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One hundred and twenty men at Church at the Gate have committed to a year long process we are calling Tailgate Jesus!!  More on all that here, and here.  You can follow it here on Facebook, and Twitter.

The basic idea is that we are called to follow him and many guys today are having trouble following him closely – we let many things get between us. It’s not too late to jump on board, we start book one now. The next segment starts mid-July and that is another on-ramp for men wanting to join in. Every 5-6 weeks we will open the door to additional guys.

I’ve been in Greece these last three weeks and was bummed to have missed the Tailgate Jesus kickoff last Saturday. However, I did a little eleven minute video message for the guys back home. Here it is:

Woke up today with a headache like I got beat up in a cage fight yesterday. Oh wait, I did. My attempt to ban commercial cage fighting in South Dakota failed in a House vote 27-43.

Though I lost, I won. From the beginning I’ve said the conversation on violence in society has to start somewhere – why not with our most violent form of entertainment? In starting that conversation I succeeded. 27 members of the House of Representatives voted for a total ban on commercial cage fighting in South Dakota. Many others said they hate it but figure it’s best to regulate it because it’s going on anyway. Even Rep. Schrempp who was the sponsor of the bill to legitimize it here says he hates cage fighting because it’s too violent. So thank the 27 House members who didn’t walk away from the fight of curtailing violence in society.

It’s funny how people vote. Some who would normally prize themselves on being family values voters were opponents here. My RINO libertarian friends who vote red on every government expansion and spending bill apparently wanted commercial cage fighting more. Amazingly they voted for yet another layer of unfunded government bureaucracy to regulate and save people from themselves. There were stunning moments like when one member said my ban bill would make a criminal out of his five year old grandson who wants to do cage fighting at a school program. I’m pretty sure 95% of the parents of five year olds in our state would object to their kindergartner watching his grandson beat and kick the crap out of another kindergartner at school. Maybe it’s not so ridiculous. CNN did a story last year on five year old cage fighting.

The question I’d like to ask all my colleagues is simply: what is violence? For some it’s apparently not dismembering unborn children. For others it’s apparently not two people beating each other senseless while rubbernecking bloodlusting pay per viewers cheer. But yesterday the same people who said no to those two things as being violent said two gay men getting in a love spat constitutes violent domestic assault. And ‘splain this to me… those who continually harp on putting all extra dollars to teachers decided yesterday to prioritize boxers over teachers.

It’s too early to forecast what the Governor will do with the bill. I’d think he’ll refuse to sign it and let it pass into law without his signature because he does oppose it and there are the votes in the House and Senate to override his veto.

What this means for South Dakota is we now get commercial cage fighting. It’s coming to a county fair near you. We can now host the big sanctioned events and this means big money. It’s a 3.7 billion violent entertainment industry and the VP of the UFC has contacted the Senate sponsor here and hired two lobbyists to educate legislators here on how it only looks violent. Those lobbyists are Justin Bell also represents the Medical Association and Bret Koenecke who represents the Bankers Association. When I see Justin and Bret today do you support they’ll thank me for landing them such an enormous contract? A hospital lobbyist here in the Capitol joked with me that they aren’t backing me in this fight because it’s good for their business.

The safety issue is secondary to the money issue. I prove that when I point to the pay per view stuff like King of the Cage: Greatest Knockouts #19. Here’s the script on that:

King of the Cage: Greatest Knockouts #19 — The Rear Naked Choke and the Fifteen most LETHEL MMA Maneuvers; the Crucifix – brutally intense! The Heel Hook – one fighter is to effective they’ve named his right kick “hospital” and his left kick “graveyard!” The Guillotine Choke. The Flying Knee. Don’t miss the greatest knockouts caught on camera. Now playing on pay per view.

All this about “safety” is a big smokescreen. The knockouts are what they are selling. This is about knocking people unconscious. I realize other sports have injuries but the last thing we want to see with rodeo, cheerleading and football is for someone to get hurt. Yet that IS what people pay to see in cage fighting. The UFC is interested to make videos #20 and #21 and put them on pay per view at $60 and $75.

