In Case You Missed It – Apostolic Voice Podcast

The last three episodes of the Apostolic Voice Podcast have not incorporated articles from this site. That’s unusual and I know many of you kind folks listen directly from this blog. With that in mind, we’ve listed episodes 31, 32 & 33 below for you. I especially enjoyed recreating Patrick Henry’s in Episode 31 | What is Freedom, Episode 32 is tough but it’s a must-listen situation, and many of you have asked when Dad French (Dr. Talmadge French) would be back and the answer to that is Episode 33. Thanks so much for listening, sharing, supporting, and praying for AV.

Article Link Mentioned In Episode 32

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9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them (Article + Podcast)

Many people approach church with preconceived ideas or expectations about what makes an excellent service. Rather than allowing God and the ministry the liberty to lead us, we stand (or sit) in judgment if God doesn’t “show up” in the way we expect Him to. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself in many ways: burning bush, cloud by day & pillar of fire by night, whispering, thundering, and the list could go on and on. The moving of the Spirit is more than just a dance (and I’m all for dancing in the Spirit), and it’s more than only a time of blissful silence (and I’m all for those quiet and deep moves of the Spirit). Verse number two in our Bible gives a clue as to how the Spirit operates; “…And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).” John 3:8 compares the Spirit to the wind that blows where and when it wants to blow. My point is simply that the Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

The Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it can often be emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us. The Holy Ghost can and should cause us to celebrate, speak in tongues, sing, shout, become demonstrative, and extravagant in our praise. However, we should also be receptive when the Spirit convicts, corrects, rebukes, teaches, perfects, and other various things that are sometimes painful. In other words, if we are genuinely seeking God’s will every time we gather together as the children of God, we will lay aside our manmade expectations and sincerely ask God to have His way. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of nine types of church services.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it often is emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us.

Comforting Services (John 14:26). Some church services are meant to bring comfort to our hearts. This can happen in many ways, but the Holy Ghost is indeed the great Comforter (John 15:26, John 16:7).

Evangelistic Services (Acts 2:38). Often church services are designed to evangelize the lost and answer the question, “…what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?” When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs. If you emotionally check out of evangelistic services, you need to check your Holy Ghost pulse.

When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs.

Reminder Services (John 14:26, Jude 1:5). Regardless of how long we have been following Jesus, we still become forgetful. Even worse, sometimes we slip into complacency, and so the Spirit often moves in our church services to remind us of things that we should already know.

Proclamation of Truth Services (John 16:13). When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

Prophetic Services (John 16:13). Apostolic churches must be comfortable with the reality that God has not changed, and the gift of prophecy is still authentic. I know that prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Family Reunion Services (Galatians 4:6). God is our Heavenly Father, which makes us brothers and sisters in the Lord (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, it is appropriate that we gather together and honor our family heritage. I think of this as a family reunion because the Church is not just one congregation. The Church is comprised of a massive number of congregations from all over the world. There should be times when we connect, refresh, uplift, and encourage one another.

Teaching Services (Ephesians 4:11). It’s important to remember that the apostle Paul included teaching within the parameters of the Five-Fold Ministry. Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Celebration Services (Exodus 15:19-21). We should celebrate the goodness of God all the time, but when God does something especially tremendous, we should focus our celebration around it. Some services will celebrate the goodness of God.

Giving Services (1 Chronicles 29:9, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission. This is the type of service that usually meets the most resistance. Even pastors fear this kind of service. Don’t let fear or carnality keep you from reaping the blessings birthed out of sacrificial giving.

Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission.

Conclusion

Healthy churches experience a blend and balance of the nine types of services mentioned above. Furthermore, healthy Christians are comfortable with each of these service types. Unhealthy churches get stuck overemphasizing two or three types of services to the exclusion of the rest. This creates a spiritual imbalance. Every church service contains some elements of the things mentioned above, but there is an overarching theme that God is directing us towards. Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

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Fiery Evangelism – What Can Elijah Teach Us About Revival Today?

Simply put, evangelism is spreading the Gospel by whatever means possible. Having said that, preaching and word of mouth are still the most effective forms of evangelism. But whenever I preach or teach on the subject of evangelism, I can almost hear the internal sighs and groans. No one likes to feel pressured or guilt-tripped into evangelism. We all know that we could and should do more to reach the world around us. There are very few Christians so hardened that they don’t care about lost souls. So if we care, why don’t we share (see what I did there)?

Immediately following the outpouring of the Holy Ghost and fire on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:3-4), a powerful force of organic evangelism was unleashed into the world. They literally turned the world upside down with the Gospel, and they did it without cell phones, blogs, websites, television, radio, or reliable transportation. They didn’t formulate catchy sermon series that cleverly incentivized evangelism by every member of the church. Rather, when the Holy Ghost fire started falling, people were attracted to the warmth of the blaze. In a cold world, the fire of the Holy Ghost will always attract a crowd. Not only that, when people left the Upper Room, they were so full of that same Holy Ghost fire they couldn’t help but spontaneously share their experience with others. That’s what genuine evangelism looks and feels like.

In a cold world, the fire of the Holy Ghost will always attract a crowd.

When people left the Upper Room, they were so full of Holy Ghost fire they couldn’t help but spontaneously share their experience with others. That’s what genuine evangelism looks and feels like.

If evangelism feels forced, fake, fancy, or frightening, then you have likely lost the fire. I have seen desperate individuals, hurting families, and broken churches hungry for the fire to fall again. Elijah desperately needed the fire of God to fall from heaven too. His story has much to teach us regarding how God operates. Here are five things that we must do if we want the fire to fall. All five are taken directly from Elijah’s famous showdown on Mount Carmel.

If evangelism feels forced, fake, fancy, or frightening, then you have likely lost the fire.

23 Let them, therefore, give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under 24 And call ye on the name of your gods. I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well-spoken. 25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under (1 Kings 18:23-25).

1. We must not settle for manmade fire.

Over and over again, Elijah emphasized that they were to put no fire underneath the sacrifice. He knew that it would take God’s fire to impact his culture. Many churches try to substitute heavenly fire with manmade fire, and they end up with a form of godliness that ultimately denies the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5). This isn’t always done intentionally; many times, it’s an act of desperation rather than an act of rebellion, but nothing can replace the true power of the Holy Spirit. Refuse to settle for false fire.

Many churches try to substitute heavenly fire with manmade fire, and they end up with a form of godliness that ultimately denies the power thereof.

Nothing can replace the true power of the Holy Spirit. Refuse to settle for false fire.

And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down (1 Kings 18:30).

2. We must repair the altars.

Notice that Elijah didn’t build an altar from scratch. He repaired an existing altar that had fallen into disrepair for lack of use. We lose the fire when we lose sight of the significance of the altar of repentance. There can be no resurrection power without a cross. It’s amazing how repentance warms things up in the realm of the Spirit.

We lose the fire when we lose sight of the significance of the altar of repentance. There can be no resurrection power without a cross.

And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed (1 Kings 18:32).

3. We must acknowledge the name of the Lord.

Whatever we do in word or deed, it should be done in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17) because there is no other name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). And one day, every knee is going to bow, and every tongue is going to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Romans 14:11).

33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bullock in pieces, laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. 34 And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. 35 And the water ran round about the altar, and he filled the trench also with water (1 Kings 18:33-35).

4. We must be willing to sacrifice.

When Elijah had them dump twelve barrels of water on the altar at the tail end of a three-year drought, he demonstrated tangible sacrifice. In essence, he was saying, “Lord, if we don’t see fire and rain today, we’re going to die.” There can be no fire without tangible sacrifice, whether our money, time, energy, or things. In fact, God requires all of the above.

There can be no fire without tangible sacrifice, whether our money, time, energy, or things. In fact, God requires all of the above.

36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench (1 Kings 18:26-38).

5. We must have faith in God’s Word.

In the end, it all became a matter of faith. Either Elijah trusted the voice of God, or he didn’t. It’s really no different with us today. We either believe in the power of the Gospel, or we don’t. We either believe that God is still pouring out his Spirit, or we don’t. Do we believe God will do what He said He would do?

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Oneness Theology, Church History & Where the Church Is Right Now – Podcast Transcript with Dr. Talmadge French

Below is the podcast transcript (episode 22) of a candid conversation between me and my dad, Dr. Talmadge French, author of the best-selling books Our God Is One, and G.T. Heywood: Early Interracial Oneness Pentecostalism. This is probably one of the best discussions you will ever hear about church history, the oneness of God in Church History, The Burning of Michael Servetus by John Calvin, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the Existence of Truth during the Dark Ages. If you’d like to listen to the entire podcast conversation I’ve attached it to the end of this article.

Ryan French: [00:01:44] You are my dad and you’re the premier Apostolic Pentecostal oneness historian, probably in the world, and I have a unique and rare opportunity to be able to just drag you in here kicking and screaming to talk about church history. And so I’m really excited about it and I hope we’ll do it fairly regularly. But what I wanted to do today is kind of backtrack from where most people want to start, which is the turn of the last century. And we’ll get to that. But there’s kind of that long gap of church history, certainly for us as Pentecostals that we don’t discuss as often, maybe as other traditions or denominations do. And certainly, the Dark Ages. Which brings me to the very first topic that I wanted to have you weigh in on. And it’s also a question that I receive a lot from people through the website and at www.ryanafrench.com. And it’s basically this question and I’m going to ask it to you the way people ask it to me. Do you believe the Church and by the church, I mean full truth, people filled with the Holy Ghost, baptized in Jesus’ name? Do you believe the Church existed throughout the Dark Ages and somewhere up until the outpourings of the Holy Ghost at the turn of the last century… Basically from the Book of Acts until today? Do you believe that a remnant somewhere, even if it might have been just a small group, do you believe it existed?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:03:45] Ok, well, that’s the question that every apostolic is interested in, because and it’s not just apostolics, but every Christian group has to believe or hope that their faith is a Bible faith, whether you can prove a direct line all the way back or not. Right. And of course, Pentecostals are like all restorationists. They believe that Pentecost and speaking in tongues is biblical. Therefore, our experience is biblical. So what happened during those intervening years and so on? And then secondarily, you have the issue of like for me, I was Trinitarian, but came to an understanding of oneness, belief, like millions of people have. And so I wanted to know, how did my faith line up with the apostles? That is what I’m saying, actually, apostolic. And if so, what happened to it? Yeah. So the short answer for me is, yes, the church has always existed. But what’s really important is, I mean, that’s important to be able to say, OK, my faith goes all the way back. But how do I know that and how does it work itself out? And the truth of the matter is that church history itself is extremely complex because of the way we interpret church history, there was a great deal of things going on all the way back to the time of the apostles. So I’ve spent a better part of my faith, especially since I’ve been apostolic looking at the historical record, trying to understand what people were saying and what actually occurred back there. And I would… I’d summarize it like this so we can maybe go to the next step. But that the fact of the matter is, for a very long time, the apostolic faith was definitely being preached in the early church. But there came a time when it began to evolve into something else so that after about the time of Sebelius, around two eighty-five roughly right in there, it started to be less and less where the truth was one hundred percent believed in all the churches. There came to be what I call an attack of intellectualism on the church, especially Greek intellectualism. And there was also a movement which was pretty well connected to Greek intellectualism. It was called Gnosticism; it was a movement that believed they were super-spiritual. And these things have always been what they’ve been throughout church history, but when that began to take effect, then the Greek mind, the intellectual mind began to try to square everything with Greek, with Philo and the Greek intellectualism. And the Church began to become more diverse so that you would have these really super smart guys out there at the periphery of the Church that were saying, well, Jesus is not actually the one God, he’s in the one God. And you begin somewhere in there around two hundred. And later, the beginnings of what we would think of as a trinitarian way of thinking or a binatarian way of thinking. And eventually, by the time you get to the councils in three, twenty-five, and so on, you’ve got full-blown Trinitarianism or debates about Trinitarianism and who Jesus was. And was he God or was he just in the Godhead? Well, these are things that the Bible doesn’t even address because they’re not biblical, but they’ve become pretty powerful by the time you get to the councils, and by the time the Catholic Church is an issue which is around 500, you’ve got I mean, just think about how long America’s been here, in about five hundred years of Christianity. That’s a lot of time. And by the end of it, you have Truth, and you have error all throughout Christianity

Ryan French: [00:08:18] Would you say it’s kind of a merging of the secular and the sacred or maybe a merging of secular philosophy in the same way and even throw government in there?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:08:31] Right. Because when you get to the time of Constantine in three hundred in the Council of Nicaea, there wouldn’t have been a Nicaea had there not been a Constantine who had converted to Christianity. But many, many scholars will tell you that Constantine was not much of a Christian, but yet he had the greatest impact on Christianity. And so, I would…

Ryan French: [00:08:55] Can we pause for the low information. I, I know we have a lot of wonderful listeners out there who may not know who Constantine is. Could you just give a brief description?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:07] He became the emperor of Rome. The Roman emperor.

Ryan French: [00:09:11] So was that roughly around three hundred?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:14] Let’s just say around three…

Ryan French: [00:09:15] Around three hundred. By then, the Church was in full swing…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:20] …and when he became a Christian, then the Roman Empire became Christian whether they were Christian or not. Right. Right. So, it was a whole new era.

Ryan French: [00:09:30] So in a lot of ways. You had kind of the advent of the Christians in name only.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:35] Well, it was definitely Christian in name only. But see, a lot of Christians today have a struggle with that because they want to believe that all of this error that’s going on in Christianity and the diversity of Christianity was just part and parcel of it. They don’t want to believe that at the very beginning there was a pristine Church that held to a pristine doctrine. So how do you explain in the Bible them baptizing in Jesus name and three hundred years later, they’re advocating for Trinity baptism? How do you explain that? Well, you go to Matthew chapter 19 and try to prove that’s the real baptism and they can’t do it. So, but of…

Ryan French: [00:10:16] …wouldn’t we as apostolics, point to Jesus himself who warned that there would be wolves that would come in and there would be false doctrines and false Christ of all kinds?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:10:29] And Paul himself said it was happening right under his nose

Ryan French: [00:10:33] Right in the beginning, Judaizers…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:10:34] But those errors, of course, weren’t Trinitarian, you don’t see anything remotely Trinitarian until close to two hundred, certainly, I’ve had a lot of Trinitarians say to me, well, oh my goodness. Well, if it could happen if Trinitarianism evolved by two hundred, it could have been one hundred years earlier as if the one hundred years doesn’t make a difference. Look at America right now, how quickly it’s gone from one type of country almost into socialism or bordering on it. We’re literally battling right now for the soul of America all within twenty-five years. So, think of that.

Ryan French: [00:11:16] Amazing how in one or two decades the whole world can change.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:11:19] And if you add a century to it, so in a century you could have a church, for example, a Pentecostal group could start off as holiness and one hundred years later, not even know what holiness is.

Ryan French: [00:11:33] Not even resemble what they began as…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:11:35] I was a part of a Pentecostal group that was strict holiness. And then within twenty-five years, they dropped it and moved on to something else. And today they don’t even know if they’re Pentecostal.

Ryan French: [00:11:46] I was listening to a podcast the other day. I can’t remember his name. The podcast is called Apologia and they’re Trinitarians. I think they consider themselves Southern Baptists of some kind. And he was really attacking… Actually, the podcast, for the most part, they’re pretty interesting. But out of nowhere, he started attacking what he called Modalists. But of course, he’s talking about oneness people and he wasn’t attacking us because I think he was looking at a kind of a charismatic, non-denominational, kind of wishy-washy group. They’re not really oneness, but they’re not really Trinitarian either. They’re just kind of a “whatever” kind of a deal. And it was so interesting because he had spent the beginning of the episode talking about Sola Scriptura and the inerrancy of Scripture, which, of course, I was on board with that. It sounded like something I would say that we’ve got to hold… we’ve got to pull all of our doctrines out and hold everything up to the light of Scripture, which is language that I identify with. But then when he started attacking modalism or the oneness and basically rebuking this group very strongly for basically rejecting what he called the Triune God or the Triune Godhead, he never used the word Trinity, which I thought was interesting. He always used the word triune. Instead of appealing to Scripture, he never once appealed to Scripture to do that, he appealed to church history. And I thought, how interesting, you just spent your forty-five minutes basically saying we’ve got to hold all of our beliefs up to the Word of God. But then when you’re defending your triune belief in the Godhead and a triune baptism and all of this, instead of going back to Sola Scriptura, you’re going to church history and stopping there and you’re not even going all the way back in church history. You’re going…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:14:00] Well, it’s really enlightening that you’re hearing this podcast and they’re doing this because that’s exactly what goes on with Trinitarian thought. Now, that doesn’t mean that Trinitarian scholars don’t think they can prove the trinity in the Bible. They basically think that they’re proving the trinity in the Bible through a series of hints. Like how can you have a Son if there’s not a Father? And so, everything’s through hints. There’s no direct teaching about it.

