Worship of the Bible is Idolatry

By Dr. Stephen R. Crosby

There was a Body before there was a Christian “Bible.” This is a threatening fact for many. It is none-the-less, an indisputable historical fact. The implications can, and have been, argued for centuries, but the fact cannot be.

The body of Christ is the result of Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, Spirit-outpouring, and Spirit-indwelling: the new creation. The Bible is the product of the Holy Spirit working in and through the body/church. In a historical sense, not a metaphysical one (the Church is eternal, as is the Logos), there was a community before there were writings. The writings came out of the experience of the community and the need to objectively capture the transmission of the apostolic proclamation of Christ, for future generations.

I am thankful for my heritage. By the grace of God, I have been devoted to Jesus as revealed in the scriptures for 40 years. To the best of my ability, I have given my life to the disciplined study, honest exegesis, and honorable application of the scriptures. I am not anti-scripture. I am anti-ignorance and anti-nonsense.

However, knowledge and love must always go together. Love must be informed by accurate knowledge, and knowledge must be infused by, and expressed in, love. We must honestly admit that the Protestant Evangelical passion for the scripture (which I share) is not without some inherent difficulties and risks.

Respect for, or Worship of The Bible?

While I am thankful for the “plus side” of what came out of the Reformation, there are some downsides as well. Bypassing for now the egregious misbehavior associated with some of the personalities involved in the Reformation, there is yet another downside consequence which is more contemporaneous. It’s the risk of bibliolatry: the worship of the Bible. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists would vehemently deny that this is an issue in their spheres, but it is a very present and serious issue.

For the majority of Evangelical Christianity the essence of our faith is presented as a set of propositional truths about Jesus, to which the unbelieving world must agree, or “go to hell.” “The Bible says” a lot of things. Understanding and applying what it says is always the issue. As Dr. Gordon Fee has succinctly said: “It’s all hermeneutics.”

I suggest, as did A. W. Tozer, that the specter of bibliolatry is always uncomfortably close at hand.  Tozer called it the “tyranny of the scribe” and “textualism from which the human mind revolts.” Tozer is not alone. Paul Tournier described the real essence of Christianity as: “. . . the building of a new civilization in which the spirit of Christ will be in the inner source of personal, family, social, and individual conduct.”

Peter Leithart says it like this:

Christian community . . . is not an extra religious layer on social life. The church is not a club for religious people. The church is a new way of living together before God, a new way of being human together. What Jesus and the apostles proclaimed was not a new ideology or a new religion, in our attenuated modern sense. What they proclaimed was salvation, and that meant a new human world, a new social and political reality .  .  . Conversion thus means turning from one way of life, one culture to another . . . it is the beginning of a re-socialization . . . In the New Testament we do not find an essentially private gospel being applied to the public sphere, as if  . . . it were a second story built on a private ground floor. The gospel IS the announcement of the Father’s formation, through His Son and the Spirit, of a new city—the city of God.

Paul’s gospel had an empirical test built into it; if no one was transformed, then the message that announced the transformation could not possibly be true. The first and chief defense of the gospel, the first letter of commendation not only for Paul but for Jesus, is not an argument, but the life of the Church, conformed to Christ by the Spirit in service and suffering. A community of sinners whose corporate life resembles Christ –that is the Church’s first apologetic. The very existence of such a “city” is our main argument.

Truth Has a Body

The scriptures declare that the world is not waiting to be persuaded from the Bible. The world does not care about our “Bible” and our opinions about it. The scriptures tell us that the unbelieving world has a right to “taste” of us, to savor us, to see if the aroma of Christ is present or not. The world is waiting to see a quality of life manifested on earth. The scriptures exist to reveal Jesus Christ for who He is, and to serve these ends. If we master the content of the scripture and have no savor or aroma of Christ, we are like a man holding a legitimate ticket, but who has missed his boat. It doesn’t matter how factual your ticket is, how everything on that ticket is true, how well you can explain the ticket, and defend its veracity. It exists to serve a purpose and you have missed it.

Truth has always had a Body. All  Christian truth is incarnational (embodied). The correct apprehension of biblical facts is not the same as possessing the life of Christ. It’s possible to flawlessly explain Paul’s theology and possess none of his life. The church, the ekklesia, is supposed to be the pillar and ground of all truth. That does not mean it is to a library for the accumulation of scriptural knowledge. It means that in the Body, Jesus is to be seen.

Coffee and Charcoal

Without beans you cannot have a cup of coffee, but with just beans you still don’t have coffee! You have the potential for coffee. Disciplined study of scripture is like a cup of beans: necessary, but not the end of the matter.  Scripture study is like charcoal. Without it, you won’t have a barbecue. But just having charcoal is not enough for a barbecue. The potential for heat and light that is in the charcoal must be ignited. It is our being knit together in love that turns beans to coffee and charcoal to heat and light.

Paul makes it clear in Colossians 2:2-3 that the unfolding of all the mysteries of God, the deep insights into His Person, plan and purpose, is not just a result of receiving the “preached word,” but is directly linked to our joining together in love (emphasis mine):

That their hearts might be knit together in love and UNTO all riches of the full assurance ofunderstanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Bible study can be intellectually intoxicating and lacking social context. Living well together in Christ is crucifying. There is more to our faith than the accumulation of teachings and a pursuit of “deeper understanding,” erroneously often called “revelations.”  I am not interested in novelty for novelty’s sake. I am not introduced in esoteric speculations from the scripture. I would like to live well in the sure things from scripture that I already understand. Mark Twain once said that he was not so much bothered by what he did not understand about the Bible, but by what he did understand! Me too.

Regardless of how right we might be on a point of doctrine, or how “anointed” the meeting is, or how “cutting edge” our insight is, we are worthless to God and humanity if these things do not ultimately lead to transformation of our lives before God and humanity. There is a love that surpasses knowledge. There is a power that surpasses what the natural can produce. There is a service that transcends human sympathy. These things are neither difficult nor complicated. They do not require argumentative (and often endless)  explanation. They require expression. For the world:

We are the message.

We are the argument.

We are the apologetic.

Jesus said: By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. This is to be the outcome of our commitment to scripture. We are the One Loaf the unbelieving world is permitted to “bite into” to taste and see if God is good . . . or not. [xvi]  If our commitment to scripture does not result in an appropriate taste, our ship has sailed without us.

 


[i] Not the least of which is: “Who reforms the Reformers?” Every group thinks they have the last word from God – a fundamentally intoxicating proposition.

[ii] Rom. 8:19.

[iii] Ps. 34:8.

[iv] Matt. 5:13.

[v] 2 Cor. 2:16.

[vi] Rom. 8:19, 2 Cor. 4:10-11.

[vii] John 5:39-42, John 14:6, 1 John 1: 1-3.

[viii] A. W. Tozer, Keys to the Deeper Life, 1957.

[ix] Paul Tournier. The Healing of Persons. New York: Harper and Row, 1965, 42.

[x] Peter Leithart. Against Christianity. Moscow: Canon Press, 2003, 16.

[xi] Ibid., 99-100.

[xii] In the sense of utility for kingdom purpose, not in the sense of His affections.

[xiii] Eph. 3:19.

[xiv] Heb. 6:5.

[xv] Heb. 10:24.

[xvi] Matt 5:16; James 2:18, 20, 26. It is my understanding that the justifying works of James are not in conflict with Paul. The works James refers to are the works before humanity, not God. These works “justify” us in the eyes and ears of the world, and earn us a right to be listened to (e.g. Matt 5:16). Our behaviors will always speak more loudly than our philosophies:  “See how they love one another.”

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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.

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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.

Structuring Churches to Come to One Mind, Will and Purpose (Part 2)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

In Part 1, we discerned some similarities in the Corinthian and Philippian contexts for Paul’s exhortation that those churches fully agree with one another by coming to one mind together.

With the Corinthian church, Paul exhorted them to be united in the same mind and judgment:

  •  on the basis that all the power and wisdom they need for their life in Christ together comes out of their intimate, corporate relationship with the risen Lord Jesus by means of the activity and empowerment of the Spirit;
  • under the motivation of genuine, self-giving love which builds up the whole church community;
  • because they have the mind of Christ together by means of the Spirit;
  • so that the Gospel is not hindered.

With the Philippian church, Paul exhorted them to set their minds and whole beings on the same thing together:

  • on the basis of the Father’s love, the comfort of Christ, and the sharing in the Spirit together in the face of persecution and suffering;
  • under the motivation that their self-giving love for each other needs to abound even more and more;
  • because God works in them (as a community) to effect obedience to His will, as they have full knowledge and moral insight by the Spirit to discern and approve the things which really matter;
  • so that they could effectively contend for the Gospel together as one person, holding out the word of life as true children of God.

Conclusions from Paul’s Two Calls for Oneness of Mind

From this, we can conclude that Paul’s call for community-wide unity had the following characteristics:

  • church leaders had indulged in various forms of self-seeking, ambition and domination, resulting in disputes, grumbling and community-destroying behaviours among the church community;
  • the expression of self-giving love within the Christian community was only truly complete and operative when they arrived at this oneness of mind and judgment;
  • community-building characteristics like humility, self-emptying, and seeking the interests of others were to be sought through the Spirit’s transforming work within them, and all community-destroying attitudes and behaviours were not to be tolerated;
  • church leaders were not to dominate decisions, but rather, as Christ’s slaves/servants, they were to facilitate the activity of the Father, Son and Spirit in order for the community to come to one mind over all decisions which really mattered; and
  • such oneness of mind in the wisdom of Christ as effected by the activity of the Spirit constitutes a manner of life by the church community which is worthy of the Gospel and doesn’t hinder its continuing effect in the world, and equates to the church community’s experienced, not just objective or theoretical, life in Christ which is sourced in the Father.

What Paul is calling for is not just arriving at one mind, but arriving at one will and purpose as well, that of God’s will and purpose expressed within the community, for they were to arrive at the same mind and the same judgment together as one, whole person. Obedience to God’s will is effected by God’s own efforts within the community, and this is how churches are to work out their salvation in real life — it is a true partnership between all the divine and human persons involved in the community and its decisions.

This is particularly important considering the church community is to mirror the perfect relational unity of mind, will and purpose which encompasses our three-in-one God.

