Great Week with a Team
Stan Meador | June 27, 2010 | 4:43 pm

I just wanted to post a quick update. We had a great time with a team from San Antonio, Texas last week. I’m writing up a summary of the week that I will confirm with Pastor Valter soon. We’ll post that summary here for you all to enjoy.

Blessings!

Forgive the Silence
Stan Meador | June 8, 2010 | 9:43 am

Please forgive my blog silence. I’ve been traveling a lot lately and training folks in several parts of Brazil in everything from evangelistic Bible studies to cross-cultural missions. I’m back for a while and hope to be back in the swing of things shortly.

Blessings – Stan

Interlude about Vision
Stan Meador | April 19, 2010 | 9:17 pm

I cannot recall any text in the New Testament that indicates that every “local church” is to have its own vision. The idea that every church should have a vision statement came from the business world, as every business needs to know what it is about. The church is not a business, at least God never intended for it to be a business. So, why do churches have visions statements?

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29.18a KJV)

This half of a verse of Scripture taken out of its context is pretty much the source of the idea that every church should have a vision statement. After all, we don’t want our churches to perish. Let’s look at this verse so we can understand why using it as a proof-text for having church vision statements is completely wrong.

Here is the verse, in its entirety, in three other translations. Seeing the different ways this verse has been translated will help us ask the questions necessary to understand the verse.

Proverbs 29.18

“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.”(NASB)

“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.” (NKJV)

“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.” (NIV)

The first phrase of this verse is translated “Where there is no vision” and also “Where there is no revelation”. Why is this so? Duane Garrett, in his commentary on Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, explains, “The word of “revelation” is commonly associated with the visions of the prophets and stands for the importance of prophetic exhortation to the community here.” The word means “vision”, but refers to prophetic visions that are revelations from God. This is why some translations use the word “vision” while others use the word “revelation”.

We see this type of vision in the New Testament when Peter was on the roof top of Simon the Tanner in Joppa (Acts 10.9-23). This vision was God’s revelation to Peter which came to him in a state of ecstasy. In Peter’s case, the revelation from God was that the idea that a non-Jew was “unclean” was no more, but that all men could have communion together in Christ.

Where Old Testament prophets are concerned, the visions they received from God were often revelations from God to call His people to repentance. We see time and again in the Old Testament that God’s people would go astray. The prophets called the people back when they had wandered away from God and His plan. The ministry of the prophets was largely to call the wayward people of God back to faithfulness.

Revelation or prophetic vision is placed alongside the Law of God in Proverbs 28.18. To more easily understand the whole verse in English we need to switch the order of the two halves. The one who abides by God’s Law will be happy or blessed. When one goes astray it is the vision, God’s revelation to the prophet, which God uses to call the wayward back. So, where there is no vision, no prophetic utterance, the wayward one lives a life of unrestraint, he perishes. Duane Garrett summarizes the idea in this way, “Social harmony and restraint cannot be achieved without the exhortations of the prophets and the teaching of the law.”

The word “vision” in this text has nothing to do with visionary leadership or vision statements in “local churches.” Rather, it has everything to do with the ministries of the teachers and the prophets. We have already read in Ephesians 4.11 that God gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers to the church in order to have a complete and healthy church. So, when understood correctly, Proverbs 29.18 can very well apply to the ministries of the prophets and teachers in the church today.

Let me restate that Proverbs 29.18 has nothing to do with “visionary leadership” in the church. It has everything to do with the combined ministries of the prophets and teachers – two of the five gifts of God to the church.

I cannot recall any text in the New Testament that indicates that every “local church” is to have its own vision. This idea, to me, is akin to “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 14.12 NIV). When each local church has its own vision the result is what we see in many places today – “churches” looking inwardly rather than outwardly; churches that are more like social clubs than rescue centers. What is the result? Little to no harvest of lost souls. Where is the grain of wheat that falls to the ground, dies and then results in an increase of 30, 60 or 100? Where is the Christian who reproduces himself 30 times in his lifetime? He should be the least productive person in the church!

