Tag Archives: God

Healing Our Racial Division with the Fiery Passion of Pentecostal Love

As our American friends are in the midst of their 2016 presidential election, politicians are on the campaign trail explaining the reason to be voted as a president. The country is divided in many ways where activists ranging from race, to gender, to class and to religion are all crying out to be heard. When it comes to race, the division is much more sharp and piercing. Both Democratic and Republic politicians are professing to be the glue to unify their nation and mend the divide between Black, White, and Brown people.

Canadians may laugh at the made-for-t.v., political circus and comic show down South. Yet there are challenges of division with racism as deals with Afro-Canadians/Caribbean and First Nations and its offshoot religious racism with Muslims/Syrians/Middle East migrants and residents. It seems that both nations are having a difficult time closing the divide and opening our hearts. Americans are more blatant in their vitriol whereas Canadians are subtler. Either way – both are dehumanizing! I believe the Pentecostal Church could provide a road map for unity and reconciliation where both countries could learn from.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic Church is the fastest growing church in the world and approaching the size of the Roman Catholic Church as the largest Church family. The phenomenal growth and size is not by fluke. It is intentionally based on an open door and outreach position for diverse cultures and nations to embrace the message of Gospel love. Where did this attitude of passion fiery love come from for Pentecostals/Charismatics to reach out to Russians, Brazilians, Filipinos, Nigerians, Chinese etc.?

On April 1906, in a rundown church in Los Angeles, a passionate Black preacher William Seymour with a loyal group of Black Christians who prayed for racial unity and Christian unity. What made this prayer and fervor unique was in the midst of Jim Crow laws that these brave Christians were extending themselves to hug racist White Christians. God rewarded their desires by a phenomenal event where those Black Christians miraculously spoke in a different language never taught to them. This documented event echoed biblical times just after Jesus’ death and resurrection where the Early Church spoke miraculously through God’s Spirit in a different language to share the good news of Jesus to a diverse yet divided crowd in Jerusalem. What happened in Los Angeles 1900 years later known as the Azusa Street Revival had the similar effective power where it drew different races. Many of them experienced this miracle of speaking in a different language (called tongues speaking) and other miracles like healing. But the biggest miracle was the beginning to heal the divide of racism (and sexism) between people and their segregated churches. The reason being the experience was bigger than any race or culture (or gender). This Déjà vu moment was God pouring his love on all people, which humanized and humbled racist and sexist people to see each other with dignity and equality.

Although the Pentecostal Church is a human organization, not perfect and still struggles with racism and sexism like other organizations, but they have learned principles and practices to overcome the sin by God’s love. And the people are their fruit. This compassionate experience plus a compelling story is what our respective countries need to hear – especially our politicians. And quite possibly, they can feel the fire of unity that these men and women felt at Azusa Street. We can only pray in tongues for that miracle to happen.

~ Denley W. McIntosh

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Mandela: Through Eyes of Faith

These last couple weeks have been a month of reflection for the world as we think about Nelson Mandela’s life.  There has been a plethora of coverage on Mandela’s passing. You cannot seem to turn somewhere whether on television or social media and not run into some biography, video montage or reflection. Many Black pastors are chiming in during their worship services to say their peace in ad nauseam about Mandela. Understandably, this has made some Christians anxious and uneasy. There are some sincere Christians who may be saying “Aren’t we idolizing Nelson Mandela? Why are we talking about him in a church setting? I came to church to hear Jesus not a man!” Questions like these require pastors to demonstrate that their speech and action is grounded in Scriptures. They must prove their rhetoric coheres with the narrative and teachings of Christ and the Apostles. What does the Bible have to say about this concern? If Pastors are not familiar enough with Scripture to give a sound reason, then what else should sincere Christians do – but worry. I hope to allay some of those fears with this short thought for you to build on.