The Common Problem Experienced by the Churches across Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia & Bithynia

The Apostle Peter wrote to the various Jewish churches across the Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (i.e. modern-day Turkey). The key issue was persecution against these churches by the neighbouring pagans and the suffering that persecution caused them (1 Peter 1:6-7; 3:14, 17; 4:1-4, 12-16, 19; 5:9-10).

In addressing this issue of suffering, Peter also exhorted them all to:

  • get rid of all malice, deceit/treachery, insincerity/pretence, envy/spite, and every type of slander (1 Peter 2:1);
  • have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love/fondness, compassion/tender-heartedness, and humility (1 Peter 3:8);
  • show hospitality to each other without grumbling/complaining (1 Peter 4:9);
  • live the rest of their days in the flesh for the will of God, not human desires (1 Peter 4:2);
  • above all, earnestly/constantly maintain love for one another (1 Peter 4:8);
  • serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace through their charismatic giftings of speech and service (1 Peter 4:10-11); and
  • be prepared to give a defence with gentleness and respect to anyone questioning them about the hope evident within their community (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Peter also exhorted the church elders to shepherd the flock of God under their care/oversight, not by domineering them or greedily seeking material gain, but by watching over it, humbly leading them through their own example (1 Peter 5:1-6).

Here we see the basic elements of how Paul dealt with divisions in the Greek/Macedonian churches now evident in Peter’s approach to handling the effects of persecution upon each church’s inner unity and functionality. It seems to me this is no mere coincidence, for Peter’s epistle (which was most likely written between Paul’s and Peter’s respective executions) was addressed to various Jewish churches within areas where Paul first initiated and pioneered contact with the Gospel. church-family-images-_4440318_orig

The Agreement Reached by the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15

Too many scholars and church leaders have looked too casually at Acts 15 and concluded that the Jerusalem meeting was just a human forum for all stake-holders to present their case after which some conciliatory process occurred, resulting in a compromise being reached between the various parties for the sake of the Gentile churches, a compromise in which the Spirit played a role. In my opinion, this interpretative approach mistakenly reads modern forms of church governance, based upon modern democratic forms of government, back into the text.

Rather, the actual elements of the text are that:

  • a strong and significant dispute, which is the significance of the Greek word used in verses 2 and 7, arose over the need for Gentile converts to be circumcised;
  • no specific mention is made of any contribution to the meeting made by those who upheld the need to circumcise Gentile converts other than the general statement in verse 7;
  • silence fell over the whole assembly in verse 12 after Peter spoke despite the strong disputes occurring in verse 7 immediately prior to Peter speaking;
  • after Paul and Barnabas related what God had done among the Gentiles (verse 12), James stood up to cite a text from Amos which confirmed that the Old Testament prophets agreed with what God had been doing in their midst to include the Gentiles within the church (verses 13-18);
  • the Holy Spirit and the whole assembly “resolved” the issue (verses 25, 28) by reaching “a unanimous decision” (verse 25) — the significance of the Greek words translated “seemed good to” and “to one accord” [ESV] — which signified a complete harmony, peace, wholeness and agreement had been reached; and
  • the whole assembled church in Jerusalem, not just the church leaders, was the vehicle in which the Spirit spoke (verses 4, 12, 22), noting that the apparent contradiction in verse 6 where only the apostles and elders came together to see about the matter probably only indicates, in the light of verse 12, that the leaders met first before calling the whole church to assemble.

Basis for the Assembly Reaching a Unanimous Agreement

A number of scholars are now observing that something more than a compromise or leader-imposed majority decision actually occurred in this assembly, because:

  • there was no actual discussion or debate recorded by Luke which resolved the issue;
  • James did not clinch the argument from Amos in verses 16-18, but simply pointed out in verse 15 how the words of the prophets agreed with what Peter, Paul and Barnabas had already observed God doing;
  • what actually clinched the argument was the reciting of the accounts of what God had already done to include the Gentiles within the wider church in verses 7-12;
  • the Holy Spirit is given prominence in verse 28 for the unanimous decision achieved by being mentioned first;
  • what James passed judgment upon in verse 19 as the chairperson of that meeting/assembly was a conclusion that verse 25 clearly states in retrospect was a unanimous agreement arrived at by the whole assembly;
  • no Greek words for commanding were used in conveying the unanimous decision — in fact, the only imperatives in the whole chapter occur in verse 13, “listen to me”, and in verse 29, “farewell”; and
  • when God clearly speaks in a way in which His declared will and purpose is obvious to everyone present, a unanimous agreement would naturally result.

No form of compromise or system of voting could achieve a unanimous agreement, because the whole nature of compromise or a majority-based decision always leaves some people dissatisfied with the decision.

How this unanimous agreement in Acts 15 could be achieved in light of the three passages in Paul and Peter calling for oneness of mind will be explored in Part 3.


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.

Structuring Churches to Come to One Mind, Will and Purpose (Part 1)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

There are a number of biblical principles which still perplex to some degree or another even the best scholars, and while those scholars manage to give something of an explanation, many of us can tell that something is not right.

One of these issues involves three New Testament exhortations for the whole church to come to one mind. These texts are glossed over today considering that the church is ridiculously splintered and fragmented, and the hope of the global church completely coming to one mind over even one basic issue is virtually lost, despite the noble efforts of the ecumenical movement over many decades. Something is indeed wrong.

But we need not despair just yet, as there is I believe a viable, and rather simple, solution. However, to begin to understand this properly will require three parts. In this first part, we will look at each of the two Pauline exhortations in some detail. In the second part, we will look at the third exhortation, this time by Peter, and then at an instance in Acts when the church did in fact come to one mind over a heated issue. Finally, in Part 3, we will look at what I consider to be a viable proposal on how the church was able to achieve this unity. church

The Corinthian Church Problem

It is well-known that division, segregation and strife significantly disrupted the Church at Corinth:

  • Most church members were declaring themselves to be followers of a particular leader over against other leaders which resulted in the formation of factions, causing quarrels and strife (1 Corinthians 1:11-13; 3:3-5; compare 2 Corinthians 10:12, 17-18);
  • Some church members were taking their fellow believers to secular courts to resolve their disputes (1 Corinthians 6:1-8);
  • The wealthy factions within the church were eating separately from the less fortunate members, humiliating them and causing them to go away hungry (1 Corinthians 11:17-22); and
  • Certain church members were declaring themselves spiritually superior to the rest of the church community because of their wisdom, knowledge or charismatic giftedness in tongues and/or prophecy, resulting in exclusive factions and causing weaker members to stumble (e.g., 1 Corinthians 3:18-20; 4:6-7, 18-20; 8:1, 7-13; 14:36-40; compare 1 Corinthians 1:20-31).

Paul’s Solution to the Corinthian Problem

What is not generally understood is Paul’s overall solution to the problem:

  • The Father has called all believers into the fellowship of His Son, and hence the Father is the source of the whole Church’s life in Christ Jesus whom the Father made to be their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:9, 30; compare 1 Corinthians 12:6);
  • To all believers in their fellowship with Jesus Christ, Christ is the power and wisdom of God, and sustains them all to the end (1 Corinthians 1:4-9, 24; compare 1 Corinthians 12:5; Matthew 28:18-20; Hebrews 13:5; John 15:1-8; Colossians 2:19);
  • The whole Church community has the Holy Spirit who teaches them all, enabling them all to understand the things freely given to them, and empowers them all with various supernatural giftings (1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 12:7-11; compare 1 Corinthians 12:4);
  • Church leaders are not to domineer the flock of God, for the church belongs to Christ, not to them, and therefore the leaders belong to the church community as humble servants/slaves of Christ the rightful owner (1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:5-9, 21-22; 4:1-2; compare Ephesians 1:12-14; 4:30 [the seal speaks of ownership]; Acts 20:28-30; Ephesians 4:11-12; 2 Timothy 24-26; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:7, 17);
  • Genuine, self-giving love is to motivate all that is done in the church community so that all are built-up (1 Corinthians 8:1; 13:1-8; 16:14; compare 1 Corinthians 10:23-24; Ephesians 4:12-16);
  • The whole Church is to agree and be united in the same mind and same judgment, for the church community has the mind of Christ by means of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:10; 2:10-16; 2 Corinthians 13:11); and
  • The Gospel is not to be hindered by self-seeking, greed, ambition for power and recognition, or strife (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 4:1-8; 5:11-15; compare 1 Corinthians 9:18-23; John 13:34-35; 17:22-23).

Looking at the whole picture here, we can start to see something of a progression emerging in Paul’s method of dealing with the fragmentation and divisions within the Corinthian church — Jesus has become the church’s life, being all the wisdom and power the church needs through the Spirit, and He therefore allows us by His Spirit to access (supernaturally) His mind (and hence wisdom) to guide all decisions and judgments so that the whole church can, together, thoroughly agree with each other for the sake of the Gospel. After all, Jesus is Lord and Head over the church!

A similar sort of progression can be discerned in Philippians.

The Philippian Church Problem

Paul also had to deal with some divisive issues in the Philippian church community:

  • Some members of the church were acting out of selfish ambition, rivalry and empty conceitedness, thinking too highly of themselves (Philippians 2:3);
  • Others were also looking out for their own interests/concerns (Philippians 2:4);
  • There was a lot of complaining/grumbling evident within the community (similar to the early Israelites in the desert — 1 Corinthians 10:10; Exodus 16:7-12; 17:3; Numbers 14:17-29 etc.), which occurred in the context of disputes/controversies (Philippians 2:14); and
  • In particular, two important women ministers in the Philippian Church, Euodia and Syntyche, were not seeing eye to eye with each other (Philippians 4:2).

Paul clearly suggests that such self-seeking and disunity is not a manner of life worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27; compare Ephesians 4:1-3).

