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Category: Unity
Where the Unworthy are Worthy

It’s my second day at Asbury Seminary; first day of class. So far I’ve attended two days of new student orientation and several chapel services.

At chapel this morning I was confronted again with a tension I grew up with, something I’ll call the “worthiness factor” in taking communion. My faith tradition practiced “closed communion” which simply meant that the communion table was typically open to only members of that church who were in “right standing” with God and their fellow believers. This is based on an understanding of 1 Corinthians 11 in which Paul instructs the believers to not eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily.

The dean of the chapel made the rather startling comment at the onset of the service that there were some of us in the audience who were unworthy to participate in the Lord’s table. He then proceeded to announce that if any of us felt worthy of the bread or cup we ought not to come. For the unworthy—those aware of their constant need for grace—the table was open.

Perhaps the real problem lies with those who translate “unworthily” as being “unworthy”. A better rendering of that text might be “in an unworthy manner.” This is clearly seen as Paul elaborates about those who ought not to eat or drink—those who fail to discern the body of Christ.

Furthermore, is it Biblical to discern whether or not another person is “worthy” to commune? Can one see into another person’s heart? It’s easy to be externally aligned and offer acceptable words at a “preparatory service” while all the time be callous toward the body of Christ.

Closed communion presupposes that we have jurisdiction over those within our own church and must thus take responsibility for those who commune. But do we commune with those we think are worthy or do we commune based on self-examination? Only the latter is Biblical (see 1 Cor. 11: 28-32). And how does one explain Jesus offering the bread and wine to Judas—one that He knew was in desperate need of grace at that moment?

But there’s even a greater tension I’ve wrestled with in practicing closed communion. Something that stems primarily from my personal experiences within the broader body of Christ.

In Southeast Asia I would often travel to speak in a variety of settings. Often I was invited to commune with believers who didn’t share my denominational background or practice Christianity exactly as I did. Having refused the bread and cup offered to me would have been akin to committing sacrilege.

Why would Jesus throw a banquet in His honor and then not show up to celebrate it with all His children?

What’s Our Basis for Unity?

While recently listening to an audio version of Matthew 17, I was somewhat puzzled by one statement. Descending the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus instructs his inner circle to not tell anyone about the event until after His resurrection. Why?

Representatives of the law and the prophets—Moses and Elijah—appeared to Jesus at this time. Peter thought it was a good idea to erect temples for all three of them. Was he implying that the law and the prophets were equally important alongside Jesus’ “Kingdom of heaven” message? A voice quickly breaks through the clouds and God makes it quite clear that Jesus is greater than the law or the prophets. Everyone should listen only to Him.

Before His resurrection Jesus was living in an Old Testament era. He lived by Jewish rules and regulations set down by the law and the prophets even while introducing a new Kingdom paradigm. This Kingdom involved both new wine (truth perspectives) and new wineskins (systems). Yet it wasn’t until after Jesus conquered death that He had completely fulfilled the law and His disciples were able to begin a new movement we now call the Church.

The Church has always struggled however, with what to do with the Old Testament; it’s been a constant source of disunity. A church council meeting in Acts 15 decides to drop circumcision yet requires early believers to abstain from food sacrificed to idols and bloody meat. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, a curse is placed on those who returned to the law after walking the road of grace paved with saving faith in Christ alone.

Today I observe that many Christians still disunite over issues of law rather than uniting on the fundamentals of our Christian faith. Instead of using the Apostle’s Creed as a foundational starting point, the practical approach is to first observe how similar one is in culture and practice. If there is alignment in “the details” people feel comfortable in working and worshiping together.

After living in Southeast Asia for over ten years I personally believe there are various ways to apply God-given truth and principles. Take diversity in culture for example. Most people would agree that much of it is generally neither good nor bad, just different. In fact, much of it is a matter of preference. Everyone believes in satisfying their hunger. Some do so with rice and beans while others with steak and potatoes. Most people also believe in wearing clothes; some put on robes and turbans while others attire in jeans and t-shirts.

This makes me ask some questions: Are some of our practical applications (doctrines and laws) simply based on preferences (or our interpretative lenses) and not necessarily in contradiction to others’ applications of the same principles? Do we sometimes incorrectly assume that someone is disobedient to God’s Word when in reality they are living out the same principle with another form of application?

