel our enemies into oblivion. We want the arm they took from us, and then we want to take their legs too. For believers, this heart posture must be put in check.

I remember the moment a report came into me via text message. Not just any report, but a juicy report that fed my flesh the kind of a dish it loves; an “enemy combatant” from my past had experienced a painful and embarrassing event that exposed them for the person I already knew them to be. I felt vindicated — even, happy. I thought to myself, “Yes! finally! You got what you deserved!”

But the celebration did not last long. As quickly as my flesh fueled my prideful joy, The Holy Spirit rushed in with conviction and I was struck with a feeling that something was not right in my heart. I knew that I needed to hear from God concerning my reaction. I opened my Bible and Proverbs 24:17 did the talking.

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles”

I had read that proverb many, many times. Only this time, it hit like a ton of bricks. I quickly realized it was not time to throw a party filled with celebratory vindication. It was time to confess my sin (1 John 1:9), and pray.

When navigating these kinds of situations, self-reflection is vital. At least two questions can be helpful.

Am I Following The Model of Jesus?

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught numerous truths that helped to guide His original audience, and us today. At one point, His words cause us to pause and re-think justice when it comes to interpersonal relationships and conflict. He declared,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).

Jesus consistently taught and modeled self-denial. Any form of seeking revenge or gloating in the pain of others as form of retaliatory justice is not how followers of Jesus are to operate. Such behavior reveals a heart that is seeking “self.” He challenged both His followers and His detractors with this truth. To follow Him means you will be others-focused, and yes, even enemies-focused, in your prayers, reactions, service, and even in your love. The goal is not that you crush them in defeat, but rather, that they might be won over by our witness for the gospel or stand before God without excuse (Romans 10:14-21).

Am I Overlooking My Own Sin?

It’s one thing to desire justice to prevail and law and order to be maintained. That is good for society. However, there is a vein of our culture that demands justice for ourselves, and judgment on others, without ever looking in the mirror of our hearts. We are so quick to point the finger at those who hurt us, but is it possible that their moment of consequence is an opportunity for us to confess sin as well?

When our enemies fall and we desire to celebrate their pain and embarrassment, we are actively denying our own need for the gospel and our own need for grace. The Pharisees were experts at this.

In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus warns, “Judge not, that you be judged. For the with the judgment, you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure, you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Jesus spoke these strong words to both His disciples, and the religious leaders who were experts at self-serving forms of justice and elevating their own righteousness. Without fear, Jesus confronted their hypocrisy and taught His disciples that self-denial is the very essence of what it means to follow Him. Self-denial includes looking in the mirror, facing your own sin, and being humbled by the downfall of others because it could have been you too.

It is impossible to say that we love Jesus and not obey His commands (John 14:15). One of those commands is to love our enemies — which is an impossible task to obey without Jesus’ help.

When an enemy falls and you are tempted to gloat, look to the gospel for humble hope. It is in Christ alone that you will find the strength to love your enemy, and to pray for those who persecute you.

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Dale Thackrah is the Senior Executive Pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He holds an M.A. from Biola University and is a certified biblical counselor who specializes in conflict resolution and financial stewardship. He lives in Queen Creek, AZ with his wife and two children. 

3 Proven Ways to “Grow” Your Youth Ministry

For decades the American church has sold a shallow “growth strategy” revolving around the notion that teenagers and college students need copious amounts of shenanigans to stay in the church and buy into Christianity. Youth Pastors famously emerged as 20-40-year old men spending their work week working on a promo skit to garner a response, and “sermons” that refer to the Bible but don’t teach much. The focus was not on raising future church members, it was on getting kids to show up and think it was “cool.”

If you ever wondered why young people left the church in droves seeking truth? It’s no wonder at all. They were finding plenty of entertainment. But they weren’t finding any real truth.

Where I’m Coming From

As I write this, I don’t sit on a perch of arrogance or high-dollar youth conference expertise. While I’ve overseen the student ministry at two churches as both the “students” pastor and/or the pastor who oversees the youth director, the takeaways in the midst of spiritual and numerical growth is consistently: student ministry is tough. It’s trench work with long seasons of waiting to see if the seeds you planted took root. In many cases, it’s small, unnoticed, unappreciated work.

Still, it doesn’t have to be confusing to come up with a strategy for growth — spiritually, speaking. Pragmatic and “next level” conferences will cost you money, show you things you’ll never have the money to implement, and leave you high on hype but low on fruit.

Ditch the gimmicks. Faithfulness works too. The following numbers only serve as an illustration that silences pragmatists who say, “Bible-teaching is fine but doesn’t work.”

We Grew 396% in Six Months

A recent tweet about our student ministry growth invoked a large number of responses that triggered this article. It’s true. We grew fast and it was fun to watch as more families brought their students to our campus. However, we still have a long way to go with discipleship and raising up leaders who raise up leaders. This has happened on both a smaller and larger scale at both churches I have pastored at. In both contexts, the focus was always God’s word over gimmicks. In both contexts, God sovereignly determined growth. Here’s the tweet:

Many were asking me to flesh out the context of the steps that God used to “grow” our ministry. Of course, we all know that God causes growth and that numbers don’t tell the whole story. But the point of the tweet was to illustrate that young people today are hungry for truth and solid teaching. Furthermore, the most important growth (spiritual) can happen when you use ordinary means, and so can numerical growth (though it’s not guaranteed). 

Contrast that with many student ministry strategies today and youth ministry conference “wisdom” that insist on foolish antics, soundbite messages, “tons of games,” and an X-box station to trigger growth, and you can see the dilemma that so many young leaders are faced with. Pragmatism? Or faithfulness? Manufactured growth? Or God-triggered growth?

What We Focused On

For us, things happened to grow after we shifted gears and did these three things. Still, anyone on our team would tell you that we’d be doing the same things for 2 students or 2000. Additionally, our entire elder team was taking this approach with the entire congregation and other ministries as well. 

Here are the “big three” that we focused on, and how we approach each one.  

