Ministry Focus Expanded
Six Pillars Foundational to Ministry
At Parkdale Grace Fellowship
The following six pillars are foundational to the ministry here at Parkdale. Not only does our church ministry rest upon these pillars but we believe they are the basic priorities upon which our ministry is to be established, maintained and even evaluated. We trust that as you read the following information that you will come to know the heart of the body of Christ that meets at Parkdale Grace Fellowship.
Pillar 1 -Keeping Jesus the Main Thing – A Christ centered ministry; trusting Jesus to build His church as we passionately fix our gaze on Him.
Pillar 2 - Building on the Bible – Letting God speak for Himself through His word; emphasizing the expository teaching of the Scriptures.
Pillar 3 - Walking by Grace – Depending on, and promoting, Jesus Christ as our life. Always trusting the indwelling Christ to express His life and perform His work through us.
Pillar 4 - Getting out of the Saltshaker – Prioritizing and facilitating ministry in our home, in our neighborhood and in the marketplace rather than depending upon church based programming. Allowing our faith to infuse, infiltrate and influence all of our life, in all venues.
Pillar 5 - Expanding through Giving, Sending and Going – Equipping the body of Christ to “Go and scatter,” rather than striving to achieve mega size through gathering and hoarding.
Pillar 6 - Praying Always – Maintaining the posture of absolute dependence upon the Lord for all things at all times, acknowledging that apart from Him we can do nothing.
#1 Keeping Jesus the Main Thing
Trusting Jesus to Build His Church as we Passionately Fix our Gaze on Him
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
In this passage others thought Jesus was perhaps John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets come back to life. Notice that Jesus did not respond to the impressions of who men thought He was; He did not respond to being thought of as Elijah, a man of signs and wonders, John the Baptist preaching repentance or Jeremiah compassionate for the lost souls of His day. He did not say He would build His church upon those things which catch the attention and interest of the crowds. He did not promise to build His church upon man’s idea of what He is all about. He will build His church only upon that true, God-given revelation and understanding of who Jesus really is. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Our focus is wrong when we focus only on some aspect of His ministry but miss the person of Christ as a whole. He is not miracles, signs and wonders. He is not compassion for the lost. He is not teaching. He is a person. He is the Christ. The entire plan of God has its fulfillment in Jesus. He is the satisfaction of all the cravings within the heart of every human being. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus. Elijah foreshadowed Him. Jeremiah longed for people to cry out to Him, and the prophets all told about Him. The declaration of Peter revealed that he understood this. In essence he said, “Jesus, You are the Christ, the One promised in the Scriptures. Everything focuses on You. It is at this point, in response to Peter’s revelation, Jesus says “. . . on this rock I will build my church” Upon that revelation of the Rock, God Himself, is where I will build my church.
When a group of believers come together with this Christ focus, there Jesus will build His church. The main focus is not to be on the lost, or the needs of the community nor is the purpose for gathering just to increase in knowledge. But when you get together a group of people who gather because they love Jesus Christ, when they come together because Jesus Himself is their passion, there Jesus will build His church!
When Jesus is our pursuit, when He’s our greatest joy and our richest treasure, when He’s our hero, and our Lord, when Jesus is our life, from a church like that, signs and wonders will follow. When you have a group with that focus and passion, who are blessed by Jesus and are desiring to walk close to Jesus and to be wholly yielded to Him, from such a group the surrounding community will be impacted and start to change. When our focus, our passion and our pursuit is Jesus Christ, He will build His church. Jesus said, “I’ll build it” It is not by our strategy, not by our efforts, not by our education but by My Spirit says the Lord.
When we understand the teachings of Jesus, we can conclude that the Lord has not called us to build His church. That is His responsibility. You and I are to be available to Him, with our eyes fixed on Him, wholly surrendered to Him so that He can use us as He pleases. God is the one with the plan. He has the strategy, it is His energy and it is His strength that accomplishes the task. When Jesus builds His church He sustains it and He maintains it so that the very gates of hell itself shall not prevail against it. We have a choice to make. Will we attempt to build a church for the Lord or will we look to Him and trust Him to build His church through us?
#2 Building on the Bible
Letting God Speak for Himself through His Word
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
The Scripture is God’s word. It is God speaking and His word is profitable. Therefore it is never a waste of time to study or to teach God’s word. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. And when God speaks, something always happens. God, who cannot lie, will accomplish the purpose for which the word was sent. Isaiah 55:10-11 “…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Parents, when you have this assurance of the effectiveness of God’s word why would you neglect to communicate the word of God into the lives of your children? Why would any of us neglect the word of God and not allow God to speak directly into our lives when He has assured us of it successfully accomplishing all His purposes? Why would I as your pastor want to speak anything to you other than God’s word? There is power in God’s Word and as the Word is proclaimed the Holy Spirit uses it mightily to work in the hearts and minds of those who hear.
