This month I am visiting my family and spending time with my daughter in the USA.

Normally during such visits, I go to the public Library to find some good books, this time I’m reading about Saint Francis of Assisi. We Pentecostals normally don’t read about Catholic saints, but Francis’s story is fascinating. He was a rich young cloth merchant who had a radical encounter with Christ through a vision of the Cross in a small chapel in Italy in early 1200. He dedicates his life to preach Christ in a revolutionary way by imitating Christ’s words in Matthew 10:9:

“Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food”.

Francis models a life totally committed to poverty with no material ownership and only preaching the Gospel; begging for food to eat, keeping no money received but giving all to the poor, working with lepers and sick people!

At a time when the Catholic Church was involved in material prosperity and political and military matters such as; setting Emperors in Europe, organizing Crusades against the Moslems – Francis’ movement with 12 followers called ‘Little Brothers’ caused a major stir to challenge and transform the Church. (Such revolutionaries are very much needed today in the Pentecostal Church which is focused on material blessing, power, property and prosperity).

Defying the norm that wealth and power are the means of influence, it is said that the ‘Poorest man on earth, caused the greatest transformation in Europe!’

Francis also had a “Lay People’s Order” consisting of ordinary people committed to live, to preach, to demonstrate the Gospel and they had the greatest impact. Some were farmers, tradesmen, knights, soldiers, businessmen and even kings. These Franciscans were distinguishable from other ‘Monks’ who were in cloistered asceticism and devotion inside monastery’s. The Franciscans, because their movement exhibited the true Christian life, ignited one of the greatest Evangelical movements in Europe. They actively participated in the world outside of their community walls; preaching the Gospel through vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The Lord really challenged my life through the simplicity and devotion of Francis and his Friars as I realized that the Sri Lanka does not need Christianity enclosed within our Churches, but people are looking for Christ ‘outside’ the Church.

I refer to this because it links us with our third aspect of our GREAT Mission: Empowering Everyone.

(Please read in the GREAT Mission Brochure on the 3rd aspect).

Why Empowerment?

Last month we focused on being ‘Revived and Filled with the Spirit’ as a movement.

The purpose of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was to give power – or ‘empower’ everyone to be witnesses and show the world who Christ is.

Disciples were to prove or be witnesses of the ‘Living Christ’; not just a ‘historical Christ’.

Just as this required a supernatural power, Sri Lanka needs not a presentation of a ‘historical’ Christ through programs and events inside the Church; the whole Church must be empowered to present the ‘Living Christ’ in and through them.

Who can be empowered?

World’s Leaders fear to empower their followers because of insecurity, loss of power and position. However, Jesus introduced a different culture of Empowering saying to his followers that they will ‘do greater things than these’ (John 14:12).

Pentecost was that great Empowering Day! This is why we emphasize Pentecost!

Remember, not only the Apostles were filled with the Spirit, but all 120 were filled, which included all lay people, women etc.

Imagine if your church was the first Pentecostal Church in Jerusalem! You have 3 Senior Pastors, (Peter, James and John) and 9 assistant Pastors (Apostles) and 108 believers. How many do you want to be filled?

Pentecost came on ALL of them because Jesus intended the ‘Whole Church’ to be Empowered and not just the leaders.

Can you imagine who baptized the 3000 people who were saved on Pentecost Day?

If only the 12 ‘Pastors’ baptized them, they had to baptize nearly 250 people each which was not possible in one day. But all were empowered to Baptize and Disciple.

Since our first baptism service in the Nuwara Eliya church in 1987 I have not baptized anyone up do date. This is not only because it was cold water, but I wanted every believer empowered to Baptize and make Disciples.  

What does Pentecostal Mean?

Pentecostals believe that whatever the Holy Spirit did in the early Church can be done again in the modern Church. To be truly Pentecostal then, every believer in the Church must be empowered to do what Christ did.

2 Areas of Empowerment in AG:
  1. Releasing a Lay People’s Movement.
  2. Effective Discipleship Program.
A. Releasing the Lay People’s Movement.

‘Empowering Everyone’ begins by releasing every lay person in our churches and for this to happen, we must recognize the ‘Priesthood of every Believer’. Every Pastor must preach and encourage lay people to be involved in ministry.

  • The Monday Church:

Church meeting times: Monday to Saturday”

“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house.” (Acts 2:46)

The true Church does not happen on Sundays inside a Church! Preparing the Believers for the ‘Outside Church’ is the role of every Pastor. If asked how many lay people are involved in ministry, many would be proud to mention those involved in the Sunday services such as; Sunday School teachers, ushers, worship teams etc. But the biggest challenge is to train them to be ‘ministers’ in the marketplace outside the church.

  • The 4 Gaps in our Churches.:
  1. Clergy – Lay gap. (The gap between the pulpit and people in the pews.)
    Pastors don’t recognize that lay people are equally important as Pastors.
  2. Sunday – Monday Gap. (Believers don’t know how to apply what they learnt on Sunday to Monday in the workplace.)
  3. Secular – Sacred Gap. (What happens inside the church is sacred and what is outside is secular). God wants everything we do ‘whether we eat or drink’ to become sacred for His Glory.
  4. Full time – Part Time gap. (Fulltime ministry is more superior than part-time ministry.)  We keep going back to the Old Testament Levitical priesthood and not the New Testament.

Only if we do away with these gaps can we empower everyone to be the salt and light in the world. Why not do a ‘gap check’ on your Church!

We have set up a National Committee of lay people to help develop ways and means how our believers can be effective in the marketplace. We want you to identify various professions and fields represented in your community through your lay people. Begin to see them as the key to reaching your community.

B. Effective Discipleship.

God’s role in Empowerment of the Church was to fill them with the Spirit, but the Apostle’s role was Discipleship. Without effective discipleship our believers cannot be truly empowered.

Jesus commanded to ‘Make’ Disciples, which means it will not happen automatically when people attend church or listen to sermons – they must be ‘made’ through a process.

We have decided to provide every AG church the material and the process to make effective Disciples. So, it does not matter which church or where you are, all AG believers will be made effective Disciples in a Bible based process.

In July we want to have a Discipleship Seminar where this material and information will be given to you.

Finally, like Francis we must transform our ‘Lay People’ from being ‘Monks’ inside the Church to becoming ‘Friars’ or ‘Disciples’ working in the ‘Monday Church’ outside in the community.

It is time to bring a radical ‘New Order’ of Lay People in the Assemblies of God.

