New Wine for New Wineskins September 2021

By , September 1, 2021 6:51 am

Perspective Is Everything (Part 2)

Ephesians 4: 11 – 12

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ.

Last time I made the statement that although there are many ways that we can be equipped for ministry there is nothing or no-one who can prepare you for ministry. I believe that is why many who have been trained or equipped for ministry don’t continue in ministry for very long once they are engaged in the reality of ministry.

Jesus equipped his disciples for ministry but it very quickly became apparent that they were not really prepared for ministry.

Remember, perspective is everything.

perspectivea particular attitude toward or way of regarding something or someone

Put simply, perspective is the way you see yourself, other people, the world, and what happens to you. It’s the foundation of your outlook on life and the source of your attitude.

I believe that we need a change in perspective if we are going to fulfil our calling and the commission we have been given, because perspective is everything.

I believe we need a change of perspective in how we view people who are still unsaved, those who are still without God and without hope. We looked at that last time in the account of Jesus and the woman at the well in Samaria. Jesus basically told his disciples that if they wanted to reap a harvest of souls they would need a change of perspective – because perspective is everything.

If Jesus had not had a different perspective from his disciples the reality is that a Samaritan outcast and her city would have remained lost.

When Jesus established the New Covenant by dying and rising again from the dead I believe that the way God sees people changed forever. And so it is important that we also have a change of perspective so that we see people in the same way that he does – because perspective is everything.

How we see people will impact on what we say to people and how we respond to people – how we treat people and how we relate to people. I believe that when you change the way you look at people it can change the people you look at. We need to look at all people from the perspective of what Jesus already accomplished on their behalf on the Cross.

2 Corinthians 5: 18 – 20

18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing [reckoning] their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

The Cross is the great equaliser.

Jesus sat down with the Samaritan woman and treated her as his equal which was completely contrary to how tradition had wired people. In ministering to this woman Jesus broke just about every convention that existed in the religious tradition in which he had been raised.

I shared last time regarding the word I believe the Holy Spirit gave me many years ago:

You will have to break out of the cultural mores if you are going to break into the more of God

mores are defined as the essential or characteristic customs, conventions, traditions, practices, of a community

In this second part of this series I want us to look at one particular aspect of ministry where I believe we really need a breakthrough and a change of perspective if we are to effectively move forward in our destiny as local, regional, cross-cultural, and international world-changing disciple-makers and church planters.

We need a change of perspective – because perspective is everything.

Acts 6: 1 – 4

1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

From this account it would appear as I said earlier that although Jesus had equipped these guys by teaching and example for the work of the ministry that some of what he had equipped them with had flown over their heads, leaving them unprepared for the work of the ministry. The Greek word translated “desirable” here can also mean “pleasing, satisfactory, acceptable or agreeable.”

Can we honestly imagine Jesus responding in this way to the need that had arisen?

John 13: 12 – 17

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

When the need of the Greek widows was brought to the attention of the apostles it was obviously something that they were not already aware of and also something that those who reported it to the apostles didn’t know how to deal with. I believe there is a key here to understanding a basic failure that can happen to anyone involved in ministry leading to a limitation being placed upon the forward movement of the church in fulfilling the commission we have been given to reach the whole world with the good news of the kingdom.

Remember, the kingdom functions opposite to how the world operates. In the kingdom the way up is down, the way to live is to die, and the way to get is to give.

Scripturally, there is no place for a pyramid model of leadership in the church. Jesus knocked the pyramid over so that those who used to sit on the top issuing commands are now leading from the front. Listen to Peter a few years later, writing to the church.

1 Peter 5: 1 – 4

1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

The apostles were correct in recognising that their primary function was the ministry of the word and prayer, and their strategy of delegation was not a bad strategy but there was something wrong in their attitude that affected their perception of service and so they had shifted from a kingdom perspective to a worldly perspective.

