Friday, January 16, 2009

The Baby Has Arrived!

My newest book, Organic Leadership has arrived at my house. It looks good. Not as thick as I was afraid it would be even though it is longer than my previous books. I will have some on hand (pre-release) for any of my upcoming conferences this month (January '09). We are also providing a free copy to the first 100 to register for our Organic Church Movements Conference February 19-21, 2009 in Long Beach CA.

In OL I challenge many ideas about leadership and church life that we all take for granted. Many of them are faulty ideas about church leadership, which we continue to support but which have never really been evaluated in the light of Scripture. Ideas that corrupt our understanding of the kingdom are addressed such as our tendency to view the church as simply a religious institution with a top-down authoritative structure; and some of the temptations that tend to hijack leadership away from healthy fruitfulness and can actually cause leaders to become detrimental to the work of God’s kingdom; as well as some of the ways we try to force people to live up to a religious code of conduct with manipulative tactics. In all of these examples, spirituality is seen as something that can be put on us from the outside, rather than growing and emerging from the heart. In each case, leadership is core to maintaining these false paradigms of spiritual life and development. Thus the first section of this book addresses honestly and directly many of the factors that keep true and natural leadership from emerging organically and growing. I call them “weeds in the garden of leadership.”

The second section focuses on how healthy leadership emerges naturally from the inside out. We discover how a true leader is formed and how to measure his or her success.

In the third section of the book I share some sound scriptural principles about leaders who emerge organically and serve humbly yet are spiritually powerful in their leadership role. We come to see that the kingdom of God is countercultural. It is, in fact, counterintuitive, the opposite of what we would expect. From this vantage point we see how leaders emerge from the soil of brokenness and blossom with great fruitfulness, affecting generations to come. In this sense leaders are no different from other Christians. Living a life of Christ incarnate within us is the key to making a difference no matter who you are.

The fourth section presents practical leadership-development practices built on the foundations laid in the previous sections. These recipes for homegrown leaders are both practical and simple.

The fifth section is about resources for the life, growth, and health of leaders and churches.

I conclude with some examples of the kind of leaders that exemplify the concepts in the book. These are true stories of real people who are carving out communities of light in the midst of the heavy darkness in our land.

If you read this book, you may find you are challenged to a level of discomfort. This book is about leadership, and leadership moves forward—often into uncharted territory, which may be an uncomfortable place. Anytime we are asked to move beyond the familiar, we will feel some level of discomfort and fear.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Organic Leadership is coming soon

My newest book is about to arrive. I keep trying to make the UPS truck stop at my house with sheer mental determination, but alas it drives by without a stop. One of these days it will deliver the goods, but I doubt my iron will alone will be the cause.

I can't imagine ever losing the anticipation for this sort of thing. I wonder if the authors who write tons of books get a little blasé about the newest arrival. I wonder if Stephen King is ever surprised..."Oh yeah, I forgot I wrote that book."

Organic Leadership
is a follow-up to Organic Church. After OC's release, some people thought it provoked many questions but didn’t supply enough answers, so in OL I begin to answer some of those questions. This new book will not be enough. It is not that I haven’t thought through the issues in depth, but I can fit only so much in each book. This one is already longer than any other book I've written yet. I hope this one both answers questions and also whets appetites for more to come in future works. Three books will follow this one, continuing my effort to flesh out the concepts of leadership and its role in organic church movements. So this is the beginning of the conversation, not the totality of it.

Organic Church cast the vision for a new expression of God’s people in this world—healthy, holistic, and spiritual families that reproduce naturally. An organic church is a vibrant spiritual family that is on mission together. Such churches usually begin with changed lives, meet in the places where the seed was originally planted, and reproduce naturally and more easily than traditional churches because they are simple in structure.

The fully devoted followers in the organic church, who are able to reproduce themselves, are indeed the foundation for both organic churches and organic leadership. That is why I wrote Search & Rescue before writing this book on organic leadership. In Search & Rescue I set out to capture the imaginations of ordinary Christ-followers and challenge them to live lives that are heroic and sacrificial for the sake of Christ’s kingdom.

