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26 June 2017 In News
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The USA celebrated Father's Day on June 18. The following was read at Crosspointe Church in Largo, Florida on Father's Day reminding us all that there is a true and great need in our world not only for physically present men, but also for spiritually present men. We thank Missy Truong for writing it with excerpts from the National Center for Fathering. Also noted in the essay are statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and a quote by Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest.

In America, the US Census reports that over 24 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. Millions ​more​ have dads who are physically present, but emotionally and spiritually absent. If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic as worthy of attention as any national emergency. In fact, data proves fatherlessness is associated with almost every societal ill facing our country’s children.

There is a true and great need in our world not only for physically present men, but also for spiritually present men to fill the role of shepherd to a someone spiritually developing. These leaders are not men who applied for the position, or who are looking for a title or control. They may not even have biological children at all. These spiritual fathers are simply men who desire nothing but God, and who respond to His will.

Men, the task of a spiritual father is not to seek out wrongdoers and correct them, or to destroy their freedom, or even to suppress their personality. The task is to help someone see the truth for themselves and to enable them to discover their true self and grow to full maturity: to become who they really are. When a man leads someone in this quest, he becomes a spiritual father. You may be thinking this isn’t what you had in mind when you came to church today. This isn’t even something on your radar - to lead another person along their spiritual journey. It’s just not “you”. But the thing about spiritual fathers, is that they often aren’t revealed until they are needed by a spiritual child. There is a movement of the Spirit that leads your paths to cross and inspires a Divine appointment. And it is Christ’s own presence living within, that enables spiritual fathers to rise above the fear and weakness of feeling inadequate; and allows them to accept the challenge with gratitude and humility for the sake of God’s work.

Oswald Chambers put it this way: “...once God has placed His call on you, woe be to you if you ‘turn aside to the right hand or to the left’. We are not here to work for God because ​we​ have chosen to do so, but because​ God​ has ‘laid hold of’ us”.

Men, we are called to fatherhood today, to the children God has guided into our presence. Let us continue to abide in the Vine so that we may speak the truth in love to those He brings to us. May we lead by our own example in every area of life.

02 June 2017 In News
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This is Part 2 of our discussion on gauging the spirituality of Christian Congregations.

Now we will compare the “common” perspective to the “Biblical” perspective” of gauging spirituality.

How do you as a church leader gauge the spirituality of your congregation?

We would suggest that church attendance is too frequently the main criteria by which the spirituality of believers is gauged. If church attendance is the main criteria used to gauge spirituality, then a person can be incorrectly concluded to be spiritually healthy.

Unfortunately, most leaders don't have the time to delve into the spiritual condition of the typical individual in the church. (This is how DTI helps church leaders – training faithful men and women to spiritually mentor new(er) believers to help accelerate their growth.)

Certainly church attendance indicates some level of interest. It’s reasonable to think that if a person attends on a Sunday morning that they do have an interest. And if they have an interest, then they ought to benefit from what is spoken to them.

That is good; however there are other criteria that should be considered, in addition to church attendance.

The illustration of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea will help to make our point.

They both have input but only one body of water is healthy and the other is dead. The Dead Sea receives a fresh flow of input, but then it stays there and stagnates. On the other hand, (the healthy) Sea of Galilee also receives a fresh flow, but the water goes out. In the same way, there needs to be an inflow and an outflow in a believer’s life.

There needs to be a flow of His life through the believer.

Jesus said the believer is a branch. The purpose of a branch is to be a conduit through which the life of the tree flows and produces fruit.

The branch does not produce the fruit. The tree produces the fruit. The life of the tree flows through the branch and produces the fruit. We are branches. A healthy branch is a branch in which the life of the tree is able to flow, so that there will be fruit.

Jesus said that “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.” It's the Holy Spirit’s spiritual fruit that glorifies God.

(When we talk about fruit - in our materials and discussions - we are always referring to whatever the Holy Spirit produces through your life.)

Now, let’s separate the typical church congregation into four categories, describing the believers from the perspective of observable outward human appearance. As we make a comparison of believers, we would like you to think about how you as a leader observe and gauge the spirituality of those in each category.

The first category is those we’ll call “Spiritual”. These Christians appear to have wholeheartedly acknowledged His Lordship over their lives, have a healthy growing relationship with the Lord, and seem to be bearing spiritual fruit. They have an observable passion for the Lord. We can all identify people that fit into that category; Healthy growing Christians.

The fourth category is the “Unsaved”. These individuals are usually recognized as being unsaved. It’s typically not too difficult to identify people that are unsaved, although we know that only God can really make that determination.

The second category is what we call “Acceptable”. These Christians don’t exhibit excessive negative outward behavior. They may regularly attend church services, give financially, and be involved in other Christian activities. They will quickly acknowledge God’s presence in their lives, but do not exhibit much passion for the Lord, or understanding of wholehearted surrender to His Lordship.

We are all aware of Christians that have attended church services for years and then all of a sudden some negative behavior will come out that amazes you. These people seem to be okay if you just look at their outward behavior.

In the common church environment in the United States a Christian can appear to be leading an appropriate spiritual life by attending church services, Bible studies, Small Groups, etc. However that doesn't make them spiritual. As we said, that is often the gauge for measuring spirituality.