Will you be a part of that Movement?

May the Lord Bless you,

Ps. Michael & Debi

Image  —  Posted: June 7, 2018 in Chairman

This month we are focusing on this second part of our Mission: ‘To be a Revived and Spirit Filled Movement’.

Introduction.

Why should we be a Revived and Spirit filled Movement? Because it is the very life of the Church.  Since being Filled with the Spirit is imperative to all what we do we want to focus and encourage every AG Church on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and gifts.

A. Ignorance of the Holy Spirit

“And (Paul) finding some disciples (in Ephesus) he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:2.

What will be the response if the same question is asked from AG Churches today? Ignorance of the Holy Spirit can cause great setbacks in the ministry. It will cause you to serve solely with your energy and striving, making you tired and worn out in ministry.

Paul also admonished: ‘be not ignorant’ of the gifts.  Therefore, our plan is to see every Church preach on the Holy Spirit and pray for the Baptism on this Pentecost Sunday which is 20th May.

B. Why the Spirit Baptism?

Pentecostals have a unique blessing of being Baptized in the Spirit which gives us the promise of Power to be His witnesses.  So, are we different from those not baptized in the Spirit?  The difference is not that we are better than others, but we have a greater responsibility than them.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit entrusts us with 3 key responsibilities:

1. Pentecostals are responsible share the Gospel with Power and demonstration.

2. They are responsible to function in the supernatural gifts of knowledge, speech and power.

3. They are responsible to take the Gospel beyond their “Local Jerusalem” to the ‘uttermost parts of the earth’ (Acts 1:8)

In other words, you become a Missionary Church when you have the Power of the Holy Spirit.  The AG must realize this ‘greater responsibility’ as being Pentecostals.

C. Who will Baptize in the Spirit?

 “There stands One among you whom you do not know … this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:26)

When John the Baptist was preaching about Christ, Jesus was standing right among them but they did not acknowledge Him. Similarly, many of our Churches don’t recognize Jesus in their midst wanting to Baptize people in the Spirit.

Jesus is the Baptizer in the Spirit and not us! You can baptize in water, but He with the Spirit.  Then what is your role?  Your role is to teach and prepare people and guide them to Jesus so that He could baptize them.
Book of Acts records at least 3 ways how Jesus baptizes people in the Spirit:

1. As people prayed and waited on the Lord the Spirit fell on them as in Pentecost,

2. When people ‘Heard’ the word – faith was created – so that they could receive the Spirit.

3. As they laid hands on people – after teaching- they were filled with the Spirit.

This method has not changed, and we still can use the same methods to be Baptized in the Spirit.

D. What about the Gifts of the Spirit?

Gifts of the Spirit are simply how Jesus operated in the ministry. His whole life was a demonstration of the use of gifts. Except for speaking and interpreting tongues, Jesus operated all of them naturally. Most of the gifts should operate outside the Church through every believer in their day to day life naturally; like the gifts of Word of Knowledge, Word of Wisdom, Healing, Faith, Miracles, Discerning of spirits (deliverance), Prophesy. The gift of Prophesy, Speaking in Tongues and Interpretation operates mainly within the Church gatherings. 

The Bible asks us to ‘covet’ the gifts, which means there should be a deep hunger and desire for gifts in the Church. If Pastors regularly operate these gifts, it will create a hunger in others. If we fail, then the ‘gifts of the Spirit’ will soon become items in a Museum or a doctrine confined to a Library. Let us make Pentecost and Spirit Gifts a daily occurrence and lifestyle of every AG member.


Preparing for Pentecost Sunday.

We are making the following 2 books available to you in Tamil & Sinhala, I want every Pastor to buy them and make it available to your leaders and people.  You could also download it from this site.

1. You can Experience God’s Power Today – (this is for every believer to read and be ready).

2. Leading Believers into the Baptism in the Holy Spirit – (for every Pastor and Leader to prepare them.)

Use these books to encourage and create faith for hungry hearts to be Filled with the Spirit and on Sunday the May 20th let us experience a fresh Pentecost.

Don’t miss this opportunity as we unitedly pray and believe to be Revived & Filled in the Spirit!

The Lord Bless you.

Ps. Michael & Debi

Two significant things happened in my life last month which caused me to ask 2 very serious questions.

First, I attended a United Prayer Meeting on Independence Day and the Lord asked me a question which really shook me. After 70 Years of Independence:

“Why have you not finished the task in Sri Lanka?”

Secondly, I was in a Pentecostal World Missions Committee meeting in Rome on February 21st when news came that Billy Graham was dead. The world’s greatest Evangelist is dead!

The second question was “Is Evangelism Dead in Churches in Sri Lanka?”

The answer to this second question will determine is the answer to the 1st question.

Think about this:
Sri Lanka is only a very small Island with every possible means to reach its 20 Million people. The Island is only 270 miles long and 150 miles wide and has 12,379 kms of motorable roads and other thousands of access roads to every one of the 33,000 villages in the country. There are no uncivilized tribes, high mountains, deserts or jungles where people are not accessible. There is opportunity in radio, TV, internet, print media and all the modern tools and ministries as 99% are literate. No lack of funds as Millions of rupees is spent every month on Christian ministries and activities. AG Churches alone spends over quarter of a billion rupees annually (apart from other millions spent on buildings and assets) on just maintaining our Churches, Pastors and programs!!!

There are no laws to prohibit preaching the Gospel (although we are praying fearfully against it and not doing anything when we have freedom). We have had 500 years of Christian history (100 years of AG) with thousands of Christians and Churches and Organizations ever busy doing something or other. 

WHY HAVE WE NOT FINISHED IT?
Although Billy Graham is known to have preached to millions, his greatest achievement was when in 1974 he called an International Congress of World Evangelization in Lausanne Switzerland to mobilize the “Whole Church to take the Whole Gospel to the Whole World”. His passion was not to preach the Gospel to the same people over and again, but to Finish the Task. The Lausanne covenant says that:

”The Goal of Evangelism should be, by all available means and at the earliest possible time, that every person will have the opportunity to hear, understand, and to receive the good news.”

WHY HAVE WE FAILED TO DO THIS IN SRI LANKA?
Are we not accountable before God for this? What is our excuse?
We have failed to use ‘all available means’ in ‘earliest possible time’ to give ‘every person an opportunity’!
There are around 300,000 Evangelical Christians in our nation and the ratio between Christians and Unevangelized is 1:70. District wise, it ranges between 1:200 to 1:600 in some districts.

