[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #14 ---- 4/19/98

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From: lifeunlimited@... (Robert A Tolliver)
Date: Sun, 19 Apr 1998 23:14:59 -0500
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder in the Trenches,
Encouraging One Another as we "Fight the Good Fight"

Title:  #14:  Seven Strangle holds On The Church (Part 5)
1.  Institutionalization of the Church.
2.  Intellectualization of Scripture.
3.  Creedalization of our Doctrine.
4.  Culturalization of our Approach..

Dear Co-laborer in the Field:

What a wonderful time to be alive and serving the Lord!  Our time in
Bogota, Colombia was a special time, and it's great to be home!  I trust
you had a good week and that this one ahead will be just what the Lord


The very first thing you need to do is go back to last week's letter and
change it to #13 and Part 4!  It must have been that rarefied mountain
air, but I skipped a set of numbers.  TODAY'S letter is to be #14 and
Part 5.


It is not normally the plan to include comments every week from
responders.  However, there are a couple I wanted to pass on to you.

1.  The first is a note concerning "Shoulder To Shoulder" #12 written
April 5th, and comes from a dear friend who came to Christ under my
father's ministry, was a partner with me in a young men's quartet, and
ended up being best man in my wedding.  His letter was articulate and
filled with wise counsel which I felt all of us should receive.

  "Enjoyed your article and can say "amen" to it.  Oh how we often strain
at the gnats in order to swallow the camels. 

  "I agree 100% that the real test is not doctrine, but LOVE.  As a
pastor, my heart has often been saddened by the unwillingness of
Christians to love other Christians, to see past blind rules and man-made
ordinances, and move on to seeing human needs as Jesus did. 

  "If we are secure enough in our faith to really believe the Holy Spirit
resides in us to give us truth and to lead us
to righteousness, then we don't have to be threatened . . . . or worse
yet, label everything not in my camp to be Satanic and seek to gather
forces to fight them. . ..  If the Holy Spirit does what Jesus said He
was given to do, then why can't we trust Him to judge individual
character and content of heart, and let us stay out of the "splinter
hunting arena?"  

  "I guess what I'm trying to express is the sense I feel many times of
the church-going, Bible-thumping, Angry Christian.  His love is totally
based on his circle of beliefs and experiences.  His favorite words often
are  'standards' and 'intolerance.'  I have found this person among the
educated and the uneducated, but rarely among the humble.

 "Where is the courage, that I believe Jesus exemplified, to draw a
larger circle and love others in?

  "What I look for now is the heart of love.  The Christian with the
humble servant heart, who is secure in his or her faith and would rather
spend his or her time and energy in loving people into the Kingdom rather
than 'hating' them

2.  The second comes from a pastor who at one time served as my associate
and some years later returned to pastor that same church.  His comments
pertain to last week's letter on "Culturalization of Our Approaches", and
he raises a valid point about trying to find the fine line I mentioned
between allowing the church to fall to the pressure of culturalization
and at the same time being able to penetrate the culture with the Gospel.

  "I read your last article with interest particularly because of the
negative slant with which you approached the subject.  In the article you
did differentiate some between good and bad culturalization.

  "Paul was a master at Culturalization of his approach to his ministry
target. He summed up it in matter of a few statements which are my
guiding principles for both freedom to culturalize without guilt and
safe-guards to
culturalizing so as not to compromise.

  "1 Cor 9 19-23  He became all things to all men for the motive of
winning the most he could.  His safeguard was the "law of Christ" ie "the
word"  The motive is to win; the safe guard is the Word.  It is pretty
simple.  You can do what ever it takes to win people to Christ as long as
you do not compromise the word of God.

  "To Paul that meant He would be willing to share a platform with the
philosophical thinkers of his day if it meant he got to preach the death
and resurrection of Christ.  It meant he would study the city and become
familiar with their culture before giving them the Gospel. 

  " He took the Gospel which transcends all cultures to the culture that
needed Christ.  He did not ask them to change their culture except where
it compromised the Word and that not until they received the Gospel. 
This is where much mission work went wrong for many years.  Many took the
Gospel in the trappings of their own culture to other cultures.  

