Generosity Redeemed – A Theology of Generosity

GENEROSITY REDEEMED

The way we understand and practice generosity is rooted in our theological perspective. Our theology of generosity, in turn, shapes how we use our resources, live our lives, and steward God’s blessings.

Generosity becomes clearer when we possess a theological understanding of God and His glorious riches.

Many Christians have a shallow, un-enchanted vision of generosity (I suffer from this as well). Often, generosity is a guilt-driven duty or a sentimental desire for psychological well-being or a reciprocal relationship with God, as if God needs anything from us. The deadliest perspective links giving to salvation. Reader beware, dead works will not result in eternal life (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Modern Christians, especially in America, seem to have unintentionally embraced ideas influenced by pragmatism and the Enlightenment regarding generosity. Additionally, adding a dose of moralism renders an unbiblical concoction.

The argument is commonly something like: “The Bible encourages giving as the right thing to do, promoting the expansion of God’s Kingdom while helping those in need. Tax benefits are a bonus!” While not entirely wrong, it’s incomplete and may be misguided. Some Christians use out-of-context proof-texts and persuasion tactics to motivate giving, which can be confusing or manipulative. What’s missing is a full-orbed Kingdom vision and a robust theology of generosity.

Theology, seen through a biblical lens, is more than just knowing things about God. Theology is about intimately knowing God Himself. Knowing God serves as the cornerstone of all Christian faith and activities, including stewardship and its handmaiden, generosity.

Let’s explore a biblical vision of generosity by asking questions of Holy Scripture.

In the beginning, who created?
At the cross, who died?
At the grave, who is risen?
Who is seated at the right hand of the Father?
At the conclusion of human history, who restores all things?
Who is God?
Who am I?
What are God’s purposes?
What is Jesus Christ Lord over?

Whether we realize it or not, our actions and choices in life inevitably reflect our underlying theological and worldview commitments. The way we understand and practice generosity is rooted in our theological perspective. Our theology of generosity, in turn, shapes how we use our resources, live our lives, and steward God’s blessings. Therefore, we need to make sure we have a good theology.

God created the world and deemed it “good.” This signified its intrinsic value because God is creator and God is the source of all good. This declaration demonstrates the richness of the potential embedded in creation, waiting to be discovered and developed. Entrusting man with dominion, God commanded the care and cultivation of Earth’s latent resources for His glory and the good of humanity. We hear echos in the greatest and second greatest commandments.

Jesus answered, “The most important (commandment) is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

Dominion

Dominion in the Bible is often overlooked or misunderstood. It is not about exploitation or oppression rather, theologically, it is stewardship, responsibility, God-given authority, and accountability to God, all directed toward His purposes. Properly understood, dominion is God-centered, not man-centered. As image-bearers, we share in God’s moral character traits, albeit as finite and fallen creatures. All humans are assigned a time and place to serve God’s purposes, exercising dominion over what God entrusts to us. In doing so, we reflect His moral character and bring His glory to the world He created and sustains. Dominion is humanity’s responsible and caring authority under God’s ultimate reign. I believe that exercising Godly dominion is a proper response to God’s grace, kindness, and goodness to us by glorifying Him and enjoying Him.

The first statement of the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us the chief duty of man and what were created for (purpose).

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
(The Westminster Shorter Catechism)

If God is the creator of all things, it means he holds the title deed of every atom in the entire universe. There isn’t anything in all of creation that God doesn’t own, including you and me. The air you breathe, the food you eat – it all belongs to God. He is the one who enables and allows you to breathe, eat, and even understand this sentence as you read it.

A Principle v. A Person

At the foundation of a theology of generosity, you won’t find just a biblical principle; rather, you’ll encounter a person—Jesus Christ. A distinct Christian life will be shaped and guided by principles of generosity that flow from knowing Jesus Christ. Remember, theology is knowing God, not just knowing things about Him.

Only when we retrieve and recover the riches of Christian faith in Christ as the ultimate gift from God, can we undertake any real form of generosity.

The one true definition of generosity, from which all other meanings flow, is God’s definition. Jesus Christ embodies this definition—He is the living and holy reality of generosity. At the center of all reality, Jesus stands as the Truth. When we behold Jesus, we see God’s Christ, God’s Word, God’s world, and God’s spirit, all given as glorious gifts to man. You and I have nothing we didn’t receive.

I encourage you to work out the implications of this in your own life (which is a gift). Generosity flows from a fuller theological understanding of God and His glorious riches.

