10 REASONS CHURCHES ARE NOT REACHING MILLENNIALS

By Frank Powell (This article has had 250,000 views!)

Slide59-compressor-e1425240038328Many people are pessimistic about Millennials, but I believe the next generation is poised to transform the culture (and the world) for the good. For many churches and leaders, however, Millennials are (to borrow from Winston Churchill) “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

I would agree with Churchill’s statement on some levels, but the riddle can be solved. Once you find out what makes Millennials tick, they are not that puzzling. They simply have a unique set of passions, interests, and viewpoints on the culture and the world.

But the church has largely failed to take stock in this generation because they are different. This is a problem. A lack of knowledge breeds fear, and this is true of the church in relation to Millennials. Many churches do not take the time to know the next generation, so they are stuck with attaching stigmas (many untrue) to them.

There are churches, however, that are thriving with Millennials, and if you did some investigation I believe you would find similar results, regardless of the church locale.

So, what differentiates a church culture that attracts Millennials from one that repels them? There are many factors, but I want to highlight ten really important ones. If your church wonders why reaching the next generation is difficult, the following points might shed some light on your struggle.

1.) THERE IS A STRONG RESISTANCE TO CHANGE.

The next generation doesn’t understand why churches refuse to change a program, activity, or even an entire culture if they aren’t effective. Millennials don’t hold traditions close to their heart. In fact, for many (myself included) traditions are often the enemy because many churches allow traditions to hinder them from moving forward.

Is this right? Maybe. Maybe not. But it is a reality nonetheless. One that must be understood.

Millennials are tired of hearing the phrase “this is how we have always done it.” That answer is no longer acceptable. Millennials want to change the world. Many times traditions hold them back from this. Change is necessary to remain focused on the vision and being externally focused, among many other things. The next generation understands this.

2.) A COMPELLING VISION IS LACKING OR NON-EXISTENT.

If creating an environment totally void of the next generation is your goal, especially those with any initiative and talent, refuse to cast vision in your church. That will drive Millennials away faster than the time I saw a rattlesnake in the woods and screamed like a girl. Don’t judge me. I hate snakes…and cats.

It baffles me when a church doesn’t value vision and planning. In no other arena of life do we refuse to vision and plan, but for some reason the church is different.

If your vision doesn’t compel, move or stir people, your vision is too small.

Craig Groeschel

Millennials will not invest in a church that refuses to dream big because they see example after example of an infinitely powerful God doing amazing things through normal people. You might think they are naive, but most Millennials don’t believe they have to wait until they receive a certain degree or reach a certain age to start non-profits, plant churches, or lead businesses.

So, go ahead and believe “the Spirit is supposed to guide us, not a man-made vision” or just allow sheer laziness to lead the way, but your church will continue to be void of the next generation.

3.) MEDIOCRITY IS THE EXPECTATION.

Quite simply…the next generation is not content with mediocrity. They believe they can (and will) change the world. Good or bad, they have a strong desire for the extraordinary. Failure is not going to drive the train. This also seems like a foreign concept to many in previous generations, but Millennials aren’t scared to fail. And they believe churches should operate with a similar mindset.

Failing and being a failure are mutually exclusive. They dream often and dream big because they understand they serve a God who works beyond their abilities.

Millennials have a collective concern for making the world a better place, and mediocrity fits nowhere in those plans.

4.) THERE IS A PATERNALISTIC APPROACH TO LEADING MILLENNIALS.

If you want to push the next generation from your church, refuse to release them to lead.

This is one I have experienced personally. If you want to push the next generation away from your church, don’t release them to lead. Simply giving them a title means nothing. Titles are largely irrelevant to the next generation. They want to be trusted to fulfill the task given to them. If you micro-manage them, treat them like a child, or refuse to believe they are capable of being leaders because of their age and lack of experience, wisdom, etc., they will be at your church for a short season.

Millennials will not allow age to keep them from leading…and leading well. If you refuse to release them to lead, the next generation will quickly find another church or context where they can use their talents and gifts to their full capacity.

5.) THERE IS A PERVASIVE INSIDER-FOCUSED MENTALITY.

Traditional or contemporary worship? High church or low church? A plurality of elders, board of directors, or staff-led church? While past generations invested a lot of time in these discussions, most Millennials see these conversations as sideways energy. There might be a time and place for talking about acapella versus instrumental or high church versus low church, but the time is very rarely and the place is not from a pulpit or in a small group.

Millennials won’t attend church that answer questions nobody is asking.

When the faithful saturate their schedules with Christian events at Christian venues with Christian people, the world has a hard time believing we hold the rest of the world in high esteem.

Gabe Lyons

What is important to Millennials? How a church responds to the lost in the world, both locally and globally. How a church responds to the poor, homeless, needy, and widowed. If you want to ensure your church has very few Millennials, answer the questions nobody is asking, spend most of your resources on your building, and have programs that do little to impact anybody outside the church walls.

The next generation is pessimistic towards institutions…the church included. Millennials are not going to give their time and resources to a church that spends massive amounts of money on inefficient and ineffective programs.

Church leaders can get mad or frustrated about this, or they can consider changing things. Churches who value reaching the next generation emphasize the latter.

6.)  TRANSPARENCY AND AUTHENTICITY ARE NOT HIGH VALUES.

Despite what I often hear, most Millennials value transparency and authenticity. If your church portrays a “holier than thou” mentality and most of the sermons leave everyone feeling like terrible people, your church will be largely devoid of the next generation.

Why? Because the next generation knows something the church has largely denied for a long time…church leaders are not in their position because they are absent of sin, temptations, or failures. Millennials have seen too many scandals in the church (i.e. Catholic church scandal) and witnessed too many instances of moral failures among prominent Christian leaders.

Millennials are not looking for perfect people…Jesus already handled that. Millennials are looking for people to be real and honest about struggles and temptations.

7.)  MENTORING IS NOT IMPORTANT.

This is a common misconception about Millennials. While they do not like paternalistic leadership, they place a high value on learning from past generations. I have a good friend who lives in Jackson, TN and he occasionally drives to Nashville (two hours away) to sit at the feet of a man who has mentored him for years. He does this because his mentor has knowledge my good friend highly values.

He is not an exception. I have driven as far as Dallas to spend a weekend with a family I love and respect. I had no other reason for going than to watch how they parent and let this man give me nuggets of wisdom on following Jesus and loving others. Many might think this is ridiculous, but this is what makes Millennials unique.

They value wisdom and insight. It is a valuable treasure, and they will travel long distances to acquire it.

Millennials aren’t standoffish towards those who have gone before us. They place a high value on learning. But they want to learn from sages, not dads. If your church is generationally divided and refuses to pour into the next generation, you can be sure your church will not attract Millennials.

8.) CULTURE IS VIEWED AS THE ENEMY.

Millennials are tired of the church viewing the culture as the enemy. Separationist churches that create “safe places” for their members, moving away from all the evil in the city, are unlikely to attract the next generation. The next generation is trying to find ways to engage the culture for the glory of God.

The next Christians believe that Christ’s death and Resurrection were not only meant to save people FROM something. He wanted to save Christians TO something.

Gabe Lyons

Millennials are increasingly optimistic about the surrounding culture because this is the model of Jesus. He loves all types of people, does ministry in the city, and engages the culture. They also know the church does not stand at the cultural center anymore.

In past generations, preachers could stand in pulpits and lecture about the evils of the culture because the church shaped the culture. Today, this is not true.

The goal of Christian living isn’t to escape the evils of the culture and finish life unharmed. To reach people today, the church must be immersed in the community for the glory of God.

To reach people today, the church must be immersed in the community.

9.) COMMUNITY IS NOT VALUED.

This might be the greatest value of Millennials. Community is a non-negotiable part of their lives. And they aren’t looking for another group of people to watch the Cowboys play football on Sunday…the next generation desires a Christ-centered community. They value a community that moves beyond the surface and asks the hard questions.

Community keeps Millennials grounded and focused. Community challenges them to reach heights never imagined alone. Jesus lived in community with twelve men for most of His earthly ministry. Jesus spent a lot of His time pouring into people. Community isn’t an optional part of a Millennial’s life…it is essential.