Ryan French: [00:14:39] You’ve got the dove and Jesus and the voice…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:14:42] I’ve often said this, and this is the way most oneness people think. If the Bible meant to teach a trinity, it would say there is a trinity. Now, then you would have the problem that Moses did not believe in a trinity, and the God of the Old Testament then and the revealed God of the New Testament would be very different. So they would say, well, the Son came. This is Trinitarian logic. So the Son came, was born, and came to earth and that proved there was a trinity before. So the logic of Trinitarianism theologically is not rooted in the Bible. It’s rooted in what the church accepted over three hundred years. And so, they have several issues with it, of course. But let’s go back to this group then that says, well, we’re going to condemn oneness people because of church history. That’s basically what they’re doing. They’re saying that we have to trust the church. So, whatever the church said in three hundred or five hundred, no matter that it became Catholic…

Ryan French: [00:15:46] I was just going to say, why aren’t we all Catholic then?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:15:48] Well, we would be if we followed that logic. But they’re not following logic. The only thing they’re following logically in that period is the doctrine of the Trinity. They don’t believe much else about it. And of course, the Catholic Church had lots of issues that even to this day are so far from Scripture. And oneness people are simply saying the trinity is not found in Scripture, therefore we don’t embrace it.

Ryan French: [00:16:18] This guy went so far as to say, and I’m not even mentioning his name because it’s not worth it to me, but I’m just wanting to think through the logic of how… I view him, I guess, as maybe a stand-in or a type of that group’s way of thinking. He was basically saying that if you’re not Trinitarian and again, I thought it was fascinating he never used the word Trinitarian or Trinity, but if you don’t believe in the triune Godhead, you’re not a Christian. You’re a cult of Christianity. In fairness to him, I’m actually thankful that he believes what he believes and that he’ll fight for it because I feel much the same way. But in reverse, I feel like, for example, I look at the Catholic Church in some ways as a Christian cult as well, at least theologically. I don’t mean that everyone in the Catholic Church is a cult, but at least the leadership of it. But then there’s also this secondary growing movement. That. Other generations have not seen like my generation is seeing, and that is a middle group that says, well, it doesn’t matter if you’re trinitarian or oneness. Because what people will say and I know you’ve heard this, that it’s all, it’s just semantics. It’s just semantics. So that’s why you have a lot of people, and we’re really rabbit trailing, but this is a great discussion. You have a lot of people who will say, how we’ll all kind of meet in the middle and we will baptize people and we’ll say in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, whose name is Jesus, and then they feel like they’re covering all their bases. And they’ll say, well, when you speak of the Trinity, we’re actually oneness. But then you have groups like this guy at Apologia who considers that to be heresy, and then you have groups like us on the complete other end of the spectrum. How do we start to combat? What I think of as the growing trend towards this kind of middle ground wishy-washy it doesn’t matter?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:18:42] That is exactly the most important question because what you’re really describing is the state of the Christian church today. You have Christianity, let’s call it Orthodox thinking. All right. The fellow you’re describing, whoever he is, is typical of people that are trying to hold on to Orthodoxy. Now he would be opposed to Catholicism. I’m just guessing. And so, in most of its varieties. But yet what he means by Orthodox thinking is there has to be something that roots, that roots the church and that’s Trinitarianism. Now, the fact of the matter is, though, that Christianity has moved away from that. They’re no longer looking at trinity. Christian liberalism is no longer worried about the trinity. This has been going on for a very long time. We’re talking seventeen hundreds all the way to now. So, we’re talking a very long time where Christians have begun to quit… For example, the deity of Jesus will this fellow you’re talking about is going to fight for the deity of Jesus. So really what we’re

Ryan French: [00:19:58] Really common ground there, which is interesting…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:19:59] We have common ground.

Ryan French: [00:20:01] It’s weird because we wind up almost having common ground with people who are very opposed to some of our beliefs…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:20:06] His starting point is the trinity. You either start with the trinity or you’re nothing. That’s what he says. Right. Liberalism has no starting point whatsoever. It’s what we think of it as sort of the squishy middle. All right. Now, Catholics are very Orthodox. They are basically unchanged now. There’s lots of troubles in the Catholic Church, but they’re basically unchanged. They’re still holding to the idea of the pope and the universal nature of Catholicism and the trinity. They’ve altered almost nothing regarding the trinity, even though many Catholic scholars have come along and wondered about the possibility of modal thinking and so on.

Ryan French: [00:20:51] And there’s even been outpourings of the Holy Ghost in the Catholic Church, is that correct? I don’t mean in the church as a whole, but in individual churches and…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:20:59] Absolutely, there’s been a major outpouring in all denominations and people have accepted speaking in tongues. It’s somewhat fading at the moment.

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Dr. Talmadge French: [00:22:48] What we’re seeing then is that there’s what liberalism has become, and what the oneness movement has become, and this is what this fellow is reacting to. The oneness movement, if you look at various groups that have diverged from Trinitarian thinking, you could think of the squishy middle and the liberals as diverging from Trinitarian thinking. But it’s not wholesale abandonment of Trinitarianism. But so you look at the groups out there that say, I just don’t think the Trinity is the right answer. Well, the largest group of those are oneness people because we’re talking somewhere between 30 and 50 million living believers right now that stand strong for oneness theology. All right. And so these folks are trying to hold on to a complete one hundred percent trinity is the answer. Well, the Catholic Church does it and they’re doing it. And we might call him the orthodox conservative element, they are doing it.

Ryan French: [00:23:50] Is there anybody else who holds on? And I know there is. But we could just for people who might be thinking with us in this discussion, aside from the Catholic Church, aside from maybe the Southern Baptists, are the Presbyterians still holding on to Trinitarianism?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:24:07] They’re split on the issue; Lutherans are split over lots of issues. So, you have a lot of liberals who would talk about the trinity, but they don’t believe in the Trinity in the way that we would think of as Orthodox. Right. They’re not quite sure of, for example, the deity of Christ is extremely squishy in the middle…

Ryan French: [00:24:35] Can you explain to people who may not understand what you mean by the deity of Christ…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:24:39] That Jesus is actually God…

Ryan French: [00:24:40] So maybe mention a popular, I’ll use the word heresy or false doctrine, that people are falling into about the deity of Jesus, that he was not God…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:04] Liberal Christians like, you know, it goes all the way back to the seventeen hundreds of people like Schleiermacher who thought that you could never be certain that Jesus was Divine. He wasn’t necessarily Divine. What he did was from God. So, the heresy would be what conservatives today would refer to as the Fatherhood of God, that God was just the Father. The Son was not Divine. So, you would end up with one God, but Jesus wasn’t part of a Godhead.

Ryan French: [00:25:40] What would you call that doctrine?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:42] Well, I call it liberalism or theologically, it was this idea of the Fatherhood of God.

Ryan French: [00:25:48] Now how is that different from Divine Flesh?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:53] Oh, totally. Yeah. There’s no relationship. Divine Flesh is that Jesus was not only God but that his flesh was Divine. His flesh was not his actual flesh. It was not an actual flesh. It was Divine something. Yes. Which is which is heresy!

Ryan French: [00:26:08] Which denies the humanity…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:26:10] It sacrifices the real humanity of Christ. So that’s a totally different error which is not just something that we see in Pentecostalism, it’s something that you see all the way back to the time of Luther. This idea that there was for example, that all comes from the idea that the Catholics said you could eat the actual flesh, the Eucharist, that when you take the Eucharist, you put it into your mouth, it becomes flesh. So, in that came all kinds of error, which, of course, is one of the problems with Catholic thinking, just one of the things. But you see, the fellow you’re talking about is attempting to hold on to the absolute trinity of God, whether the Bible ever taught it or not, because what they’re going to do is extrapolate it back. Now, in other words, say, even though the Bible doesn’t explicitly teach it, it’s there and that’s what they believe, though they never said it. Now, that’s, of course, rather crazy to say they believe something they never said they believed and never even used the word trinity.

Ryan French: [00:27:12] Yeah, I was going to say… So, this is kind of how our relationship for those that don’t know, I’m very privileged to serve with Dad, going on nine years now, here on the south side of Atlanta. The way we work in our church is, dad’s the genius and I’m always kind of the everyday weird word guy, but speaking of the word weird to use completely nontheological terminology, don’t you think? I don’t mean this in an ugly, disrespectful way. Just logically, isn’t it weird to go to church history? To pull the doctrine of the Trinity, but then ignore church history to leave the Catholic Church and then try to go back to the Bible? Just logically, isn’t that flawed? It’s flawed in so many ways…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:28:17] So one way to think of it, if we could not get too complex, is that they look back into church history and try to find the trinity. And of course, it did develop in the hundreds and hundreds of years so that you ended up with basically just one church that was Catholic. Now, that doesn’t mean there was just one church because we started up this discussion asking the question, did the oneness movement go all the way back? And I said, well, the answer is yes, it does go all the way back. But the question is, how does it do that?

Ryan French: [00:28:54] Well, and my answer is always that this movement goes all the way back to the Old Testament. Right. But you know that that’s a simplistic answer.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:29:02] So what oneness people need to be doing is finding out how it went all the way back, because you’re not going to have the enemies of the oneness of God looking for answers for how the oneness was embraced. I’m quite convinced by church history that there were tons of oneness people. And I see…

Ryan French: [00:29:25] Yes. OK, so we’re going to jump into that in just a second. But I keep feeling the need to backtrack for people who aren’t… I know we have people who have these kinds of discussions and read these kinds of things all the time, but I know there are some wonderful people out there and maybe this is the first time they’ve really used some of these terms. So, let me go all the way back to kind of the beginning. And you used the word restorationist. Can you just give a brief definition of what a restorationist is? OK, and you know, we’re restorationist.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:29:57] Many Christians that are not Pentecostal are restorationists and almost all Pentecostals are restorationists. A restorationist is someone who views Christian faith as something that they lost.

Ryan French: [00:30:17] Martin Luther for example?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:30:18] Well, Lutherans are not, strictly speaking, restorationists, but there were many restorationists…

Ryan French: [00:30:27] But Martin Luther himself was…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:30:28] Martin Luther saw himself as restoring to the church what he viewed as Catholicism’s having lost. So, you end up with Lutheranism now, Lutherans themselves did not view themselves as strict restorationists. And like Pentecostals do, Pentecostals view themselves as restorationists because people were not baptizing correctly. Well, let’s say, for example. The Catholic Church baptizes infants, yes, so do Methodists, so do lots of people, but restorationist-minded people say we have to go back to the Bible to find our answer. Or oneness Pentecostals say that not only for the way you baptize but people speaking in tongues. Well, did speaking in tongues stop? No. But did the church as a whole stop preaching, speaking in tongues? Obviously, they did. Certainly, was not practiced in the era of the Catholic dominance and so on, and so now does that mean nobody was speaking in tongues? No, I suspect a lot of people were speaking in tongues, but it was not something you got away with because Catholicism basically choked it up. There was a whole lot of rooting out people that didn’t believe what they wanted you to believe.

Ryan French: [00:31:51] That tags perfectly with where I wanted to go next, which is kind of a twofold question. I wanted you to maybe introduce Michael Servetus to people who maybe have never heard of him before. You might give some information they don’t know. But also tagging into that, at what point did the Catholic Church become militant in the sense that they forced you to believe with the sword? You’ve got the Crusades and you’ve got the Catholic Church burning people at the stake. I often tell people, well, of course, in history, if you’re oneness and if you were speaking in tongues you were probably going underground because otherwise you might get burned at the stake. Or you might have your tongue cut out. So, when did that start? When did the church become violent, which to me is evil, of course? Can you imagine if the Church was trying to be militant today how we’d be…?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:32:59] You know, it’s interesting because the group that you were describing at the beginning that is trying to hold on to strict Trinitarianism and condemning oneness people would probably say that when Calvin burned Servetus at the stake that that was OK because how dare him deny something that Calvin believed was 100% theologically correct.

Ryan French: [00:33:27] So for people who don’t know John Calvin…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:30] Was a reformer of Protestantism who had Servetus because he was oneness had him burned at the stake.

Ryan French: [00:33:39] So what time are we talking about here?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:41] That was in the fifteen hundreds.

Ryan French: [00:33:45] So you’re about a thousand five hundred or so…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:49] So we’re talking five hundred years ago. So, think of it. The Church involved in five hundred years at the beginning from an Apostolic Bible group. By 500 years later you have basically them talking about is Mary the mother of God and is there a pope that rules the church? None of that’s in the Bible. And yet that’s where the church is. Trinitarianism is pretty rampant in Christianity by then.

Ryan French: [00:34:15] John Calvin, even today, you have Calvinism and probably, I think, one of the most dangerous, deadly false doctrines that still permeates a lot of. Quote unquote, Christian thinking is what I call once saved, always saved, or the doctrine of eternal security, where no matter what you do, you can’t be plucked from the hand of God. You can be an adulterer. But if you’ve said your prayer and all that, then you’re saved. Or you’ve got some people who are Divinely destined for Hell and some people are Divinely destined for Heaven because God chose… All of this is Calvinism or finds its roots in Calvinism. And so, you have this massive segment of Christianity that puts Calvin on this huge pedestal. And yet he was a murderer. In my mind. I consider him wicked. Are you willing to say? We’ve talked about this, but are you willing to say that Calvin was a wicked maniac. And I know he was a genius in a certain sense, but…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:35:15] Oh, I don’t think anyone that burns people alive, is anything short of a wicked person. OK, so but to what I was referring to a moment ago, I’ve been very outspoken that Calvin’s behavior was unbelievable. And he was no. It turns out that here he was one of the most outspoken critics of Catholicism in the fifteen hundreds, and yet he used the same tactics. That was to kill the people he opposed, kill the opposition. Now, I had a professor because I’m oneness, but I haven’t always been and had a professor at a Christian university that I attended told me that you have to expect you’re going to be burned alive if you oppose theological thinking. And I said, so you’re saying that killing Christians is OK? And he said, no, no, I’m not saying that. I’m trying to say you have to understand that we have to forgive Calvin. I said, no, I cannot forgive Calvin. Nobody can forgive Calvin. But God. He murdered a man for no reason. So in other words, using that was the Catholic notion. And by the same token, Catholics forgive their past for killing, who knows how many thousands of people. I mean, in horrific ways, just think of the Inquisition. But to simplify this, though, what actually occurred. So you got 500 years of the early church where there was things happening, where the faith and speaking in tongues and baptism in Jesus’ name was becoming a minority and people were pushing it back. I call it the Dark Ages and I don’t get this from oneness people. I get this from conservatives who now are nervous about using the term the Dark Ages, where they begin to move into a period of time where one group began to take control of Christianity and everybody like you couldn’t, for example, at the time of the Reformation, which was fifteen hundreds and the hundred years or two-hundred years before that, you could be executed for owning a Bible. Yes, for printing a Bible, because the Catholic Church said nobody could control the Bible but them.

Ryan French: [00:37:41] Amazing stories of people who got a Tindale Bible and go hide in their closet to be able to read and…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:37:48] So a lot of people were really moving back into what I’m thinking of as a New Dark Age and have been for a very long time. It’s probably the era just before the coming of the Lord. But what actually occurred is that in that era where, for example, you could be executed and were executed by either a Catholic or a Protestant if you immerse people. If you just took a person out and baptized them in a river and buried them and they found out about it and got caught. You could be executed.