When dealing with these kinds of issues of respect versus reverence, we always run the risk of going from one extreme to another: idolizing Mandela on one hand to ignoring Mandela on the other. Is there a middle ground? I will suggest there is: interpreting Mandela. More accurately – rightly interpreting in light of Scriptures… The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:8, has given us something to consider when dealing with these issues. “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” The key terms are honorable and worthy of praise. Both terms in the original Greek of the New Testament carry the similar sense of esteemed, noble and well-respected. St. Paul has encouraged the Philippian church during the 1st Century to think and reflect on these things. Notice that Paul has not qualified his statement by saying the admirable thing, action or person has to come from a Christian. It just has to be right and good. Christians can agree with non-Christians when something is esteemed, noble and well respected. Christians can celebrate non-religiously with non-Christians with the understanding that God has orchestrated this achievement. Whatever that achievement is, if it is honorable and worthy of praise, we can celebrate it. However, to balance our praise, the Apostle Peter reminds us as well to “Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king” (1 Peter 2:17). Considering that fear or better said reverence is a stronger word than respect for esteeming someone, it is clear from St. Peter on whom we should concentrate our praise on – the Lord Jesus. Whether Nelson Mandela was a Follower of Christ or not is not the issue. We can praise the actions of someone if it reflects the Kingdom – the way that God intended society to be fair and just. The Scriptures in Romans 13:1-5  and 1st Timothy 2:1-3 tells us that God appoints leaders (i.e. presidents, prime ministers, kings etc.) to help bring order and peace in the society we live in. This order includes the removal of apartheid and the commencement of reconciliation between Black South Africans and White South Africans. Therefore, we should have no problem saying that God used Nelson Mandela to that providential end. We can rejoice not just for Mandela but the God of justice, peace and reconciliation who made this happen ultimately.

God shows us the embodiment and standard of these virtues through Jesus Christ whom Mandela patterned. By celebrating the work of Mandela, we uphold the Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4:8.  This means we do not ignore. By thanking God for Mandela’s work, we equally uphold Scripture’s teachings. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior…” (1st Timothy 2:1-3 NLT) This means we do not idolize. Now we are just left to interpret rightly and appropriately.

I encourage us as Followers of Christ to use Nelson Mandela’s actions toward justice, peace and reconciliation as a springboard to the Good News. An opportunity to share our faith! If one man can bring powerful leaders, friends and enemies alike into one palace, in unity with guns and weaponry laid at the altar so to speak, how much more Christ? How much more should we long the day when Christ will be the centre of the world’s attention like Mandela’s memorial service? The day Jesus brings men and women, rich and poor, rulers and commoners, Black and White alike to worship him in speech and song forever within the new world! Let’s use Nelson Mandela’s life as a reminder to us and especially others that Jesus, the Messiah will create a world of justice, peace and reconciliation. The way the world ought to be. So let’s do our part as Mandela did his.

~Denley W. McIntosh

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The Church…The Ultimate High Performing Team

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When you think about high performing teams, what comes to your mind: sports, business, maybe even entertainment? How about religion specifically churches? I can hear the choruses of “Yeah Right!” But wait – what if this is true? In fact, I argue that it can be true. Jesus expects a high performing team within His Church, which can mobilize to demonstrate compassion, justice, truth and wisdom in any society.1 I know the question on the lips of those who are committed or casual church-goers and may only know churches that are anaemic, scandalous, hypocritical or greedy: how is this possible? Let us think about this empirically.

A high performing team is defined as an organized group of people who work together to exceeded expectations in meeting goals or results. We have the examples of Apple thriving in the Great Recession, or the New York Giants that rose from a mediocre season to win Super Bowl XLVI. Christ followers, the Church, are God’s team who are called to work in unity and harmony to deliver on the goal of serving a hurting world. Many times, this is in the midst of great persecution within many parts of the world.

Meeting a hurting world is a profound goal, which can be only exceeded by high performance – when women and men follow Jesus’ leadership. In fact, there is no more critical service that can be offered than the Church who delivers on this heavenly service to its customer base, because of its enduring qualities. From delivering services like diversity training to building parenting skills, it is all part of the package that Jesus would require as CEO, whom Christians would refer to him as Lord. Being a Christ follower is having the opportunity to mutually develop a high performing team through focusing on their values and mission, being flexible and enjoying synergy. Let us see the parallel more closely.