1. Major on expository preaching

My friend and fellow pastor, Jon Benzinger, always asks: Are you using the Bible to preach your message, or is the Bible using you to preach its message? 

That question is what every pastor who serves teens to college students must ask. Fortunately, expository preaching helps a great deal. If you’re new to the term, it means that instead of preaching random topics and just loading your message with some quotes from Google, an emotional story for your closing altar call, and a couple of random passages sprinkled in, you unpack a text from Scripture in its proper context and apply it to their lives. This doesn’t mean you can’t preach topics, or that there is no place for other approaches to certain subjects, it just means you’re always preaching what the Bible says, rather than what you think.

For example, if you’re preaching on sexual purity, unpack 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, and give them an actual section of Scripture they will forever understand to the fullest. Preach on separating from the world by digging deep into 1 John 2:15-17. Talk about dating by painting a clear picture of a faithful husband or wife in Ephesians 5:22-35 or from 1 Peter 3:1-7.

The goal of each message is to teach from a text and help your audience understanding the original meaning to the original audience. Throughout that text and as you cross-reference and make points, saturate their hearts with Scripture, explain the context and original audience, ask big questions about what things mean and why God would command such things of His people? Unpack what they were going through, what the passage means, and then apply the passage in ways they can immediately put into practice. This takes work. If you’re the “youth” pastor or preacher, don’t spend half your week working on the skit for your promo video. Focus on your job to proclaim the truth. Delegate the skit to someone else. Study the word, pray for their hearts, work on your homiletics, and don’t be boring! As for illustrations, you can still have a riot with those but keep them linked to the text. For example, one night I was preaching out of James 3 and in my study that week I realized James uses some pretty extreme examples to illustrate the damage done by an untamed tongue. Since I couldn’t light anything on fire in the sanctuary, I cut the pulpit in half with a chainsaw to illustrate what your tongue does when it’s used the wrong way at the wrong time. I had a guy in the church whip up a pulpit (so I didn’t destroy the main one at the church) and hid the chainsaw behind a stage speaker. A bit over the top, probably wouldn’t do it again, but still fun and many students never forgot the lesson from the text (but without the forest fire James references). 

If you think young people can only handle (or will come back for) stories with some shallow platitudes, you’re dead wrong. Trust the Lord, be faithful with His word, and let the Bible do the heavy lifting. Prepare your students for their future as church members by preaching the word. Let it fly! And you can still have some fun.

2. Singing sound doctrine (No Bethel, Jesus, Culture, or Hillsong)

 Music is a huge part of every generation and this generation of teenagers to college students is no different. Unfortunately, some of the most popular music groups today are the most dangerous. We chose, for better or worse, not to cave to the culture and sing Bethel Music (or Jesus Culture, or Hillsong) for several reasons but the main reason was that they and their apostolic leaders teach the prosperity gospel, and/or a heretical version of Jesus that headlines the “New Apostolic Reformation.” You can read more here, and watch it here.

This decision took more work, more research, sacrifice, and some heat, but the Lord honored it. Every week parents and students can count on one thing: we sing music filled with sound doctrine from sources that do not teach heresy. Church money is not purchasing music arrangements and tracks that are directly funding heresy. Students are getting rich theology.

As for methods and nuance there is some flexibility. We have lights (bright and dim), sometimes we’re loud, sometimes we raise our hands, sometimes we pray deep and desperate prayers, and sometimes a band member writes a song and the team tries it out. Furthermore, we don’t take the “six degrees” of separation approach with every song choice or band who played with one band who appeared with Bethel. It’s first degree false teachers we’re steering clear of — for now.

Our bottom line: we are firm in theology, flexible in methodology.

3. Live Q & A Session with anonymous questions using QR Code

We all know the horror stories of young people leaving the church because they couldn’t get a straight answer from the Bible or their pastor. Which is why we opted for an open forum, anonymous Q & A at the end of every message. We schedule at least 2 pastors and 1-2 biblically educated leaders to be on the panel each week. Provide stools, a cold bottle of water, a mic, and let your pastors do what they do best. We use a QR code that is on the screens and posted on our Instagram page. Students simply take a cell phone photo of the QR code, and a form pops up on their smartphone that allows them to ask a question. That question generates on a spreadsheet in Google Drive for our team, and just like that, we have loads of questions either ahead of the time or in real-time. We post the code on the screens before the sermon begins and post it again throughout the night. 

Since I am technically challenged, our brilliant intern (who leaves for the Master’s University this fall) lays out the process here:

Q & A Set-Up: 

1. Build the form: setup your Q&A Survey with Google Forms. It’s free and easy! https://docs.google.com/forms/

  1. Setup the form to email / update with responses
  2. Set the “Select response destination” to “Create a new spreadsheet”

2. Manage responses: Find the spreadsheet with responses in your Google Drive and manage responses live during Q&A or update afterward

  1. Add columns to the spreadsheet for any additional tracking information you want to keep updated.
  2. Using a field such as “Answer Date” to mark the ones you’ve answered. Delete rows for any duplicate or off-topic questions.

3. Share it with students and leaders

  1. From Settings select “Send Form” and shorten the link to copy it and generate a QR Code for the form to share with the attendees. 
  2. Paste the QR image into a presentation, PowerPoint slide, or on social media and instruct attendees to point any smartphone camera app at the code to direct them to the form. They can easily fill it out and submit in a smartphone-friendly view.

When it comes to ministry that targets the next generation of church members, we do well to think of the kind of people we are influencing them to be. Will they get the answers they need to be strong, mature, and faithful to the truth? Or will they be flighty, insecure, and immature? God is the one who causes the growth. He also uses your labor as a means to that end (Colossians 1:28-29).

NAR Recovery Roadmap

Through online communication channels like email and social media, I receive a large amount of questions and loathe the fact that I can’t keep up with them. While God doesn’t “need” anyone, and He is absolutely faithful in saving souls and guiding them to solid spiritual food, I often think back to how He used the kindness of Christians to point me to helpful resources when I needed them the most. Like many pastors, I want to be a faithful steward of opportunities and point people to truth as well — especially when they’re coming out of destructively confusing belief systems like the prosperity gospel and the New Apostolic Reformation.