Paul’s Solution to the Philippian Problem

In this case, Paul’s overall solution is:

  • Finding solace in the Father’s love in the midst of suffering (Philippians 2;1; compare 2 Corinthians 13:14);
  • Being comforted in Christ in the midst of persecution (Philippians 2:1; compare 2 Corinthians 1:3-5);
  • Sharing in the Spirit together (Philippians 2:1; compare 2 Corinthians 13:14);
  • Their love for one another abounding yet more and more (Philippians 1:9; compare Philippians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9-10);
  • Their love for one another being accompanied by full knowledge (of God and His will) and moral insight so that they may together discern, i.e. assess for approval, those things that really matter (Philippians 1:9-10; compare Philippians 3:12-21; 4:8-9; Romans 12:1-2);
  • Humbly seeking the interests of others (Philippians 2:3; compare Romans 15:1-2);
  • Each one emptying themselves as Christ Himself did (Philippians 2:5-11);
  • Setting their minds, even their whole being (soul/person), on the same thing together (Philippians 2:2; compare Romans 12:16); and
  • Contending together as one person (soul) for the Gospel, standing firm in one Spirit (Philippians 1:27; compare Ephesians 2:18).

Summarising this Solution

This apparent progression is summed up in a careful assessment of Philippians 2:12-15. They were to:

  • continue to obey (presumably Christ — 2 Corinthians 10:5-6), for God Himself works in them to effect this obedience to His will for His own good pleasure (note Romans 7:7-25 which describes how a God-fearer before conversion is incapable of obeying God’s will revealed in Scripture);
  • by actively working out their salvation in how they live their lives together, for obedience characterises true faith (Romans 1:5; 15:18; James 2:14-26);
  • which is accomplished by ceasing their divisive disputes/controversies leading to complaints/grumbling;
  • which then allows them to be blameless and pure, children of God without fault, holding firmly onto the word of life in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation (unlike the crooked and depraved generation of blemished Israel who forfeited being God’s children — Deuteronomy 32:5), and in so doing, effectively presenting the Gospel, the message which brings life, to them (compare Daniel 12:3).

In other words, the Philippians needed to stop whatever squabbling was going on as a result of their self-seeking and get on with being God’s blameless children, shining as stars in pagan Philippi. They were to do this by setting their minds on the same thing in total agreement, for God empowers them to be obedient to His will. The way the Philippian church conducted themselves in unity without disputes therefore affected their capacity to present the Gospel in the midst of persecution.

Final Exhortation by Paul

This is given particular emphasis in Philippians 4:1-3, for Euodia and Syntyche had successfully, before their current disagreement, laboured together with Paul in the Gospel with Clement. Now, they are exhorted by Paul to agree with each other in terms which echo Philippians 1:27 and sum up Paul’s pleas so far:

  • Standing firm in the Lord (i.e. being steadfast, the concern of Philippians 3:1-21);
  • Agreeing with each other in the Lord (i.e. unity, the concern of Philippians 2:1-16); and
  • Contending in the cause of the Gospel (the backdrop to the whole epistle).

Only as the Philippians stood firm in the sphere of their relationship with the Lord Jesus were they empowered to obey God’s will, and consequently come into full agreement and be of the one and same mind together, thereby ceasing to hinder the effective spread of the Gospel.

There is a lot of similarity in these two exhortations by Paul for the Corinthian and Philippian churches to agree and come to one mind within their separate communities for the sake of the Gospel. This similarity will be explored further in Part 2.


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.

 

The Need to Restructure the Church to Mirror the Relationships within God

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

The Paradox of the Christian God

Understanding the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as being only “one” God has perplexed Christians since the early church some 2000 years ago. Many different concepts have arisen in popular Christian culture to help explain the paradox of how God can be three persons on the one hand, but only one God on the other. None of them have been successful (for reasons I won’t go into now), for they all falter in one way or another to differentiate the three distinct persons who are otherwise in perfect union. These include:

  • the ice/water/steam analogy;
  • the egg shell/egg white/egg yolk analogy;
  • the will/mind/emotions analogy and
  • the spirit/soul/body analogy.

Muslims have ridiculed Christianity for centuries over this paradox of the Christian God and the church’s weak attempts to explain it.

Demonstrating the Three-in-One God Relationally

Nonetheless, there is, in my opinion, one concept which successfully and biblically helps us comprehend this paradox, that of intimate human relationships in both Christian marriage and in church communities. Christians were never meant to explain the paradox, but to demonstrate it through their own intimate relationships where:

  • two individual persons, husband and wife, become one flesh together (Ephesians 5:28-31; 1 Corinthians 6:15-16; Matthew 19:3-6; Mark 10:2-9); and
  • church communities come to one mind, will and purpose together (1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2; 1 Peter 3:8; compare Romans 12:16).

Unfortunately, neither contemporary marriages nor modern Christian church communities effectively demonstrate to the world the reality of our three-in-one God, because:

 

  • contemporary marriages tend to have either one spouse dominating the other, or each spouse exerting some measure of manipulative control over the other to accommodate their own self-centred desires;
  • the modern church is splintered beyond repair with over 33,800 known denominations, para-denominations and networks already existing in the world back in 2000; and
  • the ecumenical movement has basically failed despite several decades of intense effort, with many of the advocates who have devoted most of their lives to the cause in dismay over the limited progress made.

 

The Distinctiveness of the Three Divine Persons

 

This means that in order to understand the paradox of the three-in-one God, we have to comprehend the perfect, relational union of the three distinct persons of the Godhead as revealed to us through the course of human history, and particularly through Christ in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9 ESV). I believe that the Bible clearly portrays God as three distinct centres of divine activity. For example:

 

  • it was the Son, not the Spirit or the Father, who became a physical human being some 2,000 years ago, bearing human sin in His own body and being resurrected from the dead (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Philippians 2:5-11; Romans 8:11; Ephesians 2:19-20);
  • it is the Spirit, not the Father or Son, who physically indwells humans today (e.g., 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Galatians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 1:13-14; compare Ezekiel 36:14);
  • it was presumably the Father, not Jesus or the Spirit, who personally presented Himself to Moses on the top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:17-23).

 

The Relational Dependence of the Three Divine Persons upon Each Other

 

However, in the Bible, God is not portrayed as three distinct persons understood to be autonomous, self-conscious individuals, each independent of the other, as secular science has defined personhood over the past 400-500 years — none of them have their own, separate identity. This is because each divine person is defined by their relationship to the other two:

 

  • The Father relates as “father” to the Son;
  • The Son relates as “son” to the Father; and
  • The Spirit proceeds, is breathed forth, from the Father through the Son.

 

Each of the three persons of the Godhead have their personal identity in relationship, in their specific relationship with each other. Therefore, the Father, the Son and the Spirit are to be understood as dynamic, inter-dependent persons in such intimate relationship that they do all things together as one being. This makes sense because a human being:

 

  • can only find fulfilment and purpose when they are relating to others, whether positively or negatively;
  • cannot effectively have any personhood when they are completely devoid of relationships; and
  • ceases to be a person when there is absolutely no-one else they can relate to.

 

Even contemporary psychology is finally coming to terms with how any autonomy we as humans might find as distinct persons only arises in the context of our relationships. It is only through interaction with other individuals that human identity as a unique person actually occurs.

 

God’s Perfect Union Together

 

This means that each divine person is understood in terms of their perfect capacity to give and receive love to and from each other — as my favourite lecturer at Bible College would say, they are perfectly complete in their union together, and they have no need for anything or anyone else to complete them.

 

This loving relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit is so perfect that they have one mind, one will, one purpose. Scripture clearly suggests this. For instance:

 

  • Jesus states that He raised Himself from the dead by His own power (John 10:17-18), and yet, elsewhere, Jesus was raised by the Spirit in accordance with the Father’s great strength and through the Father’s glory (e.g., Romans 6:4; 8:11; Ephesians 1:19-20);
  • while the Father created all things through and for Jesus, Jesus also created the heavens and the earth, and still holds the universe together by the word of His own power (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15-16; Hebrews 1:2-3, 10); and
  • just as Jesus preserves those who follow Him so that no-one can snatch them out of His hand, so does the Father (John 10:28-30).

 

Jesus is much more than just an echo of the mind of God:

 

  • He has His own identity;
  • He expresses His own will and purpose;
  • Yet He is in perfect harmony with the Father and the Spirit.

 

This means, to me at least, that every divine act is an action of all three together in such a way that their coinherence, i.e. the way they perfectly intertwine with each other relationally, results in each divine person being in Himself wholly God, as Jesus was wholly God in His human form (Colossians 2:9). There is a shared consciousness, a mutual self-giving which is always enriching and fresh as each divine person continually encounters each other in perfect union. Jesus, the Father and the Spirit are distinct yet one.

 

God’s Perfect Equality Together

 

I am also convinced that the Father, Son and Spirit are also completely equal in power and authority because:

 

  • Jesus was equal with God before the incarnation, and consequently, He did not insist on strictly maintaining that equality during the time He voluntarily surrendered Himself to human form (Philippians 2:5-11);
  • Jesus voluntarily offered Himself in sacrifice, which means that He was not coerced to do so by the Father (Hebrews 9:13-14; John 10:17-18; Isaiah 53:10), which was clearly evident in the Garden of Gethsemane scene where Jesus willingly accepted the cup of suffering (e.g., Matthew 26:36-45; Luke 22:39-42); and
  • Jesus clearly expresses equal authority with the Father where Jesus not only gives life to whomever He wills just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, but also has been given all authority to execute judgment, even though He can do nothing on His own (John 5:19-30).

 

Yet:

 

  • Jesus had to learn what obedience to the Father entailed in His death for all humanity in order to become our High Priest (Hebrews 2:9-18; 5:7-9); and
  • Jesus only ever completed the works and will of the Father who had sent Him (John 4:33-34; 5:36; 6:38-40).

 

This was not the imposition of the Father’s will upon Jesus, but the undertaking of a common cause, the salvation of humanity.

 

When we think about what Paul really meant when he said that the entire Godhead resides completely within Jesus bodily (Colossians 2:9), we must realise that the idea there is a “chain of command” within the Trinity can’t possibly work. Arguments by other theologians holding that a hierarchical structure of authority exists within the Trinity are not sustainable in my opinion.

 

Paradox Solved

 

This then means that the goals, intention and objectives of each of the three divine persons are perfectly united without any conflict, enabling them to work together inseparably. Hence, they only ever have one mind, one will, one purpose together in their perfect union, even though they have distinctive minds, wills and activities. It is a perfect union which is obviously physically unattainable between two or more organic human-beings, because God is spirit.

