The #ReimagineFORUM @ Discipleship.Network

Equipping Your Reimagine Journey

Phil Miglioratti

#REIMAGINE ROMANS 12:2

Author’s Note: The impetus of my story below took place last year… but the global COVID-19 has provoked an even greater urgency in my mind and heart. My prayer is that as you read my story, the Holy Spirit will launch you onto a reimagine-journey that will influence your thinking in a way that will forever impact those you serve.

Romans 12:2 transformed my life. Again.

When I was a teenager the Holy Spirit set this scripture as a foundation of my discipleship into serving Christ. It was planted in sermons, watered in scripture reading, and began growing in my prayers.

But always with a singular application; personal. To me. My walk of faith. My calling.

50+ years later, Romans 12:2 is transforming me again.

Now when I hear it in sermons, read it in scripture, inspired by the text as I pray, I am unable to merely make a personal application. I am compelled to extend the reach of the text to the Church. Our mission. Our message. Our ministries.

#ReimagineROMANS12:2…

My paraphrase: Church…don’t be conformed or confined to the systems and strategies of evangelism and disciple-making you’ve designed and developed over the decades or even centuries. Your ministry must be transformed by the renewing of your mind; a fresh rethink in how you communicate with and engage the culture you are called to influence and impact… so that… how you explain and express the Gospel declares and demonstrates that God’s will, is truly good, perfectly satisfying, and moves you toward being a complete person.

Reimagining this scripture is not a wholesale rejection of the past traditions or a repudiation of present trends but a seeking to go beyond a simple updating of methodology. This rethinking is an openness to “sing a new song,” (Psalm 98:1; Revelation 5:9) which springs from a fresh assessment of how the living Word of God relates to a radically and rapidly changing culture. Never changing the inspired message of the Gospel but reimagining how God is creatively at work in this moment or season to reveal the truths of Jesus Christ our Lord.

God’s Word has not changed. But our understanding of how to obey, implement, and communicate God’s will in our unique place and time does. Which is why we need to reimagine prayer if we expect to reengage the mind of Christ as we apply Romans 12:2 to situations that demand a future perspective.

#ReimaginePRAYER…

My reimaging-journey helped me perceive prayer, not as the most important thing, but important to everything. Worship. Discipleship. Leadership. Evangelism. Mission. Pray first.

These scriptures have become my template of how to rethink prayer and praying:

  • Ephesians 2:6: We are now co-seated as one with Christ! TPT
    This is what it means to pray “in the name of Christ”- In Christ’s presence; With Christ in His purpose and perspective; By Christ’s authority.
  • Hebrews 7:25: Jesus … lives to pray continually for (us). TPT
    We have an all-access pass (presence) to the intercessory conversation of the Father and the Son (our Redeemer speaking on our behalf to the Creator/Ruler)
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Make your life a prayer. TPT Never stop praying. NLT
    Our all-access pass gives us proximity but also immediacy. We pray from our position with Christ as we consciously communicate in each moment, experience, and circumstance of the day. Pray NOW!

#ReimaginePLANNING…

Rather than simply approaching planning, decision-making, and goal-setting by selecting from among the latest best practices or newest resources (i.e., by “leaning on my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) or the ideas and programs of others), my goal is to make decisions that result from a process that is truly Spirit-led and Scripture-fed.

  • The leading of the Spirit must be our guide; God coaches us on the journey.
    Our facilitator
    “Be (constantly) filled (under the control of) the Spirit” Ephesians 5:18
  • The feeding from Scripture must be our guard; God reveals truth and wisdom.
    Our foundation
    “Everyone who hears my teaching (even while praying) and applies it to his life can be compared to a wise man who built his house on an unshakable foundation.” Matthew 7:24

Rather than beginning prayer during a planning session or a decision-making discussion with a list of requests (“help us, give us, bless us”), we do well to begin by “asking, seeking, knocking.” Mathew 7:7.

  • Ask… first with a question: How should we proceed? (process) Where are you leading us? (purpose) What is your will? (plans and promises).
  • Seek… by listening for discernment and direction before listing wants and needs through stillness and silence, searching scripture, and sharing around the circle.
  • Knock… and keep on asking-seeking-knocking because we are invited to “Come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. (Hebrews 4:16) …because our Lord told us “Now you can ask, and keep on asking! And you can be sure you’ll receive what you ask for, and your joy will have no limits! (John 16:24)

“Reimagine” is a transitive verb; it indicates a transition from what is (status quo) to a new conception. Failing to invite and involve God (Sovereign Lord, Savior, Spirit) in every stage of our action-plans and each step of goal-setting compromises our ability, as individuals and organizations, to “determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing, and perfect.” (GW)

#ReimagineEVANGELISM…

People use different paths to begin their journey of faith.

