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The backstory…. On April 9 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (where I was a minister for 21 years), a local Muslim man named Ehab Jaber walked into a Christian Conference where hundreds were gathered to hear speakers (including an ex-Muslim speaking on the topic:  “Sabotaging America: Islam’s March Toward Supremacy“). The local media hyped the entire event up as “anti-muslim” drawing out a sizeable protest, and in my view, we can thank them for their role in creating this incident. A Christian worldview event was spun by media as anti-Muslim and, surprise, it drew out a mad Muslim. If we want to de-escalate the tensions, maybe the media could help by not fuelling them.

What goes on in mosques, of course, is from the perspective of their worldview and what goes on in churches, of course, is from ours. These are not harmonious world views. Each believes the other is what is wrong with the world and that God is on one side, their side. I’m a Christian, and I have nothing nice to say about Islam. And of course, I don’t believe Islam to be just another way to relate to God. ((If there were other viable paths to salvation God would not have sent his only Son to die on a Cross to pay the penalty for our sin.)) Of course I think, as do all orthodox Christians in a variety of streams, that Islam is a grave deception and the antithesis of any sort of religion of peace.

So, on April 9, Mr Jaber walked into this Christian worldview event waving his Koran and made a scene until he was asked to leave by event security. In the parking lot he recorded a video and posted it on Facebook. In the video he showed off his collection of legal South Dakota firearms and kept repeating “be scared.” He has since been charged with making a Terrorist Threat, his weapons have been confiscated, and law enforcement found Meth in his home. He sits now in jail and laments bitterly how he has lost everything. The judge set a very low bail, $2500, apparently not considering Mr Jaber a threat to society. Mr Jaber told the court: “No one wants to bond me out so it doesn’t matter.”

My analysis… is twofold.

First, they have their guns and their book and we have our guns and our Book. Fellow South Dakotans will remember (lousy-)Christian US Senate Candidate, now felon, Annette Bosworth holding up our Good Book and her Big Gun during her failed 2014 Senate campaign. There are differences for sure in how Mr Jaber decided to make his video in the parking lot of an event in the heat of anger, thus the terrorist threat charges. But I think we should look more closely at the similarities. I’m not all that convinced what he did is all that different from what a lot of flag/gun waving Christians do. This meme illustrates the point.

If the book the gal on the left is holding up says don’t kill the other person, why is she holding that gun? Here’s why? Because since Constantine, the Church has embraced a grave heresy to find justifications to do the very opposite of what Jesus taught. The gal on the left believes her book gives her justifications to kill the other JUST LIKE the gal on the right believes her book gives her justifications to kill the other.

Second, I think it is high time Christians start acting like Christians and that means we start acting like Christ. That means we figure out a way to love this enemy. Missionaries do it all the time… they reach out to those who are hostile to them and who have even tried to kill them. That’s when the Gospel is most powerful. That’s when we are most like Christ. As is this guy is sitting in jail thinking hundreds of local Christians at an event hate him. I hope that is not true. He needs to know Christians love Muslims even though they take issue with Islam.

If the charges stick, a judge can sort through appropriate consequences. That’s Romans 13. Our job is Romans 12 (vss. 17-21). This guy has no prior offences, is not connected to some radicalised jihad sleeper cell, and he didn’t kill anyone– though I agree he was dangerously close to snapping in the near the future. It is GOOD that law enforcement got involved when they did. In this case, and I’m only talking about this case, I’m suggesting there is a window of opportunity for us to be Christians, for once.

So how do we love on our local (alleged) terrorist? My suggestion is that we post his $2500 bond and I’ll put forth the first $250. He needs to know there are people who care about him and that they are they very people who he views as enemies. This gesture would send this guy a message in a way that sending him a Bible wouldn’t. It would send him am important message that so far we have failed to communicate to him and others like him.

If this isn’t as good a time as any to finally try out that whole love-our-enemies thing, I’m not sure there ever will be a perfect time and way to obey what Jesus told us to do every time we have opportunity. It seems we always find spiritual-sounding and common sense rationales to not obey Jesus in this regard. We need to quit being kinda-Christians and start being Christ-like. It’s easy to love those who love us back, Jesus noted even the pagans do that – what sets us apart is enemy love and until we get to that point, we are still pagan in our love.