  "There is much to be said of deculturalizing our message and concept
and methods when we change ministry settings.  The Gospel needs to be
stripped down to the core of all of our own culture before taking the
message into any culture."

While it may sound like this writer and I are disagreeing, I believe, as
I pointed out to him, that our personal definitions of "culturalization"
are probably not quite the same.  He makes some good points that I did
not address.  Paul had learned to be "in" the world while not "of" the
world.  That is the great need of this hour.


1.  I began a conference on revival in Humansville, MO yesterday morning,
continuing through Wednesday.  Please pray that God will move in great
power at the point of people's need and God's purpose.

2.  In continued preparation for our upcoming trip to Croatia, please
pray that we can raise an additional $4,000 to cover the costs of
bringing some 50 refugees in to the Life Center and then feeding and
housing them for ten days.

Now to the final instalment!

Seven Strangle Holds on the Church ---- Strangle hold #5:


In our high-tech, academically oriented, scientifically scrutinizing
society, even the most mature Christian is often affected by the cynical
questioning and skepticism of our day.  Rather than a simple and pure
child-like trust, we seem to be highly suspicious over extraordinary
experiences that we either cannot control or cannot explain.   Why?

Let me suggest some possibilities:

  1)  We live in a society filled with skepticism.  We cannot deny the
"doubt" that surrounds us; and it influences us, no matter how we may
wish it didn't.

  2)  We are constantly bombarded with a media blitz that we know uses
spin tactics and distortions to generate promises about products that we
know are not true.  Therefore, we usually discount them as lies, and
subsequently become suspicious toward anything that seems beyond the
ordinary and the explainable.

  3)  We are far too familiar with the trauma of being attacked and
isolated if we're not politically correct, so we sometimes "play it safe"
regarding things in the supernatural by ignoring them,. avoiding them, or
trying to rationally explain them into unsupernatural events using human
logic with nondescript terms.

  4)  With the rise of the supernatural phenomenon in the New Age
scenario, we sometimes turn tail and run, for fear of being identified
with the New Agers as a "weirdo" or, on the other hand, a "wacko" for

  5)  We have become so overwhelmed with outright lies coming our way
from the political arena that we tend to suspect or discount any type of
extraordinary claim, even if it comes from a brother or sister in the
Lord.  We have come to the place where we assume the claim is fraudulent.

  6)  We have probably experienced what we might call "excesses" to what
some people would term the "far left" or the "far right" in the area of
the supernatural (there are ditches on both sides of the road, friend). 
We have run into the sensationalists, the charlatans, and the hucksters
who have imitated God's supernatural power (much Like Simon in Acts 8). 
All this has caused us to not only be wary of the false, but also to even
be resistant to the genuine ---- it's a natural response.

  7)  We are not nearly familiar enough with God on an intimate level. 
Our lives are filled with so many things that our time of intimacy with
God is greatly reduce, or even non-existent.  Because we spend inadequate
time with Him, we forget just how Supernatural He really is.  Add to that
the world's effort to "de-deify" Him and reduce Him to a "kind old
grandfather" or an "abstract entity", and our intimacy with Him is
further eroded.

  8)  As I mentioned in an earlier letter, the Church has suffered
enormous damage as a result of German higher criticism in the one "ditch"
and the cessationist movement in the other.  Both at least strip the
supernatural down to almost nothing apart from the salvation experience,
and, in some cases, remove all supernatural phenomenon as unrealistic,
unrelated, and unnecessary for either salvation or effective Christian

In other words, even with many Christians, we have ourselves become
skeptics and cynics ---- both of which, incidentally, are totally
contrary to the character of God, the heart of Christ and the fruit of
the Holy Spirit.


The first thing we need to do is to gain a fresh understanding of what
the Gospel really is, and let it be returned to its intended level of
Supernatural nature.