“Whoever is of God hears the word of God.” – John 8:47

Therefore, through our generosity, we can join the likes of the Apostle Paul and, “proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hinderance.” – Acts 28:31

God’s Generous Gift

God has given us everything we need by granting us His divine power, His great promises, and His divine nature to enable our efforts to act on the knowledge of Him (theology). We benefit, partake, and develop the gift of God’s abundant power through Christ our Lord and Savior. Our knowledge of God’s divine power and promises is a gift. So is the ability and opportunity to utilize that power. When we receive the gift of faith, God supplies His power to enable us to supplement it with virtue and knowledge.

In conclusion, one important aspect of the Christian tradition is the spiritual discipline of generosity that contributes to the believer’s sanctification. In other words, when we exercise generosity, we are being conformed to the likeness of Christ’s character.

Notice, I didn’t mention money once in this post. Now, go and workout the implications of a theology of generosity in your life, watch God work and watch the world change.

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Praise God the Father who’s the source;
Praise God the Son who is the course;
Praise God the Spirit who’s the flow;
Praise God, our portion here below!”
– Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. There is a $7,500 matching challenge in play! This will allow us to quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

The Imagination Explained

IMAGINATION EXPLAINED

3 ways imagination is corrupted and what to do about it.

A synthesis and summary of article by Vigen Guroian in Touchstone Magazine.

Most people don’t think very deeply about the most powerful endowment God has given to his image-bearers, the Imagination!

Our imaginations can take us to some very good and joyful places, they can take us into very dark places as well. Our imaginations are more culturally relevant that we realize.

Below is a synthesis of a portion of an article by Vigen Guroian in Touchstone Magazine entitled, “Of Weed & Fairy Tales – The Idylls, Idols & Devils That Corrupt the Moral Imagination” (2020). I quote the article at length.

I hope it helps you understand the gift of the imagination, how to guard it from corruption, and how to cultivate it as God intends. I highly recommend reading Guroian’s article in its entirety.

The Purpose of Imagination

“The human imagination “reaches out and seizes likenesses and analogies” that establish relation and unity in a world of meaning. In other words, imagination is the self’s process of finding direction and purpose in life by making metaphors from remembered experiences to understand present experience. It is not an instinct but an attribute and an expression of our freedom, passion, and reason…

Wherever there are human beings, imagination exists and is exercised, much as wherever there are spiders, webs are spun. The important question is what kinds of imagination our contemporary culture encourages.” (Guroian)

Moral Imagination

The Human Power to “conceive of men and women as moral beings, i.e., as persons, not things or animals whose value is their utility. It is the process by which the self makes metaphors out of images stored in memory, which then are employed to find and suppose moral correspondences in experience.” (Guroian)

Left unprotected or uncultivated, the moral imagination decays into corruption and perversity.

Idyllic Imagination

It is escapist and utopian. “The self gripped by the idyllic imagination is escapist, not in the sense that it flees its physical surroundings so much as it shirks its civic, social, and moral responsibilities…

This is accompanied and reinforced by rejection and rebellion against old dogmas, manners, and mores. The idyllic imagination is in search of emancipation from conventional constraints. In our democratic and individualistic environment, persons justify this “liberation” in the name of self-fulfillment and self-realization, which they believe existing norms and structures inhibit or obstruct…

Quite often there is a turning to hedonistic imaginings, flagrant sensuality, and explorations of the “flesh.” These are paths that promise happiness but more often than not lead instead to boredom and ennui or, worse, physical and spiritual dissipation.” (Guroian)

The Idyllic Imagination rejects morality in pursuit of self-fulfillment. It is marked by hedonism, preoccupation with self, and sensuality. It seeks liberation from morals and results in boredom, dissatisfaction, or worse, physical and spiritual corruption and a wasted life.

Idolatrous Imagination

The Idolatrous Imagination cultivates the “absolutization of the relative” (Will Herberg)…
“Idolatry, in biblical terms, is the giving of one’s highest loyalties and devotions to objects and things other than God… What idolatry does is to convert its object into an absolute, thereby destroying the partial good within it and transforming it into a total evil…

Corrupted imaginations may be tracked everywhere in our culture. The media fixes on false gods whose stories replace the lives of saints and real heroes. One need only look at the popular magazines, MTV, television talk shows, and celebrity channels, to understand how pervasive is the idolatrous imagination… Even our schools and public libraries are heavily under its influence…

“What is more, the people, when they grow dissatisfied with their idols, often mercilessly turn on them and consume them with an ungodly wrath.” (Guroian)

The Idolatrous Imagination absolutizes the relative, lacking consciousness of sin, good things are given priority and devotion over God (Idolatry). A good object is converted into an absolute, making it totally evil. When the absolutized idol fails to satisfy its worshipers, they turn on it and destroy it.