To the contrary, we have buildings that we erroneously call churches where people can come and sit on comfortable benches or in comfortable chairs and listen and then do nothing. Sinfully, the “church” finds this to be acceptable behavior for “little Christs”. The vision statement of your church may permit such taking of the Lord’s name in vain, however, the God-given vision of the apostle permits no such thing. The vision of the apostle is a vision to reach a people or a place and his function, along with the other four, is to equip the saints to do the reaching.

Robert Banks, in his book, Paul’s Idea of Community, described the church in this way:

The community at Corinth is not said to be part of a wider body of Christ or to be a ‘body of Christ’ alongside numerous others. It is ‘the body of Christ’ in that place. This suggests that wherever Christians are in relationship there is the body of Christ in its entirety, for Christ is truly and wholly present there through his Spirit (12.13). This is a momentous truth.

God’s design for the church in a place is not to have factions, or denominations, but to have unity. In the same way, God’s design is not for each “church” to have a vision which seems right in its own eyes, but to have an interdependent relationship with the apostle God has called to that place and to whom God has given a vision, burden, strategy and stewardship of the gospel for that place or people.

Apostles Today Part 7
Stan Meador | April 9, 2010 | 12:07 pm

There has been much emphasis on “vision”, “vision statements” and “visionary leadership” in the past several decades. Numerous authors wrote books about these subjects as they relate to the church (well, the institutional church anyway). Today, many churches, if not most churches, have a vision statement (though this does not necessarily mean that they have a vision).

When I was in seminary I had a class or two that placed an extreme amount of emphasis on having a vision and being a visionary leader. After all, “Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29.18)”. So, I set about developing a vision for the work God had set before me. My first ministry position was as a Minister of Education and Administration. I taught the Sunday School teachers my vision for the Sunday School ministry. They understood it, but they didn’t really buy into it. I didn’t know what else to do. Today, I understand much better what the problem was. I could develop a vision and I could teach a vision, but I could not cast the vision in such a way that the teachers would buy into it.

The pastor of that same church was anything but a visionary leader. He would be the first to tell you that. Sadly, because of what I had been taught about the importance of vision and the necessity of the church having a visionary leader I thought he was not a very good pastor. Now that I understand what the Bible teaches rather than what seminary taught me, I realize this man of God is one of the few true pastors I have ever known. He is a pastor in the Ephesians 4.11-13 sense of the word. And, the truth of that matter is that “vision” is not the realm of the true pastor.

There are some “pastors” within the structures of the institutional church who are very good orators and who can cast a vision. How this vision is developed and the scope of the vision have a great deal to do with determining whether or not it is an apostolic vision. Most churches have a vision of how their church should be growing, of the ministries (often programs) that it should be developing and sometimes how the church should be involved in missions endeavors. This type of vision is most often about the church. This type of vision often will not view the church in relationship to other churches in the same city or among the same people. This type of vision may be expressed as an outward-looking approach to ministry, but will most often be applied as an inward-looking ministry.

Admittedly I am writing in very general terms. Nonetheless, if your church has a vision or a vision statement it probably does not fall far from this description.

So, what’s the difference between the vision of a church and the vision of an apostle?

Not all visionary leaders are apostles, but every apostle is a visionary leader. I have met visionary leaders who are great orators, but who lack passion for the work; who lack a burden for the people or place about which they greatly proclaim a vision. Many such visionary leaders move on to the next best offer.

The apostle is not simply a good orator who can sell people on a vision for the church he pastors. The apostle’s calling will be to a people or place. The apostle’s vision will relate to that place or people. The apostle’s vision will be larger than any one “church”. Denominationalism does a great deal to complicate the work of the true apostle today. Many churches follow party lines, denominational leadership, and have no ears to hear the voice and vision of the true apostle. Centuries ago we lost the truth of the interdependence that exists between apostles and local churches.

The apostle’s vision will be a living vision. He will see how the gospel will spread through the people or the place. God will give him the ability to see what will be required for Jesus Christ to be lifted up to draw all men to Himself. The vision of the apostle will carry with it the anointing of God to reach the people or the place.