Despite the justifications and rationalization and propaganda they throw at me that this isn’t as violent as it looks I find the following forthright comments from USF cage fighters themselves evidence enough that it is what it is.

UFC fighter Nate Diaz was quoted in USA Today (12/5/12) in an article titled: “Nate Diaz Says Sportsmanship Doesn’t Describe UFC”… We’re out there trying to damage each other and finish each other. We’re trying to take each other out. We both want to win by knockout or submission or some type of finish rather than a decision. I think it’s pretty unsportsmanlike.

The Associated Press reported UFC championship fighter Jon Jones saying that he’d rather let his arm break than tap out of a fight. [AP: Jones Successfully Defends Title at UFC 152, 9/23/12]

John Musick, another pro cage fighter said “I will never tap out. You can break my arm off and take it home with you, but I will never tap out.”  Cage fighter Enson Inoue was quoted saying; “I guarantee the fans two things. One, I will give everything I have – I will move until I cannot move anymore. And two, I will never, every give up. I would rather die than tap out.”

So, it is what it is and South Dakota just commercialized it.

P.S. For those who haven’t heard I have said I regret my shocking remark about cage fighting being over the line with violent entertainment like child porn is over the line with adult entertainment. I’ve apologized for it and said it wasn’t my intent to offend people but I see now I did just that. Sorry. It was merely an analogy which I’ve had to explain to many who apparently have been hit in the head so many times they entirely missed it. Now I say, get back up, get over it, and address my point and answer the question I was raising…. if not here, where should the line be drawn on violence in society? Where should that conversation start?

Amidst the flurry of hysterics coming my way after my recent comments on cage fighting I received some forthright letters from Christians involved in the sport. One in particular is from Seth Falvo, a young fighter and writer for the website CagePotato. Apparently he wrote this lovely piece on me - MMA Is The ‘Child Porn of Sports’, According to South Dakota Porn Expert/State Rep. Steve Hickey [HATE]. Seth wrote me a stinging note and in particular called me out on my insensitivity to the death of a MMA fighter. Here is part of his letter:

I’m here to tell you that as a Christian, I have never been more disgusted to read THIS coming from a pastor’s own blog:”I have to bite my tongue because instead of the passages that comfort the grieving I feel like quoting the great philosopher Forrest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does.”

I was hoping this was just a sick, sick parody account, but upon confirming that this is, in fact, your own blog, I’m at a loss for words. Where do I even begin here? Do I quote the Bible and write “Judge not lest you be judged, For in the way you judge, you will be judged?” Do I quote “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” Or do I simply point out that you are a self-proclaimed pastor – a man of God – who essentially writes that a fictional character from a Hollywood movie knows more about how one should live than Jesus Christ, the Man whose message he is supposed to be teaching others. I’ll go with the latter. Wow. A self-proclaimed Man of God decides that God isn’t as smart as a dim-witted Hollywood character, and that he, oh wise and powerful pastor, is perfectly right in judging how law-abiding, church going people spend their spare time. If you’ve ever wondered why people my age have quit going to church, well, do I really need to explain why?

Here’s my reply and I’ll post it here as an open letter to all Christian MMA fans and fighters:

Seth,

Thanks for your honest note. For starters I’ll say I have a whole lot more experience with death than you do. I’ve been a police chaplain and pastor for years. There have been times when my pager goes off three times a week and I get to go tell people their loved one has died or been killed. I never quote Forrest Gump in those moments. What you read on my blog was the inner life of a pastor who has to sit with grieving people who are sometimes furious at their lost loved ones for doing stupid, reckless things that result in the wasting of their lives and causing such pain to their families and friends. Both my parents are dead and my father died a very violent death at the negligence of another… meaning it was entirely preventable if only one person had not been so reckless. If you don’t like my Forrest Gump thought I can quote you many passages on foolishness resulting in death and destruction. It is foolish for someone to get into an unsanctioned cage and fight in our state. That was my point.

And not for a moment do I receive your judgmental comment that I’m the type of person who is keeping a generation from Christ/Church. I have started and am leading large church with a ministry school and a substantial ministry to young adults. Also I’ve been planting churches around the world and we lead people to Christ all the time. I’m friends with significant church leaders in your state and we may even have mutual friends. The stream I minister within is aggressively evangelistic and fruitful.