Diabolical Imagination

“The coordinates that track the fall of the Western self into the diabolic imagination are the loss of the concept of sin and the rise of popular therapeutic justifications and excuses for things that were once thought perverse. Moral norms are redescribed as values relative to self or culture. Human nature is viewed as infinitely malleable and changing. Some go so far as to say it is merely a social construct or fiction. Good and evil are considered matters of perspective (opinion / sentiments)…

The Diabolic Imagination is latent within each of us, the image of the demonic imprinted by Original Sin on the human soul.” (Guroian)

The Diabolical Imagination transforms morals into relative values geared toward self. Objective good and evil do not exist outside one’s personal perspective or orientation. Sex and Violence are central. Greed and selfishness rule – revealing the sin nature within every human heart.

The Enriched Imagination

“After a child has read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen or Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, her moral imagination is sure to have been stimulated and sharpened. The powerful images of good and evil in these stories show a child how to love through the examples of the characters she herself has come to love and admire. Such memories become the analogues that the moral imagination uses to make real-life decisions, and these memories become constitutive elements of her self-identity and character…

A well-fortified and story-enriched moral imagination helps children and adults move about in the world with moral intent and ultimately with faith, hope, and charity. As Flannery O’Connor once said, “Our response to life is different if we have been taught only a definition of faith than if we have trembled with Abraham as he held a knife over Isaac.” (Guroian)

Like a neglected vegetable garden is susceptible to weeds and pests, the human imagination left unattended, unguarded, and uncultivated will incrementally decay and succumb to evil. Therefore, we must steward and shape our imaginations well.

Recovering the Enriched Imagination

There is a reason C.S. Lewis stories of Narnia and Tolkien’s tales of hobbits and rings have captured and shaped the imaginations and lives of generations. They are not simply far-fetched fantasies. Those tales are in fact, true. Not that the characters or worlds existed in human history but their underlying frameworks are constructed on objective moral truths. These beautiful and good true stories point beyond themselves to the ultimate source of goodness, truth, and beauty – God.

“Stories not only reflect life, they shape it. It is of no small account what stories we tell and what stories we live by…”(Guroian)

Keep in mind biblical Christianity has the ultimate story on which all other stories rest – creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. It is The Story that we should tell and allow to shape our lives.

I leave you with one of my favorite G.K. Chesterton Quotes:

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

Source of quotes above: “Of Weed & Fairy Tales – The Idylls, Idols & Devils That Corrupt the Moral Imagination” by Vigen Guroian (2020) www.touchstonemag.com

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. There is a $7,500 matching challenge in play! This will allow us to quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

LEARN ABOUT THE FORGE ROOM FOUNDATION.
TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.

What is Love?

“Biblically speaking, love is seeking your neighbor’s highest good.”
– Dr. Glenn Sunshine – 

“Love is an affair of the will.”
– C.S. Lewis – 

We live in a cultural moment where words are torn from their original meaning and metaphysical grounding.

I believe western society and civilization would benefit greatly if we recovered the original definitions of words. Why? Because words matter. Humans use language to communicate and describe reality.

The term ‘love’ is one of the most commonly used words in the English language. Love can mean a lot of things…

I love ice cream.
I love hunting.
I love my wife.
I love my mom.
I love my friends.
I love reading.
I love a warm fire.
I love God.
I love good music.

What do you love?
Who do you love?

What is Love, really?
Why does it matter?

Have you ever thought about how the definitions of words change over time?

Take the word ‘nice‘ for instance. Until the 14th Century, ‘nice’ was used as a pejorative. Nice was defined as; “foolish, ignorant, frivolous, senseless,” from Old French nice “careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish,” from Latin nescius “ignorant, unaware,” literally “not-knowing,” (source)

In the 19th Century, ‘nice‘ meant; “soft, tender, delicate; fine; accurate; exact; distinguishing.” (source)

In the 21st Century, the meaning of ‘nice‘ has morphed to mean; “kind, polite; pleasing, agreeable; appropriate, fitting; virtuous, respectable” (source)

You’ll think twice before saying someone is ‘nice’.

What about Love?

Love is important, right? Take a few moments to understand the similarities and subtle differences in the definitions of ‘love.’

