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What Now? What Next?
Making Disciples in a Disrupted World
In the day-to-day reality of increasing upheaval and discord, how are Christians to think and behave? How do we anchor our conversations and attitudes when everything in us wants to either retreat or lash out in anger? In this new series, Chip provides a biblical path to allowing Christ to reign in us and work through us no matter what's going on.More from this series
Jesus said, “I will build MY Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
And contrary to what a lot of people might think, He is moving, He is building, He is refining His Church right now. And He is taking the circumstances in the world, even the ones that seem so negative, so anti-God – He’s orchestrating a world where He is going to cause His Church to triumph.
But here’s the question: will you be a part of it? Will you be one of those that the Holy Spirit whispers into your ear? Will you be one of those who say, Oh Lord, I’ll build up the wall. I’ll stand in the gap. Will you be one whose heart is fully His as His eyes are going to and fro throughout the whole earth so He could support you right where you’re at?
And, by the way, let’s not get confused. This isn’t about you being the pastor or church leader or shepherd of some big mega-church or you becoming famous or any…it’s – no, no, no.
It’s you doing your part in the body of Christ. You being fully surrendered. It’s you fixing your eyes on that which is not seen, the eternal, instead of fixing your eyes on that which is seen, the temporal. It’s you saying, and me saying with the apostle Paul that these momentary, light afflictions that we go through as we are surrendered, as we sacrifice, as we follow whatever Jesus calls us to do, they are nothing compared to the glory that is going to follow.
But I just don’t want you to get any kind of idea that, boy, I just went to the mountaintop and God spoke to me and this is what He calls all of us to do.
This series was grown out of deep, deep weakness. In fact, I tracked it and as I prayed about what to share with you, the Lord said, “I want you to share with them that actually it came in three stages. And each one was a moment of deep, deep weakness. And then I want you to remind them what I told the apostle Paul.”
And you say, “Well, what did He tell the apostle Paul?” When the apostle Paul thought he couldn’t take it anymore and he had an affliction and he asked once, he asked twice, he asked three times. What did God say to him? “Paul, I’m not taking away the affliction. My grace is sufficient for you. For power is perfected in weakness.”
And that’s what I want you to know.
It’s not about having it all together, it’s actually recognizing that we don’t and that we have a desperate level of need. Desperate people pray desperate prayers. Desperate people are dependent. And the Holy Spirit takes His Word and He works in us when we are desperate and there’s this sense that, We need You desperately.
So, this all started back in July and to make a very long story short, in the middle of the pandemic I got very discouraged and then I had a couple days where I went from discouragement to getting depressed. About three hours, two days in a row. And I knew enough that this is a dark place, I don’t want to go there, I sort of slapped myself. And then this thought came to me because I’ve done a lot of pastoral counseling. And when I meet with people that are super self-focused, I say, “Look, why don’t you get your mind off yourself and find someone that needs help more than you?”
And it’s amazing when we do that, it helps. So I thought, Well, that’s what I’ll do. And I have a friend who is in charge of all the Protestant churches in Egypt. And we had done a number of things together and I had been there a couple, three times. And I thought, Wow, the Middle East has got to be ten times more difficult than what is happening in California.
And so, we got a Zoom call, we got on the call together, and he just made this little phrase. He said, “You know the government has been so helpful. I’m doing fine and my family, but the pastors are barely surviving.” He said, “It’s so difficult. Markets are closed, people can’t come to church, the pandemic – it is just crushing the Church.”
And I just happened to say, “Wow, I have been thinking about, in my mind,” he didn’t get that part of it, “a series about the art of survival.” And to make a very long story short he says, “Well, send it to me.”
And I went from this depressed, discouraged, focused-on-me, weak person to seeing a need of someone. And I think that was, like, on a Thursday. And I made a couple phone calls and we got a film crew in my office. I studied all weekend. I had been praying and thinking. And I created a little three-part series. And then God did something. We did it for all the churches in Egypt and then Tim, who heads up our International said, “You know, I think there’s a need for this.” And pretty soon, there are three hundred cities in India. And then Right Now Media and YouVersion and other partners and One Hope. And pretty soon, it’s in Africa and that series about The Art of Survivial began to go around the world.
And then a pastor in India said, “We are hurting. Is there any way just once a month, could you just do a teaching seminar for us church leaders and shepherds?” And so, we said, “Well, sure!” And I thought, Well, what should that be? And we began to go into the psalms and it was mostly us saying, Oh, God, we need You.
And so, we did a series during that time and as we were coming to the end of that, they said, “Have you thought about doing something else?” And I was exhausted, to be candid. And I shared a little bit of this earlier, it was about the middle of December and late November.
And during that time, I was asking myself, God, what are You doing? This pandemic – where do we go? What’s next? And I was reading just book after book and listening to books and futurists and being in the Word and at that time I began to dig in at a very deep level.