I regret my MMA/child porn comment because it was too shocking and people have entirely lost the point I was making. Forgive me for that but I was simply trying to shine a light on something those in the sport don’t want us to see.

It was interesting to me you jumped right to the “judge not” passage in the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve been a student of that passage of Scripture for twenty five years and have written a 400 page book on the topic. Do you know the Sermon on the Mount also trumpets the non-violence, non-retaliation, turn the other cheek message? Why do you pick and choose verses in that sermon and ignore it’s main point? Do you not agree that we have a problem with violence in society? Do you honestly, before God, think your sport isn’t feeding a blood lust in our culture?

As a Christian let me ask you, if the next guy you kick in the head or choke with some guillotine maneuver passes out and doesn’t wake up— who killed him? Let me ask you Seth, who would Jesus elbow in the face? I won’t judge you or the other athletes here and make some blanket statement that you are full of bloodlust but I WILL say that about your fans and the crowds that flock to your sport. The Bible speaks about bloodlust.  Greed and bloodlust make the MMA today a multi-billion dollar violent entertainment industry.

I’ll be happy to send you a free copy of my Sermon on the Mount book if you want to study that text fully. There is more than “Judge Not” in that sermon. And, by the way, judge not does not mean we turn off all discernment and stop calling good, good and bad, bad. My calling is certainly not to just smile and say nothing. My calling as a minister of the Gospel is to tell the truth even when it’s unpopular. I was elected in my state to push red and green YES or NO buttons and make decisions everyday about things our state should say YES to and things our state should say NO to. Sometimes I fail in that I don’t do all that in love but I figured your crowd was a tough crowd and strong words would be fine. I was wrong, you all are hyper-sensitive, thin-skinned and full of self-justification for what the average person can see with a naked eye is extreme violence. All these claims that I’m ignorant of the sport are simply smokescreens to mask what is obvious.

I’ll paste below some additional comments that I made in the committee and want to point out to you that my comment on a “seared conscience” is a term from the Bible.

All the best to you.
Rev/Rep Steve Hickey

Here are those additional comments:

They say I’m ignorant of this sport and they make a case that it only looks dangerous. I even had a cage fighter/PhD write me and tell me “elbows are used primarily to cause superficial damage and an elbow doesn’t produce a concussive blow.” That’s ridiculous. My response it that it is what it is – too violent and that is evident to the naked eye and the casual observer. I’ll quickly concede I am no expert on MMA. But as I told one of the fighters this weekend… “just maybe a guy like me can see what you don’t see.”  Violence is addictive and people in addiction (including codependents) don’t see or acknowledge any problem until there is a tragedy, or an intervention. I’m intervening here and asking you to join me.

I’ll speak briefly from an area that I do have professional expertise: there is such a thing as a seared conscience which refers to a person who has lost a capacity of innocence whereby they no longer wince. We don’t want to become a society that can’t wince. Ben Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” I submit to you that society is reaching that point and more masters means more laws like this amendment.

I don’t deny the good that is going on in MMA – giving young people confidence and discipline. But MMA is not the only vehicle to accomplish those ends. It doesn’t take that level of violence to develop character, fortitude, confidence, strength and discipline. Any of the other sports overseen by this commission can do all those good things. MMA feeds something in society that we don’t want to feed.

Society was just fine before they figured out to do this and it will be just fine without it again. We aren’t losing ground with my amendment. Actually, we might even be gaining ground that we’ve lost.

I’ve posted here numerous times how brutal it was only 5-7 years ago to be an evangelical who uttered the notion that there are “apostles” today. Though there is just as much (or more) Scriptural justification to capitalize “Apostle” today as there is to capitalize “Pastor,” I’ve always been careful to use the term in the lower case so as to not exasperate the controversy.  However, people always seemed to miss that little detail.

Regarding my commentary on the “Pastoral Epistles” (Obtainable Destiny, Creation House, 2004), Dr. C. Peter Wagner mentioned me on page 78 of his book “Apostles Today” saying: “To my knowledge, the first biblical commentary that treats these epistles as apostolic rather than pastoral is Obtainable Destiny by Steve Hickey.”  While I thanked Peter for the plug, I also ducked.