Houses of Prayer Update 2
Stan Meador | April 3, 2010 | 3:58 pm

Last month I wrote about our first house of prayer. Before we could schedule our first visit to her home for prayer she tried to commit suicide again. She was at the beach with her son and took a bottle of pills (I don’t know the number) and drank a bottle of vodka to wash them down. She was lying on the floor nearly incoherent when she heard her five-year old son say, “Don’t go to sleep yet mommy. I’m asking Jesus not to let you go to sleep.”

Jesus answered her son’s prayer! We’re thankful to God for that.

She invited several people to her son’s birthday party, including one of our team members and his family. It was a very good time for the team member to get to know her family. There was a pastor there from some kind of church too. After everyone else left he spoke to her. He heaped guilt and condemnation upon her for all that she had ever done wrong. He will answer to God for that one day! This woman needs restoration, not condemnation. She needs mercy and grace!

She has kept the door open for us to enter her home and pray with her. Please pray for Lady V.

A second house has opened for prayer. This woman has a similar story, but we’re very glad that she hasn’t tried to commit suicide. She is finding hope and encouragement in prayer. She has also come to one of our home based Bible studies – it is a safe environment! Sadly, many institutional churches are not safe environments for people who have destroyed lives.

Our Houses of Prayer Ministry has two more members. One of them, a young lady who grew up in an institutional church, visited with these ladies and prayed with them recently. It was her first time to go. She visited with Lady V and prayed with her. When she left the home she was physically shaken. After visiting with in the second home and praying this young lady was physically sick. She is not yet accustomed to entering the world of those who do not know Jesus Christ.

We would appreciate your prayers for both of these homes – that God would bring salvation and restoration to these families.

Also, please pray for our team. A few more families have expressed an interest in having us come and pray with them. We are entering into homes in which only God knows what we will encounter. Also, we may be adding some new team members in another part of the city. So, please pray that God will direct us as these team relationships develop.

Something About Mary
Stan Meador | March 30, 2010 | 10:58 pm

Worshipping MaryIn Brazil, there is something about Mary, and the saints, that holds incredible sway over Catholics. I was talking with a young lady at house church about this very subject. We were expressing praise to the Lord that another family has realized that they can no longer follow Mary and the saints. This young lady told me that it took three years from the time she first heard the idea that praying to Mary and the saints is idolatry to the time she realized that was true. The family has been studying the Bible with us for about six months. We praise the Lord that He has opened their eyes to see this truth.

We have not discovered any specific amount of time that is necessary for people to realize this truth. Since we discovered this barrier to proclaiming the gospel among our people, we have become more intentional about addressing idolatry in our teaching. With a belief that is so much a part of who Catholics in Brazil are, we must take the time necessary to present the truth in love. We must also give them time to count the cost of following Jesus.

If you approach a post-modern person and proclaim that an absolute truth exists for all people, you probably will have only one opportunity to speak to that person, and you probably will not convince them. If you approach a Buddhist and proclaim that there is only one path to God, you will probably only have one opportunity to speak to that person, and you probably will not convince them. The same holds true with Catholics in Brazil. If you approach a Catholic in Brazil and proclaim that it is necessary to abandon Mary and the saints in order to follow Jesus, you will probably only have one opportunity to speak to that person, and you probably will not convince them.

We have learned that this particular barrier to the gospel among our people will usually only be overcome by investing time and love in teaching the Bible to them.

This is just one insight we have gleaned from our time working here in Brazil. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Please pray that God will ever keep our eyes open to see barriers to the gospel and that He will give us ways to overcome these barriers.

If you would like to know more about our approach to making disciples, you can read my article entitled “The Challenge of Evangelism in Latin and South America”.

Apostles Today Part 6
Stan Meador | March 23, 2010 | 9:18 am

The institutional church in North and South America and Europe generally does not have a place for the Ephesians 4 apostle. Cities may have numerous “local” churches, but only in very rare instances does one find the concept of the church of the city or the church of the region as it existed in the New Testament (I expand this idea in my article The New Testament Concepts of the Church). Within the individual churches there is usually an internal focus rather than an outward focus. The pastor, or pastors, of the church are expected to minister to the members of the church and maybe grow the church in the process. It is extremely rare to find a local church that considers itself to be the church of the city and truly pursues reaching all of the lost in the city (or region).