The modern online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines love as follows:

Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties;
attraction based on sexual desire;
affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests;
an assurance of affection;
warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion;
the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration;
(source)

The Noah Webster Dictionary of the English Language (1828) defines ‘love’ as follows:
1. In a general sense to be pleased with; to regard with affection, on account of some qualities which excite pleasing sensations or desire of gratification. We love a friend, on account of some qualities which give us pleasure in his society. We love a man who has done us a favor; in which case, gratitude enters into the composition of our affection. We love our parents and our children, on account of their connection with us, and on account of many qualities which please us. We love to retire to a cool shade in summer. We love a warm room in winter. we love to hear an eloquent advocate. The christian loves his Bible. In short, we love whatever gives us pleasure and delight, whether animal or intellectual; and if our hearts are right, we love God above all things, as the sum of all excellence and all the attributes which can communicate happiness to intelligent beings. In other words, the christian loves God with the love of complacency in his attributes, the love of benevolence towards the interest of his kingdom, and the love of gratitude for favors received.
: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,
: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matthew 22:37.

2. To have benevolence or good will for. John 3:16.

1. An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object which communicate pleasure, sensual or intellectual. It is opposed to hatred. love between the sexes, is a compound affection, consisting of esteem, benevolence, and animal desire. love is excited by pleasing qualities of any kind, as by kindness, benevolence, charity, and by the qualities which render social intercourse agreeable. In the latter case, love is ardent friendship, or a strong attachment springing from good will and esteem, and the pleasure derived from the company, civilities and kindness of others.

Between certain natural relatives, love seems to be in some cases instinctive. Such is the love of a mother for her child, which manifests itself toward an infant, before any particular qualities in the child are unfolded. This affection is apparently as strong in irrational animals as in human beings.

We speak of the love of amusements, the love of books, the love of money, and the love of whatever contributes to our pleasure or supposed profit.

The love of God is the first duty of man, and this springs from just views of his attributes or excellencies of character, which afford the highest delight to the sanctified heart. Esteem and reverence constitute ingredients in this affection, and a fear of offending him is its inseparable effect.

2. Courtship; chiefly in the phrase, to make love that is, to court; to woo; to solicit union in marriage.

3. Patriotism; the attachment one has to his native land; as the love of country.

4. Benevolence; good will.

: God is love 1 John 4:7.” (source)

Finally, the Greek as used in the New Testament possesses the richest definitions of ‘love’. Notice how similar it is to Noah Webster’s 1828 definition…

Sexual or Romantic Love: Greek – Eros
Brotherly Love (friendship): Greek – phileo
Familial Love: Greek – storge
Self-Sacrificial Love: Greek – agape

Agape’ is God’s deep and abiding love for people. It is also the kind of love that people should have toward our creator God and one another. It is a self-sacrificing love that sets aside self for the honor and benefit of the other. Agape is far too deep and rich to fully comprehend much less explain in this blog post. So, I’ll leave you with passages of Scripture for your reflection and meditation at the end.

Agape love is counter-cultural and controversial today…
Love carries with it an intolerance. In its ‘yes’, love also says ‘no!’ Agape love says yes to God an others, while at the same time denying self… Saying ‘no’! Love just can’t accept and tolerate anything, otherwise love would give license for unimaginable devilry and evil. One cannot love truth and falsehood at the same time.

The slogan, “Love is Love” is a simplistic rhetorical device that devolves into a quagmire of easily manipulated emotional sentiments. The truth is, “God is Love” because love has its source outside the fallen domain of the human heart. God is ‘Agape’ from which all other forms of ‘love’ and affections flow. One cannot separate the Love of God from Truth of God.

Words and their meanings matter.

What is Love (really)?

Reflect on these passages:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7,13)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:1-8)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. This will allow us to host more forums and seminars that quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

LEARN ABOUT THE FORGE ROOM FOUNDATION.
TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.

The ‘Why?’ behind the Forge Room

WE ARE TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.
FORGING A REVOLUTIONARY LEARNING COMMUNITY, LIVING BOLDLY FOR CHRIST.

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

The only organization on earth capable of reorienting society toward reality, virtue, and human flourishing is the church. The only roadmap is the Bible. The only captain is Christ.

People change, organizations change and churches change. My calling remains the same.

God’s call led me into lay-leadership of our church’s pro-life ministry in 2012. He sustained me and exponentially grew the ministry and its impact, despite my short-comings. God is faithful.

