Tired of your Religion

Religion-copyBy Jose Bosque

There is a growing ground swell of Christians who like me are tired of your religion. That doesn’t mean we hate God I just means we cant take religious church “as is” anymore. The word Religion means man’s attempts; traditions, practices, and ideas (rituals) to serve their God.

In Henry Fielding’s novel “Tom Jones.” he has one character say: “By religion I mean Christianity, by Christianity I mean Protestantism, by Protestantism I mean the Church of England as established by law.” It’s kind of funny but he was being honest. In other words he means the 1611 KJV of the Bible which many evangelicals call “the Authorized Version”.
Here is what the Lord says about the best religion man can come up with “And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags (modern translation; sanitary napkins) It’s a hard word but crystal clear!

We are so tired of hearing: “this is what I think”, “in my opinion”, “well So and So says”, “this is what I believe”, “In my church we etc., etc.” ‎ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

What ever happened to as James says in the Acts of the Apostles “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us,” Hebrews “as the Holy Spirit says,” and Revelation “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church.”

I believe the problem is we are living in a 21st century where there is an “information overload.” Everybody has memorized the Bible after so many sermons. National Geographic, Discovery Channel and the History Channel have made us all into armchair historical experts concerning everything, including the things of God. The problem is very few of us really know how to hear God.

We are sorry but real Christianity is not a “pick and choose” buffet line like in Golden Corral. You can’t go around saying “the Bible says” like you really know what it says if you don’t. You can’t hand pick bible verses and put them together out of context to back up whatever your opinion is or your denomination believes. You can’t come to me with the King James Version says whatever, whatever. Don’t you know that the King James Bible was translated from the Greek on orders of a heathen King of England who wanted to create his own brand of religion to control the people? The translators were mostly x-catholic priests who in 1611 were full of the religion of men. Are you aware the chapter and verses were put in by men?
When is the last time you heard a “Rhema” from God. Rhema means an utterance. “God speaks” to His children. This was normal in the real church for the first 1500 years until the printing press was created and started printing bibles. About the same time the other 95% of humanity, the common person was taught and learned to read. Today we all have bibles and few of us are illiterate but even fewer of us actually have a daily relationship with the Lord himself.

We were all taught; Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word (BIBLE) of God. That is a full on lie it is Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word (Rhema) the voice of God. No, that doesn’t mean a word from a prophet for profit!
That’s a shocker …let that sink in for a while.

Many have memorized bible verses but when it gets tough they have no faith. That kind of confusion and misguided direction is causing many to leave organized religion. In other words they are;

Tired of your Religion

tired of your religion

According to sociologist, Josh Packard;

“in his scrupulously researched book, Church Refugees, there are currently 65,000,000 individuals in the USA who are “done” with church, 30.5 MM of those, retaining their “faith,” the balance having no “faith affiliation.”

The Nones and Dones are not rebellious, wounded, bitter, Absaloms, Jezebels, and heretics as they are so often caricatured. They are often the best, the brightest, the finest, most faithful, and the most committed to Christ–those who take their faith very seriously. There are another 7,000,000 “on their way” to being done for a total of 72,000,000 nones and dones.

In the United States, there are also approximately 65,000,000 believers who self-identify as being part of an organized church.
Thirty to fifty percent of those who confess Christ in the USA, are DONE with “church,” (organized, institutional religion) or soon will be.”

You want a prophetic word for the 21st century? I see religion (man’s best rituals and opinions) falling like dominoes. People’s eyes are being opened by the Spirit of the Lord. The Lord will have His Church back from the mini kings (popes, priests and pastors) that now rule it.

Please don’t quote me the Old Testament verse of “touch not the Lords anointed” that verse has nothing to do with New Testament Christianity. We are the New Creation of God, The Lord Himself lives in us and the Holy Spirit anoints us to understand His ways.

The clergy-laity division is an invention of a religious church to control the people of God. (The masses that’s why it’s called “mass.”

This was written by Jon Zens and I strongly agree;

“My letter to the sponsors of the recent “Clergy Conference” in Atlanta reflects my deep concern over the biblically unjustified practice of dividing God’s people into two classes – pulpiteers and pew-sitters. It is a pattern that certainly reflects the hierarchical patterns of the world, but which does not square with New Testament teaching.
What really needs to be done is to hold a conference where the New Testament’s teaching on leadership is unfolded. If this were done, of course, then the traditional “clergy/laity” practice would have to be jettisoned in favor of the New Testament patterns.
Looking at the big picture, you are really doing harm to the very class of persons you are trying to help. By not challenging the “clergy” system, which has brought untold hurt to those within its pale, you end up giving pep-talks and encouragement to people who are functioning in an office Christ has nowhere revealed in His Word. You admit in Men of Action (Nov. 1995, p. 4), “Pastors are worn out, discouraged, and in need of affirmation. In fact, poll after poll reveals that most pastors are battling isolation, depression, and loneliness. They are so beaten up by the ministry . . .”Actually, the situation among the “clergy” is much worse than this brief statement. But should this be surprising when people are forced to fill a job description found nowhere in the New Testament? The most Christ-honoring and caring thing you could do is to tell the 70,000 men that come to Atlanta to stop being “clergy”, because God’s Word teaches nothing about “clergy”.

Consider this from John Matthews:

1. It is important for people to understand the difference between the Church (every follower of Jesus the Christ throughout all time) and the institution frequently called “church” (the human hierarchical institution consisting of many denominations and organizations that usually meets in a building and claims to follow Jesus the Christ). They are not the same thing.
2. Everyone who frequents the institution called “church” and assumes the label “Christian” is not necessarily a follower of Jesus the Christ and therefore not necessarily a “brother or sister.”
3. Pointing out the above distinctions and challenging the associated behaviors or practices of the institution or individuals does not make you unforgiving, someone who “hates your brother,” or does not love the Body of Christ.
4. It is possible to love the Church while not loving the “church.”
Finally, let’s honor the priesthood of every believer, let’s learn to listen to the Holy Spirit together and let us walk life out together in love. It is the biblical way and it is the only way we will ever receive solutions for the problems of this world.

Much love,
Jose Bosque

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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.

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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

 

8 WAYS TO TREAT CYNICISM SICKNESS FROM A RECOVERING CHRISTIAN CYNIC

Slide01-compressor-4-e1445377565952by Frank Powell

Hello, my name is Frank Powell, and I am a recovering Christian cynic. I was disillusioned about the church. I didn’t sign up for church ministry. I was drafted by God. I also didn’t grow up heavily involved in a youth group. I attended church sporadically to appease my parents.

I tell you this because when God drafted me, I had a picture of the church. This picture was shaped by my limited experience in church and my idea of what I thought “church” should look like.

In my mind, church ministry would be easy.

I would baptize new Christians all the time. Everyone would be receptive to my plans and teaching. In no time, I would have a mega-church. I knew I could do it. I was friends with several 20-somethings on Facebook and Twitter who pastored mega-churches.

I quickly realized “church people” are often frustrating and resistant to change. Not everyone enjoyed my teaching. Progress was slow. For nearly two years, I fought disillusionment. And, slowly, I made strides.