To help field the continuous stream of requests in both the local church on online, this resource is a “New Apostolic Reformation Recovery Roadmap.” You could probably put “Prosperity Gospel” or “Word of Faith” movement in there too. If you or someone you know has questions pertaining to these movements and is seeking biblical truth, it’s more than likely that many questions will be answered once this roadmap is complete.

I’ve broken these resources down into categories to help you navigate through them and included two “church finder” links. When combined with regular daily prayer & reading, journaling thoughts and biblical reflections, pastoral counseling (as needed), and small group discussion, a healthy approximated timeline for completing the roadmap could be anywhere from 60-90 days depending on how much content you devour in one sitting. Depending on your situation, it could be better to take a much longer and slower approach as needed. For most people recovering from the NAR or prosperity theology, “breathers” may be necessary as you process the painful abuses and false doctrines you’ve endured.

Sermons and Conference Sessions (Watch All)

The Protestant Reformation vs. The New Apostolic Reformation

This sermon from a conference at our church helps quantify what exactly is so dangerous about the NAR and why it differs greatly from the faithful and biblical teachings triggered by the Protestant Reformation.

Spirit-Led Worship in a Self-Centered Culture 

This message from G3 addresses what Spirit-filled worship looks like and cautions against both excessive emotionalism and rigid rationalism. 

Defining Deception

This audio sermon from “Sundays in July” at Grace Community Church is a full summary of what the NAR teaches and the dangerous historical lineage it stems from. 

Rescuing Those Caught in Deception (Jude 17-23)

One of the most common questions I get is: “How do I reach friends, family, and love ones caught in these dangerous movements?” This sermon message from a conference at our church will equip you to understand people and reach them.

Truth & Transformation Series (w/ Justin Peters and Costi Hinn)

In this 7-part series Justin Peters and Costi Hinn unpack and explain the dangerous of prosperity theology, charismatic extremism, the Word of Faith movement, and more. They also answer key questions regarding healing, tongues, and how to study the Bible in context. 

Books & DVD (Choose at least 2)

Defining Deception by Costi W. Hinn and Anthony G. Wood

This book is a full handbook for understanding NAR theology and how to recover from it. In the newly revised and expanded version (Feb 2021), Anthony and I offer wisdom for how to find the right church, how to protect your own church, and much more. He and I have spent more than 5 years counseling churches and leaders through NAR recovery. 

God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel by Costi W. Hinn

This book provides the entire backstory of my conversion and has chapters breaking down prosperity theology and the dangers of it. It also explains how to reach people caught in these movements. Finally, the book explains the details regarding the lifestyle of prosperity preachers and how the gospel is twisted for monetary gain.  

Strange Fire by John MacArthur

If you’re looking for a bold and strong take on the extremes of the Charismatic Movement, this book holds little back. You may not agree with everything in it, but it is a healthy challenge to anyone coming out of the NAR and will bring clarity regarding numerous false teachings in the church today.

Clouds Without Water 

In my personal opinion, this DVD is the most needed resource for anyone questioning the NAR or coming out of false teaching. Justin Peters is loving, truthful, and downright surgical in his breakdown of this subject matter. Best of all, he proclaims the true gospel and uses actual video clips of false teachers so you can hear their outrageous claims directly, then he teaches from the Bible.

American Gospel: Christ Alone

In one of the most powerful Christian documentaries ever made, the gospel is put front and center for all to see. Pastors, theologians, and Christian leaders from all walks of life and denominations come together to stand boldly for Jesus, and refute dangerous teachings. (Watch on Amazon, Netflix, or order the DVD)

Podcast Q & A (Watch All)

What Does it Mean to Pray in Jesus’ Name? (John 14:14)

What Did Jesus Mean in Matthew 18:19? 

What Did Jesus Mean By “Greater Works” in John 14:12? 

What Did Jesus “Pay” For and When Do We Get It? (A Biblical View of the Atonement)

Is Tithing 10% Commanded for Believers Today? 

A Pastoral Response to Bethel’s Dead-Raising Charade

Convictions of a Biblical Church (Listen to episodes 31-38)

Articles (Read All)

7 Threats From a False Teacher

How to Heal from Theological Abuse

New Apostolic Reformation Kryptonite

How to View Claims About Dreams and Visions

Mythbuster: “Slain in the Spirit”

Did a False Teacher Heal You?

Is it Always God’s Will to Heal Now?

How Do I Know If I Am Really Saved?

Should Your Church Sing Jesus Culture & Bethel Music?

Will a Man Rob God? 5 Key Questions About Tithing 10%

A Biblical View of Signs, Wonders, & Miracles

Why Contend for the Faith?

Church Finder Resources

Disclaimer: Churches will vary in their music choice, style, methods, leadership structures, and ministry programs. However, a faithful church will be marked by things like expository preaching, prayer in submission to the will of God, discipleship ministry, evangelism (both locally, regionally, and globally), boldness to proclaim truth and refute error, biblical views on marriage, gender roles, and parenting as well as an emphasis on love, unity, and care between pastors and staff. No church is perfect, but a faithful church is progressing in truth and love together. For more, be sure to listen to our podcast episodes on the conviction of a biblical church.

TMS Church Finder (Insert your zip code to find a church led by a Master’s Seminary Graduate)

Michelle Lesley’s Blog has a page dedicated to helping people find faithful churches.

Shocking Videos (Watch All)

Bethel Children’s Pastor claims that he had a vision during which Jesus apologized to him and asked him for forgiveness. Yes, you read that correctly. “Jesus” apologized and asked the Bethel leader for forgiveness.

Todd White flips the gospel upside down and confuses what the cross was all about.

NAR hero, Kenneth Hagin, was about to preach but then began to act out in demonic manifestations including slithering his tongue like a snake. He was the mentor to Kenneth Copeland.

In one of the most disturbing “impartation” videos online, NAR teacher Heidi Baker lays hands on a young boy who begins to convulse and “roar” with animal (or demonic) sounds.