High performing teams are value/mission driven  

In order for businesses to have ongoing success, executives require their employees to not only know their mission and values – but breathe it. The mission must move from the top floor of the head to the ground floor of the heart. It has to be lived, which is then imputed into company’s products and services. These team members are like migrating geese, which have an inner sense of direction of where the company is going. They always fly instinctively in an alignment.

Similarly, Christ followers are called to know the value and mission of Jesus’ enterprise. Loving God and all of humanity is the value. Bringing people to know Jesus as God and Saviour is the mission. This mindset is fundamental in the effort to deliver services or ministries that God requires the Church to do. The good the church has done like creating schools/universities, orphanages, relief organizations, and hospitals (not always mentioned in the Media) in times past and now, is a result of men and women whom are aligned with their values and mission.

High performing teams are highly flexible

In this age of being lean and mean, employees must not only have depth of knowledge and skill, they must have breadth. These workers must be competent in more than one role. They must be able to stop on a dime and switch hats as congruent with their natural abilities. The team, the business comes first, and employees do what they can to fill in the gaps (hopefully in their area of strengths). Remember the migrating geese example. Geese always rotate among one another with ease as they lead each other. What a picture of flexibility!

Like geese, Christ followers must not wear their roles within their church with arrogance and disdain, but allow God to shift their roles as needed to meet the need of their customer base – congregants and community. This means unique ministries being created to serve their respective society. From addiction ministries to career-counselling ministries, it requires team members within the Church to be knowledgeable and skilled, so they can shift with God’s leading. Christ followers are called to work toward the good of our society. Flexibility has allowed Christ followers to continue to do this.

High performing teams are strongly synergistic.  

Synergy means 1 + 1 = 3 or 4 or 5 etc. It also shows chemistry among team members, which cannot be easily quantified or explained. I would say, at this level, the team members share a common feeling and intuition that synergy provides. Synergy is critical for teams to have extraordinary success. It is the glue that takes peoples and groups who are different and make them stick in effective manner. In fact, the literal meaning for synergy is together-work. When a group has synergy, it is like watching an extraordinary dance group or synchronized swimmers. There is a beauty and fluidity of the whole, which comes from the layers of individual interactions.

Jesus describes his Church as his physical body. More than a metaphor, Christ followers are the example of synergy with a cause. They are a unit of empathy. Where else will you find rich and poor working together, Black and White working together, or men and women working together? Or even better, where else would you find a mixture of all these groups working together? The Church embodies synergy, which demonstrates their high performance toward impacting communities for the good all over the globe.

People may dispute the correlation and say it is a stretch. So let me indulge the naysayers with this. Jesus took a group of lowly and obscure men and groomed, trained and discipled them, so they could lead a revolution in their day that is unparalleled even today: Men and Women who embraced the values and mission of service that were counter cultural; Rich and Poor who were flexible with their roles of service; and Jews and Gentiles who united synergistically to see each other as family. As a team, without weaponry and most without education and money, they turned the 1st Century Rome on its head – transforming the culture with their service to humanity. More, they created franchises, which are accurately referred to as churches all over the world and still expanding. No company, not even McDonald’s had duplicated that feat.

YFGC – a high performance church

Saying all of that begs this question. Beyond Western Churches (Europe and North America) who may not always live up to that charge, is there an example today of a high performing church? How about in the East? There is one prime example: Yoido Full Gospel Church (YFGC) led by Pastor David Yongii Cho in Seoul South Korea. This church is known to be the largest church in the world approaching 1,000,000 church/team members. The extraordinary thing about this church, YFGC is located in one of the most unlikely place for its success. It is in a country, South Korea, that borders the communist nation of North Korea, which is aggressively anti-Christian.

More, South Korea had a history of being strongly antagonistic to the gospel message within the 19th century. The antagonism was demonstrated by persecution of Christians to the point of death. Yet, almost 50 years in existence, the church had been able to grow in considerable size. The growth was not simply coincidental but intentional, because they focused on being a high performing church.

