THE EASTER FORMULA
Triumph Often Begins With Death

One of the most consistent patterns of God’s dealings with us is this:
Vision → Death → Resurrection → Triumph

Looking back, can you see that pattern in your own life?

We could call it the Easter Formula. In all the span of history, the most obvious example of this divine pattern is the phenomenal events of Easter.

  • The promise of a Messiah.
  • The torturous death of Christ on the cross.
  • His amazing resurrection from the dead.
  • His promised return to reign in eternal triumph.

“Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.
He arose a victor from the dark domain.
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”

Vision → death → resurrection → triumph is the proclamation of Easter. Look back over your own life, and I am sure you will see the Easter Formula repeated many times.

• God gave you a Vision. Maybe a specific promise impressed upon your heart. Maybe a calling received through His Holy Spirit. Maybe a desire or ambition that was a product of the unique person God created you to be.

• Then came the complete Death of that vision. The harsh circumstances of this life, including very possibly your own sins and shortcomings, made fulfillment of the vision seem utterly impossible. All hope was dead.

• Then, amazingly, miraculously, God Resurrected your vision and led you to Triumph. God kept His promise, long after you had given up. God worked in and through you to carry out your calling. God fulfilled that ambition at a time and in a way that you would never have believed possible.

God is the Great Author, and this is one of His most common story lines.

Abraham and Sarah longed to have a son. Infertility and the passage of time brought complete death to that vision. Then, God renewed their hope and miraculously gave them a son, Isaac, in their old age.

• God gave Joseph the dream of being a great ruler. Then Joseph’s dream was completely smashed to bits. Kidnapped, sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into prison — Joseph’s dream couldn’t have been any deader. Then God miraculously moved Joseph from travail to triumph, from imprisonment to power. Joseph’s vision came true, long after all hope was dead and gone.

• God positioned Moses to deliver his fellow countrymen. He grew up in the palace, the adopted grandson of Pharaoh! Then, due entirely to his own lawlessness, Moses became a murderer and fugitive and alien. The chance of ever being Israel’s deliverer was completely dead. But a full generation later, when Moses was 80 years old, God resurrected that vision in a spectacular way. Moses delivered God’s people and become one of the most important figures of history, long after fulfillment was a complete impossibility.

And that’s just Genesis and Exodus. This divine pattern, the Easter Formula, continues throughout the Scriptures. Consider David: anointed as a young boy, hunted down as a young man, then crowned the king. Job: who had it all, then lost it all, then received it all back twice over. Vision, death and resurrection have played out several times in the amazing story of Israel, and that nation’s ultimate Triumph lies ahead. It is even the story of this planet, from paradise lost … to sin, suffering, the coming tribulation, and ultimately, complete destruction … before the revelation of a New Earth.

What is the message of the Easter Formula in your own personal life right now?

Have hope: Don’t be fooled by the death of your vision. God is in the miracle-working business. Your hopelessness may be a step toward resurrection and triumph.

Have wisdom: Don’t be fooled by the source of your vision. God never promised to grant every whim or fulfill each earthly desire. However, if the promise came from Him, it will come to pass. Distinguishing between God’s vision and our own, between God’s hand at work and our own fleshly activity, is one of the great arts of spirituality. But it is possible to do. Search your heart. Ask for wisdom. Plead with the Great Communicator to make His will known.

Be patient: God is a patient God. He does not mark time the same way we do. Consider the stories above. Triumph often comes decades, centuries or even millennia after the vision.

Rise above: Life is about the process. Surely that much is clear.

The story of Christ, the greatest story ever told, is not finished yet. Actually, Jesus has barely begun. He came, He died and He rose again. That was just the First Act in the story of the Kingdom.

Now we wait. We hope. We are wise. Waiting patiently. Rising above. Believing that He will return … in triumph. And then — no more suffering, no more pain, no more poverty, no more hardship, no more death, no more tears.

“We eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of [His] power.” (Phil 3:20-21)

“Live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (Titus 2:12-13).

Give Up on The Ideal Church?

Should we just give up on pondering The Ideal Church? Not a chance.

Back on Dec. 19, on this blog, I raised the question: What Does The Ideal Church Look Like? My hope was to spark a vigorous discussion on an important topic at a time when the modern American church is clearly in a rapid state of decline. Unfortunately, the response was less than vigorous; it attracted just five comments.

