The Christian Roots of America

It is sometimes refreshing to look back in Christian history to be reminded once again of those events upon which we stand. Where we are today did not occur in a vacuum or in isolation from the past. In a very real sense, the past shapes who we are in the present and reminds us of where we have been. I spent some time yesterday and this morning doing such historical reflection about the Anabaptists of the 16th century. 

Not too long after Luther and Zwingli’s Reformation, a small group of Christian leaders in Switzerland began to question the idea of infant baptism, antinomianism that seeped into Christianity, and the church’s connection to the state. The utterly swift response from the Reformers who had become known as “evangelicals” was nothing short of unchristian and evil. 

The utterly swift response from the Reformers who had become known as “evangelicals” was nothing short of unchristian and evil.  Click To Tweet

In one stunning example of how these evangelicals had used violence against people who did not believe as they, Michael Sattler, a former monk turned Swiss Brethren, was burned at the stake on May 21, 1527 and, eight days later, his wife was drowned in a mockery execution mimicking baptism. 

Anneken de Vlaster, an Anabaptist woman, is thrown into the fire in 1571, as pictured in Herald Press’s Martyrs Mirror

Their crimes: 1) they held to believer’s only baptism; 2) they observed the Lord’s supper; 3) they rejected self-indulgence; 4) they read and taught Scripture; 5) they did not swear an oath to civil governments; 6) they did not bear arms or use coercion; 7) they stayed on God’s mission. 

Their crimes: 1) they held to believer’s only baptism; 2) they observed the Lord’s supper; 3) they rejected self-indulgence; 4) they read and taught Scripture; 5) they did not swear an oath to civil governments; 6) they did not bear arms or use… Click To Tweet

For these and other so called crimes, they were considered seditionists.

Contrastingly, one historian recognized the beauty and simplicity of the Anabaptists which birthed renewal in the church. It is a timeless reminder of an unchanging truth. He wrote:

“There is that in the Christian gospel which stirs the consciences of men to be ill content with anything short of full conformity with the ethical standards set forth in the teachings of Jesus and which awakens the hope and the faith that, seemingly impossible of attainment though they are, progress towards them can be made and that they must be sought in communities of those who have committed themselves fully to the Christian idea.” (Latourette, 1953: 786).

Interestingly enough, it is from these 16th century Anabaptist beginnings that a hundred years later the Pilgrims and Puritans would set sail from England for America. In their search for a holy commonwealth based on Scripture and free from the Church of England, they would eventually be challenged by Baptists and Quakers who were more aligned with the original Anabaptist. They, too, would endure persecution, albeit not as severe as their 16th century ancestors. But, the Anabaptist passion to be free from state control so that they might carry on God’s mission clearly gave them a united purpose.

George Whitfield preaching to a crowd

I’d venture to say that this is the root of American Christianity. It was a Christianity in search of freedom to express itself without being controlled, even influenced, by a state church or by the state. It was inspired by those 16th century Anabaptists who would ultimately influence George Whitfield, and John and Charles Wesley in the Great Awakening of the 18th century.

Reflecting on the Anabaptist impact, another historian wrote,

“The Anabaptist movement that spawned the Brethren and Mennonite churches brought warmth into the religious environment of Europe, and flowed into the even more important evangelical revival that affected the entire Western church during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Pietism on the continent and the evangelical movements in Britain and America led to a revitalization of Christianity from which a passion for missions arose. Pietists and their Moravian successors fanned out all over the world, and Christians in Britain and America were moved to action . . . .” (Tucker, 1983: 24).

Granted, it was not perfect. There were mistakes and injustices along the way. But the Anabaptist ignited a passion for an unrelenting pursuit to imitate Jesus that seemed absent in other forms of Christianity that would eventually conflate with politics. Nevertheless, how America evolved from there to where we are today is nothing less than a tangled web of theological gymnastics, ecclesial compromise, mission blindness, and religious nationalism.

But the Anabaptist ignited a passion for an unrelenting pursuit to imitate Jesus that seemed absent in other forms of Christianity that would eventually conflate with politics. Click To Tweet

Rediscover the evangelical identity in When Evangelicals Sneeze: Curing the American Church from the Plague of Identity Loss

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The Lesser of Two Evils and God’s Sovereignty

I believe in God’s sovereignty, not in a fatalistic way or a double predestination one. Rather, God superintends His creation in such a manner to ensure that His will is completed. The Book of Revelation gives us a picture of the completion of that will:

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9)

This beautiful mosaic of God’s tapestry of creatures portrays a cacophony of people united together in worship of Him. The completion of God’s will also involves His people who have been predestined and blessed to join with Him to see all things united in Christ (Eph 1:10). At the same time, God sovereignly works in other ways to guarantee the outcome He foretold through the apostle John.

