Monday, February 4, 2013

A New Trend Developing Among Churches In America

A Look at Our Unique Personality and DNA

You know our story.  I never intended on planting a church in Chicago!  We did not move to Chicago in 1999 to plant a church but, even though an ordained Church of God minister, we were brought here to serve as senior associate pastor for one of the largest and most historic Assemblies of God in America.  However, and nevertheless, God had something vastly different in mind and, given His great wisdom, failed to clue me in on what He was doing – thank God!

I am abundantly grateful for EVERY Church that is preaching Christ.  I devote no time, whatsoever, at fault-finding another’s doctrine, etc., if they are leading people to Christ and stand alongside us in the absolute essentials of Christian faith.  The times are far too critical, in my opinion, to hinder another’s influence in reaching people for Christ and will save critical studies on issues such as doctrine for the classrooms and discipleship classes.

Having said that, I also love to observe a church’s personality and see what it is that they are offering or how they are presenting Christ.  Some churches are Hollywood-savvy and are able to hang with anyone when it comes to media, technology and the like.  It is absolutely amazing what can be produced, not on Hollywood sets, but on church platforms!  Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas has a fine arts budget of more than a million dollars a year and their ministry is as cutting edge, penetrating and powerful as you will find anywhere in the world!

Some churches are driven by the popularity of their pastor who may be known city-wide or globally.  So many churches have been given a global stage to present Christ and are reaching multitudes who (in what I believe are the closing seconds of time) will never darken the doors of a church.

Other churches have multiple sites and it is not unusual for a pastor to preach at his church in Georgia Sunday morning and at his California or New York church on Sunday nights!

If there is any trend that I am observing, it is one that may very well be being initiated by Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, here in Chicago, without knowing that his actions will create a much more determined focus on God’s Word and raising up capable disciples of Christ.  Pastor Hybels may very well be reshaping the countenance of the church in America, again, away from the seeker-sensitive model towards one devoted to being people of the Word.

It wasn’t too long ago that Pastor Hybels, the initiator of the seeker-sensitive approach to church, said that they had been ‘doing it wrong’ for thirty years.  The study he initiated stated that they were quite strong on attracting people but weak on getting them trained and discipled, able to stand and be fruit-bearing, productive believers.  Consequently, the huge tide of a consumer-driven-kind-of-approach to church ensued, whereby the church offering the best coffee or media and being the best at touching the seekers’ felt needs, held the greatest likelihood to also morph into a mega-church. 
Because of that concept and strategy, mega-churches have been popping up all over the country and the world, some changing nations and multiplied millions of lives.  However, it is my conviction that that trend is changing as I observe some signals being sent out by some of the largest, main-line, non-Pentecostal churches in America.

Just recently, I have witnessed some of these mega-churches which are not Pentecostal, finding the relevance and the Promise of Pentecostal doctrine and Truth laid down long ago by their forebears and are asking ‘why not now?’

I have enjoyed listening to some of these Pastors preach messages or begin to teach their staff the validity and the importance of Pentecostal doctrine and Truth that they, at one time, disallowed as being extinct or ‘taboo’ in a cultured or educated society. 

Yay!  For me, I already knew that!  Jude said so!  Thus, the reason for this article!  We (LIFE Church) has fought to be both relevant and socially connected, etc. and thoroughly Pentecostal at the same time.  We have struggled to create an atmosphere where there is a free, yet balanced and monitored, expressions of the Gifts of the Spirit and enjoy real Pentecostal encounters every week whether it is in the ecstasy of anointed praise and worship or in the sound, Word-centered prophetic words that illuminate seekers and the saints. 

I am grateful we have ‘dressed it up’ but did not abandon the ethos and dna of who we are.  In the days ahead, you will observe people searching for places where they can touch God and be touched deeply by God and they will begin to run and tell others that ‘this is where you can find fresh bread!’

There is, without question, a spiritual vacuum in America, similar to the one created following the Japan’s surrender ending World War II.  The Japanese lost their belief system in their national identity, emperor worship and the like and viewed our American god to be technology, commerce, etc.  Instead of filling that void with the truth of the Gospel as General MacArthur requested, the void was left unattended and Japan adopted what they believed to be our belief system and they have excelled in mimicking and, in some cases, surpassing us (Toyota just outdistanced GM in auto sales for the very first time, ever). 

America has a similar spiritual vacuum going on, maybe not to the same extent as the one in Japan I just described, but it is a spiritual vacuum nonetheless.  The Bible calls it a ‘plenteous harvest’ but today, it’s a spiritual vacuum that must be filled as multiplied millions of Americans search to fill that void with something substantive or even temporarily.  This is where the Church can make a profound impact if we are alert and aware and posture ourselves properly.