Then came the bombshell.

Another minister at the church where I worked sent me a scathing e-mail. He attacked everything, from my competency in ministry to the future salvation of my family.

That e-mail was the final straw. I wanted out.

Ever been there?

Thankfully, God kept me in ministry. I accepted another position and battled more disillusionment. But on the other side of my latest season in ministry, God restored my hope. It’s not because people changed. People will always be people. It’s not because the church is different. My hope is restored in the church and in God’s work in the world because God awakened me to inconsistencies and brokenness in my heart.

Here’s the reality. Cynicism plagues our culture. It might be the greatest threat to the present-day church. Cynicism is toxic. It’s insanely contagious. And, it’s not a respecter of persons. Anyone, anywhere, regardless of age, background, socioeconomic level, or race is susceptible to cynicism.

Cynics live without hope (the anchor of the Christian faith), void of compassion, lacking trust in everyone and everything. And without hope, compassion, and trust, what do you have? Seriously?

I want to share what I learned about cynicism. And I want to challenge you to start (or continue) fighting against cynicism. Cynicism is a sickness. It’s not from God.

Here are 8 ways to treat cynicism sickness.

1.) NEVER BECOME FAMILIAR WITH GOD.

If familiarity breeds contempt, then religious familiarity breeds unholy cynicism.Margaret Feinberg

Familiarity with God turns blind faith into dry legalism. The church needs a larger view of God. The church needs to rediscover the God who created stars with his breath. God’s people are desperate for a new, fresh perspective of what it means to be all-powerful and all-knowing. There is no mountain God can’t move. There is no place to hide from God. If you travel to Pluto, he’s there. If you travel to the furthest known galaxy in the universe, MACS0647-JD, 13.3 billion light years from earth, God is there.

Familiarity with God turns blind faith into dry legalism.

Write this down…the smaller your God, the larger your problems. And when your problems are too big for God, cynicism will plague your life. Rest in God’s power to do anything, anywhere, anytime.

But also rest in God’s knowledge, which far exceeds yours. God might not answer the way you want. It’s not because God doesn’t hear you. It’s because he sees the trajectory of your life. And, he weaves your requests with his will to form an unbreakable cord that lasts for all of eternity.

2.) DON’T FIGHT RELIGIOUS BATTLES. JUST SERVE PEOPLE. 

Several years ago, a tornado ravaged a suburb in Jackson, MS. A group of teenagers and adults from my church spent the day helping those affected. It’s interesting. That day, I served alongside Christians from other denominations. I realized, despite what I was taught, they weren’t from Satan. They actually loved Jesus. A lot.

Cynicism thrives in a culture where Christians are idle and bored.

You know who doesn’t spend time debating ideals? Christians actively engaged in the mission of Christ. These Christians are too busy actually doing what Jesus said to debate whether Jesus actually meant it. What a novel idea, right? You see, cynicism thrives in a culture where Christians are idle and bored.

Show me a culture where Christians are cynical, I will bet my son’s salary (because he’s three) that church is focused on themselves and not others. I will bet my other son’s salary (because he’s two) a disproportionate number of Christians simply fill pews. Few Christians in cynical churches serve and few church leaders challenge people to serve.

Can you imagine what would happen if every Christian decided to serve others? This sounds ridiculous, but what if Christians stopped reading about Jesus and started living out what they already knew?

What if…

3.) CHALLENGE YOUR LONG-HELD ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT YOUR FAITH AND GOD. 

In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”Eric Hoffer

Cynicism loves a culture where people hold to their beliefs tighter than the time I held to my wife when we rode the Goliath at Six Flags. And, yes. I screamed like a girl. Don’t judge me.

You are a learner. When you stop learning, you cease to be human. Human beings are the only creations of God with the ability to accumulate knowledge.

Dogs eat, pee, poop, make me sneeze (I’m allergic), and sleep. Dogs don’t reach a certain level of maturity and say, “Hey, I think I’ll learn to drive today.”

Cats eat, pee, poop, annoy people, look scary, and sleep. No one ever walked into your house, looked at your cat, and said, “Isn’t your cat five? Shouldn’t he be in school?”

But you? You were created to learn. If God is all-knowing, it is godly to learn and grow.

Listen to people you don’t agree with. I listen to sermons and podcasts of people from all walks of life and backgrounds. I have even listened to atheists discuss their perspective on the world, humanity, and culture. Do I agree with them? No. Do I have to agree with their views to listen to them? No.

You must listen to viewpoints you don’t agree with. Your church culture won’t do this for you. Most Sunday mornings are glorified pep rallies. Just watch the head nods. Listen for the amens. Here’s what they mean. “Yeah, I knew that. Yep, that’s right. I agree with you.” People come to hear the preacher say what they already know.

To combat the pep rally culture, you must expand your horizon. Challenge your traditional thinking. Be open-minded. Learners will inherit the earth. Are you a learner?

4.) ENGAGE IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY.

You weren’t created to be alone. Isolation fuels cynicism. Ironically, cynicism often drives people into isolation. So, there’s a dangerous cycle at work here.

How do you break the cycle? Christian community. Authentic, Christ-centered community removes poison from the veins of cynicism. It reveals, on a smaller scale, what is true on a global scale. Transformation is slow. Ministry is messy. People are broken. Growth comes through vulnerability. The mission of Christ is external. Suffering is inevitable.

You get the idea.

You can’t become the man or woman God created you to be if you aren’t plugged into Christian community.

Through the years, community with other Christians shaped my journey more than anything else. I decided to go into full-time ministry after a Bible study at a friend’s home. When I got the news about cancer, it was my community who prayed for me. I could on and on.

As much as it hurts, regardless of how uncomfortable it is for you, plug into a community of believers. It will transform your life.

5.) BE VULNERABLE AND AUTHENTIC.

Cynicism thrives in a culture where Bible memorization and church attendance are merit badges for your coat of external righteousness. Why? External righteousness isn’t about God. It’s about you. And cynicism begins at the line between selflessness and selfishness.

This is why authenticity is so important. It reminds you that you’re broken. And this brokenness reminds you of God’s perfection.

But, if your church culture is like mine, this isn’t the message you are taught. I was instructed to hide my sins. Good Christian boys didn’t have sex, watch pornography, or drink alcohol. And God didn’t like little boys who did those things. So, when I did them, you know who I told? No one. And it caused me years of shame and pride.

At some point, I decided the Christian game wasn’t very fun and I stopped playing. Regardless of the facade your church tries to sell, don’t buy it. Everyone is broken. Every person who walks in a church building struggles with something. If you think you don’t struggle with anything, you’re wrong.

You struggle with pride…and lying.

Surround yourself with Christians who value authenticity. The more you do this, the less you hide feelings of shame. The more you let go of yourself, the deeper you sink in the sea of God’s unending grace. Cynicism dies where God’s grace lives.

Cynicism dies where God’s grace lives.

6.) BY DEFAULT, TRUST EVERYONE. 