Imagine that the apostle to the city, the man that God has hard-wired to reach all the lost in that city, is hired by an institutional church in that city. He has a God-given burden for the whole city to be discipled. But, the institutional church that has called him as “pastor” has long since turned its focus inward. This church puts 90% of its time, money and focus into ministry to the members of the church and maybe 10% to outreach (and that only half-heartedly). And their “pastor” who has an apostolic call and burden is in anguish over the lost souls of the city, but is relegated to putting spiritual bandages on self-inflicted conflicts within the church membership and spoon-feeding spiritual babes who should already be feasting on the Word of God. Do you think he might be frustrated?

If this man of God does not actually know that he’s an apostle (and not all apostles know they are apostles) he probably doesn’t know what else to do or even why the situation seems so wrong. The fact is that the apostle is not a “pastor” and institutional churches which look beyond themselves to an entire city or region are few and far between. Actually, I’m not sure I know of any. So, many apostles in North and South America and Europe just don’t have a place in the structure of the institutional church.

In some of these areas there are denominations that have missionary sending agencies and parachurch organizations which have ministries that do not quite fit within the organizational structure of the local churches. These denominations, organizations and agencies have hierarchical leadership structures and there are times that apostles can enter into these and actually serve as God has designed them to serve.

One apostle that I know works within one such mission sending agency. God has hard-wired him to reach a specific people group. I can remember talking with him about the future. What if, upon reaching enough of this people, the agency asked him to take on a different role overseeing the work among several people groups in the part of the world where he worked? I remember the difficulty this question posed, even when asked hypothetically. Would he be able to continue to be effective in discipling the people God hard-wired him to reach if he took on responsibilities that divided his attention and focus? While the thought of being able to direct the work among several peoples sounded like a good use of his God-given abilities, he concluded that he would probably not be able to continue reaching the people God had called him to reach if his attention was divided and his focus applied to several peoples. I found great wisdom in this conclusion. A true apostle should always stay within the scope of his call, whether it is to a people or a place, for this is the ministry that God has given him an unction/power/authority to fulfill. From the point of view of hierarchical structures, it is wise to find workers who have proven themselves effective and promote them to positions of greater responsibility. If offered such a position of “greater responsibility” the apostle should not take on such a role without a clear word from God that it is God expanding the responsibility and not man. Such a word from God might come through a prophet, or from someone with the spiritual gift of a word of knowledge or word of wisdom.

What if…?

Imagine with me if you will, that an apostle to a specific region was placed in leadership of an agency with a global scope for making disciples. This man of God was quite effective in directing the work to reach the people of said region. For this, he was asked to take leadership of the work on a global level. If this man were as John Wesley, with a call from God which gave him a clear understanding that “the world is my parish” then all would be good. If this man were as John Knox, with a call from God which gave him a clear understanding that “give me Scotland or I die” then all would not be good. Knox was God-wired to reach Scotland and he pretty much focused himself to reach Scotland. Wesley was God-wired to reach more than a region or a people and his work spread across the globe. This is generally speaking, of course, but I think it helps to understand my hypothetical example. If an apostle to a region of the world took on the leadership of an agency with global scope, would he be as effective in reaching the world as he was reaching in reaching the region that he was God-wired to reach? Would he be able to divorce himself from the vision, the burden, and the strategies that God had given him to reach the region in order to lead others who had been God-wired with a burden and a vision to develop effective strategies to reach the people and places to which they had been called? Or, would he focus the efforts of the agency on the region God had wired him to reach? Would he apply the strategies God gave him for reaching his region to the entire world? If Knox had taken what worked in Scotland and applied it to China, would he have reached China? If Wesley had stayed in England, would he have been effective to reach the global parish God wired him to reach?

The apostle today must understand how God has wired him and work accordingly. We live in a day and age where promotion is the reward of success. That is not how God measures success for the apostle. God may open more responsibility for the apostle in the region God has placed him, or among the people to which God has called him to make disciples. However, the apostle must pray long and hard before taking on responsibilities that will divert his focus away from the place or people to which God has sent him.

