I shared this video back in April 2020 on how pastors are being forced to pivot and throw all their methods out the window. This video continues to be VERY relevant.

If you are a pastor, here is the current shift happening I see as I coach pastors, missionaries, and congregants. Pastors, you can do this with the help of your elders and ministry co-leaders.

If your people have been mostly relying on your sermons to grow, it’s now a very exciting time to equip your people to feed on God’s Word and His Holy Spirit in greater measure. Praise God! Jesus is drawing His Bride in deeper intimacy!

For more helpful disciplemaking tools for your people to use in their homes or via zoom, visit: https://www.merriellen.com/discovery

Pastoring in a Pandemic

A Pastor’s Confession

Because of Jesus ... I Am FreeThis is my confession.

I’m sorry… To all the people who I once pastored in an institutional church… I am sorry that I didn’t know then what I know now. My church and Bible school experience did not adequately prepare me to walk you to complete freedom in Jesus’ name. Nor did I disciple you how to do what I’m going to share below…

Today, if you read the Gospels and the book of Acts over and over, you most likely will notice that what happened in the Bible, does not happen in the lives of many church goers.

Back in 2016, when I rested from formal pastoral ministry, I began to ask God why the vast difference between what I read in the Bible and what I had experienced so far. I began to ask Him to show me more of who He is… out of the box. (Dangerous prayer. :D) He began to take me on adventures…

Today, my life looks so much different… When I pray, people are healed of cancer,  kidney disease, arthritis, or set free from oppression, from hearing multiple voices, from depression, anxiety, etc… often in a few minutes. 

Why? I pray differently than I was taught. I pray as Jesus did. I join with Jesus in what He is doing.

Miraculous things only happen when His followers step out in faith. I began to worry less about God’s reputation if I prayed and He didn’t come through in the way I prayed. I figured He could handle His own reputation. 😉

This was my past week….

Today, I ran again into the woman I prayed for this year who was healed of cancer. She threw her arms around me with the biggest smile. When I first met her walking on my street, she was discouraged and diagnosed with cancer. Jesus strongly spoke to me to command the cancer to leave her body. It did. We now have interesting conversations about Jesus.

Today, I walked past the house where my 6 year old neighbour was healed of juvenile arthritis after I taught her siblings age 8, 4 and 2 how to command her illness to go in Jesus’ name. The next day she woke up with no pain and now is involved in gymnastics!

One night this week, I prayed with a woman with multiple personality disorder. I led her through praying forgiveness over abusers. She was back to speaking in one personality. She heard Jesus say –  “It is finished!” 

Another night, a woman was delivered from Hindu worship 3,000 years in her family line. She felt anger, hopelessness, and voices laughing at her. She went through repentance of generational worshiping specific Hindu gods, practicing blood sacrifices. She coughed things out. Stuff went 3,000 years back in her bloodline and then she had a vision of Jesus with His arms reaching out and He said the house is clean! We prayed Holy Spirit to fill her and she was overcome with laughter and deep joy! She lingered with Jesus in His glory. She was powerfully transformed!

Another night, I prayed for a woman with chest and shoulder pain. As we prayed, Jesus took her to her childhood at age 3 when anger and bitterness first entered because of her parents’ actions. I led her in forgiving her parents and all the pain was gone! 

Another night, I led a woman through healing of panic attacks. We let Jesus take us to the root issue …all coming from a lie that the enemy told her years ago in a certain situation, that she was not safe. We dealt with that lie at the cross, and Jesus transformed the painful memory. Now, when she thinks of the memory, it’s minuscule and instead she has visioned Jesus there with His arms shielding her. Her panic attacks are now gone.

When I began to cut out relying on merely my familiar church tradition a few years ago, I began to truly grow in my level of faith. Since walking in doing what Jesus did in the Bible, and what He invites me to do, I am discovering what it really means to follow Jesus.

Please forgive me. If I only knew then, what I know and do now… you may be unstuck today.

I invite you to re-read the Gospels and the Book of Acts with fresh eyes, without your glasses of church tradition.