This excerpt from “American Gospel: Christ Alone” explains how false teachers like Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn are passing the torch to men like Todd White.

12 False Teachings from Bethel is a 15-minute illustrated video with helpful explanations of the dangerous teachings and practices of the well-known, Bethel Church in Redding, CA. When churches purchase their music, they are directly supporting this poison.

A former Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry (BSSM) student explains why she “defected” from Bethel and the cult-like atmosphere they create.

If you have found this roadmap to be helpful, feel free to share it with others in your church or online. Should you find helpful resources that can be added, send a link and a brief description to info@forthegospel.org. 

 

The Kind of Preaching the Church Needs

The church needs bold, biblical, unashamed preaching. Though most every church will claim they “preach” and that they preach the Bible, that isn’t necessarily the case.

If there is one thing that a church must excel in prioritizing it is not a building campaign, story-telling, TED talks, pragmatic growth strategies, or more programs. It is preaching. Real, biblically-saturated, passionate, accurate, counter-cultural, Jesus-glorifying preaching. That is the ministry that every other ministry flows out of.

It is through preaching that the stewardship of the gospel — which has been entrusted to the church — is faithfully dispensed to a lost and hurting world (Romans 1:16-17).

It is through preaching that the saints are equipped for the work of service and thus build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). It is through preaching that faith comes to the one who hears the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). It is through preaching that wayward sinners repent (Luke 15:7).  It through preaching — and, preaching the whole counsel of God — that preachers themselves fulfill their call to be faithful “stewards” (Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Catherine Marshall once wisely explained, “The faithfulness of a steward consists in his dispensing to the household exactly what has been committed to him; the faithfulness of a witness lies in his declaring with honesty and candour exactly what he knows, neither concealing part of the truth, nor distorting it, nor embellishing it.”

When such an explanation of stewardship is applied to preaching, how can we not conclude that any church and its preacher is required to preach exactly what the Bible declares if it is to be defined as “faithful?”

I was recently reflecting on the vitality of faithful preaching in the church today and at least 4 “needs” came to mind.

  1. The church needs preaching that fears God

If we’re absorbed with fearing God, there is no time or energy left with which to fear men. But we’re human. So naturally, we’ll waver from time to time. All the more reason to be absorbed in fearing God.

Some preachers fear for their paycheck because their church culture is as such that they must preach to please men, not God. Others avoid words like “repent,” or “sin,” in favor of softer language that is less offensive. But such language is in the Bible, and therefore, directly given by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is impossible to preach with a deep reverence for God when busy catering to the mood swings of people or tip-toeing around hard truths. That is not God’s will for His church or His preachers. Churches need to expect their pastors to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. It does not do a church any good to have preachers that are little more than puppets.

Jesus’ sobering reminder in Matthew 10:28 is fitting here as He declared to His disciples, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The church needs preachers who fear God; who are unashamed and unreserved as they boldly enter the pulpit and unleash logic on fire.

  1. The church needs preaching that feeds them Scripture

It’s easy to find great stories, emotional manipulation, and cultural pandering in many pulpits today. It’s harder to find biblical preaching. A dear pastor friend will often exhort younger men to ask themselves this convicting question when assessing their approach to preaching: “Am I using the Bible to preach my message, or is the Bible using me to preach its message?”

The bottom line is: the church needs Scripture. No matter how important the financial needs of a church are, no matter what programs the church wants to push or what upcoming events need to be announced, the most important item of “business” when the church gathers is not the business of fundraising or convincing people to register for the women’s tea, it is the business of feeding sheep the word of God. Many practical things will certainly need to (and should) happen when the church gathers, but nothing is more essential than preaching.

Like those in John 12:21 who came to Philip with a request, the church must demand of its preacher: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

  1. The church needs preaching that focuses on eternity

Richard Baxter exclaimed, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”

This is eternal perspective in preaching. A preacher should rightly ask himself, “What if this were the last sermon I ever preached?” Not only that, but the church needs preaching that points them to their eternal home.  The letters of 1 & 2 Peter are the embodiment of eternal focus in amid a chaotic culture. Peter places a strong emphasis on the fact that believers are aliens, sojourners, or exiles, just passing through while here on earth. Our citizenship is in heaven.

A faithful preacher doesn’t guarantee “your best life now.” A faithful preacher declares that your best life is yet to come.

  1. The church needs preaching that is fueled by love

On the subject of a preacher’s love, Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another.”

Love is giving people the truth. Love is preaching with a moist eye. Love is seeing them as souls in need of their beautiful Savior!

As a young pastor, I was once in a meeting where I heard a leader refer to people as “giving units.” I’d never heard such a term but quickly realized that this how many church administrations view people. Such talk is disgusting for a preacher of God’s word and whether one realized it or not, such talk trains the mind to view people as a means to the financial bottom line. Yes, we can make projections and see families within the local church as those who support the work of ministry and allow that budgets be created and sustained. But they are never to be referred to or seen as “giving units.” They are precious people who need the gospel. And, their giving and spiritual gifts are the outworking of gospel transformation that occurs when God uses the loving and faithful preaching of church leaders (Ephesians 4:12).

In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul reminds his young protégé in the faith, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Preachers motivated not by money or pragmatic results, but by love, are what the church needs today.

If you’re a preacher, may you fulfill your ministry with a heart of love for God’s glory and God’s people. If you’re a member of Christ’s flock, may you find and flourish in pastures led by faithful preachers of God’s word.

10 Commandments for Social Media

This article needs minimal introduction. Social media is ablaze right now and has been for some time. Rage is on the rise, wars are fought using words as ammunition, and aggressive debate takes its toll on even the most upbeat human souls.

How does a Christian resist the temptation to hurl verbal stones when it has become fashionable to do so? What stands in the way of us believing that launching insults and attacking others is akin to “fighting the good fight” of faith?

I find that the temptation to dive into the social media fray is ever-present, so during a recent vacation, I got off social media and prayed through some principles that I could use to redeem the use of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. While we all fail at using proper social media etiquette from time to time (I am guilty of this!), these “10 Commandments for Social Media” may prove especially helpful during turbulent days like the ones we are currently in. If anything, using them as a part of your regular posting protocols may keep you out of a few more kerfuffles and offer more peace of mind.

