Changing our Learning Practices to become a Mature Son of God

Written by Jane Johnson

Disciple-Making-ChurchAs a learning and development professional I see many practices in church settings that are not conducive to good learning and are not modelled in the Bible.

Here is what I see in the bible, I see in heaven and is a better way to learn:-

  • One anothering (see page).
  • Learning a small piece of info and applying it straight away (this is why conference learning and spirit schools are not the best).
  • Trying to explain it to others really helps and you can even get new revelation from heaven in the process sometimes!
  • Seeing things in writing  increases retention more than hearing so finding a balance of written and audio materials is best. Trying it out in practice helps even more no matter what your preferred learning style (action learning). If you are doing any learning interventions for people, try to give them exercises to practice and reinforce with visual elements.
  • Debating was the original meaning of teaching in scripture not listening – there was so much debate when Jesus was on the earth and people allowed to ask questions. Debate allows us to overcome mindsets and blocked gateways. Listening to sermons only has limited retention and usually around 20 mins.
  • Daily discipling was the model of the early church. We can do this by using a lot of online methods these days such as messenger groups and Facebook chats on pages or messaging /texting each other.
  • Coaching/mentoring is a great tool to give a sounding board, accountability, setting goals, overcoming obstacles. Coaching workshops do exist but some coaching tips are on page “looking for community”.
  • Networking to get resources tailored to you.
  • Keeping momentum by listening to frequent resources to boost faith and  sharing what you have learnt to reinforce learning. Trying to explain it to others is a great exercise.

The great fact about this generation is the technology allows us  to seek resources that are the best in the world. As we were never meant to stay in one small location dealing only with the same people for years (traditional church thinking), this technology can be a real blessing to seeing a more heavenly blueprint.

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JaneJohnson new smallCEO. 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 athttps://www.linkedin.com/profile/viewid=287940854&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

 

12 Challenging Questions for Every Christian Leader

8questions_blog1By Peter Sewell

Ever since I was a young boy I have been asking questions. In fact, I make a living out of asking people questions. In my experience I have found questions offer the biggest growth experiences. This week I have chosen 12 of the most important questions that leaders can ask themselves in order to see growth and positive change in their church.

1. Do I equip and support every person to serve in their area of gifting?

(Eph 4:12; 2Ti 2:2; 1 Cor 4:15)

Leaders are often quick to vocally support people, but slow to involve people in practical ways. Empowering leaders recognise the value of involving every person and equipping them to serve. Poor leaders withhold opportunities from others, prefer to do ministry alone, and create conditions that limit ministry to a very few. In the New Testament church, Barnabus mentored Paul, and Paul actively mentored Timothy, Titus and others. Individual mentoring can help people to identify their gifts, and involve them in practical ways.

2. Do we have counsel and support from ministries outside our church? 

(2 Tim 3:10; 1 Cor 4:17; Prov 11:14)

One of the inescapable realities of life is that the longer we function in any role, the more self sufficient we feel. On one hand, self sufficiency is a sign of maturity. On the other hand, it is the breading ground for blind spots, meaning that we fail to see our weaknesses. Pro 11:14 says, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety”. Over the last few years we have started to see the restoration of Apostolic and Teaching gifts to guide churches by asking the right questions, and giving them insight to areas they are currently overlooking.

3. Do we ensure the ministry involvement of each person matches their gifts?

(1 Cor 12; Eph 4:16; 1 Pet 4:10)

Leaders often wonder how they can get more people to volunteer. The question that leaders need to be asking is how they can support people to serve in areas of their interest and gifts. During the last week I had complete strangers from the other side of the world volunteering to help me on a project. I didn’t have to give them a motivational talk or any incentive. I just found a group of people already doing what I needed, I sent them a polite message, and they not only volunteered to help but offered to do much more than I had even requested. Tap into the interests of every person in your congregation and you will have a different church. Of course, the floor still needs cleaning, but when people feel appreciated and excited about using their gifts to serve, they always go beyond what they are asked to do.

4. Are times of prayer an inspiring experience for our members?

(Col 4:2; Act 4:31; Matt 6)

I often hear church leaders complain about the low attendance of their prayer meetings. I have been blessed by being in churches with an exceptionally high attendance in prayer meetings. Some of the things they had in common were: convenient prayer times, prophecy and spiritual gifts, small groups or triads, reading of scripture, testimonies, and spontaneous singing. I believe every Christian desires to pray, but unfortunately not every Christian has had the opportunity to actively participate in prayer. In 1904, there were 30,000 people in Melbourne Australia who were praying daily in prayer groups.

5. Are we aware of the needs in our community?

(Acts 11:28; 9:39; 2:45; 4:35; Mat 25:35, 36)

Throughout the New Testament there are many examples of ministering to the needs within the community. They collected offerings for famine relief (Acts 11:28), made coats and garments as an act of charity to the poor (Acts 9:39), sold possessions and distributed to those who had need (Acts 2:45; 4:35). The words of Jesus should challenge us to be aware of those in need, both in our congregations and communities. Mat 25:35,36 says, “For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me”.

6. Do we continue to evaluate the effectiveness of everything we do?

(Luke 14:28; Mar 7:13)

In recent years much has been written about the decline of traditional churches. As you drive through the Australian countryside, you will find many abandoned churches. In the same way, in recent years we have seen many large companies such as Borders, and Blockbuster, close their doors. They failed to change with the times and suffered from the global competition of the internet. In the same way, many churches are deaf to what is happening around them. Leaders need to continually question whether there are any unhelpful traditions developing and make changes.

7. Do we know which members of our church have the gift of evangelism?

(Eph 4:11; Act 21:8; Mark 16:15,20)

We are all called to share the wonderful good news with those around us; however there are those in the body of Christ who are especially gifted as evangelists. Identifying these people and supporting them offers the biggest return on investment. Think about how much your church spends on advertising and evangelistic outreach each year, then carefully consider how much of your resources, finance and time is invested into those who are gifted in the area of evangelism. Do you train them? Do you send them away for training? What might happen if every church invested in those that are regularly bringing friends to church? Statistics suggest that on average, up to ten percent of your congregation have the gift of evangelism. There are many ways you can support these people, but the best way to start is by asking them.

8. Do we involve young people in our ministry team?Christian-Group-at-Cross

(1Ti 4:12; Tit 2:15; Acts 2:17)

One of the greatest failures of the western church is not involving young people in ministry roles. We are great at saying goodbye as they leave for bible school, but sadly fail at giving them responsibility and support when they return. We are quick to point out their weaknesses, and make generalized statements about their lack of discipline. We accuse them of being irresponsible, but never stop to think that we might be contributing to their behaviour. When you view people as being responsible they will act responsible. Titus and Timothy were both young men, yet they were appointed to the role of overseeing churches and responsible for appointing elders. Paul encouraged both young men not to let anyone despise, depreciate, disesteem, or thinking badly of them in any way.

9. Are our worship services an inspiring experience for everyone?

(1 Thess 5:16-19; 1Co 14:26)

Whether this is a relevant question at all is debatable. After all, “it’s not about how we feel”, right? Nevertheless, there are several points we can learn from the above scriptures which I believe are guidelines that ensure services are inspiring. The first is that personal involvement from every member is encouraged. The second is that all things be done to build each other up. If people are regularly walking out of a service feeling unloved, judged, or more depressed when they entered, there’s something wrong. Church services, in whatever form that take, should lead to an encounter with God, in an environment where members build each other up.

10. Is attending our church a joyful experience for our members?

(Gal 5:22; Prov 17:22; Ps 126:2; Phil 4:4)

In the book of Galatians we are told that one of the fruit of a believers’ life is joy. A healthy church is therefore, without doubt, a place with lots of joy. Yes, there will be times of sadness and grief, but the life of a believer should not be characterized by sadness. Even during times of persecution, as the New Testament church faced, Paul encouraged believers to rejoice. The world desperately needs more joy, and any place where believers gather together should be somewhere with lots of joy and laughter.

11. Does our church promote the multiplication of small groups?

(Tit 1:5; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:20; Acts 5:42)

Much research has been done on the benefits of small groups. I don’t particularly want to reference that here. Instead I would like to ask the more important question, assuming we accept that small groups are helpful and even necessary for Christians to grow in their faith, do you have a strategy in place to multiply the number of groups? This question also relates to leadership ability, and also causes us to consider what we value. Empowering leaders are motivated to duplicate themselves and place people in roles of responsibility. Dominant models of leadership tend to withhold responsibility, and lack the trust to release people into leadership roles.

12. Do our members regularly invite someone home for a meal or cup of coffee?

(Acts 2:46; 16:15, 34; 28:30; 1Peter 4:9; Heb 13:1,2)

Even though the word ‘hospitality’ only appears a few times throughout the New Testament, the practise of showing hospitality was practised consistently by all followers of Jesus. Believers meet in houses and fellowshipped regularly around food. Hospitality also often extended to having people stay with them. I truly believe that hospitality has been overlooked as one of the things that have played a significant role in the revivals we are currently witnessing around the world. In the midst of our technology jungle, face to face relationships are needed more and more. I read a comment recently saying how sad it was that people would happily send a text wishing them happy birthday, but not take the take to call and arrange a coffee date. Can our churches be an example of loving relationships that the world desperately needs?

What is the one question that you find most challenging? Are there other questions you have found helpful in the past? Let us know. We would love to hear from you.


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What are we looking for in the NEW ECCLESIA / Wineskin?

 Blog from CEO of Church Excellence Framework

We are now receiving a lot of interest from people looking at starting new wineskins / Ecclesias in light of new mandates from God revealing the kingdom age and the order of Melchizidek.   I am convinced this will work towards  combatting  the rapidly declining numbers and the sad fact  that the dechurched( or DONE WITH CHURCH)  which are now present in massive proportions . God is calling a whole generation to cross over and begin understanding the order of Melchizidek and using the incredible tools to bring intimacy and transformation in righteousness.

Part of the heavenly blueprint revealed is that we are all powerful sons. It will take all of us to work together to do our part and form one body and  become the One New Man. Many of us accessing heavenly realms now are seeing theheavenly-realms-diagrams-page-002 blueprint.  Here are some things we are seeing.

Possible values of the new Ecclesia

  • Intimacy with God
    Replicating as it is in heaven
    Raising up the new generation through fathering
    Legislating in heaven and responsibility on earth
    Only doing what we have a mandate for
    Love and honour your neighbour as yourself
    We are all one body across the world not just one location therefore freedom to access resources elsewhere
    Facilitation and Mutual subjection to one another moving away from clergy / laity divide
  • Transformation is more important than numbers

Deciding on your values in so important before beginning a new wineskin as trying to change something after a culture has set in is really hard. Being clear up front will attract people who believe in these values and by asking what they believe in will be very engaging and bring commitment.

Transformation Outcomes

Crucial to the starting point for any ecclesia is to think about transformation outcomes. With this we can begin to identify and measure elements that are crucial to changing our nation.  Normal measures are attendance at services, home groups, people serving in the church or new ministries of the church. These do not measure whether we have strong disciples. We could have thousands in our gatherings  but few who are multiplying their lives or who know how to walk closely with God or live a holy life. To move away from activities to what makes a strong disciple we have listed some examples of possible outcomes an ecclesia could focus on to help you get the picture of what we are speaking about within the framework.

These outcomes allow an ecclesia to dialogue with its congregation and not lead in a vacuum. With this we can adjust our learning activities in line with the feedback and outcomes so we have a more strategic approach rather than ad hoc interventions with no real understanding of whether they are effective or tailored to where our congregation is at.  Just doing small group, prayer/worship  meetings  and having a sermon is not building strong disciples as Jesus commanded. Discipling covers topics such as establishing a believer with core elements of spiritual growth , establishing them multiplying their faith, knowing their highest purpose and being a strong character witness in their everyday roles to establish dominion over the earth.

TRANSFORMATION OUTCOME  EXAMPLE OF A POSSIBLE SMART GOAL EXAMPLE OF LEARNING COMPETENCIES
How many feel they are growing over the last 12 months By Feb 1 we will have developed a survey to assess how many feel they are growing over the last 12 months. Elements of Core Spiritual Growth, How to connect with God in the heavenly realms, our Identity in Christ, How to Understand the bible etc
How many feel equipped to pass on what they know to others By Oct 1 we will have found and promoted several resources to help people know how to share the gospel and encourage an outward looking  mindset. Witnessing/ Being missional

How to share  New Christian Essential Principles

How many know their highest life purpose By June 1 we will have promoted a system to help people find their highest calling on an ongoing basis How to find your own unique call and how to discern gifting.
How many have ongoing relationships that seek to pass on spiritual truths By Dec 1 we will have introduced one on one coaching  and spoken about it repeatedly in many forums Discipling concepts
How many feel they are really engaged with the church By Feb 1 we will have introduced a person to oversee the engagement of people  Facilitators training on engaging
How many feel  empowered in their calling from the ecclesia By Oct 30 we will have recruited a  facilitator  to ensure good networking and integration is going on in the ecclesia Whole church training on how to love others, engage them and support them, or coach training. Going into heaven to do court cases together

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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 for download here.

Join our Facebook group to receive regular updates and daily updated content.

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JaneJohnson new smallCEO. 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 athttps://www.linkedin.com/profile/viewid=287940854&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

 

The Need to Do Something Different Now

Here are a few reasons why we can not keep doing the same thing in The Western World  and expect a different result:-

11069486_10152889699738022_9065707923111404644_n

24% say  they don’t attend because of the outdated style which equates to millions who are Done with Church but love God

88% say  being part of a church is beneficial yet only 1 in 7 attend church monthly.

Church attendance has gone down 48% since 1976 with only 5-15% viewed as Committed Christians in Australia

Average church age now is 53, yet 4 out of 5 conversions occur under age of 20 meaning we are not keeping our young people.

Christian Camps came 5th in top activities in coming to faith, ahead of evangelistic events, small groups, Christian outreach, introductory series, mission groups etc., YET 2 in 3 church goers have not attended a church camp in last 2 years .    When they did  47% made a commitment.

There is much we can do to change this.                   

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Barna a well-respected Author on Christian Trends challenges us with statistical evidence on the decline of the church.  Here are a few conclusions from their work:-

80% of those raised in church could be disengaged by the time they are 29 years old.

2 out of 3 churchgoers say they attend church to “learn more about God.” But less than 1 in 10 say that happened last time they attended.

The Dechurched are still the greatest proportion of the churchless. 

But 2 in 3 Unchurched Americans say they are spiritual people. 

AAM research shows a sharp decline in church attendance across Australia, and this decline is expected to continue into the future.  The Church is failing tochurch pic win enough new people to faith and replace the number of attenders lost each year, meaning a double storm of lost members. One positive is the sustainable numbers of Christians starting to and continuing to attend church, who have come to our country from other nations and brought their faith with them. Unfortunately the picture is similar in other western countries. Without significant missional initiatives by the Church , it is inevitable that attendances will decline even more, as the 65,000 people now aged over 75 no longer attend. (Source: Rob Issachson Mission Report for Australia).

We believe we can  do something more to engage Generation Y/Z and Millennials. We desire that Church  is more relevant to them and  where they do not feel alienated and forgotten. There are many studies and material that point to a better way. We would like  all the body to take responsibility for how we may do this and request a copy of the framework.

This material has been well-tested in organizations for many years and has shown to have extremely positive results if used correctly. It seeks to bring  The Body  greater understanding of the principles necessary for change in one easy to read format, with ideas on how to implement these principles in practice.

What if we don’t change?

Here are a few possibilities of what could happen:-

  • Bored people
  • Untrained people
  • Spectator Christians
  • Ad hoc approach which leads to poor quality learning.
  • People leaving hurt as they lack the engagement with their church, often without saying why, and we are not finding out or showing we care about that
  • Unloved people tell others so the reputation of the church goes down
  • Hurt Christians who feel no one cares about their views or their calling
  • The younger generation becomes more detached as we don’t adapt and church becomes predominately older Christians which is not sustainable
  • People view church as out of date and uneducated
  • Leaders become bottlenecks as decision-making centers around a few. We feel we need permission to do things God has led us to and leaders are too busy to facilitate those new ideas.
  • We set a model that does not reflect the creativity of Jesus and his people
  • We believe we are raising disciples but have never evaluated if this is the case
  • We fail to raise leaders with quality leadership skills that work for this generation and the next generation suffers from a disengaged Church.
  • We fail to recognize that the greatest support we can give is to empower people in their calling not get them to volunteer below their capacity for a church event. This will not change the world.
  • We don’t create wealth and power to influence Gods Kingdom.
  • Without modelling priesthood of all believers we may be  encouraging our people to become fat with too much content but not enough application.    ( we become hearers not doers)
  • We don’t facilitate tailored connection so people don’t make genuine friendships which brings disengagement or people get bored doing community without a strong mission.
  • We have poor accountability so we increase the chance of poor decisions being made and unethical behavior
  • We set a standard of saying we don’t trust others so they model that by not trusting the church.

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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 for download here.

Join our Facebook group to receive regular updates and daily updated content.

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JaneJohnson new smallCEO. 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 athttps://www.linkedin.com/profile/viewid=287940854&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

 

The incredible impact of One-on-One Discipling versus Spiritual Addition Models

From the CEO of the Ecclesia Framework

JaneJohnson new smallWe are excited to see our visits to our site have massively increased as people see how much transformation is needed in the body of christ ands it is everyones responsibility to understand what form of ecclesia is biblical. We are in a period of great transition but there are many new organic forms of the ecclesia rising up using resources from all parts of the body across the world ( not just restricting themselves to one source of input which can be spiritually limiting).


The writings of Jesus and the apostle Paul show us how important the model of discipling is to effective training and how real multiplication can only take place through oneon-one discipling. This is shown by Jesus spending a large proportion of his time with the 12 disciples and in particular the three.

Jesus knew he would not reach the world by preaching alone and that he needed to raise up good men who were equipped to train and teach others. (2 Tim 2:2). Although this seems to be a slower method on the surface, in the long run, through the process of multiplication it is much faster( see the stats below).

It is also  one of the most effective method of encouraging people to stay in the church as people stay for relationship mainly . It also allows for people to be alerted if they are losing their faith. We may then have a method of dealing with the lost sheep.

the_church_body_400_clr_8912This has been promoted and practiced by the Navigators for decades. See the difference between Spiritual Addition and Spiritual Multiplication.

Results of Spiritual Addition V Multiplication    

Spiritual AdditionReach 100 people for Christ each day MultiplicationWin, Build  & Send One Person Every 6m
36,00072,000108,000

144,000

180,000

216,000

252,000

288,000

324,000

360,000

396,000

432,000

468,000

504,000

540,000

1664256

1,024 (thousand)

4,096

16,384

65,536

262,144

1,048,576 (million)

16,777,216

67,108,864

268,435,456 ( million)

If we are sending out we may not see the numbers in our church but what counts is the quality of the disciple following their highest calling and impacting thechurch growth kingdom.

For more great notes on methods that work – ask for a copy of the framework. www.churchexcellenceframework.com

Can we do anything about the “Done with Church Population”?

done-with-CHURCHFrom CEO of Church Excellence Framework

I am passionate about church becoming all God intended for it and represent what the people loved, well-equipped to be sent out in a lost world that really needs us. America, the UK and Australia were strong Christian nations and much of our life now is due to our strong Christian heritage.

Therefore I was so sad to read of the incredible figures (millions) of ‘Done with Church’ people. And what was even more sad to read was the quote from Josh Packard at the conference on Future of Church where he explained  that,from ground breaking research “the de-churched are among the most dedicated and active in their congregations”. So we are losing our best.

If we put this together with the fact that millennials are not engaging well with church, would you agree that we need to take drastic action? If the ship is sinking is this the time to be having a show or  more importantly trying to fix the leak?

Fixing the leak will mean doing all we can to keep these people from leaving, as it is harder to get them to return. Many are seeking organic versions of church .This exodus is a poor outcome for the church. So can we encourage our leaders to find out why people in their church are leaving and say we want to do something about it?

Moving on to the next is not a long-term solution as many others are likely to have similar issues. Also asking new people what is their experience of the church is a great exercise to stay on top of what is actually happening on the ground. We must have a generation of leaders who are not leading in a vacuum.

IF we look at a sample of the reasons Packard describes in his book Church Refugees, we may get a few clues as to why people are walking away.

  1. They feel they have heard it all before
  2. They are tired of being lectured to
  3. They want to participate, not pay to listen
  4. They feel spurned at every turn.

George Barna has recently released a book called Churchless which is a thorough description of what is happening in America.

This is why we developed the framework to communicate a more organic way of operating a church that draws more closely to biblical and New Testament churches. We are not advocating a model but principles. Getting many organic churches up and running is a long-term project but helping people who are disillusioned but still in church is just as important right now. All some may need is some message that shows that current leaders are looking at doing things differently and are aware of their plight.

church growth

I am encouraged that the leadership training institutes are now raising leaders who can see beyond the traditional role models . Also  as some may have  come  to Christ without going through traditional church, they can see things with a fresh set of eyes and see evidence in the bible of the real ecclesial church where participation, debating and raising and sending disciples was central. Many millennials are craving really good biblical principles of authenticity, serving with a purpose,  and believing their worth is more than a being a spectator which is very encouraging. So there is a lot of hope that with a bit of focus and participation by the WHOLE body (not just pastors) we can turn things around.

Frank Viola in his book reimagining church , explores the concepts of organic church, which may hold many of the answers for the new generation.

If you want to hear more about building a church relevant for the future generation we want to hear from you.

If you Sign up to receive our blog you will get more details of how to do this as we explain the church  framework tool and some of the major research studies and notable works of our time .

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 for download here.

Join our Facebook group to receive regular updates and daily updated content.

 

An ecclesia we could see

To help you understand the framework here are some examples of an ecclesia we could see. 