Personally, I have seen the value of community on so many levels. Without authentic Christian community, I wouldn’t be in full-time ministry today. I wouldn’t have overcome serious sins and struggles. I wouldn’t have been challenged to live fully for God.

In a culture becoming increasingly independent and disconnected, Millennials model something important for the church. There is power in numbers. As an African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go ALONE. If you want to go far, go TOGETHER.”

Millennials want to go far and want their life to have meaning. In their minds this is not possible without deep, authentic, Christ-centered community. I agree.

10.) THE CHURCH IS A SOURCE OF DIVISION AND NOT UNITY.

Nothing frustrates Millennials more than a church that doesn’t value unity. Jesus’s final recorded prayer on earth in John 17 has been preached  for years. What many churches miss is one of the central themes in that prayer…unity.

On four separate occasions, Jesus explicitly prays for unity. It was important to him. He brought together tax collectors and Zealots (just do some research if you want to know how difficult it would have been to bring these groups together). He brought people together. This is why places like coffee shops are grounds (like my pun?) for a lot of Millennials. They want to be in environments where everyone feels welcomed and accepted.

Churches that value racial, generational, and socio-economic unity will attract Millennials. Why? The gospel is most fully reflected when all of these groups are brought together, and most of them are just crazy enough to believe the power of the Spirit is sufficient to make it happen.


Some churches and leaders don’t see the value of changing to reach this generation, but once they realize this mentality is wrong it will be too late. The Millennials are a huge part of the population today (about 80 million strong), and if your church is serious about the Great Commission, your church also needs to be serious about understanding this generation.


To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available by contacting us.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.


Copyright 2015 Frank Powell. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact us.

The Continued Rise of the Nones

By James Emery White

When I wrote The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, the most recent data revealed that the “nones” made up one out of every five Americans, which made them the second largest religious group in the United States – second only to Catholics. They were also the fastest growing religious group in the nation.
 
And when I wrote about it being fast, I meant fast.
  
 

As you see in this graph, the number of “nones” in the 1930’s and 1940’s hovered around 5 percent. By 1990, that number had only risen to 8 percent, a mere 3 percent rise in over half a century. Between 1990 and 2008 – just 18 years – the number of “nones” nearly doubled leaping from 8.1 percent to 15 percent. Then, in just four short years, it climbed to nearly 20 percent, representing one of every five Americans. And when you studied only those adults under the age of 30, it went to one out of every three people.
 
But hold on – it’s gotten worse.
 
First came the figures released in March from the General Social Survey, filling in the gap between 2012 and 2014. Then, this week, the Pew Research Center released its latest findings. Both are considered the “gold standard” of research.
 
In just two years, the “nones” have climbed from 19 percent to nearly one out of every four adults.
 
(*The GSS charted the rise to around 21 percent, the Pew study at around 23 percent).

 
 
The “nones” are no longer the second largest religious group in the United States, but the largest. And still, by far, the fastest-growing.
 
(The Pew study still maintains that Evangelical Protestants are the largest, but they do it by pooling together several groups and organizations, instead of a single entity, such as the Southern Baptist Convention).
 
But wait…it gets worse.
 
It’s not simply that the “nones” are growing, but that the number of professing Christians is shrinking. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped nearly eight percentage points from the last Pew study in 2007. So now, only about 71 percent of American adults would call themselves a Christian, down from nearly 80 percent.
 
But wait…it gets “worser.”
 
More than 85 percent of American adults were raised Christian, but nearly a quarter of those who were raised Christian no longer identify with Christianity. Former Christians now represent 19.2 percent of the U.S. adults overall.
 
And the rise of the “nones” and the fall of Christians is widespread, crossing race, gender, education and geographic barriers. Forget the Bible Belt, or the Catholic North…this is happening everywhere and across every demographic.
 
I have more to say about these findings in future blogs, but for now, I just wanted to get the information out there.
 
But I couldn’t help but think of a conversation I had recently with a man about his church.
 
I asked him how it was going.
 
He said, “Our pastor has started trying to get people to invite their unchurched friends, and started preaching the gospel.”
 
I thought to myself, “Good!”
 
“And lots of people are getting baptized.”
 
Again, I thought, “Good!”
 
Then he paused.
 
“And most of our leaders have left.”
 
Stunned, I said, “Why?”
 
He said, “They said they needed to be fed.”
 
I felt like vomiting.
 
Fed for what?!
 
There is one and only one reason why Christians are to be fed. It is so they have the strength and stamina for the mission. And that mission is clear: to be about the evangelization and transformation of culture through the centrality of the local church.
 
And even then, the goal is for them to learn to feed themselves, not be dependent on a church or teacher for spiritual room service.
 
The data released this week will be parsed many times over.
 
People will ask, “Why?”
 
Perhaps the most obvious answer is narcissistic Christians.
 
James Emery White
 
Sources
 
James Emery White, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated (Baker).
 
Pew Research Center, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” May 12, 2015, read online.
 
Cathy Lynn Grossman, “Christians lose ground, ‘nones’ soar in new portrait of US religion,” Religion News Service, May 12, 2015, read online.
 
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Christianity faces sharp decline as Americans are becoming even less affiliated with religion,” The Washington Post, May 12, 2015, read online.
 
Nate Cohn, “Big Drop in Share of Americans Calling Themselves Christian,” The New York Times, May 12, 2015, read online.
Editor’s Note
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available by contacting us.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Churches as God’s Vineyard Bearing Fruit (Part 3)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

Our Vineyards2In Part 1, we looked at the failure of Israel as God’s choice grapevine to yield good fruit. In Part 2, we looked at how God’s judged and destroyed vineyard was restored to life again through Christ. Now, we will consider how the church can learn from Israel’s mistakes by structuring each Christian community around their union with Christ.

Israel’s Mistakes

While church leaders these days do not generally exploit their congregations by oppression and violence as did Israel’s rulers and governing upper class, there is still a correlation because:

  • the greed, arrogance, and failure to trust God underlying the oppression and violence of Israel’s leaders outlined in Part 1 is relevant today among church leaders, although there is clearly a large proportion of ministers/leaders who do not exhibit these traits;
  • the spiritual adultery, indulgence in worldly pleasures, idolatry, and perversion of God’s people outlined in Part 1 which propagated the bad leadership in Israel is widespread in churches today; and
  • a large proportion of church leaders today are insecure within themselves, and feed on the attention that accompanies their leadership role to feel good about themselves, thereby inadvertently taking ownership over what properly belongs to God for personal psychological benefits.

This becomes clearer when we consider just what it was about Israel’s leaders that led to the judgment and destruction of the nation.

Indictment on Israel’s Leaders

The destruction of Israel as God’s vineyard was caused by Israel’s leaders acting irresponsibly and unjustly when they:

  • confused the pathways the people should take under Yahweh’s rule rather than leading them in the right way, causing them go astray, plundering the poor entrusted to their care, crushing them for their own advantage (Isaiah 3:12-15; Deuteronomy 17:14-20; compare Isaiah 28:1-19; 32:1-8; 3 John 3-4; note especially Ezekiel 19:1-9 in the light of Genesis 49:8-9, 2 Kings 23:31-37; 24:1-4; 2 Chronicles 36:1-8; Jeremiah 22:11-12 which speaks of Jehoahaz/Shallum and Jehoiakim, two of Judah’s last Davidic kings, as young lions devouring human flesh on the mountains of Judah/Israel, with Jehoiakim in particular terrifying the whole land and laying waste/depopulating its cities);
  • transgressed the natural instincts of the created order by not knowing how to live communally in a naturally ordered way despite having Yahweh’s precepts, misleading God’s people by prophesying falsely a situation of well-being when the people are destroying themselves by persistently turning away from Yahweh, and being just as greedy for unjust gain through false dealings as everyone else in the nation (Jeremiah 8:4-13; compare Ezekiel 13:1-23; 14:1-11; Isaiah 1:2-3); and
  • forsook their God-given role as a producer of grapes to assume the self-aggrandising posture of a huge tree (by aggressively increasing one’s power and prestige), a symbol of the arrogance of the nations (Ezekiel 17:1-21; compare Deuteronomy 17:19-20; Ezekiel 31:1-18; Isaiah 2:12-19; 10:33-34; Psalm 29:3-6).