What we believe about God will determine how we live your lives. As Millard Erickson put it in Christian Theology, “One’s view of God might even be thought of as supplying the whole framework within which one’s theology is constructed and life is lived. It lends a particular coloration to one’s style of ministry and philosophy of life” (1984:263). We clearly see this idea lived out in the apostle Paul in his letters to the Ephesians and Timothy.

Attributes of God in Missiological Theism (Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement, pp. 80-81)

One of the ways that God works to complete His will is through the establishment of governments. Paul, writing in the context of the Roman Empire, but not quite yet under the subjugation of a crazed Emperor Nero, says that indeed God does institute authorities for the good of Christians as well as to maintain order in society (Rom 13:1-7). A few years before he wrote to the churches in Rome, Paul instructed Timothy to teach the churches in Ephesus to pray for political leaders in order to ensure a peaceful life with the freedom to share the gospel since God, “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4).

Paul believed in God’s sovereignty over governments for the sole purpose of fulfilling God’s will. However, this did not leave the Christian with an excuse to be passive. Absolutely not! Paul was crystal clear in his instructions for the churches in Ephesus:

  1. You are to proclaim the gospel (1 Tim 1:12-2:7; 3:14-16).
  2. You are to correct false teaching (1 Tim 1:3-7; 4:1-5).
  3. You are to stand in the gap for the marginalized (1 Tim 2:8-15; 5:1-16).

Paul was not waiting for the government to take action. He took action because he was fully convinced that Christians had a role to play in joining with God on His mission. He didn’t call for protests against the Roman government. He didn’t call the church to take to the streets to demand justice. Instead, he called followers of Christ to enact Kingdom justice manifested in the proclamation of the gospel, the correction of false teaching, and the action against social injustice.

Headlines after the first 2020 Presidential Debate tell all: “Embarrassing,” “Debate Debacle,” “Amazing Disgrace,” “Chaos in Cleveland.” If the debate revealed anything, it revealed that Americans have a choice between the lesser of two evils. With what appeared to be an affirmation of Antifa by Biden and the Proud Boys by Trump, the country will continue to face uncertain times as division becomes increasingly acute. However, for the Christian, the debate provides an opportunity to reflect on what we truly believe about God’s sovereignty.

So, after the first 2020 Presidential Debate, I conclude with the following questions: If I genuinely believe that God sovereignly establishes a government as Paul seems to infer in Rom 13:1, is it not arrogant for me to think that my vote will somehow sway God’s sovereignty? Or does my vote somehow make me a participant in God’s sovereign establishment of the government? If the latter is true, then what about those Christians who will vote for the other candidate and who also believe in God’s sovereignty? If the former is true, would this not drive me to pray more fervently (1 Tim 2:1-3) and to continue on God’s mission (Eph 1:10) as Paul directs the churches in Ephesus to do?

How I answer these questions might reveal what I believe about God.

Learn more about how evangelicals can respond to the lesser of two evils in When Evangelicals Sneeze.

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Ep 61: QAnon and Conspiracies

Next on the Ephesiology Podcast, Andrew and Michael are talking with John W. Morehead about QAnon. The right-wing conspiracy theorist(s) has found his way into the mainstream and sadly many evangelicals are listening. John, Andrew, and Michael discuss why evangelicals are susceptible to conspiracy theories and how we might be able to constructively engage those who believe these theories.

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Read John W. Morehead’s foreword about QAnon in When Evangelicals Sneeze

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Ep 60: The Christian and Politics

It was only four years ago when many declared the election in 2016 to be the most important in our lifetime. Well, here we are in 2020 and undoubtedly this is the most important election in our lifetime. Join Andrew and Michael with special guest Nate Gass for an exhilarating conversation about how Christians should engage in politics. They’ll even look at Revelation 13 and the warning for Christians aligning with a political ideology.