  • An ecclesia that understands the deeper meaning of Ecclesia and the Priesthood of ALL believers.
  • An ecclesia that is missional, existing for those who do not currently believe,  more than to support existing believers.
  • An ecclesia that understands discipling to a deep level and the principle of reproduction.
  • An ecclesia that builds community with a purpose not just community.
  • An ecclesia that places more focus on transformation outcomes than attendance measures.
  • An ecclesia that understands about the value of functional roles more than roles around ministry
  • An ecclesia that recognises the greatest growth happens through practise more than academic learning.
  • An ecclesia that knows what it takes to engage and equip, providing pathways to growth.
  • An ecclesia that understands that the greatest conversions come from the younger generation and so devote key resources in this area.
  • An ecclesia where people are free to bring a word, song, picture testimony or a piece of scripture to read in services.  Time given to hear from God prophetically in the main meeting (1 Corinthians 14.26).
  • An ecclesia that has strong processes in place for enabling people to find their calling and is proactively supporting people in their calling.
  • An ecclesia where all can see and  pray together  over its strategy.
  • An ecclesia that encourages the application of the word just as much as the preaching of it.
  • An ecclesia where everyone understands “who they are in Christ” and how to engage with Gods presence.
  • An ecclesia where people are accepted for who they are and immediately encouraged to serve.flowchart
  • An ecclesia that is not afraid to use other resources from outside its walls to grow
  • An ecclesia that communicates it goals, strategies, values and virtues clearly to the congregation and seeks to find out if it is meeting them regularly. Then re-evaluates.
  • An ecclesia who knows how to engage the courts of heaven.
  • An ecclesia that understands that only 5% of the population are now committed Christians and wants to play their part in releasing and providing resources to change that by empowering people in the marketplace to be Christ.
  • An ecclesia that sees the need for change in its style of presentation, to constantly evolve and reflect cultural trends.
  • An ecclesia where one on one discipling is encouraged, as modeled by Jesus and Paul.
  • An ecclesia that actively seeks out feedback from members and allows the body to participate in decision making
  • An ecclesia strong on encouraging outreach and evangelism, whilst developing training to teach others how to witness.
  • An ecclesia that is constantly encouraged to greet, encourage and release new people to serve the church.
  • An ecclesia that understands the effectiveness of Church Planting and Church Multiplication Strategies.
  • An ecclesia that is visible in the community and involved in the community.

Please leave us some feedback –

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The Hard Work of Christian Unity

By Dr. Stephen R. Crosby

Romanticism and Idealism Hinder the Work of Unity

Hard-Work-Ant-e1416262281822There’s an old saying that if we ever saw sausage being made, we would never eat sausage! Saying you favor Christian unity is like saying you love sausage.  Anyone can wax eloquent about the philosophical virtues of ideal sausage. The question is, do you have the stomach for the process of making sausage? Yielding to the processes of God that will actually yield John 17 Christian unity rather than cheap counterfeits is an entirely different matter than agreeing about the eternal priority of unity. How unity is defined, implemented, and embracing its cost will separate sausage lovers from sausage producers. God has called us to produce sausage, not just rhetorically extol its virtues. It is not for the faint of heart.

Too often unity is defined emotionally, psychologically, and culturally rather than biblically. There can be a mindset that if we could just recover some imagined idyllic condition of the first one hundred years of the Church, or if we were just “nicer” to each other, that we would have unity and revival. Here are a few snapshots of the “ideal” first century church:

  • At the end of his life, Paul was abandoned by almost everyone. Did he/they not value unity?
  • Paul confronted Peter, publicly. How does that make for unity?
  • Jesus called people names and insulted them. Is that the way to build “unity?”
  • The Corinthian church was divided over relational apostleship. Paul writes a letter that was read publicly, rebuking them all. Is making people uncomfortable in public good for unity?
  • The Judaizers were aggrieving the Galatian churches. The Gnostics were dividing the Colossian and Ephesian churches. Doctrine just divides. Shouldn’t we just love everyone in unity?
  • Paul publicly mentions people by name as causing division; he puts fornicators out of the church. That is so harsh and judgmental. That’s not conducive to unity.

There’s no place in the ekklesia for romantic notions regarding Christian unity. With romanticism out of the way, let’s take a look at sausage loving unity and then finish up with some real sausage making.

Church Culture Unity – unity based on similarity of expression, style, practices, tastes, preferences, likes and dislikes, age, economic status, etc. We are united as long as we all think, look, and act alike and value the same things. This is conformity of culture, not biblical unity.

Programmatic Unity – unity driven by doing projects and events together. We come together to “work,” but there is no spiritual substance beyond that. There is no genuine cost to this type of unity, because all the participants know that after the event is over, there is no pressure to have to relate with fellow participants. The event is the bond, rather than genuine love, the only legitimate biblical cement (Col. 3:14). The best program unity will ever produce is the context for the possibility of real unity.

Persecuted Unity – I once knew a missionary who lived in Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin. He discovered that while Amin was martyring thousands of Christians, there was a “coming together” and unity in the Church.   Unfortunately, as soon as the pressure of persecution ceased, so did the apparent unity. Everyone reverted to pre-persecution habits and patterns. Even life and death persecution cannot produce real unity.

Socio-Cultural Norm Unity – unity based on avoidance of conflict and confrontation. Individuals who have embraced this will emphasize inordinate sensitivity on not doing or saying anything that upsets anyone. The objective is that no one would feel any discomfort for any reason, at any time. It is a unity that avoids group discipline. Anything goes. There is nothing in scripture that remotely hints that avoidance of subjective discomfort is the basis for Christian unity.

Denominational Unity – is unity assumed to exist within a given denomination or group. I know many ministers who attend their denominational meetings and are heartbroken because of the absence of genuine unity and organic relationship. Wearing the same uniform does not produce unity. The uniform is supposed to be a symbol of something genuine.

Vision Unity – is similar to programmatic unity. Often times there can be an exciting “vision”’ or presentation of Gospel truth that attracts and becomes the gathering focus for unity. The problem with vision unity is that if a more exciting vision comes down the line, the unity built upon the previous vision evaporates. Vision unity is like jumping on the bandwagon for a passing fad. The latest “new thing” becomes the unifying factor.

Lowest Common Denominator Unity – is the “leave-your-distinctive baggage-at-the-door-unity, the curse of many “pastor’s prayer networks.” Of course, it is always the “other guy” who has to leave his baggage at the door because we don’t have any baggage! This unity lowers the bar for participation as low as it can possibly go, out of fear of being exclusionary or hurting someone’s feelings. Participants cannot be, do, or say who they really are for fear of offending someone else, who will then take his or her ball and go home, thus ending unity.

Prayer Unity – centers around prayer and fellowship only. Not only does it normally not go much beyond that, but sometimes it is also forbidden to go beyond that because any thing approaching authenticity in relationship would be considered bad for unity. Prayer may be a good place to start, but too often it is the place we settle for because the cost of going deeper toward reality in authenticity as human beings and brothers is simply more than most are willing to pay. You don’t have to trust someone to pray with them. Prayer unity is, again at best, a starting point as a context for the potential for real unity.

Political Unity – is the shallow, glad-handing spirit that prevails in many pastors’ networks. The unity meeting is a means of personal advancement and self–realization and the self-promotion of the minister, the minister’s organization, and personal agenda. Transparency and honesty are avoided because they hinder the path of self-esteem, peer-esteem, and ministerial advancement. I have had more than one pastor tell me explicitly: if they got real in relationship, it would cost them everything “they have built” and they are unwilling lose that. That attitude is unworkable unity material.

What Does Genuine Christian Unity Look Like?

Psalm 133 is the Old Testament classic on the subject: the tribes in Jerusalem were gathered to worship Yahweh at feast time.

The first thing we need to remember is their diversity. Other than their worship, they did not share values and priorities. A landlocked Israelite would not have the same values or priorities as a covenant brother living on the Mediterranean coastline. Their unity could contain those differences. Secondly, the Psalmist uses a Hebrew literary device—the metaphorical couplet—to convey a unified thought: the oil on Aaron’s beard and the dew of Hermon.

The oil was poured on Aaron’s head and ran down to his collar, not his feet as is commonly believed (The KJV ‘skirt’ is a most unfortunate rendering). The priestly anointing oil was held in very small quantities in a cruse or horn. The reason for the small quantity was because of its costly preciousness. The oil was obtained by crushing different costly spices and the oil together.

Genuine Christian unity that commands the blessing is not some cheap sing-along where we all get together, smile at one another, sing a few non-controversial hymns and go home. God’s unity begins with crushing and cost. God’s unity starts with Calvary: Calvary for us, and Calvary in us. Only those who walk in the spirit of Calvary who themselves have allowed the crushing experiences orchestrated by the Holy Spirit in their lives to have full effect, will ever be workable material for the unity that commands the blessing.

Mt. Hermon was on the northern border of the Amorites at the full geographical extent of Joshua’s victory. Hermon’s dew was carried by winds and settled or watered Mt. Zion and was known for being refreshing.

Both poetic metaphors are analogies of descent, (something starting from above, downward) andtransference. The psalmist’s point is that commanded blessing unity:

  1. Does not have its source in us.
  2. It comes from above/the Head
  3. It must be transferred.
  4. It is refreshing and sweet.

Transference is a download: one source has it; another doesn’t, but needs it. Biblical Christian unity is transferred from the heavenlies to earth. It doesn’t start with us. It must descend and be transferred upon us. It cannot be organized and legislated from below. It can be received and entered into. The commanded unity blessing will only occur when individuals who themselves have been “touched from on high” and who have experienced the inner healing of identity and the outer healing of relationships,gather together in determinate love one for another. A collection of Cross-dodging self-centered people will never produce biblical Christian unity.

If our lives are broken, marriages fragmented, families shattered, and local churches relationally inauthentic, merely gathering the aforementioned in one place under one purpose will never produce biblical Christian unity. It is just an agglomeration of dysfunction trying in the power of the Adamic nature to fulfill John 17. The only thing worse than dysfunction is thinking that if we just gather more of it in unified purpose under unified government, something wonderful will happen!

So is John 17 a pipe dream? Was Paul an idealist? Not at all.

Unity is not difficult. It’s just costly. Our unity must be in Christ, and Christ alone. Unity must begin and be sustained by our revelation of our union with Him and one another. It is the logical overflow of superabundant love. No vision, no organization, no plan, nor dream will ever realize that which is only possible in response to a gracious heavenly outpouring that transforms hearts causing us to fall irrevocably in love with one another. We simply must become necessities for each other, in the deepest and most genuine way.

If my American rights to independence and privacy in time, personal space, and money are more important to me than you, your pain, and your needs, we can forget romantic ideals of Christian unity, on any scale. Any model of unity that is based upon mere cooperation or group conformity is doomed to fail because that kind of unity must be maintained by external pressure rather than internal empowerment from transformation. Unity that is maintained by external constraint betrays the Spirit of Christ in the process of pursuing the unity in Christ.

As long as pastors, ministers, and other types of leaders view people, money, property and assets as “theirs” there will never be Christian unity. As long as leaders insist on the primacy of their own parochial self-interest masquerading as the “mandate and vision God has given me,” John 17 unity will remain a philosophical platitude.

Unity that is Spirit-born, touched with Calvary, descending from heaven, transforming us inwardly so we can unite outwardly, is in indeed precious. It is circumstantially indissoluble because its quality is eternal. No offense of humanity or attack of the devil can dislodge the Calvary-saturated, commanded blessing unity.

Christian unity is relational and covenantal. It is based on His cross: revealed, appropriated, and applied. It is covenantal love that is maintained in the presence of conflict and differences at great emotional, spiritual, psychological, time, and financial cost. So are you and I sausage lovers or sausage makers? Are we serious about the hard work of Christian unity? Are we ready to give ourselves to the real thing, or are we going to settle for the less costly counterfeits? Jesus is for us, and in us, to accomplish through us, what our flesh and ego will allow.


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


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.

Churches as God’s Flock, Following the Shepherd’s Voice (Part 4)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

Church-Interior-Design-Ideas-1-600x341Parts 1-3 presented us with some sobering perspectives on what it means for the church to be the flock of God’s pasture.  Now we will consider what impact these perspectives should have on contemporary church structures.

Responsibilities of God’s Sheep

Covenant responsibilities of the sheep (in Parts 1 and 3) remained somewhat consistent across both the Old and New Testaments, requiring them to:

  • listen attentively to the voice of their divine Shepherds (namely Yahweh and Jesus) as expressed either directly by God (as Father, Son and Spirit), or through the mouthpiece of the prophets/prophetic giftings;
  • respond in obedience together as one flock to both the voice of their divine Shepherd, and to the admonitions/guidelines of Scripture (note Proverbs 28:9);
  • trust in their divine Shepherd’s continual presence to lead and protect;
  • know God’s ways by treating all the weak, oppressed and needy among or around them with God’s love and compassion, meeting their practical needs; and
  • remain faithful to God alone, seeking only His kingdom rather than pursuing one’s own self-seeking agendas.

Forms of New Testament Obedience

Pointedly, nowhere in the Bible are the sheep specifically directed to generally heed/obey the voice of human under-shepherds other than in their role as God’s mouthpiece or skilled handler of Scripture!  It is essentially the divine voice only that must be listened to and obeyed!

This does not contradict certain passages exhorting believers to obey their leaders, because there are different Greek words for obedience which have important distinctions:

  • Persuaded obedience (peitho) arising from being convinced to the point of relying upon and being confident about someone/thing is used only once in respect to submitting to those church leaders who lead by good example and responsibly watch out for the sheep as those who have to give account, i.e. to the divine Shepherd (Hebrews 13:7-9, 17), just as all believers should be persuaded to obey the truth (Galatians 5:7-8);
  • Yielded obedience (hupeiko) arising from giving way to, ceasing to resist, authority is used only once in the whole New Testament, and that concerning leaders who led by example and responsibly watched out for the sheep in the context of believers tempted to fall away from the faith due to persecution (Hebrews 13:17);
  • Submitted obedience (hupotasso) arising from a voluntary submission to, bringing under the control of, another person is used only once in respect to obeying leaders like Stephanas who wholly devoted himself to the service of the saints (1 Corinthians 16:15-16), in the same way that all believers are to submissively obey Christ Himself (e.g., Ephesians 1:22; 5:24; 1 Corinthians 15:27), and citizens are to submissively obey government authorities, wives their husbands, children their parents, younger people their elders, and all believers one another (e.g., Romans 13:1, 5; Ephesians 5:21-23; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Peter 2:13; 3:1-5; 5:5; 1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 2:5; 3:1; note 1 Corinthians 16:16); and
  • Listening obedience (hupakoe) resulting from a stillness and attentiveness to hear another is used very sparingly only in respect to apostolic authority required in particular contexts (2 Thessalonians 3:14; Philemon 21; note Acts 7:38-39 concerning the Israelites heeding the voice of Moses who received the living oracles of God; compare 2 Corinthians 2:5-9; 7:15; Exodus 16:19-20; Deuteronomy 1:42-45), for the sheep are to listen to and heed/obey the faith/truth (Romans 1:5; 15:18; 16:17, 26; Acts 6:7; 1 Peter 1:22; compare Romans 6:11-17; Philippians 2:12) through the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8) which is in effect heeding the voice of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5-6; 1 Peter 1:2) and the Father (1 Peter 1:14), just as Christ Himself learned listening obedience to fulfil His call to suffer death out of His prayerful relationship with the Father (Hebrews 5:7-8; compare Romans 5:19; Isaiah 50:4-9), and children are to listen to and heed their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2; Colossians 3:20).

Effectively, the church is urged to heed under-shepherds only when they speak, write down, or otherwise communicate either the actual words and directives of the divine Shepherd, or command in accordance with the dictates of the Gospel/faith which is all about following Jesus anyway (compare the use of tereo, observed obedience arising from keeping an eye upon and hence observing something, in respect to the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20; John 8:51; 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 John 2:3-4; 3:22-24; 5:2-3; and the faith in 1 Timothy 4:7; compare 1 Timothy 6:11-14).

Jesus the Living Word as the Over-Shepherd

It is not surprising then that God’s sheep are to heed only the voice of Jesus because:

  • Jesus is the Word Himself (John 1:1, 14; Revelation 19:13);
  • Jesus is the Word of life (1 John 1:1-3);
  • words spoken by Jesus, like Yahweh, stand forever (Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; 1 Peter 1:24-25; Isaiah 40:3-9; Psalm 119:89; 102:26; compare Isaiah 55:8-11);
  • the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23; compare 2 Peter 3:3-7); and
  • because it is alive, the word of God increased, spread, and grew in power (Acts 12:24; 13:49; 19:20).

In Colossians 3:16, Paul exhorts the churches to allow the word of Christ to dwell within them richly.

The reliability and life-giving properties of divine words contrasts sharply with the poisonous and untameable human tongues which inevitably speak words that cause conflict, stumbling and destruction (e.g., James 3:1-12; compare Psalm 12:1-4; 120:1-7; 140:1-3; Proverbs 10:19-20; 13:2-3; 15:4; 16:27; 26:21, 28).  Relying on human leaders to speak into our lives is fraught with danger when it is not communicating the voice of the divine Shepherd.  Only at the absolute pinnacle of Christian maturity can leaders truly tame their tongue and therefore completely bridle the desires inherited from Adam, hence the warning not to seek becoming teachers as they will be subject to a greater strictness of judgment (James 3:1-2; compare James 1:26; Matthew 12:36-37; Romans 14:10-12; Mark 7:14-23).  This is why church is structured organically and not hierarchically.

Traits of Bad Under-Shepherds

Some rather interesting parameters also come to light concerning what it means to have the privilege of being God’s “human” under-shepherd.

For instance, notice that the bad under-shepherds of the Old Testament in Part 1:

  • failed to inquire of Yahweh, turning to their own ways, and consequently leading the flock astray;
  • failed to properly care for and strengthen the flock as needed;
  • failed to seek out and recover the lost/straying sheep;
  • mistreated and dominated/controlled the flock to serve their own ends;
  • protected their own position and affluence; and
  • preyed on God’s flock to satisfy their own needs and desires.

It is interesting to observe how the vast majority of bad OT under-shepherds failed to even acknowledge their abuse of God’s flock until judgment came, by which time it was too late.  Contemporary pastors beware!

Traits of Good Under-Shepherds

Now, notice that the good under-shepherds of the Old Testament in Part 1:

  • were all equipped by the Holy Spirit to shepherd God’s people;
  • did not have the Spirit necessarily remain permanently on them unless they were outstanding prophets/kings like Moses, Samuel and David, signifying how Jesus as the Christ, the Spirit anointed One (e.g., Isaiah 61:1), is the one permanently Good Shepherd, suggesting therefore that shepherding God’s flock as Christian leaders is not necessarily an irrevocable office/calling in itself; and
  • all had Yahweh speak directly to them fairly frequently, so that the under-shepherds only conveyed God’s words and instructions, not their own concepts of what is right (note Numbers 20:6-13; 27:12-14).

New Testament Under-Shepherds

We will look at this in more detail at a later date, but for now, we can note that:People Circle Hold Up Hands Gather Around a Cross

  • Peter as an apostle was required by Jesus to shepherd His sheep, and feed His lambs (John 21:16-17);
  • the overseeing elders of churches were exhorted by both Peter and Paul to shepherd the flock of God under Jesus the Shepherd and Overseer of God’s flock (Acts 20:17, 28-31; 1 Peter 2:24-25; 5:1-4); and
  • shepherding-teaching is a ministry gift in the church to equip the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).

This means that shepherding in the New Testament church is a responsibility affecting various levels of ministry gifting, all of which are subject to Jesus as the chief Shepherd.

Contemporary Relevance

Those in positions to under-shepherd God’s flock today need to ensure that they not only rely entirely upon the Spirit’s gifting and facilitate the prophetic voice, but also don’t use that privilege to:

  • protect their own position, reputation, and/or privilege;
  • coerce submission to themselves and to their own vision for the congregation, especially if it serves to promote their own importance and prestige in the eyes of their peers;
  • draw people to themselves as followers of their self-aggrandising or altruistic schemes; and
  • prey on God’s people either financially or to meet their own inherent and insecure need for attention/respect/affection, power/control/influence, or prominence/fame/success.

Church Excellence Framework

Getting Jesus back in control of His church so that He can shepherd His own sheep again using His voice, whether directly by the Spirit or through genuine prophetic speech, cannot simply happen overnight.  Various measures have to be carefully introduced which facilitate the underlying changes necessary for reformation.

Hence, the Church Excellence Framework seeks to reinstate the priesthood of all believers so that the risen Lord and Head over the Church can properly speak again to guide and instruct His flock.  To change decades or centuries of church tradition without careful preparation will result in disaster.  Change has to be managed responsibly, which is why education of church members and their participation in the strategies for change have to be wisely planned using a proven system.  The Framework therefore facilitates prudent under-shepherding.


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 for download here.

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


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

Churches as God’s Flock, Following the Shepherd’s Voice (Part 3)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

74a2b24328b9fd29f4ca3bb09e32d68bIn Parts 1-2, we looked at how Yahweh shepherded Israel, especially by leading them using His voice.  Now, we will consider how Jesus, as the messianic Shepherd raised up by Yahweh, shepherds the church today in the same way.

The Messianic Shepherd

Yahweh will:

  • Himself as Israel’s Shepherd gather the remnant of His lost flock from the exile, from all the places they had been scattered to, bringing them back into their fold where their wounds will be bandaged, the weak strengthened, the lost found, and where they can be fed with good pasture and be fruitful and multiply (Jeremiah 23:3; 31:10-11; 50:17-20; Ezekiel 34:11-16; compare Micah 7:14-17; Zechariah 9:16-17);
  • set up post-exilic under-shepherds over His flock (like Zerubbabel and Nehemiah), but will eventually raise up one particular under-shepherd, the Davidic Messiah, the true Shepherd who will feed Yahweh’s flock and reign over them as a wise king to deliver them so that they will be totally secure, walking according to Yahweh’s rules, obeying His statutes (Jeremiah 3:14-18; 23:4-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-28; compare Psalm 2:9 noting “rule” there is literally “shepherd”); and
  • put His words in the mouth of the messianic prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

Note Proverbs 10:21 which states literally that the lips of the righteous shepherd/feed many.

