Friday, 14 April 2017

6 ways how not to do Christian Ministry – Lessons from 1 Thess.2:1-6

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6 ways how not to do Christian Ministry – Lessons from 1 Thess.2:1-6

These are lessons learned from the ministry of Paul to the Thessalonians. Paul had a successful ministry and everyday as we read his writings, we see the principles that helped him to succeed. There are 6 things he did not do and if we avoid them as ministers, we will also succeed.


1.      "For the appeal we make does not spring from error” Vs. 3. An error is what is not correct. It can be a mistake made out of ignorance or deficiency.  An error is a deviation from or a distortion of the truth. The error in the context of our passage is an error made out of deception. Paul made sure he told the Thessalonians only the truth so that they would not place their faith on lies or human made-up logic. The truth sounded so simple and foolish to some people but Paul did not mind. That is what sets free.
Many people live in delusion because they have believed lies from men they have ignorantly trusted. Bogus promises are made to them and in the end they are exploited and robbed. In this deluded state, many make sacrifices, make expensive commitments and place their hopes on teachings that are strange to sound biblical interpretations.  Some of us add all kinds of things to our preaching so as to make it “sweet” and more acceptable to the people. We say things just to move people even though we are aware that something is wrong with what we are saying. We often paint pictures that are questionable and give unverifiable “testimonies” just to make our preaching sound “great”. We tend to forget that there is no coating, cleansing or improvement that can be done to error in order to make it become accurate. Error does not have the capacity to accomplish God’s purpose. As ministers, we have to avoid it and pursue what is sound.

2.       “For the appeal we make does not spring from …impure motives” Vs. 3. Paul said that his exhortation did not proceed from uncleanness or impurities of thoughts and actions. So, is it possible to do Christian ministry with impure motives? Yes! Impure motives lead to a lot of immoral behaviors. Uncleanness precedes moral failures. It breeds vain values that lead to corrupt and depraved lifestyles in ministry. Christian ministry must not be done together with dirtiness of any sort whether in words or in actions. 

3.       “For the appeal we make does not spring from …deceit” Vs. 3. Deceit is a dishonest behavior. It is purposeful and intended to mislead, cheat, falsify, or trick. Deceit is duplicity and scheme. Again Paul’s exhortation was not that of scheming. The pursuit of sincerity was a principle that Paul imbibed throughout his ministry. He told the Corinthians “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Cor. 4:2. He further told them, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” 2 Cor. 2:17. He said that they were so many who peddled God’s word for profit. Today, the number has doubled a million times. Our exhortations no longer set people free from sin, Satan and the world because we are not declaring the truth that sets free. The deceptions we see today around us are not new. It has been in every generation. The truth is that deceit is not the way to do Christian ministry.

4.      “We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts” Vs. 4. Another way not to do Christian ministry is to be distracted into pleasing men rather than prioritizing pleasing the God who called us into the ministry. The ministry work is His own and not our own. “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer.” 2 Tim 2:4. It is all about Him and not about us or about the men who watch us. There are men pleasers everywhere who can do anything so as to attract favour. Men that will rather displease God as long as they are in the good books of their paymasters. They forget that God is the ultimate Pay Master whose verdict over our ministry is final both for now and for eternity. It happens to men in different strata of ministry.
A congregation that is full of men pleasers cannot tell themselves the truth. It depends on the side your benefactor belongs. Deacons and deaconesses, teachers, council and board members who are men pleasers cannot tell themselves or the church they serve the truth. They kill their pastors and leaders because they cannot give them the true picture of things to enable them make sound decisions. All that is important to them is just to be identified on the side of the leader and not on the side of truth. In the men pleasing business, truth is the only victim. Pastors who are men pleasers cannot stand firm on true doctrine if it is going to offend someone “important” to them. Senior pastors, overseers and bishops who are men pleasers will find it difficult to discipline erring members or pastors when it affects a person they want to please, it does not matter how God feels about the issue. For every men pleaser, it is about his or her gain. The gain is defined by the men pleaser himself.
Woe to a leader who is surrounded by men pleasers. At that time when you will need men to support and stand by you, you will walk alone. Why? You will definitely fall into a pit you cannot see meanwhile you are in the company of men who will see the pit but instead of pointing it to you they withdraw themselves because they do not want to offend you.
We quickly note here too that oftentimes, we pay some price for not being a men pleaser. The men-pleasing ministry feeds some people’s ego and makes them feel “secure” and protects some interests. You will often suffer if you are not a men pleaser; but if your focus is pleasing God, it worth it. Look at what Paul said in Gal 1:10 “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” “We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. Vs. 6.