God’s call led me to join staff at our church in 2014 to lead Local Missions (community outreach). God blessed and multiplied His ministry through bringing lay-leaders with gifts and talents I do not possess. They were vessels of God’s strength and grace in reaching thousands of people for Christ. Our message was clear, “we are a church without walls.” God is good.

God’s call placed me on the ramparts as a watchman in 2020 as dark ideologies attempted to mount a siege against our fellowship. My responsibility was clear; understand the enemy and his schemes, discern between friend or foe approaching the gates, and relay what I saw to those inside the city.

“For thus the Lord said to me:
“Go, set a watchman;
let him announce what he sees.
When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,
riders on donkeys, riders on camels,
let him listen diligently,
very diligently.”
Then he who saw cried out:
“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,
continually by day,
and at my post I am stationed
whole nights.
And behold, here come riders,
horsemen in pairs!””
– Isaiah 21:6-8

God’s call sustained me once again as organizational focus changed and shifted. God revealed a vital need where something was missing that I could create and contribute. The fellowship needed to be fortified in the faith, equipped with understanding of the times, and encouraged to stand firm – shining as lights in the darkness. God is wise.

God’s call on my life has always centered around protecting the most vulnerable – the unborn, the orphan, the trafficking victim, the elderly, the unprotected youth. You can read my story here to understand I was once the antithesis of this. But, God took the evil I committed and turned it for good. Even when I am unfaithful, God is faithful.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?”
– Proverbs 24:11-12

I cannot and will not remain silent in the face of evil as I did in my younger days. I am accountable to God, my wife, and my children. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I’ve reached two conclusions; First, for the most part, Christians have been fighting a defensive battle (even as we claim to be on the offense). Second, the American church suffers from the fear of man, a focus on self-preservation and empire-building, and protection of the institutional church (as a business). We’ve traded our God-ordained birth-right for a cheap bowl of marketing gimmicks. The results are; a loss of mission, moral confusion, and a sense of prevailing darkness. Well-meaning Christians have retreated to their ‘holy huddles’ and rabbit holes of Sunday church attendance, home, work, entertainment, and Christian activities (as sanctioned by the world).

Someone once said, “When the light of the world retreats inside walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place.”

I prayed, “Lord, what would you have me to do? I’m your’s to command.”

On June 16, 2022 a vision began forming in my mind. I saw a joy-filled, spirit-led, faithful, prayerful, worshipful, and vibrant community of sold-out Christ-followers so distinct from the world, they shined like the brightest stars in the sky. I saw people on fire for the Lord and loving their neighbors. I saw hundreds and even thousands of Christians breaking down the walls of church buildings to serve as ambassadors of our Savior and King. I saw Christ being honored and glorified in our city. I saw entire families being brought into the fold through the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. I saw prayer meetings, big and small breaking out all over. I saw a recovery of a full-orbed Kingdom vision and public theology as Christ-followers engaged within their sphere of relationships.

I saw classrooms, seminars, and forums filled with eager Christians in learning communities being equipped to serve God’s purposes in this generation and this city. I saw people investing in people who invest in people – creating disciples who will disciple the nations and generations in our city.

Today, I see a recovery of what is good, true, and beautiful on the horizon. I see answered prayer unleashed on our city. I see renewal and local churches pouring fourth light like never before.

All of this is totally impossible… or is it?

My prayer is… Ephesians 3:20-21

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (ESV)

J.B. Phillips paraphrase puts it this way, “Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine—to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen!”

As a pastor and leader, I’ve led the charge against human trafficking, exploitation of the vulnerable, abortion, euthanasia, and destructive ideologies. By God’s grace, great work has been done in these areas! We must celebrate what God has done through His faithful people. But, things in our community continue to worsen and decay. It’s not for a lack of awareness or funding or services. We have some of the best people and organizations serving trafficking victims, women in crisis pregnancies, orphans, the elderly and protecting the hearts and minds of children in our schools. The problem is cultural virtue is decaying because Christian leaders are telling their followers to abandon societal institutions like education, arts and music, media, and politics. Thus, our communities become very dark places.

The church isn’t lacking in programming or resources or personalities, we’re lacking in prayer, fortitude, and Gospel G.R.I.T. (Guts, Resiliency, Integrity, and Tenacity). Our Savior, Jesus Christ demonstrated all of these virtues as he “set his face like a flint” and marched to the cross, through death, and sat upon his Kingly throne.

Most Christians live as though we have a King without a Kingdom. Meanwhile, evil, chaos, and brokenness ravage our children, families, and communities – and churches!