In this new book I wish to build on the foundation laid in the previous books and address how healthy, growing disciples can emerge naturally as leaders right where they are. That is basically what organic leadership is all about. What is consistent in both Organic Church and Organic Leadership is my belief that the kingdom of God is relational, spiritual, and natural—without all the artificial stuff we tend to use to prop up our ministries today. It is not necessary for people to work as professionals in the church to make it happen. When church and her leadership are natural and organic, they reproduce spontaneously and movements will result.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Christ Established Reproducible Methods for a Movement

I believe that Jesus established a few things that are simple, reproducible and able to carry a message that expands His kingdom and changes lives. These practices are transferable methods that anyone can do and they are meant to be set lose. Unfortunately, Satan has done everything he can to keep them from accomplishing what Jesus intended. Baptism is one of those transferable practices that carry the message of good news to the world. It was meant to be what every Christian does as they make disciples.

We have hidden our Christian practices, which in the New Testament were carried out in the marketplace for all to see. We have “sanctified” them—our preaching, our baptism, our communion meal—and moved them behind stained-glass windows. We’ve reduced them so that baptism is often just sprinkling some water and the communion meal is a wafer and a thimble of grape juice. We’ve even developed doctrines to keep them reserved for the saints and dispensed by special holy men with collars and robes.

Our true Enemy has been hard at work trying to pull the teeth out of the potent practices that Jesus established. The Enemy’s scheme is to remove them from the context where they are indeed dangerous to his cause. Baptism was meant to be public. Communion was meant to be a shared everyday meal, which can “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). In the New Testament, preaching is always for the purpose of presenting the gospel of God’s kingdom to those who are trapped in the darkness. It was not done from behind a pulpit to an audience of Christians to help inspire them in their own personal growth.

Another transferable practice is the “Lord’s Prayer”. At least, in this case, the institutional-minded church hasn’t taken this practice out of the hands of the ordinary Christian. No, instead, they have taken much of the power out of the practice by making it a superstitious form of penitence… i.e. “say 10 ‘our fathers.’”

In reality, I believe that the Lord meant for it to be a pattern for His people to commune together with God. In fact, I believe it makes for a great pattern of an organic church meeting.

  • Exalt God in worship of who He is: “Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name.”
  • A joint missional accountability and declaration of surrender to His reign in life: “thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • Prayer for daily needs: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
  • A radical relational inventory with accountability for reconciliation with each other: “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
  • Prayer for guidance and protection while on mission: “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
  • Acknowledgement of the Lord as our king and our lives as belonging to Him: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”
Notice that the prayer is completely in the plural voice, it is not meant to be something done individually, but as a family, all under the headship of the Father. Jesus is not just showing us what to say when we pray, but giving us a pattern for how to exercise our spiritual life as a family with our Father. It is something almost half the world can recite and yet it remains powerless in some regards because it is not followed as Jesus intended.

I think this is really very similar to the way my friend Andrew Jones describes living a missional life that ends in starting churches: “tell stories, throw parties, make friends, and give gifts.” You see, such a description makes the work seem far more possible for regular folk, even fun. Whereas, telling people to start churches (with all that implies in our current world’s experience) sounds awful to most people.

That is what is necessary for the mission to be carried forward by the masses and not stuck in the clergy led mass. Make it both simple and powerful at the same time. Connect God’s infinite complexity and power to simple and ordinary people who are capable of doing something easy and normal. Let God be the complex part that gets all the glory and let us be the simple part that doesn’t deserve any glory. We are the clay pots that carry the glory of divine truth in us. The more complex and important we make our methods and our ceremonies, the less glory God gets because the methods take the center stage.

What would happen if every true follower of Christ began to make disciples and baptize them? What if they then gathered fellow disciples in home for a meal in which they pronounced Jesus sacrifice for them as the basis for their love for one another? And what if they followed the above pattern of worship and prayer (the Lord’s prayer) together on a regular basis? What if it was that simple and everyone could do it without needing permission granted from some human hierarchy? Could it be that half the world has already been trained to facilitate an organic church family meeting and they just don't know it yet? Anyone who has the Lord's prayer committed to memory already knows how to facilitate a spiritual family gathering. Wow, what a thought.