Last night I tried to set up a gofundme.com account to collect donations but gofundme cancelled my account because such a legal plea for funds is a violation of their terms and conditions. I’ll have to figure out another way this afternoon. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Still thinking about where people can send money to send this “message” to Mr. Jaber. Maybe I’ll ask the multicultural centre to put a donation jar in their office? Don’t send anything there yet.  But I really ONLY want these donations to come from people who are “friends of Jesus” and preferably Conservative Christians only – it needs to come from us. Mr Jaber needs to think about the fact that he was bailed out by friends of Jesus.

UPDATE 2 (4/26/2017) 12:34 CST: A pastor in Sioux Falls reports to me that Mr. Jaber is no longer in the jail. And, the editor of the Argus Leader just sent me a text to take down that picture of Mr Jaber that I lifted off their website. I said, sure.

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36 flat screens around and over the stage and a 70 foot big one behind it. It’s just the tip of the iceberg here at one of our ARC churches, Celebration Church in Jacksonville. It’s all quite stretch for me – and not because I’m old, old school, or because I see dollar signs (this is a $22 million dollar church facility, $4 million of which went into technology).  

Even so,,,, my sense is that today we worship with creative technology like they worshipped 500 or 1000 years ago with the most extravagant and majestic architecture, acoustic marvels and they let the Michelangelo’s have free reign on the windows, walls and ceiling using light and color with artistic excellence to retell the Story and reflect his Glory. I guess it’s using everything to glorify Him. The Scripture scorns living in paneled houses while the house of the Lord is in a meager state. Perhaps then the best technology should be in church. In so many churches people donate their old broken down PC to the church. We should be giving our best offering.

It would seem to me a sin to make God dull or put forth little expense or extravagance to make much of Him. We know God made sure the Tabernacle/Temple were adorned with the best materials and musicians to reflect Him. It wasn’t more spiritual or Scriptural to go simple with sackcloth decor. The best should not be left to the world, it should be redeemed to further His Cause. And technology is a tool. It’s not God – it can either distract from Him or be used to point people to Him. My caution for people who are blessed to be in a technologically saturated and super-charged church like this is to make sure they can worship without all the electronic enhancements.

I know God is using media and technology to get the Message to the far corners of the earth. As long as it’s deeper than a show (and in some places IT’S NOT) and there is vitality when a church is unplugged. And as long as He is the only celebrity. And as long as the latest and greatest doesn’t replace love. If you have 36 flat screens but have not love….

My sense is the story of Shaun King is just in it’s earliest chapters but already it’s worth telling. I first met him four years ago when he came to us to be assessed for church planting. His dream was to plant in inner city Atlanta where he grew up. The first thing that set him apart was that he had a powerful death to life testimony. Our assessment team unanimously recommended him but I think it’s fair to say we wondered if he was a right fit for our system. No doubt in our minds that he’d succeed but perhaps there was the thought that our system would stifle him. Months later, via his magic with social media and the grace of God, he became our largest launch to date, over 600 on his first Sunday at Courageous Church.

Those of us who played even a small part in that beemed with pride. His success gave him leaway to buck the system a bit… I remember he riled our feathers when he noted publicly our meetings were too white and the speakers on our platforms were all white. A few years after that smoke cleared I can report our meetings are less white.

Shaun is a social media specialist and he raised massive amount of money for Haiti and got thousands of tents sent there. In the earliest days he somehow directed search and rescue efforts via Twitter from his home in Atlanta – no kidding, U.S. relief ships were following his leads to hurting people, doctors in the US were being directed to specific people in specific places. Shaun appeared on many national news and morning shows. There is a similar story to tell about his work helping the Atlanta Flood Victims. Those of us who’ve been following him on Facebook and Twitter grew to look forward to his updates loving how he just said what needed to be said. Things like; “Note to Donors: Please do not donate your dirty draws & bras. I will have a scientist from GA Tech run a DNA scan & twitter your name.”

In March of this year he felt led to make a radical shift in his church. He announced in a few weeks he’d preach his last sermon at the church. It wasn’t because he was leaving the church. It was because he was changing his church and focusing on three causes instead of church just being about pulling off Sunday morning services.  I’ll repost his comments here because they are worth reading.

