Moved to new Blog/Website

Hi, thanks for coming to visit me at Kingdom Treasures. I have moved my blog (with the various categories and my history of blog posts, and all my teaching materials and resources) to a new website: alexanderventer.com

Please visit the new site and register if you want to receive updates regarding personal news, reports, teachings, and new resources that I’m developing.

Thanks so much for your support!

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You may be wondering….

If you’ve come to this blog looking for my teaching notes on “Exploring Membership with Following Jesus”, you may be wondering where Sessions 5 and 6 are. With the help of a generous techno friend of mine, I am migrating my Kingdom Treasures blog – and my other websites and teaching resources – to one single domain, alexanderventer.com

Please visit the new site… it’s not yet complete, but you will get an idea of what’s happening. The audios and notes of my Sunday teachings (including Exploring Membership) are all available weekly on the church website followingjesus.org.za

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Exploring Membership with Following Jesus Session 4

SESSION 4:  MINISTRY FRAMEWORK – HOW WE DO CHURCH AND MEMBERSHIP 

The Sociological Framework contrasted three models of ‘doing church’ and membership – we embrace the centered set with its values. We now examine the Ministry Framework through which we do church – key information for a responsible commitment to Following Jesus. We lay out our mission and vision; values, priorities and practices; leadership, structure and programs; and the specific expectations of belonging and membership (the content of the remaining 3 sessions).  Much of this key information, including our Vineyard history, is on our website http://followingjesus.org.za  

WHAT IS OUR MISSION STATEMENT?        Our “being”

Our mission is our identity, our essential reason for existence, sense of calling, answering the question: Who are we? (or Who are we following? Identity is defined by who you relate to)

Our mission statement is based on Matthew 4:19 cf. 28:18-20, and Ephesians 5:2 (NIV)

Following Jesus and making followers of him…
Learning to live a life of love just as Jesus loved us

WHAT IS OUR VISION STATEMENT?        Our “becoming”

Vision is a future-oriented picture of becoming – our broad-stroke goals. Vision gives us our direction, answering the question: Where are we going? (or What are we becoming?)

  • NB: Our church is currently being ‘replanted’ and the leadership team is developing a 2020 vision and plan, so we do not as yet have a definitive Vision Statement. However, we have…

An interim goal, 2015 vision:  To get our congregation into good health and growth in all aspects of leadership, community life, ministry and mission.

A medium-term goal, 2020 vision:  For Following Jesus to be strong enough to a) fully develop the Vineyard Community Center (VCC) with a worship hall and other needed facilities, b) to equip and coach the next generation of leaders, and c) to be a resource to help existing churches, plant new churches, and be fully engaged in various missions in our community, city, country and beyond.

A long-term goal, 2025 vision:  To responsibly and fully hand over the leadership of a vibrant worshipping, healing, equipping and missional church community, with a fully developed Vineyard Community Center, to the next generation of leading followers of Jesus.

WHAT ARE OUR VALUES?      (From Session One – see the diagram: Following Jesus Framework)

Values are our core principles and non-negotiables. They answer the question Why? we do what we do to fulfill our calling (mission) as we work to achieve our goals (vision). We take our core values from Jesus’ generic call to follow him as he followed his Father (by his Spirit and Word, in his disciple-community).     Based on Matt 4:19 (& 28:18-20) our three core values are:

Following God: Intimacy with God – the church exists for God, by God, through God.

Forming Community (be formed in): koinonia of the Spirit – we exist for each other as true family.

Fishing World: We exist for others – to impact our world with God’s saving presence and power, to make followers of Jesus and be agents of wholistic change at all levels of social and cosmic reality.

We add two other derived values (thus five values in total), based on Matt 3:17 cf. 22:37-40…

Fitting Context: We Follow, Form and Fish as Fits our personal, family, work and community Context.

Freeing Love: We Follow, Form and Fish with a view to being Free to be-loved, and thus to Love as God loves (to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and others as ourselves)

WHAT ARE OUR PRIORITIES AND PRACTICES?        (Derived from our three core values)

Priorities and practices are what we actually do… what we do first, of most importance, before we do other things. They answer the question of What? we do, and How? we do them… i.e. our basic disciplines and skills that we learn to do and practice on a regular basis – in order to live out our core values, in pursuit of our vision, to fulfill our mission under God.

Each of our three core values has four priorities & practices (disciplines & skills), see the diagram

Values Priorities Practices

HOW DO WE FOLLOW GOD INTIMATELY?      By prioritizing and practicing the disciplines of…

The Word of God: The Bible is the inspired record of God’s self-revelation, our final authority for faith and life. As Christ-followers we hold to his teachings as the truth that sets us free (John 8:31-32). We prioritize life-oriented teaching, equipping every Christ-follower to read and study, meditate and memorize, and more importantly to practice scripture – “to obey all I have commanded” (Matt 28:20).