Look, I get it. People hurt you. They hurt me too. But when you don’t trust someone, you throw up a wall to keep from being hurt.

If you don’t trust your spouse, you don’t give all of yourself to them. If you don’t trust your boss, you withhold information from them. And here’s the problem with not trusting people…you can’t point someone to God when there’s a wall between yourself and someone else.

Look, don’t run around like Mary Poppins. Understand people are going to hurt you and disappoint you. But don’t give up on people because they’re broken like you. Treat others the way you want to be treated. You want to be trusted, right? Even when you mess up.

And remember, Jesus will never give up on you. He believes you are good. He believes you are worthy of dying for. What if the Christian community embraced the mentality of Jesus?

7.) DON’T RUN FROM DISCOMFORT. RUN INTO IT.

My default response to conflict is to run from it. And while this response protects me from short-term pain, it creates more long-term pain. If you want to end your life with no friends and overcome with bitterness, run from conflict. Don’t lean into discomfort when it comes.

Don’t miss this.

Almost every promise of God is fulfilled through conflict. God promised Abraham he would bless nations through him. In the meantime, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, leave his family, and endure a host of other difficult events.

David was anointed king by Samuel, but he didn’t take the reigns until 20 years after his anointing. In the meantime, David ran for his life. He fought for his life.

And, of course, the reconciling of the world was promised in Genesis and fulfilled at the resurrection of Jesus. In the meantime? Murder. Divorce. War. And, ultimately, the cross. At the cross, God redeemed humanity through pain and discomfort.

This is one of the greatest lessons I have learned in ministry. If you step into discomfort, the short-term might be difficult. But the long-term will be more joyful. Don’t take my word for it. Look at how God rolls.

8.) PRACTICE HOPEFUL REALISM EVERY DAY.

Hopeful realism embraces the dual realities of contemporary evil and forthcoming redemption.Andrew Byers

Hopeful realism, a phrase coined by Andrew Byers in his book Faith Without Illusions is the alternative to both unhealthy disillusionment and cynicism.

So, what does hopeful realism look like? Here are a few examples.

  1. Cynics believe the world is too far gone. Idealists don’t understand the magnitude of the hurt in the world. Hopeful realists look to the disillusionment that surrounds an empty tomb and engage the world with the Spirit’s power.
  2. Cynics turn their backs on the church in disgust. They sit in the stands, silently hoping the ship sinks. Idealists believe the church is without problems. Everyone should be happy and get along. Hopeful realists see the church as the bride of Christ, and acknowledging the church’s problems, refuse to give up on something Jesus died for.
  3. Cynics look at the youthful naivety and disillusionment of the next generation as a product of immaturity and inexperience. Idealists are more concerned with talking about changing the world and less concerned with faithful acts of daily obedience. Hopeful realists never lose the wonder and awe of God but also understand the power of daily obedience.

There is no faith without disillusionment. The central message of the Christian faith is that a man (who is also God) lived without sin, died on a cross, was placed in a tomb, and after three days walked out…alive. If you don’t believe in Jesus, the Christian message sounds more ridiculous than flying pigs.

At the same time, there is no faith without face-to-face, hand-in-hand service. Real Christian ministry is really messy. It’s really slow. And it’s really about people, not ideas.

Talking with a college student recently about this, he summed it up beautifully. He said his perspective is to think idealistically and live in reality.

____________

It’s time to fight cynicism. Yeah, cynicism is easy. That’s why most of the world chooses it. But, Christians don’t serve a God who specializes in easy. Christians serve a God who specializes in taking something hard or difficult and turning it into something beautiful. That’s your mission as well.

It’s time to stop running from the church because of disillusionment. It’s time to stop simplifying the church’s mission to nothing more than programs and steps. It’s time to stop trash-talking churches because their name is different. It’s time to stop bad-mouthing church leaders because they hurt you.

As Jesus says, “You who are without sin cast the first stone.” Translation: if you have never hurt someone, then by all means, trash those who hurt you. Since you have hurt people, you have no right to trash others. But you do have a right to pray for them.

What if every Christian lived with hope and joy? Maybe I’m disillusioned. But if I’m disillusioned, it’s because of the cross. And I refuse to believe God can’t operate outside of my logic. In the meantime, I won’t stop working for the kingdom. I won’t stop writing. I won’t stop preaching and teaching. I won’t stop discipling the next generation. I won’t give up on the church.

I want to challenge you to do the same. God is up to something at your workplace. He is doing something in your family. Believe it. Until then, work hard. Love your family well. Engage in your Christian community. Serve your city.

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

COPYRIGHT 2015 FRANK POWELL. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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IS YOUR CHURCH LED BY PHARISEES OR FOLLOWERS OF JESUS?

Slide01-compressor-3-e1444854164692By Frank Powell

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” One of the best leaders in the world, John Maxwell, said this recently at a conference I attended. When he said it, I knew he was right. The best teams. The best schools. The thriving churches. They all have one thing in common: great leaders.

People need direction. They crave it. And here’s the kicker. It doesn’t matter whether the leadership is good or bad. We all know bad leaders who built large followings. Why? People need direction.

If everything rises and falls on leadership, it’s important to examine leadership in the church. What type of people lead your church? What kind of leader are you? How would you know?

Glad you asked.

The gospel writers present two opposing leadership philosophies. On one end of the spectrum is Jesus. On the other end? The Pharisees. The direction of your church depends on which type of leader makes the decisions. And, please don’t miss this. If Pharisees lead your church (or if you lead like a Pharisee), your church is navigating dangerous waters. No group received more scathing remarks from Jesus. The Pharisees are responsible for the death of the son of God. This is serious stuff.

Here are 8 differences between Pharisaical leaders and Jesus leaders.

1.) PHARISAICAL LEADERS REACT TO CONFLICT. JESUS LEADERS RESPOND TO CONFLICT. 

If Pharisees lead your church, you will notice an unhealthy level of what I call “little man syndrome.” If you’re vertically challenged (especially if you’re a dude) you know exactly what I mean. People with “little man syndrome” feel the need to prove themselves. They pick fights. They attack every opponent. They allow emotions to fuel their attacks. And they are always, always, always defensive.

Jesus leaders, on the other hand, don’t allow the actions of others to influence their attitude or behavior. They are Spirit-led. They allow logic to control them, not emotions. Jesus leaders deal with much less regret than Pharisaical leaders because their responses are thoughtful and prompted by God.

2.) PHARISAICAL LEADERS OBSERVE THE LETTER OF THE LAW. JESUS LEADERS OBSERVE THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this many times. In Matthew 23, for example, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.”

Talk about a kick in the pants.

Pharisaical leaders observe Scripture legalistically. They equate righteousness with observing commands. In a church where Pharisees lead, you witness more legalism than compassion. A greater emphasis is placed on what you do or don’t do (smoke, drink, have sex outside of marriage) than who you love or don’t love.

Jesus leaders, however, look beyond external appearances. They focus on the oppressed and marginalized. They challenge people to love their neighbor. They look beyond words on a page and emphasize the weightier matters.

