The 2nd Reformation

Jesus has called us to share his good news to the people of this 21st century. It’s a task that apparently needs further defining, given Christianity’s varied and mixed history.

To initiate this mission some 2000 years ago, Jesus chose twelve young men, probably not much older than twenty years of age, nurtured and mentored them, before commissioning and empowering them with, “Go, and make disciples of all nations!” They then healed the sick, preached the gospel, cast out demons, and baptised in Jesus’ name. Thus they were instrumental in perpetuating and deploying more disciples in Jesus’ image.

Since then, the followers of Jesus have both survived and thrived. Christianity  across the Western world steadily grew. Its significance was felt to the “ends of the earth”. That is, until now, because followers of Jesus largely in the West find themselves living in what is now called the “post-Christian era”. How times have changed.

For hundreds of years, Christianity significantly influenced the thinking and ethos throughout the rise of the Western world. Great cathedrals dominated its skyline. The clergy were held in high esteem. Churches yielded power and influence, often consisting of two classes – priests and laity. But, now, the demographics are rapidly changing. The previous model of ministry doesn’t any longer seem to be working. In fact, our focus will require rethinking and recalibrating if we’ve any chance of continuing past momentum, as the fruits of our current marginalisation is increasingly evident – at least here in the largely secularised West. (It is worth noting that Christianity’s redemptive message, however, is still taking root in other parts of the world, such as in Africa and Asia).

Thus, given the challenges we face in a generally suspicious if not hostile environment, we must explore being part of a new, second Reformation, a journey initiated by the first but which largely remained unfinished. We must follow Christ’s leadership through what portends to be absolutely unprecedented times. The bygone age of grand cathedrals, of Christianised ethos and law, of the “Lord’s Prayer” recited in schools and government, and of respected clergy, can and will never be revisited in this age. From high esteem, many clergy are now, for example, under cross-examination by Royal Commissions for institutionalised paedophilia! Modern Christianity seems irretrievably tarnished!

Nonetheless, Jesus is still building his church. And, we need to embrace and align our energies with his vision of the future. It seems we need a different paradigm to what was manifest in previous centuries – one that was, of course, that Jesus himself modelled.

Today, however, old practices die hard. Still too many pastors are operating under an outdated paradigm, acting as chaplains and care-givers, and often rushing off to meet the needs of the bleating sheep. Thus, they inadvertently perpetuate a model of dependency. God, however, has called us not to remain infants in the faith, but as his followers become empowered by Jesus to be equipping leaders of other leaders. We are not called to passivity, but to an active faith!

The dynamic of the second Reformation is emerging and evident not only throughout parts of Christendom, but also in greater clarity in the Church of God Sabbatarian community. Twenty or so years ago, at least in my personal journey, the prevailing church paradigm I was accustomed to began to crumble. Its exclusivity and significant awkwardness with the person of Jesus had reached the end of its course. Did Jesus step in and “remove the lampstand”? It certainly sounds like it. But that’s another story.

Today, we increasingly see different parts of the Body of Christ, albeit under different administrations, but sharing a common faith and heritage, working and worshipping together in unity and grace, extending to each other the right-hand of fellowship. Thus, we’re experiencing a revived model of Jesus leading the church. This is manifesting in some refreshing changes. Pastoral care is changing from “one size fits all” exclusively doing corporate ministry, to equipping and empowering others for ministry, utilising their spiritual God-given gifts.

The momentum for this “new” ministry model finds its roots and authenticity in the first century. The old Pharisaically-driven paradigms would never allow the equipping of all to discipleship and ministry according to their spiritual gifts. Pastors must continue to shift from fostering dependency to an equipping model.

The old covenant with the hierarchal Levitical priesthood ceased when Jesus was crucified, evidenced with the tearing of the temple veil of separation. Access to the Holy of Holies, symbolic of our direct access to our heavenly Father, became freely available. Jesus is now our High Priest. The new covenant accordingly ushered with it the priesthood of all believers, something that must be understood and embraced in the new reformation!

Pastors begin “teaching” the word of God, and then continue equipping and coaching all believers to ministry. While Jesus said “Feed my sheep”, he also expanded it with, “Make disciples”. This is the model Jesus commissioned his disciples.

The church no longer consists of two classes, ministers and members. We’re all saints. We’re all brothers. We’re all children of God. All are called to ministry. And we’re all encouraged to develop and utilise those spiritual gifts.

Jesus reminded his disciples, against the model backdrop of the Pharisees, “Don’t be called Rabbi, for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.” (Matthew 23:8) We are called to grow up in Christ’s fullness and stature, and less dependent on human leaders.

Paul further developed this in his letter to those at Ephesus, when he said, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service [ministry], so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach the 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)

The dependence model doesn’t any longer work under the terms of the new covenant! The lament in letter to the Hebrews bears this out: “By now you ought to be teachers, but you’re still in infancy, dependent on the milk of the word”. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

A baby is dependent on his or her mother’s milk. Given that’s where we all started, it’s not a state we want to stay with. We’re called to spiritually grow beyond infancy.