In terms of God’s Word, which parts of the law and the prophets should we obey today? Some would say everything but certain aspects of the ceremonial law. If so, do we follow to the letter of the law all aspects of the civil and moral laws set forth in the Old Testament? If so, how is this determined?

Should you plant more than one type of seeds in your garden (Deuteronomy 22:9)? Should you wear clothes made with two types of material (Deuteronomy 22:11)? If your brother dies should you marry his wife (Deuteronomy 25:5)? Should you abstain from medium-rare steaks off the grill (Leviticus 19:26)? And what about tattoos—should you forbid them and condemn anyone who wears one (Leviticus 19:28)?

I could list many more Old Testament laws and no doubt receive a vast number of opinions in response. Take the last one I mentioned—currently a controversial issue for many. I personally dislike tattoos. But on what basis can I judge someone who wears one?

We’re living in the post-resurrection church era. Jesus foresaw our struggle to get along with each other and prayed about it passionately. Especially noteworthy are His prayers for unity in John 17; it’s mentioned four times!

A wise German Lutheran theologian by the name of Rupertus Meldenius once said, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” So let me ask you: Is the Apostle’s Creed enough for you to unite with other believers—God’s children whom you will spend eternity with? Can you pray, worship, and work alongside another person who holds to the fundamentals of your faith? Why or why not?

A Man Named Ivan

Last weekend I ran into a guy named Ivan and heard his story. He works with a ministry called Steeple to People. Their purpose is to bring the Church to People by utilizing the skills, talents, and resources of Christians to meet the needs in their community. Their statement of faith includes a declaration to cooperate and not to compete. Since my meeting with Ivan was brief, most of what I learned about his story came from others.

An elderly gentleman, Ivan is known by most folks in town including the senior citizens, teenagers, police, town council members…and well, just about everyone. For the last twenty plus years Ivan has been investing in his local community. If someone has a problem, they call Ivan. He fixes their things, helps with basic needs, oversees funerals, settles estates, and generally cares for whoever he meets. He also shares his testimony everywhere he goes.

Ivan serves under a group of people from the local community. This board has representation from various denominations including the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Mennonite churches in town. They all collaborate on one thing—serving their community. They all believe that only by working together can they make a difference in their neighborhood. Presently a youth center, a thrift store, and refuge house exist in this town as a result of their united vision.

It all started over 25-30 years ago when the local Presbyterian Church started Steeple to People Ministries. It wasn’t long before Ivan was involved and his farm became the epicenter for local mission. It was just the right environment for vacation Bible school and kids’ clubs. In fact, when recruiters hit the streets to mobilize children for events all they had to do was mention Ivan and his farm. No more questions were asked; Ivan’s reputation had preceded him, and anything connected to him had everyone’s support.

Ivan’s story intrigued me so I decided to call him for more information. “We don’t even think about denominations,” Ivan told me on the phone this afternoon. “All that matters is that we are born again.” He went on to tell me about a Bible study he and his wife lead at a local senior citizen apartment complex every Tuesday night. A Catholic lady has been attending those for the last 6-8 years.

Ivan is a Conservative Mennonite man. He still holds to his convictions. But Ivan has concluded that much of his Christian faith is the same as other local Christians. He understands that majoring on the minor issues that divide so many believers flies in the face of what Christ had in mind. He also realizes the impact he can have on his broken community when he aligns himself with what God is already doing through the local body.

So here’s my question for you: What will it take for your church to reach your community? Where can you join God where He is already at work around you? Can you unite on the essentials of your faith with other Christ-followers and dare to overlook the 5-10% of controversial non-essentials that tend to divide so many? The Kingdom is at stake.

Unity in Diversity

This past month I’ve been reminded again of the diversity and beauty of the body of Christ. A roomful of guys from different backgrounds sharing their dreams about reaching a broken world. A group of students at LSU attempting to decipher their role in the Kingdom. A couple with three children—two adopted from China and one biological—who have taken a foreign exchange student into their home and are open to moving overseas to make God famous among the unreached. All seeking the heart of God, all pursuing His higher purposes for their lives. Though not like me, all are Christ-followers with whom I experienced a oneness and joy.