Currently, the overwhelming percentage of our time, energy, skills, budget, and creativity are spent preparing for Sunday morning services, getting people to our Sunday services, and getting them to volunteer for our Sunday morning services.  I love what we do on Sunday morning. I love preaching and it is one of my primary gifts.  I love our worship team, our breakfast, our volunteers.  Our church is growing.

However, 5 things have convinced me that this extreme emphasis on Sunday morning is not the will of God for our church.

1. Our city is falling apart in painful ways that break God’s heart.  Atlanta is now the nation’s hub for child sex trafficking.  We have one of the highest teen incarceration rates in the nation.  Our education system in Atlanta is beyond broken.  In the face of these things, the church continues to preach and sing, but kids keep getting sold to perverts for sex.

If James 1:27 is true and “Authentic faith in the eyes of God is caring for widows and orphans” then I declare that our church will have authentic faith and have hands and feet that address these issues.  Right now, our church, like most American churches, as Rick Warren said “Is one big mouth”.

2. As I read the Gospels and see Jesus, I am increasingly stumped how we determined sermons and songs are what makes us most like Him.   I am not saying we do away with them, but we preach and sing too much and serve and love in radical ways far too little.  The answer is not to add love on top of the sermons and songs, but to decrease the sermons and songs and increase the service and love to create a balance that looks like the life of Jesus.

3. This week I was able to meet with a personal hero of mine and he said something to me that was shocking.  One of the best preachers in the world, he leads one of the largest churches in the country.  He told me, “At this point in my life I have preached thousands of sermons and I am not even sure what they mean to God, but nothing makes me feel more alive and like I am nailing God’s will like caring for foster children.  I can point my finger in the Bible and say yes – this is what God wants.”

For me, I do not want to wait another twenty years to come to this conclusion.  I do not want to wait until our entire church is built around my sermons (as it is becoming) and then conclude that it may or may not be what most honors God.  I’d rather go for it now.

4. Anybody that ever heard the vision of Courageous Church before we launched in January of 2009, knows that our vision was to never become a Sunday morning machine, but this is what we have become and we do it well.  A real temptation exists to keep chugging along, do it like other churches do it, and try to forget the original vision of Courageous Church to take bold leaps of faith to bring about real change in peoples lives, in our city and in the world.

Most of our time is now spent thinking about the arrangement of chairs, the execution of payroll, the brightness of the lights, the printing of the announcements, the lyrics on the screens, the pitch from the mics, and in the midst of all of this – I confess that people have been hurt in the process.  We created a church to love God and love people and in the busy-ness of it all – people that we cared about were neglected and forgotten. I won’t do it this way another day.

5. I feel like this is what God wants for Courageous Church.

Rather than meet weekly on Sunday mornings, Shaun broke things down into three discipleship groups that met around three causes; child trafficking, education and caring for widows. The Cause Groups would meet twice a month, the entire church would re-gather once a month for a Festival.

In all my years of church planting and training church planters I have said a thousand times, we don’t build churches on or around a cause – we build a church on Jesus. For sure this is what Shaun was seeking to do. Even so, Shaun is spot on when it comes to pointing out (what I’ve been calling) the theotainment model of the mega-church today is probably not what Jesus wanted us to build. I’ve long maintained that the church is a community and that causes are the domain of the parachurch. Shaun makes me rethink that.

In case you are wondering, Shaun’s experiment didn’t work. He faced perhaps the roughest summer of his life as his church sought to transition into these uncharted waters. Last month Shaun announced that since the bulk of the families in the church wanted to return to the traditional model, he would transition himself out of leadership. Here’s part of what he had to say in his announcement:

I thank God that I am not stepping down in shame or scandal, but it is clear that God is calling Rai and I to take our family in a direction that is just significantly different than what most in the church are asking for.  Over the past 6 months I have taken Courageous Church down a difficult, counter-cultural road in an earnest attempt at building true disciples.  It’s been rough.  All but a few families are now yearning to go back to a traditional Sunday focused system and I am sure that I am not the person to lead you there.

Those of us who assess church planters know it’s often more insightful to talk to the guys wife if you want the real scoop. Here’s what Shaun’s wife Rai had to say about leaving Courageous Church. You’ll have a hard time finding anything more honest about being a pastors/church planters wife. My o my o my o my, it’s the perfect thing to read here on this last day of “Pastor Appreciation Month.” Made me wonder what my wife would write if someone asked her honest feelings about the state of the church.