  • Ask the Spirit to give you discernment into the path that suits them (individuals, groups) best.
  • Seek the Lord for direction in how to best engage them at their point of need or readiness.
  • Knock by asking questions first, listening to their story, waiting for a prompt from the Spirit before you respond verbally, with generosity by spending time with them.

Rethink how you would approach someone or a group of people who are on these paths, how you could guide them into a reimagine-journey of their own. Think of people who respond to:

  • Truth – information and interaction, discussion or debate, such as at a Book Club or Bible Study
  • Generosity – meet a practical need
  • Kindness – authentic words or acts of affirmation
  • Advocacy – respond to an injustice that afflicts their life or a cause they believe in
  • Community – invite them into a relational experience
  • Service – ask them to partner with you/your church in a service project
  • Stories – listen to their story, ask authentic questions, share your story when prompted
  • Pray – “How can I pray for you?” “Would you like to pray before/after I pray?”

When we live out Romans 12:2, we:

  • Refuse to be controlled by what is comfortable or popular
  • Pursue (journey) a review (rethinking) that leads to a renewing of mind and ministry
  • Avoid merely exchanging a current practice for a different one
    …by engaging resources that will equip us to know, pray, and communicate God’s will (salvation by grace through faith in Christ” Ephesians 2:8-9) …in God’s way (“This is how God loved the world.” John 3:16)

Start your own reimagine-journey.

Include your family. Invite your cohorts.

Model and motivate others to #ReimagineROMANS12:2

Phil Miglioratti is the curator and coordinator for The #ReimagineFORUM @Discipleship.Network & Pray.Network. His service to the Church spans six decades and includes: creator of Promiseland children’s ministry (Willow Creek Church), pastor of The Woodfield Church, National Facilitator for Citywide Collaboration; Mission America Coalition, Evangelism Conference planning teams (Amplify, City Impact Roundtable, Mission America Coalition), Coordinating Coach for Loving Our Communities to Christ (in cities across U.S.), and National Pastors’ Prayer Network (founder) * National Prayer Committee (member).

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DO WE REALLY WANT CHURCH TO RETURN TO NORMAL?

Jul 22, 20
JMorgan
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3 comments

What we need is revival.  Our nation is ripe for spiritual renewal.  Our culture has been accelerating headlong in the other direction since the turn of the millennium.  There are signs that Selfism is already breaking down.  The end of that road, making yourself your own god, is Nihilism – nothingness.  Suicides, substance abuse and rampant immorality has been the outcome of seeking happiness and fulfillment in the absence of God.  Misplaced faith in science and government is diminishing as once-deified leaders struggle to understand the COVID-19 disease and protect citizens, revealing the limitations of the ultimate object of atheists’ worship – human intellect.  Doors are flung open right now to spiritual conversations.  Neighbors are scared and opportunities abound for Christians to step forward to provide prayer, compassion and answers to their difficult questions.

Yet what most churches are seeking today in this time of crisis isn’t revival, but survival.  Big “C” (universal Church) interests are taking a back seat to little “c” (individual church) sustainability.  Pastors worry about how to navigate a potential “new normal”.  They’re stressed – many just trying to figure out how and when to reopen.  Few can look past those minute details to consider the bigger picture – like why their members were more concerned with self-preservation than self-sacrifice on behalf of those who were ready to hear some Good News – but never did.

How can we return to business as usual when the Church’s growth, impact, influence and public perception has been in such rapid decline?  Isn’t this the perfect time to rethink America’s building and event-centric model for conventional church?  This blog has been questioning that status quo for 5 years, advocating a return to the biblical definition of church and its intended “customer”.  If America’s churches had followed that advice, the response from church leaders and congregants during the pandemic and pandemonium would have been vastly different.  A revival already could have been taking place right now if Christians thought of themselves as the embodiment of “church” and took it upon themselves to bring “church” to the doorsteps, iPhones and Zooms of their struggling neighbors.

However, revitalization consultants are reinforcing the status quo, providing advice within the context of “Church as We Know It” (CAWKI).  They understand that few pastors are truly interested in rethinking existing models.  Most are praying hard that the virus will go away as soon as possible, disregarding the possibility that the pandemic could be God’s will to wake our nation and His Church from its slumber.  Even those who claim to want genuine change are highly likely to revert to their comfort zones as soon as a vaccine is discovered.  Church strategists understand that we seem to have little choice in the matter.  There are simply too many empty buildings and too many pastors trained by seminaries to do one job and one job only – run a conventional church.  It’s too late to turn back now, right?  How could we risk shifting more responsibility to members for evangelism and compassion when churches desperately need them to return to the building as quickly as possible – and to bring their friends with them?  Decentralizing by equipping disciples to make more disciples at a time like this could hasten the demise of a fragile “nickel and nose” model that hinges on centralization and dependency.