3.) PHARISAICAL LEADERS EXERCISE POWER OVER PEOPLE. JESUS LEADERS USE POWER TO EMPOWER OTHERS.

If you ask most Pharisaical leaders, they will tell you no one tells them what to do. But that’s not true. Pharisaical leaders are owned by those they lead. This is the paradox of power. If you worship it, you don’t really have it. Why? When power is your heart’s primary desire, you must leverage someone to acquire it. Who do Pharisaical leaders leverage? The people they “lead.”

If people are responsible for you acquiring power, they are also responsible for you keeping it. So, Pharisaical leaders control and manipulate those they lead out of fear. Sadly, this creates a culture where no one is authentic and hard questions are seen as disrespectful.

Followers of Jesus use power to serve more people.

Jesus leaders, however, understand real power isn’t given, stolen, or bought. It’s earned. Jesus leaders acquire power the same way the son of God acquired it. They serve. Jesus leaders never ask someone they lead to do something they won’t do. And as they acquire more power, they use it to empower more people.

Jesus leaders aren’t held captive by the paradox of power because they are open-handed with the power and authority given to them. Titles aren’t a means to an end. They are a means to serve others.

4.) PHARISAICAL LEADERS GATHER PEOPLE IN “HOLY HUDDLES.” JESUS LEADERS SEND DEVOTED FOLLOWERS. 

Pharisaical leaders value comfort, convenience, and safety. “Everybody huddle up. The world is evil. Jimmy! Stop talking to that alcoholic. Jill! Get away from that prostitute.”

These leaders have no external focus. Every decision benefits the “called out.” Resources feed the “holy huddle.” People aren’t taught to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. They aren’t even encouraged to talk about the gospel. That would make others uncomfortable. And remember, that comfort thing is pretty important.

Jesus leaders equip people to go into the world. They don’t see large gatherings as a win. They see people placing their trust in Jesus as a win. So, these leaders mentor, disciple, and teach those they lead to go into the world.

Are you, as a leader, equipping those you lead to go into the world? Are leaders at your church doing this?

5.) PHARISAICAL LEADERS LOOK TO ACCUSE PEOPLE. JESUS LEADERS LOOK TO AFFIRM PEOPLE.

On more than one occasion, the Pharisees looked for a way to accuse Jesus (Matt. 12:10; Mark 3:2; Luke 6:7; Luke 11:54; Luke 14:1; John 8:6). The Pharisees were enslaved to power, title, and authority. Jesus was a threat to all of these. Pharisaical leaders are shackled by their position. Any person, whether a pastor or new member, who challenges their authority is on the chopping block. They will take whatever steps necessary to remove “threats” from the picture. Destroy your integrity. Spread rumors. Manipulate others to conspire against you.

Pharisaical leaders are surrounded by yes men. Their church is full of puppets. And they hold all the strings. Run from churches where these leaders are present. You won’t change them. I’m telling you. You won’t. Leave.

Jesus leaders, however, aren’t threatened by gifted men and women. Have you ever noticed that great leaders acquire strong talent, regardless of where they are? It’s not because great leaders are lucky. It’s because they inspire and empower people to use their gifts.

Jesus leaders will gladly take a back seat because the church they lead isn’t about them. It’s about Jesus. If someone else can elevate the name of Christ, Jesus leaders will affirm their gifts, empower them to use those gifts, and praise God when he brings results.

6.) PHARISAICAL LEADERS BELIEVE THE BEST HAS “COME AND GONE.” JESUS LEADERS BELIEVE THE BEST IS “YET TO COME.”

The Pharisees were fixed on the past. The law. The temple. Not that either is bad. But when your fixation on past events prevents you from seeing the Savior standing in front of you, that’s really bad. You see, the Pharisees were waiting on a warrior-king who would restore the Israelites to prominence. And because Jesus didn’t fit their mold, they missed him.

Pharisaical leaders are cynical towards new ideas. They talk often about “the good ol’ days” when the church was thriving. You know, back in the 1960s and 70s. Who cares that racism plagued the American church in “the good ol’ days”?

Jesus leaders don’t have time to dwell on “the good ol’ days.” They’re too busy leading people towards the future. Jesus leaders are filled with hope. They believe the best is yet to come.

Jesus leaders dream big. They risk often. They cast vision with confidence. They embrace change. Like ants create colonies and bees create hives, human beings create futures. Jesus leaders understand this.

You will create a future. The question is what kind of future will you create?

Pharisaical leaders need to grasp this. Every leader will create a future for themselves and those they lead. The Pharisees created a future, even though they dwelled in the past. Their future included the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Their decisions in the present shaped the destiny of thousands.

As a leader, you can’t miss this. You WILL create a future for those you lead. The question is what kind of future will you create?

7.) PHARISAICAL LEADERS SEE THE NEXT GENERATION AS A THREAT TO THE CHURCH. JESUS LEADERS SEE THE NEXT GENERATION AS ESSENTIAL TO THE CHURCH.

Pharisaical leaders are cynical towards the next generation. These leaders expect the next generation to wait their turn. And they lead their churches this way. Instead of empowering those with no power, these leaders expect the next generation to sit and wait..just like they did.

There’s a word for this attitude. Entitlement. And few things suck joy and hope from your heart like entitlement.

Jesus leaders realize the only thing they are entitled to is death. Everything else is a gift from God. As Jesus leaders acquire more power, they wash more feet. They are forward-focused. They let go of personal preferences to equip the next generation to follow Jesus.

8.) PHARISAICAL LEADERS’ DECISION-MAKING IS CONTROLLED BY THEIR PERSPECTIVE. JESUS FOLLOWERS’ DECISION-MAKING IS COMPELLED BY THE SPIRIT. 

Jesus said it this way, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly” (John 7:24). Pharisaical leaders aren’t filled with the Spirit, so the only filters they have for making decisions are their perspective and wisdom. The problem? The wisdom of man is foolishness to God (1 Cor. 3:19). The Spirit leads people to make decisions that are crazy to the world. The Spirit leads people to step into the unknown and take enormous risks.

Where God leads you, he will provide for you.

Jesus leaders understand that where God leads his people he also provides for them. So, Jesus leaders walk into the unknown and challenge those they lead to do the same. Is the unknown scary? Yes. Are Jesus leaders fearful? Certainly. Everyone has fear. That’s not the question.

The question is who or what will you fear?

Jesus leaders know the only answer to that question. They must fear God. So, they step out of the boat and onto the water trusting God will drown their fear in his love.


If you’re not offending Pharisees and giving hope to the marginalized, you’re probably not leading like Jesus. That’s bold, but true. The church needs more leaders like Jesus. I want to challenge you to become a Jesus leader and follow Jesus leaders.

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Click here to sign up to the Heavenly Realms page. 

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Want to join us? Vision for our Governmental Hub

24ff0456d6b0a1de44107bed52244983We have been given a mandate to set up a governmental hub/apostolic resource centre to facilitate the emergence of a heavenly Ecclesia.

