By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology
In 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, 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!
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.
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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.
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