Is there enough of the Good News born in these practices that if given over to the common Christian they could release a potent movement of reproduction that goes way beyond the shadow of an institutional church? I believe so. Why else would Satan work so hard to keep them away form people?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Baptism with Salvation, not for it

One of the questions that has plagued the church through time is whether baptism is essential for salvation. Part of the problem is that the institutional church, from at least the days of Constantine, used baptism as a sacrament that empowered the church and its leadership over the people. This has caused confusion for almost all of our history.

But that is not the whole explanation. One of the reasons why the institutionalized church has been able to get away with this is because the New Testament itself connects baptism and salvation so closely together. We cannot escape the fact that baptism and salvation are connected, the question is: how?

I do not think that the water is magical. I do not think that baptism conveys any special grace beyond the grace that one reaps from following Christ in obedience. I also do not believe that any work we do, even baptism, merits salvation.

Being baptized is not the way to be saved, but it is an outward action to make the decision more than just a thought; and salvation is indeed more than just a thought. It should be considered the first step of a new life, a life of obedience. It is declaring the decision for all to see. It is a step that announces a life of allegiance to the King.

In the NT the disciples who made a decision to follow Christ took their first step into the water. Baptism is, in a sense, much like the way walking an aisle for an altar call was a few years back. Once again, we have an example of us substituting a non-Biblical practice for the one first established by Jesus. The “sinner’s prayer” is another example of this. Both the altar call and the prayer are not adequate substitutes.

Baptism symbolizes so much: not just cleansing, but a tomb (death and resurrection), and a womb (being born again). It is being completely immersed in the name of the Triune Godhead with nothing held back. It is the end of an old life and the birth of a new one.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

In Favor of Quick Baptism

I think we are guilty of protecting new believers from depending on God. If we were to follow Christ’s example and deploy new believers immediately in ministry, we would see how quickly they are forced to pray, trust in God, listen to the Holy Spirit, and find answers. This would solidify their commitment on a much deeper level. They will have an unbreakable bond to the Head of the body—Jesus Christ. They will also learn to suffer for Christ’s sake which is part of the important pattern that Jesus and Paul set for us. (Phil. 1:27-29)

Perhaps this is why baptism was done so quickly in the New Testament. It was a chance for a brand-new believer to make a stand publicly for their new Lord, driving a figurative stake in the ground to declare allegiance to the Triune God. I fear, once again, we have wandered too far from the plain truth of the Scripture with dire results. Simple obedience to the plain pattern of the New Testament would serve us well in all areas of church practice. In our movement we baptize as quickly as we can and as publicly as we can. It is not uncommon to have people accept Jesus right there at someone else’s baptism and get baptized themselves.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Weirdness in the Church over Baptism

Christians who are not clergy are often times instructed by the church to disobey Jesus when they are not allowed to baptize their disciples. The practice of baptism is not something Christ gave to the “clergy,” church organization or institutions, but to all disciples. One of the sayings in our own church-planting movement is: “The Bible doesn’t command us to be baptized but to be baptizers” (Matt. 28:19–20).

There is absolutely no biblical support for the idea that only the clergy in the local church can baptize. Though our traditions and experience may reinforce such standards, the Bible does not. In fact, it is my opinion that the Bible is slanted in the other direction. Those who are seen to be the leaders in the New Testament are often not the ones who are doing the baptizing but instead their disciples are. It specifically states that during Jesus’ baptizing he wasn’t actually the one doing the baptizing but his disciples were. Paul states that he is glad he only baptized a few in Corinth.

It is amazing how much damage the simple idea of baptizing another has caused through church history. People have been killed, cults have been initiated, denominations started and split, heretics burned at the stake, and parachurch organizations have been formed—all because we view baptism in a strange, unbiblical fashion. If we would only read the Bible and take it for what it says literally, rather than defend our “sacred” traditions, the church would be healthier.

We have created spiritual boundaries to manage spiritual practices, but these boundaries are not in the Bible. When false boundaries begin to take on a biblical sense of authority, they are quite insidious. We accept them as truth and even rise to defend them as though they come from the Bible, when they do not. Unfortunately, we are often willing to submit to these false divisions more than to Scripture itself. This is how the subversive strategy of the Enemy causes much damage. Because we have allowed artificial boundaries to separate Christian groups weird things happen.

For instance, one motto for a parachurch ministry has been: “To fulfill the Great Commission in this generation.” This seems honorable, except that they have rules in place that prevent them from ever fulfilling the Great Commission in any place. Right in the middle of the Great Commission is the command to baptize disciples, which they strictly forbid in order to maintain their parachurch status since (in their view) only churches can baptize.

