Religious CostumeOne thing I’ve learned in ministry over the years is that pastors want to be liked. Some want to be liked so badly that they’re willing to become something they’re not. When that happens they began mimicking other leaders and projecting an image that is not at all who God’s called them to be. Even when the disguise works, the person people fall in love with is not actually the person standing in front of them.

Trying to be something you’re not is the classic definition of a hypocrite, “one who wears a mask.” Unfortunately, our fallen culture loves costumes. We always have; it’s the human condition. Since we were kids we’ve been taught to “dress up.” Just turn on the television or scroll social media for a few minutes; there are a lot of people wearing masks. It’s all fun and games until the costumes make their way into the pulpit… and they do.

All of us have worn a mask at some point or another, especially those times when we don’t feel like facing the crowd. It’s a way to escape. Costumes help us get away, even if only for a few hours. I’m convinced the reason some people prefer masks is because they’re uncomfortable in their own skin. Nonetheless, when someone uncomfortable with him or herself begins to force others to wear costumes, we end up with a disingenuous system rooted in hypocrisy.

People love to insert themselves into other people’s lives. Actually, that’s a Christian concept; if it were always for good the world would be an amazing place to live. However, because of humanity’s fallen nature, it’s usually not for good… and that’s never good. So, even decent people end up wearing masks, not always to put on a show, but sometimes just to get by.

I’ve learned, especially as a pastor, that too often people love us because of what we do and not because of who we are. Let me repeat that, pastors are often loved because of what they do, not because of who they are. This is a real tragedy for the church. In fact, there are fewer and fewer qualified pastors today because of the heavy yokes that congregations put around their necks.

It’s bad enough to have to sift through all the costumes people wear in the world. It’s even worse to sort through them in the church. More saddening is the fact that many pastors are forced into “dress up” mode because of the hypocrisy of the people in the pews. Hypocrisy breeding hypocrisy… This cycle creates pastors living in disguise who can’t actually lead because the people they’re trying to lead won’t let them. It’s the ultimate costume party, week in and week out.

This cycle of powerless Christianity, which in my estimation is the biggest oxymoron in existence, is killing many local churches. Let me repeat that, it’s KILLING local churches. I can’t begin to count how many young, passionate, vision-filled, anointed pastors I see either walk away from ministry or become a slave to the religious system of an overly dogmatic congregation.

They’re forced to fit in, but have no power. They’re forced to wear the garb and learn the lingo, but have no power. They read the books, but have no power. They go to the conferences, but have no power. They say they’re called to preach, but have no power. They have no power because the people they’re called to serve won’t let them walk in the anointing of God in their life. Congregational leaders need to seriously think about this because, in fact, they’re quenching the Holy Spirit in the local church and squeezing the life out of their pastors by demanding their preferences take precedence.

Please hear me, unless pastors and congregations rediscover their purpose and learn to abide in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they’ll keep spinning their wheels. They’ll continue with their weekly stage shows and costume parties, but they’ll remain powerless as it pertains to being the hands and feet of Jesus in their communities. They will never see revival unless they change.

In the past three years, I’ve worked with over fifty church boards who are either searching for a new pastor or reviewing the one they currently have. In these conversations, I’ve picked up on a common theme. While we know there is always room for improvement, too often pastors are viewed in light of the performance of past leaders and/or the personal preferences of the congregation, especially members with deep pockets.

I’ve watched numerous young leaders enter ministry with passion to serve their congregations and reach their communities, only to be stifled by the spirit of religious hypocrisy within the first few years. These leaders start out wanting to make a real difference, and within a short time, they are so discouraged they either want to move or get out of ministry altogether.

For those in the local church reading this, I’d ask you to consider letting your pastor be the person God’s called him/her to be. Please stop putting unnecessary burdens on his/her shoulders. You’re strangling the life out of young leaders, killing the local church, and creating a void in qualified pastoral leadership.

I’ve heard it all as I’ve worked with church boards: “The pastor… likes contemporary music; we only sing hymns,” “…uses PowerPoint; it’s a distraction,” “…wears blue jeans in the pulpit,” “…doesn’t wear a dress,” “…won’t wear a tie,” “…wears a clerical collar,” “…rearranged the stage,” “…brought in the drums,” “…focuses too much on outreach,” “…painted the teen room without permission,” “…spends too much time with people who don’t attend here.” These are all actual statements I’ve heard in the past few years. None of them are essential in reaching people for Jesus.

This type of ongoing disparagement is what causes a pastor to either leave a church or become something they’re not. If a pastor leaves a ministry assignment after a few years, it’s often a sign that the congregation is difficult to work with. If they become something their not, it means they’ve been forced into a mode of hypocrisy and aren’t functioning in the anointing of God on their life. Neither scenario fairs well for the life of the local church.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes pastoral transitions happen after a short time for legitimate reasons. Some pastors have an uncanny knack for getting a lot done in a short season, and God calls him/her to a new assignment after only a few years. This principle can be identified in scripture; however, it’s not an excuse to move every time the going gets tough. Sometimes we all miss it. Sometimes congregations call a pastor and it isn’t the right fit. Sometimes a pastor needs to move so badly that they answer a call to a new assignment for the wrong reasons.

I’m also convinced that not everyone who says they’re called to ministry actually is. If someone claims to be “called to preach,” yet they’re a terrible speaker and hate to study, maybe they have a desire to do something they’re not gifted to do. If someone says they’re called to ministry, yet everywhere they go ends up a broken mess, they may want to reconsider what God’s really called them to do. If there’s never any fruit, maybe they’d better serve the church as an associate pastor, missionary, professor, or in some other capacity.

On the other hand, for local churches, if you have a reputation calling a new pastor every few years, you may want to assess the spiritual health of your church. If you’ve been through four or more pastoral transitions in the last decade, not changed anything about your approach to reaching the community, and remained in constant decline, you probably need to have a season of serious reflection pertaining to the purpose of your existence. Stop doing things the way you’ve always done it… It’s not working!

Pastors, stop trying to be something your not, whether forced or chosen. Lose the messiah complex. If your idea of ministry is to arrive at a church and tell them everything they’ve been doing wrong for twenty years, you’re arrogant. Listen to their story, learn what they’re passionate about, love them unconditionally (you know, like Jesus), and then lead them to greener pastures. I assure you, until you listen to them, learn their story, and love them, they’ll never let you lead them.

Congregations, stop trying to force pastors to be something they’re not. This negative cycle needs to end. Stop imposing your petty preferences on your pastors. Let them be who they are. If you love your pastor based on whether or not they dress a certain way or prefer a certain style of music, actually, you don’t really love them at all. You love what you think they ought to be.

