Thursday, August 27, 2009


1. Have fights in front of your children. Then when quests come, turn around and act affectionate toward one another.
2. Stifle your children’s questions by saying, “Don’t bother me now; I’m busy.”
3. Take no interest in your children’s friends. Let them run around with whomever they choose.
4. Never discipline your children; try to use psychology instead.
5. Nag them about their schoolwork; never compliment them on their achievements.
6. Demonstrate your love for them with material things. Give them everything their little hearts desire.
7. Never discuss the facts of life with them. Instead, let them learn about sex from their friends, public school, or pornographic literature.
8. Set a bad example so the children will not want to grow up to be like you.
9. Absolutely refuse to believe it if you are told that your children have done something wrong.
10. Let your children make their own choices in the matter of religion. Be careful not to influence them in any way.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In Christianity you can be forgiven

Well-Known Convert Struggles to Stay Alive in Egypt

Source: Click here

Mon, Aug. 24, 2009 Posted: 12:59 PM EDT

These days, one of Egypt’s most well-known converts to Christianity is living a mobile lifestyle, but not by choice.

Maher El Gohary, the second Egyptian to legally request to change his religious status, and his 15-year-old daughter, Dina, are living like “fugitives,” the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday.

Every few months, the father and daughter move to a new apartment to escape the Muslim extremists who want them dead for leaving Islam. No matter where they are, Gohary is always in suspense and tries to be as low-key as possible to escape the attention of neighbors.

“I'm not so much afraid of the government anymore,” Gohary told the Times. “It's conservative Muslims who worry me. Some of them believe whoever kills me is rewarded. When I go to court, I'm surrounded by police protection."

Gohary is the second known convert to file a request to change his religious identity from Muslim to Christian. In June, a Cairo judge rejected his petition even though he provided a baptism certificate and a letter of acceptance into the Coptic Orthodox Church as the judge had requested.

The judge made the excuse that the church deals with Christians and not with Muslims who convert to Christianity.

It was the first time the Coptic Church had issued a letter recognizing the baptism of a convert.

The result of Gohary’s case is similar to that of Mohammed Hegazy, the first convert to legally request to change his religious status. The 2008 case ended up with Egypt’s Supreme Court judge saying that Hegazy can believe what he wants in his heart, but that he cannot change his religion in his legal documents.

“Islam is the only thing Egyptians are 150 percent sure of. If you reject Islam, you shake their belief and you are an apostate, an infidel,” Gohary said. “I can see in the eyes of Muslims how much my conversion has really hurt them.”

Egypt’s population is 90 percent Muslim, with Christians making up the remaining proportion. Though Christians are regularly persecuted and oppressed for their faith, by comparison, they fare much better than converts from Islam.

Abdul Aziz Zakareya, a cleric and former professor at Al Azhar University – the school that co-sponsored President Obama’s Cairo speech in July – said that converts like Gohary “should be killed by authorities.”

“Public conversions can lead to very dangerous consequences,” he said to the Times. “The spreading of a phenomenon like this in a Muslim society can cause many unwanted results and tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims.”

Because of the danger, Muslim background believers are forced to worship in underground churches and live with the constant fear of being murdered not only by Muslim strangers but also by family members.

Dina said a bearded man once grabbed her and said “if you and your dad don’t stop, I’ll kill you both.’”

Gohary said he came to Christ in his mid-twenties by reading the Bible after living with a Christian roommate in police academy. What drew him to Christianity, he said, are the teachings about love and forgiveness.

“In Islam, if you steal your hands are cut off, but in Christianity you can be forgiven,” he said. “This compassion is what attracted me.”

His first marriage ended in divorce when his wife refused to accept Christianity. Dina, who identifies herself as Christian, is the daughter produced by his first marriage.

His second wife converted to Christianity, which resulted in angry family members vandalizing their farm. Out of fear, the couple moved to Cyprus. But then Gohary moved back to Egypt to make sure his daughter was being raised a Christian.

Dina says her mother, who shares custody of her with her father, forced her to wear a hijab and go to mosques against her will.

Gohary’s lawyer said in June that they plan to appeal and take his case to a higher court and fight for the convert’s right to be legally recognized as a Christian.

Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter

Blessed r u when people persecute you ...

UK Christians Call on Policitians for Female Converts in Iran Jail

Source: Click here

Sat, Aug. 22, 2009 Posted: 10:12 AM EDT

Joining the protest against the imprisonment of two Iranian female converts, UK Christians from Bolton are calling for the release of two women being detained in Iran, they especially plea to Bolton West MP Ruth Kelly to help their cause.

Now the MP has urged the Government to keep pressing Iran over the treatment of two Christian women being detained in the country, the Bolton News reported Friday. “More than 30 constituents have contacted Ms Kelly regarding the plight of Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh, who have been detained in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, in Tehran,” it stated.

The two Iranian women - Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, were arrested on 5 March for leaving Islam; and there put in the notorious Evin deprived of medical attention and often blindfolded for interrogations for several hours. They were tried after five months on 9 August, they were told to recant their faith which they said they will not do so. They were sent back to the prison where they face charge of apostasy which is death in Iran.

Elam Ministries, a ministry that specializes in serving the growing church in Iran alleged that the women have been imprisoned solely on the basis of their religious belief.

The source said, UK ministers have responded to Ms Kelly’s requests for action by assuring her that Government officials have raised concerns about the prisoners on several occasions, both independently and collectively with other countries.

Ms Kelly said: “I am pleased that ministers are continuing to put pressure on the Iranian government and have been instrumental in highlighting this issue at the United Nations.

“I have asked Ministers to keep me updated regarding developments and I hope that pressure from the British government will lead to a change of heart by the Iranian authorities.”

Earlier, Bishop Michael Nazir-Alie of Rochester also applealed for the duo. “Maryam and Marzieh are being held simply because they have changed their belief. The UN Declaration on Human Rights says people everywhere should be free to do this and the Iranian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion,” he told The Times Online.

“I appeal to the Iranian President to have mercy and to release these two young women forthwith so that they can receive the medical treatment which they so desperately need,” said Dr. Nazir-Ali.

The Elam report said, the chief interrogator had recommended a verdict of apostasy, however no verdict was pronounced when they appeared in Teheran court on 9 August; rather they were questioned if they were Christians which they said they were. And they were told to renounce their faith verbally and in writing which the two women said they will not do, because they “love Jesus.”

The prosecutor told them to think about the options they were given and come back to him when they are ready to comply though they women said they had already made up their mind not to recant their faith in Christ.

Apostasy in Iran under Islamic ‘Shariah’ Law is death.

Gretta Curtis
CP Europe Correspondent

Some folks weren't grasping how fierce the ocean can be

Don't ignore this warning to your peril!

1PE 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Story below tells of how people just ignore warnings and result in loss of lives.

US spectators ignored warnings before wave hit
Published: Tuesday August 25, 2009 MYT 7:00:00 AM

Source: Click here

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP): Rangers at Acadia National Park insisted Monday that they had done all they could to warn visitors before beauty suddenly turned brutal, launching a hurricane-generated wave over a group of gawkers, dragging several into the roiling Atlantic and killing a 7-year-old girl.

Many visitors didn't heed alerts Sunday to keep back from huge waves that crashed spectacularly and dangerously against the rocky shore as Hurricane Bill passed over open ocean to the east, the park's chief ranger said.

Two people were hospitalized after being pulled into the churning surf by a wave that crashed on the rocks about 150 meters from a popular attraction known as Thunder Hole, where plume-like sprays rise into the air even under less severe conditions. A viewing platform there had already been closed by the park because of the dangerous conditions.

The wave swept over 20 people, 11 of whom were taken to the hospital with injuries including broken bones from being slammed onto the rocks, officials said. Several people were tossed into the water, and all but three managed to pull themselves out.

Spectators eager to take in the views of dramatic surf began filling up Acadia, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Augusta, the state capital, on Sunday morning, Chief Ranger Stuart West said. As the tide rose, generating even bigger waves, 10,000 people eventually parked along the road to view the waves spun off by Bill, West said.

The park dispatched seven rangers to the area to warn spectators to keep away from the rocks, where 12-foot to 15-foot (3 1/2 to 4 1/2-meter) waves were breaking, West said.

"They were doing it all day long," he said. "But some folks weren't grasping how fierce the ocean can be."

Three signs warning of "dangerous waves and rip currents" had also been posted at parking areas, which were closed off to new cars once they had filled.
James Kaiser, a local photographer who was at the scene, agreed that people did not heed warnings to stay away from the waves.

"I was standing next to a ranger who kept telling people to back away from the rocks," he said. "It was a pretty tough order because people were drawn to the rocks, where there were better views."

A little after noon, a huge wave crashed into the shore, sucking the visitors out to sea. The Coast Guard responded shortly afterward to a call from rangers and dispatched a boat and two aircraft.

The girl who drowned was 7-year-old Clio Dahyun Axilrod, said Sgt. Jay Carroll of the Maine Marine Patrol. Her father, Peter Axilrod, was pulled from the water, as was 12-year-old Simone Pelletier. Clio Axilrod was declared dead about two hours after being pulled out.