5.        “You know we never used flattery …” Vs. 5. Christian ministry is not to be done with flattery. Flattery words are bloated words, swelling words spoken with exaggerations. Flattery words are excessive or insincere words, speech or praise. It may be truth but blown out of proportion. Truth does not need to be padded. Flattery words are sweet words meant to make the hearer feel good, even when the intention may be different. Flattery can be either in the content of what is said or in the way it is said.
It is a temptation that men that stand on the podium face every day; either they are tempted to flatter others for their own gain or they allow themselves to be flattered. The Gospel of God does not need flattery to change lives. The name of the Lord Jesus does not need the help of flattery in order to cause men to bow down their knees. The Gospel of Jesus is the power of God. As a servant of Christ, you cannot do Christian ministry with flattery.

6.       “You know we never …put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness.” Vs. 5. Finally, you cannot do Christian ministry with a mask of any kind. Once you have a mask as a servant of Christ, it is a big problem. Why? Attitudinal masks always cover up something, in most cases bad things. In our passage, it is a mask to cover up greed. Like I said earlier, what we see today is not a new phenomenon. Over the centuries of the church existence, men have been doing ministry with their belly as their focus. Greed is inordinate or wrong desire, especially for wealth or possessions.
You cannot do Christian ministry with inordinate desire for wealth or possession and succeed as a servant of God. When our focus in ministry and measurements for success are houses, kind or number of cars, how expensive our clothes are etc, then we may have started doing a strange ministry even thou we are still being seen as servants of Christ.

In conclusion, Paul said “…we speak as men approved by God…God …tests our hearts…God is our witness” Vs.4-5. May God’s approval be our utmost goal in ministry. May we labor with the consciousness that He tests our hearts and will eventually determine what our motives are. He is indeed our witness. God bless.
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Monday, 10 April 2017

Dr Bilal Philips canvasses for the inclusion of the Islamic perspective in the educational process in Nigeria

Sphere: Related Content Dr Bilal Philips is the Proprietor of Islamic Online University and has already said that about 12,000 Nigerians have enrolled and are studying Islamic studies in the university. Having said that, what caught our attention is that he plans to establish the university in Nigeria, the process is already ongoing and is canvassing for the inclusion of the Islamic perspective in the educational process in Nigeria. By this he means that students who are studying any other course in the country may be required to take one or two courses in Islam in order to enable them understand the Islamic aspect of their course of study.

The former Minister of Education and former Governor of Kano, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, commended the works of Dr Philips and boasted to be the first Governor to make it mandatory for the civil servants to apply the Islamic perspective in carrying out their functions.

The full story is in The Nation:


The proprietor of Islamic Online University (IOU), Dr Bilal Philips, said on Monday that no fewer than 12,000 Nigerians were presently studying through the institution.

Philips made the disclosure in Kano, when he visited former Kano State Governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau.

According to him, the Nigerian students are part of the 300,000 students studying in the institution at no cost.

“We are also presently planning to establish the online Islamic University in Nigeria. We are going through all the necessary processes.”

Philips canvassed for the inclusion of the Islamic perspective in the educational process in Nigeria, to enable students understand the Islamic aspects of any course they study...
 
This information is not just to keep us at alert, but also a call to prayers for Nigeria.

Prayers:
1. Pray that God will frustrate all the efforts to Islamize this country.
2. Pray that the fire of God will envelope His Church in Nigeria. May the knowledge of the Lord spread all over the earth as waters cover the sea.
3. Pray that God will open the eyes of Christians who are in positions over these schemes and enable them to stand with Him.
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Monday, 23 January 2017

Book review: Following Hard After God: Discover how to make the pursuit of God your lifetime affair by Chris Ekwedam

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Following Hard After God: Discover how to make the pursuit of God your lifetime affair, Chris Ekwedam, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, PNUR Revival Press & Books, 2016, 157 pages.