Jesus the Messianic Shepherd

Jesus is the Great Shepherd of God’s flock (Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4), the Messianic/Davidic Shepherd predicted in the Old Testament, because He:

  • was born in Bethlehem just like the shepherd-king David (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-11; 1 Samuel 16:1-5; compare Luke 2:1-7, 10-11; John 7:42);
  • will come forth for Yahweh at the appointed time, when she who is in labour gives birth, as the ruler in Israel, one whose origin was from ancient days (Micah 5:2-3; compare Luke 1:30-33, 35; 2:8-12);
  • was anointed by the Spirit (Isaiah 11:1-2, 42:1; 61:1; Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; 4:16-21; Acts 10:38);
  • was struck by both the elders/scribes/priests and the Roman soldiers, after which His disciples were scattered, denying knowledge of Him (Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31, 67; 27:30; Mark 14:27; 65; 15:19; Luke 22:63-64; John 16:32; 18:22; 19:1-3; compare Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27; Mark 14:66-72);
  • shall shepherd His flock in the strength of Yahweh (Micah 5:4; compare Luke 4:14; John 10:37-38); and
  • shall be the peace of His flock, defeating all their enemies (Micah 5:5-6; compare Revelation 7:14-17).

Jesus the Good Shepherd

In contrast to hired hands who flee when danger approaches the sheep, Jesus is the good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11-13).  As such, Jesus:

  • knows His sheep, Jew and Gentile alike, as God’s one flock who listen to His voice (John 10:14-16, 27; compare Ephesians 2:11-16);
  • provides access to the safety of the fold for the sheep who follow and heed His voice (John 10:1-6); and
  • is the actual door of the sheep by whom entry is provided to find safety and pasture (John 10:7-10).

Jesus the Responsible Shepherd

As the good Shepherd, Jesus, like Yahweh:

  • seeks the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7; Matthew 15:24; 18:10-14);
  • heals the lost sheep of Israel (1 Peter 2:24-25; Matthew 9:35-36; compare Acts 10:38);
  • teaches/instructs the lost sheep (Mark 6:34); and
  • sends His disciples out to also find and heal Israel’s lost sheep (Matthew 10:5-8; Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-9, 17).

The Risen Lord Who Speaks

If the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God at the resurrection (John 5:25, 28-29), how much more will the living now hear Him as the risen Lord.  For instance, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared and/or spoke to:

  • Mary Magdaline (John 20:11-18; Mark 16:9-11; compare Luke 24:1-12; Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8);
  • Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32; Mark 16:12-13);
  • all the disciples at least three times when they were gathered together in Jerusalem (Luke 24:33, 36-51; John 20:19-29; Acts 1:2-9; Mark 16:14-19; 1 Corinthians 15:5-7);
  • the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:5-10; 16-20; Mark 16:6-7);
  • seven of the disciples, including Peter, James, John, Thomas and Nathanael, by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-24);
  • Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5);
  • James (1 Corinthians 15:7);
  • Paul directly on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-8, 27; 22:6-14; 26:12-15; 1 Corinthians 15:8-9);
  • Ananias in a vision concerning Paul in Damascus (Acts 9:10-15);
  • Peter in a vision on the rooftop at Joppa (Acts 10:9-16; 11:7-10);
  • Paul in a vision in Corinth (Acts 18:9-10);
  • Paul in a trance in the temple at Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21);
  • Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11);
  • Paul in a vision when he was caught up into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-4, 7-9); and
  • John when he was in the Spirit on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9-20).

Christ the risen Lord also spoke through Paul (2 Corinthians 13:2-4), especially considering that Paul’s gospel was given by special revelation (Galatians 1:11-12; 2:1-9).  Jesus even spoke through the Scriptures (Hebrews 2:10-13; 10:5-9), but it is important to emphasise that He also speaks directly to certain individuals, and can speak supernaturally to whole assemblies of believers through the charismatic gifts of speech.how_you_can_keep_volunteers_on_your_team_128727701

The Holy Spirit Who Speaks Directly

The Holy Spirit, in speaking on behalf of the risen Jesus (John 16:13-15):

  • spoke directly to a group of teachers and prophets at Antioch (Acts 13:1-4);
  • spoke directly to Philip (Acts 8:29);
  • spoke directly to Peter (Acts 10:19; 11:12; compare Acts 10:28);
  • guided Paul, Silas and Timothy directly by forbidding them to speak in Asia or to travel to Bithynia (Acts 16:6-7), and indirectly through a vision to travel to Macedonia (Acts 16:8-10); and
  • spoke through the eleven disciples/apostles initially, and then at times through church leaders of all ages, whenever they were dragged before the rulers of the land (Matthew 10:17-20; Mark 13:10-11; Luke 12:11-12; compare Acts 4:8-21, 29-31; 6:8-10).

The Holy Spirit Who Speaks Through Prophecy

The Holy Spirit also speaks through prophecy to:

  • the Christian assembly communally (1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:3-5, 29-33; Acts 11:27-28; 15:30-32; Ephesians 4:11-12; Romans 12:4-6; Revelation 1:3; 22:6-10; compare Acts 2:16-18 1 Corinthians 12:3); and
  • individuals (Acts 20:22-23; 21:4, 10-11; 1 Timothy 1:18; 4:14; compare 1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

Nonetheless, we must not diminish how the Spirit also speaks through the Scriptures (Hebrews 3:7; 10:15-17; Acts 28:25).  Note that the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 19:10), so prophecy never contradicts the Scriptural account of the Gospel centred around Jesus.

Jesus the Second Moses

Notice Numbers 12:1-15, with Moses as a type of Christ (Acts 3:20-24; 7:37; Deuteronomy 18:15-19; 34:10-12).  Jesus is the only One who has truly spoken directly to the Father face-to-face (note especially John 5:36-40; compare John 1:1-2, 14, 18; 8:38), and He is the One through whom the Father now speaks to us, and Him alone (Hebrews 1:2; compare Ephesians 2:18; 1 Timothy 2:5).

Any other avenue for the Father speaking is leprous, contaminated, unclean/impure, and in context egocentric and insubordinate (note Deuteronomy 24:8-9; compare Leviticus 13:45-46; 14:1-32; and especially 2 Kings 5:1-27 noting verse 25 where Gehazi no longer stood before Elisha in submission but beside him, after robbing Yahweh of the sole honour of healing Naaman in order to procure goods/luxuries for himself and the school of prophets — on the basis of his own standard of what is good and proper — rather than trusting in Yahweh’s provision).

This means then that the Father speaks through Christ like He did through His under-shepherd Moses (John 3:31-34; 8:26-28, 40; 12:49-50; 14:10, 24).  Hence, Jesus shepherds the church now in the strength of how the Father had shepherded Israel through Moses.

Responsibilities of the Sheep

Consequently, the church, as sheep belonging to Jesus’ sheepfold, are to:

  • believe in their shepherd as the Christ (John 10:24-26);
  • listen only to the voice of their Shepherd, not to strangers, in order to be secure in the safety of the fold (John 10:3-5, 16, 27-28);
  • respond to their Shepherd’s voice when He speaks (Revelation 3:20);
  • beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15);
  • give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, and to visit the sick and those in prison (Matthew 25:21-40);
  • seek the kingdom of God, selling their possessions and giving to the poor (Luke 12:29-32); and
  • suffer with and for the Shepherd’s sake (Romans 8:17-18, 35-37).

Note that those who side with truth listen to Jesus’ voice (John 18:37).  This is not surprising since Jesus is the embodiment of truth (see Churches as God’s Household-Temple Revealing Truth Part 1).

In Part 4, we will tie together the implications of Parts1-3 for how churches should be structured as God’s flock.


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 for download here.

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.

Join our Facebook group to receive regular updates and daily updated content.


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 Prophetic Manifesto

Revelation-copyThis is presented as something to Consider before God.

By Dr. Stephen Crosby

If after reading this document, you would like to add your name to this effort as either a sponsor (someone who personally identifies with the content) or as a supporter (someone who agrees with the content), please email us at stephrcrosby@gmail.com expressing your preference. We will add your name. We give you our word we will neither solicit you for money, nor add you to our routine mailings without your permission. God bless you in your kingdom endeavors.

Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations. – Jeremiah 1:5

Now therefore you all are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone in whom all the building fitly framed together continually grows up into a holy temple in the Lord: in whom you are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:19-22

ARTICLE I – PROPHETIC IDENTITY

Prophets:

  1. Exist without malice or ill will toward those who believe their existence and attestation to the same are aberrant.
  2. Accept the prophetic calling as a matter of sovereign grace and divine mandate, as legitimate as any other ministry gift, regardless of all protests to the contrary.

Prophets are:

  1. Distinct
    1. The prophetic ministry is not merely a persona, facet, style, or emphasis, of other ministries. It is a distinct gift and calling.
  2. Different, not deficient
    1. A prophetic perspective is not inherently a fault to be remediated by other gifts.
  3. Necessary
    1. Prophets are not the equivalent of a spiritual appendix. They are neither optional nor perfunctory.
    2. The purposes of Christ in and through His saints require a full expression of prophetic ministry as well as the other graces and gifts.
    3. His fullness is expressed in our togetherness: we need one another.
    4. Neither better nor more spiritual than other gifts.
  4. Prophets bear no malice or ill will toward those who would try to conform them to their understanding. Prophets reject all pressures born out of artificial attempts at conformity for acceptance.

Prophets accept:

  1. Their calling to speak the truth in love, remembering their own frame, and susceptibility to sin and failure. Prophets are what they are by the grace of God. Their responsibility to reveal the fellowship of the mystery, to make Christ accurately known through the Scriptures, by the Holy Spirit.
  2. The responsibilities that come with their calling. The divine process of maturation that accompanies this calling.
  3. A ministry of tears that accompanies this calling.
  4. Identification with our Lord in His prophetic ministry.
  5. Prophets accept that misunderstanding and rejection by others routinely accompany this calling. Prophets accept this reality and forgive those whose response is rejection.

ARTICLE II – OUR REPENTANCE

We, the undersigned, repent on behalf of ourselves, and others of like calling. We sincerely ask the Body of Christ to forgive us:

  1. For the ineptness and immaturity of our youth in which we did harm with our gift. We thank our heavenly Father for the chastening we received and continue to receive, even through vessels who may mean us harm.
  2. For taking our identity and senseofself worth from the exercise of our gift,rather than our status as beloved sons and daughters of God, regardless of any expression of “ministry.”
    1. We often illegitimately project our psychological needs for validation on others in the Body of Christ.
  3. For at times functioning independently and in relational isolation out of a spirit of rejection, woundedness, spiritual superiority, elitism, separatism, hyper-spirituality, and judgmentalism, thus misrepresenting the heart of God in Christ for His people.
  4. For teaching and practicing Old Covenant models of prophetic ministry:
    1. In the Old Covenant prophets sat apart from the community, speaking for God, to the people. In the New Covenant prophets sit among, and speak from, the community, as representative members.
    2. Since Pentecost the prophetic spirit rests upon every genuine son and daughter of God. Together, we have the mind of Christ.
  5. For putting God’s people into bondage and servitude to legalism, merit-based, performance and reward, systems of thought, rather than a revelation of the unmerited grace of God, effective all the days of our lives.
  6. For allowing numerous Gnostic, New Age, and psychic belief systems, doctrines, and practices to be introduced into the Body of Christ unchallenged, including from among our own number, under the guise of “prophetic,” “deeper,” or “third heaven” revelations.
  7. For promoting and facilitating a culture of unbridled subjectivism in dreams, visions, prophecies, declarations, ideas, experiences, and systems that undermine the uniqueness of Scripture and the uniquenessofthe revelation of God in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
    1. No subjective experience or manifestation outranks the accurate exegesis of Scripture, which brings forth a revelation of Jesus Christ, His cross, and His resurrection. God in Christ, can, and does speak to people through dreams, visions, etc., especially in lands and cultures where a biblical record is not readily available. However, this fact should not, and does not supplant the primacy of Scripture, as the revealer of the Person of Christ, as the more sure and final Word of God.
    2. Experience does not validate doctrine. Doctrine validates experience.
    3. The primary ministries of the Holy Spirit are to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment and to testify to Christ in resurrection. He, the Holy Spirit, does not establish His own centrality . . . never.
  8. For promoting and facilitating a culture that equates being “spiritual,” “mature,” or “prophetic” according to various ecstatic enthusiasms rather than transformation and configuration to the image of Jesus Christ.
  9. For failing to preach grace, repentance, transformation, and conformity to the image of Christ as the core gospel message and its outcome.
  10. For believing, teaching, and encouraging that an increase of endorphins in our blood stream defines the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
  11. For failing in our role as watchmen.
    1. Prayer is the language of intimacy. The mind of Christ is known through intimacy, and knowing His mind is the fountainhead of discernment. We repent for prayerlessness and a failure in exercising and vocalizing Christ-centered discernment.
  12. For facilitating an “anything goes” mindset as allegedly being “open to the Spirit” and allowing false, psychic, and demonic manifestations which have resulted in human trauma and pain.
  13. For an unhealthy fixation upon various end time schemes to the detriment of a present reality of the life of Christ in our mortal bodies.
  14. For allowing the fear of rejection and a desire for acceptance, to keep us from speaking out boldly to those in positions of authority and power.
  15. For allowing personal friendships and the esteem of peers to prevent us from saying what should, and must be said.
  16. For allowing our voice to be managed, manipulated, and muzzled by those who control access to pulpits, purse, and media.
  17. For elevating giftedness above character.
  18. For blame shifting: projecting our own failures and lack of discernment on the devil or the alleged failure of other members of the Body of Christ who supposedly “don’t understand us” and didn’t adequately “support and pray for us.”
  19. For using the grace of God and the universality of human frailty as an excuse for a lack of holiness, self-control, and self-government in life and ministry.
  20. For failing to govern and discipline ourselves according to the revelation of Christ in the Scriptures.
  21. For believing that in the presence of aberrant belief systems and practices that remaining silent is a manifestation of God’s love.
  22. For believing that getting along with one another means never discussing anything potentially uncomfortable to human concepts of etiquette and propriety.
    1. Our unity is in core apostolic truth, or it is nonexistent.
  23. For engaging in corrupt, extortive, and wicked financial teachings and schemes which result in significant personal enrichment at the expense of the Body of Christ and to the neglect of the truly needy of the world.
  24. For complicity in building, supporting, and sustaining hierarchal Babylonian systems of man under the guise of kingdom honor and submission.
  25. For promoting a culture of elitism, rank, and privilege through erroneous doctrines of honor and authority, which result in the extinguishing of a kingdom culture of mutuality, love, service, and gift (charis/charismata) exchange.
  26. For failing to engage our culture in the issues of the day with wisdom, tact, lowliness of spirit, and truth.
  27. For indifference to the plight of the poor, the widow, the orphan, the unborn, the oppressed, and all those who have no voice.
  28. For tolerating racism and gender bias.
  29. For tolerating rampant immorality, adultery, marital failure, and sexual uncleanness of all sorts in our midst, while wagging our fingers at homosexuals.
  30. For defining prophetic ministry as solely the prediction of future events, thus “out-ranking” the foundational work of the revelation of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
  31. For a complete lack of functional accountability for those who make predictive prophecies that do not come to pass, or who make them so generically that evaluation is impossible.
  32. For being impressed with success, celebrity, fame, and rank and for allowing these attributes to make us slow to speak, quick to overlook, or purposefully ignore sin and troubling issues of doctrine, character, or practice in our midst.
    1. The presence of “anointing” alone in ministry is an utterly meaningless indicator of spiritual legitimacy and heaven’s validation.

ARTICLE III – OUR DECLARATIONProphetic_Ministry1

We the undersigned, by the grace of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit are from this day forward committed to:

  1. Speaking the truth in love to power in all forms: secular, spiritual, religious, and hierarchal.
  2. Speaking the truth in love to those within our spheres of influence who have erred in core apostolic doctrine or who have embraced aberrant belief systems and practices.
  3. Discern and function in relationships across the Body of Christ based upon truth, transparency, and honesty.
  4. Not allowing our own insecurities or the insecurities of others to keep us from speaking those things that are needful and necessary for the health of the Body of Christ.
  5. Serving the Body of Christ in our gift and calling, not as micro-managing doctrinal police requiring monolithic adherence to every nuance of doctrine, but rather as spiritual guardrails to the life and ministry of the Body of Christ.
  6. Maintaining our passion and commitment to the centrality of Christ, His Cross, and His resurrection; that He would be preeminent in all that we say and do.
  7. Gladly identifying with Jesus Christ in the care of His Church and in His burden for others, though we may be rejected and scorned by the objects of His love and the objects of our service.
  8. We forgive in advance, and carry no offense. Dead men cannot be offended.
  9. Being satisfied in our calling and our obedience to it, rather than from the responses of those to whom we might minister and any temporal results we might see.
  10. Embracing a call to repentance and walking in humility with God and humanity.
  11. Serving and equipping a younger generation of prophets, if they will walk with us and listen to us.
    1. We will not project our psychological need for validation upon them.
    2. We will give our selves to them as grains of wheat, embracing death for them.
    3. It is our sincere desire that they would excel beyond us and that they would avoid the pitfalls of this and previous generations.
  12. Resisting all attempts to build systems and organizations of man that are dependent on the resources of man and mammon in order to be sustained. Our faith started in relationship, it is maintained in relationship, it goes forward by relationship, and will be consummated in relationship.

We deeply regret that many churches and individuals have experienced abuse and pain from distorted and corrupted representations of what should be legitimate New Covenant prophetic ministry.  We have both caused pain, and been the recipients of pain. We forgive and pray that we might be forgiven. We cannot control the teachings and behaviors of others, but we do apologize for them.

However, by the grace of God and with your prayers, we are determined to not let past abuses and corruptions hinder us from legitimately manifesting authentic New Covenant prophetic ministry. We desire to bring honor to Christ and increase to His Body through the ethical and honorable stewardship of His prophetic grace that has been planted in us.

To this end we covet your love, friendship, and prayers.

By the grace of God.


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

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

Join our Facebook group to receive regular updates and daily updated content.


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.


THE IMPORTANCE OF APOSTOLIC MINISTRY

From the CEO of the Church Excellence Framework

We have seen some incredible examples of true apostles rising up showing us real revelation . One example is Ian Clayton. I personally have seen an immense difference between pastor/ teacher material and apostles. Many churches do not have apostolic input or many are not really true apostles. A new definition of apostle is now one who has seen God face to face in heaven. This is a stunning article showing why we need apostolic input. Does your church have this?

We now have a new page to the site where we show resources for those who want to explore the immense revelations coming from Apostles. Called Heavenly Realms support.

We have a great diagnostic tool for church health. Many churches are structured poorly so we are expecting pastors to deal with all things and many are sinking and not able to cope with high level strategic input. We are finding many are not opening themselves to challenge.  This is the responsibility of the body to start playing their part where we are all pastors. Lets keep working with pastors to make sure they are not just working maintaining the status quo.


By Brad Brisco

Missional-Quest-e1365902537830The great Christian revolutions came not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when someone takes radically something that was always there. ~ H. Richard Niebuhr

We have suggested that recruiting apostles is strategic to the renewal of the organization, and at the very least, it gives equal legitimacy and access to reverse the exile of distinctly missional forms of leadership. To exclude apostolic influences from any position (as the church has typically done up to this point) is to effectively lock out the distinctly missional leadership that churches so desperately need to recover. We need to level the playing field, give equal access, widen the gates, and expand our vision of what biblical ministry is. Consider the following deficits that emerge when apostolic ministry is left out of the equation:

Without apostolic multiplication, we stop at evangelistic addition. Salvation is seen as individualistic as we fail to see how God wants to start a gospel pay-it-forward movement though the life of every believer.

Without apostolic action, we fail to experience the promised presence of Christ. Spiritual authority comes when we operate as an apostolic people sent to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:18–20).

Without apostolic clarity, our identity and purpose become murky. We fail to think strategically about the underlying value systems and core ideologies that define a community.

Without apostolic modeling, we miss out on a culture of releasing and empowering. Instead we contend with a culture of management and control.

Without apostolic parenting and releasing, multigenerational mentoring and leadership development are replaced by a dependence on the ministry of professionally training clergy.

Without apostolic accountability, we fail to ask the obvious questions of strategy and sustainability behind our best practices. Consider these examples: “Do we really need to have million-dollar budgets, seminary-educated leaders, and fifty to one hundred Christians to start a church?” “Do we need to have land and a building to be the church?” Because apostolic ecclesiology is more movemental in nature, it can go beyond thinking of the church in concrete ways.

Without apostolic imagination, we fail to ask questions of scalability. Instead of reproducibility and scalability, we opt for “go big” and “launch large,” forgetting that big movements grow out of small ones done well. The New Testament is our best and most basic example of this.

Without apostolic vision, we fail to ask the questions of reproducibility and transferability. We so complicate the message and training process that few know it and are able to pass it on to others.

Without apostolic passion, we fail to embrace our role in the big picture of kingdom mission. Rather we busy ourselves with the smaller vision and goals of our organizations instead of embracing our calling to actively participate in the global movement of the kingdom.

We believe the idea of custodianship establishes the correct relationship that apostolic people have in relation to their Lord, the gospel, and the ecclesia—namely, that of a slave or a servant. A great deal is contained in this idea: the custodian both seeds and guards the theo-genetic codes of the church, and this helps generate and sustain movements as well as catalyze the incredible potential locked up in the ministry of Jesus’s church. Exclude the apostolic, and it becomes hard to see how a fully formed, mature, and expansive ecclesia can possibly take place. Most likely the church would be limited to good preaching, groovy contemporary worship, and Bible studies. We suspect that Jesus intended much more for the movement that he started.


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 for download here.

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.

Join our Facebook group to receive regular updates and daily updated content.


15 SIGNS YOUR CHURCH IS IN TROUBLE

 

12Feature_Church_is_in_trouble_1102_149459859

Our web numbers are increasing with great interest in the article on the culture of trust and goal setting. We are getting interest across the globe with America showing the greatest interest. There have been a lot looking at the calling tool and the church health tool.

We now have the implementation hints as a separate download which is like a coaching tool to identify key areas to work on. Coaching is a popular area for churches to choose and we have guidelines about implementing this in the notes. Remember the framework is available on the site for free and immediate download.

Remember the scripture exhorts us to add excellence to our faith so let us resist the temptation to say we will never find a perfect church so what we are doing is okay. I am reading the book “Unchristian “at the moment and society is saying we are not representing Christ well. I do encourage you to get this book.