The AG being the largest protestant denomination in Sri Lanka is greatly responsible for this failure. 95% of all Church work is focused on Maintenance of their believers, building and programs – not on Evangelism.

Can we go on maintaining our Churches and ministries without fulfilling the GREAT COMMISSION?
This is why we have presented to you the ‘GREAT MISSION’ which is based on the Great Commission.
Therefore, I want you to focus on the 5 aspects of the Mission in the coming 5 months.

This month, we want to focus on the first aspect of our GREAT Mission – Glorifying God.

What does it mean to Glorify God?
“For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
(Romans 11:36)

Paul gives us the Overall Purpose of our existence – ‘To Glorify God in ALL things’ –   including your life. The reason we have failed our Nation is that we have not considered this supreme priority in our lives.

There are 3 things we want you to do in the coming month:

  1. Study and meditate on this Scripture Romans 11:36 and see how your life is in God’s plan of Glorifying Himself through us. (There are 375 references to ‘Glory’ in the Bible.)
  2. Do a Personal Evaluation of your life by answering the Questionnaire prepared for this.
  3. Preach in your Church for 2-3 Sundays on messages on Glorifying God. We will provide an outline . Let me give brief summary of Romans 11:36.

a. First – All things are ‘From Him’. 

This means you are created by God – Yes, you came “From God” for the specific purpose of Glorifying God. You did not come from your parents but from God, and therefore your background and history does not matter. You must believe that God is able to use you for His purpose – only if you surrender to Him. Why not give yourself fresh to this purpose alone?

b. Secondly – All things are ‘Through Him’. For us humans, there is no other way than Obedience to declare God’s Glory.

If you came from God, He can work to fulfil His purposes ‘through Him’ in your life. You can allow everything that happens to turn for His Glory. However, it requires your obedience and faith for God to turn them for His glory.
Psalms 19:1 says “Heavens declare the Glory of God” because all creation obeys Him. For us humans, there is no other way than Obedience to declare God’s Glory.

c. Thirdly – All things are ‘For Him’

We own nothing in this life and must say like Job, ‘naked I came – naked I will return’.

Everything we have is on loan! All what happens in your life are intended “For HIM” – to bring Glory to Him. What can you take to Heaven from this earth? Your possessions or positions?
Jesus said in John 17:4: ‘I have brought glory to you on the earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”  Finishing the work God gave you is what brings God Glory.

The question is: are you doing the work God gave you? Or are you busy doing your ‘own’ work or what ‘others’ have asked you to do?

The AG Church in Sri Lanka is responsible to “Finish the Work” God has given us – to give the Gospel to every person in our Nation. If we fail to do this, we only bring Shame on God’s name.
I pray that God would give you a sense of Urgency and Responsibility to ‘finish the task in Sri Lanka.’

Ps. Michael & Debi

 

 

 

Image  —  Posted: April 4, 2018 in Excerpt from Newsletters

Together with the Executive Team we wish you a Wonderful Christmas and a Blessed G.R.E.A.T. Year.

As you go through this busy Christmas Season, I want to encourage you to prepare for the New Year and expect God’s favor and blessing in a fresh way in 2018!

MISSION & VISION.

In October this year, the Executive Team spent 2 days of prayer and planning to discuss the long-term plans for the AG. It was decided to clearly state our Mission and Vision to understand what we as an Organization should do and become.

By exploring all aspects of ministry and objectives, they developed this Mission and Vision Statement and subsequently a special meeting was held on November 1st, with all Regional and other key leaders to discuss and agree on this.

As an outcome of this meeting the following was decided:

Our Mission:

Assemblies of God of Ceylon exists to be a:

“God glorifying, Revived and Spirit filled Movement, Empowering and resourcing the whole Body to Advance Everywhere and Transforming nations.”

This Mission is expressed in the acronym of “GREAT” to make it easy remember, identify and express the tasks to the whole Church.

  • G. God glorifying,
  • R. Revived and Spirit filled Movement,
  • E. Empowering and Resourcing the whole Body,
  • A. Advancing Everywhere,
  • T. Transforming nations

The first and last points tells us why we do ministry: To bring Glory to God and Transform Nations. What is in-between expresses us how and what we should do!

The Mission of every Local Church:

The Assemblies of God gives each Local Church the freedom to function in different locations and contexts with different styles and methods. Yet, our final Mission is One. That is what Jesus intended us to do: To fulfil His Mission on earth!

Therefore, as a Movement, a common Mission Statement helps us to align ourselves and unify all our efforts to enlarge our influence.

2018 – Becoming G.R.E.A.T. for God.”

I believe the best way to experience God’s Blessing and Favor in the New Year is the prepare for it.

2018 can truly be a GREAT Year for you by committing yourself to fulfil the Mission of God in your Church.

Thank you for your partnership in the GREAT Mission!Blessings,

Ps. Michael & Debi.

 

 

 

Image  —  Posted: December 12, 2017 in Excerpt from Newsletters

Last month I shared with you about the need for a Reformation in AG, and I write this today, the 31st of October, exactly 500 year anniversary of Luther’s reformation.

  1. The Foundation of Reformation – Repentance!

When Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany on 31st October, 1517, the first statement read like this:

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.”

Just pause and think of this statement! When Luther touched on the word ‘Repentance,’ he touched the very core of the Church. During his day, Pope Leo of the Catholic Church approved ‘selling’ indulgences by the notorious priest John Tetzel to raise money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Tetzel travelled around Germany with a carriage having a special box to which people could ‘pay’ for the forgiveness of sins for those who are in purgatory and said: “As soon as the gold in the casket rings; the rescued soul to heaven springs.” Luther boldly denounced this lack of genuine repentance in his 6th thesis saying: “The Pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God”. So, when the issue of ‘Repentance’ was taught, all hell broke loose against Luther.

  1. Is a Reformation of Repentance needed in the Church Today?

Luther was dealing with the attitude of Repentance among Leaders of his day, and it is similar among church leaders even today. Jesus’ first message was to ‘repent’ – and so was the first message of the Church in Acts 2:38. However, many conveniently ignore repentance due to the forgiveness and grace being freely available through the Cross. While Leaders are very vulnerable to temptation and sin, repentance gives them keys to live an overcoming life. But does just asking for forgiveness for our sins alone imply that we have truly ‘repented’?

