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The Church’s Prime Directive

If you are familiar with the science fiction series Star Trek, you probably recall that one of the main subjects of the various TV series’ and movies was the prohibition against interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations.  This was always referred to as “the prime directive”, a principle handed down by the fictional “United Federation of Planets”.  As you may know or can imagine, this prohibition created various moral dilemmas (and interesting entertainment), as the various star ship crews traveled the universe “exploring strange new worlds” and “going where no man has gone before”.

In thinking about the Church, made up of all those who believe in Jesus Christ, follow Him, and obey His teachings, I am reminded that we too have been given a prime directive by the Lord, the One True and Living God, handed down to us from those who were with Him from the beginning of His earthly ministry.  A directive that is intended to continue, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us until Jesus returns at the very end of the age:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” — Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)

Not just any kind of disciple.

Simply put, a disciple can be thought of as a person who is wholly committed to being trained through repetition, to adhere to some standard of thought which guides and impacts how they live every day of their lives.  For example, a soldier in any branch of armed forces can be thought of as type of disciple.  Another example would be a professional or Olympic athlete.  In each case these are people who are committed to both the mental and physical training that impacts how they think, what they eat and drink, and where and when they travel.

Whether it’s successfully defending the nation on the field of battle, winning a gold medal, or winning the super bowl, each discipline is designed to accomplish a specific goal.  It requires each person to be committed to the appropriate process and very often to be committed to working together with the other “disciples” on the team.  It is no different with the disciples of Jesus Christ, and based on the above biblical passages, it can be summarized as follows:

 

  1. Go everywhere and preach the Gospel (The Gospel message of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom).
  2. Baptize those who believe in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded His first disciples which includes:
    1. Reminding them that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth (not just in heaven).
    2. Encouraging them that signs will accompany those Gospel proclaiming believers in accordance with what Jesus said as recorded Mark 16:15-18 and demonstrated and in the book of Acts and the Gospels.
    3. Encouraging them not to be fearful by reminding them that Jesus is with them until the end of the very end of the age.
    4. Commissioning them as Jesus did to repeat steps 1 to 3.

 

This is a biblical summary of Jesus’ authorized process of what it means to both become and remain one of His disciples.  It is often referred to as ‘The Great Commission’.   Missing the mark on any one of these points means that we are becoming or making some other kind of disciple, but not one of His.

The Great Commission isn’t just for leaders in the Church.

In many Church circles and traditions, especially in the United States, preaching the Gospel, becoming a disciple, and making disciples has become something that is reserved for leaders in the Church.  Many of our traditions have unwittingly or not, taught and demonstrated the false notion that the Great Commission, if taught at all, is only something that pastors and other ordained ministers are to be concerned with.   But when we read Jesus’ words, they were directed to His eleven disciples who were “sent” out make disciples (of whole nations).  Though these eleven were called Jesus’ apostles, which means “sent ones”, the clear implication is that all of Jesus’ disciples are apostolic (sent), but not all will hold the office of apostle.  This is also affirmed by the letter Paul, the Apostle, wrote to the Church at Ephesus:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13

From this passage we can see that the fulfilling of the Great Commission is not just reserved for believing disciples who are ordained as leaders in the Church.

The Church’s “prime directive” is Jesus’ Great Commission to disciple nations, not Star Trek’s principle of non-interference at all costs.

The Church’s “prime directive” is the very antithesis of the hands off, non-interference principle of the Star Trek science fiction series.  Unfortunately there are many professing Christians and ministries who follow the Star Trek principle.

This idea might challenge us to our core, especially if we are only content with seeking out and attending good Church gatherings with good music, good sermons, and a good children’s ministry that don’t take us out of our comfort zones, equipping and encouraging us to actually “go”.