I want to raise awareness of the weird, almost schizophrenic policies we have made in the church. Whether it is separating a spiritual family into voting “members” and silent “nonmembers” or telling Christians to fulfill the Great Commission by disobeying it, false and artificial divisions have caused some strange practices to be established.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Last Words of our Savior

The Great Commission is important. It is the last word of Jesus to His disciples before he left them on earth to do His work. I recently had the people in my church read the words of Matthew 28:19-20 out loud. Afterward I told them that all the Greek words in the passage were translated into English except one…baptizo. This Greek word means “to immerse” and is used in the ancient times to describe a sinking ship or a garment that is being dyed. It is more than pouring or sprinkling it is to be completely submerged. We are not talking about tie-dyed tunics in the first century.

When the Bible was first being translated into English the translators couldn’t just translate the word because the practice was no longer to immerse people. They were sprinkling infants at the time, so they simply transliterated the word—making an English word out of the Greek one. That is where we get the word baptize from.

It did not really take the enemy long to attack the simple practice of baptism and knock Jesus’ direction for it off course. Before the close of the first century the church had already parted ways from the New Testament pattern in several ways. They delayed baptism and reserved it for only people who really prove themselves to be Christians. It didn’t take long for baptism to be something that is akin to the Old Testament practice of circumcision and done to infants shortly after birth. Well, you really can’t immerse a newborn baby in water, so they began sprinkling them with water. Soon only the ordained holy men with special robes and ceremony could do such.

By the time the New Testament was to be translated into common English baptism no longer meant to immerse. So they coined a new word for it.

Baptism is not just a church ceremony; it is a key element of disciple-making. It is at the core of the Great Commission. If you take it out of the hands of the ordinary Christian, and reserve it for only the clergy to perform, you take disciple-making out of the hands of the ordinary Christian. I am amazed at all the pastors who want their people to fulfill the Great Commission, but then do not allow them to do so because they will not allow them to baptize.

I have found that when you give people permission to fulfill all of Jesus’ commands they will rise to the occasion. We will never fulfill the Great Commission and live up to the last words of our Savior, until we put the work into the hands of the common everyday Christian.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Thoughts On Baptism

I believe more people have lost their lives over the issue of baptism than any other spiritual practice. In many parts of the world where being a Christian is illegal it is not uncommon for someone to accept Jesus and go to church with very little repercussions but if they choose to be baptized they reap all manner of persecution. Even in history some of the great heroes of our faith (Luther, Calvin, Zwingly and others) would have people drowned (or executed in some other way) because they wanted to be baptized as adults. Even my own denomination (Grace Brethren, who have anabaptist roots) has had several splits over the issue of how baptism is to be done properly and to whom it is acceptable.

Even in Los Angeles today there is heat involved with being baptized. I have had Muslim converts get excited about following Jesus and obey everything but baptism because they fear being completely ostracized from their family. I have seen fear in the eyes of people who have surrendered to Christ from a Roman Catholic background when it is suggested that they be baptized as adults in obedience to their new faith because they fear their parents will disown them. Recently, I even had a young man in my church receive some mild abuse from his parents who are part of an independent Christian church because he wanted to be baptized. His parent’s pastor stepped in to the mix and said that the people doing such (our organic church) are “novices” and “heretical” and that the young man should only be baptized by those who have the spiritual covering of their church. What does that even mean? Where is that in the Bible?

Baptism is so important to some people that they have adopted the term to identify themselves and thus separate themselves by it…they are Baptists. Of course, now we have so many varieties of Baptists that we need other words to clarify which brand we mean.

Why would such a simple act be so volatile? Why are secular and religious people, denominations, institutions, pastors and historical figures so threatened by such a short action that is over in a matter of seconds?

Even as I write this many of us may be tempted to say, “Forget about it. This is just a symbolic act that is done one time, it isn’t worth all this hatred, division and spilled blood.” While that sounds calm and rational, it may very well be exactly what Satan wants. You see, I think there is a reason why the true enemy, the Devil, has done so much to keep baptism from being what Jesus always intended.