Romans 12: 3

3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

According to Philippians 2 our Lord Jesus Christ left the highest place and assumed the lowest place in order to fulfil the will of the Father and the commission he had been given, and we are exhorted to have the same mind and to think the same way.

John 4: 34

34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”

Remember, how we see people will determine what we say to people, how we respond to people, how we treat people and how we relate to people.

When the apostles responded to the complaint by seeking to resolve it from an exalted position they missed a perfect discipleship opportunity. They could have come and shown their willingness to serve as they had been equipped by the greatest servant of all, and then handed over the task to others.

Rather than maintaining the posture of humility and a servant role and mindset they were putting a degree of separation between them and the ordinary folks – they were losing touch with real people where people are real. Discipleship is not done at a distance – it is done in the context of close relationship. Jesus called his disciples to be with him, to do life with him, and to equip them by example so that he could send them.

I have said many times over the years that the call is always to come but the commission is to go.

The church at this point was still multiplying in Jerusalem but that was only stage one of their commission, and it was in danger of stagnating there.

An interesting thing is that when the apostles appoint the seven men to deal the issue these seven men become the ones doing real ministry where real ministry is supposed to be done among the real people with the real needs.

Acts 6: 7 – 10

7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. 8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.

It is also one of these men, Stephen, who now has a target on his back which is a sure sign that he is the one who is now a threat to the kingdom of darkness.

11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law.”

Stephen becomes the one who is preaching powerfully in the public forum, eventually becoming the first martyr, which comes from the Greek word martus and is most commonly translated as witness. Jesus told his first disciples that they would be witnesses to him locally, regionally, cross-culturally, and internationally.

Whenever those in ministry place a degree of separation between them and real people you will find that their ministry in regards to their commission will stagnate in that they will tend to only minister to people who are already saved, and often in a way that attaches those believers to the ministers themselves rather than continuing the Jesus model of discipling people and then sending them out to make disciples who make disciples.

I believe we need a change of perspective, because perspective is everything.

Let’s look at some verses in Acts chapter eight.

Acts 8: 1 8, 14 – 17, 2531

1 Now Saul was consenting to his death.

A young man named Saul of Tarsus was present at the death of Stephen and I believe he was so impacted by what he witnessed that this was the beginning of the work of conviction in his life even though his initial reaction was to turn up the heat of persecution against the church.

I want to encourage you understand that even though you may find it difficult in your workplace or even amongst your own family that if you are living as a Holy Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus Christ then you have no idea who your witness is impacting, and that includes those who seem most opposed to your testimony and witness.

At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Did you catch that?  It is like the apostles are being left behind.

2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

Please note that at this point it is not the apostles who are going everywhere preaching the word.

5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.

There is a significant breakthrough as the commission given by Jesus is back on the move, but it is not the apostles who are leading the charge – they are still stuck in Jerusalem.

6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralysed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city.

Somebody needs to shout!

Do you think we may need a change of perspective, because perspective is everything.

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of

God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Praise the Lord! The apostles have had a wake up call, and they are at least partially back in business.

25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

That’s progress. There seems to be a change of perspective, and perspective is everything. The apostles head back to Jerusalem, and Philip continues his cross-cultural outreach ministry.

26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

Are we getting the message?

I have been listening to someone occasionally in the mornings over the past few months who does a daily broadcast on YouTube. Now please hear my heart here – he is one of the good guys.

As I have been listening to him I have heard him refer a number of times in the context of the para-church ministry that bears his name to his “staff”, and even to his “employees”. This has troubled me a bit because these are not Scriptural ministry designations but are more associated with business.

Someone once said, “When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into an institution; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.”

What would be wrong with referring to his co-workers as members of the ministry team. It may just sound like semantics but it alters one’s perspective of those we are referring to. If our perspective is wrong then it will impact on how we view people, because perspective is everything.

I was speaking with a young lady a couple of years ago who had just completed three years at an international ministry school associated with a very well-known church with a global impact. Please hear my heart again here – these are not the bad guys, they are some of the good guys. So this young lady was explaining to me that the leaders of the church who run the school like to encourage students to find accommodation in the rougher parts of the city so that they can be a light there.