But today I delight to see example after example of major evangelical church planting and mission organizations talking openly about apostolic work, apostolic teams, apostolic networks, the apostolic gifts, sending (aka apostolos), our apostolic mission, apostolic church planting.  This pic is from my recent copy of Mission Frontiers which some of you know is THE main (and strategic) evangelical missiological publication which comes from the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, CA.

You may have to squint, but the text at the bottom says: “Apostolos is a conference for apostolic young people who have already committed to expanding God’s Kingdom at the frontiers…

There is no more fitting, or Biblical, term for this frontline work of establishing kingdom outposts where there previously were none. We are all comfortable with the terms “home missionary” and “church planter” though you won’t find “missionary” or “church planter” in your concordance, or “theologian“! ((Ha! Got to love my friend Peter Wagner for his “Goodbye Theologians” article.))

The peaceable part of me wants to say let’s just do the work and stop straining gnats regarding what it’s called. However, I do think it’s critical frontline workers again recapture their identity/role/function with regard to their apostolic gifting. I’ve written elsewhere how three “apostles” entering a region must send icy chills up the spine of our fiery Adversary. I can’t imagine news of three new “pastors” in the area would be much of a threat or cause much trembling in the realms of darkness.

Last weekend I kicked off a new Lent/Easter message series called Tough Week which is focused on the last week of the life of Jesus.  Hope part one is a blessing to you – you can listen to it here.  Hope you can join us for part two this weekend.

We tend to think of people stuck in the 70s or 80s, or stuck in the past. However, I’m starting off the new year with a message series for people who are stuck right now – stuck between a rock and a hard place, stuck in sin, stuck in dead end jobs, or stuck emotionally or spiritually, or stuck in unhealthy mindsets, or stuck in disbelief, or stuck in their ways.

God wants us unstuck, untangled and moving on. This is a series on freedom and it’s packed with truth that will set you free.

As always, my friend Bobbi knocked it out of the park with graphics for this series. It’s the perfect look especially in light of the fact that America is in the deep freeze and snowed in for a while!

Momentum: God's Ever-Increasing KingdomHere’s another shameless plug for my new book “Momentum: God’s Ever-Increasing Kingdom” which was published by Strang/ Creation House and released on Tuesday. I had a blast seeing one thousand pastors get free copies at a conference last week in North Carolina!

It’s available at Amazon and all the other usual outlets but you can get it even cheaper here. If you have a blog, I’ll send a second copy to you for free (for your pastor, staff or leadership teams or whoever) if you devote a blog post to it with a link back to the MomentumHandbook.com website. Email the blog link to me at steve@momentumhandbook.com

This really IS a handbook on momentum for church leaders, ministry leaders and others who want to see kingdom increase in their midst.  Since I published a little 29 page booklet on momentum in 2003 I’ve been dialed in on this subject particularly as it relates to my world of church planting and church growth. There is not much out there on this topic and that’s what makes this book so unique and timely. It’s full of insight and encouragement.

Maybe a glance at a few of the chapter titles will stir your interest even more; “Relentlessness“, “Small Beginnings“, “Discerning the Pace of the Spirit“, “Stopping a Stampede” and “Removing Obstacles Downhill the Momentum Snowball.”

It was a huge honor that my friend Pastor Chris Hodges, who pastors America’s fastest growing church according to Outreach Magazine, said this:

Steve Hickey gets it right! One of the greatest needs of the local church is to grab hold of kingdom momentum.  But Steve does not just talk about momentum; his church has it. So climb in, buckle up, and get ready to take a ride!

Author and church leader Larry Kreider commented that “the chart on page 113 alone is worth the price of the book.” On that page I name 23 things that stifle momentum and 23 things that stoke it.

Just to give you a taste, one of the stiflers of momentum is hope deferred. Discouragement will put the damper on everything. Most church leaders I know are wired for great kingdom exploits and many times those hopes are deferred.  I encourage you to celebrate early wins! Even the small ones!