If our ministries aren’t making disciples of Jesus and equipping them to “go”, then what kind of disciples are we making if we are making any at all?  Do we think that Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) doesn’t have application today?  Can we truly call Jesus, “Lord” and not do what He says? (Luke 6:46-49)

Church gatherings with loving people and families who gather in Jesus’ name to hear good sermons and have good children’s ministry are not bad things to seek out.  But all these things, when built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone, are intended to equip each of us in the Church to become spiritually mature believers (followers of Jesus who are being conformed to His image), that do the work of Jesus’ ministry (according to our gifting and calling), to fulfill the Great Commission wherever we may be right now or where God may have us in the future.

Looking Forward to 2017

Without a doubt 2016 has been a very challenging year for Lighthouse Tabernacle Church.  Many of us and members of our family have had to face many kinds of trials this past year.  Some are still experiencing them even as we speak.

During this Christmas season, as I was reading about the events and experiences surrounding Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:18 – 2:23), I came to realize that very often those who God commissions for a special purpose face great opposition and challenges.   It could even be said that the greater the purpose, the greater the opposition.

For example, both Mary and Joseph were commissioned by God to be the earthly parents of Messiah!  Imagine what Joseph had to deal with trying to explain to his family and friends that Mary had never been with a man and was pregnant by the Holy Spirit and carrying Messiah?  Imagine what Mary had to deal with from her family and friends?   I thought about what happened after Mary gave birth to Jesus.  One minute they are visited by Magi who are worshipping Jesus, opening their treasures and showering Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Then soon after, Joseph having been warned by an angel of the Lord in a dream, is fleeing to Egypt with his family! Can you imagine what was going through the minds of Mary and Joseph, especially after hearing how Herod had all boys two years old and under killed in their home town of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus prematurely?

But even if no one else understood Mary and Joseph’s commissioning or the challenges they had to endure in completing it, Mary and Joseph knew they had heard from the Lord and that God was with them and actively helping them finish the good work that He had given them to accomplish.   That good work resulted in “the sins of the land (the whole world in fact) being removed in a single day.” (Zechariah 3:9).

Whatever trials and difficulties 2016 may have brought, I urge you to remember and hold fast to what the Lord has spoken to you regarding your purpose and the purpose of the Lighthouse Tabernacle Church family.   The devil has attempted to kill the work (and me personally), but the Lord has not allowed it because God has not changed His mind!  Just as He said He would do, He restored me to perfect health after having been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.  He will do no less, bringing His word to pass for Lighthouse Tabernacle Church in 2017!

So as it is written:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:2-5

May the New Year be filled with God’s best for you and your families!

Pastor Neal

Sing, Enlarge, Spread Out!

Sing, Enlarge, Spread Out!

“Sing, O childless woman, you who have never given birth!…For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband.” Isa. 54:1

 

Who knew that we would be in this place when I wrote last month’s Pastor’s Word on New Beginnings? God is amazingly wonderful and faithful to encourage and to edify even when we don’t realize in the moment how much we will need it in the days ahead!

Last month He told us He was doing a new thing, and since He is not a man that He should lie or the son of man that He should change His mind, has He not said it? Shall He not do it? Has He not spoken it? Shall He not make it good? Yes He shall!

As we enter into this new season of transition, let us remember the encouraging word we heard on Sunday, Jan. 31st through Pastor John Picarello. From the scripture mentioned above, we are encouraged to sing, to enlarge our house and to spread out our home—and spare no expense because of the future glory God has for us!

All of the desolation we have experienced, all of the discouragement and shame will be removed and we will have more spiritual children (saved souls) and descendants that we will overflow! Our God, the Creator will be our husband and He will give us an abundant heritage that there will not be room to hold!

We may be storm battered now. We may be troubled and desolate, but He is going to rebuild us with precious jewels and gems. He is going to bring peace to our borders and cause every weapon formed against us to come to nothing. Every tongue that rises to accuse us will be silenced! These are the benefits of the servants of the Living God! Meditate on this chapter during this month.

Believe, receive and prepare to conceive in the Spirit in this new season! ONWARD!

Blessings,

Pastor Nancy