1.  In I Cor 1:18-2:5 Paul deals with the tension between depending on
human wisdom and understanding on one hand, and  the power of God on the
other.  Take time to read through that passage.  You'll discover that
Paul opted for the supernatural power of God, hands down.  In fact, he
described his own ministry as being one built on power.

Can you imagine what the church would be like if we all could say that?

2.  Then, in Romans 1:16, He declares his bold commitment to the Gospel; 
he is not ashamed of it.

However, the thing that really gets my attention is how he describes the
Gospel itself.  It is not a sermon, or Gospel tract, or even witnessing. 

He says, "IT (the Gospel) is the POWER OF GOD"!  

The Gospel is not words!  It is not preaching!  It is not witnessing!

It is the unleashed, driving, penetrating, rocket-launching, dunamis,
explosive,  POWER OF GOD!

Now, that is news!  Not just "good" news, but G-R-E-A-T NEWS!

Most of my Christian life, I was taught two things, one intentionally and
consciously, the other unintentionally and unconsciously.  

   1)  Intentionally and consciously, though ignorantly,  I was taught 
that the Gospel was the act of someone verbally, ---- through testimony,
tract, teaching, or preaching, ---- expressing the "good news" about
Jesus Christ.  In fact, that is not the Gospel; it is words about the

   2) Unintentionally and unconsciously, I was taught to be "ashamed" of
the real Gospel.  While I cannot allow time or space to explain that in
more detail, suffice it to say that probably the reason I was taught to
be ashamed of the Gospel was because those who taught me didn't know what
the Gospel was.  They thought it was preaching the "good news".  So, when
I saw the real thing ---- the POWER OF GOD ---- it was so overwhelmed
that I was immediately intimidated by it and ashamed of it, because I
knew that wasn't the kind of Gospel I understood.

I understood a Gospel that was explainable, manageable, and appealing,
and that was not vibrating with anything much more than a loud voice or
tear-jerking illustrations.  It was easy to manage the "gospel" captured
by human words and gestures.  It was explainable and predictable.  Tell
them about Jesus, and they'll either be saved, or they won't.

The other kind ---- POWER ---- that was something I didn't understand. 
And, because I didn't understand it, it made me uneasy and self

So ---- I had a choice to make.  I could try to rationalize it and reduce
it to a mere human response to words about Jesus, or I could embrace it
and all its life-changing power, and let it take me wherever it would.

If I tried to rationalize it and reduce it, it became something of which
I was ashamed, for it had no vibrancy or real life.  It was a fake.  

If I embraced it and yielded to it, then I was fine ---- UNTIL it took me
a direction over which I had no control ---- and I ended up resisting,
and again being ashamed of it.

Either way ---- I found I had been taught to be ashamed of the true
Gospel ---- the unexplainable, supernatural, Gospel of God's Power
released into a human life in such a way that it totally and forever
transformed that life.

3.  Turning to Hebrews 1:1-4 and 2:1-4 we find another challenging
passage.  In describing God's presentation of His Gospel, we are first
told that He did so through three supernaturally powered channels ----
through Creation (1:2;11:3), through angels (2:2), and through Spirit
anointed prophets (1:1).

Then we find that He speaks directly to us ---- through His Son.  Now God
speaks for Himself!

According to Hebrews 2:4, in speaking for Himself through Jesus, He
confirms and validates it supernaturally ---- through Signs ("Semeion" --
"specially certain supernatural indicators"), through Wonders ("Teras" --
"confirming signs or omens"), through Miracles ("Dunamis" -- "miraculous
violent power"), and through Gifts of the Holy Spirit ("Merismos" --
"separations and distributions of His Grace")

So, how is it dear friend, that we who believe in the whole counsel of
God have allowed the majestic, pure, holy, awesome supernatural power of
God to be dragged through the muck and mire of the secularism of
Christianity by rationalizing it all as myth, psychosis, or extremism?

It doesn't take a PhD to realize that everything there is about God and
His Gospel is supernatural.  When you remove the supernatural, you have
nothing left.  Everything God does is supernatural, because being
supernatural is His nature.  God can no more be only natural and remain
God than an eagle can act like a skunk.  It is an absolute impossibility.