Her father remained at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor on Monday, along with his wife. Authorities didn't know the extent of their injuries. Pelletier was taken to Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor with injuries not considered life threatening.

Some folks weren't grasping how fierce the ocean can be

Don't ignore this warning to your peril!

1PE 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Story below tells of how people just ignore warnings and result in loss of lives.

US spectators ignored warnings before wave hit
Published: Tuesday August 25, 2009 MYT 7:00:00 AM

Source: Click here

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP): Rangers at Acadia National Park insisted Monday that they had done all they could to warn visitors before beauty suddenly turned brutal, launching a hurricane-generated wave over a group of gawkers, dragging several into the roiling Atlantic and killing a 7-year-old girl.

Many visitors didn't heed alerts Sunday to keep back from huge waves that crashed spectacularly and dangerously against the rocky shore as Hurricane Bill passed over open ocean to the east, the park's chief ranger said.

Two people were hospitalized after being pulled into the churning surf by a wave that crashed on the rocks about 150 meters from a popular attraction known as Thunder Hole, where plume-like sprays rise into the air even under less severe conditions. A viewing platform there had already been closed by the park because of the dangerous conditions.

The wave swept over 20 people, 11 of whom were taken to the hospital with injuries including broken bones from being slammed onto the rocks, officials said. Several people were tossed into the water, and all but three managed to pull themselves out.

Spectators eager to take in the views of dramatic surf began filling up Acadia, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Augusta, the state capital, on Sunday morning, Chief Ranger Stuart West said. As the tide rose, generating even bigger waves, 10,000 people eventually parked along the road to view the waves spun off by Bill, West said.

The park dispatched seven rangers to the area to warn spectators to keep away from the rocks, where 12-foot to 15-foot (3 1/2 to 4 1/2-meter) waves were breaking, West said.

"They were doing it all day long," he said. "But some folks weren't grasping how fierce the ocean can be."

Three signs warning of "dangerous waves and rip currents" had also been posted at parking areas, which were closed off to new cars once they had filled.
James Kaiser, a local photographer who was at the scene, agreed that people did not heed warnings to stay away from the waves.

"I was standing next to a ranger who kept telling people to back away from the rocks," he said. "It was a pretty tough order because people were drawn to the rocks, where there were better views."

A little after noon, a huge wave crashed into the shore, sucking the visitors out to sea. The Coast Guard responded shortly afterward to a call from rangers and dispatched a boat and two aircraft.

The girl who drowned was 7-year-old Clio Dahyun Axilrod, said Sgt. Jay Carroll of the Maine Marine Patrol. Her father, Peter Axilrod, was pulled from the water, as was 12-year-old Simone Pelletier. Clio Axilrod was declared dead about two hours after being pulled out.

Her father remained at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor on Monday, along with his wife. Authorities didn't know the extent of their injuries. Pelletier was taken to Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor with injuries not considered life threatening.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Create an environment of growth around you

A Growing Community

Source: Click here

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common . . . And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-44, 47 (NIV)

Just as the growth of tropical fish is limited by the size of the aquarium in which they live, we also are affected by our environment. If your current circumstances do nothing to help you grow, you're going to have a hard time enlarging yourself to reach your potential. That's why it's crucial that you create an environment of growth around you. That kind of place should look like this:

1. Others are ahead of you.
2. You are still challenged.
3. Your focus is forward.
4. The atmosphere is affirming.
5. You are out of your comfort zone.
6. Others are growing.
7. There is a willingness to change.
8. Growth is modeled and expected.

A life of continual growth is never easy, but a good environment makes the swim upstream a little less difficult.

Your Road Map for Success

I just want to get them out there

Midsize Mission Renews Europe's Declining Churches

Source: Click here

Churches across Europe are reporting that setting up midsize missional groups alongside their worship services is proving to be an effective strategy to not only revitalize struggling congregations, but also to help attract new people in a post-Christian society.

Tue, Jul. 22, 2008 Posted: 11:37 AM EDT

Churches across Europe are reporting that setting up midsize missional groups alongside their worship services is proving to be an effective strategy to not only revitalize struggling congregations, but also to help attract new people in a post-Christian society.

Midsize groups range in number from 15 to 70 members and do anything from handing out flowers to women on Mother’s Day, meeting in cafes with non-Christians to explore the practices of the faith, to serving in a discipleship program.

The majority of Mid Size Communities (MSCs) include worship, fellowship and mission, but the primary purpose can differ from being a church’s main vehicle for mission, a combination of pastoral and missional, or serving as the basic unit of the church.

In the paper “Mid Sized Mission – The Use of Mid Sized Groups as a Vital Strategic Component of Church,” Joanne Appleton describes MSCs as having the potential to be “building blocks to a city-wide church planting movements as a networked expression of church.”

Missional MSCs, which works with mainly non-believers, want to grow, Appleton explains. But by their very definition they are midsize, so as they get bigger they have to reproduce other midsize groups thus sparking a church planting movement within the existing church structure.

St. Andrew’s church in Chorleywood, United Kingdom, for instance, increased its actively participating members from around 400 to 1,500 in less than five years since planting MSCs alongside its services and small groups.

Five years ago, the church was confronting declining attendance and less than 12 percent of the congregation was in small groups, recalls Andrew Williams, associate vicar at St. Andrews.

Now, 72 percent of the church members belong to one of 32 midsize missional communities serving their neighborhood by working with the deaf, elderly and homeless.

Williams believes MSCs “release the potential of ordinary believers to get involved in the outward dimension of church life,” according to Appleton.

A key principle to MSCs is they are run by people and not a pastor. In some models, several midsize groups meet together to form a cluster that worship together on some Sundays each month. These clusters rotate with each other in attending central services. In some church models a cluster only attends the main church service once a month and gathers together for missional activities during the other weeks.

“For my part the cluster is the church,” said Pastor Trond Loberg, of Normisjon Storsalen Church in Oslo, Norway. “The mission field is so big. We haven’t reached it in the traditional way; we need new ways. Some of the clusters will be released from our church – if they are only 10 people they are still a church and some of them will grow up to be a celebration and a church in their own right. I don’t want to focus on how they will grow. I just want to get them out there.”

MSCs meet in homes, restaurants, cafes, pubs, shopping malls, mountains, and even in garages. Each MSC has a specific target, for instance, to share the Gospel in the break-dance community or to reach out to business people at work.

Jennifer Riley
Christian Post Reporter

The church always lags behind these shifts

Minister Studies Why Americans are 'Spiritual but Not Religious'

Source: Click here

Wed, Oct. 22, 2008 Posted: 05:09 PM EDT

With more Americans describing themselves as "spiritual but not religious," one researcher set out to find what that statement really means.

The Rev. Linda Mercadante, a professor of theology at Methodist Theological School in Delaware, Ohio, conducted research on this growing segment of the American population and found possible reasons why the "spiritual" tend to stay away from the church or religious practices.

"I heard the same arguments over and over again,” said Mercadante, a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), according to the Presbyterian News Service.

After speaking to SBNRs (spiritual but not religious) across the country, all of whom volunteered for 90-minute interviews, Mercadante found that many of them are not in the church – or are not religious – because of "stereotypical arguments against organized religion and the claims of churches."

"I don’t know where this script comes from – no one knows any real churches that fit this profile or stereotype," she said, according to the denomination's news service.

Some of the stereotypes SBNRs listed include churches' claim to "exclusive truthfulness – that they have a corner on the truth market;" churches demanding that personal beliefs be abdicated; churches demanding conformity to a "corporate mentality;" and churches professing arbitrary or implausible beliefs, among others.

According to Robert C. Fuller, author of the 2001 book Spiritual, But Not Religious, it is likely that one in every five persons could describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. Fuller cited a study in which those who described themselves as SBNRs were less likely to evaluate religiousness positively, less likely to engage in traditional forms of worship such as church attendance and prayer, and more likely to characterize religiousness and spirituality as different and nonoverlapping concepts.

Spirituality, in that study, was associated with higher levels of interest in mysticism, experimentation with unorthodox beliefs and practices, and negative feelings toward both clergy and churches. Religiousness, meanwhile, was associated with higher levels of interest in church attendance and commitment to orthodox beliefs.

"Those who see themselves as 'spiritual, but not religious' reject traditional organized religion as the sole-or even the most valuable-means of furthering their spiritual growth. Many have had negative experiences with churches or church leaders," according to Fuller.

While negative feelings toward the church and organized religion remain, respondents of Mercadante's recent study reported little negative experience with churches. Mercadante went as far as rejecting the common assumption that many people are not religious because of a bad experience at a church. It is simply not true, she said, citing "very minimal reporting by people that they had been hurt in or by the church."

Based on her findings, which she plans to publish in book, Mercadante concluded, "I think it’s clear that much of the problem organized religion faces today is not really the church’s fault.

"We are experiencing a massive cultural shift that is extremely hard to keep up with and the church always lags behind these shifts – too slowly, obviously, for some people."

Audrey Barrick
Christian Post Reporter

Equipping God’s people to be God’s glory

Winning People to Christ Not the End Task, Says Ministry Leader

Tue, Oct. 28, 2008 Posted: 12:55 PM EDT

Source: Click here

PATTAYA, Thailand – The end task of evangelists and mission leaders is not just winning people to Christ, contends the co-founder of a ministry that trains church leaders.