Ryan French: [00:38:31] So and then in modern history, I don’t think it’s as bad now as it was. But, you know, theologically speaking, there was a time where you were culturally burned at the stake or intellectually burned at the stake, you were blacklisted, you were boycotted. If you deviated from at least trinitarian orthodoxy, it’s always amazing to me how you have all these denominations, the Baptists, the Catholics, and of course, the Baptists have all kinds of variations of denominations, the Methodists, the Lutherans…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:39:06] And the Church of God…

Ryan French: [00:39:07] You have all of these and they’re all united by trinitarianism. And if you walk in that orthodoxy, it’s like you’re OK, no matter what else you do. I’ve always thought that was strange and very telling… It’s one of the major doctrines that they have that is non-biblical and totally historical in context. And yet that’s what unites them. And then they put everyone else in this camp of being anti orthodoxy when in reality we’re really the orthodox ones… I want to just say something before we go back. You were talking about people being burned at the stake just for owning a Bible in the Dark Ages, where all of this time in church history, where the Catholic Church controlled the narrative of Scripture because only, they had access to the Bible. So, you were having to completely trust a priest and the pope and his emissaries to tell you what the Bible said via their interpretation. And, of course, we know now that the Catholic Church has moved far beyond the Bible and the pope can speak for God as God, and his word becomes in their way of thinking, just as an errant as the word of God. So that creates all kinds of problems. And so, you have all of these years where people were hungry. This is a whole nother discussion. I’d love to have about men like Tyndale, who you mentioned, and Wycliff, who I mean, they gave their lives to be able to translate the word of God into a language that the commoner could read and understand without having to know Latin or Greek or Hebrew. And they did all of this knowing that they were going to be persecuted and probably killed at some point. And then they distributed these precious Bibles to people, often handwritten, and people were secretly getting them. I mean, some of these stories that I’ve read where I mean, it just makes you weep when people get a Bible and they’re having to hide it, they’re trying to read it for themselves. And so, you have this kind of this imposed dark age of spiritual ignorance where people, God bless them, they’re walking in darkness. But it was really the blind leading the blind. And the blind had no access to light because the Scripture was being completely controlled. But today, I think this is the point I wanted to get at. As you said, it’s like we’re going back to that. But this is different today. It’s like we have a self-imposed dark age where people have more access to the Bible than ever in the history of the world. I mean, even as I’m old enough now to remember a time when if you wanted to read the Bible. You were going to have to go to the bookstore and purchase a Bible for yourself. And if you wanted one that was going to last you were going to have to spend a good deal of money. But now people via smartphones, which it just seems like smartphones, have been with us since the beginning of time, but they haven’t. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon. And the Internet and computers, you can go to Bible Gateway right now and you can read the Bible online day or night, completely free, any translation you want, even horrific ones. But you have access to it. And yet statistics tell us that people are reading the Bible less and less and less. So, it’s almost as if we have this overwhelming access to it and now people are indifferent to it. It’s not that there’s a class of people above us keeping us from the Word of God, it’s that people are keeping themselves.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:43:42] Ok. Well, let’s go back to something we were talking about, and that is what does a man like Michael Servetus represent? Because the initial question has been do I believe that the oneness, Apostolic Pentecostal faith of repenting, and baptizing in the name of Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit, and living holy, did that go all the way back to the early church? All those centuries, so Servetus represents a person. Who not only died for the very message that I’m preaching right now, but he represents an entire generation of people that believed because even though church history is difficult to trace, because, you know, the victors wipe out a great deal of the writings and..?

Ryan French: [00:44:50] Yeah, they get to write the history.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:44:52] And plus, if you know your children are going to die, if they find out who you are and where you are, you keep that a secret. So, you have these, you know, evidences. So, I’m going to give just a quick answer now that we’re in the context of Michael Servetus, who died brutally, by the way, I mean, of course, you couldn’t be burned at the stake without it being brutal, but the entire episode was brutal. It was a man that at the age of fourteen knew seven languages, I mean, he is one of the most brilliant men of the Reformation.

Ryan French: [00:45:25] …and not just the theologian.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:45:27] And he had gone to Calvin because he wanted so desperately to talk to him about the need to get back to Scripture. And they executed him. So, all of the people that held to oneness views throughout the centuries, we cannot excavate all of their writings even though we know about lots of them, but we don’t know what all of them believe because they’re lost to history.

Ryan French: [00:46:04] They’re not in the iCloud.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:46:05] And yet, if you say that to someone who’s the victor, who says, well, I’m a trinitarian and I am, bless God, it goes all the way back. And you said, well, you have killed all of our people. How are we supposed to be able to then mount a historical defense? We don’t have the ability to dig out their graves and find all their writings. But we know they were there because when we trace the evidence, we can find the group that he came from and why he held the oneness view goes all the way back to his childhood. And it’s difficult to do, but it can be done. We know that in, for example, that in Spain, where he was born, there was a group there baptizing in Jesus’ name all the way back. So, and what that did for me was it didn’t just demonstrate that Servetus believed in the oneness of God, but that he applied it to his understanding of baptism, in other words, he didn’t baptize in a trinity formula because he came from a group that didn’t baptize in the trinity formula and that this is the way you almost have to do history. Throughout the entire period.

Ryan French: [00:47:17] Servetus was a genius. Yes. Don’t you think some of Calvin’s venom towards Servetus was jealousy not just theologically rooted?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:47:30] There’s no doubt it was jealousy. There was a whole lot of jealousy. Yeah, Calvin as a man, not as a scholar, had a lot of faults. And one of them was this. I mean, he’s the great scourge on Calvin was the burning of a Protestant. He was burned. He became the martyr that shocked the world. There’s not a long history of Protestants burning one another. Right. But Servetus who was oneness is the one that they that basically…

Ryan French: [00:48:07] Is Servetus the only individual that we know of that Calvin burned or did… Was that common practice for him to have people executed?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:48:15] No, it was not common practice for him to execute people.

Ryan French: [00:48:20] You mentioned…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:48:21] So I want to say this, since we’re right there, that it’s difficult to understand why a trinitarian would be so opposed to oneness thinking because modalism espouses 100 percent the Father, Son, and the Spirit. Absolutely. And as one God, totally not in a trinitarian sense, but absolutely one God. Jesus is Divine. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And they’re all one, actually one. And yet they’re so opposed to it that the hatred for it would literally lead a man to burn another man at the stake. I find it. I mean, to…

Ryan French: [00:49:07] To me, I’m just going to make a very controversial statement, maybe not to us, but to many Christians, it’s demonic. It’s rooted in a demonic…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:49:19] Well, you mean to kill someone?

Ryan French: [00:49:22] Well, trinitarian itself is, well, demonically inspired. I mean, when you have a group of people perverting the word of God and then turning into a movement that’s murdering people. To me, that is evidence of it being a demonically inspired theology. And for that to be the hill that, quote-unquote, Christians would be willing to kill people on. Throughout history and then today, for people to be willing to intellectually and culturally kill people to use extreme language…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:50:04] It’s extreme to burn someone at the stake. And then you also have the context that now after the oneness movement has been around here for over 100 years now. So today the trend is what liberalism is doing to say, I don’t believe in all that holiness and baptism in Jesus’ name and moralism, but I accept that they’re genuine Christians. That’s the trend. Yeah. So, your friend, the fellow you were listening to, he’s in the minority because today…

Ryan French: [00:50:41] He’s rejecting that…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:50:43] He’s rejecting that trend that says, hey, I can accept because the Pentecostal church today, the oneness movement within it is massive. And even Trinitarian Pentecostals are more and more embraced. For example, I’m involved because I have a Ph.D. and I’m involved in lots of things in Pentecostalism. I’m involved with Trinitarians that I totally oppose their theological stance. And yet I’m in academic societies with them trying to get the oneness message in my beliefs and my writings out there. And they’re willing to allow that by not burning me at the stake,

Ryan French: [00:51:26] Not anymore.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:51:27] They’re not anymore that’s the trend. Now, that doesn’t mean there are tons of people that hold to a Trinitarianism. I guess we’d have to wait till the Lord comes to figure out what’s in people’s hearts. But the sad thing is that Calvin didn’t wait, he just went ahead and burned, burned oneness people. That’s what he did.

Ryan French: [00:51:49] Maybe we have someone listening who and I’m sure we do or will maybe they are trinitarians or maybe they’re not sure. And. They’re trying to think through, and I’ve had many sincere people, many sincere, good Christians who when I say this may take it in a condescending way and I don’t mean to be condescending, but what I think of as low information Christians, they don’t really know anything about church history. It’s amazing how many people you meet now. They don’t know anything about church history. They really don’t know their Bible. They might know like for God so loved the world. They might know, John, 3:16 or something like that, but they don’t really know Scripture. And so, they’re trying to very simplistically and sincerely, which, by the way, you know, if you will approach God simplistically and sincerely and you’re truly doing that with a heart to seek after God. You know, I believe the Bible says Jesus himself said seek and you shall find knock on the door, it will open. So that’s a beautiful thing. I’m not criticizing that. But maybe someone’s asking themselves and I even know apostolics who ask themselves this question, what is the difference theologically, and how does it affect our salvation? I always come back to baptism, but if I’m a trinitarian, or if I’m oneness, what does it matter to God? Why would God care how I view it, and I know that’s a big, broad, crazy, strange question loaded with minefields, but what does it matter? That’s really what the middle is asking. What does it matter? Does it ultimately matter if you’re trinitarian or if you’re oneness or…?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:53:35] It must matter. Let’s keep it in the context of our conversation right there. If it mattered enough to a trinitarian to kill a man who didn’t believe it. Then there is an enormous difference in my mind, having been a Trinitarian. And of course, I know a whole lot of oneness people who were trinitarian and there’s lots of them, they get a lot of flak because trinitarians believe that, as you said a moment ago, that if you think that Jesus is God but is not a second person in the Godhead, then you’re not even going to Heaven. That’s how strong they are now, I believe that trinitarianism and oneness doctrine are the same as light and darkness, because trinitarianism is not a biblical message when you say that Jesus is not God himself, but he’s part of God himself. That’s not a biblical message. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. He’s the totality. He’s not part of the Godhead. He is the Godhead. So in my mind, trinitarianism was the godhead of a Christianity that had lost its way. The oneness doctrine is the godhead of the apostles, so it makes all the difference now, which is why we call ourselves apostolic.

Ryan French: [00:55:06] And so they change baptism. From Jesus’ name baptism to trinity baptism. But that in itself is heresy beyond… This is where I always go, right? Because it’s the easiest one to go to. The greatest flaw or the greatest evil of trinitarianism. Is that it now becomes a changing of the mode, the salvific mode of baptism, where now you are baptizing people in titles instead of in the name and we know that the name is really where the efficacy of baptism comes into play. It’s not the water. It can’t be the water. The Bible tells us that over and over again we’re supposed to be baptized in water. But it’s the calling of the name that is where the power comes from. So, you have trinitarianism that now affects the way you’re baptized, that directly impacts your salvation. And then also in the way that you prayed, because I talked to people all the time who are trinitarian and they’ll say or I’ve talked to people who used to be trinitarian and now they’re oneness and they say, I don’t know how to pray because should I be praying to the Father? Should I be praying to the Son? Should I be praying to the Holy Ghost? So now you’re not fulfilling Scripture and saying whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus. It affects all of it in a strange way.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:56:48] I agree. So, we’re deep here, we’re tiptoeing into church history, but we’re currently in a very deep theological question when we are thinking about how trinitarian thought and oneness thought are different. But that’s precisely what the church, the church was dealing with, going all the way back. What we’ve done is we’ve pulled ourselves for a moment out of just a theological intellectual conversation into a real practical world. How does this theology practically affect individuals and the tragedy of any false doctrine, just like any error, whether it’s religious or not? Error, always falsehood always has practical, real-world implications that wind up hurting everyday human beings who are seeking after God. This is the great tragedy of error and false doctrine. Of course, Jesus warned us this would happen. I’m always amazed when people act shocked that this could happen because it was so clear he couldn’t have possibly been clearer. You’re going to be persecuted. I think as Americans, though, we’re just so spoiled because we’ve had such a long history of freedom, although I think that’s in jeopardy. We may not get to enjoy that, at least not the way we have for much longer. At the rate, we’re going. What’s on the horizon? Only God knows. Only God’s plan is good. The rest of it is looking darker and darker as we go.

Ryan French: [00:58:57] Quickly. And I know we’ve gone close to an hour here, and I appreciate your time. I really do. We’ve already talked about Michael Servetus. I mean, we could just spend an hour introducing Servetus to people. And I feel bad saying what we’ve said without clarifying more for people. My hope is maybe this will spark people’s interest and some people will go dig deeper.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:59:22] Yes.

Ryan French: [00:59:23] Sebelius as well, a different era. But in church history, we do know of some oneness or at least medalists who were speaking of these things. Can you mention just some of the common ones that we know of aside from Sebelius, and give just like the quick bullet point information about who those people, those people might be?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:59:47] Well, there are dozens of oneness… What scholars sometimes call modalists. And the word modalists means that instead of there being multiple persons of God, there is God acting in different modes. So you call that modalism and the trend in modern theology is to think of God in modes. And so Carlebach, for example, spoke of modalism and favorably, but he, of course, still maintained they believed in the trinity. But so all the way back through church history.

Ryan French: [01:00:28] Is it correct to call ourselves modalists? Are we?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:00:31] Well, I’ve always said there’s nothing wrong with it, but sometimes people are uncomfortable, especially current leaders in the modern oneness movement. I think most oneness people are uncomfortable with that because they don’t know where it came from or they think it came from the enemy or something. The fact of the matter is, modalism is a way of describing anyone who holds to a godhead in which the Father, Son, and the Spirit are in some way modal. And Oneness beliefs hold that Jesus and the Father were just modal differences, that the way in which God revealed himself in the Son was not a different person than the God who revealed himself in the Spirit. That’s what oneness is. So, to me, that modalism is fine. It’s just that some oneness people today are worried that there are forms of modalism we disagree with. So, I don’t have a problem with it. But, you know, that’s just the way it is. And so, for trinitarians to say modalists is helpful because they then realize you’re talking about church history, they typically think of them as modes because the term oneness is a fairly recent term. It’s a term that came to be very popular among former trinitarians that had become modalists and their view of who Jesus was. They saw it as a revelation a Divine revelation that Jesus was the Father in his human form, in the mode of humanity and therefore the son was not another person. It was the Father revealing himself. And this is exactly what Servetus taught. It’s exactly what Sebelius thought.

Ryan French: [01:02:24] Is it overly simplistic theologically, because I always go to the overly simplistic, but is it overly simplistic theologically for me and many others who have done it? To use the analogy that I’m a father and a son. Because people say, how can you be the father and son and I often say to people, I’m a father and a son. I could be multiple things at once but that doesn’t make me multiple people. But in the end, I have a legal name that must be used legally.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:02:57] And we can see that we’re moving now again into a very deeply theological way of understanding, which is important. It’s absolutely essential, but it’s difficult for some people, like, for example, trying to understand trinitarianism, you cannot comprehend. It’s not hard because you would have a father and a son who are both internal and they’re both God, they’re both gods within a God. That’s simply illogical. How can you be? And they’re going how can you…

Ryan French: [01:03:24] Right. How in the world can you both be all-powerful? Right.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:03:28] So but the same is true here when we’re talking about trying to explain modalism. Does it mean that I was a father, and I was a son? And of course, it is true of God. God was both Father and Son. How did that occur? Well, at the same time that he was a Father. He also became the Son. He didn’t quit being the Father when he became the Son. So, any modalism that held to that view I’ve just described. And so, this becomes deeply theological, rather because…

Ryan French: [01:04:03] He overshadows Mary.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:04:05] That’s right. The Father and the Spirit. So, the Spirit is the Father’s spirit. The Son is the Father’s humanity, you see. So, God becomes the Son. God is working in the Spirit. They’re not separate persons as though…

Ryan French: [01:04:22] Well, and even with Jesus you have this kind of interchangeable language where I come from my Father, but then I’m sending it. So even Jesus was kind of using interchangeable language that to me if I was trinitarian, would be extremely confusing because how could Jesus be sending his Spirit? You know, how is that even possible if they’re not the same thing?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:04:45] So what we’re doing is we’re explaining how the oneness view differs from the trinitarian view. And so when oneness people view, Jesus, they view Jesus as being the revelation of the Father. He is the Father in his human form. He came to earth in Jesus Christ. So, yes. So, when says, for example, we’ll just give one example that this is very important to oneness theology, that Jesus said it’s not my work I’m doing. Yeah, I’m doing the works of the Father. All right. So it’s trinitarianism that can’t account for that. Now they claim they can because they say the Son laid down his deity or something like that.

Ryan French: [01:05:31] Almost every intellectually honest trinitarian that I’ve ever talked to or heard. At some point will get to a place where they say, I believe in the trinity, but it’s inexplicable. I believe in it, but it’s a great mystery that we’ll never fully understand. It’s the great mystery. How does the average trinitarian deal with Jesus saying something like, you know, Philip, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:06:00] Right now, my contention is they can’t. Now they will appear to be answering it, they’ll give answers. But, you know, you can give answers that aren’t answers. And that’s what trinitarians have to do when you get to the point where you’re talking about the biblical Jesus. He is not saying I’m another person from the Father. He’s not saying that. But they would then argue they said the opposite. How could you be the same person? This is where trinitarian. But when you’re not going back to John 14, where Jesus said, if you’ve seen me, well, you know, that’s not the question you ask. You didn’t ask that one you ask. Yeah, you did. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen that his response was, if you’ve seen me, how can you ask me?

Ryan French: [01:06:45] Right.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:06:50] So a trinitarian would have to go back to John 10, four chapters earlier where Jesus said, I and the Father are one. And then they would have to argue that one there doesn’t mean one.

Ryan French: [01:07:02] I was just going to say, how could you even go to John…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:07:08] They have to attempt to build a multiple-person God. That’s still one God, which of course, that in itself is illogical.

