Show Horses or War Horses?

The headline says it loud and clear: Matt Chandler warns Church is no longer about discipleship but ‘being entertained’

As reported by Christian Post, Pastor Matt Chandler’s 12 May sermon challenged The Village Church’s congregation “to participate in the Body of Christ for the purposes of discipleship and community — not entertainment.”

You and I are so overstimulated, you and I are so overwhelmed with fast-paced, energized entertainment that we have developed a real idealized sense of life with a real low pain tolerance. The Church herself no longer is about discipleship, no longer is about being shaped, no longer is it about being formed. It’s about being entertained in the gathering.

Far too many people, Chandler warned, are interested in the more external elements of ministry — such as impressive light shows and worship bands — instead of actually growing the Kingdom of God.

Matt Chandler warns Church is no longer about discipleship but ‘being entertained’

Revelation? Not exactly. If you have been a Christian for a while, this should not surprise you at all. No, this is definitely not a new observation. We should just be thankful that someone is willing to stick his neck out to say it like it is.

That said, Chandler is not the first pastor to mention this and he most certainly will not be the last. As rightly noted by Leah MarieAnn Klett, the Christian Post reporter, “Pastors and church leaders have long warned of the dangers of the entertainment and amusement-driven church.” Consider these familiar statements from A.W. Tozer:

The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.

Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us.

I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church, the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the public service which now passes for worship among us.

A.W. Tozer

Indeed, the Lord, by His grace, will always send His messengers to warn His people so that these might then be awakened, aligned and assigned for Him. I am very certain that more than a few pastors, leaders, preacher and teachers have been issuing this same warning over and over again. However, since these are not big names the likes of Chandler, they will never be quoted or featured. (This is another consequence of the entertainment-celebrity-influenced-church but that is for another post, another day.)

After receiving the assignment of Archippus Awakening to awaken the saints to know and fulfil their God-given kingdom assignments, I was drawn to learn more about the name, Archippus. Since many names in the Bible have prophetic significance, I wondered if there might be a message contained in this rather obscure name. As I discovered that Archippus is about horses (greek: hippos), the Lord revealed the condition of His Church. When I wrote my first book*, Say To Archippus, I devoted an entire chapter to this, aptly titled, “Enough Horsing Around”. I hope you will read the whole book. But for now, allow me to share a relevant section here:

Show Horses or War Horses

There is a very famous horse show that is staged by the Spanish Riding School of Vienna featuring a breed of horses known as Lipizzaners. These horses are so well trained that they can perform each move and execute each jump with precision, finesse and poise. The most challenging, and the most impressive, are the airs above the ground exercises where the horses can strike poses with both or all legs in the air. It is no wonder then that thousands would flock to watch these talented horses.

So precious are these Lipizzaners that through more than a few wars, instructions were specifically given to ensure their safety and survival. On this point, it is interesting to note that although the principles taught are based on the same ones taught to calvary riders to prepare horses for warfare, these show horses were never deployed in war. It seems that they were worth more in a show than on the battlefield.

Could this be symbolic of the Church today?

We certainly know how to put on a good show week after week: the lights are just right, the band is technically competent, the worship leader looks cool, the speaker delivers an inspiring message, the congregation is stirred, and the service ends right on time! In terms of training, we have more material today than we can ever hope to cover in our lifetime. We are spoilt for choice as we feed on the best there is from the most experienced in virtually every field of ministry. From hearing God to knowing our identity in Christ; from inner healing to deliverance from demons; from spiritual disciplines to spiritual warfare; from the apostolic to the prophetic.

But the question must be asked, “Are we like the show horses of Vienna, so nice to watch and so entertaining? Or are we ready for battle?”

Chapter Four: Enough Horsing Around, Say To Archippus, pp45-46.

Since then, whenever I declare the message of Archippus Awakening, I will share this ‘parable’ of show horses. What is encouraging is that leaders have begun to realise that we have bought into the world’s narrative of entertainment and amusement. Most, if not all, confess a certain tiredness from having to “put up a show” week or week, month after month, year after year.

Although everyone means well, this is taking a toll and robbing us of the time and energy needed for deep and authentic discipling relationships. As I have said many times over: It is one thing to preach and teach about discipleship; it is totally another to really and truly disciple. More easily said than done. Why? Because discipleship requires time; and we just don’t have time. Discipleship also requires commitment, but most just prefer entertainment.

I am thankful that Pastor Matt Chandler has used his platform to warn the Church. I pray that more pastors, teachers and leaders will be willing to lovingly and graciously do the same. Even more, may it not remain just another good message from the pulpit with shares and likes on social media. I pray that church leadership will go one step further to honestly (and brutally) examine how they may have, consciously or unconsciously, propagated an entertainment church culture; and then take steps to realign with Jesus and the ways of His kingdom.