OK, I get it. What did I expect on Dec. 19? As I was uploading that post, you were standing in line somewhere to buy a Lego set or a Barbados Barbie or a Keurig coffeemaker for someone you love. And I wanna talk about church? You had cookies to frost, a Christmas tree to plug in, and gift cards to swap. Who has the time?

Sorry, but I’m not going away that easily. I’ve been raising this question for several decades now, and never has it been more relevant than today. What does The Ideal Church look like? Whether you are a church member, or are searching for a church home, or are thinking about starting a new church, the answer to this question is essential.

The few responses we did receive are outstanding. Two pastors, one in Texas and one in Oklahoma, weighed in, plus a great Christian sister in San José, Costa Rica, as well as the ever-reliable “Anonymous.”

Eric Keller has been the pastor of Oakwood Christian Church in Enid, Okla., for 4+ years. Oakwood is a great church with several hundred members that found itself in difficult waters a few years ago. Eric has done an amazing job of leading Oakwood through a series of difficult transitions, with the result that Oakwood is a stronger church now than it has been in years.

Eric listed six qualities of an ideal church. No. 1 on Eric’s list: “Biblical Authority: God has spoken to us through the Bible and we recognize it as the final authority in our lives.” Amen, brother!

Steve Hinton is pastor of Cypress Crossings Christian Church in Houston. CCCC was started more than a dozen years ago by a handful who left another church. The group laid a strong foundation in a growing suburban neighborhood, but couldn’t break past an attendance of around 75 during its first ten years. Then Cypress Crossings called Steve three years ago. Steve has led CCCC to experience a great turnaround, which is one of the hardest things for any church to achieve. Attendance has doubled; the church is growing in maturity and outreach.

Steve listed three characteristics of an ideal church. No. 1 on Steve’s list: “An unwavering Commitment to the Word of God.” Amen, brother!

Eric and Steve are following the same playbook, and the results speak for themselves. What a transformation would occur if more churches decided that in 2013, their No. 1 commitment — first, foremost, and to the exclusion of all others– is the Word of God.

What about you? Do you have an opinion about the Ideal Church? Has it occurred to you that maybe it isn’t just up to the pastors to decide? Is it possible God that expects each one of us, every member of the Body, to participate in making the church the church?

The odds are that your church is less than ideal. So what are you doing to point your church to better days? It is impossible to achieve a goal that has not been identified, specified and articulated. That’s the purpose of this question.

What do you think? Don’t be intimidated by what Eric and Steve have written. They’re just the pastors. Without the enthusiastic participation of a turned-on congregation, all a pastor can do is put on a good weekend show. Many pastors and many congregations are content with that. But that’s sure not the ideal. What you say about the church matters, because you ARE the church.

Maybe you think the most important thing is the music. Maybe you think it’s all about the kids. Maybe you think the most important thing is location, location, location. The ideal church has dozens of positive characteristics, and each one requires a church member who speaks up from his or her unique background and gifting and perspective.

Do you want to be part of The Ideal Church? The only way it will ever happen is if we start having the conversation. How about contributing to the discussion by weighing in in the comments field below — or the comments field of the earlier post?

Discussion: What Does the Ideal Church Look Like?

Four church members are in different situations, but they all have the exact same question.

Person A is a leader of his church. Because he wants to help lead his church in being the church God wants it to be, he has been studying the Word and asking himself: “What does the ideal church look like?”

Person B is a member of her church. However, she is frustrated. She does not believe her church is being all that God wants it to be. She is trying to sort between the concerns that are just her personal preferences and the things that are truly important to God regarding His church. So, Person B has been asking herself, “What does the ideal church look like?”

Person C is looking for a new church. Maybe he is new to the community. Maybe he has been attending a church for many years but has reached a point at which the best thing to do is seek a new church. But looking for a church is so hard! There are so many churches out there of many denominations, various sizes, different emphases. How does Person C pick the right church for his family and himself? What should he be looking for in a church? “What does the ideal church look like?”