We believe this will be the emergence of new expressions not run by paid pastors, but by facilitators allowing the full expression of gifts, the callings of all and the building of organic quickly reproducible expressions, which will use resources from all areas. We see at the moment it will be a combination of heavenly realms principles, organic church principles and one United body.

We and many others do not sense that this will be remodelling traditional churches predominately.

Our mandate is to:
  1. Develop materials to enable people to understand heavenly realms  revelations.
  2. Communicate the principles in the heavenly Ecclesia blueprint doc.
  3. See the Raising up hangouts for different levels and going into heaven together and one on one discipling  in the new blueprint who understand multiplication of groups and each other’s lives (not spiritual addition).
  4. Facilitate benches of 3 meeting around a scroll.
  5. Train up hub leaders who understand how to prevent the return to traditional church ethos.
  6. Promote all aspects of the body not just our own to see one United body.
  7. Help understand good learning principles.

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Possible values of a new ecclesia
  • Intimacy with God.
  • Replicating “as it is in heaven”.
  • Raising up the new generation through “one anothering”.
  • 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.

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Join our Facebook page: Ecclesia Framework to receive regular updates and daily updated content.

Click here to sign up to the Heavenly Realms page. 

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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

 

Tired of being a Church Tweaker?

Church-Tweaker-1

Why I broke down in tears at “The Future of the Church Summit”

This is probably one of the best videos I have ever seen on the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you tired of making adjustments (Tired of being a Church Tweaker) to the current model of Church? Are you ready to have you heart and mind opened to what the Lord intends to do in the 21st Century? I dare you to take time to hear this video.

Much love to all

Jose

According to Josh Packard in his scrupulously researched book, Church Refugees, there are currently 65,000,000 believers in the USA who are “done” with church, but not their faith. These are not the so-often-caricaturized “rebellious” “wounded” and “bitter” “Jezebels” and “heretics.” These are often the best and the brightest, the finest and the most committed to Christ. There are another 7,000,000 “on their way to being done.” There are currently 65,000,000 in the US who self-identify as being part of an organized church. Folks, half, or greater, of those who confess Christ in the USA, are DONE.

Do you not think that some self-reflection in leadership is in order instead of self-defensiveness, excuses, rationalizations, self-justifications, program-tweaking, accusations, and labeling of everyone who leaves as “having a problem with authority” and other slanderous labels? I propose that thinking 65,000,000 people are all “rebels” “missing God” and “outside of His will” to be a preposterous, and outlandish proposition grounded in hubris, because of issues of ego, money, control, and power that make self-reflection impossible.

Could it not be that maybe there is something fundamentally out of whack in what we have been calling “church” and “leadership” in the west? Could it not be that 65,000,000 folks might have a point or two worth considering rather than labeling, black-listing, and scape-goating them?

Steve Crosby

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Join our Facebook page: Ecclesia Framework to receive regular updates and daily updated content.

Click here to sign up to the Heavenly Realms page. 

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Stumbling Blocks to Accessing Heaven 

Written by Jane Johnson, founder of Ecclesia Framework

keystoheavenOne of my longstanding mandates from the lord has been to remove the stumbling a blocks out of the way of gods people.

These are some stumbling blocks  I have discerned in the heavenly realms that can or are stopping people from entering fully the holy of holies.

Fear of man.

Fear of heresy.

Fear of things not being in the bible or as revealed by current teachers.

Fear of letting our imagination be free and having faith as a little child.

Lack of excellence – saying it is okay to have different expressions of church so miss the biblical / heavenly blueprint.

Fear of lack of community and so holding on to old wineskins.

Trading on wrong platforms maybe even attending a church not based on good principles.

Holding on to old mandates / areas of service.

Believing not worthy to give to anyone or I will give when I know more.

Always want to cleanse and never feeling good enough.

Stubbornness to change – always done it this way or that way won’t work.

Spirit of greed just wanting the blessing for our own circumstances.

Deaf and dumb spirit caused by feeling comfortable, having a fixed mindset and setting up camp in one place spiritually.

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Join our Facebook page: Ecclesia Framework to receive regular updates and daily updated content.

Click here to sign up to the Heavenly Realms page. 

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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 at https://www.linkedin.com/profile/viewid=287940854&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

 

Groups/Mentoring

Wanted hangout group leaders and mentors/ coaches

Want to help others grow in an online messenger group ??church-family-images-_4440318_orig

We are looking for people who feel fairly competent and like sharing experiences and helping answer questions around heavenly realms. Join a great community currently around 40 odd people . Managing the group in future is an option

Anyone else welcome to join – just message us privately and befriend Jane johnson on Facebook to join – https://goo.gl/NK7BLt

Think your calling may be around SETTiNG up a hub in the future ?

We have a messenger group to support you too and understand the heavenly blueprint. Just mention that private message to the group.

WHAT IS COACHING?coaching-signage

Basic Concept-

A – Where you are now.

B – How you are going to get there.

C – Where you want to go.

Coach facilitates coming up with own solutions not giving answers as often own answers are not appropriate for that personality or circumstances – assumption people know what is best for them and can discern this from God

Coaching can involve concepts such as-

  • moving forward, setting goals, keeping you on track, overcoming obstacles,
  • providing resources for moving forward,
  • planning time, directing to professional help, clarity, self-awareness, sounding board, challenge, validation, encouragement/enthusing

Expanding opportunities as opposed to solving crisis situations. If crisis may need to refer to specialist such as eating disorders, depression,

One Commonly Used Process – GROW MODEL

  • Goals – (where do you want to get to) – SMART Goals – (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound)
  • Reality – (where are you now)
  • Options – (Strategy)
  • Way forward – (Action points, Time frame, Evaluation of Options, Checking Obstacles and Motivation.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COACHING/ MENTORING/CONSULTING/COUNSELLING/ DISCIPLING

A. Mentoring-

  • drawing on own experience, not necessarily saying that you recommend doing this

B. Coaching-

  • Independent- keep questioning until they come up with solution, assuming they know best. Can ask about scriptures that they know of or what they feel God is asking of them. Important that listening, questioning and reflecting back represents 80% of the conversation not putting your own point of view or preaching at someone.

C. Discipling-

  • Bringing in more scriptures, maybe words, prophecy, looking at whole walk and assessing elements to work on and including prayer.

D. Consulting-

  • Expert giving advice- recommended course of action- in-depth analysis of situation and then often a report is presented

E. Counselling-

  • Many different models but often more of an emphasis on drawing on past- fixing problem,
  • often -expert presenting solution after questioning,
  • Not so action orientated and goal focused,
  • more dealing with acute, crisis situations rather than trying to make something better.
BENEFITS OF COACHING (IMPORTANT TO KNOW TO KEEP MOTIVATION)church-unity-cross
  • Helps deal with stumbling blocks or fear/ confidence
  • More likely to see change as there is accountability
  • Tailored to an individual where they are – as opposed to teaching
  • Deals with sabotaging behaviour not just knowledge or skills
  • Provides encouragement and acknowledgement which are so important to growth
  • Challenges individual to move out of their comfort zone but can also be a reality check.
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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.