 


By Perry Noble

Evaluating the growth and health of our ministries is an important task. In this helpful post Perry Noble offers a list of warning signs to watch out for in your church. Why not share this list as a discussion-starter during your next leadership meeting?

1. When excuses are made about the way things are instead of embracing a willingness to roll up the sleeves and fix the problem.

2. When the church becomes content with merely receiving people that come rather than actually going out and finding them…in other words, they lose their passion for evangelism!

3. The focus of the church is to build a great church (complete with the pastor’s picture…and his wife’s…on everything) and not the Kingdom of God.

4. The leadership begins to settle for the natural rather than rely on the supernatural.

5. The church begins to view success/failure in regards to how they are viewed in the church world rather than whether or not they are actually fulfilling the Great Commission!

6. The leaders within the church cease to be coachable.

7. There is a loss of a sense of urgency!  (Hell is no longer hot, sin is no longer wrong, and the cross is no longer important!)

8. Scripture isn’t central in every decision that is made!

9. The church is reactive rather than proactive.

10. The people in the church lose sight of the next generation and refuse to fund ministry simply because they don’t understand “those young people.”

11. The goal of the church is to simply maintain the way things are…to NOT rock the boat and/or upset anyone…especially the big givers!

12. The church is no longer willing to take steps of faith because “there is just too much to lose.”

13. The church simply does not care about the obvious and immediate needs that exist in the community.

14. The people learn how to depend on one man to minister to everyone rather than everyone embracing their role in the body, thus allowing the body to care for itself.

15. When the leaders/staff refuse to go the extra mile in leading and serving because of how “inconvenient” doing so would be.


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 for download here.

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


 

 

Churches as God’s Flock, Following the Shepherd’s Voice (Part 2)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

565798In Part 1, we observed Yahweh Himself as the Shepherd of Israel, His flock, and how His sheep should respond to Him.  One critical aspect of this was obedience to the voice of Yahweh as their Shepherd.  In this Part, we will look more closely at Yahweh’s tendency to shepherd His flock through using His voice, not just the Scriptures.

The Living God Who Speaks Audibly

Yahweh is the living God who spoke in an audible voice to:

  • Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, noting how they heard Him speaking before they saw Him (Genesis 3:8-13);
  • Job out of a whirlwind in the presence of his four companions (Job 38:1; 40:1, 6; 42:7-9);
  • Moses out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6, 11-15; 4:2-6, 11-14; Acts 7:31-33; Mark 12:26-27);
  • Moses and then to all Israel assembled before Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:3, 9, 17-20; 20:1, 18-19, 22; Deuteronomy 4:9-12, 33; 5:22-27; Acts 7:38; compare Hebrews 3:14-18; 12:18-20, 26);
  • Moses when he appeared in front of the mercy seat in the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 7:89; Exodus 33:10-11; Numbers 12:1-10; Deuteronomy 34:10; Romans 9:15; Acts 7:44; John 9:29);
  • the people of Israel through the angel He sent to go before them (Exodus 23:20-22; compare Judges 2:1-5; Psalm 99:6-7);
  • Samuel while lying down as a boy in the tabernacle, who mistook the voice for Eli (1 Samuel 3:4-11);
  • Elijah in the cave on Mount Sinai/Horeb (1 Kings 19:12-15; Romans 11:2-4);
  • Isaiah while before Yahweh’s throne (Isaiah 6:4, 8-9);
  • Ezekiel while before Yahweh’s throne (Ezekiel 1:24-25, 28);
  • Jesus in front of John the Baptist and their disciples by the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22);
  • Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-6; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18);
  • Jesus in front of the crowd at Jerusalem just before the Feast of Passover (John 12:27-30); and
  • John during his vision on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 21:5-7).

Yahweh’s Thundering Audible Voice

In battle and judgment, Yahweh scattered the Philistines in the days of Samuel with such a powerful, thundering, mighty noise audible to all that it threw the whole army into confusion, something He does figuratively to all His/Israel’s enemies (1 Samuel 7:10; Isaiah 29:5-6; 30:27, 30-33; compare Hosea 6:4-5; 2 Samuel 22:14; Psalm 18:13; 29:3-9; 46:6; 68:32-34; Job 40:9-14; Jeremiah 25:30-31; Joel 2:11; 3:11-16; Amos 1:2).  Through His voice He controls the forces of nature (Psalm 19:1-6; Job 37:1-6; 38:34; Jeremiah 10:11-13; 51:15-16).  When Yahweh speaks and thunders, it is very audible to all who are present (compare Ezekiel 10:4-5).

Therefore, it is very clear that obeying the voice of Yahweh means more than just figuratively hearing God speak through the Scriptures, for very different expressions are used to convey obedience just to the written word (e.g., Deuteronomy 5:1; 6:4-9, 20-25; 11:1, 8-9, 13-14, 18-23; 17:18-20; 30:11-14; 31:9-13; 32:44-47; Joshua 1:6-8; 8:34-35; 21:2-3; 23:14-16; 2 Samuel 12:9; 1 Kings 6:11-13; 2 Kings 17:12-14; 22:11-13, 16-18; 23:3; 2 Chronicles 34:14-31; 35:6).  Seeking guidance from Yahweh involves more than just consulting the written word (compare 1 Chronicles 10:13-14).

Note 1 Samuel 15:22-23, where obeying Yahweh’s voice is so much better than offering sacrifices prescribed under the written Law.  Note also Job 22:22; 23:12, statements most likely made long before the written Law came into being.

The Living God Who Speaks to/through His Prophets

Furthermore, Yahweh frequently spoke to or instructed His prophets (e.g., 1 Samuel 8:7, 22; 9:17; 16:1-2, 7, 12; 1 Kings 14:5; 19:11, 15; 1 Chronicles 21:9; Isaiah 7:3; 8:1-5, 11; 22:15; Jeremiah 3:6, 11; 11:6, 9; 13:1, 6; 14:11, 14; 15:1; 17:19; 24:3; 25:15, 30; 27:2; Ezekiel 2:1-3; 3:1-4, 22-25; 4:13-16; 8:5-17; 11:2; 23:36; Jonah 4:4, 9-10; Hosea 1:2-9; 3:1; Amos 7:8, 15; 8:2; 9:1; Zechariah 11:13, 15).  The prophets became Yahweh’s mouthpiece as they were carried along by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21; Hebrews 1:1; 4:3-7; 5:5-6; Luke 1:68-70; Matthew 1:22; 2:15; 22:43-44; Mark 12:36; Romans 9:22-25; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, 16-17; Acts 1:16; 4:25-26; 13:32-35; compare Haggai 1:1, 12-13; 2:1; Jeremiah 1:9-10; 37:2; 38:19-20; 42:4-6, 10-13; 43:4, 7; Isaiah 7:3-4, 10; 20:2; 37:21; 38:1; Ezekiel 2:7; 3:4-11; 20:27; Exodus 4:10-12; Micah 6:1, 9; Numbers 23:5, 16; 1 Samuel 10:18; 15:1-2; 2 Samuel 12:7; 24:12; 1 Kings 11:31; 12:15, 24; 13:2; 14:7, 18; 15:29; 16:12; 17:14; 20:13-14, 28; 22:38; 2 Kings 1:16-17; 2:21; 3:16-17; 4:43; 7:1; 9:3, 6; 10:17; 14:25; 19:6, 20-21; 20:1-2, 16; 21:10; 22:14-15; 23:16, 27; 24:2; 2 Chronicles 10:15; 34:22-23; 36:21-22; Psalm 89:34-36), such as:

  • the word of Yahweh to Moses and Aaron (1 Chronicles 15:15; Numbers 4:1-16);
  • the word of Yahweh being revealed to Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1, 7; 3:21; 15:10);
  • the word of Yahweh coming to Abraham (Genesis 15:1; 20:7), Nathan (2 Samuel 7:4; 1 Chronicles 17:3; 22:8), Gad (2 Samuel 24:11), Shemaiah (1 Kings 12:22; 2 Chronicles 11:2; 12:7), an unnamed old prophet (1 Kings 13:20), Jehu (1 Kings 16:1, 7), Elijah (1 Kings 17:2, 8; 18:1; 19:9; 21:17, 28), Jonah (Jonah 1:1; 3:1), Isaiah (2 Kings 20:4; Isaiah 38:4), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:2-4, 11-14; 2:1; 7:1 11:1; 13:3, 8; 16:1; 18:1, 5; etc.), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:16; 6:1; 7:1; 11:14; 12:1, 8, 17, 21, 26; etc.); Hosea (Hosea 1;1), Joel (Joel 1:1), Amos (Amos 3:1; 5:1), Micah (Micah 1;1), Zephaniah (Zephaniah 1:1), Haggai (Haggai 1:1-3; 2:1, 10, 20), and Zechariah (Zechariah 1:1, 7; 4:8; 6:9; 7:1, 8; 8:1, 18; 9:1; 12:1);
  • the word of Yahweh directing an unnamed man of God to the altar at Bethel to perform a sign (1 Kings 13:1-5, 17);
  • a command given to an unnamed son of the prophets (1 Kings 20:35-36);
  • the word of Yahweh being with Elisha (2 Kings 3:12);
  • an oracle, the book of Nahum’s vision (Nahum 1:1; compare Isaiah 1:1; Obadiah 1:1; Amos 7:1, 8:1);
  • the oracle Habakkuk saw (Habakkuk 1:1; compare Isaiah 2:1); and
  • an oracle, the word of Yahweh by the hand of Malachi (Malachi 1:1).

Occasionally, the word of Yahweh came to non-prophets, like Enoch (Jude 1:14), Jacob (1 Kings 18:31; Genesis 35:10), Joshua (Joshua 6:26; 1 Kings 16:34), David (Acts 2:30), Solomon (1 Kings 6:11) and Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:5-6), or the Spirit came upon others like Saul (1 Samuel 10:5-7, 10-13), Jahaziel a Levite (2 Chronicles 20:13-15), Zechariah the son of a priest (2 Chronicles 24:20), Zechariah, a priest, the father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:67), and Caiaphas, the High Priest (John 11:49-52), causing them to prophesy  Compare also Psalm 60:6-8; 108:7-9. Also, in an interesting change of expression, Yahweh put a message in the mouth of the pagan prophet, Balaam (Numbers 23:5, 16, 18; 24:2-4, 15-16).

Note Deuteronomy 13:1-5 where false prophets, even when their signs come to pass, are not to be heeded (compare 1 Kings 22:13-28; 2 Chronicles 18:4-27).  God’s people are only to walk after Yahweh (as His sheep) and obey His voice, whether it comes directly, through His prophets, through the Scriptures by the Spirit, or by some other means like dreams, visions or angels (compare Job 33:13-18).

The Living God Who Speaks Directly to Key People in Key Momentscommunity

After Noah’s flood, Yahweh also spoke directly to:

  • Abraham (Genesis 12:1, 7; 13:14; 17:1-2, 9, 15, 22; 18:1-2, 10-33; 21:12; 22:1-2; Acts 3:25; 7:2-7);
  • Abimelech, king of Gerar, in a dream (Genesis 20:6);
  • Rebekah (Genesis 25:21-23);
  • Isaac (Genesis 26:2, 24);
  • Jacob (Genesis 31:3; 32:9; 35:1, 9-15; 46:2-3);
  • Laban the Aramean, Jacob’s father-in-law, in a dream (Genesis 31:21-24, 29);
  • Moses (Exodus 4:19, 21; 6:1-3, 10, 28-29; 7:1-2, 8, 19; 8:1, 5, 16, 20; 9:1, 8, 13, 22; 10:3, 12, 21; 11:1, 9; 12:1, 43; 13:1, 17-18; 14:1, 15-16, 26; 16:4, 11, 28; 17:5, 14; 19:9-10, 21, 24; 20:22; 24:1, 12; 25:1; 30:1, 12; 32:7-9, 33; 33:1, 14-21; 34:1, 10, 27; 40:1; Leviticus 1:1; 4:1; 5:14; 6:1, 8, 19, 24; 7:22, 28; 8:1; 11:1; 12:1; 13:1; 14:1, 33; 15:1; 16:1-2; 17:1; 18:1; 19:1; 20:1; 21:1, 16; 22:1, 17, 26; 23:1, 9, 23, 26, 33; 24:1, 13; 25:1; 27:1; Numbers 1:1; 2:1; 3:5, 11, 14, 40, 44; 4:1, 17, 21:5:1, 5, 11; 6:1, 22; 7:4; 8:1, 5, 23; 9:1, 9; 10:1; 11:16, 23; 12:4, 14; 13:1; 14:11, 20, 26; 15:1, 17, 35, 37; 16:20, 23, 36, 44; 17:1, 10; 18:25; 19:1; 20:7, 12, 23; 21:8, 34; 25:4, 10, 16; 26:1, 52; 27:6, 12, 18; 28:1; 31:1, 25; 34:1, 16; 35:1, 9; Deuteronomy 31:14-16; 32:48; 34:4);
  • Aaron (Exodus 4:27; 7:8; 9:8; 12:1, 43; Leviticus 10:8; 11:1; 13:1; 14:33; 15:1; Numbers 2:1; 4:1, 17; 12:4; 14:26; 18:1, 20; 19:1; 20:12, 23);
  • Miriam (Numbers 12:4);
  • Balaam, the pagan prophet (Numbers 22:9, 12, 20);
  • Eleazar, Aaron’s son (Numbers 26:1);
  • Joshua (Joshua 1:1-3; 3:7-8; 4:1, 15; 5:2, 9; 6:2; 7:10; 8:1, 18; 10:8; 11:6; 13:1; 20:1; Hebrews 13:5);
  • Gideon (Judges 6:25; 7:2-9);
  • David (1 Samuel 23:2-4, 11-12; 30:7-8; 2 Samuel 2:1; 5:19, 23; 21:1; 1 Chronicles 14:10, 14; 28:3; compare 2 Samuel 23:1-3);
  • Solomon (1 Kings 3:5, 11; 9:2-3; 11:11; 2 Chronicles 1:7, 11; 7:12);
  • Jehu (2 Kings 10:30); and
  • the whole assembled people of Israel (Judges 1:1-2; 10:10-11; 20:18, 23, 28; 1 Samuel 10:22).

Each time Yahweh spoke, it was a key moment where He needed to intervene and either guide, direct, instruct, encourage, reassure, warn, or promise a key person themselves, or someone else concerning a key person, in His plans and purposes for His people and humanity.  Notice in particular those occasions where Yahweh actually appeared to someone before speaking, and even departed from them after speaking.

By Yahweh being the living God who speaks, He was set apart from all the various idols and false gods of the pagan nations who couldn’t speak (e.g., Psalm 115:4-8; 135:15-18; Isaiah 40:18-23; 41:21-29; 44:14-20; 45:18-21; 46:5-7; Jeremiah 10:1-16; Habakkuk 2:18-20; compare 1 Corinthians 12:2).

The Need for Obedience

The sheep of God’s pasture must obey both His written commandments as general guidelines and His voice, the words of His lips spoken in specific situations whether audibly, in dreams/visions, or through His prophets (Deuteronomy 13:4, 18; 26:16-17; 28:1; 30:16-20; Exodus 15:26; 1 Samuel 12:14; compare Psalm 17:3-5; 85:8; 89:19).

On two unforgettable occasions, I myself have personally heard God speak to me at very key moments in my life (concerning whom I was to marry, and the need to go to Bible College) with a voice as real as an audible voice, so much so that I actually turned around to see who was talking to me.  On both occasions, the voice was unexpected, and it completely took me by surprise.  God is still the living God who speaks!

In Part 3, we will look at Jesus, the Good Shepherd raised up by Yahweh in fulfilment of the Old Testament messianic promises.


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 for download here.

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


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


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

Churches as God’s Flock, Following the Shepherd’s Voice (Part 1)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

interiorAnother significant biblical image which has major implications for the church today is that of the shepherd and the sheepfold.

We will explore this imagery in four parts.  In Part 1, we will look at how Yahweh Himself shepherded Israel in comparison to Israel’s rulers.  In Part 2, we will explore how Yahweh has called to and led His sheep using His voice.  In Part 3, we will consider Jesus as the messianic Shepherd predicted in the Old Testament.  Finally, in Part 4, we will look at what this all means for church structures today.

Yahweh as the Shepherd of His People

The people of Yahweh are the flock/sheep of His pasture (Psalm 79:13; 95:6-7; 100:3; Ezekiel 34:30-31; compare 2 Samuel 24:17; 1 Chronicles 21:17; Micah 2:12).

Consequently, Yahweh:

  • leads them beside still/restful waters and causes them to lay down in green pastures, meeting their every physical need (Psalm 23:1-2; compare Psalm 34:9-10; 80:1; Ezekiel 34:13-15; Deuteronomy 2:7; 8:2-4; 32:10, 12-14; Exodus 15:25-26; Hosea 11:3-4; Luke 12:22-32; Matthew 6:25-32);
  • leads them in right paths, paths that are straight and easy, to give them rest and security from enemies (Psalm 23:1-3; Isaiah 63:11-14; compare Psalm 25:8-10; 95:7-11; 121:3-4, 7-8; 1 Kings 8:56; Proverbs 2:6-9; 4:10-14; Isaiah 26:7-8; Numbers 9:15-23);
  • protects them from evil with His rod and staff so that they can stand before their enemies with no fear (Psalm 23:4-5; compare Genesis 49:23-24; Exodus 14:15-18; 23:20-21; Isaiah 10:24-27; Psalm 31:19-20; 78:52-53; 91:9-10);
  • disciplines them and gives them words of wisdom as painful prods to motivate responsible living under the sun (Deuteronomy 4:36; Ecclesiastes 12:11; compare Proverbs 2:5-6);
  • carries them as the strength of His people (Psalm 28:8-9; compare Isaiah 40:11; 46:3-4; 63:9; Deuteronomy 1:30-31; 32:9-11; Exodus 19:4);
  • makes His presence known by coming forth to deliver His people with dazzling displays of His mighty power just like He did in the exodus from Egypt (Psalm 50:2-6, 14-15; 80:1-3; 94:1-2; compare Deuteronomy 33:1-2; Psalm 78:42-54; Isaiah 40:10-11);
  • gently leads and directs those of His people with young (Isaiah 40:11; compare Deuteronomy 33:2-3; Exodus 15:13);
  • seeks out the lost sheep of Israel (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 16);
  • bandages the injured and strengthens the weak (Ezekiel 34:16); and
  • shepherds individuals like Jacob throughout their whole life (Genesis 48:15).

Responsibilities of Yahweh’s Flock

In response to their divine Shepherd, Yahweh’s flock need to:

  • obey the voice of Yahweh and not rebel against His commandment, to serve Yahweh with all their heart (Exodus 15:25-26; 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 10:12-13; 13:4, 17-18; 26:13-19; 27:9-10; 28:1-2; 30:19-20; 1 Samuel 12:12-15, 20-25; Jeremiah 7:23-26; 11:3-5; compare Psalm 95:7; 107:11; 138:4);
  • trust Yahweh to be present with them, protecting them with His rod and staff (Psalm 23:4-6; compare Psalm 22:8-11; 37:3, 32-33, 39-40; 40:4-5; 62:5-8; 91:2-6; 139:7-12; Isaiah 41:8-10; Exodus 33:12-16; Joshua 1:5; Deuteronomy 1:26-33; 3:28-29; 31:23; 1 Samuel 17:40, 43);
  • shun the whoredom of idolatry and remain faithful to Yahweh (Hosea 4:15-19; compare Psalm 77:52-58; Jeremiah 7:9-10, 16-20, 30-31);
  • listen to Yahweh’s voice for His commands to guide all aspects of their lives as their covenantal commitment, rather than devising their own acts of worship and service in order to follow their own self-serving, stubborn wills instead (Jeremiah 7:21-24; compare Hosea 6:4-6; Isaiah 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-27; 2 Kings 17:7-23; Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46-49); and
  • know Yahweh’s ways, not going astray in their hearts (Psalm 81:11-16; 95:8-10; compare Deuteronomy 5:32-33; 10:12; 30:16; Jeremiah 7:23-26; Psalm 32:8-9).

The Good Shepherds of Israel

Yahweh appointed a number of specially chosen under-shepherds to help shepherd His flock, Israel, under His hand:

  • Moses and Aaron, men of the Holy Spirit, noting in particular the authority expressed through Moses’ staff (Psalm 77:20; Isaiah 63:11-14; Exodus 4:1-5, 17; compare 1 Samuel 12:8; Exodus 4:10-17);
  • Joshua in whom was the Spirit of God, who led Israel out and brought them back in with some of Moses’ authority (Numbers 27: 15-21);
  • various judges like Gideon, Deborah/Barak, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel, who were either prophets/prophetesses or upon whom the Spirit of God rested (2 Samuel 7:7; 1 Chronicles 17:6; Judges 4:4-8; 6:33-35; 11:29-33; 14:5-6; 1 Samuel 3:19-20; compare 1 Samuel 12:9-11);
  • Saul, in whom was the Spirit of Yahweh initially, but through Saul’s disobedience, the Spirit departed (1 Samuel 10:5-6, 10-13, 20-24; 16:14);
  • David who shepherded God’s inheritance with an upright heart, and guided them with his skilful hand, upon whom Spirit of Yahweh rushed, and remained throughout his life (2 Samuel 5:1-2; Psalm 78:70-72; 1 Chronicles 11:1-3; 1 Samuel 16:11-13); and
  • Jeremiah who, as a prophet appointed from the womb, didn’t run away from being Yahweh’s under-shepherd despite persecution (Jeremiah 1:4-10; 17:16).