Apostles Today Part 5
Stan Meador | March 15, 2010 | 2:32 pm

Every believer has the responsibility of making disciples (Matthew 28.18-20). However, God calls some people to go into other cultures to make disciples. The mission field is wherever someone is not yet a disciple. Being a missionary is not about travelling to another country. Nonetheless, God calls some men and women to do just that in order to make disciples. This calling is not the call to be an apostle in the Ephesians 4 sense of the word. Not all who are called are apostles.

The call of the apostle is a little different, or maybe a lot different.

The call to a place or a people is often thought of in current mission circles to relate to unreached people groups or unreached cities. I do not believe it is limited to that. I believe the apostle’s function is needed everywhere that there are unreached people, not only where there are unreached people groups. If you want to see why I think that, you can read my article “Our Mission,” which explains my understanding of the Great Commission.

We see this idea of being called to a people or peoples in Peter (Galatians 2.8) and Paul (Romans 11.13 and Galatians 2.8). Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles (non-Jewish peoples). Peter was the apostle to the Jews (a people). Yet, Paul almost always started his work in a new city in the Jewish synagogue (where there was one) and Peter was sent by God to Cornelius, a Gentile. So, we cannot derive that an apostle to a people only works with that people group, but that his primary focus is making disciples among that people.

At a certain point in the history of the church in the Book of Acts, almost all of the apostles left Jerusalem. Only James remained there. From this I derive that his calling as an apostle was to the city of Jerusalem, or perhaps that it extended from Jerusalem into the surrounding region. I do not have a specific verse of Scripture to quote to prove that statement, but that is how I see the situation. There are, in the world today, apostles who state their calling to be within a certain region (or city) and to all the people(s) who reside there, rather than having a call to a specific people within that region (or city). I do not state that in order to use the experience of today to “prove” what I think was the reality of the church then. To the contrary, I want to show that one claiming to be an apostle to a city or a region today is not outside the bounds of Scripture in making that claim.

There should be no confusion about the call of the apostle to a people or place in comparison to a man who has the title of “pastor” or even “apostle” within the hierarchy of the institutional church. The apostle in Ephesians 4 has a ministry that is far larger than any single church. That is not to say that an apostle might not actually hold such employment, but a true apostle will find great frustration in such a position. It must also be clearly understood that the call of the apostle is not the call to climb the leadership ladder of an organization, moving from one place to the next to get ahead in his career as a minister. However, it may occur that an apostle will end up at the head of an organization which ministers within a city or region or among a people or even all the peoples of the world.

Wolfgang Simson cites John Knox of Scotland as an apostle in the history of the church. And, it may be that John Wesley, with his “the world is my parish” thinking, was an apostle. The apostle’s calling will be to a city or region, or to a people.

The call of the apostle will be accompanied by a burden for that place or that people. “John Knox, the reformer of Scotland, an apostolic man, once prayed: ‘God, give me Scotland or I die!’ (Simson, Houses That Change the World, p. 122).” When I heard Simson teach this he followed this statement up by saying that God gave Knox Scotland, and then he died.

When Jesus sent Ananias to Saul (Paul) He explained that Saul would be His instrument to carry the gospel to the Gentiles and the Jews. Jesus also told Ananias that He would show Paul how much he would suffer for His name (Acts 9.15-16). Paul suffered, but yet he had an unquenchable thirst to press on to carry the gospel further to reach Gentiles who had not yet been reached. An apostle today will suffer to get the gospel to the people or place to which he has been called by God. The apostle will weep over that people or place, will sweat to see to it that the gospel penetrates and sticks, will bleed to see Christ made known and disciples made – blood, sweat and tears, and sufferings beyond those are the reality of the apostle. The apostle will be poured out like a drink offering to reach the place or the people with the good news of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2.17 and 2 Timothy 4.6).