The sooner we acknowledge that we don't know much about God, but what we
do know is that He is fully and totally supernatural, and all He offers
us in Christ is a supernatural act of love delivered from a supernatural
grace that results in a supernatural transformation of our total being,
the sooner the Church will be restored to its position of anointing for
Proclamation and Ministry.

Strangle Hold #6:


I'm not going to take much time with this point and the next, although
both are significantly important.  Suffice it to say that the concept of
compartmentalizing God's activity is to believe that . . .

   1)  God works in different ways in different cultures.

   2)  God works in different ways depending on differing circumstances.

   3)  God works in different ways during different times or

   4)  Jesus isn't the same ---- yesterday, today, and forever.

   5)  God acts on our behalf on the basis of our performance.

   6)  God acts on the basis of our worthiness and the quality of our

   7)  Some sins are not as bad as others, and none really must be dealt
with in a decisive manner.

   8)  Worldlimindedness, while not good, is not all that bad and can be
tolerated without cost ---- worldlimindedness that assumes the usual, is
satisfied with the ordinary, receives gratification with the material, is
skeptical of the supernatural, and thrives on the distortion of the

Again these ideas are born out of the "ditches" on both sides of the road
---- on the one side of German higher criticism and Princeton's B.B.
Warfield, and on the other side of "hyper-dispensationalism" (note the
HYPER) and legalistic fundamentalism (note LEGALISTIC).

It amazes me that, in spite of all God says about His being the "Alpha
and Omega" and everything in between, about Him being an ever faithful
God, about Him being "the same, yesterday, today, and forever", people
still come up with the idea that God's power, love, and activity is
selective, and depends on cultures, circumstances, and times as to how He

You see, if we really believe that, then it takes away our hope for
revival, for spiritual awakening, for the salvation of the lost, for the
fulfillment of the Great Commission, for . . . . ad infinitum.  Do you
understand that, if we buy into a compartmentalized God with
compartmental limits, it strips away all the God there is in God!

Imagine just how many lives have remained in bondage because contemporary
Christians tried to explain the demonic as being mental illness, or
certain sicknesses so terminal that they aren't even prayed for, or a
hard hearted lost man so unreachable that his soul is abandoned by those
sent to reach him.

May God forgive us for the horrible sin of compartmentalizing Him!

Strangle Hold #7


Never can enough be said about this area.  We live in a promiscuous and
permissive society that has all but spiritually neutered the average
church from ever being reproductive again.  Were it not for the long
suffering patience and kindness of God and His faithfulness to His
promises, many of us would at least be "on the shelf" and out of service,
and some even removed from the scene in order to at least save our own
souls and not damn the souls of others.

   1)  Holiness:  Every sin you can imagine not only exists in churches
today, but is actually tolerated and overlooked.  It is unbelievable,
unthinkable, and utterly despicable to imagine that the very Bride of
Christ can commit adultery with the demonic, violate virtually every
sexual principle of scripture, get away with gossip and back stabbing,
shoot its own wounded, condone every sin of the tongue conceivable, and
habitually violate every one of the Ten Commandments.

Oh, how it must grieve the precious Holy Spirit of God.  I sometimes
wonder if God ever has second thoughts about birthing the church ---- and
then betrothing it to His perfect and sinless Son.

I cannot imagine the grief that must be in God's heart over His Son's

You may say that He knew all this would happen, and I would agree.  But
do you think that makes Him feel any better?  What if you had a daughter
who went astray?  Would your detecting traits and characteristics in her
personality and her lifestyle ahead of time make it any easier on you
when she finally turned back to the world?  Of course not.  I believe God
weeps ---- even though He knew what would happen, and even though He
knows the Bride will one day be pure, spotless, without wrinkle or rip in
her gown, and will be holy and without blame, I still believe His heart
is broken over the abundance of sin and selfishness and the absence of
holiness in the life of the Son's future wife.

Friend, I don't know of anything you could preach on to your people that
would be more appropriate and more needful than the subject of holiness. 
Do it!  Do it!