Note especially Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-6 where King Cyrus of Media-Persia was raised up as Yahweh’s anointed under-shepherd, even though Cyrus didn’t personally know Yahweh, to fulfil the one special purpose of facilitating the Israelite return from exile (see also 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-11; 3:7; 4:3).the_church_body_400_clr_8912

The Bad Shepherds of Israel

The later under-shepherds of God’s flock (namely the various royal dynasties of Judah and Israel along with their ruling class/elders, priests and prophets), however, transgressed against Yahweh, abusing His delegated authority over the sheep, destroying His vineyard (Jeremiah 2:8; 12:10-11), because they:

  • were stupid, failing to inquire of Yahweh, with their lazy prophets/watchmen being blind and unable to provide warning like useless dogs unable to bark, thereby leading Yahweh’s flock astray (Jeremiah 10:19-21; 50:6; Isaiah 56:9-11; compare Zechariah 10:2);
  • turned to their own way, each to his own gain, satisfying unbridled appetites/desire and indulging themselves to excess with strong drink (Isaiah 56:11-12; compare Daniel 5);
  • became predators themselves, feeding on the sheep, clothing themselves in wool, and slaughtering the fat lambs, rather than feeding and tending to the sheep, especially when they entered into foreign alliances which were costly and detrimental to the general populace of Israel and Judah in order to protect their own affluence (Ezekiel 34:1-3, 8; Zechariah 11:4-17);
  • failed to strengthen the weak, bandage the injured, heal the sick, seek the lost, and fetch back the strays (Ezekiel 34:4, 8; Zechariah 11:4-17);
  • ruled over and mistreated them with harshness and ruthless force (Ezekiel 34:4); and
  • destroyed Yahweh’s sheep by not only failing to attend to their needs, but by driving them away, scattering them to become food for the wild beasts (Jeremiah 23:1-2; 50:6-7; Ezekiel 34:4-6, 8; compare Isaiah 56:9-11).

Yahweh’s Judgment of the Sheep

Because God’s people Israel, like sheep, have gone astray, each turning to his/her own way (Isaiah 53:6; 95:7, 10; compare Psalm 119:65-72, 169-176; Deuteronomy 12:8), failing to listen to/heed Yahweh’s voice (Jeremiah 3:13, 25; 7:21-26; 9:12-16; 11:6-8; 22:21-22; 32:23; 40:1-3; 44:20-23; Daniel 9:8-12; compare Numbers 14:21-23; Deuteronomy 8:19-20; 9:23-24; Joshua 5:6; Judges 2:20; 6:7-10; 1 Samuel 15:18-19; 28:18; 2 Kings 18:11-12; Psalm 81:11; 28:15, 45, 62), Yahweh:

  • raised up many foolish, God-rejecting under-shepherds (kings) from the time Israel was divided into two kingdoms under Rehoboam and Jeroboam up to the day Jerusalem was destroyed, under-shepherds who didn’t care about Yahweh’s flock (Zechariah 11:4, 10-14; compare 1 Kings 12:1-24);
  • doomed His faithless sheep to be slaughtered at the hands of the sheep-traders (i.e. neighbouring foreign nations), into whose hands Israel/Judah’s shepherds (royal dynasties) had sold them without pity (Zechariah 11:4-6, 9; compare Psalm 44:9-14, 22; 49:12-14; 74:1-8; Jeremiah 12:1-4; 50:7, 17);
  • destroyed the fat and strong sheep among His flock (i.e. the whole non-royal ruling class across Judah like elders and administrative officials) who ate and drank the best pasture and water, and trod down what remains, muddying the rest of the water, whilst thrusting out the weak to scatter them abroad (Ezekiel 34:16-22);
  • drove away their shepherds into captivity, shaming and confounding them as sheep without shepherds because of their evil, because they persistently disobeyed Yahweh’s voice (Jeremiah 22:21-22; compare Lamentations 5:1-16); and
  • raised up a particular foolish under-shepherd (foreign ruler) after the exile of Israel and Judah who also failed to care for the sheep and devoured the fat ones, tearing off their hooves like lions (Zechariah 11:4, 15-16).

Yahweh’s Judgment of the Bad Shepherds

Yahweh will be against and punish/judge with woe those who failed to care for the sheep of His pasture (Jeremiah 23:1-2; Ezekiel 34:10; Zechariah 10:3):

  • putting a stop to the predatory shepherds feeding themselves on the sheep, rescuing the sheep from their mouths, terminating their privileges as under-shepherds (Ezekiel 34:9-10);
  • lifting up the skirt of Jerusalem (symbolising Israel’s ruling class) over her face to expose her shame like a humiliated woman raped by her conquerors during war (Jeremiah 13:20-27; compare Jeremiah 8:1-3; 52:1-11, 24-27; 2 Kings 25:1-7, 18-21; Lamentations 5:11; note Isaiah 47:1-3 concerning Babylon); and
  • maiming the foolish shepherd (foreign post-exilic ruler) who didn’t care about Yahweh’s flock doomed to slaughter in such a way that he is unable to shepherd sheep again (Zechariah 11:16-17).

Nonetheless, once again, judgment is not the last word, for Israel will again in their latter days return to Yahweh and seek Him wholeheartedly, and in His mercy hear and obey His voice (Deuteronomy 4:29-31; 30:1-10; compare Zechariah 6:15).

In Part 2, we will examine in more detail just how Yahweh has shepherded His flock using His voice.


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 for download here.

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.

Blueprint for Restoration of the Church (Part 2)

stockxpertcom_id6740201_size1As 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.

  • 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


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 for download here.

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.


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/viewid=287940854&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

 

 

Blueprint for Restoration of the church (Part 1)

church-blueprintAs 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.

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

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.


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

 

The Continued Rise of the Nones

By James Emery White

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

Israel’s Mistakes

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

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

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

Indictment on Israel’s Leaders

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

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

Cleansing of the Church as God’s Restored Vine

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

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

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

Genuine Disciples of Christ

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

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

Putrid Communication

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

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

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

Leadership Structures of God’s True Vinebible-05

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

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

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

Church Excellence Framework

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

Restoration of God’s Destroyed Vineyard

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

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

The Useless Wood of Israel’s Vine

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

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

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

The Tender Shoot of God’s New Vine

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

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

The Root of Jesse

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

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

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

The Messianic Vine

Therefore, it is highly significant that:

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

Jesus as the True Vine

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

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

Israel as Yahweh’s Special Vineyard

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

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

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

Israel as Yahweh’s Fruitful Vine

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

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

The Spoiling of Yahweh’s Vine

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

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

Modern Implications

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

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

God’s Spoilt Vine under Judgment

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

By Dr. Stephen R. Crosby

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

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

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

Structuring God’s Household-Temple

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

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

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

The Church Excellence Framework

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

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

The Key to Church Growth

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

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

Final Warning

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

Restructuring the Church to Reveal the Risen Jesus (Part 4)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

94401-004-A85A7BD5Previously in Parts 1-3, we considered four passages where Paul mixes the temple metaphor with household or cultivated-field-vineyard metaphors to deal with certain issues in the specific churches addressed.

Now we will consider some more Old Testament insights concerning God’s temple, before concluding in Part 5 with how to address the current decline of the contemporary Western church by restructuring our Christian communities so that God can be free to effect real growth once again.

Comparing Creation with God’s Temple

The temple as God’s dwelling is also His resting place (Psalm 132:7-8, 13-14; 2 Chronicles 6:41; Isaiah 66:1; compare 1 Chronicles 28:2), and this provides an interesting comparison with God’s rest after creation. It is quite likely that the temple as God’s resting-place signifies the rest of the divine King who had defeated all His enemies as a sovereign display of His power so that He could reign freely with no further concerns about opposition, because:

  • God rested after creation having sovereignly prevailed over chaos/emptiness (Genesis 1:1-2; 2:1-3; compare Job 26:6-14; Isaiah 45:18);
  • God allowed Solomon to build the temple only after God brought Israel to such a place of rest that they no longer had any adversaries or enemies (1 Kings 4:24-25; 5:3-5; 1 Chronicles 22:9; 2 Samuel 7:10-13);
  • the Sabbath was to be observed not just because of how God rested after creation (Exodus 20:8-11), but because Yahweh brought Israel out of Egypt with a strong hand and mighty arm to enter into His rest, demonstrating His sovereignty over the nations (Deuteronomy 5:12-15; 12:8-11; compare Hebrews 4:1-10; Psalm 95:7-11); and
  • God demonstrated His sovereignty and power over His enemies, sin and death, through Christ’s death and resurrection, so that Christ is now seated enthroned at God’s right hand (1 Corinthians 15:22-26; Ephesians 1:17-23; Romans 6:5-6; 1 Peter 3:22; Psalm 110:1-7; compare Hebrews 1:3-4; Acts 2:32-36; 7:55-56; Mark 16:19-20; Romans 8:34-39; Colossians 3:1-4).

The Christian Rest

With the church of the living God being the end-time temple, the resting-place of God, the church must therefore be a place where the defeat of God’s enemies, sin and death, are established realities in the midst of their human frailties and weaknesses. This is the new creation in Christ where not only God rests from His work of salvation, but His people rest from their own works, holding fast to their confession (Hebrews 4:8-16; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; compare Galatians 6:13-15). It is a holy place where sin does not belong, having been defeated in Christ (more on that another day).

The True Temple

It becomes clear that even though a visible, end-time temple comprising the Father’s children/people is being built upon Christ by the Spirit to reveal the risen Jesus as the embodiment of truth to the outside world, churches are not necessarily the true temple when:

  • the foundation of that church is not the risen Christ, but some human leader over against another;
  • what is being built upon that foundation is not equivalent to the imagery of gold, silver and precious stones, going beyond the insights (of truth, of the true Gospel) written down by the original apostles and prophets;
  • uncleanness is permitted to defile the Christian community;
  • churches fail to deal with sin (especially community-destroying behaviours) and human hubris/arrogant-pride within the church community;
  • leaders fail to consider themselves one with all other leaders, and nothing in comparison to God; and
  • leaders do not genuinely function as God’s assigned servants to effect His mind, will and purpose so that the Christian community can grow as a supernatural act of God.

This means that the contemporary Western church fails to be, in its current state, the true temple of the Spirit where God dwells, although the true temple is obviously still being built within its midst somewhere. No wonder the Western church has stopped growing and is in decline!

Planted in the House/Temple of Yahweh

Growing in God’s temple is a product of knowing Jesus (relationally) as the Word, the foundation of the temple, because:

  • Jesus as God’s Word, Wisdom and Counsellor is much better than gold, silver or precious stones, the very materials to be built upon the end-time temple foundation (Psalm 119:72; Proverbs 3:13-18; 8:8-13; 16:16-18; Isaiah 9:6-7; compare Isaiah 28:29; 40:6-8);
  • those meditating upon and keeping God’s law/word are like a flourishing fruitful tree planted beside permanent waters (Psalm 1:1-3; Jeremiah 17:5-10);
  • the righteous man/woman, who implicitly keeps God’s word, will flourish fruitfully like the palm tree, and grow strong like a cedar of Lebanon, in the house of Yahweh, in the temple courts of God, with God (Jesus) being their (foundation) rock (Psalm 92:12-15; compare Psalm 52:6-8; Jeremiah 11:14-17; Hosea 14:4-7);
  • being planted as oaks of righteousness by Yahweh (in His temple) so that righteousness will sprout up before all the nations requires a work of liberation and healing by the Spirit through Jesus Christ, the anointed One (Isaiah 61:1-3, 10-11; compare Luke 4:16-21; Isaiah 62:1-3);
  • new believers are to put away all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander, and desire the pure spiritual milk of the Word in order to grow (1 Peter 2:1-3; Hebrews 5:11-14; 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; compare Luke 6:46-49; Matthew 7:24-27); and
  • believers are purified by obeying the truth in self-giving, brotherly love (1 Peter 1:22-25).

Once again, keeping God’s word by obeying the risen Jesus, the living Word, the embodiment of truth, is the key to the Christian community being God’s temple, His dwelling place, the place of His abiding presence (John 14:15-17, 23; 15:10-17). No wonder then that this temple, the church of the living God, makes the risen Jesus evident to the outside world.IMG_2902_1_1_cropped

The Tearing Down of the Old Transient Temple to Raise Up a New Permanent Temple

Jesus made an outrageous claim that He would tear down and destroy the old physical temple in Jerusalem, and raise up a new temple in three days that was not made with hands (John 2:14-22; Mark 14:56-59; Matthew 26:59-61; see also Mark 15:29-30; Matthew 27:39-40). John reports that Jesus was speaking of His body being raised up in three days, but there is more going on here than just the resurrection of Jesus’ body, because:

  • Stephen was accused of saying that Jesus would destroy the Jerusalem temple and change the customs that Moses delivered to the Jews (Acts 6:13-14);
  • Jesus Himself claimed the divine prerogative of forgiving sins, signifying that the function of the temple sacrifices had been superseded in Him (Mark 2:5-12; Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:20-26; 7:48-50; note especially Matthew 12:1-8);
  • Stephen just prior to his death recounted that God does not dwell in physical dwellings made by hands, for heaven is God’s throne, and the earth His footstool (Acts 7:45-50; Isaiah 66:1-2; compare Exodus 15:17; 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; 6:18; Jeremiah 23:24; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Daniel 2:34-35);
  • Paul added that God is not served by human hands as though He needed anything since He Himself gives to all humanity (Acts 17:24-25); and
  • Jesus Himself was the Word become flesh who “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14).

Hence, Jesus, through His death and resurrection, would raise up a new temple, one that was not a physical building, where one could worship the Father in the sphere/realm of the Spirit and truth (John 4:21-26) — more on that another day. Once more “truth” features in providing the proper environment by the Spirit to experience the manifest presence of God.

Jesus as the Permanent Link Between Heaven & Earth

In John 1:51, Jesus told Nathaniel that he would see heaven opened, and angels ascending and descending upon Him as the Son of Man (compare Exodus 28:10-22, noting that Jacob built an altar/sanctuary there and called it “Bethel”, God’s house, the precursor to the Jerusalem temple — see also Genesis 31:13; 35:1-4, 13-15; Judges 20:18, 26-28; 21:2-4; 1 Samuel 10:3).

This meant that, as the Son of Man, the second Adam, Jesus Himself, not the physical temple in Jerusalem, forms the primary link between heaven and earth (1 Timothy 2:5-6) through His end-time temple of the Spirit, because:

  • the veil in the temple between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom upon Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:51-53; Luke 23:43-45), His fleshly body opening up the way to God’s presence (Hebrews 6:19-20; 9:2-4; 10:19-22); and
  • the wilderness tabernacle, the two physical Jerusalem temples, and the end-time temple are all patterned after the heavenly temple (Hebrews 8:5; 9:11, 23-24; Exodus 25:9, 40; 26:30; 27:8; Numbers 8:4; Acts 7:44; 1 Chronicles 28:11, 19; compare Psalm 78:69; Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezekiel 1:22-28; Revelation 4:1-11) where Jesus has now entered to intercede for us (Hebrews 4:14-16; 6:19-20; 7:22-25; 9:24; Romans 8:34).

Once again, Jesus as the risen Lord is predominant in the temple imagery!

Finally, in Part 5, we will put all this household/temple/cultivated field imagery together to construct a better, more biblical way to do church than the typical hierarchical methodology of contemporary Christianity.


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

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


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


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

Restructuring the Church to Reveal the Risen Jesus (Part 3)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

Stained_Glass_Window_2_by_SolarShineThe household/temple imagery from Parts 1 and 2 can be further developed by a slightly different combination of metaphors in another Pauline passage.

Combination of the Cultivated-Field/Vineyard and the Temple Metaphors

In 1 Corinthians 3:5-15, the church is described as both a productive, cultivated-field/vineyard owned by God Himself, and God’s building.

It is clear that God’s building refers once again to His temple because:

  • verses 12-13 refer to the church community (including leaders) building on the foundation with gold, silver and precious stones which were all used in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:20-22, 28-32; 7:9-10, 48-51; 1 Chronicles 29:2-3; 2 Chronicles 3:4-7; 5:1; compare Revelation 21:18-22) and in the wilderness tabernacle (Exodus 25:2-8; 36:34-38; 38:24-28; 39:1-21, 32-42);
  • Jesus is described as the foundation of the end-time temple (Isaiah 28:16); and
  • God’s building is explicitly called His temple in verses 16-17 as a key part of this whole integrated chapter.

This temple imagery is combined with the image of cultivating a field/vineyard which has some very important connotations in the light of the Old Testament if we are to fully comprehend the imagery of 1 Timothy 3:15.

Roles in God’s New Cultivated-Field/Vineyard

The agricultural side of the imagery is significant in that:

  • God owns the church, not the apostles/leaders who are assigned by God to serve Him as fellow-workers together, with no human leader more important than another (verses 5, 8-9; compare Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20: 9-19);
  • once again, it is God who is continually causing the growth, not human apostles/leaders (verses 6-7); and
  • although apostles plant God’s cultivated field, and other leaders water it, they are nothing in comparison to the role God undertakes in bringing forth growth (verse 7).

Jesus the Foundation of God’s Temple

On the construction side of the imagery, the emphasis is on God’s servants the apostles laying the only correct foundation, Jesus Christ, and on how the Christian community builds on that foundation. It is no coincidence that the Greek word for “master-builder” to describe Paul in verse 10 is the same word used in the Greek translation of Exodus 35:31-32 to describe Bezalel who, being filled with the Spirit, designed the wilderness tabernacle.

Failure to build on the Jesus-foundation carefully (1 Corinthian 3:10, 12-15) is significant because:

  • the Greek word for “temple” in verses 16-17 generally denotes the inner chamber of the temple, the Holy of Holies where God’s actual presence dwelt (Exodus 25:22; 40:32-38; Numbers 7:89; 9:15-23; Leviticus 16:2; 1 Kings 8:1-11; 2 Chronicles 5:11-14; 7:1-3; compare Isaiah 6:1-4; Haggai 2:7; Revelation 15:7-8; Ezekiel 10:1-22; 43:1-5);
  • God’s presence in the Old Testament tabernacle/temple was crucial for Israel’s continued existence, just as the presence of Jesus is the only means of access to the Father’s presence by the Spirit (Exodus 33:13-16; Isaiah 63:7-10; John 14:6-7; compare Ephesians 2:18; John 8:19; 10:38);
  • the church is the actual end-time temple where God promised to dwell among them forever (Ezekiel 43:6-9);
  • the temple is a holy place, set apart for God’s purposes, where no uncleanness can enter (2 Corinthians 6:16-18; 7:1; Revelation 21:22-27); and
  • considering that unity as God’s family/people is a work of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:1-6), any disunity in the form of strife and division grieves and banishes the Spirit, bringing the temple to ruin because the Spirit alone seals/marks the Christian community as God’s children/people (1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 16-17, 21; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30-32; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Hebrews 10:26-31; Isaiah 63:7-14; Acts 7:51; compare Galatians 5:16-26; Mark 3:22-30; Matthew 12:22-32).

Growing the Temple in God’s Wisdom

It is not worldly wisdom, boasting in human ability, which builds the church as God’s temple, but God Himself in His wisdom as His fellow-workers plant and water (and hence build) under His direction (1 Corinthians 3:5-7, 18-21; compare Zechariah 6:12-15 where the Messiah, the “Branch”, builds the temple with the help of those afar off).

The Corinthians, like us today, are not to go beyond what is written and become puffed up in favour of one against another (1 Corinthians 4:6-7). This is why the revelatory insight of the original apostles and prophets form the enduring foundation of God’s organic household/temple in Ephesians 2:20-21 (see Part 2).

Comparing the Garden of Eden with Israel’s Tabernacle/Temple

Adam served as a type of primal priest in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and guard/keep not just the Garden itself, but God’s one commandment (Genesis 2:15-16), because:

  • Solomon’s temple had a garden-like appearance throughout the Holy Place and Holy of Holies with the proliferation of pomegranates, gourds, palm trees, lilies and open flowers adorning the walls, doors and furniture (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 35; 7:18-26, 36, 42, 49; compare Isaiah 60:13; Lamentations 2:6; Psalm 52:8; 74:3-8; 92:13-15);
  • both the Garden and the temple were unique places of God’s presence (Genesis 3:8-9; Leviticus 26:12-13; Deuteronomy 23:12-14; compare 2 Samuel 7:6-7);
  • a river of life flows out of both Eden and the end-time temple (Genesis 2:10; Revelation 21:22; 22:1-4; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Psalm 36:8-9; compare Revelation 7:15-17; Jeremiah 17:12-13; Zechariah 14:5-11);
  • the same two Hebrew words, “cultivate” and “guard/keep”, in Genesis 2:15 are exclusively used together in close proximity to speak of either the Israelites serving God and guarding/keeping God’s word/commandments (1 Kings 9:1-2, 6-7; Deuteronomy 10:12-13; 11:16; 13:4; Joshua 22:5) or the Levite priests guarding the service of the tabernacle/temple (2 Chronicles 23:18-19; Numbers 3:5-8; 8:23-26; 18:2-6; 1 Chronicles 23:27, 32; Ezekiel 44:10-11, 14);
  • priests had the duty of guarding God’s sanctuary to stop unclean things from entering (Numbers 3:6-7, 32, 38; 18:3-7; 1 Chronicles 9:17-27; Nehemiah 11:18-19; compare Revelation 21:22-27), something Adam failed to do in respect to the unclean serpent entering the Garden (Genesis 3:1; note the imagery in Ezekiel 28:13-18 of the King of Tyre as a type of Adam);
  • failure to guard/keep God’s sanctuary/temple and commandment(s) resulted in expulsion from the sacred Garden for Adam (Genesis 3:22-24), and from the promised land for Israel (2 Kings 25:1-21); and
  • Cherubim were placed at the entrance to the Garden to prevent further human access to the tree of life after Adam’s expulsion (Genesis 4:23-24), and cherubim guard the mercy seat/ark of the covenant where God’s presence is manifest, and feature on the inner walls and doors of the Holy Place as protectors of the tree of life (Exodus 25:17-22; 1 Kings 6:29-35; 8:6-7; Ezekiel 44:17-20).

The Christian Priesthood

Consequently, with Adam as the primal priest, it is a human duty to keep God’scfiles24752 word/commandments and guard the place of His presence from anything unclean. This explains why all true Christians are, together, a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6; 5:9-10; compare Isaiah 61:3-6; 66:20-21; Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9).

This is not the duty of just a few privileged leaders in a hierarchical system, but the duty of the whole Christian community functioning properly in one mind, will and purpose together under the humble oversight of the servant leadership.