  1. Jesus never asked us to just ask forgiveness.

I was surprised that the New Testament never asks us to just ask for forgiveness from God! Out of 31 NT verses where forgiveness is mentioned – 21 times is about forgiving others and 10 times in referring to Jesus forgiving others. Only once we are to ask for forgiveness from God – that is in the Lord’s Prayer – but even that is conditional to forgiving others. This leads us to question why many leaders keep living in sin and failure even though they keep asking for forgiveness.

  1. Forgiveness or Repentance.

We are not forgiven just because we ask for forgiveness – but only because we repent! Jesus commands in Luke 17:3-4: “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Jesus teaches that forgiveness is based only on Repentance! Repentance is an act based on a proper attitude towards our sin and how it has affected others.

The most common passage we use for forgiveness is 1 John 1:9:   “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” However, I read in a commentary:   It is interesting that there is nothing in this verse that mentions asking God for forgiveness. Quite the contrary, we are asked to “Confess”: a Greek word ‘homologeo’ is used, which actually       means “same word.” It functionally means to agree in word with, to admit to, or to take responsibility for. In this case, it is speaking of our sins. In other words, it isn’t the asking for forgiveness that is important. It’s agreeing with God that we were wrong and taking responsibility for committing the wrong. When we agree with what God has said about sin, true confession happens.

It is said that “Repentance isn’t just confession; it’s taking responsibility for our sins and agreeing we were wrong”. It is our nature to do one of several things to avoid responsibility for our action. We tend to make excuses, deny, minimize, or in some way justify our sins. Simply saying “I’m sorry” is just another way of avoiding the issue. This verse tells us that if we own our sins and agree with God that they were wrong for us to do, forgiveness is actualized and we are actually placed back on the right road for a strong relationship with God to grow.

  1. What did Jesus speak of Repentance?

There are 5 key elements about Repentance:

There are 5 key elements about Repentance:

a) Acknowledgement of Sin.

Jesus said that the Prodigal son ‘turned back’ to the Father and ‘confessed’ his sin. The son did not ask forgiveness – but confessed – about sinning against heaven which is a priority in repentance. Repentance is about acknowledging how sin affects our relationship with God and His plans, will and purpose.

b) Confession of broken relationship.

The Prodigal also confessed about sinning against the earthly father and acknowledged the broken trust, ‘sonship’ violated and stewardship compromised with the earthly family or community.

c) Not justifying our sin.

In Luke 13 Jesus speak of repentance referring to two tragedies that has happened: Herod Killed innocent Jews and a Tower fell on some people and killed them. Jews thought this to be immediate punishment from God on those died, but conveniently avoided Repentance trying justifying their own sins because their punishment is delayed! Their philosophy was: Repentance is needed only if sins are immediately exposed or punished. Or, sins which receive immediate judgement are more serious than those whose not exposed. Jesus saw the greater danger in avoiding repentance and perishing in the end, rather than facing consequences now!

d) Acknowledging God’s Goodness.

“…not knowing that the Goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) Paul saw the delayed consequences for sin as God’s way of bringing people to Repentance through His Goodness – and not as ignoring their sins. (“He is patient that none should perish but all should come to repentance” – 2 Peter 3:9)

It is natural to think that condemning the Sinner is what will lead to Repentance – but God does it differently. He shows ‘Riches of His goodness’ to turn us to Him in Repentance. I remember once a leader who was living in sin for some time, but his sin was not exposed and God did not bring immediate judgement on him. Instead, God continued to use him even more! However, He misread God’s goodness as approval of his sin instead of allowing His goodness to bring him to repentance. Samson is a good example on how God does not bringing immediate judgement on sin. Although he sinned from the very beginning of his ministry by deciding to marry a Philistine woman, God used this situation because of His patient goodness to Samson. God did not hold back ‘the Spirit of the Lord’ coming mightily upon him (Judges 14:19, 15:14) many times to show His goodness. But Samson too misread this as God’s approval on his wrong lifestyle and failed to repent. Samson continued going to a prostitute in Gaza and lived in the lap of Delilah, and still God would not withdraw His hand of ‘Goodness’ wooing him to repent. He got so used to this life of ‘cheap grace’ and ‘easy anointing’ until he crossed the line – then it was too late. Judas kept stealing the money – but Jesus kept on being good to him. Peter kept on failing – but Jesus followed him with His goodness. Don’t take God’s goodness and anointing for granted – Repent, before it may be too late.

e) Allowing Godly Sorrow to bring Brokenness.

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor 7:10)

If you immediately feel sorry for sin it is not repentance- it is mere remorse. Such sorrow only brings death. Repentance is something ‘produced’ by God. Paul condemned a terrible sinful man in Corinthian Church to Satan because of his sin. However, he repented! How? Paul says that it was the ‘goodly sorrow’ that leads to repentance. The sinner experienced a deep sorrow from the Spirit which produced brokenness to bring the fruit of repentance. (see the 7 fruits of repentance in this chapter) A casual attitude towards repentance can cause serious damage to leadership and the Body of Christ. Could we save our people and leaders from going deeper in to sin if we teach godly repentance?

 

  1. Selling Indulgences in the 21st Century.

So why is Luther’s challenge to Tetzel was that you cannot pay or be saved conveniently by ‘good works’ is important to us today? We cannot avoid repentance by buying ‘Indulgences’ or good works we have done in the ministry. Talking about the number of years in ministry and about the suffering and the price we paid in hard times in ministry will be like Tetzel’s “clink of the gold which will spring the soul from hell to heaven”. It may gain the sympathy and support of church members, family and friends, but Jesus clearly said:   “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5)

Sin in the believer’s life does not become an issue of forgiveness but of relationship and blessings. Our disobedience hinders our ability to fellowship with God and senses His guiding hand in our lives.

Finally, if Luther was alive, will he nail his first theses on the AG Church doors today? His warning that Jesus “willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance,” has serious implications for us today. If we Leaders fail to model genuine repentance in our lives, it can cause believers’ spirituality and integrity to be compromised. While AG may have numbers and quantity, there will be a serious lack of character-change or ‘spiritual formation’ in the Body of Christ. The first nail of Reformation poses a painful question to every AG leader: “Have You Repented”?

Ps. Michael & Debi

 

Image  —  Posted: November 1, 2017 in Chairman

It was good to see you again at General Council (AGM) in August. Indeed, we had the privilege of the wonderful ministry of the Word which blessed us all. The refreshing messages from Ps Iliafi, especially “Your Private walk with God” was very challenging and I trust that you have given more attention to your ‘private life’ than working on your ‘public life’ of ministry.