Person D is involved in launching a new church. She and several friends attended a church planting conference, where they were convicted that it is more important than ever to be establishing new churches, and that new church evangelism is one of the best ways to reach lost souls. So, Person D and her friends have formed a core group to raise up a new church. The core group’s first step is to identify what kind of church they intend to be. What is their mission? What are their core values? What will their new church bring to the table that will advance the cause of Christ in their community? “What does the ideal church look like?”

Four different Christians in four different situations, each asking the exact same question: What does the ideal church look like?

ESSENTIALS, STRATEGIES AND PREFERENCES

I think a lot about that question. I have been thinking about this question since I accepted God’s call to the ministry more than 40 years ago. Over the years Norma and I have been involved in new churches, turn-around churches, churches more than 100 years old, suburban churches, rural churches, foreign churches, cell churches, churches of various denominations. Our church experience is rich and broad and varied.

What does the ideal church look like? There are many, many correct answers to that question. However, perhaps all of the answers can be divided into three categories:

• Essentials: There are some things that are essentials for every church, whether new or old, large or small, foreign or domestic. Scriptural mandates. Minimum requirements. Non-negotiables. For example, every church should uphold the gospel of Christ. Every church should turn to God’s Word as its ultimate authority. What are other essentials for God’s church that transcend time and culture?

• Strategies: Many details about a church depend upon circumstances: the community, the culture, the church members, the identity of those to be reached, etc. We might call these strategic considerations. For example, it continues to be a good strategy in modern America to have a Sunday morning large-group meeting that is open to the public. The Scriptures never mandate such meetings, but they have been a fixture of our culture for a long time and continue to be useful in training believers and reaching the lost. However, in some places, such as countries where Christians are persecuted, it may be a better strategy to have secret meetings in people’s homes, as was the practice of some 1st century churches. What are some values that may not be essentials but may be good strategies in the goal to be an ideal church?

• Preferences: Many things about a church are strictly personal preference. There may not be anything wrong with that. There are a lot of different people out there; maybe it takes a lot of different churches to reach them all. Some churches prefer a formal, quiet, reflective worship service. Some churches prefer an informal, noisy, interactive service. Which is right? Maybe in God’s eyes both are fine. Different kinds of churches reach different kinds of people. What are some preferences that might contribute to achieving the goal of being an ideal church?

My current context is Edmond, Oklahoma, a comfortable suburb of Oklahoma City, where I live and go to church. What does the ideal church look like in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 2013? What are the essentials? What are the best strategies? What are the most desirable personal preferences?

THE PERFECT CHURCH

Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect church. And if there was a perfect church, they wouldn’t let me attend, to prevent me from ruining things. However, every church should have the goal to be all that God wants it to be, and every Christian should want to be part of a church that has that goal. It is impossible to achieve any goal without first identifying the goal, making it as specific as possible, and envisioning it in our thoughts, our hearts, and our prayers. Every church leader and every church member should have that: a very specific vision of the ideal church to which we aspire to be.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

What does the ideal church look like? Would you help me answer that question? I would love to know your thoughts. What does an ideal church in an Oklahoma City suburb in 2013 look like?

We can probably easily identify 20 or 30 or 40 values that an ideal church would embody. Some are Scriptural mandates. Some are good strategic values considering our community and culture. Some are just personal preferences, but we all have them, so we might as well acknowledge them.

What are one or two such values that occur to you? Whether it is an essential or a strategy or a preference, what do you think the ideal church looks like?

Updated Information About our January 2013 Evangelism Trip to Costa Rica

Our evangelism trip to Costa Rica, set for January 21-28, 2013, is shaping up to be a very special event.

As in previous years:
* We will be hosting a three-day Preaching-Teaching Convention for hundreds of Costa Rican believers.
* We will be conducting a Leadership Luncheon and Seminar for about 50 CR pastors and pastor’s wives.
* We will be offering free health clinics to low-income rural citizens.
* Wee will be doing a construction project to assist an impoverished Costa Rican church.

Are you interested in joining our team? The time to decide is now! Please click here to find a detailed prospectus with all the information you need about our trip: CR4C-Jan2013-Prospectus2. Then contact us right away and let us know that you are in!

If you can’t come, will you partner with us by being one of our financial supporters? We need to raise several thousand dollars between now and January to do all of the projects we have planned on this ambitious evangelism trip. Will you help get our fundraising campaign off to a good start with a generous donation today?