Working with those who fight addictions, we have learned to rejoice in all the little milestones.  What a mistake to wait until a person is sober for several years before declaring victory! A man who gave his life to the Lord last week told me just today that seven days have gone by since he had his last drink.  What a victory! And what a mistake to hold back any celebration until he reaches some other milestone.  Happy churches are churches that celebrate all the time.  People will work toward parties.  Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (NIV). The Message renders this verse, “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.”

There is nothing like a changed life to enhance momentum. Testimonies of victory stir something deep in us and give us faith for greater things. They ought to be told at the onset of every staff meeting and be frequent features in our worship services. Celebrating our wins is a sure way to make the most out of what God is doing in midst. No matter how insignificant your progress appears, celebrate anyway.

You’ll have to get the book to see the other 22 momentum stiflers.  You can order it here. Check out momentumhandbook.com… feedback is welcome!

If you’ve not yet read my earlier post on Todd Bentley, the Florida Healing Outpouring and the Seat of Scoffers, please read that first. This post is a follow-up to that earlier post and the stream of comments it provoked.

Since I wrote that post, I have spent three days and nights in Lakeland at the outpouring. A couple of those days I was with my friend Randy Bohlender.  I concur with his assessments and refer you to his blog for those. Basically Randy notes there are a ton of hungry people there – and some strange folks as well (who can control who comes to a public meeting?). Randy notes… this is mostly God and there’s more going on than you see on TV.

My focus in blogging on this twice now has been to counter some of trash talk out there from the supposedly “Christian” self-appointed, anonymous, unaccountable, unfruitful, on-line revival police – these unloving people are sowing a fear of deception in the Body of Christ robbing many people of an innocent faith in a God who only gives good gifts to his children. They hinder children wanting to come to Jesus. These people only have faith for a counterfeit to show up on the scene. I’m now deleting most of the comments from those sitting in the seat of scoffers because they are missing the point of my posts. I’m not dialoging here about the rightness or wrongness of tattoos or any of the other things people are finding wrong about this revival. Most of what is coming in is mass “pasting” of links and selected Scriptures shot as arrows from places of concealment (Ps. 64).

I have my own growing list of relevant Scriptures. Read these carefully and you’ll begin to see my point. After that, I will share some very important things I heard said in Lakeland by the leaders there.

Romans 14:1,4,12,14 “do not pass judgment on disputable matters… who are you to judge someone else’s servant? …each of us will give an account of himself to God… let us stop passing judgment on one another…

Ephesians 4:29-30 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

In one of the comments in my previous post, a fellow took after me calling me “gay” and “limp-wristed” for not speaking against this… he then swore. He did send a follow-up comment the next morning to apologize. I forgive him, but this is my point… unwholesome talk is coming out of the mouths of people right now – the Spirit is being grieved – praise and cursing don’t come from the same mouth. These folks need to repent, and not to me, it’s not my revival. Jesus nailed these folks to the wall…

Matthew 12:34-37… You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Here it is again from the Message… “You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”

Regarding the reaction of some to what is happening at the revival – 2 Corinthians 2:14… “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Regarding Todd Bentley – 1 Corinthians 1:27… “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise

Proverbs 12:18… “Reckless words pierce like a sword, the tongue of the wise brings health.”

And my personal favorite – Philippians 4:8-9… “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Why don’t people focus on the good stuff going on here? Jesus is the focus of these meetings – that is indisputable. God’s Word is sung for hours, preached, there are powerful altar calls where people are getting saved. I was a part of a training where 600 people were trained in the basics of street evangelism and sent out in the community of Lakeland to witness and pray for people. The stories and testimonies coming back were awesome. 120 people were saved in the three days I was there through the work of these street evangelists. Nearly all of those going out into the streets have never done that before and were nervous-as-can-be. We should be praying for them. These hyper-critical scoffers on-line ought to log off indefinitely and go out in their communities to win the lost. But here’s the deal there… they have no life to offer the dying. They are so caught up in the “ministry” of killing what God is doing.

Why not focus on this… this is a picture of a seven year old boy who was severely cross-eyed five minutes previous. Now his eyes are normal and his mom and family members were absolutely beside themselves. The boy talked about Jesus touching him and how he loves Jesus. It made 8000 people cry. The scoffers have what to say about this?? They are blind to what God is doing here.