We planted LIFE Church of Chicagoland in 2000 by accident.  I had not planned on doing this, but, obviously, God did.  The very day we purchased our current facility, an historic Christian Reformed Church[1], our closest Pentecostal sister Church (Stone Church Assembly of God, one block away) was meeting and sold their facility and moved much further south into the suburbs.  Today that historic facility is home to a Jordanian Orthodox congregation.

Why did God plant LIFE Church?  For me, its obvious but I also realize I need to get the word out and let others know why God did this unexpected thing with us so many years ago.

First, LIFE Church is a part of a global movement true to its Pentecostal and Holiness roots and enjoying tremendous and steady growth around the world, the Church of God headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee.  The Church of God started in 1886 and continues to embrace its Pentecostal distinctiveness.  Rather than slipping under the waves of commercial-driven pressure to completely adapt to the seekers to such an extent that a Church no longer resembles its New Testament, First Century parents, the Church of God believes its dna is something the Holy Spirit has preserved especially pertinent to these last of the Last Days.  LIFE Church is grateful to be a part of this awesome network.

In addition to partnering with one of the two largest Pentecostal movements in the world, the Church of God provides a safe and nurturing context for ministry while so many divergent winds of doctrine, etc. are blowing.  While we enjoy complete local expression, I also know that we have a safe and nurturing connectedness that stands alongside us, regularly, to help and give aid as needed.  Should we ever dysfunction and jeopardize what God has planted, this wise, aged, tested network and brotherhood insures the ongoing success of this local congregation, preserving us in troubling times.

Third, we have come to realize and embrace the fact that we are planted in this local region as a Pentecostal / Charismatic hospital, of sorts, employing our faith, the Holy Spirit’s relevant Gifts, a heightened emphasis on Agape Love, kindred hearted connectedness and nurture to be a last day Church that continues to believe in, preach and enjoy signs, wonders and miracles as God heals, saves, delivers and makes whole many who, in other church settings, might be directed to be counseled or join a small group.  Counseling is wonderful and small groups are essential, but it will be the unmitigated Power of the Holy Spirit Who will break the bonds of sin, sickness, possession, oppression and the like and set people truly free.

You will find, at LIFE Church, that we present Jehovah God as One Who ‘IS’ rather than God Who ‘was’ and some day ‘will be.’  In other words, He IS, past, present and future all that He has Promised to be and when you have a need that can’t be resolved with counseling and small group support, God’s Word, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, will be all you need at that very moment.

We are filling a spiritual vacuum in this region and working hard to let everyone know that you are invited, welcome at LIFE Church where God ‘IS.’  We are grateful for and have great fellowship with all of the other churches in our area and want to see God continue to bless them and use them.  They have their own unique identity and calling. 

Likewise, LIFE Church is called to be 100% Pentecostal believing that in these days and times, it will be the glorious Presence of God in our corporate worship and the Power of the Holy Spirit upon the preached Word of God that will draw multitudes to where there are wells of Living Water where they will find life-changing healing, deliverance and fulfillment. 

We have not been disinterested in public perception and how we are viewed by the public and have, therefore, adapted the employment of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit so newcomers to Pentecost are not blown away or overcome by anything except God’s healing Presence.  He likes being presented in dignity, order and excellence.  And, since Chicago has such a tremendous Catholic population, we even employ some worship components reminiscent of their heritage.

I assure you that at LIFE Church, you will not encounter a god being presented as one time He was able or willing, but not now.  You will not simply be met with words of encouragement that says God knows and understands, but little else offered.  You will find hope for each, every, any situation and God Who is, right now, the Answer to your every need.

Pastor Freddie Steel – - - 02-03-13

[1] The NIV Bible was birthed here.  It was also the focus of global news when being sought for purchase to be a Muslim Mosque.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Survey: Fewer Americans Believe Homosexuality Is a Sin; Nation's View 'Evolving' With Obama's?

Survey: Fewer Americans Believe Homosexuality Is a Sin; Nation's View 'Evolving' With Obama's? 
This article embodies the fear and concern held earlier, before the last two elections, as to the profound effect the President's agendas and convictions would have in influencing the public opinion and convictions of our Nation - either closer to or away from God and the Bible.