And I just still remember the day where the Lord said, Okay, here’s the basics. This is nothing fancy. I want My Church to get back to Jesus. Not just Jesus the God-Man, but Jesus the Anointed One. Jesus the Messiah. The Messiah is the deliverer. The Messiah is the hope of nations.
And as I, you have all had this experience in different ways. And as I prayed and I said, Well, Lord, what does that look like? And I don’t mean to be too mystical here; God speaks to us in different ways. But literally it was the word “C-H-R-I-S-T” came into my mind’s eye. And then little by little the Holy Spirit was, Chip, I want My Church to focus on Christ, not causes. They are important, but He’s first. I want My Church out of this pandemic to be an agent of healing, not respond in hostility. Chip, I want My Church to come back to relationships from the heart, not real estate and building and all the rest. Chip, I want, in the midst of this, as the world is going to change, I long for them to be innovative and not respond with indignation. And, Chip, I want them to focus on substance. I want them to come back to My Word instead of being focused on success. And, Chip, I want My Church to focus on trust, on faith, believing Me, not technology.
If you watch the news, go on the Internet, listen to all the pundits, all the experts, all the scientists – the world would say, “Technology is our savior. Technology is going to solve everything.” And I think in some ways, we in the Church have drifted a bit in thinking that, Well, yeah. And now we can use technology in our services. And, now we are using Zoom and doing all kind of different things.
And here’s what I heard and I believe is so true: “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. For those who come to God must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Me.”
And then I had a handful of days where many of you understand this, I mean, I got dark in my mind. Dark thoughts. I wasn’t down, I was really depressed. And I tried to break out, I tried to break out, and I just couldn’t.
And I remember doing two things. I remember that was the point where I called a mentor and I have just found when there are thoughts in your mind and you’re getting discouraged and thoughts that you would, Oh God, I would never quit. I would never not…you know? When you get there, if you don’t get it out in the light, bad things happen.
And what I’m trying to express to you is this has been the journey. And so, I called a mentor. He’s eighty-six years old, he’s a godly man, he’s been like a dad to me since I was twenty-eight. And I said, “I need to just get out of my head thoughts that are going through my mind. I’m stuck, I have been deeply depressed, and I can’t get out of it. And there are dark, dark thoughts and oppressive.” And no holds barred, I shared every thought, every struggle that I had. And he prayed with me, he said, “Call me tomorrow. I’m going to track with you.” And he did.
And then the second thing I did out of that wave is I took hold of some key passages that I memorized and I meant, I rememorized them and I reviewed them, sometimes, eight, ten, twelve times a day. And I turned off media and I said no to the influences. And you know what? I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I wasn’t in some big sin, but as I walked through this process, God started to show me some idols here, some flabbiness here, some things that need to be addressed there. And He began to work in my heart and then began to restore the joy of my salvation.
Here’s what I want you to hear: the journey we are talking about has a very high price, but has a much higher reward. But I want you to get that each step along the way that allowed me, a very ordinary guy, to have this privilege to get to talk to you in this series, it grew out of weakness in July, it grew out of even more weakness in the fall, and then even a darker weakness at the very end of the year. And each aspect is I was more broken, more weak, more in need, and His power – I was desperate. I fasted in ways that I haven’t in years. I memorized in ways like I haven’t in years.
I recognized that because of COVID, I used to have a band of brothers that I met with all the time and I haven’t had that. I got that reignited, even if I can’t do it the way I want to, you know, social distancing and masking.
But I went through and I said, Lord, whatever I need to do, out of my weakness. And as I did that, His power. As I did that, His joy. God has made you His servant. You are His shepherd. You’re His Church leader.
You might be in a remote part of a distant country. You might be in a big city. You might speak Chinese or Spanish or French or Swahili or English. You might be the head of denomination or you might be a solo pastor that has maybe twenty or thirty people, and maybe even gather around a tree.
Here’s what I know: our God is going to build His Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I know our God is searching for a man or a woman whose heart is fully His, and He’ll strongly support you. I know that He wants you to stand in the gap where you are in your world to be that person that would hear His whisper and that would say, Lord, I’m all in. I’m surrendered. I’m going to be a healing agent. Lord, I’m going to focus on relationships. I don’t know what the church is going to do, but in my future, I am going to make disciples. I am going to pass on to faithful men and faithful women the things that You have entrusted to me. And then I’m going to make sure that they pass them on to others. And Lord, I’m not going to mourn and be upset about what we have lost and I can’t do this and I can’t do that. I am going to be one of Your innovators. I’m going to look at the opportunities, both inside the church and outside the church that could have never happened except for COVID. And then, Lord, I have confessed and I have repented. I will be a man or a woman first of Your Word. I will dig into it like I never have before. I will study it, I will memorize it, I will meditate on it, I will find a small group of people that they will do life with me. And then, Lord, this may be the biggest one. I’ll trust You.