Just as we shouldn’t expect a process designed for church indoctrination to produce personal transformation, strategies designed to ensure church survival shouldn’t be expected to produce revival…

Roots of Spiritual Revival

Evangelist Charles Finney, credited for much of America’s “Second Great Awakening,” said,

“If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”

After visiting America in 1831, the same year of Finney’s famed Rochester Revival, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America,

“There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”

God is His infinite wisdom and power can accomplish all things, but America’s history of spiritual revivals points to 7 characteristics that are clearly evident in churches whenever our nation has recommitted to following Jesus:

  1. Prayerful – Unity of believers gathered in prayer, asking God to forgive sins and change hearts
  2. Repentant – Mass recognition and confession of sin, pledging obedience to the Lord’s commands
  3. Dependent – Trading “cultural” for authentic Christianity, humbly giving God all glory and credit
  4. Spirit-Led – Miracles that can only be attributable to the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity
  5. Imperishable – Shared, eternal perspective that endures suffering, knowing our future is secure
  6. Scriptural – Reverential study of God’s Word to understand and share about the life of Jesus
  7. Sacrificial – Acts of selfless, Agape love without expectation of recognition or reciprocation

Those elements found in most revivals do not align with the advice found in articles and webinars today about how pastors should adapt their churches to new realities during and after the Coronavirus pandemic…

Popular Strategies for Church “Revitalization”

A deep concern about the state of the universal (capital “C”) Church would lead to changes that could bring revival, but authors and consultants are promulgating a set of (little “c”) strategies that won’t rectify the shortcomings of America’s prevailing church growth model – flaws that have become readily apparent over the past few months.  Instead they primarily advocate the following 7 principles:

  1. Leadership – Clarity about how a church will deal with the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic
  2. Vision – Get everyone, from staff to key members, on board with future plans and contingencies
  3. Accountability – Delegate and execute responsibilities within distancing constraints
  4. Engagement – Rebuild, train and (re)activate volunteers, ministries, program leaders and groups
  5. Outreach – Create seasonal events and ads that enhance brand recognition in the community
  6. Hospitality – Once visitors respond and show up, ensure they feel at home online and in person
  7. Virtual – Continue to enhance “digital discipleship”, which is essentially just streaming services online

In other words, revitalization pitches and promises touted today are built around about getting CAWKI back up and running smoothly again.  Few call for reformation to address the discipleship deficiencies brought to light by COVID-19 when the “church gathered” forcibly became the “church scattered”…

Real Church Reform Could Spark Revival

The pandemic and pandemonium in America should lead to church reform, an entirely different set of operating principles and metrics that are in sync with the 7 characteristics of revival listed earlier in this post.  However, the path to a spiritual revival will require pastors do what they’re commanded (in Scripture) and not what their being taught (in seminary and articles).

  1. Prayer – Turn churches back into 24×7 houses of prayer, worship, compassion and service
  2. Repentance – Imitate Jesus, Paul, Peter and John the Baptist by boldly calling all to turn from sin
  3. Dependence – Make sold-out disciples through intentional, personal relationships rather than “consumers” of religious goods and services through expensive strategies and programs
  4. Spirit-Led – Equip and commission fully-empowered individuals to minister to their circles of influence, leveraging the Lord’s math of multiplication instead of building-centric addition
  5. Imperishable – Challenge believers to die to self-interest and surrender, crucified with Christ
  6. Scriptural – Reemphasize personal study, journaling and apologetics to share Christ effectively
  7. Sacrificial – Deploy Prayer-Care-Share “missionaries” throughout the city, acting as pastors of their neighborhoods

Lord willing, revival will come when reform leads to a reversion to the biblical definition of “church” and its intended “customer” – to make disciples who reach the “lost” in the community and across the globe.  Tactical “revitalization” won’t bring revival because it will remain centered around a building, event and pastor – a model proven ineffective before and during this pandemic and racial strife.

It’s Your Turn…

Do you know of a church refusing to return to “normal” and un

#ReimagineSCRIPTURE...to #ReimagineDISCIPLESHIP...

“And he has taught you to let go of the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self-life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions. Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you.”
Ephesians 4:22-23 TPT
https://www.bible.com/1849/eph.4.22-23.tp

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