Ryan French: [01:07:17] Yes, it’s illogical. Now, this brings me to something I wanted to mention and define for people. We’ve used the word modalist, but then there’s another word people use for oneness people. Apostolic monotheism or monotheistic. So just simple mono meaning one and theistic meaning God. In the Old Testament, one of the great defining characteristics of the Old Testament and the great separator that God gave for the Israelites was the fact that they were a monotheistic people. Israel, the Lord, our God is one in a world at the time where Egypt, they’re worshipping thousands of gods and they have a god for everything. The sun, the moon, the stars, the grass, the bugs. And then you have all of these other pagan nations that are worshipping multiple gods. And then and then God commands. He says, you know, there’s no other God before me. Thou shalt have no other God before me. Do Trinitarians? Now, I’ll just put my belief out there, no matter how offensive it might be, I believe that trinitarians, if you follow their doctrine logically, are polytheists, meaning that they do believe whether they claim it or not, because most of them don’t, but they do essentially wind up worshipping three gods, which to me is an absolute affront to God himself in the sense that God over and over and over commands us to…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:08:56] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:08:57] …understand that there is one God and that we’re to serve him alone. And when you separate him into three persons or beings now, you have done exactly what God essentially in my mind, what Satan did was he came in and he was able to convolute, quote unquote, Christianity to the point that now you have idolatry in the church.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:17] Right.

Ryan French: [01:09:19] But the idol that winds up being worshipped is supposedly the true God. But I know that most trinitarians would not. Am I correct in saying most trinitarians would never claim to be polytheistic? Is that correct? Absolutely. No one would claim not to be monotheistic.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:37] They do claim to be. And they and technically they are monotheists now, OK, because they say…

Ryan French: [01:09:43] How?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:44] The reason they can claim it is that they make every effort from Nicaea till now to say that the trinity itself is one God, but existing somehow mysteriously beyond any human comprehension is that the three that are let’s call them the three divines that are in their right persons? Because let’s just not say persons for now that they’re still. It’s so mysterious. It’s incomprehensible. And of course, what they’re actually doing is having to be oneness. They have to start out being oneness. Yeah. In order to end up with three separate persons and they have to go back where they think they have to end up with three separate persons because there was a Father, Son, and a Spirit.

Ryan French: [01:10:37] So this takes me back and I keep coming to this because it’s so incomprehensible to me. So, if you’re claiming to be monotheistic.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:10:46] Right.

Ryan French: [01:10:48] Because most times when you pin them down, they want to say, well, there’s one God. I mean, I hear this all the time. You can hear it in music, in Christian music, popular Christian music written by trinitarians, where you can have a song written by a trinitarian called One God. I mean, there is one right now. It’s a great song. And I often ask myself, how can they write a song like that and then reject oneness. So why if they’re doing that why would you go to John Calvin for example, if he’s starting with and saying I’m monotheistic, why in the world would he attack someone and be angry towards someone who is monotheistic in every sense of the word? Does that make sense?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:11:38] It makes sense to me. It’s complicated to the average person. We’re sitting here trying to explain why a deeply theological basically leader of one of the largest movements in Christianity murdered another Christian. That’s what we’re trying to explain.

Ryan French: [01:11:56] So that’s impossible. Let’s come to now let’s come to the present.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:00] All right.

Ryan French: [01:12:02] The unnamed guy that I can’t think of his name on the podcast, Apologia. How could he spend so much time and people like him? Why would they find it in their hearts so necessary to condemn truly monotheistic people? When yet he himself claims to be monotheistic, how does that jive and are you able to…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:27] This is becoming I mean, very, very few people today take the position. I mean, fewer and fewer. He might could name millions, but very few people today look at oneness people and say you’re damned to hell. It’s not like it was…

Ryan French: [01:12:44] Because of your belief, not like it was at the turn of the last century.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:47] Things have changed so drastically. And they would consider that unfortunate because we ought to be condemned. We ought to do just what Calvin did. And this gentleman has to be careful because what he’s wrestling with is and it’s a fear of other monotheists that that upholds. Now, if you are violating Jesus himself and saying he’s not God, then you would have the basis on which to begin to condemn, truly condemn someone. But he believes that his trinitarian understanding of the oneness of God, of the one God blessed, that is so true that my denying it or not believing or accepting it, by the way, there’s tons and tons of trinitarians who do not believe the concepts of the trinity in their minds. They can’t accept that. They somehow just believe that it’s just one God. They cannot make this three person distinction that trinitarians want you to do so among their own people. They do it. More and more, but…

Ryan French: [01:13:55] Which is why I think if you’re not a theologian, someone’s listening who’s not a theologian or philosopher, you’re just, you know, a good person who loves the Lord. We have to try and help these individuals.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:14:03] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:14:07] When I say average, I don’t mean that in the sense that, I mean they may be very above average, but I mean average in the sense of their understanding and exposure to the Bible and theology. We have to help them understand there are real life spiritual consequences when you embrace the false doctrine of the trinity.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:14:18] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:14:20] …and we have to try to show why that is in the sense of baptism, in the sense of how you pray, in the sense of how you’re viewing God and does God care how you view him? Well, of course, he does, because the vast majority of the Bible is God very clearly saying to people, it matters what you believe about me and it matters how you worship me. It matters how you serve me. God doesn’t have the kind of the universal philosophical mindset that the world has embraced today where everything’s fine as long as you’re sincere, as long as you’re…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:05] Well, basically the modern cultural mindset is it doesn’t matter at all what anybody believes, even conservative Christians today, among some of them, there is this notion that, well, in the end, it’s just all going to be just fine. But the consequences for believing that, look where we are in a culture, the culture is completely anti-Christian. America today is in dire straits.

Ryan French: [01:15:31] Yeah. And the question is, did the church begin that or did the world have it and it trickled into the church in a kind of ecumenical universalistic way of thinking, but that’s almost…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:43] Like the chicken…

Ryan French: [01:15:44] Yeah. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s really almost impossible to know.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:49] Almost impossible.

Ryan French: [01:15:51] It’s tempting. I think for oneness people, you know, the oneness movement and the tongue talking movement and we won’t even throw holiness in. That’s a whole nother deal. But historically, and when I say historically, I don’t mean going back to Servetus. I mean since the turn of the last century we were very persecuted, lots of persecution, physical persecution, but…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:16:18] Right.

Ryan French: [01:16:20] …even greater was the cultural persecution, the rejection, the being cast out from society, being marginalized. When you talk to the elders and there’s still elders today who are right here in our church, we have to Sister Cole, whose father founded Tupelo Children’s Mansion, and the stories of him being taken out and beaten within an inch of his life and the scars on his back and all of the things that people went through, the horrific things that we can’t even imagine. And as horrible as that was, and none of us would want to experience that, in many ways, it galvanized the movement. The church is always, I mean, even when you go back to the New Testament, the Church has always galvanized and grown in persecution. And the Church seems to always struggle in times of ease. I think it’s one of the reasons why you see, for example, this summer, we’ll talk about it hopefully soon. You know, your research on the oneness movement in China, you were shocked when you were writing and studying for the book Our God is One, which was first your thesis for your master’s at Wheaton College. And you studied how the preachers and the pastors, how they were I mean, unbelievable physical persecution, not just being thrown in jail. I mean, to be thrown in jail would have almost been a mercy. But the things that they went through beyond just being thrown in jail, the horrific physical things that happened to them in China, and even today, there’s persecution there.

Ryan French: [01:17:58] And yet the church, the oneness apostolic Church, the revival that has been mostly underground, that has just exploded in that nation. You see that repeated in different places around the world where there’s this great massive movement and outpouring of the Holy Ghost and in nations where there’s great persecution. And then you come to America, where we’re really fairly stagnant right now. And I think a lot of that is because of the ease. So, there’s a danger. I’ve spent a lot of time drawing you into a conversation about why do the hard-core trinitarians reject the modalists and or the monotheists. But really, in some ways, I would rather deal with them. Because at least we can have a discussion where we all believe things then the squishy middle, because the squishy middle, the danger of that, we’re and we get comfortable with the squishy middle or I don’t. But many apostolics do because they’re nice to us. Does that make sense? They’re nice to us. Of course, we’re nice to them, but they’re nice to us in the sense that they might say, well, you know, you’re saved. You know, you’re fine. And, you know, I am, too, of course. And there’s really not a major difference. You know, what you believe is great, and what they believe is great. And let’s all just be in this together. Well, that’s very dangerous.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:19:32] Pulled into the idea that everybody’s just fine is the temptation.

Ryan French: [01:19:38] It is very appealing to the church in this, especially for people who want to avoid persecution at all costs. Or preserve their ease or their assets. We might could say preserve their financial gain,

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:20:01] It reminds me, where it just seems to insert itself in your discussion here, that the last days of Revelation were described to be to ease. Where they simply say, I have need of nothing. And whenever you’re in that area of time, there are always tremendous dangers. And you’re describing.

Ryan French: [01:20:26] Yeah. And I think that I do believe that’s exactly what we are seeing.

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Buried Alive (The Gospel According to the Bible)

The fear of being buried alive has been around for centuries. But it was especially prevalent during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The famed horror poet Edgar Allen Poe wrote nightmarishly about fantastical scenarios of people being buried alive on several occasions. The societal fear of premature burial became so prolific it eventually led to the invention of the safety coffin, an odd contraption with a string leading up from the coffin to a tiny bell placed near the gravestone. The idea being, if someone found themselves buried alive, they would ring the bell and hope someone would hear them and dig up their prematurely buried body. The safety coffin has been reinvented many times over the centuries. Even today, high-tech versions of the safety coffin are available for exorbitant prices.

Pulse Check Please

Interestingly, and debatably, several modern expressions are derivatives of the safety coffin era. For example, out of concern that someone buried alive might ring a bell in the middle of the night, a new shift was added to church graveyards called the “graveyard shift.” We also get expressions like “dead ringer” and “saved by the bell” from that historical period. Thankfully, modern medicine has done much to eliminate people’s fears of being buried alive. Regardless, some people still have irrational fears of waking up in a coffin underneath an immovable mountain of dirt. Admittedly, I get the shivers and chills if I let my imagination run wild. It’s difficult to imagine anything more horrifying than realizing you have been buried alive and there’s nothing you can do about it. Let’s just say I want my gravedigger to check and double-check my pulse before they plop me in the ground. Why? Because burying living things is barbaric, cruel, and torturous. On the other hand, burying dead things is humane, kind, and decent.

Repentance Check Please

If you are baptized without properly repenting, it is equivalent to being spiritually buried alive. Yes! It really is that dramatic and problematic. If you are baptized without repentance, you’re just getting wet. It does absolutely nothing for you in terms of salvation. We should make sure the sinful nature has been crucified to death with repentance before stirring the waters of baptism. Check for a pulse before burial because to be buried alive creates all kinds of spiritual problems. Pastors, we aren’t doing anyone any favors rushing them to baptism if they aren’t dead.

If you are baptized without properly repenting, it is equivalent to being spiritually buried alive. Yes! It really is that dramatic and problematic. If you are baptized without repentance, you’re just getting wet.

We should make sure the sinful nature has been crucified to death with repentance before stirring the waters of baptism. Check for a pulse before burial because to be buried alive creates all kinds of spiritual problems.

God Doesn’t Resurrect Living Things

I’ve noticed a trend in my church (and other churches as well). It’s pretty easy to convince people they need to be baptized. However, it’s difficult convincing people they need to repent and receive the Holy Ghost. I think there are several reasons for this, and one of them is the traditional and cultural acceptance of water baptism. But it goes deeper than just culture; baptism is the easiest part of the salvation process. Think about it. Only you can repent of your sins. No one else can repent for you, and it’s a painful, bloody, messy, tearful, gut-wrenching process when you face your wretchedness head-on. Our flesh doesn’t die easily, and many people avoid genuine repentance altogether. Which sadly keeps them from ever receiving the Holy Ghost (unless they repent at a later time). Meaning they just stay buried alive and are never resurrected because God doesn’t resurrect living things. God only resurrects crucified hearts that are ready for a new life.

Only you can repent of your sins. No one else can repent for you, and it’s a painful, bloody, messy, tearful, gut-wrenching process when you face your wretchedness head-on.

God only resurrects crucified hearts that are ready for a new life.

The Easy Part of the Gospel

Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is something that only God can do for us. The Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection. The stone over our tomb rumbles and rolls away as we go from death to new life in Christ. The Spirit of God fills our empty hearts with power, presence, and purpose. We surrender and believe we will receive it by faith, but ultimately, we don’t fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit. That can be a little intimidating for people because it requires faith and trust in the unseen and the unknown. Most people have not previously surrendered to God in that way, and they aren’t exactly sure how to do it.

The infilling of the Holy Ghost is something that only God can do for us. The Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection. The stone over our tomb rumbles and rolls away as we go from death to new life in Christ.

The Spirit of God fills our empty hearts with power, presence, and purpose.

We surrender and believe, but we don’t fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit. That’s intimidating for people because it requires faith in the unseen. People haven’t surrendered to God in that way, and they aren’t sure how to do it.

On the other hand, baptism is simple because it’s the one thing someone else can do for you. All you have to do is let someone put you under the water in Jesus’ name. However, we could do with some old-fashioned fear of being spiritually buried alive. Let’s not rush people to premature burials that will leave them traumatized and unchanged. Otherwise, we are guilty of giving false comforts of pseudo salvation to people who haven’t been crucified with Christ and died to sin. Baptism is powerful and life-changing when done biblically, but it can do more harm than good when done incorrectly.

Let’s not rush people to premature burials (baptisms) that will leave them traumatized and unchanged. Otherwise, we are guilty of giving false comforts of pseudo salvation to people who haven’t been crucified with Christ and died to sin.

Baptism is powerful and life-changing when done biblically, but it can do more harm than good when done incorrectly.

The Gospel Graphic

I created this simple graphic to explain how to be saved according to the Bible. Unfortunately, many people will tell you how to be saved according to tradition or opinion but what they describe isn’t even close to what the Bible teaches. I think we are often guilty of trying to oversimplify the Gospel so people can understand and accept it easily. We should try to keep it as simple as the Bible presents it, but we must be careful not to bypass vitally important elements of the process. And it is a process. You can’t be saved in fifteen seconds or less. Anyone who tells you differently is skipping lots of essential things. For example, two things must happen before you can repent of your sin: One, you must have faith that God is and that He is a rewarder of people who diligently seek Him. Two, you must realize you are bound by sin and unworthy of God’s grace. If you don’t have faith that Jesus lived, died, was buried, and resurrected for your sin, nothing else matters. The entire salvation process begins and ends with faith. If you think you are basically a good person that doesn’t need saving all that badly, the whole process will be meaningless to you because you won’t repent properly, and you won’t receive the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, many people will tell you how to be saved according to tradition or opinion but what they describe isn’t even close to what the Bible teaches.

We are often guilty of trying to oversimplify the Gospel so people can understand and accept it easily. We should try to keep it as simple as the Bible presents it, but we must not bypass vitally important elements of the process.

Two things must happen before you can repent of your sin: One, you must have faith that God is and that He is a rewarder of people who diligently seek Him. Two, you must realize you are bound by sin and unworthy of God’s grace.

If you think you are basically a good person that doesn’t need saving all that badly, the whole process of salvation will be meaningless to you because you won’t repent properly, and you won’t receive the Holy Spirit.

Sin is a Bigger Deal Than You Might Think

We all tend to view ourselves as kinder, nicer, more well-meaning, sincere, and good than we actually are. Also, our day’s prevailing philosophy believes that sincerity is like an ultimate golden ticket to Heaven. The rule of emotion and feelings has toppled the worship of reason and logic. Essentially, this is humanism (self-worship): I think myself to be good; therefore, I must be good. But what if evil feels good to us? Historically millions of wrongs have been sincerely committed by people who believed they were righteous. Even scarier, what if good things feel wrong to us? This happens all the time, faithfulness and self-sacrifice are demanding things, and our feelings deceptively convince us that selfishness is virtuous. Of course, none of this takes God by surprise. The Bible warned against the danger of trusting our hearts (feelings, emotions) centuries ago. Humanity’s egoistical affinity towards looking inwards rather than upwards to God is one of many prevailing flaws ingrained in the sinful human condition.

We all tend to view ourselves as kinder, nicer, more well-meaning, sincere, and good than we actually are. Also, our day’s prevailing philosophy believes that sincerity is like an ultimate golden ticket to Heaven.

The rule of emotion and feelings has toppled the worship of reason and logic. Essentially, this is humanism (self-worship): I think myself to be good; therefore, I must be good.

Humanity’s egoistical affinity towards looking inwards rather than upwards to God is one of many prevailing flaws ingrained in the sinful human condition.

Centuries of humanistic philosophy and false religion have resulted in a general indifference towards sin. Oh, sure, most people consider murder or senseless violence sinful or immoral. Dusty unused Bible’s demonstrate that people aren’t consulting Scripture to define sin and illuminate right living. Most sin is viewed like a speed limit, just a good suggestion, and it can be broken just as long as you don’t go too far above it. Plus, we keep changing the speed limits (sin limits) to fit our feelings all the time. Meaning, most people don’t care about the limits God originally put into place at all. They’re speeding along through life without a care and feeling comfortably self-righteous. Meanwhile, God is grieved, and His nail-scarred hands reach for us lovingly.