 

Modelling the Trinity on Planet Earth

 

The church itself then, like Christian marriages, in all its various congregational expressions should mirror the relational unity of God in all its decisions, activities and general life together (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:12-15, 24-27; Romans 12:4-5; compare Ephesians 5:25-32). This unity comes as Jesus functions in His proper place of being the Head over the church, a subject to be addressed in my next blog.

 

Only then can the reality of God as Father, Son and Spirit be modelled upon planet Earth. The church must overcome its absurdly ridiculous lack-of-unity problem, largely caused by its hierarchical structures, and return to being of one mind, one will, one purpose together (Philippians 1:27; John 17:11, 20-22; John 10:16; compare John 13:34-35). How this can be achieved practically will be the topic of another day, for I am convinced that it is not impossible despite the deeply splintered state of the church in the world today.


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.

 

Healthy Fathering God’s Original Design for Making Disciples

By Jose Bosque

First let me make it clear that my use of the term “spiritual father” as it relates to earthly fathers is intended to be gender neutral while carrying a specific relational truth. As I use or imply the words “spiritual fathers” and/or “spiritual sons” in this article my full intention is that you, the reader, would view these words to mean sons and daughters of our heavenly Father – the children of God. Women are Sons in the Kingdom and men are part of the Bride. God the Father doesn’t have the issues we have.

Again, I write this article fully intending to be gender neutral. In a politically correct world this article would be littered with phrases like “him and or her,” “him/her,” “sons and daughters,” “spiritual fathers and spiritual mothers” and the like. All of this to say what I intend with the use of two terms: “spiritual fathers” and “spiritual sons”. I am not trying to be politically correct in this article. Rather, I am trying to be scripturally accurate.

I have spent a good part of this week counseling young leaders in the Kingdom. They were all full of passion, drive, boldness, determination and perseverance. Yet, almost without exception all of them are having problems of a very similar nature. Their Christian walk is very similar as well. Each has surrounded themselves with people to whom they are ministering but these young leaders are still lonely. Ministry demands that these leaders teach and demonstrate God’s love for people. And while spiritual leaders spend their lives helping people know the love of God, they often come up short in this area themselves. They need to know the Father’s love for themselves. They need God’s plan for discipleship.

I’ve found that leaders who have left the institutional church system and have become free of its often abusive authority, run in the opposite direction so hard and so fast they run past the Father’s intended authority. Almost all of them, in one way or another, think they are to be fathered directly by our Father in Heaven. They love God, but they have been so hurt by men they mistakenly close the door to any attempt by an elder brother to speak regularly into their lives. It’s not that they wouldn’t listen; it just is not high on their priority list due to their lack of trust in human father figures.

Spiritual fathers are also in a very difficult time as the Lord’s Church goes through this season of transition. It certainly has not helped these spiritual fathers when many spiritual sons have yet to value them as a gift to the Body. These fathers are full of wisdom forged in the fire of patient endurance as the Lord threshed the floor of their hearts from the chaff of religion. They are pillars of truth in the House of God created for such a time as this.

Young leaders would be very blessed to find and connect with a spiritual father at this hour. I am not talking about some surface relationship based on position or a shallow fly-by type of relationship with occasional interaction. Rather, I’m talking about an intentional, God designed, father-son relationship where love flows freely back and forth without an agenda.

See an article I recently received from a young leader I helped father in the early part of the ministry; http://angelcasiano.com/2013/08/31/in-honor-of-seven-men/ as you will read in  this article God uses different men throughout our life to help form it. I have even learned what not to do from some of the tyrants I had in my life. I have had to learn not to throw out the proverbial “baby with the bath water” in this most important issue. For the record, I hold no animosity against the bad ones. I understand they were never properly fathered and could only repeat what they had seen.

Today, in the religious church world if anyone even shows any sign of life or passion for Christ they will be shipped off to the seminary. Jesus chose a different plan and it’s called “follow me”. It’s not how many bible verses you know but how many you actually believe and live out before this generation.

Most Christians don’t need more information they need to see the Christ Life modeled before them. This discipleship model can only be “fleshed out” as we walk together daily with another elder brother. Real love must be tested in the fire of real life.

Let’s look at some of the reasons as to why this is God’s multi-generational design for making disciples:

  1. God chose a pattern based on a Father/Son relationship to reveal His nature to humanity. In essence the Godhead dressed himself in a concept that the human race could understand. Then the Lord Jesus came to earth and modeled obedience to His Father before us so as to leave us an example to follow. If this was Gods best way to reveal Himself and make disciples what do you think will be our best way?

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. NKJV

  1. 2. We have the example of the first century church and how the Lord himself raised up men like Peter, James, and Paul, each with their particular gifting. If you are still confused as to the role of a spiritual father, here is a verse to clear the cobwebs of religious abuse.

2 Cor 12:14-15 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. NKJV (Emphasis mine)

  1. We can also have the beautiful relationship between Paul and Timothy. They are the epitome of a pure scriptural father-son relationship. It has always blessed me to note what we consider important in a young leader’s resume today compared to what Paul left out of Timothy’s resume when recommending him to others. See for yourselves what Paul felt was important:

Phil 2:19-23 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. NKJV

  1. Paul and Timothy in their apostolic journeys, exampled the need to apostolically appoint elders in every city. I say “apostolically” because the terms “pastoral epistles” and “missionaries” are two inventions of the religious system used for propagating their human programs. Who were the elders but older mature men – spiritual fathers – who were assigned to model before the new disciples – spiritual sons – the pattern which had been taught to them by the apostles.
  2. Spiritual Fathers led the church throughout the first 300 years of church history. Before Constantinople men such as Clement, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Origen could all point back to the spiritual fathers that had discipled them. This was a pattern and lifestyle in the early church that Constantinople and the clergy system of the Roman church all but did away with.
  3. 6. We have the recent train wreck of the false apostolic movement. This movement clearly shows us the fallacy of father/son relationships based upon position rather than love. Our enemy wants to mimic God’s real apostolic concept. In an effort to slow down the work of the Lord and leave wounds in many young leaders hearts. The enemy sowed some bad seed in the Lord’s vineyard as in all things, bad seed can only reproduce after its kind.

A remnant of the false apostolic movement is still alive and well growing alongside the good plants of the Lord. But God is using His genuine apostolic pattern to set real spiritual fathers in place with spiritual sons. Our Father knows once His people taste and see His pattern of real apostolic fathers and sons, they will never again allow themselves to serve the taskmasters who flaunt their “apostolic anointing” and run around flashing their titles.

  1. Now, we have the example of the real Apostolic- I am talking aboutrelationships based on the love of God. These are fathers who will not demand your tithe in trade for their attention. They will never require any title other than brother. They will never ask to be recognized as your spiritual father. They will see you with the Heavenly Fathers eyes and work alongside the Holy Spirit to produce the best in you. They will never abandon you in the midst of your mess. They like Christ will weep, will entreat but will also patiently trust Gods time with your growth.

You have NEVER seen what I am talking about? Maybe it’s because when they came near they didn’t have the glitter and bling like those you look up to and follow now.

If you are reading this you would do well to take these words to heart and ask the Father what He wants at this time in your life. I feel spiritually complete. I have a spiritual family, I have a spiritual father. I have spiritual peers and I have spiritual sons whom I am relating to in God’s love. The future is bright. The world is yet to see the power of the army that is, even now, locking elbows as the love of God grows among us.

This army is also known as the Church – the ekklesia – the called out ones. The real Church is fueled by the love of God and is incredibly powerful. She is comprised of spiritual fathers with spiritual sons who relate to each other with love and respect. Don’t try to judge the force or power of the real Church with your Wall Street measurements. That which the Lord is building is divine and cannot be judged by human means.

1 Cor 1:26-30 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

Maybe sometime I will take time to discuss the whole God-ordained process of how spiritual fathers know who are their spiritual sons and visa-versa. In the meantime quit measuring with human measurement and see who makes himself available to love you! I am not talking about a weekly greeting. I am talking about a daily walking out life together.

May the Lord bless your search for a true spiritual father.

Jose Bosque


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 2013 Jose L. Bosque http://www.JaxChristian.com. 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   JaxChristian1@aol.com

Restoring a Relevant Church in the 21st Century

As the CEO of the Church Excellence Framework, this has been an exciting year where we feel the Lord has given many a rough blueprint for what needs to happen to restore the reputation of the church. Here are a few things we believe in passionately and believe are highly backed up scripturally and in practice.

  • Returning the church to the original definition of Ecclesia; that all people have authority and involvement, not just leaders.
  • The church serving the people not the people serving the church vision.
  • Moving to the Senior Pastor as a facilitator rather than the person who must give permission before people are allowed to act in their area of passion.
  • Clarifying and serving the Calling of People vs Serving the Church vision, even if outside of the churches activities.
  • Priesthood of All Believers and Every Member Ministry (1 Peter 2: 9) to put less pressure on paid pastors.
  • Placing significant emphasis on the skill of the youth and children’s workers, as this is the area of the greatest fruit.
  • Bringing back the Five Fold Ministry (Eph 5) ensuring that every church has apostolic oversight, and that there is a role for the Evangelist and those with prophetic gifts. One could also argue for the removal of the Senior Pastor role biblically.
  • Increasing understanding of the heavenly court systems and unseen realities of heaven that have been hidden from traditional church teaching.
  • More effective methods of Empowering, Establishing and Equipping of the Saints, going beyond small groups and sermons to methods of multiplication, fathering and pathways to growth.
  • Moving from measures of “Connecting to a Church” to “Measures of Transformation.”
  • Moving away from the Attraction Model to the Discipling Model – Platforms for Community Engagement not Concert Attendance
  • Moving towards measuring “numbers of disciples effectively equipped and able to reach out” versus “Numbers attending Church.”
  • Changing the staffing structure from appointing ministry roles to appointment by critical Functions such as HR and Communications, Head of Spiritual Operations or Head of Evangelism. Avoiding pastors seeking to do numerous tasks not in alignment with their gifting and ultimately becoming blockers.
  • Principle that Quality Relationships result in Engagement more than content so reducing heavy listening content and more net weaving.
  • Allowing Debate and Questioning as a key tool for learning that allows doubt to be expressed.
  • Encouraging greater unity with other Christian denominations and Christian organizations by seeing more products advertised and working with other churches and city councils.
  • Encouraging Trust and Believing the Best in Others particularly new people moving from a “we need to get to know you” philosophy, which slows down disciplemaking and breeds resentment.
  • Moving from Teaching to Learning with emphasis on outcomes such as growth of believer not input such as how many are in small groups.
  • Multiplication and one-on-one Disciple-making (2 Tim 2:2) not just group discipling.
  • Encouraging more Church Transparency and Lives that Invite Feedback and Development.
  • Moving from “Shouting on the Mountaintop”, i.e. preaching in a church mainly full of believers to “Immersing in the Culture” and strong missional component that is based in the community not just in the church.
  • Encouraging lots of resources to be given to people even if from different parts of the Body of Christ to restore the view we are one body not a location or denomination.
  • Establishing a culture of Honouring People, evaluating how people are loved  and treated fairly, “All men will know you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34).
  • Supporting Christians in the Marketplace (Being Salt and Light) with support in character, outreach techniques and calling or spiritual gifts.
  • Bringing the charismatic, contemplative, community care, evangelistic, mystic style churches into one church rather than churches specializing, on the basis that all elements are biblical and not to be excluded.