  1. Thou shalt post scripture passages

Whatever happened to the good ole’ fashioned days of “posting a Bible verse” on social media? Try this one out and consider posting daily from the word of God. You may even want to only post a Bible passage some days. Thankfully, several Christian leaders do this regularly.

  1. Thou shalt post biblically-rich articles

When is the last time you heard of someone changing the world with an angry tweet, slanderous tabloid fare, or trashy news? It doesn’t happen. But what does change hearts and minds? Biblically rich resources — even if they pack a bit of a (conviction-driven) punch from time to time. People need solid writing that is loaded with practical and biblical teaching. Nothing feeds hungry hearts better than God’s will from God’s word. Point people to Jesus in biblical ways and help them practically apply divine truths. That will change the world.

  1. Thou shalt post expository sermons

It might get more hits to share gossip, but what people need is the gospel and deep dives into the Scriptures. In the long run, the amount of encouragement and edification that occurs when we share gospel-centered sermons that walk people verse-by-verse through the Bible will long outlive anything else we share because the results are eternal. Share your favorite sermons, recommend faithful pastors, and watch God use your efforts to draw His people home.

  1. Thou shalt post edifying videos (or GIFs)

We are living in a “video” generation. Social media sites optimize posts that use video, people devour videos, and millions share videos. Believers who want to redeem social media can do so by posting biblically-rich videos that edify and encourage people. And remember, sometimes brevity is best. Not to be outdone, the GIF has been a revolutionary little tool for social media use. In my humble opinion, there is no one better at the “Christian” use of these than my Twitter friend, Garrett Kell (@pastorjgkell). He’s the GIF Pastor-Master and consistently edifies his followers by using videos (often funny) that illustrate serious and biblical truths.

  1. Thou shalt post God-glorifying quotes

Posting quotes is one of the best ways to share timeless truths and introduce people to influential theologians, pastors, and reliable sources. While you might think everyone will learn about Spurgeon by reading his pivotal 400+ page work, Lectures to My Students, it’s more likely that people will come to hear about him through Christian’s posting inspiring quotes. From voices of the past like J.C. Ryle, R.C. Sproul, G.K. Chesterton, Elisabeth Elliott, Corrie ten Boom, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Hudson Taylor, to faithful voices of today, quotes edify and educate.

  1. Thou shalt post doctrinally sound book recommendations

What an abundance of wisdom could be spread if we share what books have been impacting our growth? I think teaching people how to identify reliable books is akin like the old cliché that goes, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” You can share your opinion on a matter and trigger someone’s reaction, or you can share a book and change someone’s mind. Speaking of which, I’ve given you my opinion on this, so here are three books that will shape how you view and use social media: Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke, and The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch.

  1. Thou shalt post using gracious and mature speech (Colossians 4:5-6)

While there is nothing wrong with speaking the hard truth, the Bible is clear that a Christian must still use gracious speech even when hidden behind a screen. For all his “telling it like it is” to the Galatian and Corinthian Christians, the apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that love was essential in all his efforts (1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 1 Timothy 1:5). Far too often, people treat humans on the other side of social media debates as anything but human, and love is nowhere to be found. A simple question: would you speak and act the way you do online if you were in a group setting at church? With the way some of us operate, we would likely find our way into church discipline or out the door. Let Colossians 4:5-6 be a guiding lamp for the way you walk online.

  1. Thou shalt not engage in petty debate (Titus 3:9)

We’ve all done it. We’ve all regretted it. Petty debate is such an easy sinkhole to fall into online. Reject it, every time. Furthermore, let us never forget that many of the vain wranglers on Twitter and Facebook run monetized YouTube channels and websites. They have a machine — no, a monster — that they must feed. So, instead of making disciples in their local church, studying and teaching real people, and focusing on devotion to Christ and loving their family, they scour the online world looking for theological gnats to strain and molehills to turn into mountains. Back and forth they go, and they go, and they go. Ignore them. This isn’t to say that all “discernment bloggers” fit that picture or that you should never offer a gracious and explanatory response. Many people do a wonderful job equipping saints (Ephesians 4:12), speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:16), marking dangerous teachers (Romans 16:17-18), and refuting destructive doctrines (Titus 1:9). They expose evil deeds in very helpful ways (Ephesians 5:11). But consider putting a cap on how many responses you’ll offer before taking it offline with a phone call, or leaving it alone.

  1. Thou shalt not vent in haste on social media

Nothing good comes from online venting. Even if you’re frustrated, “prudence” is a trusted friend that helps even fools remain silent, and thus appear wise (Proverbs 17:28). If we made a dime for every time we should have kept our fingers holstered on social media but chose to vent in haste, we’d all be rich. Some basic tips here: 1) Don’t post late at night, 2) Don’t post when high on emotion, 3) Don’t post if you have second thoughts, and 4) Use #10.

  1. Thou shalt run questionable posts by accountability partners

On a “Top 5” list of temptations for social media users, you’d likely find the temptation to ignore a spouse, a pastor, a friend, or a co-worker who says, “Don’t post that!” or “Don’t say it like that.” Nearly every Tweet I ever regretted posting has been one that my wife or a mentor said, “You really should’ve held off on that one.” Pride says, “I’m fighting the fight here, people!” or “Someone’s got to say tell it like it is and that someone is me!” Unfortunately, pride is rarely (if ever) right. And perhaps someone does need to say “it.” But “it” probably needs an “edit” button.

I hope these help you in some way, shape, or form. Until Christ returns or Twitter gives us an edit button, may we all fight the “online” fight the right way — in a way that honors God.

How to View Claims About Dreams and Visions

When it comes to analyzing dreams and visions, very few people are short on opinion.

Some seek dreams, visions, and other mystical experiences constantly yet don’t even know their Bible. Others dismiss every supernatural claim and prefer rationalism at all costs; unwilling to even accept any possibility that supernatural experiences could either be demonic or that God could providentially use a very normal dream to move someone into realistic action once they wake up.