Centuries of humanistic philosophy and false religion have resulted in a general indifference towards sin.

Most sin is viewed like a speed limit, just a good suggestion, and it can be broken just as long as you don’t go too far above it. Plus, we keep changing the speed limits (sin limits) to fit our feelings all the time.

Most people don’t care about the limits God originally put into place. They’re speeding through life without a care and feeling comfortably self-righteous. Meanwhile, God is grieved, and His nail-scarred hands reach for us lovingly.

Sin is the focal point of the Gospel. Our frail, fallen, finite, sinful human condition required a sacrifice. Since no human born of Adam’s lineage could ever be a perfect sacrifice, God robed Himself in flesh and overshadowed a virgin named Mary. She miraculously conceived the Messiah (God with us) named Jesus. Because Jesus had no earthly father, the Bible refers to Him as the son of God. It is biblically false and theologically inaccurate to consider Jesus to be a preexisting, eternal, coequal, separate being from God the Father. Jesus was the human manifestation of the Father. Jesus answered Phillip’s request to see the Father by saying, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?” (John 14:9, NLT). Our sin, no matter how mild it may seem to our carnal minds, nailed Jesus to the cross. Failure to take our sinfulness seriously is an insult to the suffering of Jesus. Failure to die to our sin is a blatant disregard of the significance of Calvary.

Sin is the focal point of the Gospel. Our frail, fallen, finite, sinful human condition required a sacrifice. Since no human born of Adam’s lineage could ever be a perfect sacrifice, God robed Himself in flesh.

Because Jesus had no earthly father, the Bible refers to Him as the son of God. It is biblically false and theologically inaccurate to consider Jesus to be a preexisting, eternal, coequal, separate being from God the Father.

Jesus was the human manifestation of the Father. Jesus answered Phillip’s request to see the Father by saying, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?” (John 14:9, NLT).

Our sin, no matter how mild it may seem to our minds, nailed Jesus to the cross. Failure to take our sin seriously is an insult to the suffering of Jesus. Failure to die to our sin is a blatant disregard of the significance of Calvary.

Your Tomb Should Be Empty Too

Suppose you boil down every page of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In that case, it’s the story of sin separating us from a loving, intimate relationship with God and God’s love finding a way to draw us out of sin back into a relationship with Him. You see, God’s holy perfection isn’t compatible with our sinful imperfections. Therefore, God made a way for us with His blood to be washed clean and sanctified (made holy). Once you are dead and buried, you’re ready for resurrection. The only reason we know who Jesus is today is because of His resurrection. It’s beautiful that Jesus died for us, but, miraculously, He conquered death for us. Jesus didn’t die for you to die with Him and stay buried. God wants to breathe His Spirit into your lifeless spiritual body and raise you up with the power to be a new person. His tomb is empty, and yours should be too. If you’ve been buried in baptism but haven’t received the Holy Ghost speaking in other tongues, it’s the spiritual equivalent of staying stuck in your tomb. There’s a great song by the Christian group Cain called Rise Up (Lazarus) that says:

Can't you hear the voice of Jesus calling us
Out from the grave like Lazarus
Rise up (like Lazarus) rise up, rise up
Out from the grave like Lazarus
He's calling us to walk out of the dark
He's giving us new resurrected hearts

What a powerful anthem reminding us that Jesus is calling us to resurrection power. There’s no reason to stay dead when Jesus is offering us new life. The new life Jesus offers is wonderful, powerful, abundant, eternal, joyful, purposeful, hopeful, and supernatural. Once you have been filled with the Holy Ghost, you have the ability (power, authority, desire) to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh. Meaning you no longer have to be a slave to sin. It’s not just that you are freed from the penalty of sin, but you can overcome sin. Old chains of sin and temptation can be broken, and you can access liberty in the Spirit.

If you boil down every page of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation; it’s the story of sin separating us from a loving, intimate relationship with God and God’s love finding a way to draw us out of sin back into a relationship with Him.

Jesus didn’t die for you to die with Him and stay buried. God wants to breathe His Spirit into your lifeless spiritual body and raise you up with the power to be a new person. His tomb is empty, and yours should be too.

If you’ve been buried in baptism but haven’t received the Holy Ghost speaking in other tongues, it’s the spiritual equivalent of staying stuck in your tomb.

There’s no reason to stay dead when Jesus is offering us new life. The new life Jesus offers is wonderful, powerful, abundant, eternal, joyful, purposeful, hopeful, and supernatural.

Differing Definitions (Freedom & Bondage)

One of the oddest issues facing our culture is the mishandling of words. Even among “Christians,” we frequently use the same words, but our definitions differ. Two perfect examples are the words “freedom” and “bondage.” Many self-professing “Christians” have accused me of living in bondage because I live a biblical, holy, separated, consecrated, Spirit-led lifestyle. As the Bible teaches, I believe that God saved me from my past sin and calls me to walk in holiness. That doesn’t mean I’ve obtained perfection. He’s definitely still working on me, but it does mean I’m actively walking away from bondage rather than living in bondage to sin. This is what the Bible means when it refers to freedom and liberty. However, many Christians ignore the Bible and redefine freedom from sin as the freedom to sin freely without consequences. In other words, according to their way of thinking, the cross gives them the liberty to keep sinning. Do you see the disparity? We have completely opposite and opposing views of biblical freedom and bondage. Problematically, Christians of all stripes can use the same language but mean totally different things. Therefore, it’s vitally important to narrow down and lock in our definitions. Otherwise, we run the risk of saying things without honest communication taking place. “Grace” and “mercy” are two other words people often misuse, misunderstand, and misdefine (but that’s another subject for another day).

Many Christians ignore the Bible and redefine freedom from sin as the freedom to sin freely without consequences. In other words, according to their way of thinking, the cross gives them the liberty to keep sinning.

Christians of all stripes can use the same language but mean totally different things. It’s vitally important to narrow down and lock in definitions. Otherwise, we run the risk of saying things without honest communication taking place.

The Gospel According to the Bible

Thankfully, God knew defining definitions and homing in on the correct meaning of words would be difficult. Human dishonesty and forgetfulness constantly rearrange connotations. This is precisely the reason God preserved His Word for us in written form. God charges us with the responsibility to rightly (correctly) divide (accurately handling and skillfully teaching) the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Therefore, any information regarding how to be saved from sin and eternal judgment can only come from the Divinely inspired Word of the Lord. Anything else is less reliable than a thirty-day weather forecast. Most Christians agree with the premise that the Gospel must be obeyed according to the Bible. However, many Christians mysteriously misinterpret, add non-biblical elements of tradition, insert opinions, or overlook inconvenient sections of Scripture, diluting the Gospel into something ineffectual. The early New Testament Church certainly would not have recognized most modern gyrations of the “Gospel” presented in churches claiming to be Christian.

Human dishonesty and forgetfulness constantly rearrange connotations. This is precisely the reason God preserved His Word for us in written form.

Many Christians mysteriously misinterpret, add non-biblical elements of tradition, insert opinions, or overlook inconvenient sections of Scripture, diluting the Gospel into something ineffectual.

The early New Testament Church certainly would not have recognized most modern gyrations of the “Gospel” presented in churches claiming to be Christian.

The Gospel Summarized: A Beginning with No End

Salvation begins by acknowledging you need a savior and that Jesus is the only risen Savior (John 3:16, John 1:12, Romans 10:9, Romans 3:23). You must have faith in God and believe that His Word is accurate (Hebrews 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-9, Ephesians 6:16, 1 Corinthians 2:5). Not only are we sinners, but we were born under the grip and curse of human sin (Romans 5:12, Romans 7:14, Psalm 51:5). You must respond to the sorrow you feel over your sin by repenting before God. Repentance is more than “I’m sorry.” Repentance means to turn around and go the other direction. In other words, repentance is the determination and decision to stop sinning (Romans 6:6, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30).

Repentance is more than “I’m sorry.” Repentance means to turn around and go the other direction. In other words, repentance is the determination and decision to stop sinning.

Once you have repented of your sin, you are spiritually and symbolically dead and ready for burial (water baptism in Jesus’ name) [Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12, Acts 2:41]. Again, it’s vital to be buried (baptized) exactly as the Bible commands. The word baptism literally means to be “immersed” in something. Just like we wouldn’t sprinkle dirt on a dead body and say burial was complete, we wouldn’t splash water on a dead sinner and call them buried either. Recently, I saw a video of a man being baptized standing in a kiddie pool. The pastor poured a bottle of water over the poor man’s head and pronounced him baptized. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be utterly hilarious.

The word baptism literally means to be immersed in something. Just like we wouldn’t sprinkle dirt on a dead body and say burial was complete, we wouldn’t splash water on a dead sinner and call them buried either.

Because there is so much misinformation surrounding baptism, we need to make three things very clear: One, as already mentioned, you must correctly repent before baptism. Two, you must be wholly immersed (submerged, buried, covered, plunged) in water for the remission (washing away) of your sin. By the way, this is why babies cannot and should not be baptized because a baby can’t understand the Gospel and repent properly. Three, and this one is probably the most important and most debated subject concerning baptism, the person baptizing you must baptize you calling on the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38, Acts 4:12, Acts 10:48, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27). To clarify further, the person baptizing you must not call out the “titles” Father, Son, or Holy Ghost (or any other name or title) because the titles don’t have the saving authority of the name of Jesus. The cleansing power of baptism comes primarily from invoking the name that is above every other name, the name of Jesus. If you have been baptized in a way that is not biblical, you should consider being rebaptized correctly immediately (Acts 19:1-5).

The cleansing power of baptism comes primarily from invoking the Name that is above every other name, the name of Jesus. If you’ve been baptized any other way, you should consider being rebaptized correctly immediately (Acts 19:1-5).

Once you have died and been buried, you are ready to be resurrected (filled with the Holy Ghost). Here’s a little secret, if the Holy Spirit doesn’t resurrect you, eventually, your old flesh will come back to life. In fact, even after you are resurrected, your flesh will keep trying to come back to life (we’ll talk about that next). Without the Holy Ghost, you can’t access newness of life, and you are not a new person in Christ Jesus. Remember, everything about salvation must be done according to the Bible. And, according to the Bible, everyone who receives the Holy Ghost for the very first time will supernaturally speak in tongues (in a language they do not know or understand). Of course, there are many other continuing evidences that a person has been filled with God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22) but speaking in other tongues is the very first evidence God requires (Acts 2:4, Acts 2:38, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:6, Mark 16:17, 1 Corinthians 14:2, Acts 19:1-7).

According to the Bible, everyone who receives the Holy Ghost for the very first time will supernaturally speak in tongues (in a language they do not know or understand).

There are many other evidences a person has been filled with God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22) but speaking in other tongues is the very first evidence God requires (Acts 2:4, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:6, Mark 16:17, 1 Corinthians 14:2, Acts 19:1-7).

Once you have been resurrected (filled with the Spirit), you are like a newborn baby in the family of God. That’s why we often call it being born again (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:3). At this point, your life is just beginning. It’s an exciting, abundant, wild, scary, adventurous, joyful, powerful, overcoming life walking in the Spirit. Everything changes once you have been filled with the Spirit. God will rearrange you from the inside out. The Bible calls this process of becoming holy like the Lord sanctification. The Holy Spirit will convict, correct, purify, strengthen, empower, and encourage you daily. No area of your life is off-limits to the Spirit. There is nothing the Spirit isn’t allowed to change, rearrange, or eject from your life. Furthermore, there are countless things the Spirit will add to your life that you could not have otherwise. This ongoing process of walking in the Spirit is never-ending. The Gospel is a process with a beginning and no end. It’s a complete restart, do-over, new beginning, lifelong relationship with God. Count the cost in advance because living for God will cost you everything you have, but it will give you more than you could ever imagine. The Gospel isn’t just a checklist you complete and then forget about as you move through life unchanged. No. The Gospel is radically refining, totally transforming, and Divinely disrupting. Walking in the Spirit will take you through the valley of the shadow of death and to mountain peaks of triumph. Life in the Spirit is never boring. And the afterlife benefits are without compare.

Everything changes once you have been filled with the Spirit. God will rearrange you from the inside out. The Bible calls this process of becoming holy like the Lord sanctification.

The Holy Spirit will convict, correct, purify, strengthen, empower, and encourage you daily. No area of your life is off-limits to the Spirit. There is nothing the Spirit isn’t allowed to add, change, rearrange, or eject from your life.

The Gospel is a process with a beginning and no end. It’s a complete restart, do-over, new beginning, lifelong relationship with God. Count the cost in advance because living for God will cost you everything you have, but it will give you more than you could ever imagine.

The Gospel is radically refining, totally transforming, and Divinely disrupting. Life in the Spirit is never boring. And the afterlife benefits are without compare.

Apostolic Voice | Ep. 21 – Buried Alive

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ…

I love the Christmas season, and I love Christmas music too. I’m one of those annoying people who starts listening to Christmas music way too early. One of my favorite slightly frivolous Christmas ditty’s is It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Penned in 1951 by Meredith Wilson, it’s been a holiday staple since its first iconic release. You’ve most likely heard it played many times. Admittedly, at first glance, at least, it isn’t the most Christ-centered Christmas tune. But its catchy melody is fun and family-friendly.

I recently heard It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and it lodged in my brain and would not let go. We had a few snow dribbles that same day so that imagery combined with the song created a memorable Christmassy scene, which is a rarity in Atlanta. The song paints vivid word pictures of how stores, streets, hotels, landscapes, and people begin to show the not-so-subtle signs of transforming in preparation and anticipation of Christmas. Stores glisten, and streets glow, and kids hope. People’s visages visibly change, and winter snow dominates the scenery. The atmosphere described is beautiful, happy, transcendent, expectant, and surrounded by death.

It’s A Wonderful Death

Epiphany blindsided me on that wintery day as It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas jangled around in my brain. While we’re beginning to look a lot like Christ, we are inevitably surrounded by the transformative beauty of death. Winter is the season of the completion of death. Throughout the fall season, leaves struggle to stay alive, and vegetation does its best to hold on, but winter finally wins, and old things pass away in preparation for new life. Philosophically, there’s a strange perceptual dichotomy at play in wintertime.

On the one hand, we can view winter as stark, harsh, and bleak. But, on the other hand, glowing lanes, candy canes, church bells, and carolers out in the snow can change our wintery perspective. All the joy mingled with the austerity of winter might seem enigmatic. However, it isn’t because we know the cold will give way to warmth, and new life will bloom in springtime. The inevitability of death precedes the miracle of life in the natural order of the universe.

The Visible Image of the Invisible Maker

The universe’s ability to produce new life from death isn’t by accident. The Maker of the universe designed it that way (Psalm 104:19), and He mirrored that same spiritual law in the lives of human beings. The invisible Maker visibly manifested Himself in the form of man and became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (Colossians 1:15-23). Because our sins deserved physical and spiritual death, He willingly died in our place (Romans 6:21-23).

The invisible Maker visibly manifested Himself in the form of man and became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (Colossians 1:15-23).

The cross displays a more remarkable perceptual dichotomy than anything else imaginable. Calvary was a gruesome, bloody, agonizing, humiliating scene ending in the unjust execution of a guiltless man. Yet, it was the most beautiful sight the world has ever seen because it symbolizes God’s profound personal love for us (Romans 5:8). In return, all Jesus requires of us is our death, burial, and resurrection (Philippians 3:10, Romans 6:3-8, Acts 3:19). Thankfully, we don’t have to die or be resurrected from a grave physically. Our death, burial, and resurrection are spiritual events made possible by the work of Jesus on our behalf (Acts 2:38).

Calvary was a gruesome, bloody, agonizing, humiliating scene ending in the unjust execution of a guiltless man. Yet, it was the most beautiful sight the world has ever seen because it symbolizes God’s profound personal love for us.

The Very Beginning of Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ

The Bible repeatedly teaches us that before we can have new life in Christ, we must die. Old things – ways, habits, lifestyles, mindsets, ideas – need to pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). Those old things don’t die naturally, so we crucify them with repentance (Romans 6:6). We brutally nail our sinfully embedded affections and lusts to a cross and allow them to perish (Galatians 5:24). God doesn’t force us to do this either. Furthermore, our carnal flesh hates the idea of dying to self.

Before we can have new life in Christ, we must die. Old things – ways, habits, lifestyles, mindsets, ideas – need to pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). Those old things don’t die naturally, so we crucify them with repentance (Romans 6:6).

Repentance is the only part of salvation that we must do completely alone. At baptism, someone else baptizes us in the saving name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). We consent to be baptized, and we participate in baptism, but we don’t perform it. Dead people don’t bury themselves because they are dead. Likewise, when we are filled with the Holy Ghost, which is our spiritual resurrection, we can’t fill ourselves (Acts 11:15). God pours out His Spirit on us and dwells within us (Acts 2:1-4, Ezekiel 36:27). Once again, we are merely participating and consenting to a Divine process. Repentance is the gateway that leads to baptism and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Without repentance, a person just gets wet at baptism, and without repentance, God will not give us His Spirit.