I am still processing through one more idea related to the apostle’s burden. Paul consistently wrote about remembering almost every church he planted in his continued prayers. Is this kind of prayer indicative of an apostle? Many people pray seriously and devote a lot of time to prayer. However, the continuous prayer for churches that have been started and the believers who have been discipled may be another characteristic of the apostle’s burden for a people or a place.

I have seen and heard people today claim to be apostles, but few who have been willing to shed their own blood to make the gospel known. I have, however, met a few who are so burdened for the people or place of their calling that “blood, sweat and tears” is not an understatement.

Apostles Today Part 4
Stan Meador | March 8, 2010 | 10:28 am

So, what is the ministry of apostles in the church today?

First, let me emphatically state that God’s design for the apostle today is not to be a titled office holder in the hierarchy of the church. The apostle today is not a super church leader with authority over everyone else. The apostle today is not one who must be obeyed by everyone else without question.

Apostleship is not a spiritual gift. If someone claims to have “the gift of the apostle” they misunderstand what it means to be an apostle. In Ephesians 4.11 the texts says that God gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers to the church in order to have a complete and healthy church. Please do not misunderstand me – the man claiming to be an apostle is not necessarily God’s gift to the church. Previously I wrote briefly about Apostle X. It was apparent that he thought he was God’s gift to the church. His attitude was completely wrong. God gave apostles to the church – the function of the apostles in the body of Christ is God’s gift to the church, along with the function of the prophet, the evangelist, and the pastors and teachers.

The four apostles I have met do not even like to hear the word apostle in the same sentence as their own name. They are humble men. They know they have a ministry, a responsibility, a function within the church, but not an office.

I believe the apostle today will have the following characteristics:

A call from God to a place or to a people.
A burden for reaching that place or people.
A vision of what God wants to do to reach that place or people.
A God-given strategy to reach that place or people.
A stewardship of the gospel for that place or people.

Each of these characteristics will need to be explained further, and we’ll do that in posts to come.

First House of Prayer
Stan Meador | March 3, 2010 | 10:49 am

A few weeks ago I posted that our team will be starting a prayer ministry in Joinville. We want to start a network of Houses of Prayer, but we’re not planning to start with followers of Jesus. Naturally, if someone who already follows Jesus wants to participate we’re more than happy to have them. But, we’re looking for lost people to start this ministry.

Some of you may already be wondering whether I’ve lost my mind. I have not. Let me explain.

Prayer is our communication with God – we speak and we listen as God speaks. So, we want to teach people who do not know God how they can get to know Him. Many people in Brazil believe that there is a God, but they also believe that they have to have a mediator to go to God on their behalf. We want to teach them that there is just one mediator between God and man – Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2.5). The very simple truth is that they can know God and talk to Him and He will talk to them.

Our team spoke to about 70 people a couple of weeks ago offering to come and pray in their homes. Yesterday, we spoke with about 120 people with the same offer. We’re still waiting for people to accept the offer. So far, just one person has invited us to enter her home and pray for her family. Yesterday was her son’s birthday. One of our team members sent her a text message to wish her son a Happy Birthday. Here is her response:

Thank you but our life is self destructing, the devourer is having a party in our house, in our life! There is no more peace, love, joy. It is so difficult that there is no more will to live. It has been 5 years that my husband has despised me. He never wanted his son. We have lived as strangers under the same roof. He kicked me out of our bedroom and for 5 years I’ve been sleeping in my son’s room. I’ve fallen into deep depression and several times tried to kill myself. I spent the first year of my son’s life locked in the house crying. My husband doesn’t ever remember our son’s birthday. He says that I’m ugly, old, fat, etc and it is difficult to continue on with all of these humiliations. God bless you for remembering my son.

When we began training people to go into houses to pray for people we told them that they were about to leave the four walls of the church building and enter reality. Here is our first dose of reality. We’re trying to schedule the first visit in this home for this weekend.

Please pray for us as we begin this ministry. Pray that God will draw many people to Himself through prayer.

I can’t help but wonder how many people like this woman live in the shadow of your steeple. You are more than willing to pray for me, and for that I am extremely grateful. Are you willing to go find those around you like this woman and teach them how to have a relationship with God, with our Savior Jesus Christ?