Pastor, you’ll never function in the anointing of the Holy Spirit until you learn to balance who God’s called you to be in light of where He’s called you to serve. Congregation, if you’ve called a pastor to your church and you believe God directed the process, believe me, they’re just as anointed in blue jeans and an untucked shirt as they are a necktie and a three-piece suit.

This is a call to pastors and local church leaders to focus on what really matters. Let’s seek the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Let’s gather for more times of corporate prayer intentionally crying out to God for revival. Let’s pray for transformed lives. Let’s give more toward planting new churches and reaching more people. Let’s get involved in missions in our local communities and around the world. Let’s be relentless about advancing the cause of Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission. It’s time to stop complaining and start serving.

Congregations, stop forcing pastors to wear costumes by imposing your preferences on them. Pastors, stop imposing your ministry philosophies on congregations until you’ve first learned to love them for who they are. Let’s end the forced religious hypocrisy. Let’s stop demanding things stay the way they are because honestly, the “way things are” simply isn’t working. We can all do better.

Prayer of Adoration

Father, we humble ourselves before you today in the name of Jesus. We praise you because you’re worthy of all glory and honor. You’re a good Father. You’re a God who makes all things possible. You make miraculous promises that always flow from your goodness and grace. We praise you, Father, because you provide love, joy, and peace that surpasses our ability to comprehend.

Father, we praise you that you’ve made us citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are not of this world. You promise a life ruled by a King who loves and cares for every person, everywhere, all the time. Your love is so expansive, beyond our ability to grasp. We adore you, Father.

We praise you that you’re faithful in fulfilling all of your promises. We praise you, God, that you have the power to ensure that not one word of your promises ever fails to accomplish your purposes. We praise you that even when we frustrate your intentions toward us with our sin, distractions, and waywardness, that you love us anyway. You love us so much that you cause all things to work together for good for those who love you and are called according to your purposes (Rom. 8:28).

We praise you for Jesus; He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. He is Emmanuel, God with Us. We praise you that we can have complete confidence in your promises through Christ, including the promise that one day we will see our Lord face-to-face in all His glory.

We praise you, Father, that Jesus is our everything and our all. He is the Rose of Sharon, the Lilly of the Valley, the Bright Morning Star, and the Fairest of Ten Thousand to My Soul. Jesus is the Righteous Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, and the Second Person of the Trinity enthroned in eternity.

We adore Jesus. He is the Great “I AM.” Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door to the Sheepfold, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the only True Vine. We praise you, Father, that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the One who was, and who is, and who is to come.

We praise you, Father, that Jesus came down from Heaven on the first Advent, lived His life fully human, yet fully divine. He was tempted in every way just as we are; yet lived a sinless life and paid a debt on the cross that we were unable to pay. He took the sin of the entire world upon Himself.

We praise your holy name, Father, that the veil was torn from top to bottom. Direct access has been granted. We can come boldly before the throne of grace and obtain mercy, and discover grace to help in our times of need, which is continually (Heb. 4:16). We glorify you, Father, that on the third day Jesus rose from the grave, He ascended to heaven, and continues to make intercession for us even now. We eagerly anticipate the second Advent of Jesus and we honor you in advance for the eternal reign of His Kingdom.

We praise you, Father, that though we like sheep have gone astray, rejected your plan for our lives, and refused to give thanks for your provision, you’ve promised us an eternity under your perfect rule where justice and mercy will reign forever. We praise you that we are promised the hope of an eternal destiny where we will abide in the manifest glory and presence of Jesus forever.

We praise you, God, that you’ve done everything necessary for the promises of your Word to come to fulfillment in tangible ways in our lives. We praise you that you’ve sent Jesus to seal the covenant of your promises in His own blood, so that we may have confidence that, though our sins are scarlet, you will wash them white as snow.

Father, we praise you for the presence of the Holy Spirit. We praise you for the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit as they manifest themselves in and through our lives. We thank you that the Holy Spirit still sanctifies and instructs us toward a life of holiness. We praise you, Father, that every blessing we receive from your hand stems from the overflow of your grace and goodness as displayed in the life of Jesus and made known to us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God!

We pray all these things in the most holy and precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and for His eternal glory.

Amen.

Jake & Emily.png

My heart is full! After gathering with the pastors and spouses from across the Kentucky District for our annual ministry retreat, I’m overflowing. The Lord made Himself known to us as we prayed, worshipped, and was ministered to through God’s Word. It really was an inspiring time of spiritual revitalization.

I’ve heard back from several pastors expressing a deep sense of renewal since our time together. I am very grateful when we are able to come together for times that’s been set apart to meet with Jesus. We always leave better than when we came. To walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit we must seek intentional times of Sabbath. It’s not an option; it’s a command.

I am also thankful for Rev. Tim and Jamie Kellerman, and Rev. Terry and Melissa Wright for making this time together very meaningful. These ministers led our retreat and were very sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God!


Walking Out.jpgThe day after I left the retreat we celebrated our son, Jake, joining Emily Elizabeth Monterroso, as they united in marriage. It was a beautiful gathering of family and friends. Once again, God made Himself known. Dr. Gustavo Crocker, General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, performed the ceremony (he is Emily’s uncle). He did a wonderful job describing the significance of the covenant made between a man and a woman as they unite in Holy Matrimony.

It was an honor to be Jake’s best man. I was nineteen when he was born, too young to have a kid, yet ready to be the very best dad I could be. Today, I can honestly say that Jake is my closest friend. He has taught me more about myself than anyone I know. He’s helped me become more patient and understanding. I’m a better man today because of my son.

Saturday, October 72017, marked the beginning of something new for the Powell family. We didn’t lose a son; we gained a daughter in Emily Elizabeth. Not only did we gain a daughter, we united with another family: the Monterroso’s.

During the ceremony, Dr. Crocker pointed out that four unique cultures were merging: a North Carolina culture (Powell family), a Hispanic culture (Monterroso family), a northern Kentucky culture (Kimberly Monterroso’s family), and an Asian culture (our two adopted daughters, Kacey Xing-Yu & Lilah Shu-Nu).

He also spoke of how marriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of civilization. In fact, the first thing God did when He created mankind was performed a wedding ceremony: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Dr. Crocker elaborated on Jesus’ first miracle at Cana of Galilee when the Lord Himself was a guest at a wedding celebration. At that gathering, Jesus turned water into wine after the host ran out. He illustrated that when a couple first gets married the “wine” of attraction, romance, excitement, etc. is overflowing. Then, after some time, we tend to “run out of wine.” However, if we keep our commitment and invite Jesus into the marriage He will produce “better wine” as we grow old together. In fact, when we are faithful, the best comes last.