Repentance is the gateway that leads to baptism and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Without repentance, a person just gets wet at baptism, and without repentance, God will not give us His Spirit.

Hidden with Christ (From Life to Death to Life)

When we repent of our sins, we are willingly offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). And that isn’t a one-time thing. Authentic repentance is a commitment to pick up our cross and regularly die to sin (Luke 9:23, Romans 6:1-23, Matthew 10:28, Colossians 2:20). When Jesus commanded us to carry our cross daily (Matthew 16:24-26), it was a reminder to take the burden of repentance with us at all times. Why? Because continual death to sin releases joy, abundant life, power, self-control, and authority in Christ (John 10:10, 2 Timothy 1:7, Acts 1:8, John 14:12). Consider what Paul said to the church in Colossae:

“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:3

Just as Christ became literally dead in the tomb, so we, by virtue of our connection with Christ, have become dead to sin, to worldly influences, pleasures, and ambition. Or, in other words, we are to be to them as if we were dead, and they had no more influence over us than the things of earth had over Him in the grave.[i]

But what does it mean to be “hidden” with Christ in God? Certainly, Paul was alluding to the idea of secrecy and safety in God. Our life and salvation are secure in God when we are dead to sin. But we are not literally hidden from the view of the world. No. The meaning here goes deeper than merely being out of sight. The term hidden (kekruptai) can also mean “concealed.” The implication here is that our life is unknown or not understood by the watching world. But these unseen realities will be revealed to the world by God in due time (1 John 3:1-2).[ii] The spiritual death of a sinner produces a saint that is continuously misunderstood by sinners.

When we repent, we are willingly offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). That isn’t a one-time thing. Authentic repentance is a commitment to pick up our cross and regularly die to sin (Lk 9:23, Rom 6:1-23, Mat 10:28, Col 2:20).

When Jesus commanded us to carry our cross daily, it was a reminder to take the burden of repentance with us at all times. Because continual death to sin releases joy, abundant life, power, self-control, and authority in Christ.

Just as Christ became literally dead in the tomb, so we, by virtue of our connection with Christ, have become dead to sin, to worldly influences, pleasures, and ambition.

The spiritual death of a sinner produces a saint that is continuously misunderstood by sinners.

The Prettiest Sight to See

Therefore, as we begin to look a lot like Christ, which is what we are called to do (1 John 2:6, Galatians 3:27, Philippians 2:5), the dead weights of sin begin to fall off the branches of our lives (Hebrews 12:1, John 15:5, Romans 13:12, Ephesians 4:22-25). When the leaves of sin are falling one by one, we know that a joyous death is about to take place, and winter is coming. Old habits take their last gulps of air, fear and condemnation lie on their death beds, carnal thinking is being transformed, sinful dysfunctional relationships are severing, as the joy of salvation and holiness begin to take root amidst the chill. The death is harsh, tear-soaked, unrelenting, yet it’s one of the prettiest sights to see because Christ’s image is being made manifest in human life.


[i] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 24986.

[ii] Max Anders, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians & Colossians, ed. Max Anders, vol. 8 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1999), 327.

COVID-19 (A Christian Manual for Navigating Uncertain Times)

An unseen microscopic viral enemy is bringing the world economy to its knees and taking lives. Whether you believe the worldwide response has been warranted or irresponsible the impact of COVID-19 is tangible and far reaching. Secular and religious organizations alike have been forced to make difficult choices in these uncertain times. Churches are closing their doors to corporate worship and frantically ramping up live stream capabilities. Even now, we just aren’t sure how long this threat will last.

Because this is all so unprecedented and strange (for modern times) there’s not many resources teaching us how to think or react to the events unfolding around us. Godly saints are especially vulnerable during this time of disconnection between one another and pastoral leadership. Opinions abound, but wisdom and common sense are precious, hard to find commodities. Consider this a starter manual for spiritually navigating these uncertain times. This beginner manual will certainly need to be updated and revised over time, and applied to new and changing situations. However, it’s at least a start as we all prayerfully wait on the Lord.

Gathering Still Matters!

While nobly attempting to remain boldly optimistic, many leaders and saints have overblown the impact of having virtual church. This sends mixed messages to people about the continued need for the Church to gather together for corporate worship on a regular basis. Just because we temporarily can’t have church, doesn’t mean we aren’t desperately in need of having church.

To clarify, I’m all for live streaming and getting the Gospel out with every high-tech or low-tech tool available. However, nothing can, should, or will replace the necessity of the assembling of the Church. Beyond that, live streaming isn’t some sparkling new thing that just materialized because of the Corona pandemic. It’s been around for a long time and it can be a great blessing in certain situations. But, it simply cannot compare to what happens when God’s people get together and unify in faith, fellowship, worship, praise, prayer, preaching, and power.

Yes. The Church is not a building. Yes. The Church should be the Church outside of the building. But everyone stuck at home, watching live streaming in their pajamas while eating Lucky Charms, isn’t exactly an epic unleashing of the Church. It’s great to be positive, but let’s not be silly and trivial about the importance of corporate worship.

Trust Your Pastor In Times of Crisis

I’ll echo what many wise folks have already voiced: Your pastor has never pastored in a pandemic before, and he wants what’s best for the church more than anyone else. Pastors are doing their absolute level best to love, protect, and care for their flocks during this crazy and confusing time. They have to answer to God for the decisions they make during this season. They don’t need Monday morning quarter backs criticizing their every decision.

It’s important to note that God may direct one pastor differently than another pastor. Every church has a different dynamic. If you’ve ever trusted your pastor, trust him during this time. If you’ve ever supported your pastor, support him during this time. Your support means more to him than you can imagine. Either you believe your pastor is a God-called under-shepherd over your life or you don’t. Times of crisis reveal the heart; take inventory of your heart in times of crisis.

Speaking of the Heart

If mass social distancing and quarantines have taught me anything, it’s that we have taken too many luxuries for granted. Other nations struggle with hunger, but we feel majorly distressed if we can’t find our favorite brand of coffee creamer. We are, without a doubt, a spoiled people. We are totally unfamiliar with genuine sacrifice or deprivation.

We take our freedoms for granted, including our religious liberties, because we have been too busy and distracted with luxuries. As a nation, we have trended towards less and less church gatherings, and many Christians casually skip church for silly non-essential reasons.

We Americans make plenty of time for the internet, social media, Netflix, and sports; yet we struggle to find time for prayer and spiritual gatherings. This reveals an American heart problem. We are busy doing everything, except for the things that matter the most. Suddenly, when church buildings are temporarily closed our deep need for spiritual connectedness becomes crystal clear.

Many Christians are learning for the first time that sports are little more than a frivolous distraction from reality. We can and should spend more time with our families. Careers aren’t everything and economies and markets are fickle friends that will betray us without warning. Governments can’t save us or even really protect us from every threat. In other words, uncertain times clarify the things that truly matter in our lives. It gives us perspective. And, hopefully a fresh wellspring of gratitude for God and family is bursting into our national consciousness.

The things we care about most are far more fragile than we realize when the busyness of life jerks us from activity to activity. Maybe, just maybe, God is trying to slow us down long enough to remember to keep the main things the main thing. No. I don’t mean that God sent a COVID-19 plague upon the world. However, I do believe God would have us learn lessons in our crisis moments.

Speaking of Crisis Moments

Many people’s finances are being adversely impacted by the quarantines. Jobs are disappearing at staggering rates. Others are enduring layoffs and having their hours slashed. Businesses and small business owners are going under while others are hanging by a thread. If you aren’t being financially effected, you probably know many people who are being effected right now.

With that said, churches still need supported so they can survive this crisis too. If you still have income (be grateful) and be sure to get your tithes to the storehouse of God. Don’t take a vacation from giving God what is already His. That’s a sure way to lose His blessings over your life.

I’ve heard many reports of churches that are unable to pay their regular bills. Newer churches, and smaller to midsize churches in large numbers are facing financial collapse if things don’t change soon. There’s no government bailout for churches. And the church shouldn’t need a government bailout anyway. Let’s just keep being the Church like they were in the book of Acts. If the Early Church could find a way to faithfully give (without the internet) in the middle of literal physical persecution, we can too.

We Always Do Better Under Pressure

God’s true Church has always thrived under pressure. In fact, we seem to spiritually flourish in tough times and become spiritually anemic in times of ease. That was certainly true of the original book of Acts Church, and we see that same phenomenon in the great revivals and spiritual awakenings throughout history. Tremendous apostolic outpourings of the Holy Ghost were poured out during the Great Depression. Those revivals continued to spread even during the first and second World Wars. History is replete with examples of powerful revivals in crisis seasons and spiritual decline in seasons of prosperity. Just look at the reports from economically depressed, and physically oppressed countries outside of the United States. They have constant miracles, church growth, signs, wonders, and spiritual hunger in those regions. Why? Because the Church thrives under pressure and persecution.

But why does the Church thrive under pressure? And, why does the Church seem to struggle with prosperity? I could get very preachy and talk about how the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10), but it’s deeper than just loving money and stuff too much. That’s just part of the overall problem. I think (and I’m preaching to myself), in times of ease we lean to our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) rather than leaning on the Lord. We rely on ourselves more and rely on God less. Essentially, we take God for granted without even meaning to do so. But times of crisis push us back into the arms of Christ. Pressure keeps us razor sharp and keenly focused on God. When we run out of options and resources, we come sheepishly back to our Creator for rescue. And, He rescues us because He loves us with a deep love.

This Will Pass

We’ll move from this valley to a mountaintop, and dip back into another valley. There’s a time and a season for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Perhaps God will teach some of us how to cry out to Him in our distress and face our fears and faithlessness (Mark 4:37-41). Maybe God will show some of us that we can walk on water and overcome the impossible if we keep our eyes fixed on Him (Matthew 14:22-33). How wonderful would it be if the Church rediscovered the power and importance of prayer meetings like the book of Acts Church (Acts 2:1-2, Acts 4:23-24, Acts 12:5-12, Acts 16:25)? The Church can and will continue to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6) in the midst of pressure. However, when the pressure passes, let’s keep the lessons and priorities we have learned close to heart.

Don’t Settle for an iTunes Version of the Gospel

My kids inherited their daddy’s deep love for music. Unfortunately, they’re also picky and opinionated about the music we listen to on a regular basis (also something they inherited from me). My iron-fisted reign over the music played in the car is being overthrown a little more each day. Complicating things even further, my kids aren’t in total unity about which songs are “super great”. So, when they both really like a particular singer a little shred of heavenly peace fills our daily commutes.

Recently, we accidentally discovered Matthew West, a Christian solo artist. His lyrics are godly and the kids are wild about it. Julia loves Becoming Me and Talmadge thinks Amen is the anthem of the ages. After about a week straight of playing the “Anthem of the Ages” and the “Sweetest Song Ever Penned” I simply couldn’t take it anymore. It turns out, you can have too much of a good thing. So today, I gathered the kiddos around my outdated iPhone, fired up the iTunes store and started sifting through all the Matthew West songs available. Fifteen dollars bought us all a little much-needed peace and sanity.

For those that don’t know, when you’re searching for music on the iTunes store it allows you to listen to short clips of the songs before making a purchase. This had my kids up in arms. They reasoned that people can’t possibly decide if they like a song in just a few seconds. Which is kinda true. Their recommendation was to just buy every song, but Matthew West has a big musical portfolio and that was out of the question. So, we settled for doing our best to sort out which songs we truly enjoyed with limited information.

This whole process conjured up all kinds of happy memories from my childhood. Memories I happily shared with my kids. They were shocked to hear that in the good old days you couldn’t buy one song at a time and store them on your phone. They gasped at the concept of having to buy an entire CD and needed a detailed explanation of the word cassette tape. My eyes probably shined with joy telling stories of running into the Family Christian Store to buy the newest Steven Curtis Chapman album and listening to the entire thing from beginning to end. Not only would I listen to every word of every song, I’d open that slipcover and read all the lyrics, credits, and thank you’s too. Yep. Those are some of my favorite childhood memories.

Those days are long gone. The only album I’ve purchased in full in the last several years is this one – and you should too. In fact, people typically buy one song per album. Usually, it’s a song they heard on the radio and anyone with any musical taste knows the radio hit is rarely the best song on the album (told you I was musically opinionated). We miss so much great music in the age of iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and whatever the other newfangled digital platform is ascending nowadays. We bypass wonderful songs because the little five-second clip doesn’t do it justice. We totally ignore songs because they’re not on the local Christian radio charts. Charts that increasingly seem to only have about five songs in rotation.

I may be pining for the old days now but in reality, I love the convenience of not carrying 300 CD’s around in my car. Also, it’s nice having all my music available at the touch of a button. Music is much cheaper when you aren’t forced to buy the entire album. In other words, there’s no going back now. And musically speaking, maybe that’s fine.

Every cultural revolution and technological advancement has unintended (or at least corresponding) sociological consequences. For example, many people approach the Bible like an iTunes playlist. They get little biblical snippets here and there, mostly from easily accessible digital sources. They’re familiar with the top ten Bible verses, but rarely know the context or framework of their favorite scriptures. Their theology and resulting understanding of the Gospel is based on sound clips and abbreviated versions that sound great but lack depth and richness. This is evidenced by nationwide lagging attendance during midweek Bible study services. And further demonstrated by Christians who lack transformation and basic biblical knowledge. For unbelievers, they see and hear the lack of mainstream Christianity’s depth and want nothing to do with that slick, naive, cheap, polished brand of empty believe-ism.

It’s not possible to pick and choose the “highlights” or the “best of” moments of the Bible and leave the rest out. Jesus put it this way: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” Many churches are filled with sincere unsaved people who have not truly obeyed God’s Word because they unwittingly settled for an iTunes version of the Gospel. And the world is full of people who have rejected the iTunes version of the Gospel because they easily recognized it as inconsistent, indefensible, and unsatisfying. You see, cheapening the Gospel doesn’t make it more palatable, it actually renders it worthless to the world. A little fly in the perfume gives the whole bottle a bad smell (Ecclesiastes 10:1).

The saving power of the Gospel is more than mental assent, a moment of sincere belief, or an ecstatic emotional experience. Simply stated, the Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Before you can even enter into the plan of salvation you must believe that God exists and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Many people believe in the idea of God but reject Jesus. But to embrace the Gospel we first must believe that Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31, John 3:18, John 4:42).

At the heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:12-13). There is one recorded instance in the Bible where bystanders clearly asked a question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter gives the most concise biblical answer in the following verse and everyone in the early Church followed that apostolic foundation for salvation. The apostle Peter preached: “…repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” That precise formula is the only way to be birthed (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23) into the Kingdom of God.

Essentially, repentance is our spiritual death (Galatians 5:24, Romans 6:11, Galatians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:24, Romans 6:6), baptism in Jesus’ name is our spiritual burial (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12-13), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:5, Colossians 3:1, Romans 8:8-14). Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is first evidenced by supernaturally speaking in unknown (previously unlearned) tongues (languages) just as they did in the book of Acts (Mark 16:17, Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6) and every time from then on. And, baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).

After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel all the old sinful things pass away and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, He empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4). The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily. Now that’s really good news, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what it means to be transformed by the power of God.

I know that isn’t the slick version of the Gospel many people have seen on TV or heard on the radio. It doesn’t fit nicely on a bumper sticker. God didn’t design the Gospel to blend in with our overly commercialized culture. No. The Gospel is timeless, changeless, and sacred. Please don’t settle for an iTunes version of the Gospel that doesn’t save or satisfy.

Church Growth (Practical and Spiritual Insights) – Part 1

If you’re anything like me, you’re leery of church growth books and articles. I’ve read them by the dozens and most of them are either completely irrelevant for apostolic churches, full of platitudes, totally unrealistic, or so technical that you need a college degree just to wade through the formulas. It can be more discouraging than encouraging by the time you’re through. I’m writing this with that in mind.

I’ve hesitated to broach this topic for some time now because just writing about church growth can sound smug and braggadocios. I for one, do not claim to have all the answers or a magic formula that will fill every pew overnight. In fact, I don’t even think filling every empty seat overnight is truly healthy in most circumstances. If your leadership structure is too small to handle a sudden influx of hundreds of brand new spiritual babies you’ll see a lot of premature deaths. In my opinion, consistent gradual growth is the healthiest form of church growth. It gives the leadership and the congregation time to adjust when and where needed.

For the record, I don’t serve a mega church. But by the grace of God, Apostolic Tabernacle has grown in attendance by over 150% in 5 years. Our church has benefitted from a wonderful legacy and stellar stewardship from our Bishop. There was a tremendous small core of godly saints when we arrived. We’re also in a highly populated, although economically struggling, metropolitan county. In spite of those blessings, we’ve had plenty of setbacks and failures. We’ve tried things that flopped and we’ve made mistakes. We still have lots of room for improvement. That’s all part of the messiness of revival. I’m telling you this because there is no one size fits all path to church growth. Every city is different, every church is different, and every situation has nuances that must be identified before sustainable growth will take place.

