Mission of God Study Bible Review

July 30, 2013 by  
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Several months ago, our team undertook the task of comparing and reviewing a growing number of Study Bibles appearing on the book market recently in what we called a 21st century Revival of Study Bibles. This article is part of our Study Bibles review series as outlined here: http://cupandcross.com/bible-revival/

The Mission of God Study Bible is edited by Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation containing essays and commentaries by over 50 contributors among whom Billy Graham and Jack Hayford. Significant place is given to quotes from Francis Dubose’s 1983 book, God Who Sends. The primary purpose is to introduce a Missional Manifesto to the church of the 21st century. Beside book introductions, essays and cross-reference annotations, it promotes ideas from the Bible as QR Codes, Text Messages and Notes from God using the Holman Christian Standard Bible text as a foundation.

The initial commentary introduces God’s mission in creating the world and the divine plan to reconnect with His creation into a promise of an eternal land. The passages of our usual consideration (Numbers ch.6 and Jeremiah ch.18) are not particularly commented; however, the introduction to Numbers begins with a beautiful analogy of how serious God takes His mission leading the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness. The notes on Jeremiah also contain Glenn Barth’s Dwelling and Working for God in the City.

Although not written by primarily Pentecostal authors, the commentary on Acts includes a very charismatic key to revival through making disciples using: (1) empowerment, (2) education and (3) evolving. This process is described as inclusive and hospitable to all in two articles on the Gentile conversion in Acts 10. The mission of the Christian ministry is enriched by the Gifts of the Spirit annotated personally by Ed Stetzer in 1 Corinthians 14 through the source, search and sovereignty of spirituality. But it is also inseparable from the marketplace as described in connection with the Corinthian church Acts ch.18.

The Pneumatological and ministry related commentaries connect well with the urgency of musicological eschatology starting with the phrase “In the Spirit” (Revelation 4:2). The notes conclude with another article with an urban theme on the Heavenly City. The eschatological mission in Revelation is explained as “Refocusing and Renewing the Church.” An article about missionary to China, Hudson Taylor is placed next to the story of the two witnesses, expressing the eschatological urgency to reach the whole world with the Gospel. This coincides with two commentaries on the Great Commission in Matthew 28, “The Mission of God and the Mission in the Church” and “Go Therefore.”

Overall a great missional tool with over 150 commentary notes and articles begins with the Missional Manifesto and concluding with the “Letters to the Church” from elder statesmen like Billy Graham, Jack Hayford, R. T. Kendall, Erwin Lutzer, Calvin Miller, and R.C. Sproul.

After 40 days of protests police removes protesters from Parliament square in Sofia, Bulgaria

July 25, 2013 by  
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Anti-government protests in Bulgaria’s capital have been going on for 40 days, and escalated Tuesday evening as several hundred demonstrators trapped the officials inside Parliament in a bid to oust the left-leaning government.

Protesters opposing the Socialist-led government try to stop a heavily guarded bus in Sofia(Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters built barricades around Bulgaria’s parliament, effectively trapping over 100 lawmakers, ministers, and journalists in the building for more than seven hours on Tuesday following a brief scuffle with police. Protesters pulled out sidewalk tiles and piled garbage bins to cut off roads to Bulgaria’s parliament, shouting “Mafia!” and “Resign!” and “Red Garbage!”, to keep the deputies under blockade until the Socialist-led government steps down. An earlier attempt to get deputies out of the parliament with a bus led to a scuffle with police. It was aborted after protesters threw bottles and other objects at the bus, while others sat in front of it.

Protesters oppose the Socialist-led government in SofiaThousands of Bulgarians have been protesting almost daily in Sofia since last month following a government decision to name a powerful media magnate as security chief, which many see as an example of private interests controlling state institutions. The government’s withdrawal of the appointment failed to quell public discontent in the European Union’s poorest country, which also is one of the bloc’s most corrupt. Seven protesters were treated for head injuries, the national radio said. Two police officers were also wounded.