I am going to explore the significance of baptism and communion in my blog for a few days. I trust that these blog entries will receive more flack than previous entries, simply because it is a very sensitive topic. Why? Because baptism and communion are to be at the heart of each disciple loving Jesus—following Him in obedience, telling others about him and making more disciples. If Satan can disrupt all that from the very start, in the beginning of a disciples new life, he will be able to disrupt a great deal down the road. I hope to show what I mean by this as I write more.

I fully understand that many of my friends have differing opinions about this, so I will allow for great liberty. I have friends, that are unable to agree with me and remain in their current church roles or associations, so please feel free to disagree with me. All I ask is that you think with me about this subject.

I will endeavor to take my lead from the New Testament Scriptures. I want to be bold where they are bold, and silent where they are silent. I do not want to add artificial religious baggage to them, where it does not exist.

I may be labeled a heretic for some of what I believe on these subjects, but as I grow older I have come to appreciate the company that bears such a label. In fact, glancing down the long road of history, I would rather be on that side of the aisle than the other side which is busy labeling said heretics, for it is in this company that you will find some of the greatest men and women of faith. You would even find Jesus there.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Gospel of the kingdom 13: Content with Too Small a Thing

Another messianic passage from Isaiah speaks to our shortsightedness regarding Jesus’ good news. In Isaiah 49:6 God the Father says to the Son:

“It is too small a thing that You should be my Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make you a light to the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Sometimes I sit on the hill surrounded by the city in which I live thinking of the gangs, the fatherless homes, the dominance of immorality and I think to myself, “It’s all just too much.” Jesus always whispers back to me words from that Messianic prophecy in Isaiah, “No, it is too small a thing.”

When I think of the challenges of the US—a crumbling justice system, a deteriorating education system, greed, poverty, bigotry, evil is called good and good is called wrong—I think to myself, “Lord, it is too much for us to fix, it is too big of a mess!” Jesus always speaks back to me, “No, my son, it is too small a thing.”

The global AIDS crisis, oppressive dictators holding their people in bondage to poverty, genocide of entire people groups, the religious fanatics holding the world hostage with terror, the ugliness of rampant immorality, destruction of our environment, these things and more on a global scale are only part of what Jesus wants to address in our age through His servants—you and me. If all of this is left up to me to fix it is too much. If it is dependent upon all of us it is still way too much. For King Jesus, however, it is not too much.

We are too often content with too small a thing. We are shortsighted and suffer from small mindedness. The Kingdom of God is bigger than your church, your denomination or your nation. In fact, it is bigger than all the churches, all the denominations and all the missions agencies.

We must understand that Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, resurrection and intimate presence are too important to affect only small places and few peoples. Jesus didn’t suffer and die so you can have a nice church service on Sunday mornings. His sacrifice deserves nothing less than a holistic global change, impacting every nation and every culture. Anything shy of this is selfish, lacking in faith, and insult to the King and His sacrifice.

We should be ashamed of the fact that software business moguls, movie stars, and rock musicians are doing more to overturn poverty, AIDS and injustice than the people of God. You may not have lots of money or fame, but if you have Jesus you have all you need.

We have all it takes to overturn the giants that are oppressing our world and keeping people in darkness. All we have to do is realize God’s heart for the world and step out and bring His transforming kingdom to the lost, oppressed and dying. Our global impact will start small; the kingdom of God always does. It is like a little leaven or a mustard seed. It starts with a single life under the rule of the King, and it grows one life at a time. But if each impacted life impacts another, we can affect the entire planet with His kingdom in this lifetime.

Do you think I am naïve, simplistic and overstating this? Perhaps. But why not try it. What can we lose? There is evidence in history that this sort of transformation can have this deep of an effect. Why shouldn’t such a revival start with a single changed life? Why not start with your life? Become a hero, an agent of God’s incredible kingdom. If truck drivers can have a big impact on our society, how much more someone who loves Jesus with his/her whole life? Isn’t it worth a try?

Changing the world does not start with hundreds of people, it starts with a few. In fact it may start with just one life…yours. Be the change that you want to bring to others.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Gospel of the kingdom 12: Hope for the Hopeless

The ancient prophet Isaiah described in poetic language what would happen when the Messiah would come in Chapter 61:1-2. When we go out into the world and bring Jesus with us we can expect our Lord to do His thing. These are the things that happen when Jesus shows up:

• Jesus brings good news and restoration to those who are poor and oppressed.
• He will set captives free.
• He will announce the coming of a year of favor and a day of the Lord’s justice which is to comfort all who mourn.