I would encourage you to listen to the messages again which are available online. Links given below.

We were blessed by the Ordination of 52 of our Pastors and want to congratulate those 32 who were upgraded and welcome the 28 new Credential Holders to our Council.

As I mentioned at the end of the Conference, despite of all the good things, we failed to rise to the occasion in the business session to make positive changes in the Constitution for the future of our movement. We are still stuck in a system of elections which disunite us and fails us. I must take some responsibility for not making things clearly understood and preparing the Body for such change. Well, there will always be another opportunity!

The morning after the AGM I was very tired and slept in till late and Debi had woken up early and had sent me an email (she is wise enough not to talk about important things when I am tired) with a note which said: “What AG had was Revival – but not a Reformation”

As we thought about it and prayed together, we noted that we did have Revival in the Spiritual Sessions because the Lord brought personal renewal and refreshing to our hearts through the messages. However, during Business session, we still lacked the will and trust to bring corporate reforms to the structure and procedures of our Organization.

We need more than revival, AG needs Reformation!

500 years of Reformation:

It is interesting that this year the Christian World celebrates 500th Anniversary of Reformation which was a turning point in the history of the Church. It was on 31st October 1517, that the great Reformer, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the Wittenberg church in protest against the corrupt and false practices of the Roman Catholic Church. These profiteering Popes had abused their power and the church was selling indulgences to fund the magnificent cathedrals in Rome, deceiving the poor peasants that forgiveness could be bought for money. The Church has ceased from fulfilling the mission of Christ and instead become a political power base to appoint kings and rulers to their whims and fancies to establish their kingdoms in Europe. Education and knowledge was deprived from common people by the priestly elite who robbed people of truth of the Scriptures.

However, it took one Man to challenge this!

This Reformation which resulted in birthing the Protestant Church which emerged as a new branch of Christianity.

Although we Pentecostals find our roots in Azusa street revival in 1906, the Reformation of Luther laid the foundation for the Evangelical faith of the Church. This was: ‘sola scriptura’ – by Scripture only, sola gratia – by Grace only, Sola fides – by Faith only and Solo Christo – through Christ alone. This brought a revolutionary challenge to the Catholic Church and their practices. Just imagine if Luther never spoke out? We will be still under the rule of the Pope and bound by Catholic religion!

However, Reformation did not end only in mere protest; it laid the foundations and structures for the future of the Church. Apart from Reform in doctrine and faith, key principles such as Translation of Scripture to common language, Priesthood of the Believers, Forms of worship such as reading of the scripture, singing and music, Preaching and Teaching the Word, Training of ministers, Evangelism and Mission are some of the key practices resulting from the Reformation.

In other words, Revival of Truth alone was not sufficient – Reformation of structure and practices were needed to continue that revival.

The “New Wine”

Revival comes from a visitation of God initiated by Holy Spirit in response to human hunger and desire. It is a sovereign move of God like the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit descended and empowered people to fulfil the task of God.

We still need revival! It is the pouring out of the “New Wine”!

However, Jesus spoke of the necessity of “New Wineskins” in Matthew 9:17:

“Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

The containers are as equally important as the wine!

The Reformation of the ‘old wineskins’ was necessary to sustain the move of the ‘New wine’.

Luther’s rejection of ‘old wineskins’ led to a revolutionary and a prophetic Movement!

The revolutionary ideas of the ‘Priesthood of believers’ brought freedom to ordinary Peasants from oppressing church officials and royalty. It is noted that along with the religious consequences of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation came deep and lasting political changes and freedoms in Europe. However, it came at a great cost; with decades of rebellions, wars and persecutions, and The Thirty Years’ War which alone may have cost Germany 40 percent of its population!

However, 400 years after Luther, God was again pouring out the ‘New Wine’ among the Protestant Churches with the Azusa revival in 1906. Yet, the ‘Old wineskins’ of Protestantism in Mainline Churches could not accommodate this “Pentecostal movement’ and another Reformation of structures was needed to sustain this revival. The AG and other Pentecostal Churches found structures to effect reformation outside the old Reformed structures.

The Old Wineskins

Today we stand 100 years later, desiring a fresh ‘New Wine’ of the Spirit’s revival.

However, without a ‘Reformation’ of the ‘old wineskins’ it is unlikely that God would let His new wine be lost – “wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined.”

Reformation is the ability to restructure according to the moving of the Spirit instead of forcing the Spirit in to our structures.

If AG in Sri Lanka is called by God to bring the ‘New Wine’ of Revival, it may be necessary that we learn from Luther’s reformation and ask what revolutionary change is required by this generation.

  • What are Old Wineskins in the AG?
  • What was relevant then and is now?
  • What systems and methods are needed today?
  • How does the ‘new wine skins’ look like?
  • Did the past AGM reflect the conflict between ‘desire’ for Revival and ‘reluctance’ for Reformation?
  • What lessons should AG Ceylon learn from Luther’s Reformation?

I would like to hear from you!

Because this is something we all need to think and work towards.

In summary, revival of truth alone was not sufficient – a Reformation was necessary.

Revival is momentary – Reformation is what can sustain a Revival.

The New Wine will be wasted if it is not sustained by a Reformation of New Wineskins.

In the coming months I will be writing to you about this Reformation and I urge you to have your hearts and minds open.

 

May the Lord Bless you  

Ps. Michael & Debi.


Audio Messages by Rev. Iliafi Esera,

Senior Pastor of Faith City Church.  General Superintendent of Assemblies of God of New Zealand

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

 

Image  —  Posted: October 1, 2017 in Chairman

The Assemblies of God primarily consists of Pastors, Churches and Members of each Congregation. We are a movement that gathers for fellowship, corporate worship, and passionate sharing of the gospel.  

The Executive Presbytery of the Assemblies of God in Sri Lanka desires to see every aspect of this movement developed and advanced in the coming year.

We call every Member and Church to partner in establishing God’s Kingdom by understanding the various functions and upholding the ministry of the Assemblies of God of Ceylon.

Pastors: Enrichment and Development

‘And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…..  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ’ Ephesians 4:11-13

Pastors and Leaders are the most vital part of our movement as they are called to serve in equipping every believer to fulfill Christ’s purpose on earth. The AG therefore plans to focus on Pastoral Enrichment, Leadership Development and Pastoral Care.