Too often Christians think that evangelism is simply going into all the world and proclaiming the Gospel and then baptizing new believers, said Bob Moffitt, co-founder and chairman of Disciple Nations Alliance (DNA), at the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) General Assembly on Monday.

But true evangelism goes beyond just teaching Scripture knowledge but combines knowledge with obedience leading to transformed lives.

“I grew up in a church where people were incredibly Bible literate,” Moffitt shared, “but you know what? We didn’t see a lot of transformed lives.”

“And that is because we assumed that the ideas we found in the Scriptures if they would be taught they will have application in terms of changing people’s lives.”

Moffitt acknowledged that ideas do have consequences, but added that change only occurs if the ideas are applied.

Evangelical leaders, he said, have successfully proclaimed the Gospel, moved people into the local church and taught them the Bible, but have made the “great omission” of biblical discipleship.

“We have not taught them to do what Jesus has said,” Moffitt commented.

“As a consequence of this great omission, we have seen incredible numbers of conversions, many churches planted, but we have seen little transformation,” he said.

Moffitt suggests that the reason why there are evidently not enough transformed lives is because Christians have missed the target.

Instead of the correct Great Commission target of teaching people to obey, people focus on a target of proclaiming and bringing people into fellowship in the church.

“The end task of the Great Commission is not winning people to Christ,” Moffitt contends. “Be careful, winning people to Christ is essential. It is part of the process but it is not the end process. It is not hitting the target.”

Likewise, planting churches and teaching people what Jesus taught are not the end task, even though both are “absolutely necessary.”

“The end task is, I submit, [is] equipping God’s people to glorify Him,” Moffitt said. “Equipping God’s people to be God’s glory by teaching them to observe all the commandments that Christ has commanded.”

The ministry leader observed that churches that are transforming are ones that express God’s love and that “live out the Gospel” that“is not just a proclamation.”

”When God’s people sacrificially are prepared by their churches to express the love of God, transformation comes,” Moffitt said.

In a discussion session after Moffitt’s presentation, experts from around the world discussed their views on what was presented. The evangelical leaders during the “Living Room” session agreed that the “secret” to transforming lives is showing love for people.

Moffitt’s presentation was part of the World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly in Pattaya, Thailand, where more than 500 evangelical Christians from over 100 nations are meeting until Thursday.

This year’s general assembly – the first in seven years – boasts a diverse array of organizations and denominational church bodies that include representatives of Pentecostal World Fellowship, the Mennonite community, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Charismatic stream, the China Christian Council, and historic mainline Churches.

Other organizations represented at the WEA General Assembly include Campus Crusade for Christ, Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, and U.S. Center for World Mission, among many others.

Michelle A. Vu
Christian Post Reporter

Flexibility and adaptability are needed

S. Baptists Look Toward Growing Hispanic Mission Field

Source: click here

Sun, Mar. 08, 2009 Posted: 01:05 PM EDT

Southern Baptist mission leaders have taken notice of the rapidly expanding Hispanic population in North America and are addressing ways to overcome cultural barriers to reach this group.

Among the many obstacles, the most prominent are a Catholic family background and the language barrier between generations of a Hispanic family living in the United States.

Although many Hispanics are not active participants of the Roman Catholic Church, they often face pressure from their families and friends when they engage in evangelical activities, writes Bobby S. Sena, a member of the Church Planting Staff at North American Mission Board, in a feature posted on the Web site

Ministers need to understand the pressure that Hispanics with a Roman Catholic background face and the “doubt and confusion” they struggle with as they compare the Bible’s teaching with the religious traditions they’re accustomed to.

“Evangelical efforts to lead Hispanics to faith in Christ need to be accompanied by much prayer, love and patience,” Sena writes. “Often, even after a Hispanic has indicated a desire to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it may take months or even years for him or her to make the decision to be baptized and become a member of an evangelical church.”

A genuine friendship, therefore, should be established with Hispanics who do not have an evangelical background to offer them support as they wait for their parent or spouse to also join the evangelical church.

Some effective and no-pressure ways to reach entire Hispanic families include ministers inviting them to their homes for coffee or a meal, or inviting them to activities such as backyard Bible clubs, Vacation Bible School, Christmas or Easter programs, film festivals (related to family or marriage), or Jesus film showings.

NAMB’s Sena says home Bible studies are shown to be one of the best ways to reach Hispanics.

Another cultural issue ministers must be attentive to is that Spanish is not the primary language for all Hispanics. Rather, the preferred language depends on which generation they come from in the United States.

New immigrants and first generation Hispanics, for instance, need to be ministered to in Spanish, but the second generation is more comfortable with a bilingual approach, Sena writes. And an English approach should be taken with third and onward generations of Hispanic-Americans.

This language preference is important to keep in mind, Sena writes, because Hispanics function as a close-knit family unit and are likely to want to attend the church as a family once they accept the Protestant teachings.

The suggested solution to the language barrier during church service is to have bilingual worship services or two different services, one in English and the other in Spanish, and Sunday school classes taught in different languages.

“Flexibility and adaptability are needed if all of the segments in the Hispanic community are to be reached with the gospel and disciples in New Testament-type congregations,” Sena writes.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are 45.5 million Hispanics in the United States as of 2008 – an increase of 374 percent since 1970. The number is predicted to jump to 128 million by 2050 if the immigration trends continue, according to Pew Hispanic Center and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter

Friday, August 14, 2009

Church will make it a priority to train, equip and mentor its members in mission!

What is an Intentionally Missional Church?

Source: click here

Bryan Knell, Church Relations Director for the Global Connections network, reflects on what we understand by 'intentionally missional church'

Most evangelical churches in the UK do mission. They believe that doing mission is part of their evangelical responsibility as gospel people. They send money for mission, mission personnel are mentioned in their prayers and they sometimes arrange an event to hear about what is happening in another part of the UK or the wider world.

But doing mission is not the same as being missional. Churches that do mission may well make a significant contribution to building the Kingdom of God, but the underlying ethos of most well established UK churches is not missional and certainly not intentionally missional.

There are certainly spiritual and discipleship issues that are behind this problem. If Christian individuals and churches were to grasp and live out the mission of God as it is proclaimed through the whole of the biblical record, we would have no problem. But there are at least two historical and structural issues that result in churches doing mission rather than being missional. Firstly, the Church lost its missional way and secondly, the UK church, more recently, has not been allowed to be missional.

The Church lost its way missionally

From the beginning of Christendom, services have been the primary evidence and event of the church. We have buildings for services (many of our church buildings are suitable for services and nothing else), furniture for services, officiators for services, clothes for services, music for services, utensils for services, special words (liturgies) for services, biddings and benedictions for services.

In most UK churches today, the majority of effort, practice, rehearsal and leader's time goes into preparing the Sunday morning 'service'. And that 'service' is primarily for those that belong. We are making the 'in crowd' feel important, comfortable and accepted. Our experience each week shows us that the church is about the bums of the faithful on seats!

It is a pastoral model of church. A church leader's key task should be 'to prepare God's people for works of service' (Eph 4:12) but we call many of them 'pastors' and that indicates the way we think about church. Pastoral care is important, but it should be a management role in the church. Leadership should be missional.

The Church is not being allowed to be missional

For the last hundred years the UK church has not being encouraged to be missional because other organisations have been set up with the express purpose of doing mission. Mission agencies, evangelistic organisations, mission halls and various outreach groups have been focused on preaching the gospel and sharing the good news in a great variety of creative ways. Some have specialised in a particular approach and become experts in their ministry. Many have been very effective and many Christians look back to a 'para-church' group and are thankful for all they learnt through its ministry.

But simply because they have existed, the church has continued to be sidelined in its missional role. How does a church now begin to get involved in a particular ministry when an organisation has many years experience and is well known for expertise?

For most of the last 200 years, churches have been expected to 'do mission' through the 'pay and pray' approach. Organisations have done mission on behalf of and in the name of the church, with the church's financial and prayerful support. It will take time and a lot of persuasion to change the perception.

Mission the 'organising function' of churches

As Mike Frost explained so clearly during his visit to the UK in 2008, worship has been the 'organising function' of churches under Christendom. An intentionally missional church will have mission as the 'organising function'.

Many new and young churches are establishing themselves with mission as their organising function, but there are two major problems we still face.

Firstly, changing the culture of a church from being pastorally centred to being missionally centred is almost impossible. Very few established churches have managed to make the change.

Secondly, churches that have been recently founded as missional churches have very often rejected the valuable experience that para-church groups can offer. They often assume that if they have any contact with an organisation, it will take over and dominate them. There will always be an important and valuable role for specialist agencies in supporting, advising and serving the churches in mission.

The characteristics of an intentionally missional church

1. Vision – the dominant and priority vision of a missional church is to see the Kingdom of God expanded by gospel proclamation and social action. Mission is not limited by geography or method. How healthy a church is, how much it has achieved in the past year, its aim for the coming year and its 5/10 year goal will all be determined by mission.

2. Decisions – all decisions at every level will be made of the basis of mission opportunities and prospects. "If it does not involve mission, we will not do it."