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.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

 

Pastor Idolatry; Who’s Responsible?

churchidolBy Jose Bosque

The church has been on a pendulum swing for two thousand years from extremes of totally adoring leaders or some individualistic notion that “we don’t need anyone but God.”  In my twenty-five years of ministry, I have personally experienced moments of extreme adoration (when all is going well) and the awful disillusionment following unhealthy confrontations. I have ridden the full spectrum of the pendulum from highs to lows, both as a disciple and as a mentor.

It has always been the plan of the Father to reveal His nature to man through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man.

The Father understood human nature and how we need visible examples with skin on them. Today it is no different. For proper discipleship to take place, we need to see examples of Godly men who are following hard after Christ.

The Lord Jesus instituted no seminaries, he left no religious how to books, nor catechisms, nor baptism classes, and he left no Mecca for people to go to whether that be Jerusalem, Redding California or Kansas City Missouri. His discipleship plan takes time so there is no intensive available. The plan calls for a son to follow a father. Disciples need fathers and fathers are made for sons. No one can father himself!

Mal 4:6

6And he will turn

The hearts of the fathers to the children,

And the hearts of the children to their fathers,

Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” NKJV

Where is the biblical balance?  Who is responsible for maintaining the proper relationship in which God gets the glory He deserves?

Let’s begin by looking at the two extremes Pastor Idolatry:

Extreme Adoration

Extreme adoration can cause us to surrender our right and responsibility to judge what is said, to the point of complete and unquestionable obedience to the pastor.  These “little popes” move about in their mini-kingdoms, followed by their entourage like celebrities.  To question them is to question God.  It is common to hear things like: “I love my pastor!” from the congregation, instead of: “I love how the Lord uses them.” These disciples have become emotionally attached to the point that, even when these leaders are found to be in some type of blatant sin, they continue to worship and adore them with their full allegiance.  This is “not healthy.”

Extreme Individualism

Extreme individualism is the famous “I do not need anyone to lead me” syndrome.  If you ask such a person, they get all of their direction straight from God by way of the Holy Spirit.  Forget that the Lord created the church to be a body with many parts.  So any limitation or direction coming through others is nothing but the devil.  They do not see any value in fivefold leadership and equipping, because “they hear from God.”  They are usually found in clumps with other rebellious friends who think like they do.  Truly, the phrase “birds of a feather flock together:” is fitting.  Many hurt and immature believers fall into this trap and, should you go near them, you will hear them tearing down some leader (usually the one they just left).  Lots of what they are saying may be true.  But, that is not the godly way to deal with such matters.

For years many leaders have taught New Testament believers on this subject from Old Testament models such as Elijah and Elisha.  Nothing wrong with some of the concepts, but if we are now going to dig for the apostolic foundations upon which the church is being built; we must begin our search from the book of Acts forward.

Acts 14:11-15

11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you,

In the verses above we read of the response of the masses to the miracles and the gifts in Paul and Barnabus—not unlike what we see in some of the church today.  I share these verses to show you who should be responsible for making sure that nothing is attributed directly to them.  The Lord certainly does not hold the immature believers guilty for doing in the church what they did in the world prior to their conversion.  It is the leaders’ responsibility to understand these things and keep the relationships pure between leader and disciple.

1 Tim 3:13

For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

The above verses concern deacons and the “good standing” that the exercise of their gift provides. If that is so, then how much more does an elder have to watch out for, so that this “good standing” doesn’t get out of hand and become hero worship?

There are many verses in which Paul and Peter attempted to balance the disciples thinking and give glory to God. Here are just a few;

1 Cor 15:10 I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

2 Cor 12:11 for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.  

Gal 6:3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  

Phil 3:12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected;  

1 Peter 5:3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;

Many leaders today have understood the man-made clergy/laity distinctive is not biblical.  Yet, we have not fully unloaded the baggage that came from our prior thinking. The hardest error to see is your own that is why the proper word for a New Testament leader is elder, and it is always found in plural such as in the presbytery and, no, a paid staff is not a presbytery.

Here are some of the ways we uphold the clergy – laity separations and say worship me;

  1. Our Dress– whether it’s a suit or robe
  2. Our Seating– Higher, on the platform or behind a myriad of religious furniture
  3. Our Titles– gone are the biblical titles of brother and sister. If you serve they have to put something in front of your name.
  4. Use of Ownership Pronouns– My Church, My ministry, My people
  5. Illusions of Grandeur- Banners and signs with“Come hear our Pastor”
  6. Remaining Untouchable – Not having time for the sheep, always busy when they call. 
  7. Drawing attention to Yourself- with special entrances, lights, and  music
  8. Taking God’s Glory- Making sure everyone knows it was you who did it. I call it “grandstanding”  after a miracle, healing or a special move of God.

What should a leader do?

We should humble ourselves before the Lord and the disciples we have been entrusted to watch over. We should lift Jesus up as the sole recipient of any Glory and the central figure in our midst. Finally we should refuse to take adoration and worship when an immature believer applauds us for something we know only the Lord does.

Is it easy? No.  But, I tell you, this we are living in a time when the Lord Jesus Christ wants His church back. She is His bride and He will not share her with mortal men.

May the Lord use us greatly in the coming days and May the Lord Jesus Christ get all the glory due His name!

Jose L. Bosque

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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.

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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.

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.

Click here to sign up to the Heavenly Realms page. 

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The Organic Church

organic-church1By Milt Rodriguez 

WHAT IS IT EXACTLY?

The term “organic church” is often used as a synonym for “house church,” “simple church,” or “home church.” But this is not correct. There are huge differences between an authentic organic church and a group of people who meet in a living room and call themselves a church.

Coined by T. Austin-Sparks, an “organic church” is a church that lives and gathers according to the spiritual reality that the church (ekklesia) is a spiritual organism rather than an institutional organization.

FIVE MYTHS ABOUT ORGANIC CHURCHES 

In organic churches, nothing is organized and everything is spontaneous. Not so. Just as a physical body has a specific expression and contains organization, so do organic churches. The members plan and arrange when and how they meet. Such planning is completely consistent with spiritual life. God Himself plans and arranges.

  • An organic church has no leadership. Not so. Leadership comes from every member of the body at different times. Different people lead according to their different gifts and ministries. In the organic church, all are priests, ministers, and functioning parts of the body just as the New Testament teaches. Leadership is open, participatory, and fluid.
  • Organic church is the same thing as post-church. Not so. Organic churches can be visited. They meet in real locations on a regular basis. They aren’t ghost churches. (Click here to read a critique of the post-church view.)

  • Organic churches always meet in homes. Not so. While organic churches do not own or possess “sacred” religious buildings, they can meet in any location. Whether a home, coffee shop, clubhouse, park, rented building, etc.

*Organic church is a unified movement. Not so. Many Christians use the word “organic church” to describe very different expressions of church, even institutional churches. We’ve recommended some books and articles below to help bring clarity to this term.

SEVEN CHARACTERISTICS OF AN ORGANIC CHURCH

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • The members of the church are learning to live by the life of Jesus Christ together and are expressing that life in tangible ways.
  • The members are pursuing Jesus in their life together and sharing Him in their gatherings and community life.