Michael S. Craven stated, “While Christian faith is deeply personal it was never intended to remain private. This reductionism and privatization of Christian faith have left the contemporary Church with little to offer a desperate world other than a prescription for personal salvation, the only real implication of which is realized when you die. Unfortunately, this truncated gospel has left the Christian confused and uncertain with regard to what they are to be doing in the meantime.”

Again, we’ve made great strides in our fight against issues like trafficking and abortion. However, things continue to get worse. Most individual efforts are focused on arguing against and fighting at the point of crisis (ie. rescuing victims, protecting the vulnerable, or political action). I encourage, support, and participate in those efforts.

Sadly, the church sits on the sidelines, or complains, or remains silent or avoids critical cultural issues at all costs. I participate in the anti-trafficking community, serve on boards of ministries, attend school board and city council meetings, and advise crisis pregnancy centers. Local church involvement is always missing. Christians get involved but local churches tend to shy away from ‘controversial’ issues like trafficking, abortion, euthanasia, pornography, human sterilization, and perceived ‘political’ issues.

Silence on an issue of good versus evil is not going to win lost people to Christ.

Eric Metaxas said, “There are a lot of pastors that say, “I don’t want to fight (against moral evil)… I just want to “preach the Gospel.” I mean, if slavery is an issue, should you not talk about slavery because you might offend someone in your congregation? What issue will you be silenced on that is a God issue? That is an issue of good versus evil, because you have been persuaded somehow that if you don’t talk about that issue, you’ll win a convert. A convert to what? What dead, useless gospel are you preaching?”

Richard Owen Roberts said, “During the present time of moral and spiritual declension, the church is daily losing ground to the world. Each false convert that is added to an already adulterated work adds to the decline and hastens its pace. We have already reached the point where the negative impact of those who profess to be Christians and either are not or are badly backslidden is greater than the positive impact of those who profess to be Christians and truly are. Thus, the church is going backward instead of forward.”

Christ alone can heal and revive His Church. The church isn’t a franchise. Jesus Christ, not man, is responsible for building His Church. The “church growth movement” is an open door to liberalism, compromise, and false-teaching. Today, we find ourselves on a recovery mission of sound doctrine, faithfulness, and public theology.

God’s calling on me is clear and fortified. God moved the location and context of my vision. No longer is it limited to a single local church. It is a bigger enterprise for equipping and mobilizing the Church in our city in order to push back against the darkness and infuse God’s goodness into our community.

Based on my research, our communities will continue to degrade. Trafficking will continue to get worse, new forms of abortion will increase, sterilization of children will become normalized, euthanasia of the elderly and ill will increase, and the indoctrination of children and organizations with sex-ed, Marxism, and DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) / SEL / ESG doctrines will destroy any last vestige of moral virtue and human flourishing. Not to mention, the harsh rhetoric and cancelling of dissent or truth will continue unchallenged.

Moving forward, what are we about?

Christianity is a public truth.”

– Lesslie Newbigin

We must recover a unifying vision of the Lordship of Christ over the domain of our individual and collective lives as the local church. We shall live lives that are holy and pleasing to the Lord as we exercise dominion over that which God has placed in our care. The hallmarks of Christian maturity are; faith, holy living, the ability to articulate a Christian vision of total reality, and a zeal for sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom. Christ is Lord over ALL things. We serve as ambassadors of His Kingdom – reflecting our King’s image, redeeming and restoring that which is lost and dying in the place and time in which we live. We need a recovery of cultural virtue like in the days of William Wilberforce in order to make good culture and protect the sanctity of human life.

“God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”
– William Wilberforce

With this in mind, we launched the Forge Room Foundation in May of 2023.

A forge is “a furnace in which iron or metal is heated and hammered into form. Any place where any thing is made or shaped. The act of beating or working iron or steel; the manufacture of metalline bodies.” [Noah Webster 1828 – American Dictionary of the English Language].

A forge room is “a place or establishment where iron or other metals are wrought by heating and hammering.” [Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary]

A forge room is a motif of the Christian life and journey. We are constantly being grown, tested, sanctified, and conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Until Christ returns, the sanctity of human life will always be in danger. Threats against the weak, the vulnerable, and children are unending and will continue to grow.

We’re accurately Identifying the Problem:
We are living in a Civilizational Moment. Christians need strong biblical community and equipping now more than ever. Over the past hundred years, the Christian faith has become privatized as we have abandoned society resulting in darkness and moral confusion. Dangerous ideologies are invading our families, schools, and churches.