It is a beautiful thing to follow Jesus, not merely believe in His teachings. He walked in the supernatural and then called His followers to do the same. He didn’t command them to walk any different. Jesus didn’t ask us to teach information and that’s it. It’s one thing to believe in Jesus, it’s another to follow Him.

These days, I have the honour of meeting with people who are reaching out and asking for me to lead them through healing and freedom and to disciple them in what I have been learning and doing. They are on fire and hungry for more! Many are prayer walking around churches and neighbourhoods to also join the fire! Will you?! It’s truly amazing! 😀

A few responses below…

“I will not accept the apology because it is not needed, not to me. You did not stop leading and inviting me into deeper relationship with Christ when you left traditional pastoral ministry. I am sorry that this is an accurate representation of the state of my and so many churches and of my own faith experience. I know it isn’t right and yet I dont know how to get out of it. I was struck again by the need we have to see Jesus in action during (Bible Study) this week where we studied Acts and Peter could NOT keep quiet about the things which they had seen Jesus do. I feel like a person who understands Jesus but does not believe in him (not fully it would seem) because believing in something means you go beyond knowing to acting on that knowledge. If I believe that God can save an eternal soul, a physical body should be nothing to him and yet I do not trust enough to pray aloud for that healing because I have not seen it. Thank you that you DO pray this way and that you keep inviting me to see it more for myself… this semester has been hard as my soul cries for THAT Jesus and my time is instead devoted to knowing a Jesus constrained to paper. Please do not apologize but continue to pray – and to act – that I can make the leap of faith to belief that shows in my life, my time, my choices, and my actions if trust in him.”

And another…

“Thanks for sharing your walk with the Lord wherever He leads you and what He is doing in and through you. I’m glad you have found the freedom Christ offers and are sharing it with others. I have never felt lead astray or that you were not meeting any expectation. I have been encouraged by your leadership and enriched by our friendship. Your humble servant attitude is evident and I love that you are allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you and use you to reach out and be God’s hands and feet. Blessings my sweet sister in Christ!” 

And another on a similar journey…

“Makes me think of a vision one lady shared with me- The Lord was leading her down a long hallway of people sitting along the walls and she wanted to stop and help every one! She could see each of their needs clearly! But the Lord said… ‘Don’t!! Don’t even touch a door knob that I don’t specifically instruct you to touch.’ As she neared the end of the hallway she looked back down the hall to see many many behind tending to those she was asked to pass by.  Possibly they are someone else’s assignment!!? Bless your heart … that you would want to make all things right…”

I am blessed by these initial responses. God is stirring! I have released the burden to Jesus – our Ultimate Burden Bearer…

May each of you reading this… listen to His voice and follow Him on sweet adventures He has all planned for you… even it takes you ‘out of the box’! 😀

Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) are Critical in Canada

set free butterflyI believe Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) are critical to the growth of Christ’s kingdom in Canada. Typically, ‘church’ growth in Canada happens when people move from one ‘church’ to the next. And, if there are new people coming to Christ, rarely is anyone discipling them. The goal is to make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples. But sadly, traditional church growth is falling out of line with Jesus’ Great Commission.

However, with DMMs, the Gospel appears to spread more freely led by Holy Spirit, and within sub cultures that are typically hard to reach, with little to no money, seeing often whole families and neighbourhoods transformed, and with disciples making disciples (multiplication).

If we are honest, traditional church planting in Canada looks much like franchising a business – get a pastor, a worship leader, a building, and then run programs, a marketing program, and pray for a harvest. This takes an incredible amount of time and money navigating multiple variables and headaches.

On the other hand, I have noticed DMMs are primarily focused on building God’s kingdom, rather than little man-made kingdoms on the backs of one or a few pastors competing with other little kingdoms down the street. But, if we are competing, are we actually building God’s kingdom?

Two years ago, while digging in the Word after stepping down from 10 years of traditional pastoral ministry, I really saw how Jesus left the building and sent out His disciples to do the same with incredible power to displace the darkness. Since starting DMMs myself, I have seen God move faster than ever. I am seeing Him do things I never dreamed of.