Worship:
Worship is our highest priority, our only adequate response to God’s self-revelation. Worship embraces our whole lives – it’s both an event and a lifestyle (Rom 12:1-2), it’s both praise/celebration and adoration/intimacy. Our goal is to encounter God in worship, and to equip every follower of Jesus to be a true worshipper of God in both personal and public worship (John 4:22-24).

Prayer: Prayer is the natural response or overflow of worship. Prayer is answering God in what he says to us through his Word and Worship. Prayer is relational interaction with God, the native breathe of our souls. We practice and encourage all forms of personal and corporate prayer and intercession.

Holy Spirit Ministry: The result of these three is a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life and Church, where Jesus is the Head and the Spirit is the Administrator. We seek to honor and receive the ministry of the Spirit through equipping and releasing every Christ-follower to practice the Spirit’s enabling gifts, in the home, at Sunday services, in small groups, at work, on the streets – in all aspects of life.

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“Purity of heart is to will one thing”

Yesterday was a most interesting day for me! In my morning devotions I picked up an old book on spirituality written by Ronald Rolheiser and read a page or two here and there. He quoted Soren Kierkegaard, who said “purity of heart is to will one thing.” It struck me.

At midday while driving to the airport to receive a friend from Norway, I was listening to a recording of Dallas Willard and he said, “Soren Kierkegaard said ‘purity of heart is to will one thing'”. Wow! Again! Then late yesterday afternoon I scrolled through the tweets that come into my smart phone and Rick Warren had tweeted the exact same quote! WOW!  Three times in one day!

What are the chances of that happening by chance – the same quote from three completely independent sources, via different media, on the same day, to the same person? God is trying to say something to me! As the scripture says, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word is established.” I thought: ‘this is REALLY serious, Lord I’m listening, help me to obey.’ As with Peter and Jesus’ dealings with him, things seem to happen to me in three’s. Maybe because I’m so ‘doff’ (hard of hearing) God has to repeat himself at least three times.

I realised that we ‘will’ way too many ‘things’; we desire, want, pursue, work for, give our attention to, etc, too many things, often completely conflicting things. Our focus in life is so fragmented and distracted and driven by different things – the needs and cares and wants and enjoyments of this life. Few of us have a clear focus, with clear eyes, where we see and pursue one thing, or THE most essential thing(s).

Soren Kierkegaard’s quote was in reference to Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matt 5:8). Jesus said the eye is the gate to the soul. If your eye is ‘single’ – another word of ‘pure’ (focused on God, the true treasure of willing HIS will) – then your whole body and life is filled with light. If your eye is ‘divided’ or ‘disparate’ (seeing/chasing after many things, the false treasure of the glitter of this life), your whole body and life is filled with darkness. That is being lost.

Pure of heart… seeing God… willing one thing. How we need to see God! As clearly and regularly as possible. We need to wash our eyes and hearts, and keep our focus on what REALLY matters in life, on what is of eternal consequence. The question is: how do we see God? And the controversial answer is (to today’s postmodern world): in the man Jesus of Nazareth. Let me leave that and conclude with a comment on “purity of heart.”

My three repeated messages from God made me think immediately of David and his prayer, “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Ps 86:11). I wondered if Jesus got his beatitude from King David, especially when you read his other prayer: “And I – in righteousness I will see Your face; when I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (Ps 17:15). Our hearts (‘eyes’, focus) are so divided and distracted on many apparently important things, so we don’t see clearly, let alone seeing God clearly. Hence we don’t fear God, we live as practical atheists, saying we believe in God denying his reality and existence in our daily lives. Above all, we deny his will… the ‘one thing’ that we should ‘will’ in our daily lives.

It also made me think of Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, gazing up at him as she listened to his words of life. Jesus said of her, “Only ‘one thing’ is necessary, and Mary has chosen that better part, the ‘one thing’ of taking time to sit at God’s feet, gazing upon him, listening to his word…” (the RAP – Revised Alexander Paraphrase – on Luke 10:42).

Think about it: purity (or unity) of heart is to will one thing. How do we unite our hearts… wrestle our lives down to the bare essentials of God and his love and his word and his work in the world? THE most important ‘thing’ is to will the will of God.

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Audios for Exploring Membership teachings

A quick explanation regarding the audio teachings (MP3s) that accompany the notes of Exploring Membership with Following Jesus. I’ve received numerous requests for the audios. Our church is in process of changing the audio upload from the old website (http://valleyvcf.org.za) to the new one (http://followingjesus.org.za). Hopefully it will be operational next week.

The first three talks are on the old website, under the tab “Sermons”. This past Sunday we had a ‘recording failure’ – with no backup! (from now on we’ll have two instruments recording!!) So we have uploaded a previous lecture that I’ve done on the same teaching material… look for Alexander Venter Lecture 2 Part 2 on valleyvcf.org.za. I apologise for this failure, and for all the changes. Hopefully we’ll be up and running soon… I’ll let you know!