I’ve taught numerous times on the issue of God’s greatest glory being reached when He unites all the diversity on the planet under the one umbrella of Jesus Christ. I’ve seen my vision of God expand each time I worship Him with people from differing perspectives and cultures. I’ve also been enriched in my Christian walk by learning from people of varying colors and Christian backgrounds.

Unity is good, pleasant, and refreshing, David points out in his 133rd Psalm. It is there that “the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore” (vs. 3). Unity is also a major theme in the New Testament. Jesus prays for it three times in His classic prayer found in John 17. Paul mentions it over and over again. Yet we still don’t seem to really get it. As one of my friends recently commented, “It is unfortunate that we take time out of our busy schedule fighting the devil to fight each other.”

To keep things in perspective, John Trapp reminds us that, “Unity without verity [truth] is no better than conspiracy. In fact, many folks excuse themselves from the pursuit of unity for this very reason. And while that may be noble in certain situations, I believe that most of the time many Christians are misguided by their unperceived arrogance. Their feelings of superiority based on their belief that they have greater insights and revelation than other believers makes them prime candidates for opposition. Not opposition from the enemy however. The Apostle James makes it very clear that “God resists the proud” (4:6).

I have no doubt that true unity cannot occur apart from a commitment to truth. Yet why do we tend to fight over the 10 percent or less of nuance and application rather than unite on the 90+ percent of essentials we all agree on? The old ecumenism put little emphasis on truth…a new ecumenism must move forward on the essentials of the Gospel. It must grow in the context of relationship as we mutually influence each other to become more like Christ. In other words, what’s strong or beneficial in someone else’s faith tradition becomes a learning point for us, and what’s useful and valuable in our faith tradition becomes a learning point for them.

Frederick Coutts once said that, “Few things make a mockery of Christianity more than disunity among believers.” The present day fragmentation of the church must end. Not necessarily an end to all denominations and groupings, but rather an end to the isolation, turf wars and posturing these barriers have created.

Jesus saw unity in terms of missional impact. “By this will all men know that you are My disciples,” He stated, “by your love for one another.” What are you currently doing to fulfill His vision for unity in the body?

Contact MeContact Me

Let's Connect

I’d love to connect with you via email or phone. Snail mail can be sent to the address listed below.

Address

333 East Margaret Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390

Phone

(+1) 269.625.3400

Booking InfoBooking Info

Logistics and Details

Select me as your speaker, and I will give you my best effort. See me as a catalyst or facilitator that will help you achieve the goals you’ve set for your event. When you win, I win. It’s as simple as that. I’m here to serve you in life’s journey!

Venue

A venue for the event should be chosen with the target audience in mind. All-day or half-day workshops are ideally hosted in rooms where food can be served and participants can gather around tables for group dialogue and breakout sessions (click on links for preferred room setup: round/long tables). All venues should be suited for multi-media presentations and wired for sound.

Once a date and presentation topic have been confirmed for an event, the venue name and address along with a contact phone number should be submitted for advertisement purposes. These will be posted in my speaking schedule and used in advertising media.

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Equipment

A room featuring a multi-media projector with 3000 lumens or greater is preferred for all events. I will use my own projector when one is not available. Please note that for most presentations and workshops I need my laptop at the front of the venue from where I’ll be speaking. My system can accommodate VGA/HDMI/DVI cables. Most of my presentations are designed for widescreen (16:9).

For audio I prefer a lapel or Countryman microphone. For presentation/video audio I can supply my own speaker for groups under 100 people. For larger groups I need an audio cable (3.5mm mini stereo) that plugs directly into my laptop.

Replace lecterns and pulpits with a small table or stand on which to place a laptop.

For workshops, have a flip chart or white board available with markers in several colors.

An eight-foot table should be available on which to place books, CDs, DVDs, and other resources for sale. Cash, checks, and credit cards are all accepted.

Fees

I do not charge a set fee when speaking at non-profit events. However, donations are welcome to support my family, cover bills, and feed my Puggle. Suggested donation amount is $500/day plus travel expenses. If I’m within 8 hours of an event I will drive (suggested reimbursement of $250), otherwise I typically fly (if within the USA, $500). I fly out of Lexington, KY and typically purchase my own tickets; a reimbursement check can be mailed to 333 East Margaret Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390.