Keep in mind, the average church loses about 10% of its membership on a yearly basis. Some of these are healthy losses like job transitions or college student move-aways, and some are due to spiritual backsliding and the church hoppers that we all know so well. This means that for a church to grow annually by 10% it actually needs to grow by 20%. As I’ve written in the past, Gideon had to lose some losers before the victory could be obtained. Not all losses are a bad thing, and not all gains are godly. So this article is about healthy church growth, not just temporary crowd generating activities.

After evangelizing for five years all over the US in churches of every shape and size; I’ve had the privilege of seeing almost every church paradigm imaginable. I’ve observed first-hand what to do and what not to do. Both have been instructive and helpful. I’ve tried to whittle these church growth insights down to universal truths that transcend into every apostolic church setting. Let’s get started.

You get what you preach. I love deep sermons that explore the rarely mined gems of Scripture, there’s definitely a time and place for that kind of preaching, but I’m amazed at how many churches think preaching the basics is boring. If you rarely preach the plan of salvation, you’ll rarely see people obey the plan of salvation. That goes for holiness too. If you want people to evangelize, talk about it. Talk about it a lot. I would suggest taking inventory of how often you are preaching core doctrinal subjects. Most are surprised at how rarely they actually tackle doctrinal fundamentals. Furthermore, I know the trend is to have less church, but less church means less opportunities to preach into different situations. I realize it varies from church to church, but for us, Sunday mornings tend to be evangelistic, Sunday nights are the best opportunity to preach specifically to the church, and midweek Bible Study is the time for digging deep and mining for those Scriptural gems. If the Bible tells us that people are saved by the “foolishness of preaching” (1 Corinthians 1:21) then shouldn’t we be preaching more not less? As churches have less and less church they also have less and less preaching, and sometimes almost zero teaching. Laying Scriptural admonishments aside, we live in a culture that demands options and opportunities. Shouldn’t we be giving people more service options and opportunities not less? Can you imagine a hospital only opening its doors once a week? If you rarely have church, you rarely have preaching, and for those who are trapped in the 24/7 work culture, missing their one-weekend service option can be spiritually devastating. On the opposite end of the spectrum are churches that never preach beyond the platitudes and always preach down to the lowest common denominator. They render all preaching down to spiritually anemic bullet points that leave people spiritually malnourished. There is a time for meat and a time for milk. 

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).

One man cannot do it all. Churches that think a lone pastor can and should do everything are destined for failure and pastors who think they can do it all are crazy. One person cannot be on call 24/7, preach and teach great new sermons, visit everyone, attend every event, be a financial guru, be a janitor, plan ahead, keep his family healthy (physically, spiritually, and emotionally), teach home Bible studies, cultivate relationships, manage day to day building operations, win souls, pray for the sick, maintain a personal prayer life, study, counsel with people (sometimes for hours on end), and mentor other leaders. It’s just not humanly possible or healthy. Even Jesus didn’t do all those things. Even Jesus had a leadership team of twelve. Even Jesus went away for days to pray and fast. So what’s the solution? Delegation.

Some things must be delegated to volunteers, and as soon as possible additional pastoral (and administrative) staff should be brought onto the team. Jesus demonstrated this process when he began sending his disciples out in pairs to preach and pray for the sick (Matthew 10:1-5). Quick thought, no matter how large the church, there’s never quite enough money in the budget for new ministerial assistants or support staff. Taking that leap of faith is vital. Most churches peak out because they max out their leadership’s capabilities. Ironically, one of the surest signs that a pastor is a great leader is if he can be gone for a week and everything still operates smoothly. Again, churches that refuse to add additional staff and train qualified volunteers always plateau. Period.

Many years ago Pastor Paul Mooney said something about church structure that shapes my thinking even to this day. He likened the average church leadership structure to a small table. He poured a bucket of sand onto the table and compared the sand to saints and church growth. The table easily contained the majority of the sand with only a few specks trickling off the edges. But as he continued to pour sand over the table eventually the majority of the sand began dramatically sliding off the sides onto the floor. His point was clear, the only way to sustain more growth is to build a bigger leadership table. None of this should be interpreted to mean that you should use sub-par leaders out of desperation. No. The only thing worse than maxed out leadership is toxic leadership on your ministerial or administrative team. Delegation is only effective when it is delegated to the right kind of leaders (read more on that subject here).

Be consistent. I’ve outlined the importance of consistency in leadership here. But beyond that, churches must be consistent as well. Remain consistent in the mission, purpose, culture, plan, and apostolic identity.

Insist on excellence. I’ll never understand why some churches develop the mindset that doing your best is carnal. You can’t just show up and wing it and expect God to bless your halfhearted efforts. Insist that your singers and musicians do their very best. Insist that your ministers give their very best in preparation and dedication. Insist that your teachers, greeters, and volunteers give their very best. Call people out of mediocrity. If you don’t take church seriously no one else will either. Practice, plan, prepare, and lovingly pressure people to be the best that they can be for the sake of the Kingdom. People who have grown complacent and comfortable with mediocrity will dislike you for a season until they see their own personal growth. Eventually, they will be glad that you insisted on excellence. No matter how small your congregation is you can call them to do their absolute best for the Lord.

This also means that not everyone who wants to do something should be allowed to do exactly what they want to do. For example, not everyone is musically gifted, which means that not everyone should be allowed in the music program. This can be awkward but it’s less awkward than having visitors flee from your off-key church services. Not everyone has the gift of teaching. Not everyone who wants to preach is called to preach. Not everyone who wants to decorate is gifted in decorating. The same goes for media, design, kid’s ministries, hospitality, and general leadership. Insisting on excellence means that sometimes you have to say no and redirect people towards their area of gifting. I know. I know. This is easier said than done. But it must be done or you will wallow in a sea of mediocrity that repels visitors and discourages your saints.

I’m not talking about absolute perfection. I’m talking about common sense policies. In the corporate world, they call this personnel placement. Meaning, you place people where they are best suited to be productive based on their talents. Knowing where you and others fit in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:19-25) is a biblical imperative. Paul made it clear that the hand is not better than the foot, but the body will not function correctly if the foot is trying to operate in the same capacity as the hand. 

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might… (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; (Colossians 3:17,23).

Love, equip, encourage, and care for people. People can tell if you genuinely love and care about them. There’s no replacement for this quality. Spiritual leaders who love the lost and the saints will equip them to withstand spiritual onslaughts, hardships, and teach them how to thrive spiritually. Love means more than smiling and having a good time. Real love tells the truth and confronts painful realities. If you’re struggling to truly love people, ask God to give you a new heart.

Expect a mess. In case you didn’t know, America is a post-Christian nation. Meaning that now more than ever, people are going to bring baggage with them into the church. Multiple broken marriages, addictions that you’ve never even heard of, tons of false doctrines, strange philosophies, and on and on and on. If that makes you wildly uncomfortable it’s time to reshape your perception of ministry. Imagine a hospital full of doctors and nurses that can’t stand the sight of blood; it definitely wouldn’t be a very effective environment. Churches that get all dizzy and faint-hearted at the sight of sinners have forgotten where they came from and their commission. They alienate the very people that Jesus has called them to reach. Squeamish churches will not grow. Churches that are condescending towards sinners will not grow. Churches that only welcome pristine people will never grow, nor are they godly. If it hadn’t been for a righteous man who was willing to pray for a hateful, messy, murderous, blind sinner named Saul there would be no Apostle Paul (Acts 9).

Additionally, conversion does not make all the baggage magically disappear. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8). Yes. God forgives. Yes. God removes eternal damnation after repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). But a lifetime of sowing sinful seeds will produce a painful earthly harvest for some time. Thankfully, the Fruit of the Spirit and the sowing of spiritual seed will eventually replace bad harvests with good harvests. For example, God can deliver an alcoholic from addiction in a single instant, but that doesn’t mean the broken relationships the addiction caused will be mended overnight. New seeds will slowly be planted, growth will begin, and the Fruit of the Spirit will bring about the healing. Taking this hodgepodge of analogies one step further, Jesus referred to salvation as being born again (John 3:1-8). Peter continued the metaphor by referring to new Christians as infants (1 Peter 2:2). Birth is messy. Babies are messy. Even toddlers are messy. My mother would be quick to tell you (based on my teenage years) that teenagers can be the messiest of all. Growing churches love spiritual children enough to keep cleaning the mess and raising new believers into full maturity in Christ.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Protect the platform and the pulpit. The people on your platform and in your pulpit are a reflection of the values and culture of your church. Just because someone wants to preach doesn’t mean they should be allowed to preach. Just because they want to sing and can sing doesn’t mean they should sing if they don’t reflect the biblical values and culture of an apostolic church. Earlier we were talking about standards of excellence but now we are referring to spiritual protection. You can avoid a lot of spiritual heartaches and perceived inconsistencies by keeping your platform and your pulpit carefully guarded. This is easier said than done; do it anyway. Scripture repeatedly warns us that wolves will try to invade the church and cause division (Matthew 7:16, Matthew 10:16, Acts 20:29). Be careful and use discernment. Don’t give influence to people who could be spiritually harmful to the church.

Pray. Fast. Study. Rinse. Repeat. Make prayer a priority. Maintain corporate times of prayer and fasting. Equip and engage people to maintain personal Bible study habits. All leaders are readers. Study, study, study (2 Timothy 2:15).

Preach and teach with clarity and conviction. I’m noticing as I write these thoughts that much of my focus revolves around preaching. I make no apologies for that, preaching has always been central to apostolic revival. The New Testament Church was birthed around Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost where the Holy Ghost was poured out (Acts 2). Using Peter’s sermon from Acts chapter two as an example, you’ll notice that he was completely confident in his delivery, he spoke from the head and the heart, and he spoke with clarity. In other words, he was clear and understandable. He didn’t leave any wiggle room for the hearers to squeeze in their own interpretation of what they needed to do to be saved. I hear far too much ambiguous preaching these days. Fuzzy preaching that sounds brilliant (or sometimes just incoherent) but makes it hard to pin the particulars down. This isn’t always intentional. Sometimes it comes from a desire to sound intellectual, or maybe it’s just poor communication skills, sometimes lack of preparation is the culprit, or possibly it stems from a subconscious fear of offending the hearers. In worst cases, it comes from internal doubts and disbelief. You don’t have to be a great orator. Passion, conviction, confidence, anointing, and clarity are far more valuable qualities than just being a wordsmith. Bottom line, clear preaching isn’t always the prettiest preaching but it produces apostolic results. Study thoroughly, know what you believe, say what you believe, believe what you say, and let God do the rest. Secondly, a clear distinction must be maintained between teaching and preaching. Many churches are seriously off balance in one direction or the other. They have tons of preaching and very little teaching or vice versa (this goes back to the problem of having less and less church). There really must be a balance between the two for healthy spiritual conversions and spiritual maturation to take place. Interestingly, most pastors struggle to accurately define the biblical differences between preaching and teaching. I’ve often heard people make the tongue-in-cheek statement that teaching is just preaching with less screaming. That’s funny but horribly inaccurate. Teaching should never be used as an excuse to be boring, uninspiring, or less anointed. Robert L. Waggoner gives one of the best differentiation between teaching and preaching that I have read. Waggoner writes:

“The primary meaning associated with the nature of preaching in the New Testament comes from the fact that the Greek word most frequently used to describe a preacher was that of a herald. A herald was one who announced a message, generally from the king or some other ruling authority, to those who had not heard it before. Preaching in New Testament times, therefore related primarily to announcing good news. In the New Testament, the content of that good news centered around the themes of Jesus Christ, the Word, the Gospel, and the Kingdom. On the other hand, the nature of teaching in New Testament times was primarily to explain ideas and their implications, and to exhort people to live by declared values. Whereas the message preached was the message announced, the message taught was the message explained, clarified, and applied, with exhortation to live by it. Whereas the message preached (announced) was primarily for the purpose of conversion, the message taught (explained, clarified, applied, with exhortation) was primarily for the purpose of building faith, Christian conviction and character. Essentially, preaching lays the foundation for teaching, just as an announcement lays the foundation for further comments. Both have the same message. Their points of emphasis differ. Whereas the content of preaching may be narrowly defined, the content of teaching is in broad terms.”

With this definition in mind, many churches lay a lot of good foundation with preaching but never adequately build upon it with solid teaching. This creates tons of spiritual babies that never survive into maturity. On the other hand, churches that are imbalanced on the teaching side of the equation are constantly trying to build structures on weak foundations.

Volunteers are valuable. As I mentioned earlier, there’s never going to be a big enough budget to hire the staff needed to fulfill all the needs of the church. Even large churches rely heavily on volunteers. Sunday school teachers, ushers, greeters, behind the scenes tech engineers, cleaning crews, board members, youth workers, bus drivers, outreach teams, hospitality teams, altar workers, and more are usually volunteers. They are the backbone of your church. Love, respect, appreciate, honor, lead, train, and equip them. Do not take them for granted.

Refuse to compromise on matters of biblical doctrine. Let me say that again for impact, refuse to compromise on matters of biblical doctrine. The idea that compromise always results in church growth is a huge myth that many have swallowed hook line and sinker. This often makes watering down the Word seem attractive even to preachers who actually believe in sound doctrine simply because they feel a desperation to grow. I’ve made this point in a previous article but it bears repeating, the average church (across all denominational lines) runs about 75. The vast majority of those churches consistently compromise (or likely never preached apostolic doctrine in the first place) without any numeric growth at all. Clearly, compromise and abandoning biblical foundations does not produce automatic numeric growth (even if it did it would not justify watering down the Gospel). When apostolic ministers accept that lie, whether publicly or secretly, they lead from a fixed position of insecurity. If you’re an apostolic church and you’re not growing it’s not because of your doctrine. There are probably many reasons you’re not growing, but standing for apostolic truth is not one of them.

Consider this, recent studies are showing that liberal mainline churches are in sharp decline while Pentecostal churches are still experiencing dramatic growth worldwide. This leaves researchers scratching their heads because we Pentecostals tend to be doctrinally dogmatic which is terribly politically incorrect. Biblically correct churches are outgrowing politically correct churches because they stand out as a beacon of light in a philosophically and doctrinally hazy world. To be clear, it would be better to preach the truth and stay small than to preach a lie and be damned. I would rather lead a small church to Heaven than lead a megachurch to Hell.

Know your limits. Even super-duper mega churches with deep pockets can’t do everything well. Find the things that your church is really good at (probably through a process of trial and error) and do them really well. It would be better to do a few things passionately and excellently than to do a hundred things badly. If your church isn’t exceptionally gifted in music don’t try to put on a music conference or a concert. That’s counterproductive. Find what you’re good at (and your church is good at something) and double down on it. Doing more stuff for the sake of doing more stuff is a terrible idea. Busyness for the sake of busyness is a recipe for burnout and church-wide depression. Oftentimes, less is more. Just because other churches are doing it doesn’t mean that you have to do it too. In fact, your focused efforts and unique abilities will set you apart in your community in a good way. By the way, the reason many church growth books are grossly unhelpful is because they want you to imitate every move of another numerically (although not necessarily spiritual) successful church. Unfortunately, your church may not be gifted or motivated in the same ways by the same things. You must identify your localized abilities and focus on them with laser-like intensity.

Trim the fat. Once you’ve found what your church is really good at and what it’s really bad at its time to trim the fat off the “sacred cows”. You’re going to be met with a lot of resistance at this point. You’re going to hear a lot of things like, “But that other Church does this and we should too” or “But we’ve always had this program” or “But everyone else is doing it this way or that way.” Stand firm, once you start doing things just to do things you will lose purpose, passion, and perspective. Cut out time-consuming, cumbersome, unproductive, expensive, and counterproductive programs as quickly as possible. To review, it’s better to be known for doing a few things really well than for doing tons of stuff really poorly.

Don’t be a seeker-friendly church. Be a God friendly church. Remember, God is the Lord of the harvest (Matthew 9:38), and He alone gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be friendly to seekers (you absolutely must be friendly), but the term “seeker friendly” has become synonymous with churches that try to create a generic and culturally acceptable worship environment. Again, if we use the book of Acts as our model, we find that the Church was anything but generic. The apostles spoke boldly into hostile and conflicting cultures with their primary concern being to please the Lord, not people. If God gives the true harvest than being a God-pleasing church should be our main concern. Churches that are more interested in pleasing people than God attract crowds and nothing more. Churches that are more concerned with crowds than the Gospel throw Super Bowl parties and churches that love the Gospel throw Holy Ghost parties. That’s a generalization, but the point is valid. A crowd does not make a church, but a book of Acts church will attract a crowd. When God starts moving, people in a cold world will be attracted to the warmth of the fire.