We have many other aspects listed in our framework if you would like to get more info at www.churchexcellenceframework.com—————————————————————————————————————

CEO. Jane Johnson B.Com Grad Dip LD, Dip Coaching,

Jane has worked in many different leadership capacities from being a professionally qualified Christian Leadership Coach for 13 years to many Christian leaders, to leading a ministry with the Navigators, to being a Senior Learning and Development Manager of a multimillion corporation, advising the management team on strategic approaches to get the best out of their people. She has developed considerable experience with Investors in People taking several companies through to successful accreditation and training as a consultant for them. Hence she understands the amazing impact a tool based on this principle can have.

Connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=287940854&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Restructuring the Church to Find Rest (Part 2)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

In Part 1, we had a somewhat detailed look at the “yoke” imagery in the Old Testament, which frequently referred to oppressive human governments in contrast to God’s gracious form of government. Out of this contrast, a further contrast between the structure of the first-century church based upon the fatherhood of God, and contemporary church structures rooted in modern democratic forms of human governance, becomes a little more obvious. In particular, this is a contrast between governance rooted in modern individualism versus the more tried and tested biblical form of governance based upon family relationships.

rsz_lego-church-building-pictures

The Yoke Jesus Offers

As a result of understanding this “yoke” imagery as speaking of governance, it is quite feasible to understand the yoke that Jesus is offering in Matthew 11:25-30 as speaking of the yoke Jesus Himself embraced as a human being under the rule of the Father, but not as the beast of burden in the yoked relationship. In the yoke imagery, the beast of burden did all the hard work, while the farmer yoked to the beast directed the service of the beast and controlled how that service was undertaken. The farmer had the authority, wore the pants so to speak, within the yoked relationship to the beast, usually an ox. Hence, the people in the Old Testament were yoked like oxen to their oppressive kings/rulers.

Jesus, on the other hand:

  • had the Father hand over all things to Him, even though the Father is Lord of heaven and earth (Matthew 11:25-27; compare John 3:35; 13:3; 1 Corinthians 15:27);
  • had been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18; compare John 5:22-27; 17:2; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 2:6-9);
  • only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19);
  • claimed that it was the Father living in Him who was doing all the works Jesus performed (John 14:10); and
  • only spoke the Father’s words (John 14:24).

Jesus was yoked to His Father in intimate relationship, proclaiming the coming of the “kingdom” (e.g., Mark 1:15), that is, God’s kingdom, the rule of the Father that Jesus Himself, as the Son, shared in. Jesus as the Son of Man, representing the new humanity in Him, therefore demonstrated the Father’s “yoke” which was not oppressive and burdensome like the yoke of human rulers

The Yoke Jesus Himself Wore

I firmly believe that the yoke Jesus offers in Matthew 11:29 was in fact the very yoke Jesus Himself wore as a human being in the service of God’s kingdom, because:

  • the Holy Spirit now speaks to us as Jesus’ present-day disciples whatever He hears the Father and Son say (John 16:13), just as the Spirit spoke to Jesus what the Father was saying;
  • it is the Spirit who guides us and does all the work, both in evangelism and in maturing believers (e.g. John 16:8-11; Acts 1:8; 4:8, 31; 8:29, 39-40; 9:31; 13:2-4, 9-12; 15:28; 16:6-10; 20:28; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, 10; 6:11; 14:23-25; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18; Galatians 3:1-2; 5:22-23; Romans 8:13, 26-27; 15:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 3:16-17; 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:6-7); and
  • it is the same Spirit Jesus was anointed with in power to do good and heal all who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38).

This explains why Jesus stated that it was His yoke. This also explains why, in my opinion, Jesus’ yoke was easy, and His burden light! With the Father doing all the work through the Holy Spirit, the Christian community through their relationship with Jesus are yoked to the ultimate power and authority in the universe.

This Yoke Was Offered to Us Communally

I am convinced that the yoke Jesus offers us was offered to the whole community of His disciples, not just to the twelve disciples, or to individual leaders or believers, because:

  • the second-person plural “you” is used consistently throughout Matthew 11:7-30;
  • in Matthew 11:7, Jesus had been addressing the crowds concerning John the Baptist, and there is nothing to suggest in the chapter that Jesus had turned from the crowds to address only the twelve disciples as leaders;
  • Jesus was calling out to all who would come to Him in Matthew 11:28; and
  • the yoke speaks of the governance of the whole people of God under the gracious rule of the Father.

Hence, what arises for followers of Jesus is not some form of a democratically-structured government which is based upon individualism where individual desires, needs and insights are held in fluid, and at times strained, tension with the desires, needs and insights of the larger groups within the community — this results in various forms of political power struggles within church congregations, and across church denominations.

Instead, a Christian community should be embracing the powerful yet gracious rule of the Father through the Son by the Spirit as a shared experience where the Father does all the work, for the yoke Jesus embraced with the Father as a human being He offers to us as His community of disciples. It is then, and only then, that the Christian community can ever do even greater works than Jesus Himself did (John 14:12), for Jesus was only one man in a very large world.

Contemporary Church Governance

My experiences of church leadership and governance leave me in no doubt which form of government operates almost universally in Australian churches. I have found that church leaders to some degree or another:

  • expect their congregation to commit to the vision either the head pastor/minister or the inner core of leaders determines for the church;
  • tend to make decisions concerning the church for and on behalf of the congregation without full congregational involvement and approval, even where churches are supposed to be governed by congregations democratically;
  • tend to resist the giftedness of the whole congregation in order to protect their own status as the more gifted ones in the assembly, which in turn enhances their own prestige, and garners respect and authority;
  • determine in advance how each meeting should be conducted and ordered;
  • seriously struggle to facilitate the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit in church meetings so that church members are genuinely built up and matured into Christlikeness; and
  • have absolutely no idea how the greater church community can ever come to one mind on any one thing, let alone all things (note 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2 and 1 Peter 3:8 in the light of Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:16).

Furthermore, it is rather obvious to me that this present democratic-style rule of the church by privileged office-bearers within the various church leadership structures is not causing the church to impact our nation in any significant way, hence the contemporary church right across the Western World has been in a serious and steady decline, despite the mega-church phenomenon. Burnout and depression among Christian leaders/ministers throughout the Western World is at epidemic levels — this is not the rest Jesus offers us. Things need to change!

Restructuring Under God’s Governance

For me, personally, the way forward is to restructure how we do church so that Jesus Himself personally guides and directs us as the Head of His Body through the charismatic giftings across the whole local Christian community, which is facilitated and safe-guarded by all five ministry giftings, not just pastors and teachers. This is, in my understanding, the clear meaning of Ephesians 4:11-16, Ephesians 2:19-22 and Colossians 2:19 in tandem with passages like 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21. I have experienced such a manifest, supernatural presence of Jesus in the midst of the congregation on some rare occasions where Jesus Himself dynamically, in person, in the here and now, speaks and acts in the midst of His people.

I am therefore convinced that this can occur regularly when a careful reassessment of leadership structures is implemented on the basis of family, not some form of democracy rooted in individualism. It is time for the church to address its disunity, come to one mind on all things, and grow up into the fullness of the stature of Christ as sons of the Father together in one household. More on how that can be achieved another day.

It is time to embrace the true yoke Jesus offers, and carefully with humility and appreciation cast off the yoke Christian leaders have put on their respective congregations by not allowing those leaders to solely determine what is best for the Christian communities they oversee. Then, and only then, will the secular community outside the church sit up and take notice, so that eventually, we won’t be such a joke to them anymore.


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.

 

A funny illustration to question what have we done to Church?

I thought you might all like to read an extract below from another author I came across on Organic Church. Mike Mooney he is really good, very refreshing to read his book and very freeing its called ‘An Outsiders Guide To The Gospel’.

It may indicate how religious our rituals have become as Christians and question whether we have sucked some of the life out of our gatherings and made them “meetings’.

WHEN BARRY MET JESUS

One day Barry the good Christian was talking a walk when he bumped into Jesus. It was a quite a shock at first, but he was excited to hear that Jesus wanted to spend the day with him. What luck, to have God actually with him!

The first thing he did when they arrived at his apartment was stand in front of Jesus for  twenty five minutes and sing love songs to him. This. Was. Awkward.

After worship Barry informed Jesus it was now time for them to have communion. Jesus smiled, stood up and asked enthusiastically where the wine was.

This. Was. Awkward.

Barry informed Jesus very nicely that communion was actually done with grape juice, as this was the biblical way, and Barry always followed the Bible. Jesus seemed to roll his eyes, but Barry wasn’t sure. Jesus then asked what they planned on eating for fellowship. Barry produced two tiny pieces of a cracker.

When Jesus asked why they were drinking grape juice out of a shot glass and holding a tiny piece of cracker, Barry decided it was best to ignore Jesus for a moment while he enjoyed communion. For Barry, it was a great moment of connection. Meanwhile, Jesus was still asking where the wine was.