The last couple months Shaun’s been writing about giving away everything he owns, 1000 books, his new ipad, his bed…. everything. This is the first time I’ve ever voiced this but I’ll say it here, every serious follower of Jesus would do well to walk away from everything they own at least once to follow Jesus. I’ve given away my retirement three times and gobs of other things and dollars and certainly there was a time when I had nothing that wouldn’t fit in my car, but never have I walked away from everything. I do believe these are days to live a wartime lifestyle – living only on what we need and giving the rest where it’s most needed.

Shaun wrote a fascinating article on when a leader loses his mojo. He likens himself to Obama in that regard – at the top of his game just a couple years ago, now a fog has set in and it’s better to pull over if you can’t see where you are going.

Don’t think for a moment Shaun now lacks vision. After living his entire life in inner city Atlanta, this week he drove his family to California where they will live for an undetermined period of time before he and a team move to Africa – the suffering in Somalia has gripped his heart. And he’s climbing the worlds seven great mountains of need. Check that out here TellTheMountainToMove. You can read his next steps here.

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.

Great article in the Birmingham News this week about Church of the Highlands and my friend Pastor Chris Hodges. In talking about his church’s remarkable growth and success in reaching people he says, “We’re discovering it’s more who you are, not what you’re doing.” There is definitely a contagious life-giving DNA in ARC churches and Chris personifies it!

And, for altogether different reasons, there is a lengthy article today in the Colorado Springs Independant on my friend Pastor Ted Haggard.  Check it out — “The Resurrection of Pastor Ted.” It’s a lengthy interview where Ted talks about “the year and a half [of his life] when the sun didn’t come up… [when] no grass was green, the birds never sang, the sky was never blue.

The article quotes a recent Twitter update of Ted’s where he commented about a thought he had reading the Bible that morning… “Judas and Peter both sinned and repented. Judas’ suicide served the religious leaders well, Peter’s recovery exposed them.”

I really look forward to his wife Gayle’s new book which is coming out in December – Why I Stayed. Gayle embodies the faithfulness of God and mature love.

Thought I’d experiment and try a vblog today instead of typing this post. Let me know if you like it better than reading. If you do I will do more of them. Already I’ve learned I need to change the lighting (unless you like the glow over my head, kind of saintly I think) and that I should at least wait until my hair is dry (my best thinking is always in the shower so you can be thankful I at least waited until I got dressed before I sat down in front of the camera!). The jury is still out on whether or not this saves me time – hard to tell – loading it to youtube took forever. I’m old school in that I’m a little technology-challenged and I can type as fast as I think so right now I’m thinking the old way may still be easier for me.

Please take 5 minutes to read Winter’s short article – Reconsecration to a wartime lifestyle (pdf alert) and don’t miss this part… “we must live only on what we need and give the rest of our income where it is needed most. We call this a wartime lifestyle.” Here’s a related website also. Here’s a link to some practical suggestions on how to live a wartime lifestyle. Here’s a link to the US Center for World Mission in Pasadena and the William Carey library. This is where I get my mission biographies. (Had to laugh at seeing the book they are featuring today on the homepage – Apostolic Function in 21st Century Missions. The dreaded “A” word I was crucified over five years ago is now becoming standard in evangelical mission circles. Ha!)

I’ve not put much up on GatePost yet on what we have in the cooker for a plan to plant lots of life-giving local churches in Europe but you can contact me if you want to know more. We are starting a new mission agency called Europe Advance. We plan to launch EA at the end of September here.

Now, feedback please! Use the comment link here to a) tell me whether you like the vblog better or not and b) to discuss the call to the wartime lifestyle. I know I know I know, I still ended up typing four paragraphs.

This post is part two of my reflections on the Cathedral (Kölner Dom) in Cologne Germany. You can read part one here.

In this post I will focus on the Cathedral Treasury which, curiously, I had to pay €8 euro to see. No photos were allowed so I’ll have to use this stock photo. This is one section along one wall on just one of the four floors of 13th century vault rooms under the cathedral which have been updated to display millions and millions of dollars of gold, silver and jewels. The Cathedral Treasury was robbed in 1975 and so security today is quite tight.