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God’s word accomplishes. It is God’s word that is living and powerful. Whether you are a man, woman, boy or girl, when you faithfully proclaim the word of God, the Holy Spirit uses it mightily to work in the hearts and minds of those who hear. The authority and power do not originate from you; it comes from God’s word. There is no power in mere human words to save souls or to transform lives. There is no power in mere human words to change the hearts of children. However, God’s word can minister to every single need known to mankind. According to 2 Timothy 3:17 that which makes me “competent, equipped for every good work” is the word of God.
Here at Parkdale, God Himself has taught us week by week as His word has been faithfully taught verse by verse, one book at a time. As we have delighted ourselves in His word, He has healed broken hearts, cleansed corrupted minds, replaced fear and anxiety with peace and confidence. He has replaced roller coaster lives of chronic failure with stability, and where there was once bitterness, He has graciously produced love. It has not occurred instantaneously but as a renewing process through the consistent feeding on God’s word.
God, teaching us through His word is true also during one’s private Bible reading. When your spirit is readied by the Holy Spirit, God will take the scriptures and nourish your spirit, impart wisdom and understanding, reprove you, restrain your foot from evil, teach you, correct you and give you guidance. God loves to speak to us through His word and to show us the way of life.
Therefore, in light of these truths and promises from God about His word, God is calling us to build a foundation upon the Bible and to let God speak for Himself through the scriptures. This needs to be one of the fundamental foundations as God builds and establishes our homes, families and His church here at Parkdale. Let us not limit this vital ministry of the word to the pulpit on Sunday, but let us incorporate it into every area of our lives and ministries. Psalm 1 says “Blessed is the man . . . who delights in the law [word] of the Lord, and in His law [word] he meditates day and night.”
#3 Walking By Grace
Depending on, and Promoting Jesus Christ as our Life
Our third pillar is walking by Grace, that is depending on and promoting Jesus Christ as our life. The walk by grace is characterized by an attitude of always trusting the indwelling Christ to express His life and perform His work through us as expressed in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh [body] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
The message of depending on Christ’s life in me to live the joyful and victorious Christian life through me is not a new message but it is an old message. It is a teaching solidly based upon the book of Romans and the Pauline Epistles. In fact what we call the “grace life” is one of the most fundamental and core messages of the entire Bible. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible declares and illustrates the fact that “we can’t but God can”. Not one living soul could live the life God required. But Jesus did. Therefore, to this day, the only hope for any of us to live victoriously is to realize that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
All Christians know Jesus Christ as their Savior; many have also accepted Jesus as the Lord of their life. But very few Christians know and experience Jesus as their life. Most Christians to some degree or another are trying to live their life for the Lord. The typical life of a new Christian begins with lots of enthusiasm and emotional zeal for the Lord. The first few months or even a year or two are characterized by lots of life, a love for God’s Word and for church, doing things for the Lord and being very fulfilled in one’s Christian experience. Then the emotional fervor and sense of joy and fulfillment that were once so real begin to fade. Other things begin taking priority over the things of the Lord. The cycle which then typically occurs is what, in Christian experience, is commonly known as a roller coaster or treadmill experience. It goes like this: Repent of your mediocre way of living. Receive God’s forgiveness. Recommit your life to the Lord. Fervently you promise to do better this time and with sincerity you try to do better, but once again you regress into failure. This vicious treadmill experience is exhausting, and after many years, very discouraging. It leaves a Christian in a place of perpetual guilt, inner turmoil and frustration. Many succumb to the discouragement and give up trying to live with any zeal for God. They settle for casual, mediocre Christianity maintaining an outward façade of acceptability while the soul withers.
What is the problem? Why does the cycle continue? Why is this scenario so widespread? It is because we are failing to live and minister by the grace of God. We are simply experiencing our own life, not Christ’s life. The Christian life is not difficult to live . . . it is impossible to live. God never expected me to be able to live it. There is only one person who can live the Christian life, that person is Jesus. His life is released to live through us only when we cease trying to live our own life for Him. We must die and let Him live. The Christian life is not you living your life for Christ. That is flesh and is doomed to failure. The Christian life is Christ’s life. It is exchanging your powerless life for His life and letting Christ live His life of unlimited power and perfect righteousness through you. If we will yield our entire being to Him He will possess us by His Holy Spirit and live powerfully through us to accomplish His work in His energy. God doing it through us is living by grace. He has chosen us in order to express His life through our bodies.