I’m always amazed at some of the lines that Jesus gave us that they seem so simple. But in John 6, there was a group of people that came to Him and they saw the miracles and they his amazing teaching and they said, “Hey, Lord, so how do we do the work of God? I mean, what does it really look like?”
And I love this. He says, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.”
Do you know that God’s will, there might be all kind of issues in your life, here’s the number one thing God wants to do in your life and my life, in every Christian, but especially us shepherds?
He wants you to trust Him. He wants you to believe. Now, I am talking about biblical faith. He wants you to believe to the point of acting. Believe to the point of addressing whatever He shows you. Believe to the point that you step out not knowing how it’s going to come out.
Faith isn’t a feeling. Faith is believing that God really exists, that He can still part a Red Sea. Your Red Sea might look different. He can still take five loaves and provide supernatural ways. He can still touch a body and heal someone.
He can open doors. He can change governments. This is the God that we worship. This is the God He wants us to come back to. The Yahweh, the I AM THAT I AM. The true, the one and only God of the universe.
We have been in Romans 12 because it talks so much about, well, how do you return to substance or how do you develop relationships? Each one of those, I gave you a little passage in Romans.
Do you realize that the first eleven chapters of Romans are the clearest, most profound, most detailed explanation of the Gospel, right? The first three chapters, the problem of all mankind: they are lost. Chapters 4 and 5, God’s answer: by faith we receive this free gift. The question of how do we live out this new life? Chapters 6, 7, and 8 is sanctification.
The question of, well, if God had a plan for Israel and now there’s the Church, how does it all work together? Chapters 9, 10, and 11. And then we get to chapter 12. And in chapter 12, he says, “Therefore, I urge you.” And what he urges us, first and foremost to do, is to offer our bodies. That’s normal Christianity. That you’re all in. And then he says there’s an ongoing journey to be separate from the world’s values.
And then in verses 6 through 8 he says, “You need to have an accurate assessment of your gifts and your strengths and fit into My body.” And then he’s going say, “I want you to serve and love one another, authentically.” And then he’ll go on in 14 through the end of the chapter and say, “This is how you respond to the evil in the world. You bless those who persecute you. You never take your own revenge.”
It’s a picture, but all that is based on chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. It’s the glorious grace of God. And it’s personal. And there’s a lot of debate sometimes about this issue of what is our responsibility and God is sovereign and what is His part and what’s our part? Well, the person that wrote the most on the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man is the apostle Paul.
And when he deals with it, he sees this mystery and he breaks out in praise. Let me read the very last doxology. This is the God that we serve from Romans chapter 11, verse 33 and on. Paul, after looking at the problem of mankind, the gracious offer of grace, the Spirit living and transforming us, His plan for Israel, His plan for the Church, “Oh, the depth of both the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”
In other words, who could ever figure out His paths, His ways, His mystery? He says, “For who has known the mind of God? Or who became His counselor?” Answer: No one. “Or who has ever given to God, that God should pay him back?” Answer: No one. And then I love this, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are,” some things? No, no, no. “…are all things. To Him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.”
I would like to invite you to take very seriously this new calling. I’d like to encourage you to ask and answer the question: what does it mean for you to be one of those people who God will tap on the shoulder and say, “I’ll strongly support you. You’re a wall-builder. You’re a gap-stander.” What will it look like for you to focus on the cause of Jesus more than the causes of the world? To be a healer, an innovator, a relationship-oriented pastor or church leader, to focus on the substance of God’s Word rather than just external success. And to be someone who is willing to trust God no matter what. That’s our calling. And my encouragement to you is 2 Corinthians chapter 12, verses 9 and 10. It is in your weakness God’s power will be revealed.
And I would encourage you to lean in like the apostle Paul did. “Most gladly, therefore, I will delight,” lean in, boast is the word, literally, in the Greek, “in my difficulties, my persecutions, my weaknesses, my struggles. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
But I am guessing you’re going to find yourself weak, struggling, having
spiritual opposition, and in desperate need of that mentor and in desperate need of God’s Word and in desperate need of other people around you to help you on this journey. And I have no idea where the Lord is leading you and what all this will look like. Our sovereign, good, all-knowing, all-powerful God loves you, is for you, and wants to use you in ways beyond what you could ever think or imagine for His glory and for your good.
Father, in Jesus’ name, we come weak, dependent, inadequate, unable in and of ourselves to do a single thing that we have talked about. We thank You that greater are You than the one that is in the world. We thank You that we are victorious in Christ. Lord, we thank You that we never labor in vain when we labor in the Lord. God, we thank You that You call us sons and daughters and You sing over us with delight, and that You want to help us. Give us courage, Lord. Give us faith. Help us to trust You. And then help us to persevere because as we move forward, it will be against the stream. And we need You desperately. Thank You that You will answer this prayer, because we know it’s Your will. We will be a part of Your Church forcefully moving forward in this amazing season of world history.