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No More Weeping

Yesterday was national daughter’s day. I’m not sure when that national day came into being, but we have a daughter who merits being recognized for at least one day out of a year if not every day. Michaela and I were having another one of our great theological conversations. They are getting increasingly rare, not due to a lack of desire, but rather to her life work as a social worker and a graduate student. Nevertheless, as I was concluding chapter 10 of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement she had just begun to attend a Bible study on the book of Revelation. As she shared with me that evening about her perspective of Rev 21:4, her words seemed to ring true: “Daddy, I believe the tears that God will wipe away are due to the fact that we will recognize all the people we did not share Christ with and realize that they will be eternally separated from us and God.” 

An absolutely tragic thought. Can you imagine a world without those loved ones—family, friends, even neighbors and colleagues—knowing that we had a sacred duty to share the gospel with them and did not? 

We are getting closer to those streets of gold John wrote about (Rev 21:21) as the church continues on her mission. Unfortunately, in the United States, people are increasingly disillusioned by Christianity and the church as they move further and further away from the God who desires nothing more than to have a relationship with them. Many are predicting an untold number of churches closing this year and the need to equip more than 2,000 people every year to start new churches that will defend the faith, care for the marginalized and exploited, and declare the glory of God so more and more people will worship Him (Rev 2:1-7).

If the challenge in the United State were not overwhelming, around the world, as near as we can tell, two-thirds of the global population does not know Christ and 2.1 billion people are completely outside the reach of the gospel—a number that is increasing daily as the population continues to swell. Additionally, nearly 6 million people, representing 269 distinct ethnic groups living in their homelands, have never been contacted by a missionary. We estimate that it will take another 311 missionary units to risk all for the gospel to engage these people with the love of Christ. These people have stories of searching for a God they do not know. The Holy Spirit is at work among them, yet they do not see Him. Now the church must fulfill her responsibility to make God’s story known.

A movement of God is happening in the world today. He will accomplish his mission, as John prophesied (Rev 10:11). The question for us is this: Will we demonstrate our love for Christ by joining God in His mission to see every tribe, nation, language, and people worship Him?

Adapted from Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement

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Fighting for Freedom of Religion?

If you have been following the news regarding Grace Community Church and its pastor John MacArthur’s battle in the courts of California, you might be thinking this is one of those complex issues confronting Christian churches across the country. 

The claim that California is prohibiting the freedom to worship is simply not true. As of September 13, the LA County Public Health Department states in their Health Officer Order, “You may attend in-person faith-based services, including weddings and funerals, if they are held outside and social distancing and infection control requirements in the County’s Protocol for Places of Worship are posted and followed.”

“There is nothing inherently wrong with MacArthur and others taking issue with a governor’s executive order.”

While the State is prohibiting gathering together en masse, whether large church gatherings, movie theaters, or sporting events, it does so in the interest of public health and slowing the spread of the Novel Coronavirus. In spite of prohibiting cultural gatherings, Californians, as do all Americans, still have the freedom to worship, just as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 

The real issue here, it seems, is how one defines worship and church. MacArthur and others clearly define it as necessitating a preacher and building. However, I’m not so certain that was in the minds of the New Testament authors. Nevertheless, there are cultural particularities that allow for an understanding of a church to focus on buildings and pastors in spite of the fact that the first archeological evidence for a church building dates to 241AD. For nearly 200 years, it appears that the church not only met in smaller groups in homes, but grew from 120 disciples to more than 3 million while enduring empire-wide persecution and at least two plagues!

So, what might motivate MacArthur and others to make such claims about the government? I have no doubt that they have good intentions but wonder if they are misinformed or misguided. It is also altogether possible that the issue is simply cultural and theological, not necessarily one of right or wrong.

Here are four possible theological reasons for why churches and pastors take action against public health concerns:

  1. Theological – the belief that the church needs a building. Just as the Jewish Temple was a place for Jews to worship en masse, there is a similar belief among Christians that “church” is a “temple” where many gather. While there were large gatherings in the first century, Christians mostly gathered in homes to worship, pray, fellowship, and to hear the Scriptures as they continued to stay on God’s mission (Acts 2:42-47).
  2. Theological – the belief that the church will be persecuted by governments. This is an allusion to Revelation 13 where there is a clear persecution of Christians by political authorities. In some forms of the doctrine of the end times, Christians look at Revelation as being fulfilled in our day. That being the case, they see justification for perceived persecution as they interpret the Bible. While Revelation 13 accounts for the political authorities (beast with ten horns and seven heads, Rev 13:1) persecuting the church (saints), these events had probably already taken place although they might also be prophetic in as much as John is preparing the seven churches of Asia Minor for the end times. The picture that is portrayed in Revelation, however, is that all the saints are suffering this persecution, not one or a small group of churches.
  3. Theological – the belief that a pastor is the primary preacher of the word and therefore must have an audience. This notion is foreign to the New Testament as there were not people called pastors. Pastor is the English translation of a Latin word (pastor), which is itself a translation of the Greek word for shepherd (poimēn). It is only used once in the New Testament in its noun form in relationship to a role in the church (Eph 4:11) and 11 times in its verb form, and refers mostly to the function of a group of leaders who were to care for Christians as shepherds cared for a flock of sheep (1 Peter 5:2). There were actually many different roles these leaders played in the New Testament, not simply that of a shepherd (e.g. overseer, elder, deacon, apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher). Nevertheless, there are those who believe that some of these roles no longer exist and have been superseded by the position of a pastor whose primary role is preaching on Sunday mornings.
  4. Theological – the belief that forsaking the gathering together is forbidden in Scripture. An appeal to Hebrew 10:25 is often used as a command for the public gathering in buildings for the sake of encouragement. While true, the author of Hebrews wrote to those who would have been gathering together in house churches. Such types of small gatherings are not restricted by most COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

The motivation for gathering together as a church might also have human qualities:

  1. Financial – church buildings often have significant mortgages as well as maintenance and upkeep needs that requires people to give financially to ensure that the buildings are properly maintained. They would argue that keeping a church building open is a stewardship issue. People are less likely to give to a church if they do not benefit from the use of the facility. COVID-19 has exposed how reliant churches are for the Sunday gathering in order to ensure people still give financially.
  2. Financial – the pastor and his full time staff are paid positions in a church. Preaching has become the pastor’s occupation and he will often spend up to 40 hours or more preparing for that Sunday event. Holding Sunday services justifies, in part, his remuneration.
  3. Social – people like to gather together in large groups. It helps them have a sense of identity as well as belonging.

There is nothing inherently wrong with MacArthur and others taking issue with a governor’s executive order. Perhaps, however, one should consider whether or not such action might hurt the reputation of the people of God. After all, if we are genuinely looking out for the welfare of our neighbor (Matt 22:39; Rom 13:10), should we not desire to demonstrate our love for them by showing concern for their health (Rom 15:2)? Right in the midst of the lockdown in Los Angeles county, we interviewed Brad Watson, one of the equipping elders at Soma Culver City. Here is what one church is doing to engage their community for Christ while caring for the health of others. Brad and Soma are seeing some neat things as they introduce the city to Jesus:

Learn more about the first century church in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement

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Ep 59: The State of Theology

Over the past four years, Ligonier and Lifeway Research have published the State of Theology surveys as a resource for understanding what Americans think about important religious statements. Join Matt, Andrew, and Michael as they take a detailed look at several statements on the 2020 survey and offer insights in what they communicate about evangelicalism in the United States. Access the survey to follow along: https://thestateoftheology.com

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Ep 58: Ephesiology’s New Season

A new season of the Ephesiology Podcast begins with Andrew, Matt, and Michael sharing about the exciting work of how Ephesiology engages in equipping the saints for works of ministry. Join our podcasters as they look to this next season and the continuation of applying the principles of the first century Christian movement in Ephesus to the 21st century. Michael shares, “We are 0% interested in training volunteers, so if you’re looking to be a better volunteer, this is not where you want to go. But if you are really looking to understand culture, understand how to engage it with the gospel, then absolutely, 100% you want to go to these master classes.” Learn more at https://masterclasses.ephesiology.com

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The Dangers of Charismatic Leadership

Leadership sets the tone for the direction of a movement. In fact, one might argue that a movement will rise or fall largely on its leadership. To understand the effective movement leadership that we see in the New Testament is to understand the theocentric focus of the leaders. This leadership imbues a profound sense of humility, as it looks at Jesus as the chief cornerstone upon which the entire foundation of the household of God is built (Eph 2:19–22). Without Him, everything crumbles under the weight of our inadequacies. It seems like we see contemporary movements regularly crumble, as leaders become enthralled with their own abilities and personalities. We see this most clearly in new religious movements (NRMs), but increasingly in the American evangelicalism as well as in politics.