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Exploring Membership with Following Jesus Notes Session 3

SESSION 3: MODELS OF (LOCAL) CHURCH AND MEMBERSHIP 

We’ve looked at a) Jesus and his disciple-community (following Jesus meant joining his community), and b) at belonging and ‘membership’ in the Early Church. What does this mean for our church?  In answer to the question we examine different models of “doing church” and what membership means 

1.     IN ASSOCIATION OF VINEYARD CHURCHES OF SA (AVC SA)

1.1.  As a Vineyard church, Following Jesus holds to the core vision and values (or ‘Philosophy of Ministry’) as articulated in Alexander Venter’s book Doing Church (VIP, 2000).

1.2. We embrace the Vineyard Statement of Faith (on our website http://followingjesus.org.za), distinctively based on, and articulated through, the biblical theology of the Kingdom of God.

1.3. We also explain how we ‘do church’ and membership via a ‘Sociological Framework’ (this session) and a ‘Ministry Framework’ (next session)

2.     CONTRASTING THREE SOCIOLOGICAL MODELS OF ‘DOING CHURCH’ AND MEMBERSHIP

  1. Fuzzy Set Model

Bounded Set Model

Summarizing the characteristics and values of the Bounded Set:

  • Centralized leadership – mostly a singular charismatic dominant leader
  • Reinforces strong boundaries by indoctrination and conformity, resulting in a “we – they”, “right – wrong”, and “in – out” mindset (the more this is present the more it’s a cult).
  • Membership is being “in” by conformity and performance – and obedience to the leader.
  • People are seen as a collective, not as unique individuals with a name and pain.
  • Relationships are top – down, parent – child (dependency… identity comes from recognition)
  • Creates a performance environment: attendance and hard work to achieve the pastor’s vision
  • Promotion and program driven… all about visibility and success
  • Thus the bottom-line in reality is about the numbers and the income
  • And ‘growing the church’ is more about proselytizing than about real evangelism

Centered Set Model

Summarizing the characteristics and values undergirding the Centered Set: 

  • Throw a stone into the center of a pond and the ripples move outwards: The center of (local) church is Jesus and the values of his Kingdom, that draw people to the center at varying levels of integration, relationship and commitment. Thus following Jesus is a journey of integration…
  • Into his local community led by a team who seek to embody and live Jesus’ core Kingdom values
  • Drawing people to the center with core values such as love, acceptance and forgiveness…
  • Creating a warm relational environment based on maturing adult to adult relationships
  • Where people are treated as unique individuals with dignity and respect, with personal histories
  • ‘Church growth’ and evangelism is then a natural outflow (or overflow) of health and life
  • Ministry and leadership is about nurture and equipping, teamwork and modeling
  • It’s all about being led by God’s presence, drawn by his values… and NOT being driven 

THEREFORE… Belonging and membership in the Centered Set model is…

  • Functional, relational and dynamic: Belonging and membership is a process of integration with increasing participation in relationships and ministry in the life of the church. Moving from the ‘outside’ dotted line toward the center at increasing levels of integration: from attendance at a meeting, to regular worship, to connecting with people, to joining a home group, to receiving ministry and healing, to participating in ministry, to training, to leading (and ‘sending’)
  • And… there is clear point of commitment: Belonging and membership is formally decided and committed to, under God and with the leadership, at some point in the process of integration (a key biblical motivation and justification for this is Hebrews 13:7,17)
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South African Crisis of Violent Rape and Murder

What is the cause of the unbelievable levels of violence in South Africa – specially in terms of rape and murder – what men do to women and children in our country? Our society and the public media, including the government, is debating what’s behind this, trying to isolate the cause of this pandemic of violence. What are your comments?

17 year old Anene Booysen’s recent savage gang rape, disembowelment and murder, hit the international headlines – similar to the gang rape of the young woman on a bus in New Delhi, India. The hardened policemen who attended to the grissly scene of Anene’s murder were so traumatised that they needed counselling therapy. Since then, more brutal gang rapes and murders have been reported in SA. What rage drives men in SA to do these demonic acts of evil?

Another SA tragedy made world headlines this weekend: the alleged murder of beautiful Reeva Steenkamp by her lover, the internationally celebrated para-olympian Oscar Pistorious. Shock and horror! Disbelief! Everyone is asking, “WHY?” An insightful report from journalist David O’Sullivan points to alleged patterns of anger outbursts, see @702Davidpo.st/4ePbnn. Why this alleged brutal murder by such a successful man – a celebrity with the world at his feet?