As I interacted with everyone at the wedding the Lord reminded me of how much we need one another. We need each other more than we’re willing to admit. We need our families, and it’s a blessing when they grow. We need old friends and new ones. We all need the connection that comes through genuine relationships.

We really are better together, and the more the merrier.

Today I thank God for my new extended family: the Monterroso’s. I thank God for my North Carolina family. I thank God for my Kentucky District family. I thank God for my wife and kids. I thank God for the connections He’s allowed me to make throughout my life, and the ones I’m making now.

I’m reminded of the words of the Ecclesiastes writer:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Spirit of the AgeThe “world” is a spirit or a force that opposes, attacks, and outright rejects the Spirit of Christ. Don’t be fooled by the spirit of this present age, it’s not good. In fact, Scripture teaches that the spirit of the world is antichrist: “Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:3).

When a society becomes addicted to comfort and consumed by wealth, it enters into a state of self-indulgence where its citizens are overcome with the spirit of the world: pride, lust, greed, vanity, violence and the likes. The current condition of America affirms the truth of Jesus’ words, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).

When feeding the flesh becomes the primary ambition of a given society, individualism replaces any real sense of community. In this state, God is essentially forgotten. This is what’s happening in America right now.

Our corporate conscience is seared. We are desensitized. Nothing’s shocking. Bloodshed doesn’t faze us. We live with a sense of entitlement. We don’t believe in boundaries. Nothing’s off limits. We demand privilege. We fight over politics as if we can legislate righteousness. We offer shallow condolences and “prayers” in light of tragedies like the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, the worst in our nation’s history, yet after a few days life goes on as usual.

We have everything we need; we actually have a lot more than we need. In our attempts to gain the world I’m afraid we’re losing our soul (Matthew 16:26). Evidence of this is an increasing lack of satisfaction. We medicate our emptiness with drugs, alcohol, porn, shopping, gambling, sex, cutting, overeating, television, video games, work, and various other addictive behaviors. Looking for fulfillment, we become ever more empty. Some end up so empty that their last resort is sitting in a hotel room with an automatic machine gun opening fire on people before taking their own life.

In all of our alleged enlightenment, the fabric of American society is being stripped away. The spirit of the world is deceiving the masses. Our insensitivity to sin and unwillingness to confront it has left us near reprobate. We believe if we pass the right laws that “love” will become the chief expression of the human heart. We think we can end systemic evil with never-ending conversations about human rights. We believe fighting for social justice will bring real change in people’s hearts. We’re delusional.

It’s impossible to legislate depravity. Sin is the condition of the human heart, and it’s a spiritual condition. Outside of leading people to a personal life-transforming relationship with Jesus, there is no hope. No amount of dialogue, reasoning, legislation, protesting, or social justice will ever eradicate the sin that feeds on the spirit of this present age. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be involved in these things, it’s only to point out that they don’t offer a solution to the sin problem.

There’s only one answer, and we don’t like to talk about Him very much anymore. In fact, we’ve all but kicked Him out of the country. We’ve disguised self-righteousness with political correctness and made it near impossible to invoke the name of Jesus in the public square.

Conservatives think if they create wealth and economic growth then everyone will be happy because money makes people happy, right? Wrong. Liberals live under the illusion of legislating a sense of equality because passing the right laws will erase the lines that divide us and bring peace, right? Wrong. Neither of these imaginary utopias can remedy the problems of our nation.

In fact, the current Republican Party is so far removed from conservative values that many have labeled them the “new liberals.” And the Democrats are nothing more than social elitists who don’t even speak the language of common people anymore. They’re socialists at best and communists at worst.

Without a deep sense of repentance all of our marching, protesting, propagating, tweeting, posting, politicizing, and debating is waste of time. We can create imaginary enemies all day long, but the real enemy isn’t flesh and blood. Remember, Lucifer was also a social justice warrior fighting for his rights in the heavenlies.

The power of the Kingdom comes in the form of a person. Yet, in America, we’re forced to pray publically without citing His name. Even in times of tragedy, we play the political-correct card because we don’t want to upset those who practice other religions. Think about that, we claim to worship the One who is the way, the truth, and the life, yet we’re afraid to invoke His name in the presence of those who bow down to idols, demons, and false gods.

As long as the spirit of this present age continues to gain ground our words, condolences, and prayers mean nothing. If they aren’t directed to the One who holds the keys to life then they’re vanishing in the air as soon as they leave our lips. We know the truth, yet because of the hostility of this age, we’re afraid to speak.

Beyond the social and political spheres, the spirit of antichrist has also invaded the ranks of the church. By and large, the progressives within the church align with the liberal political agenda of the day and call it the gospel, and the conservatives do the same with the Republican platform. No political party will ever change the spiritual climate of this nation, that’s the church’s job.

Revival is our only hope: A Great Awakening. An authentic move of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that’s going to heal our land. Until we become courageous enough to look the world in the face and proclaim: “Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life, and nothing changes until we turn back to Him,” our dilemma will only worsen.

Make no mistake, the spirit of the age steers the ship that is the United States of America. Revival is the only hope for a better tomorrow. Let’s unite, humble ourselves, and pray for the Lord of all Creation to heal our land.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Social Media MisunderstandingsNavigating the digital landscape can be challenging. At some point, we’ve all said something that wasn’t received the way it was intended. The digital world seems to magnify these unintentional missteps. Social media, while beneficial, undoubtedly leaves a void as it pertains to authentic relational connections. I’m convinced that it’s nearly impossible to really “get to know” someone on a digital platform. I think most of us would agree that until we can sit down, look a person in the eye, and hear his or her heart, it’s really difficult to say we actually “know” them. Many times someone has said, “I see you’re friends with ‘so and so’ on Facebook, how do you know them?” Then I have to explain that ‘so and so’ and I are only connected on social media, and that I don’t actually know them personally.

Undoubtedly, communication that lacks relational equity will more often be misunderstood than relationships that exist in the “real world.” Developing relational equity happens when we invest in people over a period of time. It is very difficult to cultivate a deep sense of respect in a relationship that lacks intimacy on some level. On social media, I’ve often been misunderstood. I’m certain that many of you know what that’s like. Therefore, this is an attempt to strengthen relationships by offering more insight.

Recently, I shared that I have screenshots saved on my hard-drive and am working on a case study pertaining to the antagonistic spirit that often prevails in various online forums. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had an unusual amount of screenshots sent to me privately. Often the sender solicits my opinion regarding the “topic” captured in the image. This has been a way for me to continue to dialogue privately with people without being heavily involved in the larger group discussions.

At times, I too have captured conversations, but not with the intent of using them against anyone. I have a long history of taking copious notes during meetings and important discussions. As a denominational leader, it is important to be accurate and represent peoples’ words fairly. When something eyebrow raising appears online that is directed toward myself or another elder, I have often captured it just to make sure I do not later misrepresent what was said.