The book, Following Hard After God: Discover how to make the pursuit of God your lifetime affair, by Chris Ekwedam has two-fold purposes, first, it is aimed at addressing complacent Christianity and wrong notions that are prevalent in our churches today, and secondly, to stir up God’s children to pursue a close and intimate “personal relationship with God that is real and practical.” The second purpose dominates a greater part of the discussions in the book. It is a book that will create hunger in the heart of a younger Christian to seek God’s face in every situation, challenge an older Christian to leave his place of conceit and comfort to deepen his relationship with God, and the Christian leader to pay attention to his personal relationship with God as he shepherds God’s people.

Chris Ekwedam is a seasoned servant of God, a sound Bible teacher, who has actively been serving the Body of Christ for the past twenty four (24) years in different capacities as a Christian leader. Following Hard After God is a follow-up to his first work “The New Birth”. He is a practicing Project Management Professional.

This book is divided into nine chapters, each chapter starts with either a Bible quotation or an inspiring quote that supports the points canvassed within the chapter. Men like Moses, Daniel and Apostle Paul are presented as examples of men who continued to seek after God in spite of their deep experiences with God. The author argues that in spite of the new birth experience, Christians ought to continually hunger for God and His visitation. In fact, he painted a current situation in our churches, “everywhere I look today, I see people who are hungry for miracles; men who are hungry to see the acts of God. But rarely do you see men who are hungry for God and His ways. We pursue everything except God. We even chase after men who we think can give us ‘access’ to God and His blessings but we never seek after God Himself, the Giver of blessings” Christians are encouraged in the book to hunger and thirst for God like the Psalmist who said “as the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Ps.42:1-2.

Chris argues that man’s desire to be independent, rule and take charge of himself makes him think and act as if he does not need God. He creates several alternatives and options to use to sort himself out in the face of troubles. In fact, even pastors and leaders in Christian organizations are not left out. “when men’s’ power for ministry wane, instead of seeking the face of God for times of refreshment, they relax because they have alternatives around them.” He continued, “to avoid being accused of not serving God or of being irreligious, we have created alternatives for ourselves and to show those who are watching us that we are still spiritual and religious. We cover our real selves and become very busy so as to portray commitment to God to those around us, when actually our hearts are not committed to God” Page 131. The author warns that “our alternatives are empty and temporary solutions like cisterns that cannot hold water”. He said that because of all these, God often brings us to a point of need from time to time to enable us seek Him. No one will stay the way he is and walk with God at the same time. God often brings us to the end of ourselves, with all our options exhausted, before we set our hearts to really seek Him.

Chapter 8 is very interesting as it deals with the Distractions and Deceptions that hinder us from seeking the Lord. Apart from the alternatives we create; the author discusses the worries of this life as another thing that distracts us. The deceitfulness of riches is presented as a killer that makes us have a false sense of security and sufficiency that leads to lukewarm lifestyle. “The Kingdom has lost a lot of believers in the palace of blessings and prosperity as much as in the theater of suffering and adversity.”  Who would have imagined that the riches that we pursue and pray for can be a deception that hinders us from the God who gave them to us?
Chapters 1, 3 and 7 presents the argument for seeking after God and pursuing a loving relationship with Him while chapters 2, 4 – 6 and 8 present the factors we must pay attention to in order for our seeking to achieve its desired goals. The factors include avoiding the creation of alternatives, setting our hearts aright and having godly priorities, having a correct view of God, and avoiding the distractions and deceptions that make us either to be complacent or to seek in wrong ways. Chapter 9 is like a closing charge for a Christian not to give up in his seeking. The book fulfills its purposes of addressing some of the contemporary wrong mindsets and also stirring the hearts of believers towards the pursuit of God and making it a lifetime affair. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" Jam.4:8.

Looking at the book critically, I think that there are other things also that can distract us from seeking God which includes legitimate ambitions and desires which are not covered in the book. The organization of the book is poor as chapters 1, 3 and 7 would have been arranged together while chapters 2, 4 – 6 and 8 would have been organized together in a progressive manner so as to make a good flow. Also the introduction is not properly arranged on page 1. A line seems to be cut off on page 29. It is our hope that the author and his publisher will improve and take care of these minor errors during the revision edition.