The Dangers of Charismatic Leadership Click To Tweet

In the study of new religious movements, which are often pejoratively referred to as cults, leaders clearly take on a savior role, as followers are attracted to their charismatic personalities that often communicate their connection to God, or some supernatural force, which gave them special abilities or a position as a divine authority (Wessinger 2012; Dawson 2006). These personality cults—such as Jim Jones of the People’s Temple, David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, or David Berg of the Children of God/the Family—exhibit extraordinary influence over their followers. While these extreme examples resulted in abuse and death, others have exhibited a spiritual abuse couched in Christian language that appears legitimate for a while, but they are often exposed by disillusioned followers. In recent times, one may recall Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, James MacDonald, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. as well-known examples of charismatic personalities within the evangelical world who held an extreme influence over followers, thus permitting their deviant behaviors and moral failures. 

The characteristics of these leadership figures, whether in evangelicalism, politics, or in NRMs, are similar: they have an ability to form a charismatic bond with followers; they demonstrate “extraordinary” abilities to communicate with authority; and they have “extraordinary” experiences that have confirmed a divine calling. Where this type of charismatic leadership departs from New Testament leadership is in its anthropocentric focus, rather than the theocentric focus we see in the leaders of the first century church. A cursory study of the Apostle Paul reveals multiple characteristics that are an antithesis to charismatic leaders: his self-identification as a doulos (“bond servant;” servant in ESV) of Christ (Rom 1:1); his self-identification as the chief of all sinners (1 Tim 1:15); his self-identification as a diakonos of the church (1 Cor 3:5). For Paul, this was not self-deprecation or a false humility, but the reality and realization of a life so focused on God that everything else, including himself, faded in the shadow of His glory. While Paul could rightly claim an authority over people (2 Cor 10:8), he would much rather identify himself with his co-laborers (2 Tim 1:7) and call others to join him on God’s mission (1 Cor 11:1). This is the type of leadership that propels a movement into the future, as it is tied to God’s mission and not their own.

In recent times, one may recall Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, James MacDonald, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. as well-known examples of charismatic personalities within the evangelical world who held an extreme… Click To Tweet

There always seems to be a tendency to elevate religious personalities to such a height that the pressure and attention results in abuse. This was no different during the first century. There were many messianic figures proclaiming salvation for Israel and philosophers who amassed followings all over the Roman Empire. However, what we see in New Testament leaders is their deliberate focus on making Jesus famous among people. This theocentrism is apparent in Paul, who mentions the three persons of the Trinity 133 times in his short circular letter to the churches of Asia. John’s anonymity as the author of the Fourth Gospel is evidence that he wanted to draw his readers and listeners to Jesus and not to himself. New Testament leaders are unwaveringly theocentric as they inspire Jesus’ followers to join in God’s mission as co-laborers—not in a hierarchical system that promotes their leadership, but rather in a community leadership among equals. These leaders knew that there was only one head of the church, and He is the only one worthy to follow. 

Adapted from Ephesiology: A Study of the Ephesian Movement

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Ep 57: When Evangelicals Sneeze

Are you struggling with American evangelicalism? It’s gotten to the point where it is difficult to recognize a theological tradition that has been around for nearly 500 years. In his recent book, Dr. Cooper shares his concerns for loosing the American evangelical identity.

Michael shares:

You’ll read about how the majority of evangelicals live outside of the US yet evangelicalism is largely identified with the church in America. The uniquely American conflation of faith and politics is actually hurting the witness of Christians around the world. I wrestle with questions like has God given up on the American church? Is this the end of American evangelicalism? Or can it be saved? Ultimately, I look to three scholars from England, Ghana, and America to help us define evangelicalism.

Then I put forward this idea for you to consider. These three areas of ministry – defense of the faith, social justice, gospel proclamation – mark the identity of the evangelical church. Her defense of the faith marks her beliefs in the one true God and Savior of all humanity. Her engagement in social justice marks a behavior with the conviction that when she does these things she does them to Christ Himself. Finally, her declaration of God’s glory to the nations marks her unity with all evangelicals in a common mission so compelling that it brings others into the community of Christ followers.

We hope you’ll pick up this book and join us in restoring American evangelicalism.