Moreover, some material forwarded to me has been horrible beyond words and I have been advised to retain a record in the event a legal investigation was deemed necessary (every leader should understand the gravity of these situations). Programs like Evernote have become commonplace for keeping track of digital interactions.

As to online disagreements and controversial matters appearing in Nazarene forums, I have never used this information to harm someone, nor have I placed it in the wrong hands. In fact, I’m not that serious about it; I just think it is interesting and I have learned a great deal from those with whom I disagree. With that said, I have checked references for people soliciting ministry engagement on the Kentucky District, especially if I identify suspicious online behavior.

Beyond this, I have filed information to establish a case study library of sorts. Being informed on the issues of our day and keeping my finger on the pulse of the denomination has helped me personally as a leader. Understanding surging theological shifts is something I feel every leader should be aware of. In that respect, names aren’t important; I would conceal a person’s identity if that material were referenced in conversation or writing.

My focus is on the renewal of the Kentucky District where we are having success planting new churches and revitalizing existing ones. I am primarily responsible for the pastors that I serve and their development as leaders. Creating case studies has helped me better lead the Kentucky District by identifying movements within the denomination that are bearing fruit. I have no interest in policing forums and building files against leaders from other Nazarene districts; it just isn’t something I think about, nor is it my responsibility.

I am convinced that we cannot be fruitful for the Kingdom of God and play a game of online “gotcha,” besides I don’t know who has time for that game. Sowing seeds of discord and mistrust will not help us win a single person to Jesus. As such, I am resolved to believe the best and give people the benefit of the doubt. I would ask the same of you. Unless someone becomes overly antagonistic I’m willing to walk together for the sake of advancing the cause of Christ.

I appreciate your taking the time to follow my feed and read my blog. I am a very transparent person, my life is an open book, I know of no other way to live. Thank you for letting me be me, and helping me identify areas of improvement. I really do believe we are better together.

 

 

Static - Dan Bohi

Growing up, on Saturday mornings my brother and I would pour ourselves a gigantic bowl of cereal and lay in the floor in front of the television watching cartoons. We had the rabbit ears antenna on our television set; if they weren’t aimed in the right direction static interfered with the signal. However, we were usually enjoying our cereal too much to actually get up, walk over to the TV, and adjust the antenna. Thus, we grew accustomed to watching cartoons with static.

Static distorts our ability to see clearly. It’s the same in our relationships with people.

There’s a name in Nazarene circles that elicits a lot of relational static. People hear the name and typically either respond with endearment and support or with opposition and skepticism. I’ve heard the conversations, followed the online discussions, and been privy to the criticism that undermines this man’s ministry and defames his reputation. Until recently, I have largely remained silent because for many years I too was a skeptic.

Let’s back up a few years… In February 2011, he was one of the plenary speakers for the Church of the Nazarene’s M11 Conference in Louisville, KY. Up to that point, he had been preaching around the country, but the M11 Conference was the first time many of us heard him. The word on the street was that God was using this man in a mighty way. Therefore, the leaders of the denomination asked him to speak at M11.

I was in attendance at the now infamous Tuesday morning service. In fact, I was a presenter at a workshop at the conference. I remember him preaching a bit long that day. His sermon was too “Pentecostal” for some of us well-versed Nazarenes. He talked about a baptism of fire, a fresh anointing, miracles and healing, signs and wonders, and spiritual breakthrough. He even had the nerve to say that his sermon would probably interfere with the afternoon workshop schedule. That really got under my skin… Who did this guy think he was?

I remember standing at the back of the auditorium as people went forward to pray after the service had already exceeded the hour and a half mark. I watched high-level leaders, including District and General Superintendents, fall to their knees crying out to God. In fact, the front of the auditorium was filled with people praying for the Holy Spirit to fall fresh on the church.

As for me, I just stood there… and I wasn’t alone.

There I was, in a room full of church leaders praying for revival, yet I was offended because the service was infringing on the workshop schedule that afternoon. I thought to myself, this guy isn’t even a licensed evangelist; he’s just a layman. Who gave him the right to speak with such authority?

There I stood, sorting through my feelings about this “strange occurrence” at a Nazarene conference. Then my attention turned to the back of the room. While the front was filled with people on their knees weeping and crying out to God, the back of the room was filled with skeptics. These folks were sitting in the bleachers with folded arms and disgruntled looks on their faces.

Then something else caught my attention.

One of my closest friends was about thirty feet away from me on his knees with his hands in the air and tears streaming down his face. We had traveled to M11 together. There we were in the same room; I was conflicted and he was worshipping Jesus. The image of my friend worshipping so freely brought tears to my eyes; however, my pride quickly stepped in and dried them up for me. Although I was standing in the aisle, in my spirit, I was sitting with the disgruntled folks sneering from the bleachers.

When the service finally ended, my friend and I walked out of the auditorium together. He was overflowing with joy, saying, “That was so good! This is exactly what we’ve been praying for. Praise the Lord.” While he was rejoicing, I was trying to hide the fact that I was annoyed.

I left M11 confused about the direction of the Church of the Nazarene. I felt like I wanted revival as much as anyone. I’d been reading a lot about the beginning of our movement and praying for the spirit of our forerunners to be unleashed in this generation. In fact, I’d been praying for another Great Awakening for over a decade; I longed for that kind of spiritual revitalization. Nonetheless, I thought I knew what it would look like when it arrived, and I’d determined that what we experienced at M11 wasn’t it.

Fast-forward… In 2013 while sitting in my office I received an interesting phone call. On the other end of the line was none other than the guy who’d caused so much controversy at the M11 Conference. I remember feeling anxious about talking to him. This was the guy that messed up the workshops and irritated a lot of people back in 2011. This was the guy that many were calling a “false prophet.”

As we talked, God began to reveal some things to me that I wasn’t even aware of. In those moments my heart began to soften toward this man. I didn’t realize it, but I was harboring resentment toward him and his ministry. I was still upset over the events that transpired three years prior. While we were on the phone tears began streaming down my face.

This guy shared stories about how the Holy Spirit was moving in churches all over the country. He shared the vision God laid on his heart to wake up the church. As I listened I found myself agreeing with him. I began to realize that I had judged him based on a religious spirit of offense. After that conversation, we spoke on the phone several more times over the course of a year. Each time we talked God revealed more about how I had allowed feelings of resentment to distort my perception of someone that I was beginning to consider a friend.

After the third or fourth conversation, I fully recognized that I’d sinned against my brother. Although he didn’t know about the negative feelings I’d been concealing, it was weighing heavy on my heart. My ability to see this man for who he really was had been impaired by spiritual “static.”