Typically, a traditional church in Canada has been built on what God did in the past, and is often then forced to put tradition in the way of the Gospel.

Several years ago, as a pastor, I visited a strong Roman Catholic country which never saw the European Reformation. My heart broke watching people do things in order to feel like God loved them. Coming back to Canada, I realized we weren’t that far off in our Evangelical circles. So much of what we do in church is putting tradition above the Gospel. We tend to do things according to church membership and culture that is not necessarily the Gospel. Therefore, too often the Gospel is an afterthought behind running programs, recruiting volunteers and sitting in a pew listening to one person tell us what they think the Bible means. Where and when do we even personally interact with Jesus and hear God’s voice?

On the other hand, I have found DMMs to be more easily in flow of Holy Spirit, with people abiding in relationship with Jesus, hungry to hear what Divine appointments God has for His people each day, much like in the book of Acts. People learn to be directly taught by Holy Spirit, while in meditation of the Word, while in relationship with Jesus and others, and then immediately walking in obedience. I see so much opportunity to partner with Jesus in spreading the Good News, healing the sick, and bringing new life!

In this new season, each day is a new adventure!

For example, I wake up to pray: “Jesus, I’m thirsty for you!” After spending time with Him and His Word, I then ask: “What do you have planned for today?” One day, it looks like an incredible conversation with a person while walking my dog, or praying for someone while grocery shopping. One day, it is feeding the homeless with my family. Another day, it is praying for a woman walking with a cane on the street in her 70’s suffering with sciatica and watching Jesus heal her completely. Another day, it is sharing the Gospel to a man involved in a cult. Another day, it is hosting 2-3 people in our home for Bible reading and refection, fellowship and prayer.

The emphasis is on relying on Holy Spirit to direct us to the person of peace. No marketing required.

In the first year of focusing on DMMs, I found myself discipling a dozen new people I had met just out on the town. There were so many Divine appointments. I have a new passion and joy in disciplemaking, without the need to find volunteers for any programs. I love it!

Jesus loves to take us on treasure hunts, but we need to step out to search for Him and for those He is calling to Himself. I see how the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality is not at all what He called us to do. That was actually Constantine. Jesus called us to go.

Jesus also restricted 90 percent of his time to 12 men. And out of the 12, he restricted a large portion of his time to three: James, John, and Peter.

This is now my focus: A dozen people and primarily three, teaching others to do the same. It appears even within a ‘Bible Belt’, God is doing a new thing and people are hungry for more of Him outside the traditional church experience. I am finding so many people walking away or disillusioned with the traditional church. No worries. It appears to be an advantage. DMMs appear to be the way to find those who are hungry for Him. After all, it’s Jesus who is the Good Shepherd, not our programs, or the effectiveness of someone’s preaching delivery, or style of music.

If you seek to build a church, you rarely produce disciples, but if you seek to make disciples, you always get the ‘church’ …building God’s kingdom. 

DMMs are refreshingly focused on God, worship, fellowship, discipleship and evangelism. Disciples are trained immediately on how to make other disciples. It’s contagious!

But, what if you’re in a traditional church??

When a person sees their self as a missionary in a traditional church and has a hunger for Holy Spirit, I believe more movement can happen within the traditional church too. (In fact, some traditional churches are seeing the reality of the Great Commission vs. the obstacles of their church model and are making these necessary changes.) The key is whether the church leadership is surrendered to Holy Spirit or willing to be. After all, we are leading people, not to a belief system, but to the person of Jesus whom we are in love with, to hear His voice for themselves, and know His abundant life.

(But, if you are in a traditional church and your leadership is not open to Holy Spirit, you will experience great resistance. Fast and pray for hearts to be hungry and thirsty for God.)

The Gospel is spreading so fast around the world through Disciple Making Movements.

Disciple making Movements?

Disciple-Images-2

Image: www.exponential.org

If what you’re doing isn’t working, why keep doing it? (…Or at least add an additional track like one mega church in Texas did after doing the math. For that full story, see link at bottom of this post.)