Finally, let us acknowledge that it is all too easy to point a finger at pastors and leaders. Please fight the urge and not yield to that temptation. Instead, we should reflect and honestly check ourselves if we have become consumer Christians expecting to be entertained by our leaders and ministry teams. If so, then we will be the ones who will complain the most and present the greatest resistance when kingdom changes are proposed and implemented. God forbid.

My prayer is that as these warnings are issued and heeded, Archippuses will be awakened to the real condition of their hearts and the condition of the Church, be willing to align with Jesus and all that He stands for and be ready to be assigned for the purposes of His kingdom.

“The horse is made ready for battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Proverbs 21:31 NIV

*To order SAY TO ARCHIPPUS and ALIGNMENT CHECK, email archippusawakening@gmail.com. Also available at CRU Media and Faithworks.

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Focus on the Aligning. Let God do the Assigning.

The title of this post bears repeating. So, here goes …

“Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning.”

Sounds straightforward enough, doesn’t it? And yet, it is way too easy to miss it altogether. Especially in today’s culture of busyness, the natural default is to rush out to do something. And if you are reasonably occupied, all’s good (even better if it’s with Christian stuff). It doesn’t matter if you know what you are doing or not. No one’s complaining because attendance is impressive, numbers are up and participation rates are high … it sure looks like revival! Yes? Well, not quite.

After five years of declaring the message of Archippus Awakening, I cannot tell you how many I have met who have been-there-done-that and yet somehow know that there is something more to the Christian life. These would have been regarded as ‘committed’ Christians – on fire! However, in our coffee sessions, the same questions and concerns seem to surface over and over again …  I am very involved, so why do I still experience this emptiness? After all the doing and serving, after all teachings, why do I still not know my kingdom assignment? Is this all there is to church? To Christianity?

As much as Archippus Awakening is about awakening the saints (a.k.a. Archippuses) to know and fulfil their God-given kingdom assignments (c.f. Colossians 4:17), the Lord clarified the strategic process early on through these three words: Awakened. Aligned. Assigned. He made it very clear that whilst awakening may take a moment, alignment is a process. And it is through the checking of alignment that assignments are discovered or received.

To those who may be struggling with similar questions or issues as those mentioned above, I only have this simple line to offer: yes, you guessed it … Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning.

Sadly, to many, it sounds way too simplistic or too passive. These think: I’ve been a Christian for so many years; I know quite a lot; I am already aligned. Well, good for you! However, if you are really rightly aligned with the King and His kingdom, why then are you still clueless about your kingdom assignment? It just doesn’t line up. In Archippian lingo, that’s misalignment.

Whilst I do not question the good intentions of believers, I have come to observe that more than a few are not aware of their own misalignments. Without realising it, the alignment is more with traditional practices, religious rituals, organisational agendas, churchy activities, worldly mindsets camouflaged in Christian-speak; than it is with Jesus and His kingdom. Hence, the need for an awakening first; then the proper checking of alignment that one may be rightly postured for kingdom assignments.

For this reason, I laboured to write Alignment Check as a practical hands-on volume to serve those who have been awakened with the desire to be aligned and to discover kingdom assignments. If you are serious about wanting to be rightly aligned with Jesus and His kingdom, prayerfully consider this kingdom resource**. But be warned: the Alignment Check points will challenge the status quo and provoke you to examine the very core of what you claim to believe.

This is also why Archippus Awakening organises and hosts our very own Awakening Events (AWEs). We’ve been doing this since 2015 and the response has always been very encouraging to the glory of God! As you will notice from the comments below, beyond just an awakening, a key takeaway is the importance of the Alignment Check:

“I have personally learnt that the alignment is more crucial and that if we are aligned, then whatever assignment will follow.” Jeann Woo, Living Waters Methodist Church

“Hence I know from AWE2018 I need to work on my own aligning and allow God to do the assigning. …From today onwards, I put down in my daily task this: “Review and Do my Alignment Check”.” Adrian Chan, International Baptist Church

“Now it has become clearer to us that as we desire to fulfil our God-given assignment, we need to regularly check our alignment with the Lord, His Word and the Holy Spirit.” Pastor Rey Sanico, New Life in Christ Fellowship, Philippines

“‘Focus on the Aligning, Let God do the Assigning!’ That put a name to the problem I had been facing! I didn’t realise that I had fallen into the common trap of feeling a false sense of fulfilment from being busy for God, doing many Christian activities, yet still feeling a sense of spiritual dryness inside. The crucial step I had bypassed was the Alignment.” Choo Li Min, All Saints Presbyterian Church