That’s where Jesus’ gentle and humble words beckon us to empowerment, if we’re only willing to listen. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened [from the Pharisaical-modelled version of old covenant ministry], and I will give you rest,” says Jesus. (Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus wants us to take his yoke upon us – something that fits us right, matches our spiritual gifts, and is really as we’re meant to be.

Someone once said that, “A man makes the dream, and then the dream makes the man.” Therein lies a powerful truism. Love and passion can drive us to great heights. The seeds of God’s kingdom have been sewn in our hearts. “Seek first His kingdom,” says Jesus.

So you have a passion, a gift, a skill? Follow that dream. Develop your gifts. Grow your ministry – to the glory of God and in the name of Jesus. Remember the wisdom from an old proverb: “A man’s heart [his God-given gifts] plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

God bless you in your service in the body of Christ.

 

By John Klassek

 

The Rise of Islam

There’s no disputing it. Islam is on the rise. And the face we’re seeing, but trying not to believe, is an ugly one. One written in anger and in blood, in ominous moon and black flags, slavery and conquest.

So why now? What has held the forces of Islam in check – since four centuries ago, when they had advanced beyond the gates of Vienna and were beaten back – that their desire to conquer the world with their own brand of government, religion and ethics is finally gaining momentum?

It’s a good question, and one that probably has its roots in the strength and ethics of our formerly Christian-rooted societies. Our grandparents grew up in a West that was distinctly flavoured by the Bible. “Love thy neighbour” was an undisputed truism. But today, are we not, more proud of our “secular society” than of our heritage? And therein lies the heart of the issue.

Have we not lost our moral compass, evidenced by the social issues that are on the agenda today? For example, our grandparents would shudder to know how we’re bent on embracing homosexual marriage. They would weep over the shocking abortion statistics. And they would groan that we teach our children “evolutionary” garbage while conspicuously abandoning any reference to God and faith values.

So, where are we headed? In a year’s time from now, how will we see 2015? More bloodshed? Heightened terror alerts? Stronger Islamic aggression, near and far? Will our military efforts to stop Islamic extremism and expansion fail? Will indecisive foreign policy, in hindsight, have been grossly inadequate?

Democracy has the potential to collapse, the signs of which are already apparent in Europe, where large immigrant families (of Islamic origins) are outnumbering generally low western birth rates. So given enough time, Sharia law quite easily could be democratically voted in. And should that happen, Islam’s rise to world domination would be unstoppable.

Imagine seeing a strong and capable military leader emerge, and with him a powerful and charismatic religious imam – some call him the Mahdi. It’s not hard then to imagine the widespread and “legal” beheading of innocents – whose only sin is to deny the validity of Mohammed.

With eyes on the comparatively small state of Israel eventually becoming militarily overrun by its larger neighbours; when the missiles and rockets are let loose, it might be hard not to think that what is called Armageddon is upon us.

The irony is that we can’t say we weren’t warned.

Did you know that the Bible (the same book our grandparents read) warns about just that kind of scenario, a time of world domination by a ruthless and brutal world leader edged on by his “religious” counterpart? A time of intense solar activity leading to global warming? That a third of mankind is brutally killed? And, did you know that unless divine intervention occurred (that’s what Jesus taught), humanity would utterly destroy itself?

Jesus spoke about a coming conflagration on earth that has never happened before, nor He said will ever happen again. Jesus stated that He is coming again – this time on a rescue mission and this time claiming Kingship.

Of course, the incumbent leaders won’t go without a battle. Can you imagine that day?

Most people today hardly think about Jesus, let alone His coming. Do you? Do you believe that our only hope in this age, in any age for that matter, is the saving work of Jesus Christ?

It was Christian ethics and morality that has held Islam in check now for almost 1300 years (just read the annals of history). And it is Christ who will bring Islam to an end – there is no other way, for secularism is already falling prey to its terrible power.

John Klassek

Written by John Klassek

Why I wrote my book

Occasionally I am asked the reasons why I wrote “Hope of the Resurrection”. Others enquire in particular about the nuances of the second resurrection.

The scriptures are quite clear about those who reject Christ, in Jesus’ day and in ours. (I had originally intended, with the editing of the 3rd edition, to write an entire chapter about hell, but decided that there was already sufficient in the book about this subject. Besides, an entire chapter on hell somewhat detracts from the overall “hope” value).

bookcover2014I trust that my book “Hope of the Resurrection” does not make any claims or implications that can be construed as un-Biblical. I do not believe in second-chance theology. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify this. Perhaps in a future edition and printing, I will continue to further develop any passages that may not be as clear as they ought. Thanks for your grace in this.