You can make a donation online using your credit card or bank card by going to our: Contact/Donate page. Or mail your donation to the mailing address on that same page.

Thanks! Please keep us in your prayers.

First Call for January 2013 Evangelism Trip to Costa Rica.

Would you like to travel to Costa Rica with us in January for a week of adventure, evangelism, outreach projects, fellowship and worship?

This is Joshua One Ministries’ first call for CR4C January 2013, Costa Rica For Christ’s upcoming week-long adventure

If you have a possible interest in joining our team, please read the following information and respond to let us know you are interested.

If there is no way you can join us, please become one of our senders! Really! Please!

Last year we came up way short of the funds we needed. At the last minute, a couple of wonderful churches and a couple of very generous individuals wrote some large checks to make it possible for us to proceed. Even then, we had to make some cuts in the ways we were able to bless the churches we were visiting.

OK, I admit it. I need to do a much better job of fundraising this year! So here I am, starting right now, asking for your help. Will you help get us off to a good start by writing a generous check right now? We need your support in a big way to do everything I know God wants us to do while we are in Costa Rica in January.

DETAILS OF OUR UPCOMING TRIP

This will be the sixth consecutive year we have made this journey. We have taken groups ranging in size from 13 to 39 people in previous years.

• Dates: January 21-28, 2013. That’s Monday to Monday, exactly four months from now.

• Travel: We will fly from OKC through Dallas or Houston to San José, CR. If you are closer to another large city, we may be able to arrange for you to fly from there and connect with us in Dallas or Houston.

• Lodging: We will stay in an economical hotel in or near San José. Probably the Hotel Maragato (www.hotelmaragato.com), where we have stayed previously.

• Cost: We are still developing the budget. Cost was $1750 per person the last two years and will be close to that this year, depending on airfare and hotel costs.

• Passport: You must have a passport, so if you don’t have one, please get the paperwork started now.

WHAT WILL WE BE DOING?

We are visiting with Rodrigo Rojas, our senior evangelist in Costa Rica, about how we can make the most impact for the Kingdom this year. In previous years:

• We have done construction projects, such as a Classroom/Dormitory building for our Bible Institute in San José, a restroom facility for a church in San Miguel, and a Sunday School classroom addition for a church in the village of Santa Elena.

• We have offered free health clinics in impoverished rural villages, with Costa Rican doctors and U.S. nurses providing health care and our team members playing various supporting roles.

• Each year we conduct a Leadership Seminar for CR pastors and pastors’ wives.

The highlight of our visit is the three-day Preaching and Teaching Convention we most for believers from all over Costa Rica. This is one of the most ambitious and expensive parts of our adventure. We rent a meeting place large enough for several hundred people and we rent buses to go out to all the villages to bring our Christian brothers and sisters to the convention.

This is something they look forward to all year. We were heartbroken last year to have to cancel some of the buses because of lack of funds, which meant some believers who wanted to attend were unable to.

WHAT CAN YOU DO ON OUR TEAM?

If you love the Lord and you love others, we can definitely use you on our team. Even if you have no specials talents or are in less than perfect health, if you have love in your heart, we’d love to have you.

If you do have a special skill — translation, construction, medical, children, music, preaching, teaching — all the better. Each year we look forward to seeing who God calls to join our team and then we find ways to use each person in a unique way.

But the most important thing we bring to Costa Rica each year is our love. The No. 1 purpose of this trip each year never changes:

Loving fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters in CR. We want our fellow Christians in CR to know that we love them and are praying for them. They really look forward to our visit each year, and we really look forward to going! We go so that we and our CR brethren “may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Rom 1:12).

You can do that, can’t you?

HOW DO YOU JOIN OUR TEAM?

First, please send me an email: to terryhull@joshuaone.org , letting me know that you want to go or that you are interested. Or use our online Contact form.

Second, send a $100 nonrefundable deposit to hold your place. Soon we will need to pay deposits to hold our airline reservations. So we need to hear from you and we need your deposits. Additional payments will be due in late Oct, early Dec and early January.

Can can mail your deposit — or if you are sender, mail your donations — to:

Joshua One Ministries  *  P.O. Box 8464  *  Edmond, OK 73083

Or, you can make a donation online right now on our Contact page.

being disciples, making disciples