Community Responsibility

This is why Paul always addressed the whole Christian community to deal with the issues he raised in his letters, rather than specifically addressing the leadership to do it (e.g., Galatians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 10; 3:1-3; 5:1-5; Philippians 1:1; 4:1; Romans 15:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 3:6-7). Consequently, Paul:

  • recognised each congregation’s self-sufficiency in the Spirit (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 4:7-10; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 14:29-31; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Romans 1:7, 11-12; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:7-10; compare 1 John 2:24-27; John 6:43-45; 14:26; 16:13; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Isaiah 54:11-14);
  • reminded each church community of the foundations he had already previously established in the truth of the Gospel (e.g., 1 Corinthians 4:14-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:5; 3:10; compare Colossians 1:4-8; 2 Peter 3:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:1-2);
  • gave them directions as required when new situations beyond the initial instruction in the Gospel arose (1 Corinthians 7:17; 11:34; 16:1; compare Titus 1:5);
  • pleaded with them and urged/encouraged them all to conduct themselves appropriately together (e.g., Ephesians 4:1; Romans 12:1; 15:30; 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 4:1, 10; 5:14; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 6:1; Philippians 1:27; 4:2; Acts 14:21-23; 16:40; 20:1-2; compare Philemon 8-10); and
  • only occasionally needed to command them where it concerned matters integral to the Gospel and the health of the whole church (1 Corinthians 7:10; 11:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:4-6, 10-12; compare 1 Timothy 1:3; 4:11; 5:7; 6:17; 2 Timothy 2:14; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 4:8).

It seems the New Testament authors, and in particular Paul, were well aware of the priesthood of all believers.

Hence, over Parts 4 and 5, we will look at how churches should be restructured to reverse the current decline in western Christianity.


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

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


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


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

Restructuring the Church to Reveal the Risen Jesus (Part 2)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

Church InsideIn Part 1, we looked at how Paul used an interesting mixture of two metaphors in 1 Timothy 3:15 to describe how the church dwells in God’s house while at the same time being the place where God Himself dwells, all for the sake of the world’s perception of the risen Jesus as truth. What is unique in the 1 Timothy 3:15 metaphor mixture is how Paul describes the whole church itself as the foundation of this metaphorical building.

The effect of this combination of metaphors emphasises the influence correct behaviour in the church has on the outside world. The fact that the secular world is no longer challenged by Jesus as a source of truth is in itself evidence that something is seriously wrong with how we conduct ourselves in the Western church today.

Paul uses a similar mixture of household/temple metaphors for different effects twice more in the New Testament which provides further insight into how the church can be properly structured to fulfil their responsibilities and facilitate the revealing of the risen Jesus who embodies all truth.

Apostles & Prophets as the Foundation for God’s New Holy Temple

In Ephesians 2:19-22, the apostles and prophets form the foundation of the building metaphor, with Jesus as the cornerstone. Here, both Jews and Gentiles as members of God’s one household are being built upon that foundation so that in Christ, they can grow together as one family into a holy temple of the Lord.

The emphasis in this passage is how the whole structure of God’s household as a holy temple both grows organically and is being built together by the Spirit into a dwelling place for God where Gentiles as well as Jews serve as priests and leaders. The source of growth though is not the leaders, not even the apostles and prophets who form the foundation, but how Jesus Himself is allowed to function spiritually and supernaturally within this household/temple structure, because:

  • the grammatical significance of the participle “built upon” in verse 20 referring to the foundation of apostles and prophets is that this foundation has already been formed in this metaphor, and the Gentiles as fellow citizens with Israel and members of God’s household were built upon that foundation by God Himself (compare Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35; 6:1-4; Ephesians 3:4-6; Matthew 16:18; Revelation 21:14);
  • the grammatical significance of the verb “grows” in verse 21 is that this growth occurring “in Christ Jesus” is continuous and hence incomplete;
  • the grammatical significance of the participle “built together” in verse 22 is that this building activity “in Christ Jesus” is occurring at the same time the growth “in Christ Jesus” is occurring, and hence is also continuous and incomplete;
  • the contingent nature of this growth “in Christ” is confirmed later in the epistle where Paul, in the context of urging the Ephesians to attain maturity in order that they will not be carried away and deceived by wrong teaching, exhorts the Christian communities to grow up into Christ in all things, “truthing” in love (i.e. being faithfully loyal to others in love with realism and truthfulness — John 3:21; 1 John 1:6), drawing all the resources necessary for the church to build itself up in love from their union to Christ and from the sustenance that comes solely from Him (Ephesians 4:15-16);
  • this contingent nature of growth is made even more explicit in Colossians where the church is only able to grow the growth God produces when the whole community is nourished through maintaining their union to Christ rather than holding onto false teaching (Colossians 2:19); and
  • Paul quotes from Isaiah in a context where the Gentiles will not only join God’s people, but will minister as priests in His new temple if they maintain a living relationship with God (by joining themselves to Him in order to serve Him), and want what He wants, transforming their behaviour accordingly (Isaiah 56:3-8; 57:13-15, 19; 66:18-21).

Again, as in 1 Timothy 3:15, truth is important, for it keeps the Christian community in proper union with Christ who is the sole source of their growth towards maturity. Leaders are to facilitate this growth rather than be the actual source of it.

Jesus the Cornerstone of God’s New Holy Temple_50571598_010898762-1

The significance of Jesus being the cornerstone is that, as the primary load-bearing stone in the foundation which determined the alignment of the rest of the building, everything depends upon proper relationship with Him, noting that:

  • the foundation stones of Solomon’s temple were huge and costly (1 Kings 7:10-12);
  • Jesus the Messiah, as the foundation laid in Zion, is a cornerstone of sure foundation where justice is made a line and righteousness a plumbline, in contrast to the foundations made by Israel’s leaders in their political manoeuvring with Egypt which were cheap stones shoddily laid so that the nation had no chance of surviving the coming judgment (Isaiah 28:16-17; compare Psalm 118:22; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:6-7; Matthew 7:24-27);
  • Jesus as the cornerstone is also a stone of stumbling, a stone of testing, for those who refuse to reverence Him and allow Him to be their sanctuary, their place of refuge, their source of empowerment and fruitful behaviour (Romans 9:31-33; Isaiah 8:11-15; 28:16; 1 Peter 2:7-8; compare Matthew 21:42-44; Luke 2:34-35); and
  • whoever believes in/puts their trust in Him will not be put to shame (Romans 10:11; Isaiah 28:16; 49:23).

Adopting the worldly systems of hierarchical government lays the wrong foundation in God’s holy temple, the church. The risen Christ is the only source of growth for the Christian community, and this is a supernatural phenomenon, for only He is the true source of life and nourishment.

The Enduring Structure of the Christian Church & Its Leadership

What is particularly significant here with the foundation comprising apostles and prophets is not that the Bible as the written record of their teaching is now the end and ultimate authority, a view expressed by many scholars with vested interests to uphold the church leadership status quo, making them susceptible to bibliolatry (more on this another day). Rather, the structures for this holy temple have already been put in place, and should not be tampered with. The revelatory insight by the original apostles and prophets on the organic nature of church structure, which has been fully aligned with Jesus as the load-bearing cornerstone, has been permanently set in place. This completely disarms the false argument that returning to biblical leadership patterns is primitive.

Our modern hierarchical structures, especially those based on the senior pastor model, are therefore alien and inappropriate for the church, for the biblical structure of the household/people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Spirit, within which the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and the ministries of apostle/prophet/evangelist/shepherd-teacher freely operate under the headship/lordship of Christ as the sole source of growth, was always meant to be an enduring one.

Useful Vessels in the Master’s House

The second combination of household/temple metaphors occurs in 2 Timothy 2:14-26. Here, Paul encourages Timothy to be cleansed of the bad teaching/false theology rampant in Ephesus so that he might be a vessel of honour in the Master’s house, ready for every good work. It is quite possible to also see all the bad/false teachers in the Ephesian church as vessels of dishonour in the Master’s house, a topic for another day.

The emphasis is on the image of God’s solid foundation with the cornerstone containing an inscription of ownership on it, and thus God’s house will stand firm because it is based upon God’s knowledge of us, His children, the faithful remnant of the church who turn away from wickedness (verses 19-20). Thankfully, the foundation of God’s household is not dependent upon our knowledge of Him.

Here, the metaphor of God’s household includes temple imagery, and speaks of proper leadership within His house, noting that:

  • the image of a firm foundation, containing an inscription of ownership which strongly suggests the existence of an important cornerstone upon which such seals were inscribed, alludes again to Isaiah 28:16;
  • the gold and silver vessels in the house which are set apart and holy point to the utensils used in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 7:40-51; 2 Chronicles 4:16-22; 5:1; compare Exodus 38:21-28);
  • Paul exhorts Timothy to keep himself cleansed from the bad teaching so that Timothy might be one of the holy vessels in God’s household/temple (compare 1 Corinthians 5:6-13);
  • as this holy vessel, Timothy might then be available for any good/honourable purpose, signifying that the initiative for service in God’s house is the Father’s prerogative alone; and
  • verses 22-26 clearly demonstrate that a leader’s role as a servant of the Lord is gentle persuasion, not authoritative directives/injunctions imposed upon the Christian community, for it is God who grants repentance which leads to a knowledge of the truth (compare 1 Corinthians 4:18-21; Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 12:15-21; Galatians 6:1-2; Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Once again in these two passages, truth and behaviour in God’s household are significant, with the emphasis on church leaders being available to be used by the Father for the benefit of His children so that God is the sole source of all growth. The emphasis is completely on Christ and the Father, not on the leadership.


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

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


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


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

Restructuring the Church to Reveal the Risen Jesus (Part 1)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

160_church_buildingIn 1 Timothy 1:3-7, Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to address the problems in the church there brought about by false teachers, a problem Paul himself interestingly pre-empted (prophetically) in Acts 20:28-30. In the process of guiding Timothy in this task, Paul used a fascinating mixture of two metaphors in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 to reveal an intriguing dimension of what the church of the living God should be like.

We will explore this imagery in five parts. In Part 1, we will look at the two metaphors Paul used, namely God’s household and the temple of the living God, in some detail. In Part 2, we will explore Paul’s use of this temple/household combination of metaphors in two other passages. Then, in Part 3, we will look at a third passage in some detail where a similar but slightly different combination of metaphors occurs, namely cultivated-field-vineyard/temple. Finally, in Parts 4-5, we will consider the significance of all this temple/household/cultivated-field-vineyard imagery to provide some insights into how we should structure churches today to enable us to dwell properly together as God’s immediate family while at the same time being God’s spiritual dwelling place.

The Household of God

1 Timothy 3:15 speaks of the need for believers to know how to conduct/behave themselves as part of God’s household. This means that while we as believers all live together in God’s house as members of His family, being children of God carries with it certain privileges and responsibilities:

  • We all, Jews and Gentiles alike, as members of God’s one household together, have access to the same Father through the Son in the one Spirit (Ephesians 2:18-19; compare Matthew 23:8-9; John 14:6-7);
  • The Father has blessed us all together with every spiritual blessing by predestining us in love for adoption through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3-5; compare James 1:17);
  • The Father faithfully meets the physical needs of His children (Matthew 6:31-33; Luke 12:29-31; compare Matthew 6:8; 7:11; John 15:16; 16:23);
  • Membership in God’s household is dependent upon continually holding firmly, boldly to the authentic Christian confidence and hope concerning Jesus (Hebrews 3:6; compare Matthew 10:32-33);
  • God’s children should walk in the truth (2 John 4);
  • Belonging to God’s household requires active submission to the Father’s will (Matthew 7:21-23; 12:49-50);
  • As God’s children, we need to submit to the discipline of the Father in order to yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:7-11);
  • Practising righteousness and loving one another are essential qualities of being children of God (1 John 3:10);
  • Children of God must not live according to the lustful passions/desires of who we were in Adam before conversion, but must put to death the deeds of the body and be led by the Spirit who opposes all community-destroying behaviour (Romans 8:12-15; compare Galatians 5:16-24; Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 3:2-17);
  • The status of being children of the Father is completed/fully developed when the Christian community imitates their Father by loving their enemies and doing good expecting nothing in return, being merciful and kind to ungrateful and wicked persons (Matthew 5:44-48; Luke 6:35-36; Ephesians 5:1-2; compare Galatians 6:10);
  • The children of God must do all things without complaining/grumbling or disputes/controversies in order to be blameless and innocent without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, holding fast to the word of life (Philippians 2:14-15); and
  • Judgment must begin with the household of God to discipline and purify us through trials, persecution and suffering (1 Peter 4:17; compare 1 Corinthians 11:32; Romans 8:18-19, 23-24; 1 John 3:1-3; Ezekiel 9:3-10; Malachi 3:1-5; Matthew 10:16-23).

Make no mistake, being a part of God’s household has many extraordinarily wonderful benefits, because the Father is gracious, lovingly kind, loyal, merciful, and slow to anger (Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:17-19; Nehemiah 9:16-21; Psalm 86:5, 15; 111:2-6; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). Yet, there is a very sobering side to being part of this household, something which is not respected enough in contemporary Western Christianity today.

The Foundation and Pillar of the Truth

1 Timothy 3:15 also speaks in temple imagery of the church of the living God being the firm (i.e. stable, immovable) foundation and the pillar of the truth. The church then is the temple, the dwelling place, of the living God which also carries with it certain privileges and responsibilities:

  • God walks among us as His people, and will be a Father to us (2 Corinthians 6:16-18);
  • The church becomes a holy, royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10; compare Exodus 19:6; Revelation 20:6; Isaiah 56:6-8; 66:18-21);
  • Spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God must be offered in this temple, which includes practical, loving service to one another (1 Peter 2:4-5; Romans 12:1; Philippians 4:14-18; compare Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 12:9-21);
  • The church must continually cleanse itself from every defilement of body and spirit, such as sexual promiscuity, to bring holiness to completion in reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1); and
  • Members of the church and budding leaders have to submit to leadership structures which uphold and keep the truth of the Gospel pure (Galatians 2:1-6; compare Acts 15:22-26; Galatians 1:6-11; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 2:4).

What is “Truth”

Truth in the context of 1 Timothy 3:15 is, in the very least, the truth of the Gospel entrusted to the church in contrast to the distortions of the false teachers who have abandoned the truth (1 Timothy 1:6-7, 19-20; 4:1-3; 6:3-5; compare 2 Timothy 2:17-18; 3:6-9; 4:3-4), but it is more than that. Truth is also referring to the manifestation/unveiling/revelation of the risen Jesus because:

  • the truth mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:15 is further articulated in the following hymn (verse 16) with Jesus as the central and essential content of the mystery or revealed truth of godliness, noting that the first 3 lines of the hymn refer to Christ’s earthly ministry, while lines 4-5 refer to the ongoing ministry of Christ through the church (compare 1 Corinthians 2:1-2; 15:1-8; 2 Corinthians 4:4-5; Ephesians 3:7-8; Romans 16:25; Philippians 1:15-18);
  • the Gospel itself, centred around Jesus, is the message of truth (Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5; compare 2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18);
  • all words/messages spoken by the Father (through Jesus by the Spirit) comprise the truth, which is clearly not just restricted to the written Scriptures (John 17:17; compare John 1:17; 8:31-32; Psalm 119:160);
  • the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth not only bears witness to Jesus, but will lead those He indwells into all the truth which comprises all things the Father has, declaring the truth about the risen Jesus (John 14:17; 15:26-27; 16:13-15; compare 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 1 John 5:6);
  • Jesus as the Word, coming from the Father’s side narrating the only God, Himself embodies truth because the very fullness of the one true God dwells in Him bodily (John 1:1-3, 18; 14:6; Colossians 2:9; compare Revelation 19:13);
  • the truth is in Jesus which is not surprising, considering that Jesus embodies truth, and therefore the truth cannot exist apart from Him because all things, past present and future, are summed up in Him (Ephesians 1:10; 4:21); and
  • Jesus is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11; compare 1 John 5:20; Revelation 3:14).

cross-706904_640The Truth Upheld by the Church of the Living God

This truth is portrayed as the roof of the building metaphor, because it is upheld by the foundation and pillar. The church of the living God therefore reveals the risen Jesus, the content of the Gospel and embodiment of truth, who becomes evident to those outside of the building i.e. the world.

Hence, this combination of metaphors has a particular relevance to the effect that behaviour within the church of a particular city or region has upon the surrounding non-Christian communities. Proper conduct that befits God’s household, and facilitates the indwelling presence of a holy God, will make the risen Jesus obvious and evident to the outside world (compare Acts 5:12-16, 42).

The Church as the Household and Temple of God

This means then that we all as Christians dwell together in God’s house as members of His family, yet at the same time we are a spiritual building together in which God dwells. God’s household where the members of His family reside is also the place where God Himself resides. Hence:

  • the Holy Spirit dwells in the church as God’s holy temple, and must not be grieved by community-destroying divisive behaviour, for He is the indwelling seal of God’s ownership within us until the final day of redemption when our bodies will be resurrected, implying that persistence in such behaviour will eventually result in the Spirit’s indwelling presence departing just like God’s presence departed the first temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:22; 4:30; compare Isaiah 63:7-19; Ezekiel 10:1-22; 43:1-5);
  • the truth of the Gospel has to be obeyed, which has considerable impact upon our behaviour as Spirit-led people (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17; compare Romans 15:18-19; Galatians 5:7); and
  • in the context of building upon the foundation of Christ, those who destroy/ruin/corrupt God’s temple will in turn be destroyed/ruined/corrupted by God (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 17).

Consequently, being actively involved in the church, especially as leaders, carries a serious responsibility to live according to the privileges provided if Christ is to be made evident to the world.


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

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


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


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

 

REVELATION ON THE OUTWORKINGS OF THE REFORMATION OF THE CHURCH

By Jane Johnson CEO of Church Excellence Framework

Hands on a globeI have had a great revelation given to me, which has built up over time and where God showed me that his heart was to restore Ecclesia and the Priesthood of Believers. Many are seeing Ecclesia as the “Called out Ones” but I think God is wanting us to understand a deeper revelation that is restoring all of us back to working like the council the word Ecclesia came from.

The case for reformation is compelling. George Barna, who I think was way ahead of his time when he wrote the Second Coming of The Church, articulates many of the arguments. Since understanding how to access the heavenly realms I have been given revelation first of all from Haggai, which revealed how Gods church is in ruin and the challenge to not carry on building our own houses but seeking to honour others ministries above our own and bring Kings, Priests and the People together, where there will be an increase in the glory of Gods House.

MEN IN WHITE LINEN ASSIGNED TO REFORMATION

I then learnt about understanding how we have men in white linen assigned to our case and saw in Heaven 5 men who were relevant to the story of reformation. As the Hebrew culture is to restore the earth back to “as it was in heaven “, I saw a timeline going back along the OT timeline. Zechariahs mandate was to establish a call to return to the lord. The second was Ezekiel where it talks about restoring David as the pastor over the church (ez 34).

Then came Moses whose calling is to release the people, which I understood to be releasing them from the institutionalised church. Then, this allowed Abraham’s calling to come into play by restoring a new generation of Gods people who are sons who understand their authority in heaven and take their place of responsibility to restore earth to the pattern as we see in heaven.

I also saw Joan of Arc who I believe is looking to see if the people are ready to become the army of God. It will no longer be a time of celebrities or well know authority figures but the ordinary people will rise up to take their authority and play a part in the government of heaven.

BENCH OF THREE AND SONSHIP OF MANiStock_000007212828SmallChristianity_lMkwuXmMwg_l

Part of this I sense is re-establishing the bench of three governmental structures in church life, the bench of seven and the sonship of man which will exceed the authority of apostles in the end as the Five -fold ministry will no longer be necessary in heaven.

I sense there will be a period of grace for the church to restructure in more heavenly forms and understand how heaven functions. There is only a short period where we may miss playing a senior role in heavenly realms. God is waiting for us to take responsibility and come to maturity so we are not waiting for God to act. But to take responsibility we must understand how the courts work and must bring a case to the court of kings which is then transcribed by the Court of Scribes and authenticated by the Court of Chancellors. When we have our papers/scrolls we can take it to our mountains and begin to rule and declare new Christlike ways.

I have humbly placed some practical ways of planning this in the Church Excellence framework, which is open to revision as we all get downloads from the Lord.

I sense a direct word from God for this time of immense change:-

“My people do not despair at the turmoil that is in your midst. There is a great wave of change happening in the heavens and I am seeking hearts that are pure, stable and open to this. Do not fear deception, do not panic when you see foundations begin to shake. I am teaching you how to do church my way and in a way that honours me and honours my people. Be still and know I am God “.

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


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

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


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.

She is an author, has founded 4 businesses including 2 NFP’s and has a lot of experience working with volunteers. She also has board experience after being an MD. She has been a passionate Christian for 35 years and has experienced many different ways of doing church being involved in café church plants and different denominations.


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

 

 

12 Signs that your Church has a Culture of Trust

By Peter Sewell

0721_trustOne of the greatest challenges I face when helping business organisations, is the lack of trust between leaders, management, and staff. Sadly, a culture of distrust is also experienced in many churches. Often the issues that contribute to a culture of distrust have been persistent for many years. In a conversation which I recently had with a pastor in Berlin, I was told that if trust was a currency, then Germans would be bankrupt. It seems a hard statement, however all the Germans I have spoken with agree that distrust is a major problem. In Germany’s history we see many examples of division, not only among the religious community, but also politically. The most famous examples of division include Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis, and the construction of the Berlin wall. Rather than exploring the reasons why distrust is often prevalent, I would like to focus on the benefits of being in a culture where trust is active.

The following list includes twelve signs that clearly demonstrate whether a church has a culture of trust or not. In my experience, I have found that these twelve points are seen working together. They are seldom seen in isolation from each other.

1. Everyone feels valued and appreciated

Trust creates an environment where people value each other. People should feel valued no matter how small their contribution is. In a culture of trust, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a member, what role you play, what your abilities are, or how old you are, everyone is appreciated and valued. In a culture of trust, people regularly receive praise no matter what contribution they make.

2. Members are empowered to minister spiritual gifts

Trust opens a platform to impart a gift into a person’s life. Timothy was able to minister to the Corinthian church because Paul trusted him and highly recommended him. In an environment of trust, everyone is more open to receive from each other. In a culture of distrust, excuses are created to discourage members from ministering their spiritual gifts.

3. People are willing to take greater risks

If people have encouragement and feel trusted, they are more willing to take risks. Most of the missionaries I know, and anyone who has served God outside of their comfort zone, have one thing in common. They may have been apprehensive at stepping out into something new, but they had at least one person who trusted and supported them.