Cleansing of the Church as God’s Restored Vine

While there are clear connotations of God’s restored Messianic vine producing fragrant wine being the eternal kingdom that will be ushered in at the end of this age when Jesus returns, there is still a present application today because this restored vine rooted in Christ as the true vine stem:

  • is still in need of pruning/cleansing (John 15:2-3, 6);
  • hasn’t finished bearing the fruitfulness of being sent into the world to prove their discipleship to Jesus (John 15:7-10, 16; compare John 17:16-18, 23); and
  • hasn’t stopped being friends of Jesus who is still working in the world by the Spirit (John 15:14-15).

The pruning therefore does not refer to those who are not Christians, who do not believe in Christ, who will not enter the eternal kingdom, because one has to initially be in the vine before it can become a fruitless branch. Those who are pruned are actual believers, Christians, who fail to dwell in Christ through obeying His words, evidencing that they do not really know Him and follow Him as true disciples (compare Matthew 7:21-23; 13:1-9; 18-23; Luke 6:46-49; 8:4-8, 11-15; Mark 4:1-9, 14-20).

Genuine Disciples of Christ

This means that bearing fruit is what makes believers Christ’s genuine disciples/followers (John 15:8; compare John 8:31-36), because only love for one another evidences that discipleship (John 13:34-35; compare 1 John 3:14-16; 2 John 5-6, 9; Colossians 1:9-10; 2 Peter 1:5-8; Galatians 5:22-24). This entails not just being Jesus’ slaves but being His friends who know what He is doing (John 15:15), just as Jesus was able to obey the Father because He knew what the Father was doing (John 5:19-20).

Those who don’t demonstrate this sort of discipleship are thrown away and burnt like fruitless branches from a bad vine. This is in full keeping with the Old Testament imagery which becomes clearer when it is understood that Christian communities can bear putrid fruit, just like Israel did.

Putrid Communication

In Ephesians 4:29, Paul exhorts the Ephesian communities to stop “putrid” communication coming out of their mouths. This putrid communication is, in the context of Ephesians chapter 4, community-destroying speech produced by a vine that is not the true vine of Christ because:

  • putrid fruit can only be produced by putrid/bad trees (Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-45), suggesting that it stems from being in Adam, i.e. the works of the flesh, rather than from being in Christ, the new Adam (Galatians 5:17-21; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:5-10; Romans 8:4-8);
  • only in the humility of the wisdom which comes down from above (as a good gift from God) can good fruits/conduct be produced, yielding a harvest of righteousness, whereas wisdom which is earthly, unspiritual and demonic (and hence haughty) produces community-destroying behaviours (James 1:17; 3:13-18; compare 1 Corinthians 1:28-30; 2:2-5, 12-13; 12:8; Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:9; Isaiah 11:1-2; Job 32:8-9; Proverbs 2:6-11; Deuteronomy 34:9; Acts 6:3, 8-10; Jude 17-19); and
  • bad leaders such as false prophets, those who are ravenous wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing in order to feed on the sheep, can be recognised by their putrid fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).

How Christian communities can operate out of both good and bad vines will be looked at in forth-coming blogs concerning the functionality of being in union with Christ.

Leadership Structures of God’s True Vinebible-05

Consequently, to achieve the covenant faithfulness and obedience to the commands of the risen Jesus essential for dwelling in Him as the true vine, church leaders have to:

  • be utterly dependent upon Christ themselves, which means not just obeying the written commands of Scripture, but also knowing what the risen Jesus (embodying the living God) is doing in the world, and partnering with Him in it;
  • help facilitate the whole community being utterly dependent upon Christ, dwelling in His word (spoken in the now, not just written) and developing a passion to partner with Him in what He is doing in the world by ensuring that His manifest presence and commands are obvious to all through the supernatural, community-wide expressions of the charismatic gifts;
  • seek the command of the risen Jesus in the midst of the Christian community to challenge sinful behaviour and to guide ethical decisions rather than determining what is right and good from human reason alone;
  • facilitate the good fruit of loving one another through community-building behaviours and speech produced within the Christian community by the supernatural transforming activity of the Spirit;
  • actively resist all human tendencies to develop a passion for pleasure and self-interest within the Christian community rather than developing a passion to seek and do God’s will;
  • seek the mind of Christ rather than resorting to the world’s ways to garner acceptance, security and/or freedom from persecution;
  • ensure that the truth of the Gospel is kept pure so that the church community stays on the right path;
  • ensure that no pagan practices are embraced to bolster flagging spirituality;
  • ensure that they themselves are not taking advantage of their role within the community for their own benefit, whether physical, financial or psychological; and
  • remove all arrogance, selfish-ambition and self-aggrandising behaviour from their own midst.

Once again we arrive at the need to structure church communities around the supernaturally manifest presence of Jesus in the midst of the assembly. I am convinced that this is the only way to effectively dwell in Christ, the true vine, in order to be supernaturally transformed to bear the fruit of loving one another, just as Jesus dwelt in the Father by the Spirit and loved us. The typical way the church has done things in Australia to date through hierarchical structures around sermon-centred worship services is clearly flawed and hasn’t worked.

Church Excellence Framework

This is part of the reason why the Church Excellence Framework seeks to:

  • consider the implications of Servant-Hearted Leadership and the processes to Support Individuals Finding their Calling, and move from members helping the church ministry to Churches Helping Each Member’s Ministry, under the “Plan & Communicate” principle;
  • move to Measures of Transformation as a key success criteria, consider our Identity in Christ as a fundamental competency to understand and How to Work as a Team & Serve Others as a fundamental competency to teach, consider the Number Equipped to be Sent Out & Participating as a learning competence, consider developing Community through Serving God Together, and recognise the importance of Modelling in Teaching, under the “Identify Learning Interventions” principle;
  • invite each church member to discover their particular calling, place to serve and call to mission, give opportunity for each to serve regardless of length of church attendance, and encourage high quality relationships around a common purpose, under the “Reach Out & Establish Believers” principle;
  • encourage the ministry gifts of apostle-prophet-evangelist-shepherd/teacher, and consider Blended/Action Learning Methods, under the “Equip Believers” principle;
  • consider One-on-One Coaching/Discipling/Mentoring, consider the implications of the Priesthood of All believers, and encourage the networking/netweaving of similar ministry interests to create synergy, under the “Empower & Multiply” principle; and
  • evidence the active engagement and growth of church members, and encourage an assessment of what is/what is not working, under the “Engage & Evaluate” principle.

To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available by contacting us.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.


Peter “Thommo” Thompson was born in 1958 in the bulldust of south-western Queensland in the region around the township of Mitchell.  He was converted outside of the church through a supernatural encounter with the living God in Mackay, North Queensland, in February 1979, and embarked upon a long and arduous journey of God dealing with the figurative bulldust in his life.  In 2012, he completed a Bachelor of Ministry & Theology double degree, and in 2013, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Theology, all at Tabor Adelaide.  He currently lives with his two adult daughters in Ipswich, Queensland, and is writing a series of academic novels with the intent of hopefully helping to facilitate a church unifying movement through an unbranded form of Christianity in Australia.


Copyright 2015 Peter Thompson. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact us.

Prophetic Picture

This was a word/picture I was given. I believe we are suffering for not heeding these warnings.

I saw a large Bowl with water being stirred up. This represented the mixing of churches. The water was bubbling over and splashing on the surface making craters on the surface because it was so hot.

I see he wants a new level of collaboration of respect of trust for one another – no working alone not drawing on resources of others.

I see he wants leaders empowering others in such.

A way that they diminish whilst the youngsters rise. Where there is no longer the toil, new ideas will come and be birthed with speed.

No long labour and as some animals grow really quickly after birth so will some ministries.