The kind of life He wants to live through us will be a fulfilling life, a joyful life, an incomparably abundant life. We yield ourselves so that He can work through us exactly the ministry that He desires. Christians should leave our fellowship with their eyes fixed upon Jesus as their hope and their source of life. They should leave encouraged to trust in Jesus as the answer and provision of their every challenge. They should leave built up in their faith in Jesus as their life, their wisdom, their strength, their provider, their healer, their peace, their protector, their advocate. Believers should always leave our assembly confident that they can do all things through Christ.
#4 Getting Out of the Saltshaker
Allowing our Faith to Infuse, Infiltrate and Influence All of our Life, In All Venues
Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
In verse 13 Jesus describes the people of God as the “salt of the earth; but if the salt loses it flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” He implies that the purpose or use of this salt is to enhance the flavor of the world. If we are not giving flavor to the world; if we are not having an influence on the communities we live in or in our sphere of activity, then, according to this verse, we are not fulfilling one of our primary purposes in life, and our presence as salt in this world is of little value. At Parkdale we love being a part of the family of God and spending time with one another but we are dysfunctional when we fail to ever leave the “saltshaker” and go into the world as we have been commissioned by our Lord. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” and to “make disciples of all the nations.” (Mk. 16:15; Mt. 28:19)
The first aspect of getting out of the saltshaker and into the world is ministering in our community or neighborhood. At Parkdale we have intentionally tried to minimize the number of programs we run as a church. But even so we occasionally have very valuable ministries taking place in this building which could perhaps be more “salt and light” effective if the venue were our homes. We need to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth our people into their neighborhoods as salt and light in their community. We must regularly evaluate our ministries to be sure they are valuable and that we are not just offering an activity for the sake of running a program. We need to assess whether the church building is the best venue for a ministry or whether it would it be more “salt and light” effective if held in a home. When possible we should consolidate our activities to one or two nights so that we are not drawing you away from your mission field more often than necessary.
Another aspect of getting out of the saltshaker and into the world is in the area of one’s occupation. I believe God wants us to change how we consider our place of employment. God sovereignly placed us in our workplace, His mission field and we are to be a minister of Jesus Christ in that place of employment. Pray for the anointing of the Lord to be upon you to be His ambassador of reconciliation in your place of work. Redeem those forty hours a week you spend rubbing shoulders with the world and make it a time to reflect the life of Jesus. Pray for those in your sphere of influence. Recognize that you carry the presence of Christ with you into your workplace as you yield yourself to Christ.
The last aspect of getting out of the salt shaker that is important for us to consider is our ministry to our own families. Parents do NOT look to the church as the basic provider of spiritual training for your children. No matter how inadequate you may feel, no one has as great of an impact on your child spiritually for good or ill as you. If we want our children to experience a genuine and meaningful faith that dramatically influences the way they live their lives then we need to be modeling our faith before them in our homes. They need to see the reality of God not just in the private sector of our lives but in our public lives as well. They need to see our faith infusing, infiltrating, and influencing all of life. Too often faith is just one aspect of our compartmentalized life taking its place alongside recreation, work, family, friends, hobbies, education, finances and politics when it should be infusing all these aspects of life. We need to be modeling worship in our homes; we need to be modeling prayer and outreach and self sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the gospel in our homes and everyday life. So as a church body we need to look to the Lord for ways to be more “salt and light” effective in our sphere of influence.
#5 Expanding through Giving, Sending and Going
Equipping the body of Christ to go and scatter.
This foundational pillar has an emphasis on equipping the body of Christ to “Go and scatter,” rather than striving to achieve mega size through gathering and hoarding. We recognize that although other churches may have a calling to be mega churches not all members of Christ’s body have the same design or function and we need to discern that design to which God has called us as a local congregation. What is our calling? What is our personalized gifting and emphasis to be? What is the model for us to follow?
Luke 6:38, Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you
In this verse we are given a command to give, a promise that when we give we will receive a good measure, pressed down, shaken and running over. We also have a principle that what we receive is a magnified reflection of what we have given. As a church our financial objective is to give. We look to the Lord for more and more opportunities to give to missions, to give to outreach, to give to needs outside of our church. As we have applied this principle in the past, no matter how generously we have given as a church, the Lord has always met our own needs and given us an abundance to give even more, just as He promised. Note the motivation of the principle. We do not give in order to get rich. We give in order to be able to give even more. As we mature and grow in giving we mature and grow in our ability to give more and more. Applied to church growth, the principle is not to get as many people as possible but to be focused on giving, sending and going. Our purpose should be on giving away our ministry, on sending out our people. We should be willing to send out our best in order that we might be a blessing to others.