Growing in the Life of Faith

July 20, 2013 by  
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downloadHaving evolved from Wesleyan-holiness movement and having received great formational impact from many of the 20th century denominations, Pentecostalism inherits numerous church practices. Yet, several practices are historically, culturally and ecclesiastically distinctive from the Pentecostal churches. Among them are:
1. Baptism with the Holy Spirit accompanied by the initial evidence of speaking in tongues (glossolalia).
2. Practicing of the gifts of the Spirit, with the gifts of speaking and interpreting of tongues being predominant.
3. Foot washing services, as a part of the communion service.
4. Enthusiastic and emotional worship involving the whole congregation.
5. Altar services accompanied with shouting, running and trances.
6. Prayer clothes as a part of prayer for the sick.
7. Life of holiness, not only as a personal lifestyle, but as a discipleship model as well.
8. Inspiring the process of uniting and unifying people from different social, educational, economical and cultural backgrounds forming a movement without borders.

The absence of the above practices in Pentecostal discipleship will result in the following negative implications:
1. Discontinuity with Pentecostal heritage.
2. Discontinuity with Pentecostal theology.
3. Mutilation of Pentecostal Practices.
4. Discontinuity with Pentecostal identity and transformation into a new identity distinct from the Pentecostal one.
5. Failure to fulfill the divine calling for the Pentecostal mission.

Indeed, discipleship can exist without the above listed practices and actions, in the same way it exists in other Christian denominations and movements. However, discipleship of this type will not carry a Pentecostal distinctiveness. Therefore, it is clear that Pentecostal discipleship can exist and be productive only when modeled after distinct Pentecostal practices. Only then will Pentecostal discipleship be a cross-cultural and a cross-denominational movement.

It is unfortunate that Pentecostal practices, even within the global Pentecostal community, are disappearing. It is even more troubling that in many congregations and movements they are mutating to create a new identity much different from the Pentecost of the Bible. For example, in the beginning of the 21st century:
1. Baptism with the Holy Spirit accompanied by the initial evidence of speaking in tongues (glossolalia) is often replaced by the modern and postmodern religious experiences like “holy laughter,” “holy rain,” etc.
2. Practicing of the gifts of the Spirit, is a rare appearance often replaced by “prophetic” utterance and leadership of types quite distanced from the Biblical prophetic operation.
3. Foot washing services are not a part of our worship any longer.
4. Enthusiastic and emotional worship involving the whole congregation is more often faked and imitated than genuinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. The reason: great desire for the results without much discipline to go through the process.
5. Altar services accompanied with shouting, running and trances may still occur, yet they often do not fulfill their original purpose: to reconcile both Christians and sinners with their Creator.
6. Prayer clothes as a part of prayer for the sick are practiced as ministry, yet the results of healing are often not there.
7. A life of holiness has been rejected as impossible, impractical and foolish. The few who still press forth for practicing it have been classified as social outcasts by both the world and the global Christian community.
8. The idea of uniting and unifying people from different social, educational, economical and cultural backgrounds forming a movement without borders has been implemented by the world into the idea of a “global community,” yet it has very little presence and practice in the Pentecostal churches.

Leading and Managing a Growing Church

July 15, 2013 by  
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According to George Hunt the three main roles of each pastor of an effective and growing church are:

  1. Leader communicating the church vision, purpose, and direction
  2. Manager utilizing people and resources, assigning specific roles, jobs, and tasks, in order to achieve the mission’s purpose.
  3. Administrator facilitating the flow of the organization and makes sure it is efficient. (p. 26).

The following paper is a basic list of my actions in my present context of ministry grouped according to the above categories.

Leadership

  1. Creating, providing and consciously supporting a spiritual environment of prayer for leadership decision-making.
  2. Vision: Receiving the vision for the department and communicating a vision through all existing structures to all people in the department without any exception.
  3. Purpose: presenting a purpose of the vision – what would be the results of fulfilling the vision.
  4. Mission: how does the vision compliment the overall mission of the congregation?
  5. Relationships: relating to people s needs, spiritual growth and transformation.
  6. Message: in the church context providing a message related to the vision empowering the gifts of the people, encouraging with a hope for the future and at the same time ministering to their present situation personally, in their families as a basic church structure, and in the corporate presence of the church congregation as a community.
  7. Interacting with existing systems, structures and hierarchy in the church through providing an adequate leadership model in the assignment department.