  • There is no clergy/laity divide. Every member functions and participates. All have different ministries and roles, and all contribute in the ministry and decision-making.

  • Jesus is the head in a real discernable way.

  • The church has been founded on Christ, not a certain theological system, a set of practices, a method, or a human personality. While God uses people to root the church in a real on-going relationship with Jesus, such people point to Jesus rather than to themselves.

  • *The church is not a once-a-week meeting. The members of an organic church meet often. They live as a face-toface community.

    • The church stands for and seeks to fulfill God’s eternal purpose. They don’t meet for a special interest such as evangelism, discipleship, social justice, spiritual gifts, church multiplication, but for God’s ultimate intention which may include yet transcends all of these things.

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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.

    Click here to sign up to the Heavenly Realms page. 

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    WHAT IS ORGANIC CHURCH? AN INTERVIEW WITH NEIL COLE & FRANK VIOLA

    organic_churchAs simply as you can, define what “Church” looks like to you in practical terms. (Looking for an example of how an “Organic Church” would function – how a typical meeting might look – in your version of “Organic” church). What is your definition of “Organic Church”?

    Neil: Many scholars attempt to describe church with a list of ingredients that they believe are found in the New Testament. Here is a typical list: a group of believers that gather together regularly and believe themselves to be a church. They have qualified elders and practice baptism, communion and church discipline and agree on a doctrinal foundation and have some sort of missional purpose.

    I have no problem with these ingredients being a part of church, though not all of them are indeed biblical (no where in the NT does it say that we have to consider ourselves a church to be a church—that is a cultural reaction to calling bible studies or parachurch organizations churches. There are also NT churches that have not had elders appointed yet on the first missionary journey—Acts 14:21-25). I believe that this understanding of church is missing the most essential ingredient: Jesus! If we can define church without Jesus than we can do church without Jesus and that is a tragedy at best and treason at worst.

    In CMA, we have defined church this way: The presence of Jesus among His people, called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet. Church begins and ends with Jesus among us. All the typical ingredients listed to describe church were in the upper room in Acts chapter one but the church really began in Acts chapter two when only one other important ingredient was added: the Spirit of God showed up! God among us is what makes us any different from the Elks Club.

    For us church functions like a family, and family is not just for an hour and a half one day a week. We eat together and live together. We do get together, but not only for serious meetings. We meet up during the week for coffee or a meal and hold each other accountable to following Jesus in Life Transformation Groups. My spiritual family often get together to reach out to others, at cafes or with release time outreach at elementary schools and in the marketplace where we all work. We also go to the movies or on hikes together during the week.

    Church is not an event, a place or an organization; it is a family on mission together. We must emphasize this shift in understanding. As such we are not defined by a meeting, though we do meet. When we meet we do not have a routine that must always be done. But for the sake of helping people get a feel for the ebb and flow of our lives I will try to describe what our time is usually like when we do get together.

    When we do have meetings, we do not presume to have an agenda, but to gather, listen to God and one another. We worship, sometimes with music. About half of the songs we have are original songs written by people in our movement. In our meetings we do not have a set list of songs that are rehearsed, but rather we sing the songs that He puts on people’s hearts as the Spirit leads. We sing until we feel like we have changed our perspective of things from having been in His presence. We may then keep singing if that is what He leads us to do, but often we share next what is going on in our lives.

    We have a little poem (not the height of poetry by any means) that is usually said by anyone in the group to start the share time. We do this so that even young kids can lead in the church and when people start a new church they know what can get the interaction started:

    Does anyone have praises or prayer requests, a word from the Lord or a sin to confess?

    We all share what God is saying and doing in our lives and we all pray for what is happening. This could be all we do for the entire evening as well.

    We usually open the Bible, read a passage and discuss it. Right now we are going chapter-by-chapter through Acts but this is not routine and we often turn to something else at the leading of the Spirit. We do not have any preparation for this time, as we are not the ones in charge, Jesus is. Our time in the word, however, is not simply pooling ignorance because of the following reasons:

    1. We are all listening to the Head of the church and He is not ignorant, and
    2. Because of Life Transformation Groups, most of us are all reading large volumes of scripture throughout the week repetitively and in context, so our observations in the scriptures are actually quite insightful. The Spirit of the Lord working in each of us is the teacher, and we are all learners.

    When a good question arises or even some false teaching, a leader of the group does not usually step forward and decide the issue for everyone. Rather, we pray and ask the Lord to help us out. Then we ask what insight the Spirit may have given to each of us. The body responds, not the pastor. This empowers everyone to react to false teaching or to find solutions to difficult questions, not just then but anytime. We are also quite comfortable with three little words: I don’t know.

    We usually pray and sing and eat until it is time to head home. We may also watch the Lakers play a game or go to a movie. Hope that helps some. As you can see we are not set on a routine and do not have a formal agenda, though we do have some consistent but very flexible patterns. Oh, and we do not have an offering that is passed in my own church. Some of the churches in CMA do, but we do not have that as a set responsibility of church. What we do have is generous people of God who give, not just money but property hospitality and time, to those who are in need.

    Frank: I’m of the opinion that the New Testament only knows one kind of church, and it’s organic. The ekklesia is a living organism not an institutional organization.

    I’ve been using the word “organic church” or “organic expression of the church” for over 16 years. And I give credit to T. Austin-Sparks for the phrase. For Sparks and I, an organic church is a group of Jesus followers who are discovering how to live by Divine life together and who are expressing that life in a corporate way.

    Jesus said “as the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father, so he who partakes of me shall live by me.” Paul echoed these words in Colossians when he said that the mystery of the ages is “Christ in you,” and that “Christ is our life” (see also Gal. 2:20; Rom. 8:9-17).

    Consequently, when God’s people learn how to live by the indwelling life of Christ together, a certain expression of community life naturally emerges. So for me, the word “organic” has to do with life – God’s life. The organic expression of the church comes up from the soil; it’s not mechanical. While it has organization (or an expression) – as all living organisms do – the organization (or expression) comes about naturally from the life, not through human manipulation, religious ritual, or legalism.

    Put another way, organic church life is very ancient. It precedes Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Instead, it finds its headwaters in the fellowship of the Triune God before time. When humans touch that fellowship together, experience it, and make it visible on What Is Organic Church? Interview with Neil Cole & Frank Viola by Keith Giles page 4 of 17 the earth, you have the life of the ekklesia, i.e., organic church life (1 John 1:1-3; John 17:20-24).page39_picture0_slide_1328233279

    I left the institutional church 22 years ago and have gathered with numerous organic expressions of the church (completely outside the religious institutional system) ever since. I’ve seen a lot during those years – experimented with a lot, experienced some of the high glories of body life, the difficulties and struggles, and have made lots of mistakes as well. I’m still learning and discovering.

    Regarding what an organic expression of the church looks like, here are some of its characteristics:

    *The members meet often, not out of guilt or obligation, but because the Spirit draws them together naturally to fellowship, share, and express their Lord (ekklesia literally means an assembly or meeting).