So how does this apply to us at Parkdale? I believe God has great things in store for this congregation and I believe He will greatly expand His ministry through this body of believers. However, I do not believe the Lord has called us to become a large mega church, but rather I believe He is equipping us to send forth our members into the world in the power of His Holy Spirit with the good news of the Gospel. God is going to do great things through us as we are scattered all over the world. The Lord does not want us to have a vision of all staying together here, growing old together and watching our children and our grandchildren all staying together here at Parkdale. Instead we are to reflect the heart of our Father who so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son. Likewise, we are to let God demonstrate that same love for the world through us by GIVING our children and sending them into the world to make disciples of every nation. And, like Jesus, we must be willing to go ourselves. I believe that we should be multiplying all areas of church ministry from musicians and sound technicians to elders and Sunday school teachers, to ushers and treasurers. We should aspire to be planting churches that are staffed by ministries that have been developed in our own congregation. We should pray to be able to send leaders out from our congregation to give leadership to the mission field and to other churches in need. We should be training our youth to take on ministry roles in the church here and around the world, not merely to be regular attendees in the pew.
The universal principle is to GIVE. We expand through giving. God has not called us to grow by becoming obese through gathering all that we can and hoarding all that we get. But He has called us to grow by equipping and sending; by reproducing, multiplying and planting. We are to increase around the world by giving, which includes giving of ourselves to go into the entire world preaching the gospel to every creature. May we all have the attitude that our lives and all we have are held before God with an open hand. Expanding, reaching out by giving, sending and going.
#6 Praying Always
Maintaining absolute dependence upon the Lord for all things at all times.
In this pillar, though I include the formal prayer in the worship service and the prayer meeting, I am more importantly talking about teaching, encouraging and practicing that constant attitude and habit of depending upon the Lord for all things at all times. Prayer is acknowledging to God that we depend upon Him and that apart from Him we can do nothing. Prayer brings God into the equation. Prayer turns the situation over to God. Prayer is the divinely ordained trigger that releases the power of God into a situation. The most important ministry of our church is prayer. That statement is made with the conviction that it is the truth. Literally every aspect of our church’s ministry is dependent upon prayer for its effectiveness. All the teaching of this church would be a waste of breath and accomplish nothing if it were not bathed in prayer. It is prayer that makes every other aspect of ministry and Christian life effective and fruitful because prayer invites God into the situation and looks to Him to perform it
Mark 14:32-40 “. . . [Jesus] said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will. Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.”
There is a principle at work here which we all need to understand. Those who will not deny their fleeting desires in order to pray during the easy times will almost certainly find that they lack the spiritual strength to be victorious when the major trials of life hit them. Prayer is not optional; it is an absolutely essential basis for spiritual living. The prayerless life is a powerless life and the prayerless church is a powerless church.
Mark 1:35, "Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” Here is the secret of Jesus’ fruitful life and finished work; He prayerfully waited for his Father’s instructions and for the Father’s strength to fulfill the task. Jesus discerned what His Father’s will was for Him each day as He waited on the Father in prayer. In this way Jesus avoided the urgent demands of the world, of the flesh and of the devil, and through prayer Jesus allowed the Holy Spirit to accomplish through Him the important will of the Father. If it was necessary for Jesus, the Almighty, sinless, Son of God to depend upon the Father in prayer, how much more must we depend upon God in prayer for everything. Prayer will not spare us from experiencing trials, but it will lead to victory through our trials rather than defeat. Rather than experiencing panic, despair, sleepless nights and failing health when the trials of life and attacks of the enemy come, a dependant prayerful life will result in peace, confidence, calm and rest in the midst of the storm.
Why is prayer to be such a high priority for all Christians? It is in prayer that we express our dependence upon God to guide us into those things which are His priority for our lives. In prayer we yield our lives to Him so that He might do His will through us by His strength. Through prayer Jesus Christ has given you the authority to come boldly before the throne of the Almighty Creator of this universe and ask Him to act on your behalf because you can not and you dare not. Satan laughs at our best efforts to minister and he mocks our attempts to live the Christian life, but he trembles when he sees the weakest saint of God on their knees in prayer, because he knows that God gets involved when we pray.
We exist to joyfully exalt Jesus above all else, and to glorify His name in all the earth.