There are landmines on all sides of this subject, and one of those is that it tends to become a tier 1 issue. In other words, people will make railing judgments about the salvation of an individual based on their position regarding how God may or may not use dreams, or if it is possible for someone to have some supernatural experience. It’s important to navigate these hotly debated waters with a great deal of grace, while still holding fast to the truth of God’s word. A fascinating example of this is when R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler sit with Ravi Zacharias as he shares about some interesting experiences during this Q & A.

What About “Sola Scriptura?” 

The natural question arises for theological conservatives: Wouldn’t such an experience deny “Sola Scriptura?” This question has two answers: Yes, and no (depending on what the claim is).

Why yes?  If someone is making wild claims that demean Jesus and contradict His word, that should be cause for red flags. Especially if they say things that insult Him, like one particular claim from a leader at Bethel Church in Redding, California who declared that in a vision Jesus came and asked for him for forgiveness. You read that correctly. The claim was that Jesus asked for this leader to forgive him.

Why no? While discernment is merited for supernatural claims, someone simple having a dream would fall within the normal pattern of human behavior. A dream is simply defined as “a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep.” It is possible that someone could dream about Jesus and that God could use a dream to lead them to investigate Jesus and the Bible in the same way that someone could dream about baseball and wake up wanting to play baseball. Can we honestly say that God can’t put a thought in someone’s head? That seems far-reaching to deny, even if this subject makes you uncomfortable. Another experience that would not violate Sola Scriptura is if someone had a demonic experience. Such a thing is a non sequitur to Sola Scriptura since most who hold to Sola Scriptura would not deny that the Devil and demons are actively attacking people through deception of all sorts — including demonization, false signs, witchcraft, and more. We can’t possibly deny that demonic experiences are real and that the Devil is actively working to deceive people with real experiences dripping with sinister lies. Therefore, discernment is crucial.

As you navigate claims regarding dreams and visions, here are some practical steps to consider. These will keep you from swinging to extremes or jumping to conclusions. We do well to avoid sign-seeking and sensationalism (Matthew 12:38-39), while at the same time being careful with our words lest we lose an opportunity to guide someone into the truth and needlessly hurt someone with our dismissive or pompous attitude (Colossians 4:6).

1. Be sensitive to new believers and their experiences

When someone comes to us and shares their perceived experience, dismissal is the best way to get yourself dismissed. Just like nobody wants to work for someone who wreaks of smug arrogance, and just like no one opens up to a father who suppresses your expressions and unkindly dismisses questions, nobody trusts those who jump to hasty conclusions or who exhibit a condescending tone.

Some people have experienced something and they need sensitivity and help. What if their experience was demonic and they don’t know it? Could it be that they don’t know their Bible very well and are innocently ignorant? What if they merely had a dream and it led them to further investigation and gospel transformation in a country that doesn’t allow missionaries? Couldn’t Jesus build His church in some way that causes a person to investigate the true gospel? It helps no one when someone opens up to us and we pompously remark: “Whatever you experienced wasn’t real. You’re making this up.” Being sensitive doesn’t mean you’re agreeing or believing. It just means you’re listening and caring.

2. Be discerning because a lot of people make things up

There are a ton of made-up stories. When I was growing up in the Word of Faith movement, one next-generation family member who is now running with the New Apostolic Reformation told me that we have freedom in Christ to make things up sometimes if it builds people’s faith. He made up healings, visions, stories about God verbally speaking to him, and more. Many people do this. Don’t be shocked or deceived.

3. Be willing to confront glaring inconsistencies with Scripture

Oral Roberts was an old hero of mine, a famous pioneer of faith healing, and a dangerous deceiver. He once claimed that a 900-ft tall “Jesus” appeared to him, and later on claimed “God told him” that people needed to give millions of dollars towards a building project or God would kill him.[1]

If someone claims something manipulative like this, they don’t need a 900-ft tall Jesus, they need the Scriptures that the real Jesus taught. Some people we encounter will have had demonic experiences or have been led away by strange and deceitful spirits (1 Timothy 4:1). They need to be taught that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

3. Be willing to say “I don’t know what you experienced.” 

So many want to slam dunk people with black and white answers but the reality is, you can’t know everything or conclude upon every person’s story with absolute certainty. What can you say with total confidence from time to time? Simply say, “I don’t know.” This allows you to point to what you do know — which leads us to the most important point in this article.

4. Be consistently pointing to the sufficiency of Scripture

Let’s imagine for a moment that someone did have a dream about Jesus and it caused them to wake up to reality and seek out answers. Guess what? We don’t live by dreams. We don’t get saved by dreams. We don’t stay saved by dreams. We don’t get filled with the Spirit by dreams. We don’t study the Bible through dreams. We don’t get heaven by dreams. Faith doesn’t come by dreaming.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Even if you think you heard the word of Christ in a dream, you’ve still got to wake up and live by faith in reality!

When it comes to dreams and discerning an experience, we don’t need to be cruel to people. But we also don’t need to be chasing signs or hunting for the next “high” that gets our adrenaline pumping. The word of God is enough for the true believer and will always be enough.

Isaiah 40:8 reminds us, “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

___________________________

[1] “Oral Roberts Tells of Talking to 900-Foot Jesus,” Tulsa World, October 16, 1980, accessed December 23, 2016,

Navigating Different COVID-19 Convictions

If there is one word to describe how we must navigate re-gathering amid COVID-19, it’s this: grace. 

A friend of mine who happens to be the Vice President of a prominent seminary and no stranger to the challenges in leadership recently tweeted words that accurately predict the current (and coming) landscape in homes, families, and friendships.

Charles Smith wrote: “Prediction: one of the most challenging aspects of the #COVID19 recovery will be disagreements over acceptable post-COVID social norms between friends and family. Hurt feelings will abound if we’re not careful. Extend lots of grace. Everyone is different.”

He couldn’t be more right. This reality is especially going to hit hard for pastors — starting with the dynamic between staff and leadership teams.