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Ep 56: Summer Break

It is that time of year, but a different year for sure. As best as we can in the time of COVID-19, we’re going to take a few weeks of rest. We are very grateful for our listeners and excited to return the first week of September. In the meantime, we’ll be reposting some of our favorite podcasts over the past six months.

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Ep 55: Ephesiology with Brad Watson

Join our discussion with Brad Watson as we hear about his book on Ephesians as well as what he and Soma are doing in Los Angeles. While COVID-19 continues to present its challenges, Brad and Soma are seeing some neat things as they reach their community with Christ. And, if you haven’t heard about our Ephesiology Master Classes, check them out at ephesiology.com/master-classes/.

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Ep 54: Movements and Business

So often, the church looks at business people as those who will pray and pay for the ministry. In this episode of the Ephesiology Podcast, we talk business with Mike Sharrow, president and CEO of C12 Group. You’ll no doubt be encouraged to learn about how business people are engaging their employees with the gospel in ways that the professional minister cannot. And, if you haven’t heard about our Ephesiology Master Classes, check them out at ephesiology.com/master-classes/.

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Resources from This Episode

Link for eBook on Eternal Impact in Business: http://visit.c12group.com/eternalimpact

Article on 5 Case Studies: https://www.christianitytoday.com/partners/c12/5-companies-radically-shaped-by-faith-of-their-owners.html

Slides: https://www.dropbox.com/s/41mhgd976l425qz/Missional%20Business%20Diagrams.pdf?dl=0

Work and Global Missions

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Ep 53: race relations, the president, and current crises in the United States

These are interesting days. COVID-19, George Floyd, President Trump and his Trumpgelicals. We address all of these in a spontaneous podcast that is challenging us to think about our allegiance. Join Matt, Michael, and Brian – an unsuspecting guest to the podcast cast – as they discuss race relations, the president, and current crises in the United States. Be sure to join us next month for our next Ephesiology Live podcast. Register here. And, if you haven’t heard about our Ephesiology Master Classes, check them out at ephesiology.com.

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Ep 52: The State of Education and Ephesiology Master Classes

COVID-19 has provided many opportunities for us to rethink how we equip people for ministry and we have some big news! We’re excited to announce the launch of Ephesiology Master Classes! We’ve been thinking about what it will take to get to movement in the US and how we can support movements around the world and our master class idea was born. With all the changes we anticipate due to COVID-19, it became apparent that biblical, theological, and missiological training in an accessible, dynamic, and responsive platform will be a key part of the equipping all the saints for works of ministry (Eph 4:12). Join us on this podcast as we unpack an exciting initiative to help us stay on mission. And check out Ephesiology Master Classes.

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Ep 51: Getting to Movement During the Plague

We’re excited to welcome a first time guest, Kyle Pierson. Kyle focuses on helping people think about movement in the context of the United States with East West Ministries International. This will be an encouraging podcast as we hear about how people are catching a vision for multiplying disciples in the church.

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Ep 50: Fatigue or Burnout?

Zoom fatigue, plague fatigue. How are you feeling? We’re discussing where we are emotionally and spiritually as we continue to evaluate the long-term effect of the novel coronavirus. Join our podcasters as they reflect on the impact of the virus, news, and evil on our society. Also, take advantage of our free book offer when you sign up for our mailing list: COVID-19 and the Church: Lessons from History.

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Ep 49: A Monthly Monday Movement Moment

Our podcasters go live on Zoom and Facebook for the first time in our new month segment. You have heard us say many times that we love doing theology in community and a live discussion about Ephesiology is a great way to collaborate on the significance of the first century church’s relevance for today. You’ll enjoy this inaugural, monthly special live edition of the Ephesiology Podcast. Be sure to join us next month. Register here.

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Ep 40: The Interview

With the release of his new book, Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement, Andrew sits down with Michael to learn more about the author, his motivations, and hopes for what the Lord might do with the book. You’ll want to hear the interesting backstory to what has been described as a, “theologically strong foundation that is both corrective and directive to disciple making movements.”

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Is Movement Possible?

Many are wondering if a movement of churches is even possible in the United States. While the criticism of the movements we are seeing around the world has at times been sharp – accusations of theological shallowness, immature leaders, irresponsible evangelism – observers of the US evangelical landscape are beginning to recognize the same critique here.