Treasury

While this wealth sits here, just outside sat a hungry beggar (who only got a measly one euro in his paper cup from me).

The Immorality of untouchable church Memorial Funds
Back in my denominational days I ruffled feathers with my suggestions that it was immoral for all our American churches to be sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars in “memorial funds” (waiting for the rainy day when the church may need new siding) —all the while we had no funds to start life-giving churches that could help people in our communities. There was once an audible gasp in a room of 1000 when I suggested from the platform that all our empty dying old churches sitting on prime downtown real estate ought to pray about selling their properties and using the money to launch ten new churches and outreaches to the hurting and the poor in the city.  All this came back to my mind as I toured the Cologne Cathedral Treasury.

An ornate tomb for gold-plated skulls
I briefly mentioned this in part one of this post, but here are the details… the Cologne Cathedral was built to house the gold-plated skulls of the three wise men. These skulls are consider sacred relics and this church is a shrine intentionally built to house them so people can worship them. I’ll quote directly from the literature handed out at the Cathedral;

In 1164 Archbishop Rainald von Dassel transferred from Milan the bones of the Three Magi. A precious reliquary shrine was ordered to house these relics…. the famous relics drew the faithful from all of Europe and the Cologne pilgrimage became one of the largest of the Middle Ages.

Here’s a pic of the gold box that contains the skulls – I’d estimate it’s four feet high, six feet long.

Cologne Wise Men Relic

While others (hundreds) were lighting prayer candles all around this gold box I was praying that some day the church would melt the box down, bury the bones in dirt and use the money to advance the Kingdom of God. What do you think that amount of solid gold is worth? I’ll let you read this last sentence from the literature yourself…

RElic Worship

And that is where all the wealth in this treasury came from – relic worship. Kings and noblemen throughout the centuries have come here with priceless gifts paying homage to these three skulls.  I underlined the word “imprimatur” which in Latin means “let it be printed” because an imprimatur “is an official declaration from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church that a literary work is free from error in matters of Roman Catholic doctrine.” Really, do they not see any “doctrinal” error here? I just know those who brought gold to Jesus at his birth (the wise men) would reject the practice of bringing gold to their bones. Geesh.

One of the forerunners to the Reformation, Erasmus, was a satirist. He viewed these “relics” as a fraudulent fund-raising scheme to raise money for Rome. Erasmus decided one day to take an inventory of the relics of Rome and he published his findings which included two heads of John the Baptist, two bodies of St. Anne, three of Lazarus and a bottle of breast milk from the Virgin Mary. Calvin later continued the biting sarcasm in his published Inventory of the Relics which showed there were fourteen churches in Italy, Germany and France that each “had” one of the three nails that held Jesus to the cross. You get the point.

Treasure in heaven?
If you have read this blog for any length of time perhaps you are able to see a pattern in how I think – you’ll have to track closely to process this as I do. Here we have an ornate tomb built for three gold-plated skulls adorned with millions of dollars of gold and millions of dollars in jewels. While all that is still fresh in the forefront of my thinking, I then read today’s LA Times story about how hundreds and hundreds of bodies in the LA morgue are going unclaimed because poor families can’t afford funerals ($348 to pick up ashes at the LA county crematorium).

Having recently buried both of my parents and my grandmother I’m sensitive to these poor families. Only my mother had adequate insurance to cover her funeral – my brother and I split the cost of my dads and grandmothers – things were so tight when my grandmother died at age 95 in 2006 we didn’t even order a spray of casket flowers (and that offended one of her two yet-living friends).

Perhaps only a few at Church at the Gate know that we have bought gravestones, burial plots, hotel rooms, flowers and caskets for people in our church family and community who had no means. Yet here at the Cologne Cathedral, we have a highly guarded billion dollar church treasury adorning the supposed bones of the Wise Men. If the wise men were to come back to life today I’d think they’d take the gold to Jesus. And, Jesus would spend it on the poor families in Los Angeles.

Imagine the PR mileage the Catholic Church could get if just one of these priests here at the Cologne Cathedral sold just one piece from this “treasury” and used the money to pay for hundreds of funerals for poor grieving families in LA. The priest would surely get defrocked but at least he’d amass great treasure in heaven.