Time for harvest is here-
Time for sowing is over
Reaping is at hand
So don’t hold back with
Faith
Meet collaborate , don’t judge
Open your hearts to new people who will have the key to your ministry
Take heed for their will be a period of grace after that I will come like Jesus turning the tables over in the temple
I will not stop till I have seen justice in my church. People no longer held back no longer ignored or unseen.

I want leaders to be held accountable and to allow inspection and challenge. People’s hearts are often where I myself am and so listen to them. You are not to take too much authority but recognise I have given you authority only by grace of god and not be abused. All my people contain part of me and you need them to make the picture whole

So come and do not keep yourself isolated from the people. Mix amongst them and see where your people hurt. There is much hurt in the church and frustration that I will no longer tolerate. These things must stop. Love is the overriding factor – not ministry – if my people are not loved their is no point.

Notice those not loved and seek to honour those.

For great is the person who lifts those above them- there is the honour –

The word has a place but not over other things. Prayer must be central as is providing leaders who can take over- home grown leaders are much better.

Open your eyes and see for The Lord is truly amongst his church

Churches as God’s Vineyard Bearing Fruit (Part 2)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

Blaxland-Wine-Group-Australian-Vineyard-LandscapeIn Part 1, we looked at the failure of Israel as God’s choice grapevine to yield good fruit. Now we will look at how God’s vineyard is restored to life again through union with Christ.

Restoration of God’s Destroyed Vineyard

Israel as Yahweh’s spoilt vine once judged and destroyed will be restored to life again:

  • as a vineyard of good wine, blossoming, budding and filling the surface of the ground with fruit under the watchful care of Yahweh as farmer, where the only divine wrath remaining is for those who would threaten this fruitful vine which Yahweh in His loving enthusiasm is more than prepared to defend (Isaiah 27:2-6; compare Romans 11:17-24);
  • when Yahweh like dew causes shoots to spread out into a blossoming vine producing fragrant wine as God lovingly heals their waywardness (Hosea 14:4-7; compare Jeremiah 3:22-23; Genesis 27:27-29); and
  • by the power and might of Yahweh’s right hand being upon the “son/child of humanity” He planted and caused to grow strong for Himself, the son/child who is actually equated to the choice vine of Israel, alluding to the Davidic dynasty fulfilled in Christ as the Son of Man through whom wayward Israel will be revived, delivered/saved and not turn away from Yahweh again (Psalm 80:14-19).

The Useless Wood of Israel’s Vine

In Ezekiel 15:1-8, the wood of the grapevine is described as worthless in comparison to all other kinds of wood. Hence Israel, God’s chosen privileged nation, the royal vine, became inherently worthless because of their complete covenant faithlessness (note Ezekiel 14:12-23), useful only as fuel for the fire.

After the fiery judgment of the Babylonian conquest under King Nebuchadnezzar, the residents of Jerusalem who survived the initial slaughter became charred to the core and utterly useless, destined to be destroyed completely like bits of the grapevine wood not completely consumed in the fire which are thrown back into the fire (Ezekiel 15:6-8).

The residents of Jerusalem therefore, representing the government of the land, were of no more value to Yahweh than the fruitless branches that vinekeepers prune from the vine and destroy.

The Tender Shoot of God’s New Vine

However, despite the worthlessness of this vine in Ezekiel 15, in chapter 17 Ezekiel prophesies that out of it will emerge a messianic tender shoot Yahweh will plant as the stem of a new fruitful grapevine, because:

  • the cedar of Lebanon refers poetically to Judah as the once glorious but now rebellious house of Israel (compare Judges 9:7-15; Numbers 24:5-6; Psalm 92:12-13; 1 Kings 5:5-6; 2 Kings 14:8-9), with the crown of the cedar representing Jehoiachin, the current king of the arrogant, self-aggrandising Davidic dynasty in Jerusalem (see the end of Part 1), noting that one of Solomon’s royal buildings was called the house of the forest of Lebanon (Ezekiel 17:1-4, 11-12; 1 Kings 7:1-5);
  • the first great eagle with great wings, long pinions at the end of the wings, and rich colourful plumage is on the human level Nebuchadnezzar, the conquering king of Babylon, who took Jehoiachin into exile in Babylon (Ezekiel 17:3-4, 12; 2 Kings 24:8-16; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; compare Habakkuk 1:6-8; Deuteronomy 28:49-51; Daniel 7:4);
  • the low-spreading vine is Mattaniah/Zedekiah whom Nebuchadnezzar set up (planted) as king in Jehoiachin’s place (Ezekiel 17:5-6, 13-14; 2 Kings 24:17-20; 2 Chronicles 36:10-16);
  • the second eagle with great wings and much plumage but not as impressive as the first eagle is Egypt towards which Zedekiah had turned for support in his failed rebellion against Babylon (Ezekiel 17:7-10, 15, 17-18; 2 Kings 24:20; 25:1-7; 2 Chronicles 36:17-20; Jeremiah 27:1-15; 37:1-11; compare Ezekiel 12:1-16);
  • the topmost sprig/twig of the crown of this cedar is a special shoot from the Davidic dynasty that Yahweh as the first great eagle on the divine level, the one behind the human King of Babylon, carried to a foreign land, to a mysterious city of merchants not identified in the interpretation which follows (Ezekiel 17:3-4; Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:9-14; compare Hosea 8:1); and
  • Yahweh took that tender twig/branch from the remnant of Judah’s exiles and planted it on the high mountain of Israel, a clear allusion to Mount Zion in Jerusalem upon which Solomon’s temple had been built, making it the main stem of a new vine which will bear branches and produce fruit (Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 132:13-18 noting Ezekiel 29:21; compare Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:14-15; Zechariah 3:8-10; 6:9-14).

The Root of Jesse

This tender twig or “Branch” is referred to again in Isaiah 11:1 as a shoot going forth out of the stump/stock of Jesse, the father of King David. From the devastation of the Babylonian exile where Judah as a forest of oaks is reduced to nothing more than burnt-out stumps, a holy seed/offspring will shoot forth (Isaiah 6:11-13; compare Isaiah 53:1-2).

This tender shoot/offspring is clearly Jesus who, in contrast to Israel’s leaders:the_love_of_god-t2

  • will be a branch coming out of the roots of Jesse bearing good not putrid fruit (Isaiah 11:1);
  • has the divine endowment of the Spirit of Yahweh resting upon Him in order to produce that good fruit, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of Yahweh (Isaiah 11:2; compare Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; Isaiah 9:6-7; 28:29; 32:14-18; Proverbs 8:12-21; Ezekiel 36:24-29); and
  • delights in the fear of Yahweh by judging the poor and downcast with righteousness and uprightness rather than by what His eyes see and His ears hear, and by slaying the wicked with the breath of His lips, thereby providing a reign of absolute safety and security (Isaiah 11:3-9; compare Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:14-16; Proverbs 2:1-15; 14:2; 15:33; Psalm 34:8-22; 110:1-6; 111:6-10; Isaiah 16:3-5).

The Messianic Vine

Therefore, it is highly significant that:

  • the Messiah is Himself called the vine of Israel which Yahweh planted and caused to grow strong to save and restore His chosen people, hence all who are in Him are the new Israel (compare Galatians 3:7, 25-29; 6:15-16; Ephesians 2:13-19);
  • it is only in the Messiah that good fruit can be produced (compare Romans 7:4);
  • the Holy Spirit is essential to fruitfulness, and especially for leadership and feats of skill and strength (compare Galatians 5:22-24; Romans 7:4-6; 1 Samuel 10:9-13, 19-24; 16:1, 11-13; Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29; Genesis 41:37-46; Daniel 4:8-9, 18; 5:10-16; Exodus 31:2-5; Judges 6:33-35; 11:29-33; 14:5-6); and
  • those who fail to bear good fruit will be cut off and burned, being utterly useless (compare Hebrews 6:7-8; Malachi 4:1; Luke 3:7-9; 13:6-9; Matthew 3:7-10; 7:17-19).