3. Equipping/Empowering – the church will make it a priority to train, equip and mentor its members in mission. This will involve helping Christians identify where they can naturally do mission and giving them confidence to make the most of these opportunities. Secondly, it will also involve identifying new circumstances where they can be involved in mission together and thirdly, decide which mission projects will be supported by the church.

4. Preaching/Teaching/Learning – the Bible will be taught through a mission hermeneutic. This means that it will be assumed that mission is the over-riding message, focus, fabric and structure of the whole Bible – Genesis to Revelation; that all the issues that the Bible covers have to be understood in terms of their affect on and contribution to mission. The Bible will be taught not just as valuable spiritual wisdom but to equip Christians to respond to the questions and issues that they face as they do mission.

5. Worship – worship will be inspired by missional concepts.

a) Firstly, the glory of God which is enhanced when people come to acknowledge him as Lord through mission.

b) Secondly, the prospect of worship in heaven when people from every tribe, language, people and nation will gather round the throne. (Rev 7)

c) Thirdly, worship will be enhanced and invigorated by the testimony of those come to faith and being blessed by God through mission as it is in heaven. (Luke 15:7)

6. Community – Fellowship will be vital because of the challenges, pressures and attacks that Christians are facing as they reach out in mission. People are drawn together when they unitedly attempt a task or face a challenge.

Global Connections became established as the Evangelical Missionary Alliance at a time when mission was done for the churches by specialist 'missionary' societies. Today, Global Connections operates with the strapline, 'mission at the heart of the church, the church at the heart of mission' and seeks to help churches to be missional and to encourage mission agencies to allow them to be!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I will not get out, sell out, be talked out, or pushed out

Warriors Creed

I Am a Soldier
Author unknown

I am a soldier in the army of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ is my Commanding Officer.
The Holy Bible is my code of conduct.
Faith, Prayer, and the Word are my weapons of Warfare.
I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity, and tested by fire.

I am a volunteer in this army, and I am enlisted for eternity.

I will either retire in this Army or die in this Army;
but, I will not get out, sell out, be talked out, or pushed out.
I am faithful, reliable, capable, and dependable.
If my God needs me, I am there.

I am a soldier. I am not a baby.
I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up,
pumped up, picked up, or pepped up.
I am a soldier. No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me, or lure me.

I am a soldier. I am not a wimp.
I am in place, saluting my King, obeying His orders,
praising His name, and building His kingdom!
No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards, candy, or give me handouts.
I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for, or catered to.
I am committed. I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around.

I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside.
I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit.
When Jesus called me into this Army, I had nothing.
If I end up with nothing, I will still come out even. I will win.
My God will supply all my needs. I am more than a conqueror.
I will always triumph. I can do all things through Christ.
Devils cannot defeat me. People cannot disillusion me.
Weather cannot weary me. Sickness cannot stop me.
Battles cannot beat me. Money cannot buy me.
Governments cannot silence me, and hell cannot handle me!

I am a soldier.
Even death cannot destroy me.
For when my Commander calls me from this battlefield,
He will promote me to a captain.
I am a soldier, in the Army, I'm marching, claiming victory.
I will not give up. I will not turn around. I am a soldier, marching Heaven bound.

There are four kinds of soldiers:
1. Active Duty: Serving the Lord faithfully, daily, and on duty 24-7-365.
2. Reserve Status: Serving only when called upon, or twice a year: Christmas and Easter.
3. Guard Status: Backing up the Active Duty group.
4. AWOL! Absent With Out the Lord.

Which kind are you? Be an army of one for an audience of One.

A spiritual warrior has an alertness to the activity of the enemy

What Is Spiritual Warfare?
by Don Rogers

Source: Click here

This is an important question, because "spiritual warfare" means different things to different people. The term itself is not found in the scriptures, but the concept is taught. Two of the most commonly associated passages were written by the Apostle Paul.

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms." Eph. 6:10-12

Our ministry's stress upon spiritual warfare is an attempt to bring about a proper balance in Christian lives. So many Christians have become passive and fearful. Some are satisfied just to believe the right things and attend church services and activities each week. This type of lifestyle is quite different from that which Jesus had called believers. Like the apostles (Lk 9:1-2) and the seventy (Lk 10) who were told by Jesus to go out and preach and teach about the kingdom of God, and he also said they were to heal the sick and set the captives free. In Matt. 28:18-20, Jesus commissioned the disciples.

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. and remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

The new converts were to be discipled and taught that God wanted them to be doing the things that Christ's disciples had been doing. And Jesus would be with His people to the end of the age, doing His works through them as they were yielded to Him in faith.

The reason ministries like ours exist at all is because of the failure of the Church to obey all of Christ's commission to His people. Working in the power of Christ to do extraordinary things in His name has been reasoned away, saying, "God does not work like that today." But we, and ministries like us, are reminders that God continues to work the way He did with the first century Church.

Spiritual warfare is a pro-active approach to our faith. We actively resist the devil when his hosts harass us. We actively pursue spiritual disciplines that will make us stronger and better prepared. We actively engage the enemy when people are in spiritual bondage.

We utilize prayer as a weapon to penetrate strongholds that cannot be reached in any other way. Spiritual warfare is the putting aside of passive attitudes towards faith which keep us from commitment and cause us to pursue only those things that will benefit us. Instead of seeking our own agenda, we submit our will to God and accept the sacrifices He calls us to make.

There is not one area of Christian ministry that has not become a battleground, but often there is not discernment that some form of spiritual resistance is in place. It has become common to attribute a natural or human explanation to most problems and leave it at that. The one who has a spiritual warfare perspective will be inclined to test the situation to ascertain whether or not there is something more than natural influences involved. For instance, when my daughter started having a series of painful bone cysts develop at the base of her spine, we challenged them with prayer and spiritual authority and they disappeared. When people enter our office for ministry, they often develop headaches or experience overwhelming fear. A command of spiritual authority immediately brings relief.

A spiritual warrior has an alertness to the activity of the enemy. This alertness is by no means fear or paranoia. He does not go around crediting Satan and his hosts for everything wrong under the sun. The Apostle Paul was a good example of a spiritual warrior. He didn't go out of his way to look for demonic activity, but when he encountered it, he quickly recognized it and then he confronted it with spiritual authority victoriously.

A spiritual warrior knows he must bring discipline to his thought life and to his actions. If he allows these areas to be compromised, he will not be effective in resisting the enemy. He takes sin very seriously, because he knows that sin always gives the adversary an advantage. He must always be on guard against comparing himself with others and being entrapped by the subtlety of religious pride. The true warrior knows that he can do nothing that is affective in his own strength. His strength, authority, wisdom and discernment are dependent upon his close walk with his Lord. He should always remain focused and guard himself against distraction caused by problems and troubles that appear. These are designed to get his eyes off the Lord and lure him into working in the flesh.

Understanding spiritual warfare provides a new perspective on parenthood. Parents are entrusted with children by the Lord to nurture, cherish and protect. In the parent, the child needs to see a reflection of God's attributes of unconditional love, faithfulness and holiness. The parent should become a steward of God's grace in the home and be on guard against the enemy's assaults on any member of the family. A godly parent can exercise great authority in the name of Christ to resist the enemy and fight on behalf of the children. Like Job, a parent is also the priest of the home, bringing the sins of the children to God so that the enemy cannot establish strongholds in their lives.

Spiritual warfare awareness can also be very effective in witnessing and evangelism. You learn to recognize the barriers and strongholds in advance and prepare the way through prayer, spiritual authority, divine appointments and ministry.

A spiritual warrior knows his inheritance in Christ. He knows God's promises and is not easy prey to the lies and deceptions of the enemy, who tries to call these promises and inheritance into question. He understands the lie is the enemy's language and his most effective weapon. Therefore, the warrior seeks constantly to fortify himself in an understanding of God's truth which he wears like armor for protection.

To summarize what I have been talking about, a commitment to spiritual warfare means:

1. A New Attitude - You begin to think like an overcomer with a victorious attitude. You walk according to your inheritance of grace in Christ. You no longer have an attitude of playing it safe or seeking not to rock the boat. You realize you want to be on the front lines for God, not trying to live the comfortable life with as few problems as possible.

2. A Greater Focus - You carefully guard against the attempts to distract you or to push your buttons. You recognize that the enemy likes to entangle God's people in the cares of this world or provoke us to react in the flesh. You understand the importance of keeping your eyes on the Lord and standing in faith upon God's character, not in your abilities.

3. A Necessary Discipline - You have begun to discipline yourself on all levels. You are setting more time aside for study and prayer. You are spending more time being alert and obedient to the leading of the Spirit.

4. A More Balanced Biblical World View - You take very seriously the Biblical warnings to God's people about an enemy that is real.
Personal Accountability

This ministry's work is centered in deliverance counseling, which God called us to a number of years ago. Many of the truths we teach in our seminars and apply in this ministry have been sifted through this laboratory of life experience as we used the instruments of God's Word and His Holy Spirit to guide and direct us.