YFGC is value/mission driven

Right from the start Pastor Cho focused on having his team know the value and mission of Jesus and applied it in the South Korean context. YFGC had strong focus on both physical and spiritual healing. A focus aligned with Pastor Cho’s passion and personal experience of healing near the cusp of death from tuberculosis.2 He endeavoured to have healing realized among his flourishing church. Of course, the mission was to share the message of salvation or deliverance from sin and sickness, which was never forgotten. Moreover, YFGC would lead South Koreans to have an ever-increasing joyous relationship with Christ. When church/team members of YFGC experience this truth, with as much excitement and passion as Pastor Cho, these lay women and men would act on the values and mission to change South Korea and the world.

YFGC is flexible

YFGC’s growth was contributed by their cell group strategy. Cell group was a method of empowerment by decentralizing authority and responsibility to smaller groups within their local setting. It was a bottom-up form of leadership and management as oppose to top-down. (This would be analogous to the term of Kaizen in the domain of continuous improvement within business operations.) YFGC used small group who are well trained and discipled to impact their immediate community and find better ways of meeting their needs. They groomed future leaders in every cell group.  As they anticipated growth, the cell groups would split to be led by the leader-in-training.  YFGC flexibility was further enhanced by fostering an egalitarian environment. Pastor Cho utilized the gifting of women in roles that were traditionally available to only men. Pastor Cho’s cell groups were akin to an agile organization.

YFGC is synergistic

In 1958, the YFCF began in Seoul with 5 people: Pastor Cho, Choi Ja-shil and her 3 children. These were not wealthy or highly influential individuals. However, they were committed Christ followers who had an amazing chemistry to grow their church exponentially through simple door knocking of homes, committed service to the poor and heartfelt prayer for the sick. YFGC grew to 3,000 by 1964, 8,000 by 1968, 100,000 by 1979, 400,000 by 1984, and 700,000 by 1992.3 The exponential growth was a by-product of team members working synergistically. These members were not coerced into Pastor Cho’s church but loved to becoming a high performing church. The ministries established to meet education, poverty, and homelessness were a result of their synergistic efforts.

Final thoughts on the high performing church

Within 50 years, South Korea has evolved from anti-Christian nation to nearly half of its population becoming Christ followers who are experiencing the benefits of pursuing the values and mission of Jesus. (In fact, the movement elevated the status of Korean women who were treated as second-class individuals in the culture.4) Indeed these qualities of a high performing team are applicable to the Church as Pastor Cho has shown. Having opportunities to touch lives in every sphere of their existence has driven YFGC’s growth and has been the catalyst for the resurgence of other church affiliations i.e. Charismatic Catholics. To maximize those opportunities which Pastor Cho can attest, a high performing church requires Christ and His Spirit to be involved within the plan and execution. It is assumed that prayer and reflection is subsumed within any direction chosen. When that is done, great results is a natural by-product. Although there is no guarantee that our bosses or managers will recognize our high performance but we know that Jesus always will:

“Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” 5

Is the Church perfect? Of course not – but are YOU able to “cast the first stone”? If hatred, jealousy, pride or un-forgiveness, have NOT coursed through your veins at anytime, then you are welcome to throw. Otherwise, how have you helped the church become all it can be? Or are you too preoccupied denigrating the team Jesus is continuing to build? What is the call to action for YOU and not the so-called hypocritical person you are thinking about? Let Jesus deal with them…but now He is talking to you, “follow me!”6

So if you are looking for a high performing team to join without barriers for admission, (re)consider the Church. Jesus is still recruiting. Give it a shot. It will change your performance and more importantly – your purpose in this world.

~ Denley W. McIntosh

Sources:

  1. Jesus of Nazareth, Gospel of St. Matthew 10:15-17
  2. The Yoido Full Gospel Church, Dr. H Vinson Hynan, http://www.pctii.org/cyberj/cyberj2/synan.html
  3. Yoido Full Gospel Church page, David Cho Evangelistic Ministry site, http://www.davidcho.com/NewEng/bd-1.asp
  4. Young-hoon Lee, The Life and Ministry of David Yonggi Cho and The Yoido Full Gospel Church, http://www.apts.edu/aeimages/File/AJPS_PDF/04-1-YHLee.pdf
  5. Jesus of Nazareth, Gospel of St. Mark 9:42
  6. Jesus of Nazareth, Gospel of St. John 21:19

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