Jesus as the True Vine

In clear fulfilment of these Old Testament messianic prophesies, Jesus called Himself the true vine of Yahweh’s planting that Israel should have been, where:

  • the Father is the vinekeeper who trims the vine to bear more fruit, removing all branches who are in Christ as the true vine but which bear no fruit (John 15:1-2; compare Matthew 21:33-44);
  • only by dwelling in Christ and having Christ indwell them can disciples be fruitful, because without Jesus they can do nothing at all (John 15:4-5; compare Philippians 1:10-11);
  • those who don’t dwell in Christ are thrown out like fruitless branches to wither away and be burned up (John 15:6);
  • those who keep the commandments of Jesus, loving one another as He loved them, dwell in His love and have His joy indwell them so that their joy may be fulfilled (John 15:9-12); and
  • Jesus chooses His disciples, not vice versa, to become branches that go and bear the lasting fruit of loving one another (John 15:16-17).

If a branch from the grapevine isn’t attached to the main stem of the vine, it must wither and die, becoming utterly useless other than to be burned. So it is for all believers who do not maintain proper union with Christ through obedience to His commandments, which are all summed up in loving one another as Christ loved us (compare Galatians 5:13-14). There is a sobering warning here!

In Part 3, we will consider the implications of all this for structuring churches today as God’s vineyard.


To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available by contacting us.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.


Peter “Thommo” Thompson was born in 1958 in the bulldust of south-western Queensland in the region around the township of Mitchell.  He was converted outside of the church through a supernatural encounter with the living God in Mackay, North Queensland, in February 1979, and embarked upon a long and arduous journey of God dealing with the figurative bulldust in his life.  In 2012, he completed a Bachelor of Ministry & Theology double degree, and in 2013, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Theology, all at Tabor Adelaide.  He currently lives with his two adult daughters in Ipswich, Queensland, and is writing a series of academic novels with the intent of hopefully helping to facilitate a church unifying movement through an unbranded form of Christianity in Australia.


Copyright 2015 Peter Thompson. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact us.

Churches as God’s Vineyard Bearing Fruit (Part 1)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

red grapes Ventana 9.07There are many agricultural images used in the Bible, but the one image that has major implications for the church today is that of the vineyard, for Jesus in one of His “I am” statements referred to Himself as the true vine.

In Part 1, we will look at how the Old Testament used the vineyard imagery to describe rebellious/idolatrous Israel as God’s spoilt vine. In Part 2, we will look at how God’s precious vine has been restored in Christ, and in Part 3 what that means for restructuring churches today in the light of Israel’s mistakes.

Israel as Yahweh’s Special Vineyard

Israel is referred to as Yahweh’s special vineyard which He lovingly established and tended by:

  • transplanting a vine of pure seed as He plucked it up out of Egypt (Psalm 80:8; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 17:1-6);
  • clearing ground for it on an exposed fertile hillside so it could take root as He drove out the Canaanite nations before Joshua (Psalm 80:8-9; Isaiah 5:1);
  • digging up the soil and removing its stones (Isaiah 5:2);
  • taking delight in planting it as good vines besides plentiful water (Psalm 80:8, 15; Isaiah 5:2; Ezekiel 19:10); and
  • building a watchtower in its midst and hewing out a wine vat (Isaiah 5:2).

The emphasis is on the lavish effort Yahweh went to in the expectation of producing a crop of good grapes.

Israel as Yahweh’s Fruitful Vine

As a result of Yahweh’s tender care, Israel became a vine which:

  • filled the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Euphrates River (during the reigns of David and Solomon when Israel’s borders were extended the furthest as promised in Deuteronomy 11:22-25), covering the mighty cedars (literally the cedars of God) with its branches and the mountains (of Lebanon) with its shade (Psalm 80:10-11); and
  • was fruitful and full of thick foliage from which strong prominent branches, i.e. world-renowned rulers, emerged (Ezekiel 19:10-11; compare Genesis 49:9-12; Hosea 10:1).

The Spoiling of Yahweh’s Vine

However, when Yahweh went to examine the produce of His vineyard, Israel, all He found were sour/putrid “wild” grapes, i.e. oppression instead of justice, crying instead of righteousness (Isaiah 5:3-4, 7; Jeremiah 2:21-22; compare Deuteronomy 32:28-33), because of their:

  • greed, haughtily acquiring parcel after parcel of land to establish large land estates/vineyards, land which belonged to Yahweh as landlord and must be automatically returned under the law of Jubilee to the heirs of the tenants Yahweh originally gave it to (Isaiah 5:8, 15; Leviticus 25:23-28; compare Ezekiel 46:16-18; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Psalm 85:1; Hosea 9:3; Joel 2:18), incorporating the sin of covetousness into their greed which is at the heart of idolatry (Deuteronomy 5:21; Colossians 3:5);
  • excessive indulgence in wine and music by the wealthy in the day-to-day haughty pursuit of pleasure, completely disregarding how God might be at work in the world (Isaiah 5:11-12, 15);
  • arrogance which mockingly denies God’s moral counsel and activity in the world so that they can be free to consciously indulge in iniquity and sinful behaviour (Isaiah 5:18-19, 24; compare Jeremiah 2:34-35; 5:7-13);
  • idolatry, forsaking and rejecting Yahweh with His righteous demands, the fountain of living waters who faithfully led them into His land of plenty (compare John 4:7-14), to pursue other unprofitable spiritual sources like the prophets of Baal which are not morally demanding, enabling them to live their own selfish lives, redefining themselves by hewing out cisterns for themselves (Jeremiah 2:4-8, 20, 23, 26-28, 31; 17:13; compare Proverbs 5:15-23; Deuteronomy 32:15-18);
  • spiritual adultery and covenant insincerity, for despite their oaths to Yahweh, the more affluence they established for themselves, the more they improved their pagan altars and the pillars at their pagan shrines in order to seek more wealth from Baal (Hosea 10:1-2, 4);
  • failure to seek and put their trust in Yahweh as their only security, the fountain of living waters, by turning to political manipulation to secure an advantage from (the waters of) Egypt and Assyria (Jeremiah 2:13, 18-19, 24-25, 36-37; Isaiah 30:1-5; 31:1-3; compare Psalm 3:3-7; 28:7-8; 84:5-12; Hosea 7:11-13);
  • perversion in justifying their dark, bitter, evil behaviour by determining that it is good, being wise in their own eyes, thereby rejecting the word of Yahweh, the Holy One (Isaiah 5:20-21, 24; compare Jeremiah 4:22; Isaiah 29:13-21); and
  • injustice, being champion drink-mixers freeing the guilty and condemning the innocent if the price is right, rather than being champions and heroes of the weak and defenceless (Isaiah 5:22-23; compare Jeremiah 2:33-34; 5:26-31).

Modern Implications

It is highly significant that part of the spoiling of God’s vineyard included:

  • taking ownership over what properly belonged to God for personal use and benefit, something senior church leaders can be prone to do today (compare the imagery of Jeremiah 2:3 where all who ate of Israel as the firstfruits of Yahweh’s harvest incurred guilt because the firstfruit offering was holy and belonged to Yahweh — Deuteronomy 26:1-19);
  • losing passion for God, His truth and His righteous purposes and activity in the world because passion for pleasure had become uppermost in a person’s life, something so many Western world Christians can also stumble into today in their pursuit of financial security and entertainment (compare Isaiah 17:7-11; Matthew 16:24-27);
  • determining what is right and good according to human reason out of self-interest to justify sinful behaviour, something the church frequently does today in resolving ethical dilemmas like gay marriage, rather than seeking the command of the only One who is truly good (Mark 10:17-18; compare Proverbs 1:7; 3:7; 9:10);
  • incorporating pagan religious practices into the life of the nation, which so many churches do today to either bolster flagging spirituality or to increase appeal by compromising with an existing culture;
  • denying the manifest presence of the living God in the midst of the assembly to challenge sinful behaviour (compare 1 Corinthians 5:1-8), something most churches do today by denying, ignoring or neglecting the supernatural expression of the charismatic gifts of speech; and
  • seeking the security of the world’s protection with its hierarchical structures and distorted, ungodly scientific knowledge to make alliances for gain or influence, rather than seeking the mind of Christ who is the embodiment of truth and wisdom.