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I’d be delighted to come to your event and speak. I typically keep my events within a 1-3 day time period due to commitments to my family; anything over this length of time is generally reserved for international travel. Workshops can be facilitated as whole-day or half-day events. My multi-part series can be easily held over a weekend, beginning Friday night and ending Sunday morning or beginning Sunday morning and ending Monday evening.

About MeAbout Me

Speaker, author, and life coach.

Born in Ontario, Canada, I moved to El Salvador at age 4 to live as a missionary kid for three years. At age nineteen I moved to Alberta, Canada where I taught school for three years. After leading several short term teams to Asia focused on unreached people groups, I married my sweetheart Amy and lived in Northern Indiana for Familya year and a half. In 1997, we moved with our infant daughter Brittany to Thailand where I served as director of Global Tribes Outreach. During our ten-year stint in Southeast Asia, God blessed us with two more children—Courtney and Jamin. In 2008 we moved back to North America and bought our first house in Kentucky, USA. I acquired a Masters in Christian Leadership from Asbury Seminary in 2014 and now travel both domestically and internationally to develop leaders.

As a leadership developer and life coach I help non-profit and business leaders understand how to maximize their God-given potential to lead and serve others. I am the author of A Serving Leader’s Devotional and the President of the Reverb Network.

I’ve spoken broadly on personal & global mission, leadership, team building, and numerous Biblical subjects over the last 20 years on four continents and numerous states and provinces in the USA and Canada.

I am committed to a Biblical worldview and dedicated to motivating the church toward missional thinking and practice in all areas of life. I believe that everyone has a God-given purpose to love and serve others like Jesus. I firmly believe that having our thinking challenged is not enough; it must be translated into change.

MY STORY

I have heard from other staff members who agree with me, this was one of the best/productive workshops we've attended.

Dan Domer
Staff Member, Covenant Church, Winterville, NC

Your talk rocked my world.  

Qian Wang
Perspectives Student, College Station, TX

Luke Kuepfer’s high-energy presentation of the material was delightful, articulate, and profound! If you are looking for a fresh and life-changing look at Jesus’ servant leadership model, look no further! Give Luke a call!

Don Showalter
President, Hearts Alive!

Luke is a dynamic speaker with the gift of clearly articulating Biblical truths in an easy-to-understand manner. He speaks in humility but with authority, and injects his message with the experience and global perspective gained from living abroad as a missionary for many years.

Santosh David Poonen
Elder, River of Life Christian Fellowship, Loveland, CO

Luke’s enthusiasm and passion for the local church and its impact in the community is inspiring. I highly recommend his teaching and ministry!  

Clarence Miller
Deacon, Sharon Mennonite Church

“Transformational” is the one word I would use to describe the seminar. Luke has a true gift in communicating God’s truths with clarity and passion.

Joe Bacher
Pastor, Foothills Fellowship Westminster, SC

Luke is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, presenting the interactive material creatively. It is a unique presentation unlike the usual “leadership seminars” taught from the front. Luke presents it with expertise, fun, and interest in each attendee.

David Livingstone
Regional Manager, North-East & Mid-Atlantic Region, The JESUS Film Project

Luke really has an incredible way of captivating everyone’s attention and making a seminar meaningful. He speaks from his heart and lives what he preaches. As a result of this Encounter we’re taking our family to Southeast Asia on a two-month mission trip with the possibility of moving there long-term.

Lloyd & Mary Ellen Esh
Pastor, New Covenant Mennonite Fellowship New Holland, PA

REVIEWS

SKILLS

Years Lived Abroad
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2014 - 2016

SPEAKER, COACH, & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPER

Presentations and workshops in both non-profit and business venues around the world on leadership, people skills, and life purpose.

2011- 2013

STUDENT @ ASBURY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

Masters Degree in Christian Leadership.

2009 - 2010

STUDENT @ THOMAS EDISON STATE COLLEGE

Bachelor’s Degree online in Liberal Studies.

1997 - 2008

DIRECTOR @ GLOBAL TRIBES OUTREACH

Founded and served as Field Director of Global Tribes Outreach (GTO), a non-profit organization based in Southeast Asia committed to church planting and social work.

1994 - 1996

WORKER IN CONSTRUCTION AND AGRICULTURE

Floor finishing in concrete construction and equipment operator on a cash crop farm.

1990 - 1993

TEACHER @ PRAIRIE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

Taught elementary through high school students in a self-directed learning environment.