I judged Dan Bohi without knowing Dan Bohi.

Over the years I’ve taken the time to get to know Dan. Today, I consider him a dear brother. In January 2016, I was at a retreat with about forty other leaders. One evening God provided an opportunity for me to publically confess how I had allowed gossip and offense to influence my perception of Dan. I repented openly in front of the entire room.

Although I had never spoken poorly of Dan, and although he didn’t realize I’d dealt with feelings of offense in the past, God showed me that I needed to take another step and openly admit my resentment. I had allowed religious static to impair my vision, and up until that point, I had been unwilling to adjust the antenna. That day, the Lord provided an opportunity for me to move the rabbit ears and clear up the signal.

Since then God has revealed that I hadn’t gone far enough in validating my friend, Dan Bohi. This is a man who has been terribly misrepresented by a lot of people in the Church of the Nazarene. So let me say this, if you don’t know Dan Bohi, you should take the time to get to know him. If you’re not willing to get to know him, you should refrain from ever saying another word about the man.

I’ve heard people slander his name who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. I’ve read the threads in the online discussion forums where people literally spend hours, and even days, picking his ministry apart when they’ve never even had a conversation with him. I’ve also seen the people who say, “I’m staying out of it.” These are the ones who genuinely want revival but are too afraid of what people might think to actually connect with those on the frontlines.

Listen carefully; if you really want revival, “staying out of it” isn’t an option.

I’ve heard all the excuses: “He’s not a licensed evangelist,” “He has no accountability,” “He’s too charismatic,” “He’s a neo-Pentecostal,” “He makes his living doing revivals, but isn’t ordained.” I could go on and on with the ridiculous commentary that’s based on nothing but conjecture and gossip.

Dan Bohi is more Nazarene than most Nazarenes I know. The man’s father, Rev. Jim Bohi, is an ordained minister in the church. His wife, Debbie Owens Bohi, is the daughter of a former General Superintendent. Dan was a longtime member of College Church in Olathe, Kansas: a church that’s produced more General Superintendents than any other church in recent history. His son, Chad Bohi, is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene in Santa Maria, CA, where Dan is now a member. Beyond that, Dan recently received his local minister’s license and started the process of ordination.

Dan has been a committed layman his entire life. He served on the church board, sung in the choir, taught Sunday School, went on mission trips, and a whole lot more. He reads the entire Bible through every two months. He goes wherever the Lord sends him and tells people about Jesus. He has a board that oversees every aspect of his ministry. In fact, Dan has more accountability in his life than most leaders I know. I wish every church I’d ever pastored had ten lay leaders like Dan Bohi.

Did I mention that Dan’s ministry is fully funded? He has a team of ordained Nazarene ministers that travel with him fulltime, including Craig Wesley Rench, Hal Perkins, Dave Flack, and Jay Jellison. God has provided a way for his team to travel together with a vision to “wake up the church” a no cost to the church. In fact, if you would like to host an Awakening/Revival, Dan’s team will come to your church or district without charging a dime. All they ask for is a love offering. What God is doing through this ministry is absolutely amazing.

You may ask, “How do you know these things, Brian?” I know because I, along with several other leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, currently serve on the board that oversees Dan Bohi Ministries.

For those of you that have interacted in the gossip circles about Dan, maybe God is speaking to you about the need to repent. That doesn’t mean you have to book a meeting with Dan. However, maybe you need to simply call him and have a conversation. Maybe you need to adjust the rabbit ears and clear up the relational static.

We need revival. It isn’t going to happen sitting on the bleachers with our arms crossed. It isn’t going to happen standing in the aisle between the bleachers and the altar like I did at M11. The only way it’s going to happen is if we fall on our faces, admit when we’re wrong, and cry out, “Come Holy Spirit.”

Dan Bohi.jpg

DanBohiMinistries.com

 

 

 

PC

Political correctness in and of itself is not a bad thing. In the simplest of terms, it’s a way of treating people with respect regardless of ethnicity, gender, race, religion, socio-economic status, and other things that have the potential to divide. According to that definition, Jesus was politically correct. He treated everyone with dignity because God’s love does not discriminate; Jesus knew that God loves everybody as much as He loves anybody.

Scripture instructs us to be civil in our conversations: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up… that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). However, what if charitable discourse in Jesus’ day was nothing like what we consider civil today. If we’re being realistic we have to admit that we live in a pampered society. Our sense of entitlement causes us to reject anything uncomfortable.

Yet without discomfort, there is no cross. Without pain, there is no discipleship. Without offense, it’s impossible to live the life Jesus calls us to.

People groups of the world have distinctive understandings of what “civility” really means. I’m not sure overindulgent mainstream Americans should be the ones setting the bar for what’s considered offensive, especially if God is more clearly identified in the margins. Marginalized people want the truth; they need the truth. They long for the only thing that has the power to set them free. I’m thankful to be part of the Church of the Nazarene: a church that has been intentionally taking truth to the margins from the very beginning.

For many cultures, passionate disagreement is not only normal but also expected. There’s a great deal of biblical evidence supporting fervent dialogical disagreement. The Prophets, the Apostles, and Jesus himself spoke harshly at times. Their language wasn’t set-aside only for the religious leaders as some might say. Jesus had heated words for His followers, adversaries, disciples, and general audience. Peter, Paul, and other disciples also expressed themselves very matter-of-factly in many situations.

When Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers it wasn’t a charitable act. The moneychangers were common folk that had set up a spiritual flea market in the temple. They had taken something meant for one thing and turned it into something else. Jesus obviously thought the situation warranted a strong correction. In the Palestinian culture of that day, and in many cultures around the world today, confrontational dialogue wasn’t, and isn’t, considered offensive. In fact, it was, and still is, commonplace.

Postmodern America has an inaccurate understanding of political correctness. It’s become a new form of intolerance disguised as tolerance. The current cultural climate makes absolutes almost nonexistent; any claim to truth disturbs people’s sensibilities. I’m uncertain how we arrived at this place when one of the foundational blocks of American society is freedom of speech. It’s impossible to live in a society of free speech and never be offended by what others are saying.

Remember, “To those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word…” (1 Peter 2:7-8).

The gospel is offensive… period. The gospel confronts people; it makes us uncomfortable. It leaves us with a difficult choice. It forces one to admit that his or her way is the wrong way. Challenging people to completely reorder their life is a radical and evasive concept, particularly in postmodern America.

When a church becomes more concerned with political correctness than the power of the gospel it quickly becomes ineffective.

Let me explain how this has affected me personally. Often I have reservations about saying things in conversations with other Christian leaders, from the pulpit, and on social media. I’ve identified these reservations as a condition imposed on my thinking by the current state of our society. If the Bible speaks to an issue, I believe with grace and truth, I should be able to speak to the issue as well. In fact, as a minister of the gospel, I feel obligated to speak.