God’s Spoilt Vine under Judgment

Yahweh therefore, in judgment of Israel as a useless vine because of their putrid fruit:practice-Gods-presence-1024x768

  • broke down the vineyard’s walls and hedges (of His protection) so that boars and wild creatures (i.e. unclean foreign passersby) could root out and feed on the vine, ruining it (Psalm 80:12-13; Isaiah 5:5-6; Jeremiah 2:14-15; 12:7-11);
  • had the vine cut down and uprooted, hurling it to the ground where the east wind of judgment ripped off and dried up her putrid fruit, after which all its branches and dried-up fruit were consumed with fire (Ezekiel 19:12-14; Psalm 80:16; Isaiah 5:24-25);
  • prevented rain so that thorns and thornbushes grew up in its place (Isaiah 5:6; Jeremiah 3:2-3);
  • caused wealthy vineyards/properties to become unproductive/infertile and eventually uninhabited, so that flocks will quietly graze over the ruins of the once fine houses (Isaiah 5:9-10, 17, 24; Jeremiah 2:15; 8:13-14; compare Leviticus 26:14-15, 19-20); and
  • figuratively transplanted His vine to a desert where it lost all its strong branches (i.e. the Davidic dynasty) by sending His wayward people with their haughty, self-exalted leaders and their idols into exile where death will swallow them up, rich and poor alike, because they lacked knowledge of who God really is, replacing justice and righteousness which exalts and characterises God as holy with violence and oppression (Ezekiel 15:1-8; 19:13; Isaiah 5:13-14, 16, 26-30; Jeremiah 2:15-17, 19; Hosea 10:2, 4-6; compare Hosea 4:1-2; Jeremiah 9:23-25; 22:15-16; Micah 6:6-8).

Yahweh not only abandons His worthless vineyard, but actually assists in its destruction (note especially Isaiah 5:25; Ezekiel 17:19-21).

But judgment and indictment is not the last word on Israel’s spoilt vine, for in Part 2 we will look at how this vine comes back to life in Christ.


To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available by contacting us.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.


Peter “Thommo” Thompson was born in 1958 in the bulldust of south-western Queensland in the region around the township of Mitchell.  He was converted outside of the church through a supernatural encounter with the living God in Mackay, North Queensland, in February 1979, and embarked upon a long and arduous journey of God dealing with the figurative bulldust in his life.  In 2012, he completed a Bachelor of Ministry & Theology double degree, and in 2013, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Theology, all at Tabor Adelaide.  He currently lives with his two adult daughters in Ipswich, Queensland, and is writing a series of academic novels with the intent of hopefully helping to facilitate a church unifying movement through an unbranded form of Christianity in Australia.


Copyright 2015 Peter Thompson. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact us.

City Church Concepts – 12 Challenges: Relationships in the 21st Century

By Dr. Stephen R. Crosby

City-Church-Elders-12-ChallengesCity church is a concept/belief that only one church legitimately exists in a any city, and that it should be overseen by elders of the city, who then submit to regional apostles (overseers, bishops, superintendents–whatever your tradition calls the greater function.). The idea and its variants are prevalent in many so-called apostolic and prophetic groups and communions today, though not confined to those groups. It’s proposed that God wants to restore governmental order to the church under geographic delineations so it can fulfill its destiny in unity. Some consider the concept an essential for the realization of John 17 unity. In this lengthier (apologies in advance) than normal blog, I present twelve considerations or challenges to this idea. I am endeavoring to explore the implications, motives, and pitfalls inherent with the idea. I hope to make the case that relationships, not geography, nor hierarchy, establish spiritual authority and spiritual jurisdictions.

  1. The scriptures speak of a unity of the spirit that we are to work at maintaining. Scripture also speaks clearly of a unity of the faith, and the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ—growing up into Him. The scriptures say nothing about unity of biblical interpretation. Unity of the faith already exists to a degree in the great creeds of the church—the things that really matter—that all Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants agree on. The scriptures specifically speak nothing about a unity of ecclesiastic organization, order, and government defined by city jurisdictions. It’s an inference drawn from letters addressed to churches located in cities, aninference on how we expect John 17 to be realized, and an inference regarding elements of spiritual warfare. Inferences are just that—inferences. Inferences should be held lightly, if at all. From Christ’s perspective (where we are supposedly seated), there’s already one church everywhere! It already exists! All those blood-bought saints who have called upon the name of the Lord are His church in a community or region, and we need to get along in love, so the world will acknowledge that Christ has been sent by the Father. Our unity in relational love, not singular governance, will testify to the world.
  2. It is also an assumption that the unity of John 17 requires a visible, organized, entity. It is also an assumption that the Lord desires to maintain current geographic delineations as well as current structures and practices. A strong case could be made that rather than consolidate local expressions under one monolith of city and regional super-elders (super=above, over) and super-apostles, He desires the opposite. He may be at work to dissolve both our understanding of order and our geographies! Interesting days are ahead!
  3. It is likely that in the time scripture was written, that on a daily, routine basis people (especially the lower classes) never traveled more than 5 miles from where they lived. They walked everywhere! That is fundamentally limiting geographically, a 20-mile walk being a hefty day’s journey on foot. Their geography defined their relational sphere of existence.
  4. That is clearly not the case today. Geography does not define our relational sphere of existence. Therefore, the question becomes: How do we interpret and apply scriptures written to a context that no longer exists? The context of a scripture is critical in its application, or non-application. Are the scriptures that mention churches in cities prescriptive for all time of what must be, or descriptive of what was? This is a basic hermeneutical issue, open to honest debate among sincere hearts. Not all scripture is prescriptive, as any first-year class in hermeneutics in a conservative Bible School or seminary would teach. For example, if all scripture is prescriptive we should not be wearing wool with linen, we should cast lots for appointments, and men would be greeting each other with a kiss (maybe we should!) We all have a hermeneutic. We just disagree on how, and where it should apply! As Gordon Fee has said: “It’s all hermeneutics.” So, just claiming: “I believe what the Bible plainly says on this or that issue,” is not enough.
  5. How do we define church? Is it relationally, geographically, or governmentally defined? That the Greeks used ekklesia to denote the called out elders that governed a city is not denied. The problem is, the word ekklesia was used to denote many things, not just the civic elders. It simply meant an assembly, any assembly of people. Christians adapted the term and added the phrases tou Christou or tou theou to the word ekklesia, thus making it “assembly of Christ” or “assembly of God,” neither “assembly of the city,” nor “assembly of the elders.” In the Christian sense it means an assembly of those separated or called out unto God. The old cliché: “He who controls definition wins,” certainly applies on this issue.
  6. How do we define city? Is there a church of a metropolis and many other churches in suburban civil jurisdictions around the metropolis because of man-made township boundaries and distinctions? “Suburban cities,” in our sense, simply did not exist in the first century. It’s a mishandling of scripture to project our experience and situation into the text. If every civil demarcation is a separate spiritual jurisdiction, are there multiple sets of elders with overseeing apostles necessary in each jurisdiction? Where does the metropolis begin and stop? Who gets to define it? Based on what and why? What biblical legitimacy? Do we develop a theology of city church elders and regional super-apostles for the greater metropolitan area of a given city including the suburbs and ignore the smaller townships? If we are to take the alleged geographical jurisdiction literally, as some suggest, by what right do we have to define it so? What are the implications of either option? The first scenario seems incredibly redundant for assets and human resources, and the latter opens up all kinds of problems.
  7. How do we define city? By man-made geopolitical boundaries or other parameters that did not exist in Christ’s/Paul’s day? The scripture associates people ethnically, and that is offensive to us—“people groups,” the ethnos, the nations. Ancient cities were founded tribally/ethnically and tended to use natural geography (mountains, lakes, rivers, etc.) for boundaries. It’s quite a hermeneutical jump to translate that to invisible, modern man-made boundaries of latitude and longitude, and to try to develop a theology and practice from it. If you require 100% conformity to literal “biblicity,” then it must be literal all the way.
  8. If there is only one church in one city, am I a transgressor of mandatory biblical protocol and mandate by “crossing spiritual jurisdictional lines?” If I cross a street from my side of a city boundary to another, or by driving from one suburb to another to fellowship with people I have been bonded to by the Spirit (perhaps through my employment or other social networking outside of my geographic locality) am I in sin? Advocates for mandatory, city jurisdictions believe that I indeed, would be a transgressor, because I am no longer supporting the church in my God-mandated geography. I am made a transgressor according to them for crossing apostolically defined spiritual jurisdictional boundaries. If I am not a transgressor, why not? You have to go through some interesting gyrations to try to explain why geographical jurisdictions are mandatory, but permeable. Who has the authority to define these boundaries and determine when they are permeable and when they are not? Based on what, biblically? If God has mandated only one church in a geography, under one set of city elders and apostles, and has placed me in that geography, what right do I have to attend a church anywhere else? There is clearly no scripture giving specific permission to do so, if the one-church-one-city mandate, is indeed a mandate.8620845_orig
  9. If there is only one church in one city under one  government, it begs the question how these city churches then relate. Do we now need statewide bishops to oversee the association of city-elder-governed, city churches and do we need a national bishop to oversee the association of statewide churches? Do we need continental bishops to oversee the assembly of national bishops, and a bishop of the world to oversee the assembly of the continents? You can see where this can go. It is logically inevitable and all associated with the problem of defining these things geographically rather than relationally. If you believe in the premise of geographic spiritual jurisdictions, it is arbitrary to say that the “principle”  goes no further than cities. The rulers of the air are alleged to have national jurisdictions (Daniel: Prince of Persia, etc.) and some use this, by analogy, to counter that the church must also have singular spiritual jurisdictions at a national level.
  10. The concept of city church elders is an intoxicating proposition. Elders in a city, yes, of course! Elders of the city, no. The scriptures never use the term in the latter sense in relation to cities. Elders in a city speaks of relating to people in a geography. Elders of a city speaks to ruling over an entity, a thing, an inanimate jurisdiction. The former yes, the latter, no. The one seeming exception is in the address to the church of the Thessalonians, but note: of is used in relation to people, not geographic jurisdictions. People and their bond in the geography define the jurisdiction, not the geography itself! Paul NEVER defined himself as an apostle of Rome, or an elder of Rome. He defined his apostleship relationally: “I may not be an apostle to others, but I am to you.” — that is relational, not geographic.
  11. What about the Lord’s “divided” church in temporal expression? Division and sectarianism are, indeed, blights on His testimony. However, denominations, per se, are not the problem. Denominationalism is. The word denominate simply means to give a name to. We should be “named” only by One Name.  However, differentiation and denomination are not the same.Differentiation is fine. Denomination is not. God’s great grace, love, and redemptive reach are big enough to reach into our less than ideal brokenness and differentiations. His reach is so wide and deep, that the Creator who has made a diverse tree for every bird in the forest, has to be big enough to make a home available for the differentiation in His children: personalities, likes, dislikes, maturity levels, specific calling, etc. The forest is a divinely created unity, a singular composite unity, but there are many diverse trees, with not every creature suitable for every tree. They are all different, but they are all trees. The unity is in their created essence and their planting together in one forest (one church). Doing away with denominational ecclesiology is not the problem. Doing away with sectarian hearts is. Get rid of the former without getting rid of the latter, and we will still be divided, regardless if organized or governed on a city church or regional basis.
  12. Assuming geographic jurisdictions are a biblical mandate, what do we do if the man-made geographical jurisdictions change due to human political actions, natural disasters, or losing a war? That is, the city, state or country that one believes to have elder or apostolic jurisdiction in doesn’t exist any more!  Does your function also disappear since you no longer have a jurisdiction? What happens to the relationships you have built while  your jurisdiction existed? Do they now stop because a person is no longer in your geography? If the answer is yes, that is madness. If the answer is no, the case is made that relationship triumphs over geography!