So when we hear that a Christian couple has been attending church services for 20 years and now they're getting a divorce, you have to scratch your head and wonder what’s been going on (in their lives). Because the truth is, you don't just wake up one morning and say, “today looks like a good day to get a divorce!” Divorce is the end result of a process that has gone on for months and maybe years.

So Christians can be totally out of fellowship with God and attend church services and appear to be spiritual. We see this repeatedly. These people would generally fall into the “acceptable” category by many church leaders.

The third category is Christians that are usually considered to be “in need of counseling”. Their “self-dependent” (carnal) pattern of thinking is more evident, as they tend to exhibit questionable negative outward behavior, such as on-going marriage, relational or financial problems, addictions, etc. They may or may not regularly attend church services, or consistently give financially. They may be involved in some Christian activities. They will quickly acknowledge God’s presence in their lives. Counseling is often seen as the recommended recourse. Their salvation may be in doubt.

In reality, we believe the second and third categories from God's perspective are one category. But from our human perspective, the major difference between the two groups is that in the third group their sins are more outwardly visible, and in the second their sins are not as apparent.

There are Christians who have a hard time hiding their problems, but then there are other Christians that are very good at hiding their problems.

In reality does God see a difference between the two groups? No.

Do we see a difference? Yes.

So we have a group of Christians that don't have significant visible problems but in reality are dominated by problems. These Christians are not walking in the Spirit but they can appear reasonably healthy.

An unhealthy Christian that doesn't have outward manifestations of sin can look healthy compared to the Christian that is obviously having problems like marriage or relational issues or other problems.

But what we need to do is compare these two groups to the “Spiritual” group and now you have a completely different situation – We call this a distorted view of the spirituality of the Body of believers.

How can we recognize those that fall into the middle two categories?

In most Christian churches, many people that are considered healthy don't show any spiritual passion, have very little impact in their sphere of influence. They are not witnessing and (we) don't see God active in their life - but yet they attend church services weekly.

What can you say to these people? You can't say, “Hey, you're not spiritual.”

We need God’s discernment as we observe other Christian’s lives. We need to be aware so that we can help those Christians that want to grow. There are a lot of Christians that want to grow, but they need someone who is willing to come alongside of them to help them grow.

This is what DTI is all about. This whole discussion is to be able to better identify what is going on (in the churches) so that we can help those Christians that want to grow.

Category One is the “normal” Christian life, the other categories are “abnormal”. We should not gauge spirituality “on the curve”, and we should not be satisfied with anything less than God’s best.

02 June 2017 In News
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This is Part One of a two part discussion on gauging the spirituality of Christian Congregations.

What is the measure of spirituality in the typical American church? How do we measure spirituality?

If we make the statement that spiritual maturity is typically graded on a curve, what are we stating?

If you are in a church and everybody is “very” immature and you are just a “little” immature, don't you feel good about yourself? You say, “I'm ahead of those guys.”

The apostle Paul said in 2 Cor. 10:12, “For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding.”

When Christians go to the Rewards Ceremony (The Bema), God is not going to go congratulate you because you were more spiritual than other Christians. God knows where every believer is and God holds you accountable for where He knows you are. He doesn't hold you accountable for how you are compared to someone else.

We need to disciple new believers and help them get started so that they don't go through their Christian life comparing themselves to other people. If they compare themselves to other people you're going to get a distorted perspective of where you are spiritually.

God doesn't care where you are in relationship to someone else He cares where you should be.

What about new believers? How do we gauge the spirituality of new believers?

As a Christian starts their Christian life it's only normal for that Christian to be immature. That's not necessarily bad. But what is bad is when the 5 or 10-year-old Christian still acts like a new Christian.

When new Christians are not discipled, many of them typically continue being immature.

It's like raising a child without ever really giving them care and guidance and then wonder why a 20-year-old can't make good decisions.

This is one of the problems that many kids in America have with finances. They are not taught how to manage finances at the appropriate age so when they get in the real world after graduation, they believe the credit card is something that you buy everything with and don't worry about the long-range implications. This behavior leads to “financial unhealthiness”.

Unfortunately, many churches are being spiritually dumbed down. The expectations are going down. It's safe to say that the American church today has little impact on American society. We believe that the reason is the church is spiritually unhealthy.

One of the biggest reasons for this (unhealthiness) is the lack of personal discipleship at the beginning of the Christian life. The Great Commission said “go and make disciples.” It was not “go and make converts.” It was to make disciples, and the expectation of a disciple is greater than that of just being a convert.

One of the characteristics of a disciple is spiritual reproduction. There is an expectation that the disciple makes other disciples. (reproduction) But yet how many people in the typical American congregation are even aware of the expectation of making disciples?

Most Christians have the awareness that they should be witnessing so people get saved. But very few Christians in the congregation understand that they are supposed to be involved in making disciples.

One of the main goals of DTI is to help the new believer to start following after the Holy Spirit and to be developing a relationship with Him and to be growing, to be maturing.

As a Christian matures there is going to be a growing and increasing interest in investing in others. As you grow as a believer how can you not care about others?

As you grow the Holy Spirit is going to put in your heart, to care for others.

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