4. There is a high commitment to serve

When people know they are trusted, they are more willing to commit to serving. In an environment of distrust, everything you do is carefully monitored, decision making is limited, and creativity is suppressed. No one enjoys serving in an environment where every decision needs to be approved by five different people, and where someone is watching over your shoulder 24/7.

5. There is a high level of productivity

When there is a high level of trust, people naturally achieve much more. Trust is not the only issue that affects productivity, but I believe it is one of the biggest factors. If people trust each other to do their jobs, whether it involves a safety check, a phone call, or scheduling an appointment, it’s much easier for them to focus on their own task instead of worrying about others.

6. Everyone honours one another

The bible instructs us to honour one another. One of the keys to honour is trust. In a culture of distrust, people pull each other down in order to justify their own importance. In a culture of trust, leaders don’t need to seek honour, they are given honour because they have supported, cared for, and believed in the people they serve. Honour should always be based on a relationship of trust, and never obligation.

7. Bridges of friendship are created and groups work together

Division within the body of Christ is created from a lack of trust. When groups trust each other, they are happy to share resources and time to assist one another. When groups focus on common goals and have a desire to work together, it is possible to achieve much more than any of them could achieve alone. Everyone benefits from long term trusting relationships.

8. Members actively seek ways to learn from one another

It’s much easier to learn from someone that you trust. When people don’t trust each other, the levels of conversation are very shallow. When the level of trust grows, people share more freely allowing everyone to learn from each others’ personal experiences. In an environment of trust, churches seek ways to bring people together to build relationships and facilitate learning.

9. Members are transparent and accountable to each othertrust-father-son_4da5cf3571f9c356dbf96fc1a23417b4

Accountability is based on trust. When people trust each other, they can be transparent and share honestly with each other. In an environment of trust, people don’t hide their true feelings, they share them. In an environment of trust, people can share their mistakes and weaknesses, and in return they can receive the support and encourage they need to grow in their personal life.

10. Members can share their concerns and issues are addressed

An environment of trust allows everyone to share their concerns. Too often people are afraid to speak up and question the way something is done, or raise contentious issues. In Acts chapter 6, the Apostles responded to a report that Grecian widows were being neglected. In a culture of distrust, issues are swept under the carpet.

11. Members share their ideas freely

In an environment of trust, people are more willing to share their ideas. Even if the idea is not suitable, people know they are appreciated for their input. An environment of trust is always buzzing with excitement as people share ideas and work together. I wonder how many creative ideas have experienced a silent death because members knew that no one would seriously listen to them.

12. Members are equipped and promoted

One of the most distinctive signs of a culture of trust is the promotion of members. The Apostle Paul released Timothy into the role of an overseer, even though Timothy was still considered very young. A culture of trust supports and releases people to serve in order to facilitate multiplication. In a culture of distrust, leaders protect their roles, and withhold opportunities for others to grow.

Can you identify any of the signs in your church? What are some things your church does to enhance trust among members? Are there any other points you would add to this list? The framework has suggested methods to enhance trust which we are confident you will reap tremendous rewards. We cannot live in fear. But building a culture of honour is paramount.


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

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


Peter 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 us.

 

14 Wrong Reasons for Going to Church

Guest blogger Jose Bosque , founder of viral cast media

two-or-moreAs you can tell from the title, I am not trying to make friends here. I am however, serious as a heart attack about the importance of this subject. I understand what I am going to say goes against thousands of years of ingrained religious nonsense, business success concepts brought in to “help” the church, and human traditions meant to replace the absence of the GENUINE.

I am just a one voice, but I join millions worldwide who are waking up and coming out from under the religious bondage and propaganda of a centuries old, corrupt, religious system. All of this has been fueled by the desire to control others, a “we have always done it like this” mentality and/or, a general lack of faith in God’s ability to provide for His own.

First let me begin by saying I love the Church. She is formed of the most wonderful, loving, and caring people you would ever want to meet.  I truly love this One Church that the Lord Jesus Christ is building. There is no other. There is only one Body of the Lord Jesus Christ. All Christian are members of that Body by virtue of being born again from above.

I am just a one voice, but I join millions worldwide who are waking up and coming out from under the religious bondage and propaganda of a centuries old, corrupt, system. All of this has been fueled by the desire to control others, a “we have always done it like this” mentality and/or, a general lack of faith in God’s ability to provide for His own.

The Lord recognizes no other memberships to local or independent congregations. The Lord recognizes no baptism certificates or ordination papers or any other human external validation. There are many religious clubs and associations that are independent or are connected to denominations who consider themselves also to be part of the Church. Scripture is very clear on that.

2 Tim 2:19 says: Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His. NKJV

We don’t write to judge others. The Lord Himself will judge on that day. We are here to bring truth to God’s people and that TRUTH is a person, The Lord Jesus Christ, not a neat little package of favorite Bible verses that support your style of worship or your favorite theology.

The Lord recognizes no Catholics, Baptist, Assemblies of God, or any other call sign you wish to use. Those are all man made divisions of the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Constantine messed with the church in 300 AD and began building sanctuaries and creating a salaried clergy class (Pastors & Priests) the church probably, in my book, suffered its greatest blow. Man simply should not try to “help” God. We would think that the Roman persecution hurt the church more but instead it caused the church to grow. It was said in those days that the “blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.”

When the church became a building, man separated secular time with spiritual time. When you are in the building its time to be spiritual, but when you are away that is your time. To a truly born again person such thinking is heresy.

Scripture says we were bought with a price. Calvary wasn’t meant to provide humanity with a get-out –of-hell card, or to pay our dues so we can attend the weekly hour and twenty minute show.  People are not laundry “in by 11 dirty out by 1230 clean” and God is not limited to talking only in our “sanctuaries.” Real Christians know we can’t go to Church–we are the Church. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is made up people not brick and mortar or any other building material.

I believe that when the requirement of going somewhere weekly was tied to our ability to hear from God, we had to create pseudo reasons to perpetuate the nonsense.

choir-303302_640The following “14 Wrong Reasons for Going to Church” are in progression of how they were taught to me.

1. To celebrate the Lords Day – I was taught that the church exchanged the Jewish Sabbath with celebrating Sunday the first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection. Talk about piecing together scripture to come up with that one.

2. To show respect for the Lord by dressing up with our Sunday best. Since when does Christianity care about the externals? Oh, how we have kept thousands out because they were too ashamed of their dress.

3. To go hear the preacher give us the “Word.” Nowhere in the New Testament does the Church have a mediator between God and man like the present pastor/priest system. The word of the Lord was never an exposition of scripture by professional seminary-trained clergy. At best two or three need to speak and every believer is to be mature enough to test the Spirit of what is being said.

4. To give (Pay) our tithes and offerings. More than 80% of a church’s income goes to support two totally unbiblical things: the modern church building and the salaried clergy class. To justify them, we use very selective Old Testament proof texts. However, neither of these concepts are justifiable. These practices simply cannot be found in the New Testament.

5. To bring the “lost” to His house to receive Christ and get “saved.” Until around 1870, no one ever walked up front to receive Christ during an “invitation.” This is another modern invention– that teaches that the front of our church building is the “Holy Place” or altar because it’s higher or decorated differently. New Testament church gatherings were for believers and the lost got saved wherever they were when they had an encounter with Christ. I languished in a denomination that preached salvation sermons every Sunday at “saved” people. Talk about perpetuating immaturity!

6. To worship Him. This is going to come as a shock to many, but real Christians worship the Lord daily with their life. The idea of going once a week to a building to worship God is alien to real Christianity. Worship is not singing prior to the preaching. Worship starts when your feet hit the ground each morning.

7. To use our gifts and our talents.  Again, this is another invention of the once a week Christianity. Real Christians operate in their gifts and callings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What part of “DAILY” do we not understand? All of you dying to get the microphone on Sunday morning when was the last time you got a word from the Lord in Wal-Mart?

8. To do ministry (healing & deliverance).  When we invented professional clergy, we had to come up with a word for what they did. “Ministry” is a lifestyle of every real Christian. Full-time ministry is what every Christian is called to do. The early church had no on/off button. From the day you got saved you are in the ministry. Someone who gets paid for doing ministry is called a hireling in scripture.

9. To punch the clock and give God His day. Every day is God’s day. Punching the clock so as to please the pastor, your wife, or God is religion. Scripture says: “In everything you do.” Did you know that God is happy when you take some rest and go fishing? God does not give you a pass to do whatever you want with the other 6 days of the week. Every day is His day!

10. To get under the anointing. This is more baloney coming from an alleged need of the “laity” to get some from the “clergy.” This thinking teaches that the upper class “clergy” have something you need from them so you must come weekly to get it. The problem arises when you keep getting it weekly for years, but your life does not change. The problem with that is, all of Gods people are already anointed, and carrying “the anointing,” and all God’s people are clergy or the Lords portion, and all of the Gods leaders are laity too. In the Kingdom of God there are no second class citizens.

11. To get in His presence. There is not one New Testament verse tying the presence of God to a building or to a weekly gathering. Furthermore, there is not one verse in the New Testament about believers going in search for His presence, or having to call His presence down. The Lord is not in a cloud anymore or even in a chair next to us. He is a forever with us and IN us.

12. To hear or experience Christ as we each share in the meeting. Scripture tells us that wherever two or three are gathered in His Name (nature) there He is. It doesn’t say it has to be an official meeting or that everyone in the meeting must share to hear Christ. If that is true, how many believers represent a quorum for God to be heard?

13. To go up to Zion together with rest of the Church worldwide. This is a Jewish practice taken from the Old Testament typology. Sorry, but since Jesus shed His blood I can get in His presence anytime and anyplace. I am not working my way in a service to go up to Zion. I am Zion, the New Jerusalem of God because He lives and dwells in me in, with, and among the body of Christ.

14. To train you to be missional. This is the newest one I have heard. Talk about getting the cart before the horse! Anything that is genuinely missional arises from Christ’s compassion for a hurting world. The more we love like Christ, the more we are missional like Christ. The fuel of everything missional is love not six elements of this or that, and “apostolic genius.” God help us! If we are still obsessing with programs and recipes we are not yet free!

All of the above are

Wrong Reasons for Going to Church

Finally, it would be improper to close this article without mentioning the only verifiable reason in the New Testament for new creation people to gather as the people of God. This one reason is by far the greatest missing element of the 21st century church. You would think it is some deep profound mystery for the mature, but it’s not. It’s the only reason that can grow His Church because it’s the only one scripture says the lost are waiting to see.

I will say it and most will say they already have it. The problem is, the standard of what this word means to new creation people has been dumbed down to simply saying “God bless you” to people you will have to wait another week again to maybe see.

The bar was set in the New Testament, but we have no clue to the meaning of all this or how to implement this in the 21st century.

Acts 2:44-45  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. NKJV

Acts 4:32-33 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. NKJV

The above will never work in our world until we love each other the way they did. The early saints were driven to gather by the love and compassion they had for each other. Paul never praises the congregations in the New Testament for their soul winning efforts, the size of their congregations or the amount of money they handled in their budgets. Paul never speaks of a brand name, a denomination or a particular leaders following. His greatest praise is how the NAME of Christ is being made known by the love they are manifesting first for each other and then for the lost. You want a name to describe the gathering of the saints? Return to the foundation of a “love feast” instead of Catholic services and Protestant meetings.

I agree with John–how can we say we have been with God if we don’t have a heart for the brethren?  You claim you spend hours in worship and prayer but you don’t have a heart to help your own family? What God do you pray to?

Still bragging about your Easter service? What if your measurement and values don’t register with God?

May the Lord have mercy on His church and may He have patience with you as He has had with me. I am not praying for revival of a dead human system but I am praying for His people to be holy and wholly unsatisfied until they find HIM and become HIM to a lost and dying world by their love..

Jose Bosque


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

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


Jose Bosque is Editor in Chief and founder of Viral Cast Media which oversees GodsLeader, JaxChristian now ViralChrist and 15 other websites. He has ministered in Jacksonville since 1987 and served the city since 1992 as a citywide servant leader. Jose is considered a resource and a spiritual father to many leaders in the city and in the 54 nations where the Lord has sent him to serve. Originally born in Cuba, Jose has resided in Jacksonville since 1966.


Copyright 2015 Jose L. Bosque. 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 3)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

church-people-clip-art-church-cartoonIn Parts 1 and 2, we discerned some similarities in four different contexts where a church community was either exhorted to fully agree with one another by coming to one mind together, or actually achieved such a unanimous agreement.

Certain things, I believe, begin to emerge from these accounts:

  • Coming to one mind, will and purpose in church community life is not an option, but is absolutely necessary if the Gospel is to continue to have its full, ongoing power and effect in the world;
  • Because God works within the Christian community to make His will obvious to them by the Spirit, and to effect obedience to that will, arriving at one mind together is a supernatural affair where God partners with His people to direct and guide them for His own good pleasure;
  • Church leadership structures do not make decisions for and on behalf of their congregation, and then impose those decisions upon them, because the only way for each church community to come to one mind is by God Himself (Father, Son and Spirit) making His mind, will and purpose blatantly obvious to everyone present at church assemblies; and
  • Contemporary churches need to urgently reconsider changing the function of their leaders from hierarchical authority figures to servants who, as those who belong to the church and not vice versa, facilitate the presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ in order for the mind, will and purpose of God to be clearly made known (compare Colossians 1:24-29).

Hindrance of  Making the Bible an Idol

There are two theological issues, critical to this discussion, which I believe have tended to blind or hinder the contemporary church from understanding the God-given means for Christian communities across the world to arrive at one mind.

First, these days, the Bible tends to become an idol, what is called bibliolatry, because the Scriptures have become the primary and only truly authoritative means of hearing God speak today. This tendency has a number of serious problems, including:

  • While most Christian leaders claim to be under the final authority of the Bible, there is still so much difference of opinion in interpreting and applying the biblical text, usually because of what each one brings to the text in trying to understand it;
  • Different theologians and scholars with opposing theological perspectives tend to set themselves up as authorities over the Bible, becoming judges of what is acceptable and what may be discarded based upon what is relevant and meaningful to their own beliefs and understanding, which is usually based in each one’s particular denominational tradition;
  • The Bible then usurps God’s place as the ultimate authority as mediated by the abiding presence of Jesus, the living Word (compare Matthew 28:18; John 1:14; 17:2-3; Colossians 2:10; 1 John 1:1-3; 2 Corinthians 3:1-6); and
  • This downgrades the role of the prophet and the 5 fold ministries are meant to be the foundation of operation.
  • Jesus is not allowed to truly speak for Himself as the living Word and therefore challenge our interpretative approaches, beliefs and understanding (compare Luke 24:19-27).

Careful studies of the use of Old Testament Scripture in the New Testament clearly demonstrate that the narrative of God’s dynamic kingdom work in the experience of church communities was understood in tandem with the narrative of the Old Testament where both interpreted the other (as we have already seen occur in Acts 15). For instance:

  • Paul himself received his Gospel by a direct revelation of Jesus Christ which he later confirmed to be the genuine Gospel through the apostles in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:11-20; 2:1-2);
  • Jesus often reinterpreted the application of the law of Moses from His own experience of God’s activity, such as healing on the Sabbath (e.g., Mark 2:22-28 noting that nowhere does the OT actually speak of the Sabbath being made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath);
  • Paul found God’s activity of the Holy Spirit coming upon uncircumcised Gentiles reinterpreted the law of circumcision to be a work of the Spirit rather than that of human hands (Romans 2:25-29; 4:1-12; Colossians 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:11-15; Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:3-4); and
  • The implementation of Jesus’ Last Supper as the Lord’s Table reinterpreted the significance of the Passover and the Day of Atonement (e.g., Mark 14:12, 22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 10:16-22; Hebrews 9:1-28; 10:1-22; 13:9-16).

The Bible as a written text through which the Spirit supposedly speaks is not the ultimate authority at all, because determining what is of the Spirit and what is not is deeply disputed today. The Bible was meant to guide the Christian community to experiencing the authority of the living Word, risen and present in their midst. Rather, the written biblical text has become a source of deep division because it is not properly coupled with what God is actively doing in the midst of His church globally today.

Hindrance of Denial and/or Lack of Genuine Practice of Charismatic Gifts

Secondly, today, the genuine charismatic giftings as articulated by Paul (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Romans 12:6-8), are both poorly understood and rarely practised. However, in the early church, they were common place (e.g., Acts 5:12-14; Galatians 3:1-5; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). It is clear that these giftings were supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit beyond normal human capability and functioning, because:

  • prophecies and other charismatic gifts of speaking had to be weighed and tested as ad hoc speech delivered on the spur of the moment (1 Corinthians 14:29-32; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21);
  • charismatic gifts are always an expression of God’s gracious empowerment (for the word “charisma”, translated as “gifts”, stems from the Greek word for grace, “charis”), with God or the Spirit always being the subject (1 Corinthians 12:4-7; Romans 12:3-6; compare 1 Corinthians 4:6-7; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 6:10); and
  • signs and wonders as demonstrations of God’s supernatural power were always associated with the charismatic gifts and the activity of Christian ministers (e.g., Hebrews 2:3-4; Romans 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 4:20; Acts 2:43; 6:8; 7:36; 14:3; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 3:7; compare Acts 2:22; 10:38).

I have personally experienced or witnessed the genuine manifestation of these Spirit-gifted expressions of God’s supernatural intervention in human affairs, including many undeniable physical miracles and supernatural healings. Arguments that such supernatural encounters either can’t happen today, or only happen when God has a unique, major, world-changing purpose to effect, are completely rendered void by my own fairly extensive experiences, let alone the experiences of so many others today, and so many more throughout church history. None of the supernatural encounters I experienced were associated with ground-breaking major moves of God, but occurred amongst ordinary little church communities in provincial areas of Queensland or around the outskirts of Brisbane.

Simple Proposal for How Oneness of Mind, Will and Purpose Was Achieved by the Early Church

With this in mind, I propose that the early New Testament church achieved, or sought to achieve, oneness of mind and judgment together through the mind, will and purpose of the Father, Son and Spirit (i.e. the “mind of Christ”) being manifestly obvious to all present in assembly through the combination of:

  • God’s ongoing gracious activity both in the midst of His church locally and world-wide, and out in the world, as properly confirmed to be genuine by Scripture; and
  • the operation of the genuinely charismatic gifts of speech expressed through the whole congregation.

This is, in my understanding, the only clear way to comprehend the biblical injunctions to arrive at the same mind and judgment.

Further Biblical Support

This proposal can be further supported as follows:Christianity

  • Jesus is Emmanuel, “God is with Us” (Matthew 1:23; compare Isaiah 7:14; 8:8-10);
  • Apart from Christ, from dwelling in Him and utterly depending upon Him, the church can do nothing (John 15:5; compare Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 4:15-16);
  • All true believers in God’s sheep-fold know and hear the shepherd’s voice (John 10:1-5, 14-16; compare John 18:37);
  • Jesus is personally present in power in the midst of the Christian assembly (1 Corinthians 5:3-5; compare Matthew 18:19-20 noting how “agreement” forms the immediate context; John 12:26); and
  • Jesus has been held to be personally present in the celebration of the Lord’s Table or Eucharist throughout church history.

Need for Urgent Change

It never ceases to amaze me why most contemporary Christian churches openly acknowledge the resurrection of Christ as a reality, but dismiss His ability to be personally present in the midst of Christian gatherings (and especially around the Eucharist) to express the one mind, will and purpose of the Father, Son and Spirit together through the supernatural manifestations of the Spirit in the community-wide expression of the charismatic gifts.

I have yet to find a church in Australia today that even remotely comes close to regularly experiencing the manifest presence of the risen Christ in their midst where Jesus Himself openly speaks and directs the congregation during their meetings and gatherings through the congregation-wide charismatic gifts. If the church is ever to come to one mind and judgment, this has to change, and rapidly so.


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.

10 Surprising Signs Your Church Is Ready To Reach Non-Christians

By Frank Powell

Why does the church exist? If I asked this question to a thousand Christians, the answer would be fairly consistent across the board. The church exists to reach the lost and make disciples (or some variation of this phrase). The problem is most churches aren’t reaching the lost and making disciples.

Maybe this is because churches don’t understand the culture that must be present to reach the lost. Yes, the Spirit is essential and can work through any church culture. But some cultures are more favorable to the spread of the mission than others. There is a reason some churches are externally focused and other are not. There is a reason some churches are impacting the culture and awakening people to Christ and others are not.

What does a church culture prepared to reach the lost and unchurched look like? I want to introduce 10 signs your church is ready to reach the lost and engage the unchurched.

As you read, you will be surprised. These signs don’t appear to be representative of healthy church cultures. But healthy cultures (at least in terms of stability) rarely focus on the lost. They rarely engage the unchurched. These might be ideas preached from the pulpit, but they are not actions in the lives of members. So, understand, sometimes what appears to be instability and failure is actually growth and forward progress.

Here are 10 signs your church is ready to reach the lost.

1.) Longtime church members are upset. 

Carey Neiuwhof talks about this here. When the unchurched or lost begin showing up at your church, some long time church members will become upset. People who don’t know Jesus don’t understand the “code.” They don’t speak the church language. And these church people only like those who speak their language.

But this is not true of everyone. Some Christians will see the shift and be revitalized. They understand the goal is not to be comfortable and safe. And this will ignite their heart towards the mission. So, if your church has some Christians uneasy and upset, don’t feel bad. This is a natural part of a culture focused on reaching the lost. Embrace it.

2.) Members celebrate when people are sent into the world.

‘Success in the church shouldn’t center around how many are gathered, but how many are sent.’

The God we serve is a God who sends people into the world, not gathers them into a huddle. Likewise, success in the church shouldn’t center around how many are gathered, but how many are sent. Insider-focused churches try to plug people into the life of the church. Churches focused on the lost try to plug the church in the life of the world.

Recently, my wife informed me of a local ministry in Jackson, TN focused on ministering to women at a strip club. These are ordinary women. No special training. Just women who decided volunteering at church wasn’t the extent of their ministry for God. So, Friday nights are not a time to rest and wind down from a long week. They are a time devoted to prayer and showing up at a strip club to minister to women.