Deliverance counseling is surely not a cure-all by any means, but it is an effective way to address a pervasive problem that most other kinds of counseling do not consider or attempt to address. It is a ministry of last resort for many who have been through countless tests, medication and treatment as well as all sorts of counseling and therapies for years with little or no results.

We have had to plunge into God's Word and spend much time seeking His guidance in order to maintain the proper balance and perspective in such a controversial and dynamic area of ministry.

Because of continued abuse in this area by some, as well as the confusion and misunderstanding on the part of many, we seem to always be dealing with a credibility gap in the Christian community. It is hard for people to relate to the spiritual dynamics that are experienced in this kind of ministry, when so little is practically taught in Bible schools and seminaries or from our pulpits. There is a great deal of theological resistance and intolerance in our midst that makes it difficult to even dialogue.

On of the major concerns directed toward this type of ministry is that we relieve people of personal accountability for sin in their lives. As far as this ministry is concerned, personal accountability is the very foundation of our approach when dealing with demonic oppression. I do realize that there are ministries that have neglected this very crucial area and that is unfortunate. But we truly believe that if there is demonic activity in a person's life, it is there because some sort of sin claim has been given to Satan through personal consent. Satan's work is built on the foundation of the sins of the flesh.

We seek to identify sin areas and call people to accountability, repentance, confession and renunciation. Then we administer God's grace.

Book To Consider



"God has a wonderful plan by which you can have world-wide influence."

"You yourself can influence more people for God and have a greater role in advancing Christ's cause by prayer than in any other way. It is not the only thing you must do, but it is the greatest thing you can do."

"As a child of God you have full authority to contact God, the Sovereign of the universe, whenever you desire. He is always enthroned in heaven; yet, through prayer, you have as much access to His presence as any angel or archangel."

"God has been pleased to build into His eternal plan that we His children join with Christ in His intercessory role and rule today."

"Prayer grasps hold of the promises of God and erects them like a wall between us and the powers of darkness. Prayer can bring God's angels rushing to our assistance. (2 Ki 6:15-17; Dan. 10:13; Heb 1:14)

"The greatest way in which Christians can mediate blessing is through prayer."
Spiritual Warfare Ministries

We are a faith ministry that depends upon God's people for our support. We never charge for whatever ministry we provide. We get very little church support because this type of ministry is so misunderstood.

We are a ministry that serves the whole body of Christ. Referrals come in from various churches, therapists, counselors, ministries, friends and acquaintances. There is usually a 4-6 week waiting period for appointments. We trust in the Lord to provide what is needed for each case we see and He is always faithful. He demonstrates His love continually.

Copyright 1998 Spiritual Warfare Ministries, Inc.

Get behind me satan!


by Bill Burns
Faith Tabernacle
P. O. Box 1148
Kremmling, Colorado 80459

Life without warfare is impossible in the natural world as well as in the spiritual realm. The Christian is called to a life of war, and victory will only come when one is active in the war. We are called to walk in spiritual authority and power, which is necessary to establish the kingdom of God on the earth. The Christian is called to wage war on three levels.

Face to face warfare with Satan in where we overcome temptation and the seductions of the flesh and its nature. This is the first level of spiritual warfare, but I must make this point--all spiritual warfare must be done in the power of the Spirit, and therefore, all warfare produces real authority, which produces power. Even in this first level of warfare we "by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body (flesh)" (Romans 8:13). Then, we will have overcome by resisting, and we will live in Him in victory for He always causes us to triumph.

The second level of spiritual warfare is hand to hand combat in which we enter into warfare for others by bringing truth (witnessing, preaching) to them or through intercession or by casting out demons, thus fulfilling the Great Commission in Mark 16:15-18. Please note that this type of ministry is only for those who have had victory in their own lives in face to face combat. Again, this is done by the authority of the Holy Spirit who is the finger of God. Luke 11:20 "But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you." And, by His commission and authority we cast out demons. Luke 10:18-19 And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you."

So now let's talk about the third level of spiritual warfare, and may it be so that the Spirit of the Living God open the eyes of our understanding regarding warfare in the heavenlies where the thrones of principalities and rulers of darkness are pulled down.

First, we acknowledge that principalities (Satan's princes) do exist. Daniel 10:13, 20 clearly show that there are princes in the heavenly places, and Ephesians 6;12 clearly tells us that we (the church) wrestle with (engage in warfare) the principalities, rulers of darkness. With these truths firmly established, the only question that remains is how do we wrestle? The word wrestle is pallo meaning to sway or vibrate with principalities. The vibration of prophetic proclamation comes against and causes the throne of principalities to begin to sway, until they topple over and come down. Again, this type of warfare does not take place in our own strength or power. 2 Cor 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.

The weapons of our warfare (in the heavenlies--spiritual realm) are intercession by prophetic proclamation (speaking by the Holy Spirit), not bringing a railing accusation but through proclamation that declares the establishment of the Kingdom of God and commands Satan to get behind (a place of defeat) the kingdom and to get under the feet of God's rule. And, as ambassadors for Christ, we must engage the enemy.

In the Old Testament we have a shadow and type of warfare in the heavenlies called pulling down the high places, and you will notice that most did not do this, and therefore, a fullness of the kingdom was not established. In the New Testament we have an example of how this takes place. And now, we get to the heart of the matter, and when one is seeking truth we must go to the Truth, Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith, the Master teacher Himself, and we must examine the example that He left us with, and it is found in Luke chapters 3 and 4. Jesus is not warring on the first two levels of warfare, which we have discussed. The object of warfare is to establish kingdom rule. Luke 4:5-6 "Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.'"

Herein the divine plan of spiritual warfare (in the heavenlies--spiritual realm) is revealed.

1. First, Luke 3:22 tells us that Jesus is baptized with the Holy Spirit. I believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential for those who are going to engage in spiritual warfare against Satan and his principalities (princes).

2. In Luke 4:2 Jesus is LED into spiritual warfare by the Holy Spirit. Warfare in the heavenlies is orchestrated by God who gives the gift of discerning of spirits, thereby revealing what principalities are ruling.

3. Jesus does not bring a railing accusation against Satan (neither do we), but He does speak the Word of God by the Spirit of God, and His main message is "Get Behind Me Satan!" In other words, the kingdom of God has come, and you are now behind (or under) My authority, and you must move out of the way--verse 13 says, "He (Satan) departed from Jesus."

The authority of the kingdom must first be proclaimed, this is how Jesus began His ministry. Matthew 4:17-- From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." So the question is, are we supposed to speak to Satan and his principalities? And, by whose authority are the principalities pulled down? Matthew 18:18 "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Mark 11:23 "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says."

What we bind and loose (by proclamation) on earth is done by Jesus in the heavenlies, for He is the Captain of the hosts (His angelic warriors), and it is His angels who pull down the strongholds (fortresses) that Satan establishes. The angels of God were there at the wilderness battle. Mat 4:11-- "Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him."

4. Now most would say the battle is won and is over at this point, but it has actually only begun. Luke 4:13 indicates that Satan may have lost this battle, but he hasn't lost the war yet because his departure has only been for a season.

Now, we must move on to the second phase of spiritual warfare which is to establish the kingdom (dominion) of God by following Christ's example. Luke 4:14 tells us that the establishment of the kingdom will be through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The next key is found in Luke 4:18--"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed." The kingdom of God is going to be established through the anointing as the Word is preached, and by continuing to cast out demon powers wherever found (Luke 4:35, 36) and by healing the sick (Luke 4:40,41).

5. Okay, a bottom line...The principalities and powers that we wrestle with are pulled down (lose authority) by the establishment of the kingdom of God as the anointed servants of the Lord speak to (bind, rebuke and cast out) and as they continue to do the works of Jesus as He said we would in John 14:12 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father."

It is the continuation of the kingdom of God that destroys the rule of Satan's powers of darkness and the thrones of his rule will diminish in exact proportion to the rule of the kingdom of God in any given geographical area.

It is the responsibility of the church to confront principalities and powers by establishing the Kingdom of God first in their own lives and then by helping others, and thus establishing a witness to the people of God's Kingdom. Ephesians 3:9-12, "And to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him."

The victorious Christian life is only available to those who are willing to engage the enemy. We must exercise the authority that we have been given, and if we do, victory is assured!

Storm the gates of Hades

Offensive or Defensive Posture?
John Telgren

I had one of those "aha" moments recently when looking at something about Peter's confession in a class.

After Peter confessed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of the "living" (not lifeless like the pagan gods) God, Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church. We understand the rock to be the confession of faith in Christ. The video caused me to consider something else. They were at Caesarea Philippi, a site of pagan worship, which was a huge rock that had been home to a pagan sanctuary. Jesus would destroy it and build on top of it.

I remembered reading an article about the difficulty in dating various strata in archaeological digs because when conquerors destroyed a city, they would often excavate to the bedrock before building their new buildings. Little evidence of the former occupation strata may have been left behind, leaving the impression that there was little or no occupation at all. Perhaps this is the imagery Jesus is using. Jesus would triumph and build his church on the bedrock.

The next phrase is even more instructive. "And the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Hades is the underworld and represents death. I don't know why this never dawned on me, but the image Jesus gives here is that the church is on the offensive rather than the defensive. A besieged city would have its gates shut up tight with folks on the wall around the gate defending it. Jesus did not say "The gates of the church would prevail against Hades," but said "The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." It is Hades, rather than the church, whose gates are shut up tight behind the walls and besieged. The church is not hunkered down in a bunker, but is out on the offensive.