“In order to stay on track of my Kingdom assignment, I need to constantly review my alignment check. My key takeaway point: Focus on the aligning, let God do the assigning. To God be the Glory!” Mrs Dolly Chia, Agape Methodist Church

“When I joined this event I was low in awakening, not well aligned, and I was not totally assigned. But after I participated in this AWE, Holy Spirit has convicted me and changed my way of thinking and attitude completely.” Pastor Philip Yeluri, Hallelujah Ministries, India

“Personally, I was greatly blessed by the reminder of the need to be first aligned to and stay aligned with my Master, in order to know and stay faithful to His assignment for me.” Cyndrill Hon, Good News Baptist Church

Register for AWE2019: tinyurl.com/awe2019july

At this 3-day-2-night weekend*, you will meet Archippuses who assemble from different local communities with one common desire to be awakened, aligned and assigned. There will be worship, teaching, prayer, fellowship, food and fun, as well as great opportunities for kingdom connections and partnerships. But most importantly, the various aspects of the Alignment Check will be presented in detail, allowing participants time to discuss and process the contents with like-minded kingdom saints. This overview and introduction will help you kickstart the Alignment Check on your own (or with others) when you return from the weekend.

In case my rambling has distracted you from the main point, here it is again:

“Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning.”

I don’t how else to say it, or to make it sound more profound. If your desire is to know and fulfil your kingdom assignment, make the Alignment Check your priority today. If you don’t know how to go about checking your alignment, give your pastors, leaders and teachers no rest until they show you. I am sure they’d be more than delighted and willing. To be fair, the issue is often not with the leaders but with the expectation of the believers. Truth be told, it is much easier to sign up for activities than it is to seek the Lord for assignments. Or we think that everything can be solved with yet another seminar or conference.

Dear Archippus, it is not more teaching you need. With all that you already know, focus on the aligning and leave God to do the assigning. The more aligned you are with the person, purposes and prophetic move of Jesus and His kingdom, the clearer you will see how you fit in, where you ought to be and what has been prepared for you to do.

Once more, for good measure:

Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning.

*Archippus Awakening’s next 3D2N Awakening Event, AWE2019, will be held over the weekend of 26-28 July 2019 at Swiss-Belhotel Harbourbay Batam. More details: archippusawakening.org/awe2019 Register now: tinyurl.com/awe2019july

**To order SAY TO ARCHIPPUS and ALIGNMENT CHECK, email archippusawakening@gmail.com. Also available at CRU Media and Faithworks.

Never Say Never

Each time I speak at a church for the very first time, I make it a point to share a photo of my family, affectionately referred to as “The Lim Tribe”. Especially if it is a large screen, our already larger-than-normal family appears that much larger and will immediately draw oohs, aahs and wows from the crowd. It works really well as an ice-breaker as it distracts everyone and gives me time to warm up and get used to the new location and congregation – haha!

Since my wife is not always with me at speaking engagements, I will then proceed to identify and introduce Serene. To keep it fun and light, I share four things that Serene said she never ever wanted to be:

  1. Never be a Christian
  2. Never get married
  3. Never have children
  4. Never stay at home

Well, we now know how that all turned out. Today, Serene loves and serves Jesus, is married to yours truly, is a mother of seven children, and also a stay-at-home homeschool mother.

Yup. Never say never!

More recently, Serene felt it would be good to write a series about each of these nevers to share on her website, Building Up Moms. I am so glad she did! More than just details about how these nevers became un-nevered, it is a testimony of how her entire life was impacted by God; and continues to be so.

I hope you will take some time to read about Serene’s 4 Nevers. In her casual and candid style, Serene shares openly and authentically with the hope that you will be likewise encouraged to acknowledge and trust in a great and faithful God.

Here are some snippets from each post to entice you:

No, there was no lightning and thunder à la Paul’s road to Damascus experience. But a very firm conviction that THIS IS THE TRUTH.

Never be a Christian

So I often wonder how did we end up together and have so many things to talk about? But talk we sure did. And we are still talking – thanks be to God!

Never Get Married

God did not just change my mind, but He changed my heart when He challenged me to walk my faith talk. Do I mean what I say when I say that I trust Him or not?

Never Have Children

It has been a humbling yet enriching and rewarding journey. It is indeed a privilege and honour to be a stay-at-home-mother, a role that I had previously pooh-poohed at. A role not to be taken lightly.

Never Be a Stay-At-Home Mother aka Housewife

Whenever we look back at these 4 nevers, our conclusion is that God has a great sense of humour. After all these years, it is hard to imagine how our lives would have been had God not intervened or if Serene had responded differently. All we know is that we have both learnt and grown so much.

Personal preferences, we all have. But to choose to let God take the lead is definitely the best way to go … even if it means letting Him un-never your nevers.