Management

  1. Creating, providing and consciously supporting a spiritual environment of prayer for management decision-making.
  2. Creating an environment for adequate and timely problem solving in relationship to relationships between people and resources or both.
  3. Forming and continuously developing a dynamical financial strategy in accordance with the overall financial strategy of the congregation that provides for the ministry needs.
  4. Budget planning as a part of the annual church budget presented by the senior pastor and approved by the pastoral/church council.
  5. Creating relationships with long and short term sponsors.
  6. Providing and implementing long and short term fundraiser strategies.
  7. Finding, creating and building resources providing and adequate model for their purposeful usage.
  8. Creating annual and/or five-year projections for the further development of the ministry department in accordance with the available resources and the adequately provided leadership plans.

Administration

  1. Creating, providing and consciously supporting a spiritual environment of prayer for administration decision-making.
  2. Establishing communication with leaders and members through a variety of mail outs, websites, weekly bulletins, monthly newsletters and presentations.
  3. Cataloging member profiles in an information database to create a holistic church communication structure, and available for planning an extended church strategy.
  4. Forming basic structures and systems to aid the youth ministry:
  • Volunteer leaders
  • Student leaders
  • Small groups
  • Small group leaders
  • Weekly meetings
  • Wednesday night leaders
  • Sunday school teen program, etc.
  1. Providing training, feedback and communication with the department structures aiming better results and relationships.
  2. Participating in church boards, interacting with directors, establishing and executing the proper chain of command.
  3. Creating and publishing reports and statistics inclusive of results.
  4. Analyzing the available data, structuring the results with proper feedback and providing a strategic plan for further development of the ministry.

Called & Empowered

July 10, 2013 by  
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calledCalled & Empowered is a collection of essays that addresses a number of critical post-modern issues. The main purpose of the book is to introduce and answer problematic questions related to church and culture. A great addition is the compilation of in-depth cultural studies and recent theological developments viewed in Christian context. What made the book interesting for me personally was the presence of a number of well-balanced critical perspectives which were presented from different viewpoints. Because they were combined with different cultural factors, they were helpful in understanding the Global Mission of Pentecostalism. The supportive evidence focused on the Kingdom, culture, social formation and unity.

On the Kingdom of God
During the latter part of the twentieth century, the doctrine of the Kingdom of God was of great concern for many theologians and missiologists. In my short educational experience, I have been introduced to a number of works on the subject, some of which were quite controversial. However, it has been interesting to read about the Kingdom strategy of Jesus, along with the development of the Kingdom theology in the context of third world praxis. It seems that in both cases, it is reasonable to accept the fact that since the Kingdom of God was a prime concern in the ministry of Jesus, as well as in the ministry of John the Baptist and the apostles, it should carry the same importance in our Christian life and activities. Unfortunately, this may not be the observed reality in Christianity today. However, traditionally and historically, Pentecostal Christians have always focused on the Kingdom of God. A very particular example in this case is the already-not-yet proposal, which is directly associated with Kingdom theology.

On Gospel and Culture
This particular division in Called and Empowered has a very important discussion on the urbanization of the Pentecostal mission. Historically, Pentecostal revivals do not begin in huge urban centers and do not focus or attract them. It seems that such revivals occur mainly among people who are neither highly educated, nor economically prosperous. Also they do not occupy a high rank in the social hierarchy. It is only after they have had a period of successful existence as aggressively growing religious organizations that the Pentecostal Churches and ministries start aiming at the great cultural, economical and political urban centers. Such progressive development is evident in the Bible. Undeniably, the first move of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 was among uneducated people such as fishermen and tax collectors. Similar concern was expressed by Gentiles present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Nevertheless, shortly thereafter the Gospel was preached before kings, politicians, governors and military leaders. Therefore, what Pentecostalism rediscovers today is not a new blending of culture and Gospel, but rather a reclamation of the continuity of historical inheritance.

On Pentecostal Response to Marxism
A very good point was made by Dr. Kuzmic in his exposition on Marxism in relation to the existence of Pentecostalism. It is always quite disturbing when a parallel between Marx’s socialism and Christianity is being made. In Eastern Europe however, this idea is not as neoteric as proposed by some Western writers. In the early twentieth century Nikolay Berdyaev, one of the most prominent socialist writers, introduced what is considered probably the first comparison between Christianity and Marxism. The similarities are many: common wealth, economical and social balance, peace, brotherhood, ect. Also, communism in many ways imitates Christianity. Good examples are the establishment of the social and economical infrastructure of cultural communes, work unions and agricultural cooperatives which have common assets. A similar example is the almost “religious” dedication required by the Communist Party.