Churches:  Growth and Development

The Church is called to represent Christ on earth. Equipping the church to fulfill this divine mandate therefore becomes an important priority. Equipping the church for Evangelism and Discipleship is the mandate given to the church in the great commission. Churches must also focus on growth and development by seeking to upgrade their standards and widen their outreach.

Organization: Development

AG is a fellowship of all Churches who subscribe to the Biblical Fundamental truths.

We consider the Bible to be the Word of God, which is the only authority and the foundation for all faith and practice.

The council of the Assemblies of God of Ceylon comprises of all ministers of the local churches. The national leadership is known as the Executive Presbytery headed by the General Superintendent. Our ministries are further led by 12 geographical Regional Councils each headed by a Presbyter.

We seek to transform our communities and the nation with our spiritual and moral influence. This, we believe, is our mandate and reason for existence in this land.

Pastor Michael

Image  —  Posted: May 5, 2017 in Excerpt from Newsletters

CHURCH HEALTH

I want to focus on the health of the Church in the coming months to help us develop strong and healthy churches. Healthy Churches make a Healthy Organization.

However, the vital key for having Healthy Church is having a “Healthy Pastor”.

Some years back we had Pastor John Iluiano from Australia who spoke to us about Discipleship and shared some insights in to Pastor’s health which I want to share with you this month.

PASTOR’S HEALTH

A pastor’s health is directly related to the health of the church. If the pastor is not healthy it will always affect the church’s functioning and if a pastor is not operating at optimum potential then the church will suffer.  

Some of the signs of an unhealthy pastor are:

1. Running on empty – not taking enough time to replenish the physical, spiritual and emotional tanks.   Constantly overworked and under-rested.

2. Isolated – spending too much time with people who are draining and not enough time with people who are enriching.

3. Caught in a rut and not able to get out of it – continually doing the same thing with limited results.

4. Resentful – not dealing with past hurts, allowing them to build up.

5. Discouraged – not seeing dreams fulfilled.

Signs of Healthy Pastor:

On the other hand, a healthy pastor will exhibit:

1. High levels of energy, enthusiasm, strength and vision.

2. In this environment, people are easily motivated to volunteer and follow the vision.

3. Things get done because the healthy pastor is leading the way.

In order to be healthy every pastor needs to consider these areas

A.  LEARN TO READ YOUR GAUGES

Bill Hybels speaks about reading the gauges that govern our lives can assess a pastor’s health. Just as a car or a motorbike has gauges that monitor the various levels of fuel, temperature, oil pressure, water temperature, speed, etc, so too do we.

Hybels suggests the importance of reading at least three gauges. These gauges need to be read in such a way that declares whether they are full and healthy, low and needing a top up, or empty and drastic action needs to be taken for repairs.

 It is critical that we are not running on empty as serious long-term complications can occur.

Hybel’s three gauges include:

1. The Physical Gauge.

 This is an assessment of our physical body. It relates to our fitness, our weight, our eating habits, our sleeping habits, general well-being, our demeanor and the overall way we present ourselves. Every pastor needs to take a weekly day off and have regular annual leave.

2. The Spiritual Gauge.

 This is an assessment of how well we are doing spiritually. It relates to the spiritual disciplines of our devotional life, our prayer life, our faith life, our praise and worship, our walking in the Spirit and overcoming the works of the flesh. Every pastor should take time off and leave in order to refresh his/her spirit, gain vision and spiritual strength to take the church forward.

3. The Emotional Gauge.

This is an assessment of how well we are emotionally. It relates to our reserves of emotional energy in giving out to people and how well we bounce back after emotionally depleting situations. (in ministry there are many situations like that)

  • Are we keeping a sweet and positive spirit about the ministry? 
  • Are we getting angry quickly? Are we avoiding phone calls and people?
  • Are we isolating ourselves?

Find a sport, a hobby, something you enjoy doing that replenishes your emotional tank. The emotional tank, once empty, takes a long time to fill. My emotional tank gets full when I spent time with my grandchildren!

The big question to ask is: What do you do that REPLENISHES you?

Most Pastors have moral failure, internet porn and illicit relationships primarily due to lack of ‘emotional’ replenishing.

B. INVEST INTO RELATIONSHIPS
1. Relationship with Family.

The most critical relationship a pastor has is the relationship with his/her family. Invest into your spouse (if you are married) and invest into your children (if you have any). Without intentional investment into these relationships it is easy for the pressures of ministry to place enormous stress on family relationships. Every married couple needs to have regular nights alone and every family needs to have regular family nights.

2. Relationships with Others.

        Every pastor, in order to remain healthy, needs three levels of relationships.

a. People into whom we invest. This include your congregational members and everyone to whom you minister.

b. People who are our peers. We all need friends with whom we do the journey of life, especially friends who can relate to the challenges we face because they face the same challenges.

c. People to whom we make ourselves accountable.

We need someone in our lives with whom we can be totally honest and transparent. That someone needs to have enough wisdom and experience to help us on our journey. It’s a good thing to have a mentor or a father/mother in the faith who guide us around the pitfalls of ministry and help us navigate life.

One of the greatest dangers a pastor faces is to become isolated from accountability and transparency. The Bible tells us that this type of person “rages against all wise judgment.”  (Prov. 18:1) This type of person becomes an easy target for the enemy to pick off.

C. HAVE A PLAN FOR SELF IMPROVEMENT AND GROWTH

No pastor can afford to remain stagnant in this area. We must endeavour always seeking to learn and improve our skills.  Here are six suggestions that will help us to grow

a. Professional Development. Develop skills like computer, IT, writing, social media, or other skills.

b. Read books, journals, articles, papers, etc.

c. Attend conferences.

d. Listen to CDs, MP3s, podcasts, etc

e. Enroll into a degree or recognised course. Enroll for Bth, or Global University course.

f. Interview other ministers, especially those who are doing something a little different with some measure of success.

D. UNDERSTAND HOW TO SET BOUNDARIES

Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives:

a. Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances.

b. Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions.

c. Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.

d. Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God’s will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator. Often, Christians focus so much on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limits and limitations.

E. CLARIFY THE WIN

Very often pastors set their goals so high they struggle to reach them. The problem with this is that wins are infrequent and celebrations even less so. Without a win and a subsequent celebration, the pastor is subjected to a life of constant toiling.