According to Ligonier and Lifeway Research, over 70% of those who identify as evangelicals believe Jesus is a created being, and nearly 60% believe the Holy Spirit is a force. With the trust of pastors eroding and the rise in the number of notable evangelicals falling, leadership of evangelicalism is not necessarily something looked at as a model. As far as evangelism is concerned, Exponential recognizes that 70% of US churches are declining or stagnate, and very few are multiplying.

In this context, is a movement possible? In Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement, Michael lays out what he believes was the framework for the most significant movement in the first century. This isn’t a method. Rather, these are principles of a missiologically theocentric movement. There is no guarantee that those who apply these principles will see movement. However, there is every expectation that those who try will mature Christ-followers and develop New Testament leaders who are passionate about joining with God on His mission.

We hope you’ll pick up this book and discover God’s passion for movements that reach the lost.

“Who better to dig into the model of Ephesus than a missionary church-planter, turned missiologist, turned mission leader?  Michael brings helpful breadth and depth to this work. His extensive experience and ongoing exposure to the church and the need around the world give him a unique platform. After decades of pragmatic, programmatic models, the church needs an exegetically-driven path forward.”

Rev. Kerry Doyal
District Superintendent
Allegheny District of the Evangelical Free Church of America

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Ep 38: Restoration Church

On this week’s podcast, hear what Matt Till is doing at Restoration Church. It isn’t perfect, but they are seeing a community committed to prayer, Scripture, fellowship, worship, and missions. Join our podcasters to learn more about Restoration Church.

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Ep 37: The Anatomy of a Movement

In our continuing study of a New Testament movement, we ask the question, “What did the movement look like?” Join our podcasters as they explore the anatomy of the movement in Ephesus and its impact on the Roman province of Asia. Interested in more? Check out the Movement Maturity Matrix.

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Ep 34: Interview with Jeff Christopherson

What kind of leader will it take to see more churches start in the United States? Join our podcasters as we talk with Jeff Christopherson, a self-identified serial church planter. He and Ed Stetzer started the Send Institute with a focus on the future of church planting in North America. Jeff helps us unpack 10 competencies necessary for today’s church planters.

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Ep 33: Happy New Year

Ephesiology Podcast is back with season 2. Join our podcasters as they reflect on last year, look forward to the release of the book Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement on Leap Day, and dream about 2020.

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Ep. 31: Unwrapping the First Christmas

Have you ever wondered about the origins of Christmas and the traditions celebrated in Western cultures? Join our podcasters as they talk about the new book, Unwrapping the First Christmas, and begin to peel back the layers of traditions that have come to define the Western celebrations of Christmas.

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Ep. 30: Jesus is King

Kanye West’s release of his latest album, Jesus is King, has grabbed the attention of Christians and critics. Join our podcasters with special guest Arman Sheffey as they discuss the album and the Sunday Service.


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Ep 29: The State of the Church in America – Part 2

Are buildings, butts in seats, and bucks the measure of success for the church today? What about transformation of lives resulting in cultural impact? Join us as we continue our conversation on the state of the church in America. Keelan Cook joins our podcast to help us think through the shift needed for gospel impact.


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Ep 28: Maturing Disciples in a Movement, Part 1

Defining “disciple” and “discipleship” presents interesting issues in contemporary Christianity. Join our podcasters as they look at the New Testament understanding of what it means to be a disciple. Their study of the early Christian movements highlights several key characteristics for what it means to be a follower of Christ.


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Ep 27: Leading a Movement, Part 2

The growth of the church will rise and fall on leadership and having the right team will position the church for continued growth. Join us in the riveting episode when our podcasters unpack the roles of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers. Leadership in the church in Ephesus adopted forms from the culture that contributed to the ongoing growth of the church throughout Asia Minor.


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Ep 26: Leading a Movement, Part 1

Join us for our next episode where we introduce the first of a multi-part series on leadership. Our podcasters are wrestling with the type of leadership that propelled the church on God’s mission of more people following Jesus. In this episode, we begin to look at Paul’s leadership. Was he a strategist? A lone ranger? Super spiritual charismatic leader? Be sure to join us.

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Ep 25: The State of the Church in America

What is the state of the church in America? Join our podcasters as they reflect on their participation at a recent Church Planting think tank held at Wheaton College with the Send Institute. In spite of the decline of the church in the US, there is hope for a future movement of multiplying disciples.