The old adage, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean,” has become an increasingly difficult task. People take offense where none is intended, which causes pastors and Christian leaders to be guarded. People presume the act of disagreeing is somehow arrogant and intentionally hurtful; this is especially true in the digital world. Therefore, an insistence on greater civility has emerged. Failure to engage by the arbitrary rules of cultural civility results in charges of ignorance and bigotry.

If there’s ever been a society where no one has the right to live unoffended, it’s the United States of America. In fact, we should expect to hear things that challenge our worldview. Dealing with what others believe is a small price to pay for living in a free country. Yet being easily offended has become fashionable. One can hardly exist on a college campus without being inundated with progressive points of view, and it’s not much different in Christian universities. If you refuse to drink the cool-aid then you’re labeled close-minded and lack critical thinking skills.

The paradoxical outcome of insisting on greater civility often goes beyond frequent offense to the realm of “outrage.” When this happens the PC police come after their opponents with no holds barred. They will shut anyone down at any cost that constantly disagrees with their views. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s exactly what the religious leaders did to Jesus when they put Him on the cross. The rules of political correctness get tossed out the window when the PC crowd becomes convinced that they’re right on any given issue.

The problem with the postmodern understanding of political correctness is that it focuses primarily on people’s feelings, not on being gracious and truthful. And when progressive thinkers assume places of greater influence in the church the focus shifts from what God declares as true to how people feel about what God declares as true. When the church starts focusing on how people feel about truth more than truth itself, God quickly gets extracted from the conversation.

We have arrived at a place where one cannot caringly confront cultural deception without upsetting the applecart. When this happens the spirit of offense protests. Again, they believe their cause is greater than anything anyone else has to say. Their rhetoric causes those who don’t agree with them to back down because they feel intellectually inferior. Of course, if it’s coming from the university it must be intellectually informed, right?

This, my friends, is the influence of postmodernity’s version of political correctness.

Now might be a good time to remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Instead of allowing scriptural truth to speak to modern-day concerns, the spirit of political correctness is causing many to impose contemporary cultural issues on scripture. They insert a version of the truth and spoon-feed it to the masses until it becomes uncharitable to say anything contrary.

Paul tells his young protégée, Timothy: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:2-4).

That’s good advice for all of us.

Remember, it’s impossible to speak truth without rocking the boat. Don’t stop speaking. Speak gracefully, but boldly. Don’t cave to the pressure of the current cultural stream of political correctness. When we do the gospel loses its effectiveness. Once that happens, like the builders of old, we reject the “chief cornerstone.” When the foundation is stripped away everything else falls apart and that’s not good for anyone.

Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 10.14.17 PM

General Assembly is the quadrennial gathering of the global family that is the Church of the Nazarene. Every four years delegates from all over the world come together to celebrate what God has done, discern how the Holy Spirit is leading, and make decisions about how to faithfully advance the mission of Making Christlike Disciples in the Nations in the years ahead.

The Church of the Nazarene has always been theologically and biblically conservative, yet progressive in practice. In other words, we believe the Bible is true and we take the message of holiness seriously. Nonetheless, we’re willing to stop at nothing to reach people with the life-transforming message of the Gospel.

From the beginning, the distinctive doctrine of the Nazarene movement has been “entire sanctification,” which teaches that after one becomes a Christian there’s a deeper work to be experienced. When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit (entirely sanctified) his or her devotion to Jesus becomes the essence of life. Entire sanctification is the doctrine of “love made perfect,” lived out as the Holy Spirit empowers us to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

At General Assembly, we make decisions about resolutions that have been submitted by districts and committees from around the world. These resolutions affect the theology, polity, social positions, and overall governance of the church and are incorporated into the Manual (book of discipline) if passed by the global delegation. I am thankful for the growing delegation from the Africa, South America, and Mesoamerica Regions, as I believe they will keep us on track theologically.

After reading the resolutions for the 2017 General Assembly, I decided to elaborate on a few that are categorized in the “Christian Action” grouping. This category informs our identity more than any other as it pertains to who we are theologically and where we stand biblically.

While administrative matters need to change as we discover better ways to faithfully steward the organizational structures of the church, theological distinctiveness should only be strengthened, never diluted. In a world of pluralism, relativism, moral decline, and social injustice, if our theological distinctiveness is not reinforced the church’s influence in the world will diminish.

———————————————-

CA-700: Affirmation and Declaration of Human Freedoms – The United Kingdom British Isles South District submitted this resolution. It calls for us to “confess our complicity” as it pertains to the enslavement of human beings. That statement alone makes this resolution a bad idea. With that kind of wording, this could become a legal issue in some world areas. It reads as an admission to a crime against humanity. This resolution is not necessary because our involvement in “setting captives free” is a given by nature of the holiness message (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18).

CA-701: Human Sexuality – Resolution 701 was created and submitted by the Board of General Superintendents. It is the best choice of the three submissions on “Human Sexuality.” There is unquestionably a minority looking for loopholes as it pertains to same-sex marriage. While we need to be gracious in our response, we must also remain committed to biblical orthodoxy concerning sexuality. The Board of General Superintendents engages this topic with a deep sense of compassion, yet they also remain clearly grounded in Holy Scripture and Wesleyan-Arminian theology. This resolution lovingly speaks to the various nuances related to the doctrine of human sexuality.

CA-701a/701b: Human Sexuality – The Netherlands, New England, and Kansas City Districts submitted these two resolutions. They remove any language pertaining to homosexual behavior. Without such language being supplemented elsewhere, these resolutions weaken the biblical doctrine of sexual purity and potentially opens the door to homosexual behavior becoming acceptable. It’s impossible to remain biblically responsible, yet remove language pertaining to homosexuality from our doctrinal statements.

CA-708: The Christian Life – The Mid-Atlantic and Northwestern Ohio Districts, and the General Assembly Resolutions and Reference Committees collectively submitted this resolution. The new wording offers a much-needed global perspective. Without it, this entire section of the Manual is established on paradigms employed primarily in western culture, especially the U.S., and is not reflective of the fact that we are an international church. This resolution is a great addition to our Manual.

CA-709: The Use of Social MediaWhile I appreciate the efforts of the Mid-Atlantic District and the Reference Committee, to say that all social media activities should be affirming and uplifting to all people is biblically inaccurate (Jer. 1:10). There would be large portions of the Bible that couldn’t be quoted on social media if our activities must continually be uplifting to all people. This would also deny anyone the ability to speak prophetically about the difficult issues facing the church. Beyond that, who decides what qualifies as “respectful” when it comes to social media interaction? Various personalities speak, write, and communicate differently. Interpreting online interaction becomes an impossible task if we attempt to judge one person’s written expressions based on what another person considers respectful and/or offensive. Being gracious and forgiving to one another on social media should be a given.