Five Stages of Leadership – Humiliation (Part 2)

Five Stages of Leadership – Humiliation (Part 2)

Five Stages of Leadership – Hubris (Part 1)

Five Stages of Leadership – Hubris (Part 1)

Protecting The Pastors Kill Zone

How to Cover Pastors and Senior Leaders for the Sake of the King
 - Pastor Freddie Steel -

Most people are aware of the high security, strategic protection that surrounds our President by his Secret Service that is called the 'kill zone.'  They calculate and anticipate the many angles from which any attack could be launched and they 'cover' him from those threats.

Pastors also have a 'kill zone' but it isn't lethal.  It is the atmosphere surrounding all of the first level leaders and has to be 'covered' and protected to shield him from attacks of strife, gossip, complaining, fault-finding, subversion and sabotage.


As it is with the Secret Service agents surrounding the President, the closest, first-level leaders surrounding a pastor must also be selfless.  In other words, they have already laid aside personal comfort and safety in order to ensure the President's safety and the success of the Nation whose interests they are called to advance.

It is interesting to consider that these selfless servants are present at the most historic moments of modern times and history yet they are invisible and no one will probably ever know their names or the part they played.  It works the same for the Pastors' (let's call them) Agents.  I can say it from experience.

When you are serving a Pastor as an 'Agent' (first level staff), it is all about making sure the Pastor is successful and looks as good as possible in everyone's light.  If there are shortcomings, those are covered rather than highlighted (not ignored, they simply aren't highlighted except to him/her personally).  What actually happens, from my experience, is a senior pastor will intentionally put people around him who have strengths in the areas where he/she is weak to shore up those areas and make them powerful rather than liabilities.  It is not that a pastors wishes to ignore or cover up their sides or areas that are weak, but they want to have them 'covered' by faithful 'agents' who will cause those areas to function properly and prosper.


In that role (covering), the 'agent' is oftentimes invisible and has to be happy about being so.  I think so often of the absolutely amazing Gaither pianist, Anthony Burger.  I remember Anthony from years way, way back when I was in radio and he came to play for the Kingsmen.  In his late career, he became one of the most profound piano soloists in the Christian music genre but he is most well-know for playing 'second fiddle' as accompanist to the highly popular Gaither Music Videos.  In these, Anthony rarely had his talents highlighted as they 'deserved' but used his tremendous talent to make others shine.

You see, Anthony knew that in that role as accompanist, though he was stellar in his own right, it was not the time for him to shine but to be the 'wind beneath their wings.'  And, oh what a 'wind' he was.  He died unexpectedly after playing the last note of a song about seeing Christ soon on-board a Gospel music cruise ship.

In short, the 'agents' surrounding senior pastors and leaders are trusted with a side of life and ministry that not everyone gets to see.  They see the grunt work and all of the labor that goes into doing and providing ministry.  If compensated, the rewards go far beyond the monetary to include the joy of seeing lives touched and affected for eternity.  They may not get their ego stroked, but accomplished 'agents' do not demand or need that but welcome those nice thoughtful gestures when they come.  They simply serve, serve faithfully as unto the Lord remembering Christ keeps the best of records.


I remember well the pleasure of serving one senior level minister who was high energy.  Each morning he would rush in to conduct a live radio program out of his office and would oftentimes get there with just seconds to spare.  It didn't take me long to see the obvious:  help the man out!

I started unlocking the door to the studio, turning everything on, even the mic (turned down though), and had a fresh cup of coffee waiting.  I really don't remember if he ever went out of his way to make a big deal of what I did, but he didn't need to.  My reward was in knowing he was being helped and, consequently, as well, the Kingdom was being helped.  I really didn't want or need kudos.  I think I caught a 'high' on helping.  That was my reward.

I remember serving another senior-level minister who was also high energy and just never seemed to have time to shine his shoes.  It bothered me that on special occasions, whether it was Sundays, funerals, etc., his shoes just needed help.  I whispered to his wife that I wanted to spit shine them occasionally for him and asked her to quietly put them in a bag and bring them to me when he had a big event or they needed touched up.  I made her promise to never let him know that this was being done.

I really enjoy spit-shining.  I think I picked it up from my late Uncle Clarence, a Marine.  In any case, it was a thrill to my heart to observe this successful pastor in moments of importance or busyness, walk in looking sharp with shoes shining like the sun.  For me, that's covering the pastor in the 'kill zone' making it safe, affirming, lighthearted, positive and as worry-free as possible.


When is it 'my' time?  When you're dead.  I don't mean literally, physically dead, but when your fight for self-promotion, self-fulfillment, self-preservation, self-acclaim are all dead.  God simply doesn't need someone serving in support roles for another's vision and ministry who is ambitious:  they need to be dead.