I believe one of the ways that the enemy will seek to divide our ranks within the church is by tempting us to use our opinions against each other. If the Devil has his way, we’ll be throwing stones of accusation from all sides, calling the cautious people “soft,” labeling the optimists of being “reckless.” More than that, the enemy especially loves when we cement ourselves in political corners; adding opinionated fuel to the already tumultuous fire of conflict.

Things can get ugly — very quickly.

This is a new frontier of ministry for an entire generation of leaders. We must recognize the challenges and begin to determine how we will face COVID recovery before it erodes valuable relationships.

Navigating our varying COVID convictions is a non-negotiable for any leader who desires not only a physically healthy organization, but an emotionally healthy one too.

We’re Going to Be Different

The pastoral staff I am a part of is one example of taking differing approaches to COVID quarantine and ministry, and that’s okay. Our different approaches have even become helpful because we can diversify our ministry efforts like different members of the body should (1 Corinthians 12:12). Further, we are sharpened in our ability to love one another regardless of unique circumstances. One of our pastors has vulnerable family members and works exclusively from home. One had a baby during the crisis and needed others to carry the added load while he went on paternity leave. Another can serve more openly in the community right now, while another endured unexpected back surgery and is mostly bound to bed during recovery time. It takes a great deal of sensitivity and understanding to navigate how each member of our team is approaching the scenario. It will continue to require such understanding as we approach re-gathering with friends, family, and our church. The reality is, we are all a unique blend of experiences, vulnerabilities, preferences, tendencies, and talents.

Perhaps you relate to one or more aspects of the following COVID-19 profiles:

Cautious: Those who primarily work from home, follow every aspect of CDC regulations, and prefer to stay conservative about their re-gathering plan.

Confident: Those who don’t wear a mask, spend greater amounts of time with people outside their home and don’t mind tight proximity, obey the law but don’t necessarily worry much about going the extra-mile with precautions, lean towards re-gathering now regardless of the news, and some think this crisis may be blown way out of proportion.

“Cauti-dent”: Those who find themselves doing and feeling a little bit of everything in both the cautious and the confident profile.

There are certainly a few more profiles that could be added here, including those who have strong opinions about churches holding services online instead of gathering physically, obedience to government instructions, and conspiracy theories about numerous aspects of the crisis, but those views do not necessarily help us navigate re-gathering.

It’s Okay to Be Different

The temptation is to look at these profiles and let your opinion dominate your perspective.

For highly confident optimists, others are much too conservative. Perhaps, some would even accuse others of living by fear and not faith — which can be true of all of us at times.

For cautious types, confident optimists may be too relaxed as the “what ifs” begin to creep into their minds. They think, what do we gain by re-gathering so quickly? Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

As the spiral of opinion leads you downward, you must formulate a game plan that takes you upward. It’s okay to be different! To have a healthy family, a healthy team, and a healthy church there must room for different opinions and experiences. These differences often stretch us and help us grow together and learn from each other. We need to respect one another and realize that everyoneis navigating a new frontier.

A healthy relational ecosystem allows for “different,” and even leverages it to help us make decisions.

Attitude Determines Altitude​

You may have a healthy culture in your church, organization, or family. Conversely, you may be seeing tension rising and anticipate this issue being a major challenge. Whatever the case, your attitude is going to determine your altitude. In other words, whether or not you lead yourself and others above the fray and towards a higher perspective depends on attitude.

Here are 4 attitudes for COVID-19 re-gathering that will strengthen your ability to navigate differing views and approaches:

1. Optimistic people are a blessing to my life. It keeps me hopeful about the future and enables me to embrace uncertainty as opportunity.

2. Cautious people are a blessing to my life. It keeps me sensitive to the needs and concerns of others and enables me to make prudent decisions.

3. Different gifts and approaches make us all more effective. Pride demands that everyone do things the way we demand. Read 1 Corinthians 12 and celebrate different gifts.

4. People matter more than my opinion. Being in healthy relationships with people is a privilege that requires me to love others above myself. When I am highly opinionated, I can needlessly hurt others.

Choose Love

In the end, these attitudes prepare our hearts and minds to do one thing above all else: choose love. Preserving valuable relationships and developing healthy teams, churches, and families is more important than winning arguments, or being (more) right.

Look, when this crisis begins to wind down, there will be plenty of people who got some things right, and plenty of people who got some things wrong. There will be those who blew things out of proportion, and those who didn’t take things as seriously as they should’ve. Some will take longer to come back to the office, others will rush in (or are already there).

What will it matter if we re-gathering only to end up “socially distant” again not because of a virus, but because of our inability to love others who approach COVID-19 differently than we do?

Choose love.

***This article was originally published by “For the Church” here.

Video: Is Tithing 10% Commanded for The Church?

The term “tithing” isn’t as controversial as the definition is.

Quite often, in faithful churches around the world, you will hear the word “tithe” attached to “offerings” as a traditionally general way to describe giving. A pastor might say, “This morning you can give your tithes and offerings in the buckets as they go by or online.” 

Usually, this is referring to general giving and is not thought of beyond that. 

However, there is a large swath of church leaders who mean something very specific when they use the word “tithe.” These teachers insist that tithing is commanded for New Testament believers today and that to give any less than 10% of your income to the church is “robbing God.” 

There is no reason to be unkind and suspect that all of these teachers are false or evil, but there is reason to study Scripture and make sure that we are teaching and obeying it accurately. Some Christians I’ve met have gone their entire life without every studying the topics of tithing, money, and generosity. There is so much to learn and life-changing truths are just waiting to be applied to our worship of God and love for others.

In this video, fellow pastor Kyle Swanson and I speak openly and biblically about what the tithe is, and whether or not it’s commanded today. 

Should we be incredibly generous in our giving? Certainly! Should we be flippant in how we handle and obey Scripture? Certainly not. 

 

How to Become a Prayer Warrior?

Have you ever wanted to become a prayer warrior? Do you want to get beyond the basic (not unimportant) mentality that prayer is asking God to “touch everyone, heal everyone, help everyone, and bless everyone?” What if you began to pray about God’s will even more than your will?