Next, Barry sat Jesus down, as he wanted to share a three-point sermon with him about how to live a better Christian life. He was very focused on the Bible, and pointed out several verses that supported what he was preaching. Jesus asked if they could have a simple conversation instead. Barry laughed, thinking Jesus was joking. After ten minutes Jesus actually fell asleep. Barry falsely assumed he was simply in a deep meditation due to the anointed message, and so continued for another thirty minutes. At the end, he politely woke Jesus up.

After Barry was sure Jesus was awake and listening, he become very serious as he began his altar call. He asked Jesus, very convincingly, if he wanted to accept himself into his heart. In fact, he kept on asking with increasing pressure until Jesus raised his hand, upon which he prayed for Jesus to receive his salvation. Barry was very proud of himself-just wait until his prayer group heard about this!

After Jesus got saved by Barry, he was given a form to fill out all his contact details. Once Barry got all his details he strategically walked Jesus towards the door. It seemed that Jesus wanted to hang out for longer, but why? Hadn’t they already done everything important to the Christian fellowship experience?

Barry gave his best Christian smile, invited Jesus back at the same time, same place the following week. Jesus, however, didn’t understand his nice Christian smile actually meant, Its time for you to leave now, and so he remained standing there, explaining that there was still plenty of time left in the day to hang out.

This. Was. Awkward.

After Jesus Finally got the hint and left, Barry sat on his couch, exhausted. Ninety minutes with Jesus, he was convinced was enough for one week.

How awkward would it be to go through all of these religious practices if Jesus was actually with us, like in the story above? But he is with us, that’s the kicker. That’s the whole point. He is actually with us. One of the main revelations Christ came to reveal is that God is with us.

DO let us know if you have any positive comments about how you my want to do something different in future.

Do we need to Restructure the Church? (Part 1)

Joke or Yoke

By Ian Thompson B.Theo, Post Grad Thoelogy

Christianity one could argue  has become something of a joke to the large majority of people in our secularised Australian society. They basically see Christianity as irrelevant to their individualistic lives and often see Christians as weak, gullible people in need of a religious crutch of some sort.

My adult experience in a variety of Australian churches over the past 36 years suggests that Christians really don’t know how to overcome this “joke” status, and therefore don’t effectively communicate their faith to neighbours, workmates, the media, or community leaders. That was certainly the case for me until fairly recently.

In my opinion, one central reason the joke-status label sticks has to do with the way we do church in Australia. We appear to be missing one of the most important keys to proclaiming and evidencing the kingdom of God to our local surrounding communities, and  I would argue our church structures are largely responsible for this.

I believe that this important key, which can help us understand how to start reversing the incredible decline of Christianity in Western World countries today, centres around reassessing the significance of one of the most popular of Jesus’ sayings — Matthew 11:25-30.

We can start removing the joke-status label that society puts on the church (especially through the media) by putting on the yoke Jesus offered to us. In other words, I am convinced that we can replace the “joke” with the “yoke”! But first, some foundations need to be laid to understand what Jesus meant by the “yoke” imagery in this beloved Matthew passage.

Western Individualistic Cultural Influences

The modern Western World culture and its development of democratic political structures has been dominated by individualism for many centuries, and it is obvious that this has resulted in:

  • most public issues these days being assessed on some perceived basis of individual rights, privileges and freedom;
  • tension arising between what a particular individual wants in his or her perceived sense of freedom, and what influential groups within society want in order to maintain their own privileges;
  • minority groups battling against society’s power brokers for a legal recognition of their individual rights; and
  • political power struggles where representative groups are seeking to impose their particular sense of individual rights and privileges upon the whole of society, such as with gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, and legalised marijuana.

Common Basis for All Forms of Democratic Government

Democracy in all its various forms therefore has one particular common factor, ensuring that individuals in power are, to some degree or another, subject to the people they govern. Otherwise, either a dictatorship will result, or society will degenerate into an anarchy, where the strongest individuals with the most physical, military and/or financial power rule.

Democratic Influences on the Contemporary Western Church

These democratic forms of government rooted in individualism have tended to universally affect the Western World churches in many ways, including:

  • some form of a hierarchical leadership structure (such as popes, patriarchs, arch-bishops/bishops, priests, senior pastors, head ministers, synods, presbyteries, etc.);
  • some form of accountability for those in leadership;
  • some form of control against the basis of church government degenerating into an anarchy or dictatorship; and
  • some form of control where the church’s doctrines and practices are preserved against strongly opinionated detractors seeking their own agendas.

First-Century Cultural Influences

In contrast, New Testament scholars these days tend to accept that first-century, Greek-influenced Roman culture:

  • was not rooted in individualism but in family structures;
  • operated on an honour/shame system where individuals were bound to maintain the honour and social status of their family group;church-building
  • conferred shame upon families to enforce the wider society group values; and
  • upheld the authority of fathers, husbands and masters as the cornerstone structure of society, leading to the formation of family-group elders to govern the wider family affairs.

Most first-century family groups relied on their honour status in society for their very survival, because their capacity to trade or provide services depended upon that status. Consequently, families had to cover up as much as possible any shameful conduct of their individual family members. This meant that the honour of the family far outweighed the rights of any individual.

 

First-Century Church Structure

As a result, the New Testament church was primarily structured on the basis of family relationships:

The church was to exist as the household of God Himself, with the heavenly Father as the primary authority and provider (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 12:7-11; compare Galatians 4:4-7; Romans 8:14-17; 2 Corinthians 6:17-18);

  • The church under the body of Christ metaphor was to model the coming eternal community, where the whole resurrected people of God will be structured and centred around Jesus as their rightful King (e.g., Luke 11:23; John 17:20-23; 1 Corinthians 1:7-9; 1 Timothy 6:13-16; Hebrews 3:1-6; Colossians 1:13; 2:19; compare Galatians 4:25-26; Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 1:22-23; Revelation 21:22);
  • The church under the temple of the Spirit metaphor are to exist as a single spiritual house wherein God Himself dwells (1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 16; compare Revelation 21:1-3);
  • Individual church members were to seek the honour of others, not themselves (Romans 12:3, 10; Philippians 2:3-4; compare 1 Corinthians 12:22-26);
  • Church leaders were to function like household servants (2 Corinthians 4:5; Colossians 1:7; 4:7; Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 16:15; Titus 1:7), with the apostle Paul being the household servant-manager over the churches he started (1 Corinthians 4:1; compare Colossians 1:24-25); and
  • The primary purpose of church meetings was for all believers in their Spirit-giftedness to build each other up as brothers and sisters (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 4:12, 15-16; Romans 15:2).

The language of family and household are very extensive throughout the New Testament’s description of the early church. I am utterly convinced myself that New Testament church structures based on family relationships were not hierarchical, despite arguments to the contrary by other theologians who, in my opinion, have vested interests in upholding the current status quo in contemporary church leadership structures.

Understanding these cultural differences between our modern, democratic Western societies and the New Testament Rome-dominated societies will offer what I consider to be a different perspective on comprehending the significance of Matthew 11:25-30.

Old Testament Language of Matthew 11:25-30

The language Jesus used in Matthew 11:25-30 was clearly drawn from Old Testament passages like:

  • Jeremiah 6:16: “find rest for your souls” [ESV];
  • Jeremiah 31:25: “satisfy the weary soul” [ESV]; and
  • 1 Kings 12:4: “lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us” [ESV].

The “yoke” imagery in the Old Testament frequently represented service to oppressive kings, usually foreign rulers, who tended to extract hard, burdensome service from their subjects for their own royal ease and prosperity (1 Kings 12:4-14/2 Chronicles 10:4-14; Deuteronomy 28:47-48; Isaiah 9:2-7; 10:24-27; 14:24-25; 47:5-6; Jeremiah 27:6-8, 11-13; 28:2-4, 10-15; 30:8-9; Ezekiel 30:18; 34:25-28; Lamentations 1:14; 3:19-30).

Note in particular Proverbs 28:3, where a leader/ruler who oppresses the poor is compared to beating rain which leaves no food — both leaders and rain are expected to bring prosperity and growth, but tyrants become devastating rain that destroys and leaves people impoverished.

Human yokes/governments are therefore hard and burdensome, but God’s yoke, the yoke of His covenant and law, is light in comparison (compare Jeremiah 2:20; 5:4-5; Deuteronomy 30:11-14; 1 John 5:2-3).

God’s Form of Government

Therefore, in contrast to human kings, Yahweh as King, Shepherd and Father in the Old Testament:

  • caused His people to walk by brooks of water in a straight path without stumbling, satisfying the weary soul (Jeremiah 31:9-14, 23-28; Ezekiel 34:11-16; compare Isaiah 40:3-4, 28-31; Psalm 23:1-3; 36:7-10);
  • gave His people rest under His gracious yet powerful rule (Psalm 95:3-11; see also Hebrews 3:7-4:13);
  • acted powerfully on behalf of His people with grace, mercy and abundant goodness (Psalm 145:4-9); and
  • lifted up His people’s heads, affirming them and giving them dignity, free from oppression (Psalm 3:3-6; Leviticus 26:13; Psalm 27:5-6; compare Psalm 18:1-3; 110:5-7; Genesis 40:13; Judges 8:28).

Human governments and divine government, as represented by the “yoke” imagery, are therefore vastly different. This has significant implications in coming to terms with the “yoke” Jesus was offering all those who come to Him in Matthew 11:29, which we will look at in Part 2.

Peter  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.

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.

Fast Forward Mission by Alan Hirsch

static.ow.ly/docs/Alan_Hirsch_FastForward.compressed_2QUY.pdf


Copyright 2015 Alan Hirsch. 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.

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.

Shifts and Regression in the 21st Century Church

What you are about to read has taken more than 25 years to formulate in my Spirit. Unlike many “local yokels” who think they and/or their denomination have scripture and the will of God all figured out, I have learned that scripturalChurch_21st_Century understanding is an ongoing and never ending process. I am ready to give an account to the Lord for what I am about to share with you today. And I know we all will have to face Him someday for what we teach.