This past weekend, I enjoyed sitting in on a session with a gentleman serving overseas (cannot name country due to security).

My friend and I were blown away by the stories of how fast the Gospel is spreading through the disciple making movement. 100,000 disciples on track to double in the next 14 months. I quickly saw why – the level of community in a small group along with the hunger to multiply and share the Word with others in a way that allows the Word to teach a small group rather than a guru or highly educated pastor (which actually has been shown to stump the growth of the Gospel he said because most NA pastors have been trained to talk rather than listen).

The missionary explained that small groups allow people to engage and participate and hear from Holy Spirit directly from the Word, rather than another person’s interpretation of the Word.

Picture this…

Starting with a group of 5 people or so meeting in a living room perhaps.
Sharing things to be thankful for, challenges, etc. Listening to each other.
Reading aloud passage of Scripture together.
Asking themselves a few simple Qs from the passage.
Reflecting together. Going back to the Word.
Praying together and for each other.
Committing to share what God reveals with someone in their week and helping each other and neighbours in their community in practical need.
Together.
Little to no money.
Leaders/facilitators developed and multiplied as new groups form.
Entire families and communities transformed!! (like in the book of Acts).

God’s Word and Love spreading rapidly because of the…
Word /
life together /
prayer …focus.

No Master’s Degree required (because it actually hinders the multiplication putting emphasis on a human teaching rather than the Word.)

The stories were amazing.
Numbers unreal.
Blows any North American mindset.
Yikes.

Does this work in North America?

It is reportedly happening like wildfire as traditional churches dwindle and home churches rapidly multiply. People are hungry for spiritual relationship with God, and life together with people committed to each other.

How one megachurch in Texas has heard the call to adopt a new strategy after doing the math: https://youtu.be/jJhlfRPbpC0 Even in Texas!

Learn more here…: Contagious Bible-focused, Spirit-led study turned movement…

 

What is the true job of a pastor?

The other day I had a delightful call with a young leader who brought up the topic of how a Pastor’s role appears to have terribly wandered today. I did a little digging on what others are saying…

“Most books on church growth and leadership today argue that if pastors continue to do what pastors have done for so many years, they will fail.”

Too many churches today operate with leadership models started in world models and adapted to the church. This is dangerous. Why?

These business models allow people to put pastors on pedestals.

These models puts the needs of the church first and forget outside the church.
The goal becomes building the church’s own kingdom rather than the kingdom of God. (Megachurch mania.) It’s the…, ‘If we build it, they will come’ mentality. And yet, we are called to go

But, pride leads to destruction…

Proverbs 18:12 (CEV)
12 Pride leads to destruction;
humility leads to honor.

And, selfish ambitions destroys a church…

James 3:16 (GW)
Wherever there is jealousy and rivalry, there is disorder and every kind of evil.

Instead, the role of the pastor should be based on a biblical model…


So, what does the Bible actually call a Pastor to do?

1. Pray first.

“Jesus lived a life of prayer. He started every day in communion with the heavenly Father. He ended every day in close relationship with His Father. At times, He even spent the whole night in communion with His Father. Jesus actually was in touch with His heavenly Father all the time.”

2. Do life out of a deep abiding relationship with Jesus.

“Over and over, the Scriptures show us that Jesus placed the highest priority of His life on spending time alone with the Father. His life reveals an intense passion for the presence of God. His heart longed and hungered to touch the heart of God.”

3. Preach the Word that is living and active, for heart transformation!

“We must study the Bible, not for curiosity, but for a new heart.”

4. Be in relationship with others. Do life with people. Don’t just lead meetings.

“Christ’s method builds relationships and meets needs.” Jesus didn’t die and rise again for us to be in meetings.

5. Then teach others how to do the same. (Emphasis on relationships.)

When Jesus began His public ministry, He called and empowered people to be His disciples— who would champion His world changing cause. As Robert Coleman says in The Master Plan of Evangelism, “His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. . . . People were to be His method of winning the world to God.”