Perhaps the next step if for you to take a deep dive into the prayers and desires that heroes in the faith had.

I believe to be effective in our prayer life we must train our perspective on prayer. Prayer is a vital part of our relationship with Christ. Further, we must know how to use this weapon we’ve been given by God — especially when in seasons like the one we’re in.

Though not exhaustive regarding all the prayers in the N.T., this post will train your perspective on what to pray by showing you 41 of Paul’s N.T. prayers (or desires). I’ve taken the list from D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformationand added some commentary in “focus” portion of the graph below. Does God care about “Aunt Sally’s knee surgery?” and “Little Johnny’s ‘sniffles?'” Of course He does. But when prayers for physical ailments dominate our prayer lists and church prayer chains, perhaps it’s worth considering a chart like the one below and asking ourselves, what else can I be praying for? What is God’s will in this situation? What brings Him ultimate glory? Is my will aligned with His? 

Relief, provision, healing, and protection are excellent things to pray for. But, the gospel is why we are here on earth and God’s glory is what we must long for most. Until heaven, let us pray with that perspective!

Here are some ways to use this chart:

  1. Pray one of Paul’s prayers daily, in addition to your normal prayers. Apply his prayers for other believers to the ones in your own life.
  2. Use his prayers a way to invite the conviction of the Holy Spirit into your own prayer life. Are you focusing on mostly physical things? Are your prayers (though this might sting) shallow and earthly? Do you hold the gospel as primary and all else secondary?
  3. Share this list with a small group or Bible study cohort and work through it as a study tool.
  4. Try praying for only gospel-centered things for 3 straight days — multiple times per day.
  5. Try praying prayers that only loaded with thanksgiving to God for 3 straight days — multiple times per day.
  6. Make a list of all the ways that you could be the answer to the prayer you’ve been praying. For example, instead of praying that “someone share the gospel with your family member,” why don’t you share the gospel with your family member (even if it’s the 50th time)?
  7. Start listing out your prayers and keep track of how many revolve around you and your wants. Work to balance spiritual and physical requests.

The list above is only to spark your thoughts. Use this chart however is best for your prayer life training.

Paul’s 41 New Testament Prayers

Scripture Reference Quoted Passage  Prayer Focus
Romans 1:8–10 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. Thanksgiving, and that Paul would be able to come see them.
Romans 10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. Salvation for others.
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Encouragement to pray.
Romans 15:5–6 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Harmony and unity between believers.
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. For joy and peace to fill their lives.
Romans 15:30–33 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. That Paul’s gospel efforts would succeed.
1 Corinthians 1:4–9 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Thanksgiving, that believers would be strengthened and be found faithful when Christ returns.
1 Corinthians 16:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. God’s grace.
2 Corinthians 1:3–7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. Praising God for who He is as our comfort and our everlasting hope in hard times.
2 Corinthians 2:14–16 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? Thanksgiving to God for the victory we have in His Son Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 9:12–15 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! Thanksgiving to God for provision, generosity, and the grace of God through others.
2 Corinthians 13:7–9 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. Asking that God would keep them from sin.
Galatians 6:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. God’s grace.
Ephesians 1:3–5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, Praising God for mercifully saving us as His children and blessing us spiritually through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:15–23  For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Thanksgiving for what God is doing through their faith, that wisdom and knowledge would illuminate them to the hope and inheritance that they have in Christ. Praise and adoration to Jesus for His victory over sin both now and when He returns to reign over all.
Ephesians 3:14–21 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Reverence and adoration to God the Father for who He is, that the saints would be spiritually strengthened, knowing the love of Christ. Glorifying God for His power.
Ephesians 6:19–20 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. That the gospel would be preached boldly.
Philippians 1:3–6 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving for faithful saints who partner to spread the Gospel.
Philippians 1:9–11 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. That love would abound in the believers, that they would live holy lives and be found faithful.
Philippians 4:6–7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Pray without worry, with total thanksgiving, and receive peace no matter what.
Philippians 4:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. God’s grace.
Colossians 1:3–14 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Thanksgiving for the faith that saints are living with and their whole-hearted example as Christians. For strength, endurance, patience, joy. Praise and adoration to God for His power and victory. Praise to God for His merciful redemption and fogiveness of our sins through Christ.
Colossians 4:2–4 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Be faithful and alert in your prayer life, be thankful, pray that the gospel would be spread.
1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving for what God is doing in the lives of believers.
1 Thessalonians 2:13–16  And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last! Thanksgiving for the way believers received the word. Praise for the Word’s work in their lives.
1 Thessalonians 3:9–13 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,  as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. Praise and thanksgiving to God for the joy that comes from seeing believers live out their faith. Requesting that the Lord would grow their love for each other, that they’d be blameless/holy.
1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. That God would sanctify(cleanse) the believers and they would be found blamess when Christ returns.
1 Thessalonians 5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. God’s grace.
2 Thessalonians 1:3–5 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— Thankgiving because the faith in God and love for each other is growing.
2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. That God would grow them in their faith and in good works. That their spiritual fruit would glorify God.
2 Thessalonians 2:16–17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. That they would be comforted and strengthened in their walk.
2 Thessalonians 3:1–5 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. For the Gospel to spread quickly, God to be glorified, deliverance from wicked men who were stifling their efforts, for direction and steadfastness.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. For peace from God.
1 Timothy 1:12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, Thanksgiving to God.
1 Timothy 2:1–3 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, Pray for government and leaders, for saints to live quiet and dignified lives to please God.
2 Timothy 1:3–7 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Thanksgiving, thoughtful affection for a brother in the Lord. That they would be reunited to labor for the kingdom together again one day.
2 Timothy 1:16–18 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. Mercy (and approval) for Paul’s friend and supporter when the he stands before the Lord one day because of his faithfulness and loyalty.
2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. God be with you.
Titus 3:15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. God’s grace.
Philemon 4–7 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,  because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. Thanksgiving for the faith and love they have for Christ and others. That their witness would be effective for Christ.
Philemon 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. God’s grace.