I would like to pose a question to those who hold to the legitimacy of city church elders and regional super-apostles defined by geography:

How do you see yourself fitting into the scheme? Are you willing to not be considered a candidate for either? Are you willing to abandon all you convictions, your doctrinal persuasions, all the things you feel strongly in your heart, so another person with different convictions, of lesser stature, and lesser gifts than you perceive in yourself can be a citywide elder or regional super-apostle? Would you be willing to submit/yield to someone not from your spiritual family and doctrinal tradition? Would you be willing to submit/yield to such a person for the sake of singular citywide unity and singular government?

At the end of the day, it’s hard not to view the whole matter as boiling down to one question:  “Who has control, authority, and power?”  The “thing” swallows the people. Love and service are lost . . . again . . . in debates about who rules a “thing” and how it’s ruled. It’s a sad situation.

The only geographic apostolic jurisdiction I am interested in is the one Paul finished his life with: the geography at the foot of the cross in a jail cell. Folks living and speaking from that jurisdiction will have something to say to all of us.


To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you can download the Framework and Notes here, free of charge.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.


Copyright 2015,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.stevecrosby.org Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephrcrosby@gmail.com.

Restructuring the Church to Reveal the Risen Jesus (Part 5)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

church-windows-svetlana-sewellIn Parts 1-4, the biblical imagery of the church being God’s household, temple and cultivated field present the contemporary church with some sobering challenges if the risen Jesus as embodied truth is to be effectively revealed again to our now lost and alienated Western world society.

A few very interesting factors now emerge in respect to how the Christian community should to be restructured:

  • Leaders are to humbly and gently oversee the Christian community by example so that the whole congregation all might together guard the purity of the Gospel/truth concerning the risen Jesus, the living Word, as the embodiment of truth, thereby maintaining the only permanent link between heaven and earth (1 Peter 5:1-3; 2 Peter 3:17-18; Titus 2:7-8; Philippians 3:17; 1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:9);
  • For the Christian community to grow fruitful and strong in God’s garden-dwelling-place, servant leaders must humbly facilitate the transforming, liberating work of the Spirit through Christ, the anointed One so that the Father’s glorious attributes (including grace, mercy, loyal-love, slowness to anger) may be continually displayed by His children through loving, community-building behaviours (Isaiah 61:1-3; Romans 6:4-14; 8:3-13; Ephesians 4:17-32; 5:1-5; Colossians 3:1-17; Galatians 5:16-26); and
  • Jesus as the master interpreter of Scripture, the permanent link between heaven and earth, should be allowed to speak/command clearly, sovereignly and supernaturally through the charismatic gifts of speech to keep the community in one mind, will and purpose in respect to understanding the truth (Luke 24:25-27; Ephesians 4:20-21).

Structuring God’s Household-Temple

Therefore, the key elements for renewing church structures as God’s household/temple/cultivated-field are:

  • the Father is the only ultimate authority (not the Bible), with His only Son, Jesus, as His sole heir (Hebrews 1:2-4; 2:5-10; Galatians 4:1-6; Ephesians 1:19-22; 4:6; Matthew 11:25-27; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 15:24-25; Romans 9:5; 11:33-36; 13:1-2; Jude 24-25; Colossians 1:15-18; 2:10; John 17:1-2; 1 Peter 3:22; compare John 19:10-11; Matthew 21:37-39; 28:18; Mark 12:6-8; Psalm 2:8; 22:27-28; 66:5-7; 89:8-11; 103:19; Daniel 7:9-14);
  • the Father initiates service in His household, not human leaders (2 Timothy 1:8-13; 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 12:6, 18, 28; compare 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Romans 1:1; 8:28; Hebrews 5:1-6; Ephesians 4:7-12; Acts 13:1-3; 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1, 11-16; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2:7);
  • Jesus (not a church leader) is the merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God to purify the saints (as they obey Him, not just the Bible, as the living Word) in order that they may then serve the living God, being the Son over God’s house (Hebrews 2:17; 3:1-6; 5:5-10; 6:18-20; 8:1-2; 9:11-14; compare Hebrews 4:14-15; 7:20-28; Acts 15:8-9; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 1:13-16; 2:11-14; 1 Timothy 1:3-5; 1 Peter 1:22);
  • Jesus Himself as the risen Lord in the wisdom of God forms the only genuine foundation of the church as the embodiment of truth, not human leaders who can only build on that foundation already laid (1 Corinthians 3:10-11; 4:6; Ephesians 2:20-22; 2 Corinthians 4:5-6; compare John 17:14-19; 2 Timothy 1:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15);
  • believers as adopted sons are joint-heirs with Jesus providing they continue to be disciplined by the Father by putting the community-destroying or defiling deeds of the body to death, and to put on the new man in Christ (Romans 8:12-17; Ephesians 1:11; 3:6; 4:17-24; Galatians 3:25-29; 5:19-26; Hebrews 12:7-17; Titus 3:4-7; Colossians 3:1-11);
  • believers together form the spiritual house/temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells as the manifest (unveiled) presence of God, and therefore believers and their leaders must avoid grieving the Spirit by maintaining unity in the bond of peace, submitting to Him as Lord in order for all to be transformed from glory to glory as sons/daughters rather than human leaders controlling the format and outcomes of Christian assemblies (1 Corinthians 3:16; 14:23-25; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; Ephesians 2:22; 4:1-3; 5:18-21; John 17:22-23; 1 John 4:13-16; Isaiah 63:9-14; compare 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 14:26-33, 39-40; Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 63:2);
  • all genuine believers as a priesthood together are also to offer up spiritual sacrifices, walking in the truth by obeying the living Word in community-building behaviours and together guarding God’s presence from impurities (1 Peter 2:5; 1 John 2:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:14-26; compare John 14:23-24; Hebrews 12:28-29; 13:15-16; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:13-17; Ezekiel 36:26-27);
  • apostles become, in a sense, fathers of the churches they give birth to through the Gospel with authority to build up each Christian community, providing them with an example of Christian life to imitate as Christ is formed within them by the Spirit, giving them access to the Father (1 Corinthians 4:15-17; 2 Corinthians 10:7-8; 13:10; Galatians 4:18-19; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12);
  • apostles represented by Paul are priestly servants of Christ so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:16);
  • apostles as Christ’s bond-slaves and servant-helpers/attendants, along with overseeing elders, are God’s head-servants or managers of the household who primarily take care of and humbly shepherd God’s flock through gentle persuasion and example under the authority, oversight and dynamic day-to-day guidance of the risen Jesus, the Great Shepherd, who leads His church into knowledge of the truth (1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Titus 1:7; 2 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Timothy 3:2-5; Acts 20:17, 28; Hebrews 13:7, 17-18; compare Acts 26:16; Luke 1:2; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:7-8; 4:7-13; Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1; Galatians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 9:19; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1; Revelation 1:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:24; Matthew 28:20); and
  • all other elders and ministers are God’s household stewards/servants who humbly share in caring for God’s people (1 Timothy 3:10, 13; Acts 6:2-5; Romans 16:1-2), assisting them to thoroughly know and follow the risen Jesus together (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 4:7-8; Ephesians 1:15-20; 2 Peter 1:3-8; 1 Peter 2:20-21; compare John 17:3; Philippians 3:8; 1 John 5:20; Colossians 1:9-10), noting that the term “deacon” or “minister” actually means “servant”.

As we have seen previously, Christian leaders belong to the church, not the other way around,13. Rose Window, Alpha & Omega because the church belongs to God under the headship of Christ who purchased it with His precious blood (1 Corinthians 3:22-23; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Acts 20:28; compare 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The Church Excellence Framework

For this reason, the Church Excellence Framework seeks, in a practical and systematic way, to:

  • return the church to the original definition of ecclesia;
  • clarify the individual calling of each believer and serve them in stepping into that calling;
  • recover the full spectrum of ministry gifts (apostle-prophet-evangelist-shepherd/teacher) within church life;
  • empower the priesthood of all believers by providing more effective methods to equip the saints for ministry;
  • disciple individual believers more effectively so that they are transformed more and more into Christlikeness and active service in a measurable way;
  • facilitate better relationships among church members which result in more active engagement and participation in church assemblies and in the mission of God to the lost;
  • engender more active input and feedback from all believers to enhance the life and activity of each church community;
  • restore the charismatic giftings across the whole church assembly; and
  • support the church to venture out into the outside community with the Gospel in God’s power.

The Key to Church Growth

It should be clear by now that I am convinced the presence of the living God is the primary key to church growth, as the risen Christ speaks and commands not just through biblical injunctions but through the supernatural expression of charismatic gifts of speech across the whole assembled Christian community (compare John 14:21; 16:13-15). This is proper church governance which gives the Christian community rest, embracing the yoke Jesus Himself bore which for us is light and easy [see Restructuring the Church to Find Rest]. Only Jesus has the right to correctly interpret Scripture. Only His supernaturally evident presence can provide the means whereby the church can arrive at one mind, will and purpose together, bringing growth and impacting the outside world [see Structuring Churches to Come to One Mind, Will & Purpose]. Only the risen Jesus obviously manifest to all in the midst of the Christian assembly can supply all that community needs for growth and maturity.

Preserving this supernatural presence of God in the midst of the church assembly by protecting the purity of the Gospel/truth, and wanting what God wants, transforming our behaviour accordingly in the power of the Spirit, is the secondary key to growth. Failure to do this today with the church’s alien hierarchical structures (i.e. wrong foundations), lack of Christlike maturity, and ineptness in maintaining unifying, community-building behaviours has caused God’s presence to largely depart from the church, simply because God’s presence equates to church growth. Hence the decline of the Western church!

Final Warning

Participating in God’s household, His dwelling and resting place, has wonderful benefits but sobering responsibilities, as outlined in Parts 1-4. These responsibilities have to be taken seriously by churches today, because:

  • those who inadvertently or with wrong motives build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ with materials inappropriate for guarding God’s presence from impurities by going beyond the insights written down by the original apostles and prophets will still be saved, but with no reward (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 4:6; Philippians 1:15-18);
  • those who bring God’s temple to ruin by building upon a wrong foundation, making a human leader the foundation over above another, will themselves be brought to ruin/corruption/destruction, and likely lose their salvation (1 Corinthians 3:16-21; 4:6; compare Galatians 1:8-11; note 2 Peter 2:12; Galatians 6:8; Jude 1:10 where same word for “ruin/corruption/destruction” appears); and
  • those who persist with community-destroying, sexually impure, or idolatrous/occultic behaviours, will not inherit the kingdom of God as the Father’s children, and therefore will not be saved (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:6-8; 22:14-15; John 5:23-24; 1 John 3:4-6, 14-15; Hebrews 10:26-31; compare 1 John 3:10; 5:16-18; Isaiah 35:8-10; 52:1; Ezekiel 44:9; note especially Hebrews 6:4-12; Colossians 3:5-7).

The severe widespread divisions and the men-following tendencies of contemporary Christianity means that we have to sober up, act on these warnings, and reform our church structures and communities now if the Western church is to find God’s favour again. Compare how the warning judgments given to rebellious Israel in Amos 4:6-13, noting how they all stifle the growth of God’s people, are relevant to the global church today, with growth non-existent in most places, and Christians murdered in greater numbers than ever before.

Only as we heed these warnings and change can we experience God’s growth again, as the living Word Jesus, the embodiment of truth, is made evident to the outside world now darkened and alienated from God because of the sinfulness, impurity, divisiveness and hierarchical structures of contemporary Christianity.


To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you can download the Framework and Notes here, free of charge.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.


Peter “Thommo” Thompson was born in 1958 in the bulldust of south-western Queensland in the region around the township of Mitchell.  He was converted outside of the church through a supernatural encounter with the living God in Mackay, North Queensland, in February 1979, and embarked upon a long and arduous journey of God dealing with the figurative bulldust in his life.  In 2012, he completed a Bachelor of Ministry & Theology double degree, and in 2013, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Theology, all at Tabor Adelaide.  He currently lives with his two adult daughters in Ipswich, Queensland, and is writing a series of academic novels with the intent of hopefully helping to facilitate a church unifying movement through an unbranded form of Christianity in Australia.


Copyright 2015 Peter Thompson. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact us.