This revival started in Ignited Church which is pastored by Stephen Strader. Strader spoke in a morning session about what it was like to pastor something like this and how hard it was to be on the brunt end of merciless criticism from people supposedly in our camp. He said when this started April 2, God spoke to him to “not steady the ark.” People were calling saying “correct this” and “rein this in” but Strader says “we sensed we were not to steady the ark.” He’s referring to the time the oxen stumbled while bringing the ark of the covenant into the city of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). Uzzah reach out to steady the ark and God struck him down for his irreverent act. David took six steps and sacrificed a bull and fattened calf.

DON’T “STEADY THE ARK”

Pastor Strader and Todd Bentley are stewarding the presence of God here trying to usher it into cities around the world by imparting what God has given them to those who come wanting it where they live. And they sense they aren’t to “steady the ark.” Instead, Strader and Bentley are following David’s example in taking six steps and then sacrificing. Six is the number of man and Strader says they are interpreting this as representing the hand of man and how they are to do all they know to do, and then pray. For six days they are doing what the leaders collective experiences and counsel and wisdom say but then they are stopping on the seventh day and offering themselves up.

Strader preached a message on May 4 explaining why they sense they are to let the wheat grow with the tares. The message is called “The Wheat and the Tares” and includes this illustration:

(My paraphrase) Down the street is one of my favorite places to eat – it has a great buffet. But on that buffet are beets and I hate beets. But I don’t walk in the restaurant and make a scene and scream out to the manager – “This restaurant has beets on the buffet, get rid of them!” I’m not out spreading a bad report in the city saying “this restaurant has beets and the manager won’t get rid of them. This whole restaurant is bad and will kill you and everyone eating there is being poisoned!

Pastor Strader’s point is just come to the buffet and eat – stay away from the beets if you don’t like them. There are a lot of other things being offered here. Let’s focus on all the good things!

Leadership Journal is perhaps THE journal of journals for non-charismatic evangelical church leaders. It has its roots in Billy Graham and Christianity Today. It’s contributors are THE who’s who in the evangelical world – Willow Creek, Saddleback, etc. This was the camp that produced me, and then spit me back out when I started pointing out the Bible lists more apostles than just the Twelve.

You can imagine my delight to flip through my latest copy of Leadership Journal (Spring ’08 – it’s not online yet) to discover the issue has two feature articles saying what I’ve been saying for a dozen years (and what the New Testament has been saying for 2000 years.) Apostles exist today!!!

Really, this is nothing new. Ephesians 4:11-13 explicitly says apostles are vital to the church, and will continue to be, “UNTIL we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

For those who didn’t know there was any debate here, believe me, there is. In 2004, I wrote a book about these things (Obtainable Destiny, Creation House Press). At that time, the book was not welcome in evangelicalism. (The book is a commentary of sorts on 1, 2 Timothy and Titus which I decided to dub… the “Apostolic Epistles” instead of what we are all taught they were… “the Pastoral Epistles.”) My point was these guys were not sent out (apostolos) to be pastors and “hold people’s hands” for 30 years. They were apostles-in-training. My evangelical colleagues were okay calling me a church “planter” or a home “missionary”, but as I tried to point out, neither of those terms are found in the Bible. And to be clear, I wasn’t asking or interested to have a title attached to my name – it was about the recognition and release of the gift and its operation in the church.

I’ve come to believe the adversary doesn’t sweat much when 100 pastors is a state operate in their gifting. But the devil freaks out when 100 apostles are released in a region. Getting over our apprehensiveness with this gifting and its operation today will get us over a major hurdle in advancing the Kingdom of God in our regions.

My D. Min. studies, yes under my good friend Dr. C. Peter Wagner, led me to the conclusion that the closest thing to a church planter in the New Testament wasn’t a “pastor.” Pastors take care of sheep already in the fold. Evangelists win the lost but then they leave town. Only the apostle goes forth to establish lasting Kingdom outposts where they weren’t previously. Apostles are the pioneers, the church planters.