It never dawned on me that Jesus is using military imagery here! It is not the only time military imagery is used for Christ and his people (Eph 4:8-10; 2 Cor 2:14; Rev 19:11-16). Jesus is the victor on the white horse! Jesus did not intend for his disciples to dig into a bunker and build a wall around ourselves and close the gate. He desires us to get out of the bunker and storm the gates of Hades with the Gospel. Jesus confronted the dark powers with the light of God, and he wants us to do the same.

When the church attacks the gates of hell, hell shall not prevail

The Church
Billy Graham

Source: Click here

Republished with permission from The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer.

What follows is a transcript of the newspaper page above, which appeared on page 11-A of the October 25, 1958 issue of The Charlotte Observer (Monday). It is a transcript of the sermon which Rev. Billy Graham had preached at the Charlotte Crusade the day before, the twenty-eighth sermon of the crusade. Attendance on October 24 was 13,000 and there were 599 inquirers. To read the actual newspaper page, click on any of the four quarters of the page above.

In the transcript that follows, any comments by the transcriber are in brackets []. Any asides by Rev. Graham are in parentheses (). The sermon title did not appear in the paper but is from material supplied by the BGEA. Only the actual sermon is transcribed below. Any introductory or concluding material included in the newspaper text is omitted.


Tonight I want you to turn with me to the l6th chapter of Matthew's gospel and the 18th verse: "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven" [verses 18,19]. My text tonight is: "And upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Our Lord has a picture here for us which many times we misinterpret. Many people have an idea that in this passage Jesus likens the church to the Rock of Gibraltar. I used to think it, and I used to preach it that way. In other words, the church was a great defensive organization; and when the gates of hell or the forces of hell and evil attacked the church, that the church would win. Hell would not be able to prevail or sweep over the church. But that is not the picture. The picture is different.

Jesus has the picture here of the church on the offensive;and when the church attacks the gates of hell, they shall not prevail. In other words, there is a promise of a church that is aggressive, evangelistic, moving, filled with the Spirit of God. God gives us through Christ a promise that hell itself shall not prevail against such a church.

What do you think of when you think of the church? I heard about two men talking some time ago and one of the men said, "What do you believe?" He said, "Well, I believe what the church believes." "Well, what does the church believe?" "It believes what I believe." "Well, what do you both believe?" "Well, we both believe the same thing." That's about as vague as some of us are when we're asked what we believe.

Well, you believe what the church believes, but you don't know what the church believes. Many of us have joined the church like you would join a social club. Well, I'll go over here and put in my application in Myers Park[?]. I'll tell you, it's harder to get into one of these country clubs than it is to get into some churches.

Well, what do you think when you think of the church? The word "church" is an English translation of the Greek word "ecclesia" which means the called out ones, an assembly of people. This word was used throughout the Greek world as a designation of the regular assembly of the whole body of citizens in the city streets. It was a group of citizens who would be called out by the herald for the discussion of public business. In other words, citizens that were called out by a herald to discuss and to make decisions relative to the community. And the same word "church" is used in the Old Testament to designate Israel as the called-out people of God. The word "church" applied to the Christian society was first used by Christ here when He said, "Upon this rock I will build my church."

Now the Holy Spirit is a herald. The Holy Spirit goes throughout the world, and He calls out from the world those who are to make up the church. Now the Bible teaches that Christ Himself founded the church. He is the great cornerstone upon which the church is built. "Other foundation can no man lay than that [which] is laid, which is [Christ Jesus]" [1 Corinthians 3:11]. Christ not only founded the church, He built the church, and the church belongs to Him. And Christ has promised to live with and in all those who are members of the church.

Therefore, the church is not only an organization, but an organism which is completely unlike anything the world has ever known. That means Christ Himself living is with, and in, men and women who are members of His church. It is a living body, a living family, in which we have become partakers of God's own very nature. Christ is like the commanding general issuing orders to the many groups under His jurisdiction. His subordinates may interpret His orders in slightly different ways, but His orders still remain the basis of their combat.

The Bible teaches that Christ so loved the church that He gave Himself for it [see Ephesians 5:25]. And when Jesus Christ was hanging on that cross--with the nails in His hands, a crown of thorns on His brow--the shadow had passed between Him and God. And He said, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" [Matthew 27:46]. Those were moments when His thirst was so unbearable that He exclaimed, "I thirst" [John 19:28]. He was thinking of those called-out ones who were yet unborn, those whom God had foreknown and predestined unto salvation [see Ephesians 1:4,5].

Jesus had His mind on you. You say, "How could He know me two thousand years in the future?" He was God incarnate, and He had the capacity to know us all by name and had the hairs of our head numbered [see Matthew 10:30]. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He was thinking of you. He was thinking of you. He loved the members of the church so much that He was willing to die--but more than die. When we think of the death of Christ, we think of the death of a body, physical death. That was not the death of Christ. When Christ died, His soul cleansed us of sin. Because the Bible says God "hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:6].

The Bible says He was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Christ was made sin for the first time. That was the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. And when He was suffering and bearing your sins, He was doing it because He loved you. He loved the church collectively, and He loved the church individually.

Now the Bible uses three figures to describe the church. It is called the body of Christ. "He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence" [Colossians 1:18]. The Bible teaches that Christ is the head. It is just like a physical body. We may be a little toe or a toenail or a finger or a nose or an ear. But you are a member of the body. You might be the most insignificant. You might be the skin on the bottom of the foot. That is important. Suppose you did not have any skin on the bottom of the foot. Suppose you did not have a fingernail. Suppose you did not have a nose. Suppose you did not have an ear. All of us who are in Christ are members of His body, and that body would be incomplete without you.

You look fine; you've got a good body, good eyesight, good health, feeling fine tonight. But the Bible says you are spiritually dead. Because, you see, down inside of you is a soul. You have a body with eyes, ears, nose, and feet. But down inside of you is a soul, a spirit--your memory, your ego, your personality, that part of you the Bible calls soul. Now the Bible teaches that your soul, your spirit, is dead if separated from God by sin. Just like I am separating the leaf from this plant. It is separated. There is no life going into the leaf at the moment. This leaf left right here will soon wither and die. God is the source of all life. And when you are cut off from God, you are separated from God--alive physically, but dead spiritually.

Now the moment you come to Christ, the moment you repent of sin, the moment you receive Him, the moment you have this encounter with the living Christ, whatever time in your life it may be--it may be at confirmation, it may be at baptism, it may be the moment you enter the church, it may be when you come to a meeting like this, it may be in the quietness of your room, it may be walking down the road--whenever you come to this point where contact is made with the living God by faith, the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit of God comes in and life flows through you again. That is spiritual life. So the leaf that was dying and dead is grafted back into the plant, and God's life comes in and your soul lives. Now when your soul lives, you are attached to the body.

"I am the vine," said Jesus, "ye are the branches" [John 15:5]. His life is flowing through us and in us. That is the glory and the beauty and the thrill and the joy of the church. We are the body of Christ.

Now the Bible says we are also the bride of Christ. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom [Matthew 25:1]. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him [verse 6]." This indicates that there will be some church members who thought they were part of the bride of Christ, but are not [see verses 1-13].

Now the bride is to love the husband. To be a true bride, you should love the husband. Christ is likened to the husband. You and I are the bride. We are to love Christ supremely. When you get married, if you are a true bride your mind is not thinking about other fellows. You are not wishing you were married to somebody else, if you are a true bride and in love with your husband. When you are with Jesus Christ, He is the bridegroom. We are the bride. Our minds and our hearts are supremely on Him.

But the Bible says there will be some in that day of judgment who thought they were members of the bride. They thought they were ready to go. But when the bridegroom comes, they have no oil in their lamps and they are left out. Oh, the terrible thing of it. They were ready partially.

There are thousands of people whom Jesus indicated in the Sermon on the Mount that will come that day and say, "Lord, Lord, I have cast out demons in your name. I did many great things in your name." Jesus will say, "Depart from me for I never knew you." [See Matthew 7:22,23.]

There will be some who will be waiting for the bridegroom, but they will not be taken with Him. They were not saved because they were not ready. There was no oil in their lamps. And oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit did not live with them. They had never become partakers of God's nature although they thought they had.

Then the Bible teaches that the church is likened to the family of God. You were born the first time in the physical world. There was a book that came out some years ago, a very famous book entitled Twice-Born Men [Twice-Born men : true conversion records of 100 well-known men in all ranks of life, written by Hy Pickering and published ca. 1935]. The Bible teaches you have to be born twice [see John 3:3-7].

You have been born physically, of course. All of us know that. The Bible teaches, however, that even more important is it to be born spiritually. That is the reason Jesus spoke such words to a religious man who already thought he was all right. Jesus said, "Nicodemus, you have to be born again. Nicodemus, you must have a second birth" [see John 3:3]. When you are born the second time, you are born into the family of God. And when you are born into the family of God, you have a unique relationship with your brothers and sisters. Who are your brothers and sisters? They are the people in Africa, Asia, Europe, all ranks and nationalities and races, represented as brothers and sisters--representatives of the living organism which is the church. Those who have been born of the Spirit, those who have repented of sin, those who have been converted, those who have received Christ, those who have committed themselves to Christ are members of the body of Christ. I could spend half an hour on each one of these points.