Generally, the author made some categorical and thought-provoking statements in the book that will send the reader into serious thinking and reflection. For example, he said that “only seekers find God”, “slothful men cannot follow God”, “salvation, as important and free as it is, is not given to those who do not desire, long or ask for it”. Many of such statements can ignite theological questions in the reader; but except for further studies, I discovered that the book answered most of the questions it provoked.

I will summarize with the words of the Ven. Chris Iwuji, who wrote the Forward “Chris Ekwedam has made a clarion call to all who care to hear. It is apt and must be amplified for our generation to hear.” Though some issues raised in the book are very unpopular, it is recommended to every serious minded Christian. 

Grab a copy of the book and you will not regret you did. It was published last year 2016 and is already in several bookshops. Alternatively, you can contact the author through chrisekwedam@gmail.com 08055614630.
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Thursday, 19 January 2017

The choices we make in 2017

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The point is that your choices matter; your daily decisions matter; your attitudes matter and your actions also matter. These will culminate into what becomes of your life this New Year.

I believe that people can seek God’s face for the New Year. I believe that those that want to fast can fast and present themselves to God for whatever He wants to use them to do, even though it is not a prerequisite. I believe that there are many things in the future that are not within our control; hence we need to pray and adjust our lives to God and what He is doing to ensure that we are on the right side of the future.

What I don’t agree with is where people make false declarations because they want the church members to feel good. Some Pastors have put themselves under pressure to declare what will happen within the year. In the course, they declare strange things and lies that have no bearing to what God is doing, because of the gullible membership they have raise over the years.

I don’t agree with some people who use the time of seeking God at the beginning of the year as a time of bargaining and fund raising. If you want to raise money for your annual budget, set your target and urge your members to pledge, so that you will have the money to fund the programmes you have for the year. Trust God together with your members for His provision. But don’t manipulate them into thinking that their security and blessings within the year are dependent on how much they fast or give within the month of January. Do not manipulate them into thinking that they can use their money to “redeem” the year meanwhile behind the scene you are calculating how much is raised. The covenant we have with God in Christ and the terms and conditions recorded in the New Testament are enough for that.

Every January, there are bogus declarations by some church leaders. People use swelling words to hype the moral and emotions of others. There is nothing wrong trying to encourage the people to be positive towards the New Year, what is wrong is using lies to do that. God’s word is enough to make God’s people to trust Him. If God’s word is not able to motivate your people, then no bogus prophecies can make a lasting impression that has eternal value. Some have even gone into blessing holy water, holy oil, articles and “mantles” as instruments of anointing for the year. These are not proper and are deceptive. What carries people through is their relationship and faith in God which influences their daily choices.

Note that even though we make ourselves feel different in this month of January, the truth is that nothing really has changed; the days of this month will not be different from the other days of February, March, April etc. What will bring about changes are the choices and decisions we make daily. If you continue to make the same choices you have been making in the previous days, do not expect different outcomes in the days ahead. Prayer and fasting do not change the outcome of your daily choices.

Hence, instead of declaring false things to the people just to make them feel good and to raise money, use the occasion to challenge them to change their choices; to set new goals; to make new decisions towards the way they want to go; to take actions that will lead them to their new goals; to trust God and be faithful to Him because He rewards a faithful life. Let those who have been making bad choices repent and replace their bad choices with good ones. That is when they will expect a different outcome this year. Those that should go back to school should decide and start taking actions. Those that intend to take certification courses should decide and start making inquiries. This is the time to decide on any personal development you may want to engage in this year. Stop procrastination. Is there a small job opportunity to take up? Is there a ministry skill to develop? How many books do you intend to read this year? This is the time to take those decisions. 

Declaring what God has not told you will only stir empty emotions but will not bring about tangible results. Leading your people to adjust their lives to what God wants to do in their lives this year is more important than whatever good words you want to tell them no matter what your intentions may be. It is good to bless your congregation, but it is important for you to note that God does not bless a sinful and disobedient life. So leading a faithful and obedient life is more important than any fasting and prayer that will not produce changes in people’s lives. When you are in good relationship with God, you will surely be found in the center of His will for your life.

These are the choices that will bring about changes in your life this year. If you are seeking God’s face, go ahead and pray but take note of the inevitable choices that you must make to accompany the prayer time. Do not be deceived. Refuse to be exploited. May God bless you in this year 2017!

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