Jesus Himself used this passage to identify that He has come as Messiah (Luke 4:16-21). When the King comes and rules, those who are poor and oppressed are set free. Justice prevails. Hope returns. Healing and restoration reign.

When John was in a dark night of the soul, filled with doubt and despair about the significance of his life—the greatest life lived next to Jesus Himself (Luke 7:28)—Jesus sent word to encourage him (Luke 7:18-23). He reported, or rather described, what happens when Jesus shows up:

• The blind see.
• The lame walk.
• The lepers are cleansed.
• The deaf hear.
• The dead are raised.
• The poor hear a message of hope.

Jesus does not just overcome the bondage of sinful behavior or darkened understanding. He does not just instruct us in a better way of life. He overcomes the curse. He heals the sick, reigns with justice, rights the wrongs and brings hope back to any people who have been afflicted and oppressed. The very fabric of society itself is set back in order.

This is more than filling the seats and offering coffers of our churches. He brings more than a Christian education or set of conservative political agendas. When the Kingdom of God comes in power, every thing changes from the inside out. Nothing shy of transformation from an individual basis to a translocal and even global basis will occur. We must not become content with lesser things. Perhaps this is the greatest sin of our generation: we are happy with so little.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Gospel of the kingdom 10: On Earth As It Is In Heaven

John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). His message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). When some came who would only listen to what he said without any intention of changing, he boldly said, “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). This inspired the people to ask him for specific examples of what it means to respond to the kingdom of heaven. John’s answer was, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” To some tax collectors he elaborated, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” To some soldiers he said, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” Luke concludes this summary with the words, “So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people” (Luke 3:18). At another place the impact of the kingdom coming through the ministry of John resulted in the hearts of the fathers being turned back to their children. This is not just a nice Christian thought that results in warmer family reunions. If this sort of effect could come again to America, do you realize what consequences there would be?

Society is filled with problems, but trying to fix society one problem at a time is daunting and suffocating. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some problems that are root causes of others. If we can identify and bring kingdom healing and restoration to those areas, scores of other problems will be resolved.

One such problem is the irresponsibility of men in our society, especially fathers. If the hearts of the fathers returned to their children, street violence would subside, drug and sexual abuse would decrease, theft would drop, schools would improve, illiteracy would decrease, and dependency upon the state’s welfare system would diminish—releasing more tax revenue to address other problems. Sexually transmitted diseases would die down quickly. Unwanted teen pregnancy rates would drop significantly. The AIDS crisis would end. The abortion issue, one of the most divisive issues of our day, would be resolved, not because of political lobbying and picket signs, but because the hearts of fathers would be turned back to their children. You may think that this is a grand oversimplification, and perhaps to an extent it is, but I am thoroughly convinced that if men’s hearts were changed and challenged to live bold and authentic lives for Jesus—as heroes—our whole society would be changed in a short time. These are but a fraction of the benefits to our society if only the men would stand up and take responsibility for their lives. And this is what happens when the kingdom of God comes to a place.

When true revival with the rule and reign of the Kingdom comes to a nation, all of society changes. Redemption touches all parts of life. Bars close down. Crime comes to a halt. Police are laid off because there is nothing for them to do. With the decrease in crime, prison populations begin to shrink, releasing more state revenue to address other needs. Manufacturing improves because the work-ethic of people improves. When the products improve, sales and exports improve, and the entire economy is raised to higher levels. Unemployment then drops to negligible rates. There is evidence in many places around the world that nature itself is healed. Droughts end and crops are restored. I have heard that with the coming of revival, the reefs in Fiji were reborn and fish returned, thus restoring the nations lost natural resource.

John is telling us that the good news of the kingdom will change the way we behave in all the little details of our lives. We will respond justly, with grace and kindness. We will not seek our own benefit but the benefit of others. This is what it means when the kingdom of God seizes the lives of a people.

In fact, according to John, the good news of the kingdom must bear appropriate fruit if it is received with repentance and belief. How can it be good news if it doesn’t change things for the better?