How much is a body part worth?  
St. Mary’s College in my homestate of Kansas houses over 1200 relics, including the finger of St. Odilia. Apparently that young gal’s body part is priceless today. You’ll need to keep tracking with me here as I try to spell out the connection in my head between relics and human organ harvesting here in Europe.

One of the two main reasons I’m in Europe this summer is to work with church planters here to put on paper a strategy to establish lots of local mission outposts for the Kingdom of God all over Europe. A few days ago we were focusing on Moldovia and I mentioned our heart to start orphanages and how God spoke to me in 2004 about “becoming a blessing to women going through life alone” – widows, single moms, sex trade, etc, etc. – you know… the pure religion stuff of James 1:27). I did not know that besides poverty and sex slavery, Moldova is one of the top countries in the world for organ harvesting.

I was then told about the hundreds+ of 15 year old Moldovian girls who are taken each year and used in the sex trade and that after they’ve “served their purpose there” they are bringing a quarter of a million dollars each as they are sacrificed to harvest their organs (which are kept in cold storage and air lifted and sold to illegal distribution centers in the United States, Germany, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Israel, and South Africa).

We talked about starting a church/rescue mission there this year. I told our CATG congregation last year that one of these weekends I’m going to stand up at offering time and say… “one hundred percent of today’s offering is going to buy 13 year old girls out of the sex slave trade— so give generously.” I will do that this year. As we continued to talk about what God was calling us to do here we talked about chartering flights to the US full of these girls and Kristen and I figured we could house ten in our home.

Pardon me if this has gotten way long for you, I’ll end soon. In one of our church planting planning sessions I was asked what the obstacles are – of course money is always at the top of the list.  A few days later I then find myself in this “sacred treasury” and I’m sorry if my report here is so critical and negative of what I saw there. It screams insanity to me that the “religious” are hoarding shocking amounts of wealth to adorn skulls while precious girls are being sold and slaughtered on the black market for parts.

Sorry to have been off-line for the better part of the week. Really, at this point, I’m not sure where to start as there is so much in my head right now. I’ve been meeting with great leaders here from Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany. I’ve done some interviews for a video we’ll use back in the states to help us promote a strategy to plant lots and lots of life-giving local churches all over Europe. Europe is so thirsty for God and I’m truly overwhelmed at how the church, throughout the centuries and today, has gotten in the way of the path to him (Jesus is that path). I’ll save the righteous indignation that is churning in me until part two of this post.

Since I’ve got to start somewhere I’ll comment on my visit to Cologne (Köln) Germany yesterday. Cologne has a chocolate factory and museum which was a big hit for the rest of the family – I’ll let them comment on that on their blogs. However, the main attraction in Cologne is the Cathedral (Kölner Dom). It’s the third tallest church in the world. Wow! What a sight!  Here’s a pic we took while sitting in traffic on a bridge.

Koln 1

The history of it’s construction is a powerful illustration of visionary leadership. In 1164 – for reasons I’ll mention shortly- a man envisioned a great edifice here and work started within the century. IT WAS COMPLETED SIX CENTURIES LATER.

I’ve been through some grueling church building projects, but it’s truly remarkable to me to think that a guy started building something that his grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren would one day complete. I have a small sense of the vision-casting it takes to get a project going, and the effort, the sacrifice, resource acquisition, the problem-solving and set backs, the leadership changes and the momentum, but to have the vision to start something that would take centuries to complete is remarkable to me. And that successive generations owned that vision and took it up as their own is amazing. It makes me think that what I envision is always far too small and that leaders today need to look far past their own generation in terms of what they are going to give their lives to build.

Today just outside this Cathedral is a hub of activity – a hub of LIFE – sidewalk artists, street musicians, people protesting stuff, others promoting causes, great shopping, restaurants, etc., all this literally sits in it’s shadows. What an opportunity for the church!! But it’s an opportunity that is fully squandered. The Bible says to whom much is given, much will be required – and considering the platform this church has been given in that city, it’s a waste. More on my thoughts there in part two.

Here’s another of Kaitlyn’s pictures.

Koln 3

I’m aware this is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture of which I am admittedly no fan. Nothing about it says LIFE to me. (In fact, it IS just an ornate tomb – you’ll have to wait for part two of this post for details, but for now, this wasn’t built to house LIFE, it was built to house the gold-plated skulls of the three Wise Men. No kidding. I about titled this post “Kölner Dom: an ornate tomb for gold-plated skulls” but Kristen vetoed it.)