Promote praise and worship. I have explained the often overlooked differences between praise and worship here. God dwells among the praises of his people (Psalms 22:3). Praise sets the tone and the right atmosphere of faith for preaching to be most impactful. Praise drives away dark spirits (1 Samuel 16:23) and turns mourning into dancing (Psalms 30:11). Praise gets our flesh out of the way making room for the moving of the Holy Spirit. If you want revival you must promote and cultivate a worshipful church environment. Like it or not, you can gauge the spiritual temperature of a church by its praise and worship. Outward praise is not a replacement for spiritual depth, but you cannot claim to have spiritual depth without outward manifestations of praise. A church that refuses to be demonstrative in praise is in direct violation of countless passages of Scripture (Romans 15:11, Psalms 22:23, Psalms 33:1, Psalms 66:8, Psalms 67:3, Psalms 98:4, Psalms 100:4, Psalms 102:18).

Define revival. As Rev. Wayne Huntley often explains, many churches confuse revival with evangelism. The root word of revival is “revive” meaning to bring back to life or to infuse with fresh strength. You can’t revive something that has never been alive. Revival is for the saints and evangelism is for the world. A church that is not constantly being revived will not grow. A dead church cannot give birth. Having said that, evangelism is something altogether different. Evangelism reaches beyond the walls of the church house into the lives of those who are lost. The distinction between revival and evangelism is important because what revives the church does not always produce evangelism. Evangelism does little to no good without a revived (alive) church.

Revival and evangelism must be approached as two distinct processes that are connected but unique. Otherwise, a church will fall into the trap of having revival without evangelism or vice versa. I’ve preached in many churches over the years that settled for having terrific revival but never evangelizing. They needed to learn that being revived over and over again is not the same as reaching out to the lost.

Let me address an elephant in the room that is seldom mentioned; many churches love revival but they dislike evangelism. Sadly, many congregations grow very comfortable with their crowd of friends and they become content to just have good church and leave their community unchanged. This is a direct violation of the Church’s mandate to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Every church needs to be taught that revival must overflow from our church services into spontaneous bursts of community evangelism, which leads nicely to the next point.

Live evangelism. Often, churches relegate evangelism to group events like door knocking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 110% for door knocking and passing out flyers and water bottles at the park on a hot summer day. All great stuff, but if that’s the extent of your church’s outreach efforts your church is either dead or dying. Evangelism is a daily lifestyle, not a weekly or monthly program. Every growing church has one thing in common, saints who organically invite and encourage others to visit their church on a regular basis. This organic church-wide evangelism is not limited to friends and family members but includes strangers and acquaintances. Growing churches live evangelism as a constant lifestyle everywhere they go.

Have a long-term vision and short-term goals. I’ve laid out the case for yearly preaching plans here. My thinking has drastically evolved concerning church planning over the last several years. I used to disdain the idea of being overly planned because I felt that it hindered spontaneity and the flow of the Spirit. Nothing could be further from the truth. God honors planning. God knows the future and He can give us direction a year in advance just as easily as He can give us direction ten minutes in advance. Every church regardless of size should have an annual planning session mapping out a schedule for the upcoming year. That calendar should be neatly printed and made readily available to the entire church. This keeps ministries and activities from overlapping. It gives each ministry an opportunity to suggest strategies and develop a game plan. It promotes unity and creates general awareness. Obviously, there must be a level of flexibility throughout the year in scheduling and things will be tweaked and changed as needed, but every ministry and department will operate best within the structure of yearly preplanning.

Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). That word quench in the Greek literally means to “extinguish” or “to go out”. In its normal context, the word was used to describe putting out sparks, fires, or flames. Many churches either intentionally or unintentionally quench the moving of the Spirit. If you read the context of the passage you will notice the next verse admonishes the church to “despise not prophesyings (1 Thessalonians 5:20)”. Spite towards spiritual things automatically hinders the Spirit. Churches that develop a top-down aversion to preaching, prophecy, the gifts of the Spirit, praise, prayer, and holiness are perverted vessels that put out revival fires. Some churches love prophecy but they despise praise. Some churches love preaching but they disdain the operation of the gifts of the Spirit. Some churches love outward holiness but they dislike the very sinners that the Church is mandated to reach. These imbalances hinder the Spirit and create dangerous droughts. Learning to be sensitive and responsive to the moving of the Spirit is paramount in terms of church growth. A spiritually tone-deaf pastor will stick to the program even when the Spirit is flowing in another direction. A spiritually insensitive preacher will miss windows of opportunity when and where the Spirit is trying to flow. While I affirm that we must do all things “…decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40)” it is always orderly to abstain from quenching the Spirit’s flow.

Deal with sin quickly, mercifully, and decisively (1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15, Galatians 6:1, James 5:19-20). Sadly, sin is going to infiltrate the lives of even the most trusted of saints from time to time. Even worse, it’s possible that trusted leaders in your church will fall into sin. It can be tempting to procrastinate addressing the issue at hand. Don’t do it. The festering will grow worse and leave a wake of destruction in its path. Make the necessary adjustments and corrections as quickly as possible. Take decisive and integrity-laden steps of action. And above all, be merciful and restoration-minded when and where possible. If you publicly oppose sin but privately tolerate sin among the core of your church or within the leadership structure over time the entire foundation of the local church will be weakened. If sin within a church is left unchecked for a long enough period of time it will replicate and spread like cancer until a church is no longer a church; just a collection of backslidden posers.

Have a guest follow-up ministry. As I peruse over what I’ve written so far, I’m realizing that the vast majority of these points are mindset oriented. They are mostly spiritual principles. But for those of you who are technique-minded, you will appreciate this point. Guest follow-up is a technical imperative for church growth. Yet, I am amazed by how many churches either have zero guest follow-up or very insufficient guest follow-up. To put things in perspective, if someone goes through all the trouble of getting ready and driving out to your church to visit they are the most likely converts in your proximity. I’ll double down on this point, if someone pointed a gun to your head (silly hypothetical) and forced you to choose between having a guest follow-up ministry or a neighborhood outreach ministry, you should choose guest follow-up. Studies have shown over and over again that a church is far more likely to get someone to come back than they are to convince someone to visit for the first time sight unseen. For the record, I absolutely believe that churches should be using every means of evangelism possible.

There are gobs of ideas out there about the best way to do a guest follow-up ministry. By the way, I prefer the word guest over visitor because the word visitor has a temporary connotation while the word guest is more welcoming and permanent sounding. Regardless, here are a few basics of guest follow-up. One, have some kind of welcoming area with a stationed greeter (preferably a very friendly and warm person) who is equipped with guest information cards. Two, the greeter’s goal is to make guests feel welcome, answer all of their questions, and acquire the guest’s contact information. Three, a letter from the pastor should be mailed or emailed to all guests within the following week. Four, a quick personal phone call or text (some people prefer this) from an actual human being should be initiated. Five, add them to a mailing list so they can be invited to all major events and activities throughout the year (unless they request to be removed from the mailing list). Those are the very basics. Many churches do personal visits. I did this in my early days of ministry but found that people were a little creeped out by having someone randomly show up at their house (maybe it was just me). Some churches with big budgets send a gift basket with all kinds of logo-covered goodies and edible treats. I think that’s great if you can afford it but unnecessary. However, I do suggest three things if your budget allows: 1) provide all your visitors with a very nice looking (professionally printed) brochure complete with information about beliefs, programs, media, service times, and ministries, 2) give away nice but inexpensive pens with the church logo and website emblazoned on it (people will use pens forever and it will serve as a gentle reminder of your church), 3) give away refrigerator magnets that contain your church contact info (people love fridge magnets and they will use them). This may seem like a lot of trouble but it will reap immeasurable benefits.

One last thought regarding this point (and this just might be the most helpful thought in this whole article), tell guests that you want them to become a part of your church. I mean, literally say those words to them out loud. Don’t just assume that they know how you feel because of your friendliness. Don’t say, “I really hope you visit again” as if they will always be an outsider trying to get into the club. Say, “I’m really hoping that you’ll make this your home church and become a part of what God is doing here”. One is exclusive and one is inclusive. Tell them they are wanted and mean it from the bottom of your heart.

Be a self-aware church. Over time it’s easy to lose perspective and awareness of how we are coming across to our guests and to our communities. Individuals can do it and churches can do it as well. For example, just because we think we are a friendly church (I’ve never been to a church that didn’t think it was crazy friendly) doesn’t mean that we are actually a friendly church. Be friendly, don’t just act friendly. Meaning, many churches become proficient at going through the motions of “friendliness” without truly having a caring or loving desire to know and help people, and they don’t have the self-awareness needed to even realize what has happened. But people can quickly spot all the things that we’ve gradually grown accustomed to in our comfortable surroundings.

In many ways, it’s similar to how I feel when people visit my home. My home doesn’t seem dirty, messy, or disorganized until guests show up, and then I start noticing every flaw and imperfection. The difference between church and our homes is that most folks rarely have guests in their homes, but we constantly have guests in our churches. Make a conscious effort to look at your church like you do your house when you know that company is coming. If nothing else, keep the platform and altar area clean, organized, clutter-free, and pleasant. Why? Because the platform and altar area is where people’s attention will be focused 99% of the time. Do your best to “awkward-proof” your platform as much as possible. Meaning, avoid tripping hazards, weird set-ups where singers are practically on top of ministers who are seated, chairs that make strange noises (funny story goes with this tip), busy seating arrangements that people have to weave around like a maze, bad lighting, exposed tangled wires, decorative arrangements that are easily bumped or fall with little provoking, and odd instrument and musician placements that conflict with the overall environment.

Being self-aware also means that we realize that unchurched people often don’t understand expressions and words that are common to us. No. I’m not one of those guys who wants to dumb down our preaching or secularize our expressions, but I do think we should pause often and explain to guests what we’re talking about. Yes, sir. That’s just common courtesy and good manners. We know exactly what we mean by God is going to “split the eastern sky wide open” but a guest just hears a weird, scary sounding phrase. Self-aware churches do a lot of patient explaining.

Along those same lines, if you announce that everyone who wants to be a part of “such and such” needs to talk to “so and so” without visibly showing them who “so and so” is, every one of your guests and newer saints is going to feel completely lost and excluded. Self-aware churches do lots of introducing people to people.

Utilize the power of social media and online presence. I’ve written many times about the dangers and pitfalls of social media (here, here, and here). However, it’s simply irresponsible when a church fails to harness this powerful outreach tool. Our church reaches over fifty thousand people each month via iTunes and podcast, and much more than that through our online presence. The vast majority of people in your community will check out your church online before making a decision to visit. Very few people show up without doing a little research these days. If possible, set up a podcast where people can listen to your lessons and sermons. Have a website, it doesn’t have to be state of the art but it needs to be updated (don’t have announcements posted for things that have already happened) and very informative. There’s no such thing as too much information. Tell them about your church, what to expect, what you believe, all about your vision, your ministries, your leadership (many church sites make it challenging to even figure out their pastor’s name), your service times, and your location. Link your site to various social media sites and utilize them to the best of your ability. Ideally, someone trustworthy and tech-savvy should be shepherding this ministry (and it is a ministry).

Don’t be ashamed of your apostolic identity (Romans 1:16, Luke 9:26). Hollywood isn’t ashamed of their spectacle. In fact, the world has never been prouder in spite of the chaos that it’s in. Do not be ashamed of the name of Jesus, holiness, Apostolic doctrine, the moving of the Spirit, exuberant praise, passionate preaching, or our Pentecostal heritage.

Beware of the Grasshopper Complex (Numbers 13:26-33). Remember the ten spies who gave an “evil report (Numbers 13:32)”? They said that they could not take the Promised Land. Mostly because they had spotted intimidating giants. They famously whined, “…we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in theirs (Numbers 13:33)”. They were suffering from an Inferiority Complex. They were so impressed and oppressed by the perceived strength of their enemy that they lost faith and paralysis took control. Many churches suffer from a Grasshopper Complex. They see thriving false churches, encroaching evil from every side, political pressure, cultural decay, obstacles that seem insurmountable, and they are frozen in fear. This is fundamentally a faith problem. Here’s the deal with giants; the bigger they are the easier it is to hit them with a slingshot. Okay. I know that sounds flippant and sometimes the battle is extremely intense. But in the end, we either trust God for the victory or we don’t.

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Fire Then Rain

For me personally there is probably no passage of Scripture that has given more inspiration to me than the epic story of Elijah calling down fire from Heaven on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:36-39). It’s inspirational on many levels because it shows how one person of faith can change the course of a nation. It shows that we are not alone even when we think that we’re alone. It shows that God works all things together for good to those that love and trust Him. It shows that evil does not have to prevail. It shows that you don’t have to be in the majority to win if God is on your side. It demonstrates that God is all powerful and willing to reveal His glory when the time is right. And beyond all of that it’s just an awesome story. Who among us would not want to witness God putting the skeptics to shame with an outpouring of fire? In fact, it’s easy to get so focused on the falling fire that we forget they still needed rain even after they experienced the fire.

Elijah lived and prophesied in dark days. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had ushered in an era of idolatry. It seemed that everyone was a backslider in Elijah’s early years of ministry. Jezebel was a murderous queen who introduced Israel to a brand of sensual religious paganism. Evil was rampant in the kingdom. The culture buckled under the pressure of compromise and lasciviousness. Good and decent people were forced into hiding, godly people became the outcasts of their society simply because they would not conform to popular culture. Babies and children were the most vulnerable in the culture that Jezebel shaped because they were offered as living sacrifices to the pagan god known as Baal. If all of this sounds familiar it’s probably because I could just as easily be describing today’s culture where good is called evil and evil is called good, where righteousness is considered stupid and sensuality is the norm, where false religion is prevalent but true religion is scarce, where compromise is cool and steadfastness is underrated, and over 55 million defenseless babies have been murdered since Roe vs. Wade (watch this powerful pro-life video if you dare). It is the single most atrocious genocide in the history of mankind, and yet they sip their wine and eat their salads completely undisturbed. What have we become as a nation? What will we become without revival? How much longer will God allow mercy to hold back the hand judgment? And yet, as bad as things are now it was just as bad in Elijah’s day.

In a moment of exasperation, Elijah prayed for God to withhold the rain and for three and a half years not one drop of rain fell to the ground. It was a brutal famine. People were desperate for life-giving rain. They were perishing slowly but surely. Yet, Elijah remained sensitive to the voice of the Lord and he realized that there needed to be an outpouring of fire before there could be an outpouring of rain. The fire represented death the rain represented life; Elijah understood that you can’t have new life until you put the old life to death. This generation will not have an outpouring of rain until we first have an outpouring of fire.

And so I echo the words of Elijah, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him (1 Kings 18:21).” You can’t serve God and the world at the same time. You can’t gain new life and keep your old life at the same time. If we ever want to see a deluge of the Holy Ghost than we must first experience the purging of the falling fire. But Ryan you’re stuck in the Old Testament. Let me take you to the New Testament:

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).

So how do you get the fire to fall? First, you’ve got to get yourself to an altar. Second, you’ve got to be willing to sacrifice. Third, you’ve got to pray and then pray some more. And then just step back and watch God do His thing! We would have more rain if we would be willing to experience the fire. There are too many Christians who want rain, but they don’t want fire because fire takes sacrifice. Fire takes consecration. Fire takes perseverance. Fire takes dedication. Fire takes courage. Fire takes prayer and more prayer. Fire takes confrontation. Fire will not fall if we’re just doing business as usual. Fire will not fall if we’re just going through the motions. Fire will not fall while the altar is in disrepair. But there is a spiritual famine in our society today that is so prevalent that it cannot be ignored any longer. And if the Church will not call down the fire the rain will not fall.

The Holy Spirit is powerful and it moves in mysterious ways. Anyone who tells you they fully understand every interworking of the Holy Ghost is either a liar or extremely foolish. But I can tell you that the Holy Spirit manifests itself in many different ways. It convicts us and yet it saves us to the uttermost. It brings joy and consternation. It reveals our weakness and empowers us at the same time. Sometimes it falls like a gentle shower and sometimes it burns like a holy flame. It heals and it makes whole. It breaks us and reshapes us. It molds us and makes us better than we were before. It fills us and surrounds us, and it goes before us. When the Holy Ghost falls like rain it brings growth just like physical rain brings growth to the natural world. In the natural rain brings strength, refreshing, and cleansing and so it is in the Spirit as well. Our culture desperately needs the Spirit to fall like rain. But remember, the way God operates is fire first, then rain. When the Holy Ghost falls like fire it purifies.

For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness (Malachi 3:2-3).

You can’t get to the rain until you go through the purification process. However, you can’t offer a bull as Elijah did on Mount Caramel. No. We must present ourselves to God on the altar of sacrifice. When we give ourselves wholly and completely to Him the Holy Ghost will fall like a refiner’s fire.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain… (1 Kings 18:45).