Suggesting such however, even just five years ago, you would have thought I was advocating we add a fourth person to the Trinity! I know there are wacko’s out there claiming to be apostles who are not. But even there, the fact that there are false apostles means there are real ones. In five more years, this will all be a non-issue and we can get on with the work of God and stop picking at each other. Here’s a quick summary of these two Leadership Journal articles:

ARTICLE #1 - Note the title/subtitle…THREE OVERLOOKED LEADERSHIP ROLES: We’re familiar with pastors and teachers, but todays world needs a leadership team that includes three biblical but forgotten functions. Here are some highlights…

If we take the five categories of church leadership from Ephesians 4:11, [we are] training leaders to be teachers and pastors for established congregations, but where [are] the evangelists, the prophets and the apostles to lead the mission of the gospel into the world… this divorce of apostles, prophets and evangelists from pastors and teachers has been disastrous for the local church and has damaged the cause of Christ and his mission.”

There is a great chart called the “Fantastic Five Diagram” which is old-school five-fold ministry stuff from the charismatic camp.

ARTICLE #2 – title/subtitle… APOSTLES TODAY? Rediscovering the gift that leaves churches and well-connected pastors in its wake. Apostles leave new churches in their wake!!! That’s it! I love the first sentence…

We all know about the apostles named Peter, Paul and John, but have you ever heard of Andronicus or Junia? Some are surprised to discover that the New Testament identifies more apostles than the twelve…

You get the idea. Evangelicals are just now discovering apostles do exist today. And, I’m thrilled! Maybe we can all work together again. And just maybe, the self-appointed, unaccountable heresy hunters will come under conviction and realize these verses are in the Bible after all.

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In 2003, I wrote a little 29-page booklet called “Maximizing Momentum: All Aboard the Move of God.” Long story, but it has since turned into a full-length book. Actually the full length book has been done for two years already. Last summer, I trained 100 church leaders in Ghana on these points. In the last five years I’ve taught this stuff at leadership retreats, to church plant launch teams, and to mission pastors. The feedback I’m getting is that there is nothing like what I have here and that the church desperately needs this message.

You say, what then is the hold up on it’s publication? Money. Still no breakthrough there but I’m going to press ahead getting it ready. My editor finished her work on this last summer and now I’m thinking about a creative layout and title. We had a little brainstorming session the other night on possible titles. At present, as you can see in the graphic, I’ve been going with the title “The Big Mo: Seizing the Crescendo Seasons of God’s Ever-Increasing Kingdom.” However, nobody in Africa last summer could figure any of that out – especially the “big mo” thing. My translator looked at me like I had broke out into tongues.

We are kicking around a few title ideas right now -
1. Unlocking the Secrets of Momentum
2. Momemtum Made Easy
3. Momentum Secrets
4. Crescendo: Momentum for the Church
5. Pastor Steve lights a fire under the butt of believers
6. Escalation in the End Times
7. _____________________________

I need some major feedback on this so, please, freely comment. If you are creative, shoot me a fresh title suggestion. If you like one of these, which one?

This past weekend during one of our worship services I noticed some of the lyrics we were singing were basically visionary prayers. As I reflected on this, I felt led to say a few things about “Praying Forward.” Within a day or so a couple emails came in saying it was quite helpful and important. Kristen suggested I develop the thought a bit and submit it as a guest post on her prayer blog. So, I did just that and you can read more of what I’m thinking about Praying Forward here.

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Every spring, God’s green earth comes alive! This was God’s promise to Noah… “as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” The verse also indicates this present earth won’t endure forever. Evidence abounds, our planet is fallen. Everything began with excellence at Creation, but the created order is on a path of degeneration.

Eco-gospel prophets like Al Gore are blowing the trumpet that we are in a planetary crisis – but, it’s confusing because their ideology is based on the belief that earth is evolving upward, from worse to better. (Evolution, mind you, isn’t a science; it’s a belief – a belief that actually runs counter to science and the evidence.)

Surprising some, science and Scripture agree about our origins. Once we understand our origins and God’s mandate that we steward creation in this age and the age to come, our identity and role in both come into focus. More to come this weekend at Church at the Gate

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