What is missed, however, is the simple fact that Marxism, different from Christianity, lacks God. As Dr. Kuzmic points out, Marx hated all gods, including Christ. Therefore, there is no room for comparison. If Communism is Christianity without Christ, it then stands far away from the whole idea of the existence of Christianity. This was shown through the enormous failure of communism in Eastern Europe. Since Dr. Kuzmic has personally experienced all of the above, his exposition on Marxism in relation to Pentecostalism assesses the true danger of such a parallel.

On Ecumenism and Pentecostal Mission
The last evidence is drawn from the discussion on Ecumenical Mission offered in Called & Empowered and my long-term relationship with the World Council of Churches. The World Council of Churches is one of the numerous organizations which promote worldwide Christian unity through reconciliation, theological dialogue, sharing of resources and the vision of a community life rooted in a particular cultural context.

The vision of the World Council of Churches is based on the common Christian mission of introducing Christ and Christianity to the world. I am persuaded that the future of World Missions is for Christians uniting with a common purpose for our Christian mission. Undoubtedly, such process will take time and mutual efforts. I am reminded of this as I observe my home country, Bulgaria where Protestant Christians are divided against one another and unity is lacking. Unified missions will not only bring oneness and harmony back into the church, but it will formulate the ecclesiastical community after the image of the Early Church from the Book of Acts. The results from such a unified mission will not only be world changing, but self-changing as well.

Mission Applications
The following part of this overview will include a mission application response to the evidences listed above. As it focuses on the Eastern European context, it will further suggest mission applications in the present Protestant reality in the region, and more specifically among the Bulgarian Pentecostals. The above four evidence accents were chosen among others because they all pertain to today’s Bulgarian Protestant reality. The kingdom of God as both present reality and eschatological hope takes a bit different perspective in a society where forty five years of Communist regime has left a deep scar on people’s mentality. Healing for the emotional and social wounds has not been provided by rapidly changing governments and political models, crime has increased, severe economical crises have occupied and there remains a constant fear and lack of hope for the future. In such context, the Kingdom of God is much more than a present reality or a future hope. It is all that the Protestant church in Bulgaria really has.

Gospel and culture are an essential part of Bulgarian missions work. On the Balkan Peninsula where Bulgaria is located, there are more than 150 languages and dialects spoken. Adding the crossroads of three world religions, three continents and constant migration of people that has been going on for thousands of years, makes this Europe’s melting pot of cultures and ethnoses. Discovering a paradigm which will serve as a buffer between the ever-changing Balkan culture and the eternal Gospel will be the ever-present factor that determines the success of Protestantism on the Balkans.

In Eastern European cultural and social context, the mentioning of Communism indeed has a different meaning. The Pentecostal church in Bulgaria historically and ideologically has opposed Communism in every form, and thus Pentecostal Christianity in Bulgaria must differentiate from Communism in order to remain in its historical distinctives. In order to be successful in its mission and message, and at the same time remain within its original identity, the Bulgarian Protestant movement must continue to oppose Communism in all of its forms.

The final evidence of ecumenism must be understood in Eastern European settings not only as an ecumenical cooperation of different religious formations, but as a union between all existing Protestant groups. As costly as such idea may seem, it will strengthen Eastern European Protestantism. Historically, in Bulgaria an organization called Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance (United Evangelical Churches) has served such purpose by preserving the identity of the denominations members. Such unity of cooperation must continue in even more strategic and planned ways in order to provide Bulgarians with the proper social context for national Protestant reformation and revival.

Luke and Acts Published (New Bulgarian Translation)

July 5, 2013 by  
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MAT Mark luka john

We are both happy and humbled to announce the publication of the Luke/Acts volume of the New Testament in Bulgarian. This fourth and final volume of our literal translation was presented to the churches on the day of Pentecost, which this year in Bulgaria was on June 25th. It has taken us almost seven years to complete the translation work as we published: John: Gospel, Epistles and Apocalypse (2007), Mark (2010), Matthew (2011) and finally the Luke: Gospel and Acts (2013). We thank friends and foes for the internal motivation without which this work would have never been completed. We are now working on the publication of a Study New Testament in Bulgarian, which will be ready for print by the end of this summer.

Pentecostal Bible Schools In the United States

July 1, 2013 by  
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