Words have meaning and consequences. In this changing culture every word needs to be measured and some words need to get back to their original definitions. As you read this, my faith is not in my ability to express myself with the written word but in God the Holy Spirit who is the interpreter of everything. So let’s begin.

Looking back at the church of the first century, we discover that:

THE FIRST CENTURY CHURCH

  1. Christianity was a daily lifestyle.
  2. There was an understanding of only one church per city/region/world.

  3. There were many local groups or gatherings. Five-fold leadership was known and respected.

  4. Gatherings moved from house to house or wherever the disciples met.

  5. Apostles & prophets modeled the Christ-life for disciples to emulate.

  6. Elders were appointed in every local gathering in the city/region by apostles.

  7. The post-ascension Apostles were also elders in their communities.

  8. Apostles and elders heard from all and the Spirit carried out Christ’s government in His church.

  9. Elders functioned in plurality under the delegated authority of the Lord Jesus.

  10. Those who ruled (administration, oversight, stewardship) well were worthy of double honor.

  11. These were overseers (bishops) who ministered and served regionally.

  12. They received the voluntary obedience and submission of the saints as unto the Lord because of their maturity, example and testimony not because of office, position or title.

  13. Elders were under-shepherds of the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus.

  14. Christians met together daily with no set schedule because they loved one another not once a week to get their blessing.

  15. The majority of the finances went to the poor, widows and the fatherless.

While an individual elder may have provided oversight of an individual fellowship within a city, he did so in relationship with and in cooperation to the larger body of elders in that city or region. There were no mutually independent fellowships of the larger church. The church in each city or region was constituted as one body and functioned with many expressions. When it failed to do so, correction was brought (I Corinthians 3:3-17).

I am sure I have left out something in these short 14 points but I am open for assistance and clarification.

Looking at the present-day church, we discover that:

THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY CHURCH

  1. Christianity has largely become a weekly ritualistic observance.
  2. There are many denominational and independent churches (divisions) in a city or region.

  3. People call a building “the Church”. People say “they are going to church.”

  4. We have substituted the church in a city or region for local fellowships that function from two basic misconceived forms of governance:

  1. a.In one we have the idea of an autonomous (self-ruled) local church with little or no connection to the church in the city or region.
  2. b.In the other we have the idea of denominational rule, which segregates us based upon denominational understanding of things like doctrine, rules of governance, and sacraments, etc.
  1. Too often decisions for the body are made either congregationally (democratic vote), or by those “in positions of authority or power.”

  2. While most would declare these decisions are bathed in prayer, in actual practice, decisions are often made and then prayer is made for the decision to be supported by God and accepted by the governed. And all of this is often without regard to the impact on the rest of the body of Christ in the city or region.

  3. Deacons, who are scripturally called to serve tables and minister to the saints, now serve on boards and make decisions.

  4. The word “elders” (plural) has been exchanged in the modern local gathering for the word “pastor” (singular) with a totally different meaning.

  5. The word “pastor” is supposed to be a shepherding gift for all. Now it’s used as a title for the one in charge.

  6. Congregations and/or denominations now hire their pastors.

  1. a.This places the pastor in an untenable situation as the main or major leader of the local gathering. As one who is paid by the people one leads, the situation will arise requiring the leader to choose between obeying God or submitting to the people who pay one’s salary. This is inevitable.
  2. b.The pastor also faces the fact that pastoral salary is tied to the pastor’s ability to build and keep a large congregation. Here I reflect on Jesus’ words In Matthew 16:18 where He said, “I (He) will build my (His) church.”
  1. Pastors are, in many situations, much like CEO’s who, along with hired staff run the local church.

  2. Pastors often function individually and independently and are considered the “heads” of their flocks.

  3. Pastors can and often do become hirelings who sell their resume. They are often only accountable to their own choices about where and how long to serve a local church.

  4. Boards constitute the ruling government of the church on paper while most have no real day to day authority over the pastor or denominational leaders.

  5. There is more attention placed on getting the “right” doctrine than living and modeling the “Christ-life”.

  6. The majority of the finances go to pay for buildings, salaries of professional paid clergy and their staff

While there are many elders with a pastoral gift who are truly called by God as genuine under-shepherds and overseers, the contemporary religious systems and traditions minimize their effectiveness. This is particularly true when it comes to fulfilling the purpose of God to bring His government and glory to the earth realm. Today value and success are determined by numbers – how many, how much and how big. These were values unknown to New Testament believers and were never used to judge worth, honor and maturity in a leader.

Now What?

Can we go back to the way things were originally done? Well, let me ask you. Can you, as a leader, separate money, values, human measurement and power from the equation? I believe the ball is in our court and yes; the mess begins at the top. Now the next question we need to answer is, “Do weak pulpits make for weak pews?” Well, if you are a New Testament believer you don’t have a problem with that question because there were neither pews nor pulpits in the New Testament Church!

I pray you have heard what the Spirit has been saying thus far. But now I pray you can hear what I’m about to say. The church as we know it, must take a major portion of the responsibility for that which is wrong in our country and in our world. The problems we face around the globe can be directly tied to the condition of His Church! The only permanent and lasting solution we have available to us will come only when His Church becomes what she was designed to be. We – the church – are called to love God, love one another and make disciples. It’s time we quit hiding out in prayer rooms or going to another conference for deep revelation. We must move outside the four walls of buildings to affect change in the people around us and in the world.

Here are some final questions, maybe for another article or maybe they await your input.

What is the alternative and how do we relate to folks who embody or participate in or with those values we despise and that are clearly unbiblical and opposed to the kingdom? How does love prevail?

It might be that there are no steps, because the situation is terminal and unredeemable, if so, how do we exist in the tension during the season of migration in between where we are to where we need to be?

The church can physically leave the buildings and refuse to participate in the systems of men but are these things fused to our Spirit?

Oh Father, have mercy on our mess and allow your Body the privilege of cooperating again with the Holy Spirit under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jose Bosque


Copyright 2013 Jose L. Bosque http://www.JaxChristian.com. 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   JaxChristian1@aol.com

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.

The Biggest Goal Setting Mistakes that Pastors Make

We have set some audacious goals this year and need you all to help us get the message out about returning the church to the priesthood of all believers. We are getting many views every day of the site. If you wish to help us in anyway do look at our page how can you help us.

It’s the beginning of another year and pastors have either decided that setting goals is unbiblical, a waste of time, or they already have a list for the coming year. Debates aside, whether your church sets goals or not, you might want to rethink the way you operate after reading this list of common goal setting mistakes.

church pic

1. Independent goal setting rather than involving others
People are always more committed to something when they are involved in the planning process. However, when it comes to making future plans for their church, many pastors feel it is their personal responsibility, and they choose to exclude others from the process. If I told you to lose 20kg next year, you would protest, make excuses, and explain why it was too hard or unrealistic. However, if you initiated the goal and I offered to support you, your level of excitement would be noticeably higher.

Right now, many pastors are reading this with the usual objections. I will address the objections in more detail during a future blog, but now that I have your attention, let’s fast forward with suggestions, for those who might choose to involve others.

Where do you start?

I suggest that you meet with a cross-section of members from your congregation and also people in your community. How many city majors have ever been asked “How can our church bless this city?” You should consider talking with business owners, parents, singles, youth, children’s ministers, and any other significant groups in your church or city. You could meet with people one to one, or in small groups. Potentially, all members can be given the opportunity to share their ideas through surveys, or by talking with group leaders. You might also discover that if you combine a planning session with prayer, and use an outside facilitator, that a greater flow of ideas can happen within a larger group setting. How does your church involve others in yearly planning? Share your experiences with us.

2. A focus on numerical growth rather than church health
When leaders set goals, they will often look through last years attendance figures, and then increase the numbers to represent a step of faith. If last years average Sunday attendance was 100, they might believe for 120 this year. If there were three baptisms last year, they might believe for four baptisms this year. If there were four home fellowship groups last year, they might aim for five this coming year. While there is nothing wrong with numerical growth, a better approach is to focus on improving the health of the church, because healthy churches are always growing churches.

There are many elements that contribute toward a healthy growing church. I would recommend downloading the Church Excellence Framework which is FREE, and outlines biblical principles that contribute to a church’s health. An example of a goal that focuses on the health of a church could be: “By April this year, we will improve the quality of the discipleship process, by teaching people how to share their faith”. How the teaching takes place is another discussion, but I suggest that is a far more effective goal than just announcing your desire to see twice as many people in church.

3. Not addressing the most urgent need
If you own an indoor plant, you could set a goal to water it everyday, place it in an expensive pot, and fertilize it once a month, but if the most important need was more sunlight, the plant would still die. Churches are very much the same. Every church has things they do well, and things they do poorly. A church might have 50 different goals, but if they don’t address the biggest need, they will still fail to grow. One of the reasons pastors dislike ‘church growth’ material, is that it often exposes their weaknesses, and no one enjoys their “apparent” failures being exposed. Completing a questionnaire and discovering a list of 100 changes you need to make, can be very confronting, and it’s much easier to toss the results in the bin, and create an excuse to stay the same.

The most liberating advice I can offer, is to focus on one thing at a time. If you look around your back yard, you will often see plants that are totally neglected but still living. What keeps them alive? They continue to survive because they have the minimum requirements to support life. If you give any plant water, soil, and sunlight, usually it will grow to some extent. However, if you were to take a soil sample, and add the minerals that the soil was lacking, you would see an explosion of growth. Your church is no different. If you continue addressing the weakest areas over a long enough period of time, you will experience growth. (Jn 15:2; 1 Cor 3:6; Act 6:1-5)

4. Setting comfortable goals rather than confronting the root issues
The Church Excellence Framework can help you identify the most urgent needs, but it still requires brutal honestly. Sometimes the most urgent needs get swept under the carpet because it is too uncomfortable to deal with them. The most uncomfortable areas to address, always involve people. Negative communication between staff, the way leaders communicate, and the way things are organised, are all very common issues in any group. In a previous role, I worked with businesses that often had great facilities, the best equipment, good staff, but very poor communication processes. As a result, the businesses failed to be as productive as they could have been. Bad communication was costing them thousands of dollars a year in lost productivity, but instead of addressing the problem, the senior management often made excuses, defending their own behaviour, and chosing to blame other things.