1. Define what a win looks like in your setting.

In church settings we are called to care for people and see them fulfill their God-given destiny. Consequently if people are being cared for in our church, that is a win. If people are coming to Christ, that is a win. If people follow Christ through water baptism, that is a win. If families bring their children to church to be dedicated, that is a win. As you can see, there are many wins if we take time to clarify them.

2. Celebrate accomplishments.

Every win is an opportunity for celebration. Make sure there are many celebrations in the life of your church. What you celebrate you validate.

3. Set yourself up for success.

Set yourself up for success and also the people around you. Make sure that there are lots of wins on the journey. A journey without wins is an uphill climb that has the potential of breaking our spirit. There is a simple remedy to build encouragement and overcome discouragement. Clarify the win.

Pastor, How is Your Health?

Honestly evaluate your health again by reading this note again.

Once you determine your personal health, then you can start working on your Church Health.

Blessing

Pastor Michael & Debi.

Image  —  Posted: May 5, 2017 in Excerpt from Newsletters

In March, we had a Senior Ministers’ Council and it was a great joy to spend time with about 40 Senior Ministers of the AG; to appreciate them and acknowledge their great value and contribution to the Kingdom of God. We affirmed that all of us are a product of these Senior Leaders who have impacted us at some time in our lives who I also believe that they will continue to influence the next generation.

Friends and Fathers

Last month I shared the importance of having a Friend, but equally, you also need a Father.  Fathers are the ones who define the future generations. There may be some of you who have gone through difficult times with your fathers. There are many who have been abandoned, neglected or rejected by their earthly fathers. Maybe similar things happened to you with your Spiritual Fathers. Whatever it is, we all needed them.

Hebrews 12:9 says:

“Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live.”

Bow and Arrow                             

Fathers and sons portray two different generations. I had lots of difficulty and friction as a teenager with my father. He belonged to a different time period and he could not understand my generation. Similarly, in spiritual life too, there are two generations. Therefore it is important to realize the value of both the senior and young ministers.

This is illustrated in the form of a ‘Bow and Arrow.’ Let me explain. Historically the bow and arrow was one of the most important weapons used for both hunting and warfare for thousands of years. Until guns were invented, about 400 years ago, the bow and arrow was the main weapon used in offensive strategy.  The advantage of the bow and arrow was the ability to use it from a distance – unlike the sword which was used in close proximity making it dangerous. However, in the Bible, there is an important lesson about the ‘Bow and Arrow.’

The Importance of Bows.  

The Bow refers to Strength.  Jacob’s blessing his sons says:

But his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong.  By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob… Gen 49:24.

The warriors of old had to depend on the bow’s strength in order to shoot the arrows, so it had to be strong, sturdy and unbreakable. The Senior Leaders are like Bows; they are strong, experienced and long established leaders of the movement. They have served the Lord many years, bringing strength and stability to the Church. They were the pioneers of many great churches and have laid a strong foundation for the future.

Here are some important features about the Bows.
  • Bows should be strong, if they are to be effective.
  • Bows are made of strong material like wood, hardened and seasoned.
  • Bows also need to be flexible, able to bend. It is this ‘bending’ that makes it a bow.
  • It also must have an arch. This arch gives the ability to spring, to stretch and come back to its normal shape so it can be used regularly.
  • Bows initiate. It is the bows that a warrior first takes into his hand.
  • Bows determine the direction.

Just think of the Senior leaders who have mentored you. They were strong having many of the above qualities and prepared you to be what you are today.

However, in relation to their effectiveness the following is important:
  • Bows must be connected to arrows.
  • Without arrows, the bows are of no use.
  • It is the connection between the bow and arrow that makes it an effective weapon.
  • Bows stays in one place; but the arrows travel.
  • The bow never travels but must stay steady, firm and in one place.
  • Arrows go further than the bow!
    • Therefore, the Bow is of no use unless it is connected to the Arrows, which gives the arrow the ability to travel far distances and hit targets, which the bow couldn’t ever reach.
Importance of Arrows:

Arrows represent the Younger Generation – who are full of life and energy, wanting to go somewhere and do something for the Kingdom.

They are sharp, pointed and straight. They are made to travel fast and quickly.

They need direction and targets. They don’t want to just sit around and do nothing.

They don’t want to be in the quiver all the time.

The Young arrows of our Movement are vital for the Future of the Organization.

They will go further – they will go where the Bow has not been!

The Connection between the Bow and Arrows.

Bow and arrows must be connected together to reach the future.

We see these principles in Biblical Examples.

  • Moses and Joshua had a Bow and Arrow relationship, always connected.

Although Moses could not enter the Promise Land, He was able to shoot Joshua as an arrow – to lead the next generation to the Land.

  • Elijah was a bow that connected with the arrow Elisha. He was able to launch Elisha into a ministry which was double that of his.
  • Jesus ministered as a Bow; He made His disciples like arrows and connected with them for 3 years. Then he launched them, or shot them, far beyond where he had ever been – to the Ends of the Earth!
  • Paul had Timothy, Titus and others as arrows. While he was in prison, these people went beyond where Paul could go and did what he couldn’t.

Can you see the picture of the Bow and Arrow?

The bow and Arrow connection is vital, just as is the Friendship connection.

Role of the Bows and Arrows together:

a.   Relationships:  We want the Senior Leaders to provide strength from their past experiences. Don’t think that any of your past experiences were in vain. God is able to use every experience you have been through to help others when you relate to the younger generation. Everything that happened to you can purposefully be used to help the next generation.

b.   ‘Tension & Friction’  When bows and arrows function together, there must be ‘Tension & Friction’ between them. The bow has to be stretched causing tension which determines the speed of the arrow.

Similarly, the arrow undergoes friction with the bow; for if there is no friction, then there is no direction.

Normally, this tension and friction is often experienced between senior leaders, assistants and workers. But this is a good thing. At first, there may have been disagreements and differences of opinion, which caused tension and friction. But the more you relate to each other, there is a better flow.  Young ministers must not leave or get discouraged because of friction. I was an Assistant Pastor for over 10 years. But those were the days God was preparing the arrows.  Under Senior Leaders, God prepares His arrows in the Younger generation.