6. And live a life of sacrifice.

Time, resources, and life unto death… willing to get in the muck. I recall this list…

12apostles

God calls us to live the life Jesus lived. Pastoral ministry is not about us, but about Him—about knowing and serving Him.”

Read the full excellent article here: The Biblical Role of the Pastor

Related: Epidemic: Another Pastor Burned Out and Quit Last Sunday

Discipleship Things We’ve Forgotten

people-praying-together
“Success is not the pastor or the staff executing all the ministry; it’s them equipping the saints to do the work of ministry.”

“If you seek to build a church, you rarely produce disciples…If you seek to make disciples, you always get the church.”

“Pray about God giving you 3-5 men you can invest your life in for the next 12 months, and challenge them at the end of 12 months to replicate the process. And you watch what God does.”

“Jesus restricted 90 percent of his time to 12 men. And out of the 12, he restricted a large portion of his time to three: James, John, and Peter.”

Listen or read the interview notes here:

http://churchleaders.com/podcast/302734-robby-gallaty-jewish-jesus-discipleship-things-weve-forgotten.html

I’m in detox

Detox

Image source: pathtonature.com

After reading these two pages which were written back in 1987, I am pondering again yet another confirmation of how much I needed (still need) a detox… and full repair…


(From Danny Lehman’s book: “Bringin’ ‘Em Back Alive“)

Constant brainstorming meetings year, after year, over who (men / women) and what ‘methods’ of disciplemaking is right or effective, and then shelving everything we discussed, and coming up with little or no fruit, has sucked the life out of me…

I wanted to see change in the hearts of men, women, boys and girls, of entire families, a city, the world…

Arguing over a map and who is qualified to read the map (men only or women too?) will never get you on the journey. (Sometimes, you just gotta get in the boat and let the wind blow you to where the Spirit is leading. Control people hate this.  Let the Spirit speak and lead! Surrender. He is God.)

For now, I’m in a meadow with Jesus. He’s my detox guide as I heal from fatigue. He has rescued me from the storm.

Ps 23.

Resting.

Refreshing.

He has graciously delegated everything off of my plate to spend more time hearing His loving voice.

Quit the Program?

Why do we think we need a program?

(How to Live Life) Basic Christian Living 101:

Our minds are so programmed to be in a program…for everything. (Thank you Henry Ford for your assembly line model…)

We go to an education program,
we go to a fitness program,
we go to a sports program…
we go to a dance program…

So, when it comes to doing life together with others, why do we think we need a program?? Discipleship is not a program.

It’s a lifestyle.
It’s not the goal, it IS the way of living life.

When we live life too busy (often aiming for things that glorify us), we think we have to create a program for discipleship…. once a week…

Yet, discipleship is doing life together.

We need each other.

Discipleship is doing life together, not having all the answers but finding them together, or even just asking the questions together…

Discipleship is sharing our brokenness together and walking towards Jesus together! It’s not BEING Jesus for another, Jesus is the point. We are not the point.

Turn on the discipleship lifestyle…

Grab a friend, grab a Bible, (yes, you can even grab a list of great questions), read it, share and listen, pray… all in the midst of crazy life that gets messy and broken… masks off, being real… because Jesus heals our brokenness.

There is not an eight-step program or perfect formula for making a disciple… (We think there must be, and then we think we are not qualified to disciple…)

The key is teaching people to hear their Good Shepherd. A true disciple follows Him and not a list of rules or traditions. Rather, they know Him and hear His voice.

What God Truly Calls Us To

“Constantly choosing to be busy may be an unconscious attempt to have value before the Lord. To deepen requires exactly the opposite! We must slow down, choosing to spend blocks of time with God in private. We need to let go of the value we place on service, availability and busyness and take up the value God places on quietness, trust and peace (rest). We need to be aware of being too needed in any work; we are not! God calls us not foremost to “accomplish,” but to a deep relationship with Himself. A deep friendship with us as persons is what He desires most.”

– Dr. Stanford