Addressing the uncomfortable areas is very confronting. Churches are often much more willing to focus their energy and budget toward updating equipment, redecorating the mothers’ room, or other cosmetic changes, instead of addressing problems that involve people. Maybe it’s time to get honest with how things are, invest time into growing as a leader, work on communication problems, and restructure the way you organise things in your church.church growth

5. Neglecting organisational goals in preference to spiritually related goals
Some churches focus more on goals with a direct “spiritual” focus such as weekly prayer meetings, weekly days of fasting, and monthly worship nights. Other churches tend to focus on organisational goals such as building and equipment upgrades, leadership training and discipleship courses. Fasting, discipleship courses, buildings and prayer are all good. The point is to assess whether your church needs a greater balance between organisational and spiritual activities. Jesus withdrew and spent time on the mountain in prayer, but he also sent out the seventy in groups of two. Somewhere in the process, there were 35 groups that were organised and sent to various locations across the countryside. Jesus understood that both organisation and spiritual dynamics are needed to grow the kingdom of God. (Luke 5:16; 6:12; 10:1)

Can anyone relate to the five mistakes I have listed? Is there one particular mistake that your church is currently making? Share your experiences with us.

To review the studies 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 consider – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.

Peter Sewell has over 25 years of ministry experience, training church leadership teams, business and government leaders, and community groups. He is a passionate supporter of the local church and served as an associate pastor for 15 years. During this time he was involved in planting new churches, and coordinating cell groups, pastoral care, and discipleship. He has qualifications in biblical studies, business, counselling, coaching, and adult education, and is currently involved in training future leaders across Europe.

Copyright 2015 Peter Sewell http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com. 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 orchard.j.johnson@gmail.com

People’s stories of their experience in church 

From the CEO of Church Excellence Framework

These are the stories of real people and their experience of church. It will make you think!!!

Annette’s Story (changed name )

I had a great start to my Christian walk with lots of one-on-one discipling, love, people helping me find my spiritual gifts and then encouraging me to take a part in using them. I was encouraged to study the bible and apply it and understand about evangelism and constantly be encouraged to think who am I reaching out to and discipling. But having moved area my experiences in church went downhill from there, being subjected to little support in applying my gifts or people knowing where I felt called , suspicion or just lack of interest. I was only offered a sermon and a small group which was often more preaching or a DVD. I had little opportunity to build quality relationships as most was content orientated. If we set something up as a ministry it often did not get the support from top leaders and so often fizzled. I kept believing there was a different form out there but each one focused on one thing whereas I wanted all the aspects that I found in the bible. I wanted to pray with my leaders, be encouraged to evangelize in the workplace, help them find my gifts and provide an opportunity for mentoring / coaching that would have kept me engaged. I also wanted leaders of departments to serve the bigger need by bringing in others not taking control of their dept in the way that suited them. I wanted the church to share clearly where it felt God was leading us in the next year and what is what seeking to achieve in more detail than broad mission statements ( not keep that hidden to avoid accountability)  and to place more emphasis round people development  I still believe church can provide all this and with a lot of quick changes we can bring it back to more of a biblical model .  I don’t know how much more I can stand from what I see in church today. I love God passionately and want to see leaders understand there are lots of us who feel this way and to understand it is their responsibility to change something.

Andrew’s Story (name changed)

I have been a Christian over 30 years  with a short spell in ministry. Most of my career has been in a secular sphere where I rose to the highest level affording me the privilege to choose not to work. My church experience has left me disengaged with the church. I honestly believe business works in a more honoring and trusting way than any church I have been to. In business a new starter is quickly brought in, trusted and past experience valued and sought. Roles are given appropriate to the person and individual development plans created. Feedback and coaching are the norm. Now, I am not so naive as to say all business is like that , but I do wish the church would have honored me in that way . We have a great god who wants us to show more to the world of his love and transforming power.

 Life outside the church –Richard’s story

It’s a long story but in 2008 after twenty-three years of pastoral ministry, I unexpectedly found myself working in the community development sector of local government. In Council, my institutionalised church mind was stretched as I observed God’s work in the world being implemented by agencies other than the church through the development and delivery of policies anBUILDING A Church that is relevant for future generationsd programs that were contributing to a more just, equitable and livable society. Up until then, I’d seen the church as the sole facilitator of the missio Dei (the mission of God).

The change in career also ushered me into the long forgotten world of the congregation member. Gracing the pews was a disconcerting experience. I was alarmed to find how disempowering, uninspiring and theologically inept the average church service could be when you weren’t the leader. I regularly found myself saying to my wife , “Please tell me we didn’t do this to people”. Disillusioned, I stopped attending church as I’d traditionally known it.

The decision to re-engage with pastoral ministry after two years working at Council wasn’t easy. But I felt compelled to help curate a space centred around God as a relational community; somewhere inclusive in which people were given a voice; where we weren’t too quick to provide answers but gave room for questions and doubt; where love was more important than everyone believing the right thing; light on programs but big on encouraging people to see themselves as carriers of God’s kingdom wherever they went.

Carey’s Story

Why I have moved away from Christian Churches.

I really believed with all my heart I am called by God to preach and teach His Word and for the last few years that has been by aim to lead a church. I volunteered countless hours in church, gave thousands to church, attend bible College and leadership programs all to head towards my dream of running a church. I now realise that none of what I had done is biblical including all the money spent within the church. I had a stirring in my heart that what I was hearing and seeing in Christian churches was not biblical and this stirring began after reading in the bible and how the early church began and I sort out to investigate more about the early church, through scripture, books and websites. Since my studies on the early church I now see that where I was heading was not at all biblical, I was heading straight into a manmade system of religion and most of which is stardom, fame and attraction to be the top preacher in town with the best looking building. Thankfully that’s not my direction anymore; to teach and preach is and we are all called to this however it will be in an Ecclesia group. I want to encourage you to read the book, Pagan Christianity by Viola and  Barna, you will read what you already know to be true in your heart.

How does contemporary preaching help us today? Are we growing spiritually or does it stagnate us?

I believe it stagnates us and stops the spiritual growth in our lives and all the evidence is in the bible to support this, and the way in which preaching is done today has not been authored by God. It all began with Pagan Christianity and then stardom preaching and buildings become popular with the reign of Constantine. Preaching today is very different from the early church it does not resemble how church was if we look through scripture.

Ecclesia is the original church, the called out ones of God who came together in a group in their houses to worship, preach, teach, exalt and encourage each other all together and there is no hierarchy of leadership. Ecclesia is all of us experience Jesus Christ together, we are each called out by God and are equal with each other, and we are each there to present our gifting from God to help grow the body which is us the believer. Everyone has an opportunity to share Christ together as we are inspired by God to talk and present Him in the group. We each are able to talk, discuss, open questions and allow the Holy Spirit to move freely, by coming together in the original form of Ecclesia we are able to grow spiritually. We are all active participants, there are no set agenda’s, no Pastor, no worship team and communion is a meal that we have together to be joyful in what Christ has done for us.

Today it seems Ecclesia is lost, we attend church like a lower ranked minister of Christ, we do not need to  be ordained or gone to bible college to be able to stand up on the stage and preach. I know I felt many times not good enough to be like the Pastor or visiting Pastors, that they are so much more blessed by God than me, you could say I looked at them like they are God. I felt I had to ask permission to speak up if the Spirit of God had laid something on my heart, and then in no way did I want to approach the front where all the super leaders are and if I did would they let me speak? I felt like everything was a Sunday motion that you go through, its ‘Super Spiritual Sunday’ I get to dress up, be god like and I tried to fit in with all the top leaders so that I can move up in the ranks. What I was seeing and being taught within my church made me feel like this, that I had to prove myself to be someone before I could get to the next level. This is exactly what Jesus came to abolish; religion a manmade system of rules and making people feel they are less in God.

I’m not being hard, I love all my Christian brothers and sisters although I don’t have to agree with what they do. Please read all about the early church and scripture so that you can fully understand how it has become a religion. Here is a little from the ‘Pagan Christianity’:

‘Is Preaching and teaching the Word of God scriptural? Yes, But the contemporary pulpit sermon is not the equivalent of the preaching and teaching that is found in the Scriptures. It cannot be found in Judaism of the Old Testament, the Ministry of Jesus or the life of the primitive church. What is more, Paul told his Greek converts that he refused to be influenced by the communication patters of his pagan contemporaries (1 Corinthians 1:17, 22, 2:1-5)….The sermon was conceived in the womb of Greek rhetoric. It was born into the Christian community when pagans-turned Christians began to bring their oratorical styles of speaking into the church’….

If you want to be part of changing this and you don’t have to be a pastor or leader to do this, check out the framework and pass it  to your leaders . Sign up for the blog by email and follow us on social media – we have lots of  practical resources to change things http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com  # Churchlife #discipleship

5 Ways to Connect with Millennials

I was excited when I read this research from the Barna Group on ways to connect with the younger generation at church, as all the points were ones we have covered in the Church Health Framework and so have evidence that people are crying out for certain things. The real growth is really only coming from young people so that is why it is crucial for churches to be looking at this.

If your church is not providing mechanisms to cover these elements, you could take responsibility and begin a dialogue with leadership, bringing it to the attention of those who do not have time to research these things. We are all responsible for building our church into the beautiful bride of christ that God wants. We believe so strongly that rebuilding the temple is critical for our nation as a first step and we have had prophetic words from Haggai confirming this. In the book of Haggai it talks about how, when the organisational leaders, priests and the people came together, the glory of the lord was far greater. All working together is the key to bringing us to a higher level. What is exciting is, many are saying they too have heard God speaking out of Haggai at the moment.

We also have another part of the framework that shows examples of how organisations are pulling together now to rebuild in a way that if they did not work in collaboration, their effect would be very limited (if not held back from not working in unity).

Here is the article and research results

https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials/682-5-ways-to-connect-with-millennials#.VG7gSjg9Kpochurch growth

If you have examples of good processes that your church is implementing, please share a sample so we can learn and maybe even refer them as shining lights!!!

To review the studies 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 consider – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.

Copyright 2015 Jane Johnson http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com. 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 orchard.j.johnson@gmail.com