Now there are special titles given to the members of the church--"children of God." "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then . . . heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" [Romans 8:16,17]. In other words, we are heirs. Think of the hope we have for the future. God owns the universe. You look at those dazzling stars out there. Some of them may be made of pure gold, some of them are probably of silver, some are made of diamonds. And it all belongs to Christ. We are joint heirs with Christ.

You know the thrill and the majesty and the glory of it all is this: that God is conditioning us, making us, and molding us into the image of His Son. And here is the reason why: that the whole universe--the angels and principalities and powers--might see the grace and the mercy and the love of God; how God could reach down to the lowest depths to people who deserved hell, and pick them up and make them joint heirs with Him. Heirs of God! Heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ! What a high calling, what a privilege! What difference does it make if we suffer a little bit down here? For the suffering of the present hour is not to be compared with the glory that is ours up yonder [see Romans 8:18].

Well, let us see something about the purpose of the church. When someone asked the deaf and dumb man why he went to church, he wrote on a little pad, he said, "To show which side I'm on." We don't go to church because it's fashionable or because there's prestige or because there is beauty. We go to worship, to witness, and to serve.

Now there are some of you, I grant you, who go to the church just because you think it will help your business. You go because it is the social thing to do. It is like a social club to you. Or you go because it is the traditional thing to do. Your family has always gone and so you go to church. But your heart is not in it; your soul is not in it. You are not really giving the church everything you have, and you are going for the wrong motive. And you may be a part of that great host of people like Judas. Judas was a member of Jesus' little church. There were only twelve in Jesus' little church and Judas was elected treasurer, and yet he was not saved. He was lost when the chips were down. He was in it for what he could get out of it. And there are some of you who are in the church for what you can get out of it.

This past summer Dean Gordon, Dean of the chapel at Princeton University, was in my home and we had long talks about this very part. "Billy," he said, "I am convinced from my study of the Bible and from my observation of churches all over the world that there is a church within the church." By the way, those of you who saw the picture, "The Bridge Over The River Kwai," he was one of those officers who actually was there, one of those British officers about which this picture was made.

Within every church are members of the real church, but there are many on the fringes of the church. When the bridegroom comes, they will never go with Him. There's no oil in their lamps.

Now, first, the church is to glorify God by its worship. We go to church for what reason? To hear a sermon? No! What reason do you go to church? Why do you go to church? If you go to church for any other reason than to worship God, your motive is wrong. It doesn't make any difference who preaches. It may be a bad sermon, and yet I can sit and worship God. It may be a cathedral, it might be a little mission, it may be out in a jungle hut. But if that is where God's church is, two or three gathered in His name, then I can worship God. So the motive for going is primarily to worship God.

In Washington, at the National Presbyterian Church, a woman called up on a Sunday morning and asked the sexton, "Do you expect President Eisenhower to be in church today?" The sexton replied, "I cannot promise. However, God will be there, and that should be incentive enough for anyone to come." Can you imagine that? "Well, I will come to church if the President is going to be there." Surely there is Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords; and we have the privilege of coming and adoring Him and worshiping Him. I want to tell you I see Jesus every Sunday morning when I worship in church more than I see the President when I go to the White House to see him.

A lot of people get what I call "Sunday-itis" on Sunday mornings. Do you know what Sunday-itis is? It attacks the victim shortly after breakfast on Sunday morning. It is accompanied by a feeling of weakness and lethargy. Sometimes the victim has a slight headache which is aggravated by the ringing of the church bells in the community. But the disease is of short duration, usually disappearing about noon when the victim is able to eat a full dinner and then he can play golf in the afternoon. But the symptom usually appears again about 7:30 Sunday evening, and then disappears until the next Sunday morning. There are a lot of us who have Sunday-itis.

We don't go to church. Why? Because our motive is too low. If you are going to church to worship Christ the living God, if you are going to worship God, to meet God, then nothing will keep you from church on Sunday morning. Nothing will keep you from the hour of worship. If they are having holy communion at the service, nothing will keep you from that hour when you meet the Savior. We go to worship Him, and most certainly we go to hear the Word of God taught and preached.

Now I'm glad to say that in our churches today there is a great return to biblical preaching. There was a time about twenty years ago when preachers were beginning to preach philosophy and psychology and other things, and they rarely really got down into the Scripture. You could go and hear a sermon, and if you heard the name of Christ once you were fortunate. There is a great return today to biblical preaching, more emphasis on the Scriptures; and that's the way it ought to be. I hear some people say that we don't need, that we shouldn't use the old jargon--redemption, conversion, justification, the blood, and all of the scriptural terminology. They say that people don't understand it today. I want to tell you they understand that far better than they do the psychological terminology that is being used by some.

I preach to quite a number of people, and I have found the more I use the old terminology the more they come to hear it. And I have found it true all over the world. I've preached in the jungles of India, and I've preached on the coasts of Africa. I've preached along the coast of Asia, and I've preached to people in the jungles. And I've preached the same message, and I've seen the Spirit of God use His Word.

And so I would say to every Sunday school teacher and to every preacher, "Preach the Word and teach it with authority. Preach it and teach it with urgency. Preach and teach it with simplicity. Make it easy to understand, but keep to the Scripture." God will bless you and God will use you.

Thirdly, the church is for fellowship. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst" [Matthew 18:20]. Psychiatrists say that the herd instinct is one of the greatest in man. Without fellowship with each other, Christians could not possibly grow great in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We should go in for fellowship--fellowship with Christ and fellowship with each other. It's important. That's the way we grow, by fellowship with each other.

We grow by reading the Scripture, and it delivers us from sin. Many of you who have just come to Christ are spiritual babies. You must grow, and you cannot grow without feeding on the Scripture. You cannot grow without prayer. You cannot grow without Christian fellowship which you can only get in the church.

Then, fourthly, the church is for the strengthening of our faith. One stone standing alone has little strength; but when stones are put together into a building, they can strengthen each other. You take some live coals that have been burning and separate them and they will die. Put them together and they will stay alive and warm and keep burning for a long time. You get a Christian isolated and he is done for. Get him together with other Christians in the church and he grows.

The church is also to be an influence for good in the community. The church is to lead in civic righteousness. The church supports orphanages and hospitals and homes for the aged. The church is interested in humanitarianism, social service, and educational works. The church must speak out on the social issues of our time. There are many people who say that that is none of the church's business, but it is the church's business. It is the church's business to be a light in the community, to be a leavening influence in any community, to be an influence for good and to lead in civic righteousness. If the church doesn't do it, we'll turn it over to the devil.

And I want to tell you, you've got some problems in this city. You have got some crime problems and moral problems in this city that are as great as any city in the nation. Your papers are filled every day with murders and robberies and all sorts of things. The policeman just told me tonight, as I came in, that today over here at one of the high schools one of the students pulled out a .32 revolver and threatened another student. You hear about that in New York and in Detroit, but it is coming to Charlotte. Because you are growing up; you are no longer a little community. You are a big city, and the church must speak out.

And a newspaper man asked tonight, "Why is it that when we have one church for every four hundred people in Charlotte, we have such a high crime rate?" I wonder if it isn't time for the church to be the church and to take its stand. Now, listen, there are enough church people in town to put in every officer in your city. There are enough church people here, if united, to elect your congressman, could elect anybody you want; and every one of them could be wonderful Christians. Maybe they all are; I am not saying they are not. I am just saying the church has power, that it works together for civic righteousness.

Then the church is also a clearinghouse. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse" [Malachi 3:10]. I wonder if you give your tithes to the Lord, to the church. A tithe is one-tenth of your income. One-tenth of your net income belongs to the Lord. The New Testament teaching is to give as God has prospered you [see 1 Corinthians 16:2]. But certainly the Old Testament rule of a tithe is at least a criterion that we are to go by, and I believe we are to give more than ten percent. That belongs to God; and if you do not give it, you are robbing God.

There are many of you who are wondering why your prayers are not answered. It is because you are not giving to the Lord. You are not giving to the church that which belongs to the Lord. You are selfish, you are using it for yourself. And covetousness, the Bible says, is idolatry [see Colossians 3:5].

You should give systematically. Many of us give when the plate is passed. We say, "Well, I don't have any change." Maybe you have a pocketful of bills, but you don't have any change. We think of the collection as "change."

Then the church is for witnessing, service, evangelism, and mission. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel" [Mark 16:15]. What does that mean? That means going to all the geographic world. That means to go to India. That means to go to China. That means to go to Africa. That means to go to South America. That means to go to the jungles where the Indians have never yet heard. But it also means another type of world. It is the biggest one. It is the first one.

There are some of you here that are football players. Some of you have been converted right here--some of the leading football players in this city. Some of the leading businessmen in this city have walked down this aisle. Men whose names are household words in the city of Charlotte have come and sat here to receive Christ. Some of the social leaders of this city have come here. All right, your mission field is back there facing your business world. Your mission field is back in your business, back in your social world, to witness for Christ. Let them know that you have changed, that you are living a new life, that you are witnessing for Christ.