Our ANC government says rape and violence is a serious social problem. Their answer is: men must be educated to respect women and children, to treat them properly. Many people are saying many things, trying to make sense of this orgy of rage, offering all sorts of explanations and solutions – from stricter gun control to castration for perpetrators of rape.

Will that address this social crisis? Superficial diagnosis leads to superficial solutions, radical diagnosis cuts to the root of the problem, leading to radical healing and long-lasting solutions.

2000 years ago a young Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, gave an incisive diagnosis to this particular issue, and to the human condition in general. He taught that anger, if not resolved, leads to contempt and even hatred, which in turn results in rage, violence and murder (see Matthew 5:21-26). In his teachings on being human – on living life as God’s image bearers – Jesus FIRST addresses the issue of anger and forgiveness (reconciliation), in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’. It’s THE foremost issue in human relationships – in personal morality and social reality. Just think of it: if all the unresolved anger were taken out of human relationships the world would be an entirely different place.

Jesus deals with the problem of anger ahead of lust – lust as in sexual sin and brokenness – the use and abuse of others for our gratification (see Matt 5:27-30). Rape is not about sexual lust per se. It’s about violence due to unresolved anger, stemming mostly from deeply broken masculinity in terms of disempowerment or powerlessness. Rape is one of the oldest weapons in human history – along with murder – used by so-called men to humiliate, punish and destroy, for feelings (and reasons) of power and control.

Anger is not the problem. Anger is a God given emotion, a ‘neutral’ feeling that tells us something has gone wrong, something has upset us. It’s what we do with anger that becomes moral – right or wrong. We can choose to:
a) respond to anger by disclosing it and resolving what caused it, as Jesus taught (called ‘forgiveness and reconciliation’), or…
b) we can react to anger by suppressing it and eventually imploding (called ‘unforgiveness and bitterness’), and/or…
c) we can react to anger by venting it and exploding (called ‘contempt, rage and violence’).

Both b) and c) are sinful because they damage human beings, ourselves included. The ‘s-word’ has become politically incorrect. But SIN is not an irrelevant religious category by an oppressive pedantic god. Whatever undermines and destroys human dignity is sin because it violates God’s image in the name of self-serving power and control. At root it is the human presumption that we can live life without God – we don’t need him – we can control our own lives and “do it my way” (as Frank Sinatra sang). The root problem in SA is that we’ve rejected God in the name of postmodern liberal political correctness. We’re paying an enormous price for it.

Unresolved anger is extremely dangerous the longer it’s left to itself. It’s an open invitation to demons – yes, literal evil spirits – to invest and torment the person, driving them beyond all rational self control in moments of lust and rage. The result? Rape and murder. Our society is increasingly at the mercy of demons driving men to do more and more evil.

What’s the solution? Personally, I’m ashamed to be a man in SA today. My gender associates me with all the so-called men who violate women and children every 28 seconds – from molestation to rape, from psycho-emotional violence to physical murder. We men – ALL of us men – need to do what the young rabbi from Nazareth repeatedly called for wherever he went, in every village, town and city: REPENT. That is the root of the remedy in SA. Repentance is not an outdated religious concept aimed at oppressing people with feelings of guilt. It’s actually a matter of life and death, of the future survival or destruction of our nation. The choice is ours.

To REPENT is to humble oneself before God and all others, openly acknowledging our profound spiritual bankruptcy and broken masculinity as men, turning from our wicked ways, crying out to God for mercy, as we beg for forgiveness from the women and children of this nation. We have to face the fact that something has gone wrong deep in the male psyche and ultimately only God can help us. Denial has to be broken. Why must it take incidences as Anene Booysens and Reeva Steenkamp to get the attention of the nation? What about the 100 000s of other women and children who did not get to the national headlines, let alone make international news?

Just imagine what would happen if the first or leading male in SA, our President Jacob Zuma (who was tried on a rape charge, but was acquitted), stood up by kneeling down before God and the nation, putting on sack-cloth and ashes, because of the crying shame of what men do to women and children in his (our) country. Imagine if he called all men to do the same, on a set day of confession of male sins against women and children, a chosen day of public humiliation and repentance, of fasting and prayer. It just might be that God would listen and have mercy and intervene and help turn men from their sins, heal their broken masculinity – their perverse need for position, power, control – and restore our land to safety and security and peace and harmony (it is no wonder to me that more and more opposition parties are led by women, including Mamphela Ramphela’s new opposition party. What is this saying, symbolically, to our nation?)

And if our President won’t do it, then who will? Whether he does it or not, all men who say they follow Jesus must lead the way. We must repent before the nation, publicly if possible, crying out to God for mercy, asking the women and children for forgiveness, calling ALL men to repentance and healing by God’s intervening grace.

May God indeed have mercy on me, Alexander Venter, on Oscar Pistorious, on the young men who raped and murdered Anene Booysens, on all of us men in this beautiful rainbow nation called South Africa. God bless Africa.

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