CA-710: The Use of Intoxicants – The Nebraska and Mid-Atlantic Districts, and the Reference Committee submitted this resolution. While we could certainly work on the wording of this Manual paragraph, this particular submission weakens our position on the use of alcohol to the point that we might as well remove it altogether. I struggle with the missional implications as it pertains to something as addictive as alcohol consumption. We certainly realize the devastating effects it’s had on the poor and marginalized. We should consider rewording these paragraphs our Manual. However, I’m not comfortable with this resolution as it’s presented.

CA-714: Sanctity of Human Life – The Mid-Atlantic District submitted this resolution. I struggled more with this submission than any other. The suggested change weakens our current stance and actually devalues human life beyond what we presently affirm. It’s a slippery slope that we should avoid at all costs. When we arrive at the place in our theology where we view the sanctity of human life as a “political” issue we fail the most innocent human beings among us: those still in the womb. If anything, we should make a stronger statement on the sanctity of human life, especially as it relates to abortion.

CA-717: Covenant of Christian Character – The Netherlands District submitted this resolution. The Covenants of Christian Character and Conduct are designed to give additional direction to members of the Church of the Nazarene concerning what is beneficial to the Christian life. They are not exhaustive, but they are helpful. They serve to strengthen believers in the pursuit of holiness. Eliminating these details deprive us of our distinctiveness. When we lose the things that make us unique we ultimately ignore the distinctive call of God on our movement, and in turn become generic and ineffective.

CA-718: The Christian Life – The New England District submitted this resolution. Rewording this Manual paragraph to include the Great Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount would be extremely helpful. However, removing the reference to the Ten Commandments when Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law…” (Matt. 5:17), only weakens the statement. I agree that focusing exclusively on the Ten Commandments centers primarily on rules and lends itself to legalism. The teachings of Christ should be highlighted in this paragraph. Rewording this resolution slightly would strengthen our theological position.

CA-721: Christian Marriage – The Southwest Indiana District submitted this resolution. This amendment strengthens our theological and legal position on marriage. As society continues to change at a rapid pace there will be more and more groups attempting to redefine marriage in light of cultural shifts based primarily on human reasoning. One recommendation: if we are going to change the word “biblical” to “Christian” in the last sentence, we should also change it in the second-to-last sentence.

CA-724: Gender Identity – The Board of General Superintendents submitted this resolution. In a day and age where gender identity is surrounded by controversy, we desperately need a statement that provides direction on an issue that is predominantly driven by culture and politics. This resolution is rooted in biblical doctrine and Christian tradition and affirms that gender identity reflects God’s divine plan for humanity.

——————————————–

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the resolutions submitted to the General Assembly. This article only speaks to resolutions that some feel could have a significant impact on the future identity of the Church of the Nazarene. These particular resolutions are what I describe as “identity declarations.” When we amend the Manual paragraphs concerning what we believe and how we practice what we believe we are reinterpreting how to apply biblical doctrine, which cannot be done lightly.

The sentiments expressed in this article are based on conversations with various leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, analysis of the negative impact that secularized culture is having on the church, application of Scripture in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, and personal convictions as it pertains to how the church can best move forward in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.

Please feel free to contact me at kynazds@gmail.com with any questions or comments. If you have more insight as to how we can better discuss these issues in the future I’d love to hear from you.

Remember the methodists

The call to pastoral ministry is often depicted with the metaphor of “Shepherd and Sheep.” The shepherd is one who leads, serves, and protects the flock. In every church I’ve pastored I have taken that call very seriously. I stress the word “protect” as it relates to the shepherd’s staff. The staff was used to ward off predators and get the sheep out of precarious situations.

Since coming into the role of District Pastor (Superintendent) there have been times when I’ve been very vocal about what I perceive as “dangers” lurking in the shadows. No differently than I would have confronted those dangers in the local church, I’ve confronted them as they’ve influenced the network of churches that I’ve been called to serve. I suppose it’s my shepherd’s reflex responding to what I identify as threats.

My concerns have largely been informed by recent developments in the United Methodist Church. Many people are heartbroken over the harm caused by the lack of accountability among their clergy. The unfaithfulness of some UMC pastors and bishops has caused damage that will be difficult to ever repair, which is why groups like the Wesleyan Covenant Association have been established. I am encouraged by such alliances. Revival is breaking out in many pockets of the UMC because of the faithfulness of a few. All it takes is a remnant.

In the midst of my efforts to “protect the flock,” God recently reminded me that He doesn’t need me to defend Him. He’s shown me that making a statement and arguing a point are two very different things. So, while I’m not going to stop speaking (I’m a preacher for goodness sake), I am going to stop debating as if there’s a fight to win. This battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of this dark world and the forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6).

I’ve been very loud at times over these issues. Not debating is difficult for some of us; it’s how we process and learn. However, in the age of social media, we lack the relational equity to have difficult conversations without constant offense. Sometimes volume isn’t nearly as effective as simply handling matters in a way that isn’t seen or heard beyond the boundaries of the people we’ve been called to serve. Nonetheless, in my opinion, a higher level of accountability is needed across the board.

Accountability for ordained ministers has been a topic frequently discussed as it relates to these issues. Ordination has traditionally been understood as a sacrament (i.e. “Holy Orders”). That means the covenants taken by ordained and licensed members of clergy matter greatly. Remaining faithful and striving for unity is a big part of the job for those who’ve been entrusted to serve the church.

When I think of ordained ministry, and especially the call to preach, I’m reminded of the sacred charge that many of us carry. Think about it, preaching is a form of public speaking unlike any other. The preacher is one who has answered a divine call to proclaim eternal truths from God’s Word to a gathered group of listeners. There are serious implications involved with preaching; we are liable for shaping people’s lives with our words. The words we speak foster an ongoing Christian worldview among those we shepherd. This is an amazing honor, but an even greater responsibility.

With unorthodox teachings increasing in popularity they’re becoming more commonplace among pastors and leaders in every denomination. These issues are infiltrating our university classrooms, making their way into our pulpits, and taking center stage in many forums (remember the Methodists). Personally, I think we should put a stop to it. Every member of clergy should be accountable to the covenants they’ve made a promise to support. If they can’t they should surrender their credentials; it’s not difficult.

Some people believe I’m overreacting. Again I say, “Remember the Methodists.” We’d be naïve to think it couldn’t happen to us. Of course, I realize that nothing will ever destroy the Church; the gates of hell won’t prevail against Her (Matt 16:18). However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a great price to pay if we’re not faithful with what we’ve been entrusted to steward.