I decided to check my heart as we got close because an offense was growing in me toward this – so I prayed and asked the Lord to show me what he saw – the only thing I got was a strong sense that Jesus, being far more gracious than I, was saying “this is not what I had in mind.” I’m assuming that is in reference to his statement to Peter about building his church.

My kids commented it looks like Isengard or Mordor from the Lord of the Rings. Aesthetically, it would seem to me, the only time it truly fit in with it’s surroundings was here in 1945 after the bombs of Allied Forces reduced the city of Cologne to ashes in WWII.

Cologne Cathedral WWII

Don’t read anything into that statement, I’m just saying it is dark architecturally and spiritually. Allied Forces may have shown mercy on this place by leaving it stand, I’m saying I’m not sure on the Day of the Lord that he will be so sentimental – the Bible says judgment starts in his house. I’m told Cologne today is a seat of spiritual darkness in Germany – we saw secularism in full bloom. Is it any wonder when the church there is stuck in the dark ages? Forgive us Lord.

Here’s the verse I was reading this morning – it’s from Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:48 – “the Most High does not live in houses made by men.” Immediately after that verse the Lord asks “where will my resting place be?” To balance some of the negativism above, I must say Jesus CAN BE found in Europe today! Every day for me here it’s been a bit like “Where’s Waldo” – I’ve been asking Jesus to show me where he can be found here. I can report God has a remnant here on whom his Glory is resting and that remnant is growing in strength and number and in the supernatural power the people here desperately need.

Here’s the link to part two of this post.

Today it rained all morning, stopped for a short while, and has continued on now into the night. I love it. Imagine a faint, cool breeze and quiet except for the sound of rain on the trees. Maybe one of the reasons we all slept 12 hours last night (unprecedented but obviously needed) is because it’s actually a bit dark even during the daylight hours. The Black Hills back home are called “black” because the pines look so dark from a distance. Here they call this the Black Forest because the trees are so tall and so close together it’s very dark underneath them.

Most of the day today was spent with Pastor Desmond Frey sitting here at the dining room table discussing the formation of a confederation of related church-planting-churches here – a sister expression of the Association of Related Churches of which I’m a part back in the states. There will be much more on this later as this is one of the main assignments that has brought me here. I’m here, about one-third of my time here anyway, to wash the feet of Desmond and put on paper a model which he envisions to plant life-giving local churches all over Europe.  During the weeks I’m here he has invited key church leaders from other European countries to meet with us and talk strategy and relationship. And we will pray. Those of you who’ve know a few Steve-isms regarding church planting know I teach church planters to plant churches on their knees. We are asking God to give us his heart for places and people and strategies to reach them with his love.

Several years ago in Amsterdam, Billy Graham surveyed Europeans asking this question – Would you like to know more about God?  98% said YES. His follow up question was – Would you like to know more about God through the Church?  98% said NO.

Desmond told me today he doesn’t even use the word “pastor” to describe himself. It’s like Erwin McManus says, “Telling someone you are a pastor is like saying, ‘I’m a cannibal, do you want to have lunch.'” The dialog is over because, in part, for so long the Church has been an embarrassment to Jesus. Desmond tells people he’s a life coach.  When they ask what a life coach does he tells them he helps people find fulfilment and happiness and walks them through life stuff like relationships, finances, purpose, calling, meaning, and spirituality, etc. When they ask where to find a life coach, he tells them new churches are being led by folks who are basically life coaches. The people then say they’d go to a church led by people who are there to help them through life.

Europe is long overdue for the fresh rains of a new reformation and renewal. The beautiful cathedrals here are dry dusty museums that lack life. Yet, spiritually hungry people here in Europe are encountering God through new expressions of the ancient faith.

Tonight as a family we watched the movie Luther and paused it numerous times to hash it out and talk about what Reformation sites we plan to visit next week.

Kaitlyn has put a couple posts on her blog but mainly is loading her millions of pictures on Facebook. Thomas has a couple new posts. Kristen put up a little bit yesterday on jet lag. Nothing from Caleb yet in terms on online commentary.  Here’s the trailer for the Luther movie – rent it if you haven’t seen it, or read this classic.

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!

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.

momentum-blog-cover-art13.jpg

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?

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