“He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.” (Isaiah 49:2)

c.   Anointed Arrows.   In the olden days, they anointed the arrows so there would be less friction. Having the anointing is important for young ministers. If you don’t seek your anointing from the Holy Spirit, your experience with the Bow will cause friction, bitterness and disappointment.

d.  Bow determines the distance of the Arrow.   This is an important principle the younger ministers must learn. At the last senior ministers meeting, many of us testified that it was because of the seniors influence that we were able to advance in our ministry. If the young ones get discouraged, give up quickly, do not connect with leaders, they will not go very far in the ministry.

e.  Bow must release the Arrow.  If the senior bows don’t release the young arrows, they will not go anywhere. There comes a time when there should be transition, releasing and letting go of the younger leaders.

I wrote this article last week and now I am finishing this in Singapore while attending the AG World Congress. The theme of the Congress is Generations; focusing on the importance of raising up the Next Generations! One of the sessions was about how Senior Pastors released their churches to the next leaders. Sister Naomi Dowdy in Singapore, whom many of you know, released her church to a young leader – Dominic Yeo, who has taken the Church to even greater heights in God. This is a very good example of the Bow and Arrow ministry.

Our Young Arrows are the ministers under 40 years!

They are very important because they are the future of our Movement and we must launch them to their Destiny in God.

  • Arrows are useless without the Bow.
  • They may be strong, powerful and sharp, but they must connect with the Bow to be effective.
  • Arrows are prepared, straightened for use. They are not for themselves. Their future and direction is dependent on the Bow.

In closing, I encourage every Senior Bow to keep connecting to the younger generation. Try and adopt a young minister without any conditions and be a father to them. You don’t have to own their ministry or be the leader – you can be a father. I encourage Young Arrows, to seek the guidance and advice of the Fathers. You can learn and be blessed so much through them.

The Lord Bless you.

Pastor Michael

Image  —  Posted: April 6, 2017 in Chairman

Last December 13th was one of the most shocking and saddest moments of my life since the death of my own brother in Jaffna.  I could not believe when I received the call from the hospital that Pastor Chrysantha is gone.

I am sure it was a shock to all of you as we grieved together with Sirini and the family through those difficult times of sorrow. The morning after the funeral, as I woke up thinking of Chris (as I called him) the Lord asked me “do you know that Chrysantha still speaks?” Few days after his funeral, I had to take an 11 hour flight to Europe. And as I listened, and just as it is said of Abel: “…though he is dead, Yet He speaks” (Heb. 11:4), I wrote down 30 things that God spoke through Chris during that flight. I want to share one key aspect with you: “Chris was a Friend.”

Friendly or Friends?

I know that in the AG we are very ‘friendly’ with everyone; but we hardly have any friends! For some unknown reason, there is fear, suspicion, competition and jealousy among us which prevents us from developing intimate friendships. We are afraid to initiate friendships fearing betrayal! This is not the Culture of Honor. In such culture, ‘Friendships’ are vital for trust, respect, esteem and to honor others above ourselves.

Our Culture breeds social friendships that are dependent on ‘groups of friends’ with whom we love socializing, having fun, going on trips with etc. But sadly, when it comes to personal ‘one to one friendships’, we have none! Chris was not just a ‘party friend’, but he was different.

Just as Abraham was called a ‘Friend of God’, Chris was too a friend of God and many others.  Why? He was open, transparent and willing to be vulnerable, to be criticized, as well as being applauded, to be a friend. He did not cover up, put on something he was not. Chrysantha was what we saw, nothing hidden. I have referred to Chris many pastors and couples whom he counselled and brought them through. Therefore, many who spoke of Chrysantha said that, “He was a great friend”!

A Journey:

Friendship is not an event, it is a journey. It took many years to develop my friendship with Chris, and it did not happen accidently or naturally. At first, I was too busy with ministry and leadership responsibilities and had no time for friendships! Neither did I want to open myself personally to anyone else, because I found safety & solace in secrecy and isolation! I did not want to be vulnerable.

Although we met as Brothers in Christ and as Pastors’ and even as Ex Co Members, all these associations did not make us friends. But, Chris took time to visit me personally, and to come persistently all the way from Veliveriya and make these times happen. It was such an effort on his part that helped us to spend time alone in sharing our problems, struggles feelings, pains, and talks about our weaknesses and intimate matters. How valuable this friendship became in the later years of my life giving me strength and courage. 

What Chris is crying out to us today is: “Take time for friendship!”

Do You have a Friend?

Jesus told His Disciples, “I called you Friends” (John 15:15), because He developed a special intimate relationship with them. Jesus considered them valuable and He protected them through such a relationship and He also had an ‘inner’ group of Peter, James and John with whom He shared his intimate feelings and pain. He wanted them to be with Him in difficult moments like the Garden of Gethsemane.

If we are to make Jesus our model of leadership, then we must learn from this ‘inner group’ relationship to build intimate, trusting and transparent friendships.

David & Jonathan Friendship  

Since ministry is a public service, we are expected to be ‘friendly’ and open with all. However, we are not able to be ‘friends’ with everyone. It takes one or two special friends that will help us in our personal life and walk with God. Last week I was speaking to key Church Leaders in Nepal, and asked how many had close friends. Most of them did not have one!

David had Jonathan as a special ‘friend’. Although David was surrounded by mighty men, as a leader and King, he lacked a true friend after Jonathan died, which led him to adultery and murder. I believe that every Pastor must have a ‘friend’ or a small group of friends with whom they can share their lives for accountability, encouragement and protection.

Accountability Groups:

At the Prayer Camp in January I shared about this “Jonathan Group” and gave a handbook to start such groups. It is not compulsory but voluntary. I trust that this month you take the ‘initiative’ to begin a new journey of friendship by forming a small friendship & accountability group:

  • To have friends to share their lives with.
  • To protect themselves from the traps of the enemy.
  • To help develop their personal devotional lives and disciplines.
  • To model trust, accountability and intimacy which will help in their ministry and family.
A friend closer than a brother

Although we are familiar of being ‘brothers’ in Christ, yet, the Bible speaks about a deeper relationship in Proverbs 18:24: “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”.

In my journey of friendship with Chris, my last physical meeting with him was at his grave. I was standing, he was lying down; I was looking down, he was looking up; I was speaking, He was silent. I was shouting a sermon, but he was lying quietly. His silence spoke more loudly than all the sermons I ever heard. For, I knew, here lies a true friend, who has not betrayed my confidence and trust, and who would carry those secrets we shared together to his grave! (I am sure this is of many hundreds of people whom he counselled)

I pray that you will not be ‘too busy’ to not have a friend.

The Lord Bless you.

Pastor Michael

Image  —  Posted: February 18, 2017 in Chairman