We can take some comfort in Paul’s statement that, “we only know in part and therefore preach in part” [my paraphrase]. (1 Corinthians 13:9)

With regard to any possible hope outcome in the second resurrection, I like the dichotomy of “near-certainty versus mere possibility”. Many of us are somewhere between the two. On the other end of the spectrum, however, are those who believe in total annihilation of all at the second resurrection, regardless of whether they’ve ever heard the truth or not. This view is somewhat hard to reconcile with the Biblical text that discusses righteous judgment. (John 5:30) It is also hard to reconcile with a loving, merciful God who paid in total the sins of this world.

Thus, I believe there can be a range of “peripheral” understandings of what many regard as somewhat “unclear”. This is where our patience and grace ought to come to the fore. Please note that I always refrain from preaching about these “peripheral” things from the pulpit – knowing that in the fullness of time we’ll all understand!

I felt inspired to write “Hope of the Resurrection” after visiting several Christian bookstores, and seeing numerous titles, such as “To Heaven and Back”, “Ninety Minutes in Heaven”, and “Heaven is for Real”. Conspicuous by its absence, I found that there were no equal books that discussed the resurrection hope in Christ. (I have since discovered NT Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope” that also emphasises a Biblical resurrection hope). But, largely, books on Heaven vastly outnumber those on Resurrection.

My book’s original intended audience was simply for the “man on the street” – folk who may have casually heard about God, and who may be seeking answers following the loss of a loved one. The book has already been read by many thousands of people since it was first published in 2010, and I am delighted to constantly receive very positive responses from people whose lives have been significantly helped.

johnklassek2014b

John Klassek

 

A Holy Discontent

The underlying fabric of our great country has experienced dramatic change over the past 40 or so years.

The towns and cities that were pioneered often were denoted by their numerous church spires. Today, our housing estates are characterised by shopping centres and recreational venues. Once Saturdays or Sundays usually consisted of church time followed by family lunches; today we’re legislating seven day trading. As a boy I heard about “the theory of evolution”; in the classroom today it is taught as fact. Public meetings used to give credence to God; today we instead pay tribute to indigenous culture and tradition – often spoken in their unfamiliar language. I remember the taboo subject of homosexuality regarded among my peers some 40 years ago as absolutely abhorrent; today we celebrate gay mardi-gras parades as expressions of a healthy and dynamic culture.

We listen to politicians and ethicists discuss abortion and euthanasia as if it were a fundamental right, and we decry churchmen who might dare suggest otherwise.

Once Christian family values were accepted as the underlying foundation to our constitution and Western democratic values and freedoms. Today, our youth have never heard the stories of Noah, Moses or Jesus. The Bible as literature, history, religion or culture doesn’t belong anymore to our school curricula. Our various media today, however, are more likely to feature Buddhist or indigenous values than the Christian heritage that has shaped the emergent face of Western civilisation.

“We are now a secular nation,” a prominent politician echoed earlier this year. And we indeed are, or so it seems. The question that should bother us is, why has all this change been so apparently successful?

Is anyone to blame that millions of infants each year, for example, are killed before they can gasp their first breath of fresh air? Perhaps some of the fault for this onslaught of change may rest on the social upheaval and catalyst that came out of World War II. The world could never be the same again. Perhaps our media, responsible for occupying our evening television viewing with violence and “rated” immorality might share some of the blame for rising crime rates. Perhaps the advances of science and technology, often touted as the panacea for all our problems, has become a defacto god of sorts?

No, the blame doesn’t rest with the politicians, ethicists, media moguls, abortion specialists, scientists or our legislators. The blame rests on our churchmen – pastors and preachers who by large have become complicit by their silence. This is my holy discontent.

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet and show my people their sins,” God urged a prophet to proclaim to an ancient people not unlike ourselves.

Where are the pastors and preachers and leaders that might hold righteous sway in our great country? Are there any brave men and women left who might shape our moral conscience for the better by giving voice to a Godly perspective? Are there only a few leaders who speak just the truth (and not spin, alias lies) nowadays?

We shouldn’t be surprised. Didn’t a wise man once say that there’s nothing new under the sun? Take for example, an excerpt from a letter written by a senior pastor to a young minister some 2000 years ago – it could almost be speaking of our day:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

“We evolved,” say our teachers.

Isaiah repeated God’s words:

O my people, your guides lead you astray; (Isaiah 3:12)

Our church leaders have failed us, and they have failed our nation. In their silence, they have not fearlessly spoken truth. Instead, they have acquiesced to the falsehood that the “ten commandments have been done away with”.

What will the next 40 years bring? A golden age of secularism, previously attempted by Hitler and Stalin and other despots? We have the freedom to choose.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land… This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land… (Deuteronomy 30:15-20 NIV)

We would do well to listen to the urgent voices of history.

Is this your holy discontent, too?

 By John Klassek