   2)  Obedience:  The act of obeying the commandments of God has become
an option; the act of disobeying Him has become a "right".  How Satan
must cackle and howl with pleasure as he watches those who profess Christ
as Lord actually deny His lordship by their disobedience.  The Ten
Commandments, as one has said, have become the Ten Suggestions.  The
Great Commission has become, as Dwight Pentecost labeled it, the Great
Omission.  Water baptism is to be the automatic next step to the new
convert, yet more than one half never follow through.  That is called

Tithing is a minimum expectation from God, though less than 20% of
evangelical Christians do so.  That is called disobedience.  Witnessing
as a way of life as we go was the last commandment Jesus gave His Church,
yet less than 5% have every witnessed, and less than 1% have ever led
anyone to Christ.  That is called disobedience.

Praying for the sick, anointing them with oil, is commanded by James and
practiced by churches ever since, yet many try to explain it away with
flimsy explanations or ignore it and hope it will go away.  That is
called disobedience. 

Last night I preached from John 15 on "The Secrets of Successful
Christian Living".  Two statements I made are:  
   A.  The secret of Abiding is Obeying ---- obedience maintains our
abiding in Christ.  Faith without accompanying obedience is fraudulent. 
Jesus said, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love, just
as I did with My Father." (15:10).
   B.  The Secret of Obeying is Loving ---- obedience comes because we
love Him.  Babies obey parents out of fear.  We teach them obedience by a
little slap on the top of the hand or a sharp "No!" when they reach for
that special figurine Mom should have put on a higher shelf.

Adolescents obey parents for reward.  "What will you give me if I take
out the trash?"  My mother told me what she'd give me if I didn't.

Adults obey out of love!  If you want to know where you are in your
spiritual pilgrimage, just figure out what it is that motivates you to

If you want to really understand the spiritual condition of your church,
just check out the obedience factor.  Is it selective obedience,
obedience out of fear, obedience for reward, or obedience because they
love the Lord Jesus Christ with their whole hearts and cannot even
imagine NOT obeying Him?

Minimizing holiness and obedience is a cancer that continues eating away
at the very heart of many churches.  Perhaps the greater tragedy,
however, is not that this practice goes on, but rather that it goes on
unaddressed from the pulpit.

May God break us and bring us to repentance over this devastating blight!


I cannot thank you enough for your graciousness in receiving my thoughts
over these past five letters.  You certainly must have found numerous
comments with which you did not agree, yet you were patient to allow me
to share them.  I thank you for that.

You also endured to the end a series of letters that I never intended to
be a series.

Many of you have encouraged me through your comments, both positive and

You have also been patient in giving me some latitude to come very close
to the edge of the real purpose for these letters ---- to bring
encouragement.  And, I know that much of what I shared the past few weeks
did not sound too encouraging, even though I wanted it to very much. 
Sometimes the most encouraging thing we can hear from our doctor is "We
have discovered cancer!"  I would much rather have a cancer that was
discovered than one that was not.

Now that we have "discovered" these seven things that I believe often
hamstring a minister of the Gospel in his ever present drive to serve the
Lord Jesus Christ, may we have the understanding to discern the truth
from the imagined, the wisdom to find the appropriate corrections, and
the courage to take bold action.

In spite of all that has been said ---- (and much has been said!) ----
the most wonderful news I have for you today is that God is still
committed to and in control of His Sovereign plan, Jesus Christ is still
Head of His Church, the Holy Spirit is still providing His unlimited
facets of ministry, the Bible is still without error, and the Church is
still going to prevail over the gates of hell!

Hallelujah!  Praise His Name!

Have a G-R-E-A-T  Week!

In His Bond of Love,

Bob Tolliver

Copywrite April 1998.  Permission granted to use this material or forward
it, with credits, to anyone who might be encouraged by its contents.

ADDRESS:  Route 1, Box 87AB, Collins, MO 64738
Ph: 417-275-4854.   Fax: 417-275-4855
E-mail: lifeunlimited@...

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