Most of the conversations that I’ve engaged pertaining to biblical unorthodoxy are with faithful pastors who feel extremely misrepresented. These pastors aren’t looking for a fight; they’re just serving faithfully and bearing fruit. Yet many are struggling with spending the rest of their life at odds with the people they’re supposed to be partnering with to advance the cause of Christ. I’ve spent hours explaining “why” the unfaithful among us aren’t held to a higher level of accountability.

The mission of Jesus is something we should be willing to die for; it’s the difference between life and death. Getting sidetracked with negotiating biblical truths in light of cultural shifts does nothing more than taint the mission of making disciples. Maybe I’m too extreme. One thing I’m certain of, however, the Kingdom means too much to forfeit a single minute debating with unfaithful co-laborers.

Bottom-line: we need a higher level of accountability. Actually, I believe it would lead to greater unity, church growth, and denominational revitalization. Yet, I concede from responding out of “protection mode.” While there are many who share my concerns, I also understand the wisdom of not speaking so loudly.

With all due respect, at times it seems like pastoring has become synonymous with “being a nice person” and “not offending anyone.” Interestingly, that’s not the model of Jesus, the disciples, or the prophets. Pastors are called to represent a Kingdom that’s not of this world, not get in bed with the world. It may be more important that we start taking a stand instead of going with the flow. Remember the Methodists.

Repentance & Holiness

Becoming vulnerable is the first step toward freedom. Vulnerability exposes our weakness and enables God to break down strongholds. We cannot function in freedom until we become brave enough to confront the strongholds that hinder the advancement of the Kingdom in our lives.

God is so much better than we give Him credit for. I confess that I’ve done a poor job representing His goodness at times. The older I get the more inadequate I realize I am. The Lord has revealed Himself to me in new ways in recent days. I often find myself laughing and crying at the same as He makes His Presence known. These fresh encounters with God have left me more humble, grateful, and free than I can ever remember. There is so much to discover about following Jesus; it’s a never-ending journey. I’ve asked God to help me become a better example of His goodness along the way.

I’m currently living in a place of great paradox. On the one hand, I’ve never felt closer to Jesus and I’ve never been more aware of the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet, on the other hand, I’ve never felt more burdened; I live with a constant sense of heaviness for the state of the Bride. In the midst of my burdens, I’ve discovered the power of weakness and the freedom that exists when we come to the end of ourselves.

At the heart of repentance lies vulnerability. True freedom in Christ requires that I constantly confess my faults, that I lay my inadequacies on the altar. Building an altar in our lives is so important. I’m not saying that we sin every day as in “willfully transgressing against God.” However, I firmly believe that when we fail to love well that we sin against God and others. That means my attitudes, actions, words, and thoughts matter deeply. It means the things that I should be doing that I neglect to do matter in my relationship with Jesus.

I’m convinced that a lifestyle of repentance is the foundation of holiness. The minute I don’t think I have anything wrong in my life is the moment I set myself up as God. I have so many things to constantly repent of; at the top of the list is busyness and distraction. Beyond that, I often repent for not praying enough. I repent of being impatient. I repent for not always responding to my family the way I should. I repent of making decisions, even small decisions, without adequately seeking Jesus. I repent of developing preconceived notions about other people. These are all things that I need to continually lay on the altar. Again, the altar is so important.

True repentance is the only way to break down strongholds. Being in a relationship with God is important, but being in a right relationship with God is essential, especially if we’re going to live the life He’s called us to live. Indeed, repentance and holiness go hand in hand.

Dying to self and taking up the cross daily is about killing the little hedonist that’s kicking and screaming inside of us all. The flesh is one of our biggest foes; it’s always seeking pleasure that lasts for a season. We’re called to kill the flesh every time it raises its ugly head by nailing it to the cross. And when it reappears, we have to do it again. For holiness to become a lifestyle repentance must become a regular practice.

Have you ever considered the corporate hedonist that often appears among the Body of Christ? When the church begins warring against itself Satan takes the throne. When we refuse to corporately take up our cross we take up our quarrels. The Apostle James tells us that this infighting comes from the desire to please self over the desire to please God (James 4). It’s always rooted in our inability to believe that God can give us everything we need.

Many of you know that I’ve given my life to the Church, and in particular, the Church of the Nazarene. My heritage is grounded in the Church of the Nazarene. I love the people called “Nazarenes” very much. However, at times I’ve loved her too much. I repent of ever making my denomination an idol. I repent for allowing the boundaries of the Church of the Nazarene to limit my perspective of the Kingdom. I repent of the times I’ve allowed my identity to become more wrapped up in the Church of the Nazarene than the Kingdom of Jesus. We’d all do well to remember that God is a lot bigger than our little tribe.

With that said, I am burdened for the church. I’m troubled by the lack of passion for revival and what seems to the protest against it by some. I’m burdened over the unfaithfulness and pettiness. I’m burdened over the toxic environment that exists in some places. I’m burdened over the manifestation of pride. I am praying that God breaks down these strongholds; and when I say break down, I mean crush.

I’m praying for people to be delivered from rigid fundamentalism because none of us is the judge. I’m praying for people to be delivered from dead religious formalism because God is alive and He needs room to move among His people. I’m praying for people to be delivered from progressive intellectual elitism because it’s opposite of the posture of humility. It saddens me to see so many places negatively affected by legalism, liberalism, antagonism, and a host of other “isms” that no doubt breaks the heart of God.

We need to become a “movement” again: one that’s led by the manifest Presence of the Holy Spirit. God forgive us for allowing the church to become a religious enterprise. Forgive us for turning the church into a business instead of a house of prayer. Forgive us for trying to climb the latter of success. Forgive us for being more concerned about what people think than we are what God thinks. Forgive us for trying to be something we’re not. Forgive us for not living by the principles of corporate prayer and repentance that You’ve prescribed in Scripture:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

It’s time to cry out to God corporately. For the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fall on us again we must repent of our failed business strategies, hollow philosophies, lack of accountability, and broken theological constructs. The Father won’t settle for being an afterthought. He desires to be intimately involved in everything we do.

I hope you hear my heart. In the midst of my brokenness, my longing to be a better follower of Jesus is increasing. Brokenness is a good place to be. There’s a lot of freedom when we learn to live like there’s nothing to lose. Vulnerability that leads to repentance is the only thing that’ll break down the strongholds preventing us from experiencing the intimate Presence of the Holy Spirit.

God is so good. He’s better than I’ve ever imagined He could be. There are parts of His goodness that are easily noticeable, yet often overlooked. I want to spend the rest of my life paying closer attention to who He really is and what He’s really like. For that to happen, vulnerability and repentance must become a common way of life.