Like the German church in the 1930s, the American church is overcome with fear and remains virtually silent in the face of evil. As a result, the Church has lost its public witness. Our action or inaction today will shape the next century.

We’re Creating and contributing Solution:
The Forge Room Foundation is creating localized learning communities – providing training in worldview, cultural intelligence, and biblical theology – bringing light into the darkness.

We must repent of our silence. We must develop the life of the mind and heart. We must cultivate Gospel GRIT (Guts, Resiliency, Integrity, and Tenacity) in local churches. We must recover the Gospel of the Kingdom!

“The Gospel is so much larger than the personal plan for salvation. The Gospel of the Kingdom is the in-breaking rule and reign of Jesus Christ as King over all creation – redeeming and restoring all things. Through Him, the Kingdom of God has come into this world. Jesus has completed the atonement for our sin on the cross. By his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father, He is presently ruling and reigning over creation. Christ is reinstating his righteousness on the earth.”

– Michael S. Craven

We’re Encouraging and mobilizing appropriate Action:
We will develop a full-orbed Kingdom vision, confidence, and wisdom to serve generations yet unborn for Christ.

Are you ready to live boldly for Christ in this generation in our city?

Will you partner with us in this mission? Join us for a course and check us out (click here)

In conclusion, God will sustain and grow His ministry and its impact, despite my short-comings. Why? God is faithful.

Learn more about Forge Room here…

Resources to encourage you and give you hope

Article: Recovering the Gospel of the Kingdom by Michael Craven

Sermon: How to Be a Man of Courage by John MacArthur

Article: THE THREE WORLDS OF EVANGELICALISM by Aaron Renn

Book: Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch

Book: A Christian Manifesto Paperback by Francis A. Schaeffer

“Evangelization requires that we proclaim, not only God’s saving grace, but the norms by which he intends those who are in Christ to live. In no way do mere human beings redeem culture by engaging in creative activity. This is presumptuous. Only God in Christ redeems his fallen creation. We are at most agents of his kingdom, manifesting his saving grace in everything we do — including the shaping of culture.”

– David T. Koyzis –

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Signs Your Church, Ministry, or Business May Be Failing (Part 2)

You’re the problem with your organization!
You’re also the solution!

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HOW TO AVOID LEADERSHIP FAILURE

You are the problem with your organization!
You are also the solution!

In Part 1, I shared a few signs your church, ministry, or business might be headed into decline based on Jim Collins’ book, “How the Mighty Fall.” The goal was to outline how to accurately diagnose the problem. Read Part 1 before moving ahead.

In Part 2, we’ll begin discussing how decline relates to you as an individual leader and what you can do to avoid it. At the end, I provide four helpful resources.

As leaders, we need to ask important questions:

Where am I as a leader?
How does my team experience my leadership?
Where are we as a team?
What is the condition of my organization?
Are we healthy and thriving?
Are we on mission?
Are we drifting away from our mission?
Are we at risk of decline and failure?
Have we abandoned the core principles that made us successful in the first place?
Are we measuring the wrong things?
Do I even really know the people in my organization on a personal level?

Problem:

Isolated leaders, insolated leaders, high staff turnover, pragmatism, institutionalism (self-serving), mission ambiguity, gaslighting, defensiveness, fear, promoting ‘yes men’ over wise men, sanctioned incompetence, poor communication, gossip, malfeasance, quiet firing, spiritual abuse, and lack of vision plague Christian organizations today. Yet many leaders retreat to their ivory towers, revert to blame-shifting or scapegoating. People are seen as problems to be solved instead of sheep to be shepherded. Goodwill and good ideas vanish. As leaders distance themselves from problems and criticism, they push away people with good ideas and solutions who could help. A brain drain ensues and toxicity slowly poisons the entire organization.

How do we avoid such things and guard our witness for Christ? I’ll share a few thoughts.

Getting at Solutions:

Where am I?

Have you ever participated in a land navigation or orienteering exercise?

“Navigation is the art and science of determining the position of a ship, plane or other vehicle, and guiding it to a specific destination. Navigation requires a person to know the vehicle’s relative location, or position compared to other known locations.” (National Geographic)

“Land navigation is the discipline of following a route through unfamiliar terrain on foot or by vehicle, using maps with reference to terrain, a compass, and other navigational tools.” (Wikipedia)

The primary key to successful land navigation is not locating your destination. The essential first step is locating your current position on the map. If you don’t know where you are, you will never reach your intended destination (period). When things get chaotic or difficult, we need humility to ask, “Where am I?”