I have heard it said that in the mind of people like the Secret Service or soldiers during war time, they are told to consider themselves already 'dead' so they can be as effective as possible, not worrying about how they can avoid being shot.

We pray and ask God to 'use me' and then when we feel like we are being used, we complain.  Serving in the 'kill zone' takes a special person who, for the love of the Gospel and the Lord, lay down their lives and take the hits as they come and stay right at it, unmoved, sheltering, covering and sustaining the man/woman of God and the vision to advance God's Kingdom.

You can't run off these committed, 'dead' servants.  You can't discourage them, worry them, offend them because they are devoted and dead.  They offer no worry to the lead man/woman about their loyalty and whether they will push their own agendas, ideas or opinions over the pastor's.  They never worry the pastor about confidentiality or gossip but are totally sold out to honest and transparent dialog with the lead man/woman.  They say what needs to be said when it needs to be said and can handle what needs to be said when it needs to be said.

It is nearly impossible to offend these 'agents' because they have been conditioned to understand that 'its not about me.'

I well remember an occasion where I was asked by a church family to perform a pastoral duty for them, even though I was an associate pastor.  I told them I would be glad to and to share their desire with the pastor.  Boy, oh boy, did I ever light a fuse!  It was just a day or two later I met with the pastor who was absolutely livid.  I listened as he let off the steam and was more concerned that I had caused him grief as opposed to being offended at this stern rebuke.  My heart was heavy that I had caused him concern.

After he unloaded I assured the pastor that I would rectify the situation and the family would never, ever detect any hint of it being an issue with us and I would fully direct their devotion to the senior pastor and channel their affection for me 100% toward the senior pastor.  I knew I needed to disqualify myself without making it self-deprecation in order to preserve the sacredness of the tie and bond between pastor and sheep.  It worked.


To be successful as a covering for a senior leader, one should follow these.

First, it is necessary to remember 'it's not about me.'  I may not be the quarterback and I might even spend a lot of time on the bench, but it's not about me - it's about my team winning - period.  My moment 'in the sun' may never come, but that's ok.  I love my team and want it to win.

If I don't agree with how I am being handled or 'mishandled' I trust the wisdom of the coach and God.  I will direct all frustration at being better and doing better.

Second, there is an infectious joy that comes with covering one another's shortcomings and helping them to look the very best they can to the rest of the team and everyone else.  Love does cover a multitude of sin and it is God's goodness that leads us to repentance.

When a team infuses difficulties with the positive, it is like a cook breeze or breath of fresh air.  It engenders hope and turns the fatigue into a new zeal to fight and press on.

Third, remember that familiarity breeds contempt.  It is a joy to get close to one another but whenever we begin to treat one another common but letting down on high standards of communication, responsibility, etc. we have become a weak link in the chain and introduced something that can destroy morale and unity.

Learn to know and love one another but also remember the times for wearing the appropriate hat, such as the friend hat, the servant hat, the team member hat, etc.

Fourth, excuses are created when someone is no longer interested in collaborating, being mutually-submissive, listening and hearing and willing to hear opposing views.  The collaborative atmosphere is where the miraculous is created.  The enemy loves to shut that down and it takes strong individuals to be able to handle the truth in love whether it is to speak it or receive it.

Whether the temptation to make an excuse is for the lack of one's performance or attitude, the one reply that is always appropriate is to listen actively to garner any and all truth concerning the matter.  We listen in order to understand, not to construct a defense.  The worst insult is to be neglected and to fail to actively listen to another, whether you cut them off or disagree without considering their view is a terrible insult and not Christian.  Want to be heard?  Make sure others receive the same from you.


I trust this help.  In this 'kill zone' you may get shot at.  You may take some blows for the lead man/woman.  In the end, it really isn't about you or the leader but about the King and the assignment He has dispensed to frail, weak humans.  The obstacles are already there.  The enemy determines to fight.  But when the 'kill zone' gets turned into a 'Skill Zone' God's work expands, souls are saved, and God says that since you were faithful with this, I will trust you with more.

The way the body operates means that when the standard remains high and we become skillful in our roles and responsibilities as servants, our model and example gets past onto others and we create a spiritual counter-culture of light, love, unity, agreement, etc. that generates a momentum and when rolling forward will push each and every obstacle out of the way.  Take these qualities away and the energies of talent, gifts and the anointing are all wasted on pulling a load out of a pit.  I never want to be a part of that.