That sounds like a great strategy except I know from these leaders own testimonies that they themselves live in gated communities in the more desirable (there’s that word again) areas. Do you think we may be back in an Acts 6 scenario? Do you think we may need a renewed perspective? Because perspective is everything.

As Bill Wilson, who runs the largest Sunday School in the world, based in Brooklyn in New York City, says, “I don’t commute to the ghetto. I live there.”

Roy Poulsen, one of the leaders from New Wine Church Tain who was visiting with us in June for our church’s 30th anniversary said that when he had been seeking the Lord for a word for us he had received only two words – “strong core”.

One definition of “core” is the central or most important part of something; the part of something that is central to its existence or character.

The core [the central or most important] mission of the church [that is central to its existence or character] is to make disciples.

Our mission statement as New Wine Church begins:

The vision and mission of New Wine Church is to establish and encourage strong local churches consisting of disciples of Jesus Christ.

It then goes on to make four clear statements regarding what we are committed to discipling people in, and then it ends with two Scriptural references connected  together – Luke 9: 6 & Mark 16: 20.

So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere….the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.

There can be a tendency towards a hierarchical structure in the church similar to what exists in most other areas of life. And if you do church according to an Old Covenant pattern you could justify that model, which is one of the reasons that we must fully transition from the old to the new covenant.

The church that Jesus is building is designed and destined to be different in that although there is a real and valid and necessary place for leadership it is always servant leadership which is devoid of personal selfish ambition or a desire to lord it over others by achieving or attaining to a superior or elevated status.

The cross is the great equaliser. The first apostles, who were the first disciples of Jesus could have got stuck forever in Jerusalem as the leaders of the first mega-church, but by the grace of God they moved forward little by little beyond their cultural limitations, breaking out of the cultural mores and into the more of God.

We are not to be content with just discipling one generation. Someone a lot smarter than me figured out that if one disciple made just one disciple in a year and that new disciple went on to make another disciple in the next year while the first disciple began to disciple another disciple and this was continued then the whole world could be reached in one generation.

There has been much talk over the years about being the final generation. Do you think we need a radical change of perspective if we are going to be that generation? Because perspective is everything.

Matthew 24: 14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. 

The first apostles as recorded in Acts 6 said it was not desirable for them to leave the ministry of the word and of prayer to serve tables – an attitude which separated them from close proximity with the very people they had been commissioned to disciple and actually set them at odds with the discipleship equipping they had received by teaching and example from Jesus himself.

Thankfully they eventually had their perspective corrected, because perspective is everything.

We will never be the agents of church transformation from behind the pulpit although a few folks may become celebrity preachers.

The only way to change the cultural mores [the essential or characteristic customs, conventions, traditions, and practices ] that have become established in the church is to actually model by example the practices we want to see reproduced in every member of the local body of believers, and step together into the so much more of God as we remove the self-imposed limitations for exponential growth and multiplication created by a wrong perspective.

This especially applies to those of us who are considered part of the five-fold ministry or who aspire to what have been wrongly deemed as exalted positions. We must come out of our studies and our offices, step out from behind the pulpit, come down from the platform and begin to interact once again with people up close and personal.

This was how Jesus modeled the creation of a disciple-making culture. He didn’t just preach to large crowds – he very intentionally spent more time with small groups of people and often one-on-one – making disciples who then went on to make more disciples.

It is time for ministry Jesus’ way and so it is time for a change of perspective, because perspective is everything.

It is always desirable to serve tables because that is where we will find the people we are commissioned to disciple and where the greatest opportunities will come to minister the word and to pray for people.

Jesus took time to fellowship in the presence of his Father and to pray while the world around him slept so that he was fully equipped and prepared to serve them and  minister to them and to pray for them when they woke up.

It is time for a change of perspective, because perspective is everything.

More next time….

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