Humility (I can’t stress it enough).

Deep understanding is vital to healthy leadership and will result in healthy church, ministry, and business. If the leadership is unhealthy or toxic, it will poison the entire organization. Leaders must understand we are sinners and imperfect. We need to allow others into our lives to help us. We need others to show us our blind spots. We must remove façades that veil the truth about us. We must allow God to deal with our pride and selfish ambitions.

Humility is at the core of leadership.
Personality, passion, gifting, competence, compatibility, and character apart from a deep authentic humility are worthless.

“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.” – James 3:13 (NLT)

In February of 2016 my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 58 days later, he was gone. Early on in my dad’s treatment, by God’s grace I realized I was not in the right condition to lead my ministry. I was responsible for 1000+ volunteers, leaders, nonprofit partners, managing budgets, strategic planning, and vital relationships. In addition, needy people in our community depend upon the church to help them. In a season of loss and grief, it was all too much! So, I handed over all leadership authority and responsibility to my second in command. He’s smart, humble, and consistent. He is a great leader. As I entered the crucible with my dad, my team mate masterfully guided the ministry. Everyone worked together to stay on mission.

A couple months after my dad died my second in command quietly handed the ministry back to me. The shepherd needed shepherding during a stormy season. God used my father’s death to humble me. God provided a humble servant to take the helm for a season. Like a good harbor pilot, my teammate handed me the wheel after guiding the ship out of the rocky harbor to safer waters. Praise God!

Reality on the Ground:

A leader must be transparent and honest about where he or she is and where the organization is at all times. A leader must ask for help, feedback, and receive it with gladness. Remember, people are watching. As a leader you are bearing witness to God’s work in your life and through the organization. Your team will forget a lot but they won’t forget how you cared for them.

When you know where you are and possess the humility to ask for help and admit mistakes, you can provide good care for your team. In turn, they will care for you. Trust is the currency of any culture. Humility fosters trust.

In conclusion, know where you are and the condition of the people in your organization. Cultivate humility by letting people into your life and investing them. Don’t hide weakness, problems, or failure. Share them with your team and ask them questions. We’re all human and people tend to help those they can relate to. We trust who we know.

Leader, look in the mirror everyday and realize you’re the problem with your organization… You’re also the solution. Be the kind of leader people want by their side in the storms and battles of life.

Leadership Resources:

  1. The 360 Interview
  2. Gemba Walk
  3. Read a Proverb everyday for 31 days (repeat)
  4. Book: The QBQ

In part 3, we’ll cover more…

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Why Cultural Competency and Worldview Training are Vital

American Culture has shifted away from the Christian consensus of our past. Committed Christians are more distinct than ever from the dominant culture.

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In order to reach a post-Christian society, we must understand the nonbelievers today are not coming from a Christian consensus like the nonbelievers a few decades ago.

American Culture has shifted away from the Christian consensus of our past. Committed Christians are more distinct than ever from the dominant culture. The Gospel proclamation and discipleship are both radical and disruptive to the worldviews of the lost (nonbelievers). However, for those who receive Christ by faith in this cultural moment – what a joy it is for the one who believes –  and the Kingdom!

Pastor John MacArther explains why cultural competency and worldview training are vital to our Gospel witness and discipleship efforts.

“The more one understands people’s ideas the better one can communicate the truth of scripture and the gospel to them. That is why one learns about cults and religions. And why missionaries try to understand the cultures in which they live. But not enough Christians put much effort into understanding the culture in which they live. New believers who come to the church bring their worldviews with them. Furthermore, those Christians already in the church who do not understand worldview issues will not realize when they are embracing non-Christian concepts.”
– John MacArthur

The Church’s habit of shying away and hiding from challenging cultural issues works in favor of modern paganism. As such, unchallenged ideologies are free to do their destructive work in families and society. Therefore, the Church must recover a robust public theology and full-orbed Kingdom vision in order to present the truth and hope of the Gospel in this generation. If not, the next generation faces a very dark future.

We can’t communicate the hope of Christ without understanding the cultural language of the non-believing natives who inhabit our communities.

Pray and get equipped and trained in theology, cultural competency, and worldview. Then, live boldly as you let your light shine before all. 

Stay Tuned: We’re building learning communities designed to do just this thing!

 

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In addition to this blog, explore additional content on my Substack!

If you enjoy Revolution of Man blog, podcast, and videos - Consider subscribing to my Substack. Substack is a reader-supported publication that also allows me to reach a broader audience. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming paid subscriber.