They realize being sent is the call of God. They understand being sent isn’t a future event or an overseas calling. Being sent is a lifestyle. A way of living. The way of Jesus.

3.)  Traditional stances on moral and cultural issues are re-examined. 

Recently, I talked with a man who used to be in ministry. This man focused his ministry on reaching the lost and unchurched. For a season, everyone was enthusiastic about this shift. But eventually excitement relinquished and reality set in. Leaders began asking questions. People were coming to Jesus who lived together before marriage, had broken marriages, and everything in between. This forced everyone to re-examine issues like homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, etc.

You see, when your church focuses on reaching the lost, the issues most Christians talk about abstractly become concrete. Sexual immorality has a name. Tom. Jill. Billy. These are real people with real struggles. They aren’t ideas. And this creates tension. Healthy tension, but tension nonetheless.

If your church isn’t re-examining traditional stances on certain issues, you probably aren’t reaching people who struggle with these issues.

4.) Church attendance is no longer the primary metric for church growth. 

If your church is focused on reaching the lost, weekly attendance will decrease. Some regular church members will leave, and new converts won’t initially attend church regularly.

But this is where using attendance as a primary metric is dangerous. If your church is reaching the lost, attendance might decrease, but engagement will increase. And engagement drives church growth and effectiveness, not church attendance. The issue with most insider-focused churches is engagement can be a very difficult thing to measure. And these churches must have a concrete metric to gauge the condition of the church.

Churches focused on reaching the lost value church attendance, but they never allow a packed room to be more important than engaged people. Because decreased attendance isn’t always a bad thing. It might be a sign your church is ready to reach the lost.

5.) Leaders admit struggles and sins. 

One thing the lost and unchurched sniff out immediately is…hypocrisy. And a hypocrite isn’t someone who sins or struggles. A hypocrite is someone who knows sin exists but either covers it up or is blind to it. The lost won’t hang around in churches where everyone has it all together. I don’t blame them.

Churches focused on the lost have members keenly aware of their sin. These churches will be transparent about sin. This starts with the leaders, but it doesn’t stop with them. A culture of authenticity and openness is present in these churches. This might come off as a sign of weakness to some insider-focused churches, but it is really a sign of strength. Because it is in weakness God is glorified. It is through sin the gospel’s power comes to life.

Don’t expect those who don’t know Jesus (or those who understand the infinitely wide gap between man’s sinfulness and God’s perfection) to be at a church where leaders aren’t confessing and repenting.

6.) Programs and events are scrapped. 

Churches focused on the lost and unchurched always filter programs and events through the mission and vision. These churches realize neat, tidy programs and events often hinder spiritual growth and development. And they aren’t willing to keep a program on life support at the expense of losing people.

‘Externally-focused churches won’t hold on to a program at the expense of losing people.’

Programs and events are inherently wrong, but too many churches place more value on programs than people. They would rather scrap people than scrap programs. This is a problem. Churches who value reaching the lost are flexible. They understand the church isn’t about programs and events. It is about people.

7.) Being a family isn’t a core value. 

The church is a family. But the traditional American family isn’t a great metaphor for the type of family the church should be. The traditional American family looks the same. They do everything together. They enjoy the same hobbies and activities. And they are typically exclusive.

The church, however, should not look the same. People from all walks of life should be present. People from all backgrounds should be present. It should never be exclusive. For churches focused on the lost, the mission will be more important than meeting together and placing everyone in nice, neat groups.

8.) Everyone is ok with not being ok. 

Insider-focused churches would rather keep their Christian bubble from bursting than allow someone who curses, smokes, or makes obscene gestures to know Jesus. “Holy huddle” churches might keep their children from hearing “bad words,” but they will never experience the power of the gospel. They will never see God altering trajectories and transforming lives.

Churches focused on the lost understand faith in Christ doesn’t equal instant behavioral transformation. They take people where they are and embrace the journey, bad words and all. They celebrate transformation, but they don’t expect every person to transform instantly (or equally).

9.)  Pharisees are leaving. 

It is impossible to make everyone happy and pursue the mission concurrently. When making disciples is the priority, Pharisees get angry. Eventually, these Pharisees will be fed up with the direction of the church. And they will leave.

Churches focused on the lost value reaching people more than keeping people. They understand you can’t have both. This is why a compelling vision is essential. When vision is present, decisions and actions are filtered through this vision. And angry Pharisees don’t fit in a vision focused on the lost.

‘Churches must decide whether they want to keep people or reach people.’

10.) No one is talking about “church issues.” 

‘Churches focused on reaching the lost don’t have time for meaningless conversations.’

Churches focused on reaching the lost and fulfilling the mission don’t have time for meaningless conversations. They don’t gather to answer questions no one is asking. They don’t use the pulpit as a platform to discuss political or denominational issues. These churches are focused on Jesus and the gospel. They understand, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, the gospel is of first importance. Everything outside the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is secondary.

Meanwhile, insider-focused churches are constantly gathering to discuss why their denomination is the best, why their interpretation of a particular Scripture is right, and why in the world the Seahawks passed the ball in the Super Bowl when they were six inches from the goal line?

Alright, maybe I have asked this question to a few people since it happened. But, really? A pass play?

I know there are more signs a church is ready to reach the lost. Let’s keep the conversation going.

I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!


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.


Frank serves as a college/young adult pastor in Jackson, TN. He loves sports, outdoors, and playing with his two boys. You can find him at http://frankpowell.me/


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

 

 

 

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.

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

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

Church Revolution The Need for a Biblical Emancipation

Have you ever wondered why the Church is in the mess it is in? Or maybe you have thought everything is fine it’s just you the Lord will not bless. Have you thought to yourself after reading some of these articles “Why are these people so way off from what I learned in seminary and seen all my life? 302x302xrevolution.jpg.pagespeed.ic.l8NX0cwwYx

Brethren we have been infected by a virus. It is called RELIGION or the SYSTEM. It’s human and it requires human works to sustain it. There is not one ounce of HOLY SPIRIT in it. There is no room for the Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ because the little kings/dictators who rule it refuse to surrender His Church to Him.

The root of the problem is the switch from a love-based Kingdom to a money-generating not for profit venture or fiefdom called the church. The systems greatest expression is arrogant individualistic ministry versus the unity found in the Trinity/Godhead.  Verbal assent is given to biblical truths but really in practice it is all about the individual congregation. All finances are handled by the leader, his family or those he/she controls with a paycheck. According to them it is the only way they can protect themselves from “sheep bites” and a fickle flock.

Upton Sinclair said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”

“Members” of these weekly social clubs have been dumbed down more than the black race during slavery. Actually it is the Afro-American pastors who are some of the worst at using and abusing their people. The “Master/Pastor/Bishop/Apostles” rules and reigns over the people. The sheep are told they exist to support the Vision of the House which can be translated the promotion of the Pastors dreams, wishes and desires. Members are told they are “laity” or support personnel to the “clergy” and no attention is given to their gifts and callings.

No one asks questions and if they do they are blackballed as a discontented, divisive individual. When word comes down the grapevine from the top your so-called friends will scatter and you will find yourself very alone. Sad to say some of the Lord’s people find out about these truths but like many blacks after their emancipation from slavery they return back to serve their wicked masters. It’s because people fear the peer pressure more than they long for true biblical freedom.

Don’t misunderstand my purpose. This is not a hate the pastor website. The pain goes both ways and the problem is usually the system not the people. I have cried and prayed with good men whose call was real and whose hearts were sincere. They only did was was taught to them in the seminary and the church growth conferences. They meant well but the system kills. Religion is of human origin and its girded up by corporate principles of making a profit. A week doesn’t pass by that I don’t  hear of a pastor or church leader who has succumb to the temptations and sins of this age. My heart breaks for leaders and that’s why this site exists.

How can we change this mess?? Nothing less than a revolution will do!  Nothing less than valiant men and women of Faith will usher it in!

I believe we need to return to the biblical foundations. We need to understand why we were taught what we were taught. We need to see how the virus entered and what verses and definitions were twisted to achieve their human objectives. We need to be set free. We need a biblical emancipation!

Jose L. 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.


Jose Bosque is Editor in Chief and founder of Viral Cast Media which oversees GodsLeader, JaxChristian now ViralChrist and 15 other websites. He has ministered in Jacksonville since 1987 and served the city since 1992 as a citywide servant leader. Jose is considered a resource and a spiritual father to many leaders in the city and in the 54 nations where the Lord has sent him to serve. Originally born in Cuba, Jose has resided in Jacksonville since 1966.


Copyright 2015 Jose L. Bosque. 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.

 

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.

21 Paradigms to Move Towards in Western Churches

We all realise that western churches need to mature and change, but what are some of the most important areas we need to address? The following list is a collection of biblical principles that must be addressed in order for the church pic 2western church to move forward. Some of the themes are repeated in slightly different contexts.

1. Acknowledging the calling of every believer (1 Cor 12:14)

The most dominant theme in the western church is that people no longer wish to be spectators and see the drawbacks. Many churches have dysfunctional leadership models that fail to recognise the calling of every believer.

2. Addressing issues and taking risks (Acts 6:1-7; 2 Tim 1:7; Eph 4:15)

Often leadership teams know what they need to change, but are afraid to try anything different, or upset anyone. Examples include: moving location, starting a second service, removing people from leadership, changing the service format or planting a new church.

 3. Increased understanding of pastoral and leadership roles (Acts 20:28; Eph 4:12; 1 Pet 5:2)

The senior pastor doesn’t have to be the most gifted leader and he certainly isn’t the only one with a pastoral gift in a congregation. The entire congregation are responsible for the outcomes of the church. Leaders are “facilitators” not owners or the most knowledgeable.

 4. Ministry based upon gifting rather than proving ones faithfulness (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Pet 4:10)

In traditional leadership models, the pastor receives the vision, and the congregation faithfully serves. As a result, we have thousands of Christians serving outside of their gifting. Equip people in the use of their gifts, doing what they love, and you will notice a big difference.

5. Sending capacity rather than seating capacity (Mk 3:14; 6:7; Acts 15:22; 1 Cor 4:17)

Traditional models measure the success of a congregation or a leader by how big the building is, or how many members there are. Discipleship models measure the maturity of congregations by the capacity to send. Students become teachers who train others.

6. Valuing the input of every person (Eph 4:16; 1 Cor 14:26; 1 Pet 4:10)

We are all Priests ,Sons and Kings. It is Gods church and the people are the church . It is not the pastors church so providing mechanisms to allow people input and influence is crucial in leading a church. One business in Latin America provides a monthly forum for employees to share and discuss ideas for future products. The company has a turnover of more than 100 million dollars, all generated through ideas provided by their employees in open forums.

 7. Allowing God to work supernaturally (Acts 2:43)

If we look at the parts of the world where the church is growing; healings, miracles and supernatural signs are very common. Western churches often have very predictable service structures with no expectation for the Holy Spirit to work supernaturally.

8. Daily contact instead of just weekly (Heb 3:13; Acts 2:46; 5:42)

The biggest impact of small groups is the opportunity for daily contact with other believers. In the early church, relationships were established on a daily basis. Prayer, fellowship, and eating together kept the disciples encouraged in the midst of persecution.

9. Personal transformation rather than membership (Rom 12:2; Gal 5:22-24)

Research has shown that Churches around the world are full of people that may be committed to attend a church service, but during the week their lifestyle is no different to that of their friends. There should be a clear distinction between Christians and Non-believers.

10. Complementary gifts rather than competitive agendas (1 Cor 1:12,13; 3:3-5)

Competition is based on feelings of insecurity. When Pastors acknowledge their own strengths, stop comparing themselves with others, and look for ways to complement one another, we will see amazing breakthroughs.

11. Values-based networks rather than just denominational (Acts 18:2,3,18)

For many years Christians have attended events based on common interests and values. One of the best known examples is the Sydney Hillsong Conference that attracts more than 30,000 Christians from every major Church denomination.

12. Interaction rather than monologue (Acts 17:2; 19:8)

Traditional teaching models have the expert at the front of the classroom with learners remaining silent. Coaching, mentoring, serving and discipleship models encourage interactive learning that increases retention. No question is off limits.

13. A focus on homes and not just church buildings (Acts 5:42; 20:20; Rom 16:5)

Many western churches have been slow to acknowledge the impact that small groups can have. Building community, hospitality, and loving relationships were central themes in the New Testament church.

14. Apostolic teams working alongside pastoral models (Eph 4:11,12; Acts 13:1)

Pastoral gifts were never intended to work in isolation from the other gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher. Although we have seen great progress in recent years, do we need to increase understanding of the role of the apostle and not confusing a teacher or a pastor with an Apostle?

15. Balance between organisation and divine inspiration

For greater fruitfulness in leadership meetings, community outreaches, or any gathering of believers, churches may want to embrace the spontaneous leading of the Holy Spirit while continuing to develop structure and organisation. Many churches think they must choose between the two.

16. Ministry partnerships rather than individual vision (1 Cor 12:12)

Not everyone has the ability to initiate a project, but when people with the same interests come together, everyone can use their unique gift and get involved. Empowering leaders gather together people with common interests.

17. Multiplication not just addition (2 Tim 2:2, Jn 12:24; Mt 13:23; Tit 1:5; Acts 14:23)

The fruit of an apple tree is not just more apples, but more apple trees. The New Testament Church multiplied as elders were ordained in every city, not only by the Apostle Paul, but by his spiritual sons Timothy and Titus.

18. Raising up spiritual sons (1 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4; 1 Pet 5:13; 1 Cor 4:15-17; Gal 4:19)

Paul told the Corinthian church that they had 10000 instructors in Christ, but not many fathers. Timothy, Titus, and Marcus, were three of Paul’s sons in the faith. If you are a senior leader, do you invest time into the younger generation?

19. Magnetic disciples rather than just attracting people to programs (1 Thess 1:6-8; Col 1:9)

Churches love to attract people through various programs and events. Programs are great if they are fruitful, but we need more emphasis on discipleship that encourages people to live an authentic ‘Christian lifestyle’. Christians should be a magnetic influence in their community.

20. Prayer as a lifestyle rather than just an event (Acts 1:14; 6:4; 16:13)

Prayer networks and combined prayer rallies are all very good, but they often delegate prayer to intercessors. In the New Testament church, prayer played a much bigger part of the Christian lifestyle than we currently see in our western churches.

21. Empowering leadership rather than controlling leadership (Eph 4:11,12; 1 Pet 5:2,3)

Empowering leaders will help believers grow in maturity, equip them for service, and then celebrate as they are released into ministry roles. They send people out to bless the body of Christ, rather than just attracting and holding onto people.

Is there anything you would add to this list? Anything you would change? Let us know.

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

7 Reasons Why 5 Fold Ministries Are Viewed With Suspicion

One of the things that we promote in the Church Excellence Framework is the importance of exercising every gift in the body of Christ. In the New Testament, it was common for ministers to travel and share their gift with different churches in order to encourage and build the body of Christ. Today we see a wide variety of travelling ministers including: Evangelists, Teachers, Apostles, Pastors, Prophets, Musicians, Singers, and Drama teams.

These ministers travel long distances from one meeting to the next, often sleeping in a different bed every night and living out of a suitcase. If anyone in the body of Christ deserves honour, then certainly travelling ministers would be at the top of the list.  If you have served in leadership for any length of time, it’s very likely you have experienced both blessing and Man-with-suitcase-webdisappointment from itinerant ministers. To be fair, if we evaluate everyone equally, travelling ministers create no more or less problems than anyone else. In fact they are more often a blessing, so why are they often viewed with suspicion?

As someone who has served as an associate pastor, and also ministered in churches around the world, I share a few thoughts from my experiences. I purposely address pastors, because in most traditional church structures, they are the ones who approve of visiting ministers.

Here are some of the reasons why pastors view travelling ministers with suspicion.

1. No accountability.

One of the first things that pastors want to know is whether the travelling minister has some form of accountability. Everyone needs a church they call home, and every travelling minister needs a person or group that he or she is accountable to. Pastors feel much more at ease, knowing that a travelling minister believes in the local church, values those in authority, and is not operating independently. The New Testament church gives us a great model to follow. Paul, Peter, John, and Philip the evangelist, all had close relationships with the church in Jerusalem. Throughout the book of Acts, they were sent out and regularly returned to Jerusalem (Acts 8). When travelling ministers have the support and accountability of a home church, they are much more likely to be trusted to minister in other churches.

 2. Submission to church leadership

One of the biggest concerns that pastors have is whether the travelling minister has a submissive attitude. One of the most common issues this relates to is time constraints. Some of the factors that influence a church’s time schedule are: multiple services, rented halls, public transport, children and family considerations. Visiting ministers need to be aware of these time restrictions and stay within the schedule they are given. There is no excuse for going over time. Ministers often use phases such as “I’m lead by God and not by the clock”. That may be true, but we are all to be clothed in humility with a servant attitude (1 Peter 5:5; Phil 2). When you are up on stage, you should not be asking for more time. If the pastoral team permits you to go overtime, that’s fine, but they should initiate it. Submission relates to any request that the pastor clearly informs you about prior to, or during, or even after a meeting.

3. A lack of relationship.

Pastors are often concerned that visiting ministers will say something controversial and create problems in the church. When a Pastor doesn’t know a visiting minister, he will tend to focus on what can go wrong. A cautionary attitude isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because Jesus taught us that a good shepherd cares for his sheep. In order to build trust, itinerant ministers need to invest time in developing authentic relationships. Books, DVD’s, newsletters and downloadable podcasts, are all great ways to share your ministry gift, but nothing can replace heart to heart sharing, in person or over the phone.

4. Unrealistic demands.

George Clooney made headlines a few years ago when he demanded a hot tub, custom beach house, and private basketball court for his use during the filming of the movie ‘Gravity’. Perhaps Clooney is worth it, and no producer would ever refuse his demands, but ministry should set a different standard. Of course dietary requirements and accommodation are important, but when an evangelist or other travelling minister starts behaving like George Clooney, there are serious problems.

Another concern that pastors have, is that the visiting minister will ‘milk’ the congregation. Visiting ministries are very passionate about what they do, and they can be guilty of placing unreasonable demands on people to give financially. Not every minister wants to manipulate people for money, quite often it’s the opposite. Some travelling ministers make it a rule to never publicly ask for financial support. It’s my opinion that the pastor should take responsibility, and decide on an appropriate gift amount, or take up a public offering on behalf of the visiting minister.

5. A lack of fruit from past ministry.

Is it worth the time, organisation, and cost? A lot of effort goes into organising a visiting minister, and pastors want to be sure that their church will benefit from their investment. Jesus said that we would be able to discern people by their fruit. That fruit will vary between ministry gifts, but if a minister continually leaves a legacy of controversy, it’s fair to say they need to be avoided. Visiting ministers should be able to confidently give the phone contacts of the last three churches they ministered in. They should be confident that they have left every church with some form of positive fruit.

6. Poor organisation and communication

When a church is organising the visit of a travelling minister, they often need to book accommodation, print advertising, hire venues, and a hundred other minor details. Pastors become frustrated when they don’t receive replies to emails, they fail to reach the person via phone, or they need to follow up conversations with a dozen reminder messages. If you are a travelling minister and lack organisational skills, or your schedule is beyond your organisational ability, please find someone with the right skills to take over the administration role for you. Churches might benefit from your ministry gift, but they might also get a headache from your disorganisation.

7. Lack of integrity in promoting self

Spamming 1000 pastors with your promotional flyer, exaggerating the reports of a previous meeting, or giving yourself a title to sound important, are all things that will destroy your credibility as a travelling minister. Self proclaimed titles such as Bishop, Prophet, need to be based upon your current role. Pastors are looking for fruit and not fruit-loops. I don’t mean to dishonour those who are using titles in a correct way, but these days anyone can buy a doctorate degree online without ever picking up a textbook.

Travelling ministers can also be guilty of name dropping (saying that they know someone famous), or have even been caught lying about preaching at a large church that everyone knows. If you are in ministry, have integrity and don’t exaggerate your qualifications, abilities or any testimonies. If people are truly encouraged by your gift, you won’t need to exaggerate.

Is there any other advice you would like to give to travelling ministers? Please let us know. Our aim is to promote the healthy use of ministry gifts so that churches are encouraged. The worse case scenario is that a church is hurt by a visiting minister and they close the door to all similar ministry gifts. The next blog article will continue this theme, and look at a different perspective, addressing some of the negative attitudes that Churches need to change in relation to travelling ministries.

 

CONTACT US TO RECEIVE THE NOTES TO THE FRAMEWORK

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

 

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

Summary of Major Research Findings on Church Growth – Does your pastor know this?

 

Blog from CEO of Church Excellence Framework

The framework team are very committed to finding you good evidence to back up aspects that are in the framework. We are very excited to have found this study that gives real tangible evidence of what helps good church growth. No more speculation!

All these points are vital parts of the Church Excellence Framework, which develops these in even more detail and brings in other good practices. 

 

 

Research from Anglican Church “ From Anecdote to Evidence”

Here is a summary of an excellent research exercise carried out in England over a significant period.

http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/UserFiles/File/Reports/FromAnecdoteToEvidence1.0.pdf

The survey  summarized some key findings:-

Good Leadershipchurch growth

Clear Mission and Purpose

Willingness to self reflect and change

Intentional involvement of lay leaders

Intentional in prioritizing growth

Intentional in chosen styles of worship

Intentional nurturing disciples

 

Factors contributing to decline includechurch growth

 

1.Burdensome buildings

  1. 2.Stagnation in approach , variety, vitality and inclusiveness of worship
  2. 3.Clergy characteristics of empathizing , persisting and managing were less helpful that those who are more flexible and push people in new directions
  3. 4.Members unwilling to get involved and everything left to the ordained minister.

 

As the intention of the Framework is to stimulate debate, we do hope you will take time to really consider these points with your leadership teams and church congregation members and  request the framework notes to study more our findings so that you are indeed working on greater priorities. The framework notes share a summary of key priorities that we have concluded constitute the greatest way to church growth and health. This goes beyond what other leadership tools are offering.

Please help us spread the message by sharing this blog post, and to get more vital research, sign up to receive this blog  by email at www.churchexcellenceframework.com

The notes explain how to practically implement a  lot of these points. Other research says you must start at your lowest factor. We include lots of tools to survey your church as well.