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Ep 24: More on CPM

We so thoroughly enjoyed our interview with Dave in our last episode that we had to continue talking about issues he is helping us wrestle through. Join us for a continued discussion on strategies, Paul, and church planting movements.

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Ep 23: Interview with Dave

We are excited to have Dave as our guest on this week’s podcast. As a cross-cultural worker in Chad, Dave brings some perspective that will help the Western church think about what it means to sacrifice in the midst of challenging ministry situations.

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Ep 22: Is CPM a Strategy?

For decades, church planting has been touted as one of the most effective strategies to reach the lost. However, our podcasters are asking, “Is CPM a strategy or a result?” Join us as we search for the biblical command to church plant and re-orient our focus on Jesus as the head of the church.


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Ep 21: The Movement and Ethnic Diversity, Part 2

The early Christian movement was uniquely diverse, but not without its problems. Join our podcasters and special guest Pastor Devlin Scott as they unpack Ephesians 2 and its implication for ministry today.

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Ep 20: The Movement and Ethnic Diversity

The early Christian movement was uniquely diverse, but not without its problems. Join our podcasters and special guest Pastor Devlin Scott as they unpack Ephesians 2 and its implication for ministry today.

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Ep 19: God’s Will

What is God’s will? In this episode, our podcasters attempt to tackle one of the most important questions in the Christian life. Join them as they look at Ephesians chapter 1 and discuss this essential question.

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Ep 14: Summer Break

It is hard to believe that we have recorded 13 episodes. We trust that you have enjoyed our banter as we study the New Testament movement in Ephesus. As we head into the summer, our podcasters are going to take a much needed break. So, this is a great time to catch up on earlier podcasts you have missed. We look forward to being back in front of the mics in August.

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Ep 13: Missiological Theism

Who is God? Join our podcasters as they discuss God’s missionary nature and how He relentlessly pursues a relationship with people. This compelling view of God, a view that is theocentric as it understands that God is glorified most when more people worship him, is what our podcasters are calling “missiological theism.”

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Ep 12: Missiological Theology

How did the early church connect God’s story with the story of culture? This weeks podcast unpacks what is meant by missiological theology. The early writers, especially Paul and John, uniquely and brilliantly told the story of God in such a way that it connected with the story of people. This is one of the key aspects of an indigenized Christianity.

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Ep 11: The Early Impact of Ephesiology

We are just at the beginning of wrestling through a New Testament movement and reflecting on the difference it can make where we live, work, and play. Join us for this special edition of the Ephesiology podcast as Andrew and Matt begin to unpack how Ephesiology is impacting how they think and act in their ministries and personal lives.

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Ep 10: Theocentrism

Many are asking the questions about the meaning of discipleship and what a disciple looks like. Instead, our podcasters are asking “What would a theocentric movement look like?” That is, what would it look like if we were completely focused on God? Join our next episode for an insightful discussion.

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Ep 9: Launching a Movement, Part 2

How does a church planting movement begin? Join us as we discuss the first step in launching a movement. Through a study of the Apostle Paul and his missionary effort in Athens, our podcasters will unpack what they call missiological exegesis. This first step toward a movement begins by understanding the people, their belief systems, and their history.

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Ep 8: Launching a Movement, Part 1

Join us as we engage in a community dialogue about a church planting movement in the New Testament. This is the first of a multi-part series on launching a movement. Our first episode in this series addresses the importance of the theme of God’s missionary activity and its impact on understanding Scripture.

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Ep 7: The Legacy Church and Movement Making, Part 3

Join us as we engage in a community dialogue about a church planting movement in the New Testament. This is part three of a series addressing what many are calling the “legacy church.” In this episode, our podcasters drill down on diagnostic questions for the legacy church and unpack the concept of being disciples.

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Ep 6: Here comes the King

Palm Sunday is also regarded as the “triumphal entry” because the King had arrived in Jerusalem. But was it the way he was received worship, or something masquerading as it?

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Ep 5: Church Planting Movements in Acts

Critics of CPM say that advocates practice eisegesis; they read into the biblical text something that is not there. Learn about this and more as we discuss the evidence for a church planting movement in the Book of Acts.

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Ep 4: Introducing Ephesiology

Join us as we begin to delve into understanding the idea of “movement.” This episode is sure to raise your curiosity about whether or not a movement can actually occur in North America and Western Europe. We see it in the New Testament and we see it around the world. Can it happen in the West?

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