Now, listen, some of the old gang are going to look at you. They are going to watch you and see how you live. If you compromise, your witness is done for. You don't ever win anybody for Christ by doing the things they do, to try and get next to them. You win them by taking your stand for Christ and becoming a witness for Christ.

This also means going all through the world. I believe that we need today to hear once again the missionary challenge. Did you know the world could be won for Christ if every one of us in this auditorium could become filled with the Holy Spirit? Because there are many times more of us here than there were on the day of Pentecost. There were 120 that day who believed and prayed and believed God, and they turned the world upside down in one generation. [See Acts 1:15.] This crowd here could turn North Carolina upside down. Some of you young people, there is no greater challenge or excitement or adventure today than out on the mission field of the world, out on the frontiers winning others to Jesus Christ. Why don't you give your life to be a missionary?

I was at the board meeting of my own denomination the other day, the foreign mission board. I saw twenty-six handsome young couples stand before us, most of them with high educations and one or two of them with Ph.D. degrees. They stood there and said, "We have been called by God to go to Japan or to Africa or the jungles of South America." There they stood--some of them beautiful and handsome, some of them sports figures--on their way to give the Gospel. My eyes filled with tears and I said, "O, God, I wish I had my young life over again. I think that's where I'd go."

All right, you admire Paladin on "Have Gun, Will Travel." You say, "Boy, I would like to have lived back in those days. I would have cleaned up Dodge City." All right, there are other frontiers. There are frontiers in the world. There is a frontier in Charlotte. Let's go in and clean up Charlotte. We can do it as a church. We can give the Gospel to lost men who need Christ. Because you will never make a better world until you make better men, and you can't make better men except through coming to Jesus Christ. That's the reason I concentrate on the individualistic Gospel, because I don't think you can clean up a community until you have got men's hearts right.

There are many things I wanted to say. I am going to skip the rest of them and just say this. How do you get into the church? In order to get into the true bride of Christ and the body of Christ, you must be born again. I am going to ask you tonight: Have you been born again? Have you received Christ? Has your sin been cleansed? Has He washed away your sins? Have you ever come to the cross? Have you ever renounced your sins and said, "I want to give myself to Him"? You say, "Well, Billy, I am not sure. I am not certain. I am a member of the church but I am not sure. I think I am like those five virgins who weren't ready. I am not sure there is oil in my lamp. I am not sure that I have really been converted. I am not sure that I am really cleansed. I am not sure about this, and I would like to make sure." I am going to ask you to come tonight and make sure.

There are others of you, you know you are not ready. Nobody has to say to you. You know it. You are cut off from God. You know it. I am going to ask you to come. You may be a Sunday school teacher. You may be a deacon in the church. You need an experience with Christ, and you don't want this crusade to close until you have come and given yourself to Him.

Jesus hung out with sinners

The Gates of Hell
By Doug Reed

Source: Click here

Many times when we study the life of Christ, we treat Him as if he lived in the 21st century. In other words, we make Him one of us. Jesus is extraordinary when we do so, but He becomes all the more wonderful when we put Him in His first century context. When we look at Jesus as a first century Jew, one thing that stands out all the more is His love. Jesus brought a love and compassion the world had never seen before. He constantly challenged people’s ideas about how big God’s love is. Some loved Him for it, and some hated Him for it. Here at Caesarea Philippi Jesus sought to push the boundaries of His disciples’ understanding of the grace of God.

The King James Version of the Bible translates verse eighteen of the above passage to say that the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ’s church. The King James Version translates a good many words as “Hell.” Some it probably shouldn’t. Saying such things is probably close to sacrilege to some. Everyone knows that Jesus and the apostles spoke King James English, right? No, the King James Version is a translation, a good one, but it has its strengths and weaknesses.

If we think Jesus was talking about Hell in the traditional since, this passage does not make sense. Why would the church want to storm the gates of Hell? Is there any place in the Bible that says the church would or should do such a thing? Hell does fit in this context, but Hades, which is the better translation, does. Hades is the equivalent of the Old Testament Sheol, the place of the dead.

Did the Old Testament people of God go to heaven when they died? It may surprise us that according to the scriptures and the understanding in Jesus’ day, they did not. Sin separated humanity from God not only in this life but also in the next. The dead were not in heaven but in Sheol or Hades. The tradition of Jesus day was that Hades had two huge gates. Those gates remained locked awaiting the day the Messiah would come and set the captives free.

At Caesarea Philippi Jesus was saying that day was now upon them. We see this concept in the book of Revelation where Jesus, the risen Lord, says I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. (REV 1:8)

The early church understood this concept well. An early sermon from a fellow named Melito (AD 195) describes this thought in the most profound way. Speaking of Christ, he writes:

But he rose from the dead
And mounted up to the heights of heaven.
When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity,
And had suffered for the sake of the sufferer,
And had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned,
and had been judged for the sake of the condemned,
and buried for the sake of the one who was buried,
he rose up from the dead,
and cried with a loud voice:
Who is he that contends with me?
Let him stand in opposition to me.
I set the condemned man free;
I give the dead man life;
I raised up one who had been entombed.
Who is my opponent?
I, he says, am the Christ.
I am the one who destroyed death,
And triumphed over the enemy,
And trampled Hades underfoot,
And bound the strong one,
And carried off man
To the heights of heaven.
I, he says, am the Christ.

Jesus’ statement in Matthew sixteen has multilayers of meaning. The closer we look, the more we see. This incident takes place at Caesarea Philippi. That is no accident. If we recall our first century history, Herod the Great was king in Palestine until about 4 BC. When he died, the Romans divided his kingdom between Herod’s three sons. The one that got the Northeast region was Philip. When Philip came to power, he changed the name of the city from Paneas to Caesarea Philippi. He did so to honor two people. It does not take a language specialist to figure out who those two people were. The name Caesarea was to honor Caesar and the second name Philippi Philip chose to honor himself.

Caesarea Philippi was the most pagan place in all of Palestine. Most devout Jews would probably avoid it altogether, but Jesus went there deliberately. In a rocky part of the city on a bluff were two temples. One was built to honor Caesar. That alone would be considered blasphemy to the Jews, but nearby there was another temple built to worship the Greek god Pan. In fact, it was the worldwide center for Pan worship. As part of their devotion the followers of Pan would perform acts so lewd that I cannot mention them in this article. Right next to Pan’s temple was a great crevice or crack in the ground. It was thought to be the place where the dead spirits would go to and from Hades. It was called “The Gates of Hell.” Well, at least that is what the translators of the King James Version would call it. Its actual name was “The Gates of Hades.”

In proclaiming that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against His church, Jesus was saying His victory would not only encompass the afterlife but this life as well. Neither Caesar nor paganism would prevail against His people. If you recall the history of the first millennium, you know His words came true. Though Rome and Paganism tried to snuff out the light of the gospel, they were not able to do so.

Yet, Jesus’ words had an even more powerful meaning. Jesus deliberately took his disciples to the most sinful, Caesar glorying place in Palestine to give the revelation of who He was. Most devout Jews would probably avoid this city altogether. Here is where our ideas about God might be challenged a bit. I have heard it said that God only visits holy places. He only dwells in places where He feels welcome and where He is not offended. And many teach that God is offended quite easily. Where there is sin, God vacates the premises. However, the gospels reveal that such teachings are far from the truth.

Jesus hung out with sinners. He dined with tax collectors. The tax collectors were considered the greatest sinners of the day. They were cheats, traitors to their own people, and just plain thugs. These were people to be avoided. Jesus sought them out. He often went out of His way to find those in darkness. In Mark chapter five we read about Jesus’ encounter with a demon possessed man in the Gadarenes. This man was a gentile. We know this because he lived in the gentile territory of the Gadarenes. Gentiles were considered unclean. Strike one. This fellow dwelt among the tombs and pigs. Tombs were unclean according to Jewish law, and Jews and pigs definitely did not mix. Strike two. He was demon possessed. Strike three. Not a Jew on the planet would go near this man, except one. Jesus. Moreover, the Lord did not just happen upon this fellow. He went out of His way to find him.

At Caesarea Philippi we see Jesus revealing the glory of Who He is in perhaps the darkest corner of Palestine. What does this say for us? What about the darkest corners of our own lives? We all have areas of our lives we don’t want anyone else to see. The Lord might visit us when we are doing everything right, but He surely does not go to those places hidden in shame. If we think such things, the revelation at Caesarea Philippi should tell us to think again. Jesus’ proclamation tells us to look for the Lord in the areas of our greatest weakness and failure, because that is where He is going to be. There He declares that He is the Christ, and the darkness cannot prevail against Him. It is in such places that He wants to reveal the glory of Who He is.

How should this affect the way we look at our world around us? Have you ever thought of a place or person as being Godforsaken? Jesus showed on that day at Caesarea Philippi there is no such place or person. He revealed that He was a bigger Messiah than they could have ever imagined. His love was more vast than they could have expected. God wants to make that same revelation in our hearts, and when we see Jesus as He is, we are free.