    *Jesus Christ is their living, breathing Head. The members make Christ profoundly central, preeminent, and they pursue and explore His fullness together. In short, the church is intoxicated with the Lord Jesus.

    *They take care of each other, have open-participatory meetings where every member functions, make decisions together, and follow the Spirit’s leading for outreach and inreach, both in their proper season.

    *They are learning how to live by Christ and express Him corporately in endless variety and creativity to both the lost and the found.

    *The condemnation and guilt is gone. The members experience the liberty and freedom that is in Christ, experience and express His unfailing love, and are free to follow Him out of genuine love rather than guilt, duty, obligation, condemnation, shame and guilt – the typical “tools” that are used to motivate God’s people.

    *They are missional in the sense that they understand “the mission” to be God’s eternal purpose, which goes beyond human needs to the very reason why God created the universe in the first place. And they give themselves wholly to that mission. (I’ll speak more on the eternal purpose later.)

    *After the foundation of the church is laid, it is able to meet on its own without a clergy or human headship that controls or directs it. The church can sustain herself by the functioning of every member; it doesn’t need a clergy system for direction or ministry.

    These features are contained within the spiritual DNA of the ekklesia no matter where or when she is born. For they are the attributes of God Himself, the source and headwaters of body life.

    Regarding your question about what an organic church meeting looks like, that’s really impossible to answer. The reason: authentic organic churches have an infinite way of expressing Christ in their gatherings.

    Perhaps the best I can do is describe a few meetings that one of the organic churches that my co-workers and I are presently working with have had recently. None of these descriptions will do the gatherings justice, but perhaps they may give some impression of what a good meeting looks like (not all meetings are good by the way – some are unmentionable! 🙂 ).

    Last month, the church had a meeting that it prepared for over the course of a month. The church broke up into groups of 3 and began to pursue the Lord Jesus outside of the meetings during the week. The members all came together at a scheduled day and time to worship, exalt, and reveal Christ. The theme of the meeting was Jesus Christ as the Land of Canaan. The meeting included a full banquet feast, which was really the Lord’s Supper (first-century style). The church feasted and then each group began to share Christ as the Land.

    One group shared how the vine and the fruit of the vine were a shadow of Jesus. Another group shared Christ as the olive oil; another shared Christ as the milk and honey. Another shared Him as the wheat. Sprinkled throughout the sharing – which was incredibly rich – were prayers, declarations, songs, all of which were spontaneous.

    This meeting went on for over 3 hours. It was a gully-washer. No human being led or facilitated the meeting. There were also elaborate creations and visual displays in the meeting place made by the church that went along with the theme.

    I didn’t attend this particular meeting, but the reports I heard were amazing. People were profoundly touched. Visitors who came were blown out of the water. They had never seen a group of Christians put Christ on display like that, and without anyone leading, giving cues, or facilitating. The depth of insight, richness, and reality of Christ coming through the believers was without peer. Jesus Christ was revealed, declared, unveiled, glorified, and made visible by the every-member functioning of His body.

    On another occasion, each member of the church took a name of the Lord in Scripture. (e.g., Bread of Life, Lion of Judah, Sweet Rose of Sharon, the Great Shepherd, Alpha and Omega, The Branch, etc.). During the week the members sought the Lord concerning the name they selected and came to share Him together in the gathering. The meeting was electric. Christ was revealed in a multitude of different ways. New light was shed on each of His names, all pointing to His glorious Person.

    Another meeting was a rather unique way of expressing the Lord through Colossians. The church had immersed herself in the book of Colossians for four months (in some very creative ways). They then planned a meeting where they reconstructed the Colossian church.

    Each member acted out a character from the Colossian church. Some created their own names (some names were quite comical). Others played the part of some of the Colossians mentioned in the New Testament (Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, etc.) For weeks the church broke up into pairs to plan and prepare for the gathering. They then had an entire meeting where they reconstructed the situation in Colosse. If you had walked into that meeting, you were seeing the Colossian church dramatized. People even dressed up for their parts.

    At the end of the meeting, someone who played Tychicus came into the gathering with a letter from Paul and read the whole letter to the church. Incredible light was shed on the letter, as it addressed all the problems that the Colossian church (through drama) was shown to have had. We all awed at the Lord as Paul presented Christ in this magnificent epistle.

    I could multiply many more examples, but I hope you get the drift. Note that the people who are part of these churches aren’t spectacular Christians nor are they professionally trained. They are “the timid, the weak, the lame, and the blind” . . . just like I am. Ordinary believers without any special titles, degrees, or formal theological education. In this way, they are much like the early believers we read about in our New Testaments (the exception being that most of us are able to read and write). 🙂

    Some meetings are planned with a theme that the Lord gives the group (as the above examples). Other times the meetings are completely spontaneous without any planning or direction. But spiritual preparation normally takes place, else the meetings will be rather poor. The meetings are the overflow of the spiritual life of the community; hence, all the believers come to give rather than to receive. (In the institutional church system, this order is reversed.)

    Again, these meetings have no leaders present directing, facilitating, or coordinating. The Spirit takes that job. I’ll add that I’ve seen unbelievers visit these sorts of meetings where no one said a word about “being saved,” and the unbeliever would fall to their knees and profess that “God is here, and I want to know Him!” Strikingly, this comes straight out of the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 14).

    Also, the churches have all sorts of meetings – some for decision-making, some where the men creatively bless the women and vice versa, some for the children, some for specific prayer, some for fun, some to share the gospel with the lost, some for spiritual training and retreats, etc. But everything is “in season.” (The seasonal nature of the body of Christ is a special feature of organic church life. All life forms pass through seasons. This element is virtually unknown in organized Christianity.)

    Note also that the churches I’m speaking of have been equipped to know the Lord together, to pursue Him together, to express Him with unlimited creativity, and to function in a coordinated way under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Part of this equipping is “detoxification” from a religious and institutional mindset, and being equipped to know Christ in profound depths. (One of the most common remarks that people make when they get involved in this kind of church life is, “I thought I knew the Lord well; but I now realize I didn’t know Him well at all.”)

    Thus the normative passivity that flows through the bloodstream of the typical pewsitting Christian has been drained out of them. Instead, they’ve been captured by a vision and an ongoing experience with the Lord Jesus that has dramatically affected them. I’ve been changed by the experience. Yet what impresses me just as much or more than the meetings is the remarkable way the believers take care of one another in organic church life. But that’s another story.

    As you understand it, how would you describe one another’s definition of this same term? (I’m looking for how you two understand each other’s positions here)

    Frank: I’m really not sure as Neil and I have never discussed this. But my impression is that the term “organic church” for Neil boils down to rapid multiplication of Christian groups with the goal of trying to win lost people by going to the places where they spend their time. It also includes a method of discipleship in very small groups which includes Bible reading and personal accountability questions. This may or may not be accurate, but it’s my impression.

    Neil and I have shared the conference platform on two occasions, and from hearing him speak, it seems to me that the major difference is one of emphasis. I also think he may emphasize the church scattered where I tend to emphasize the church gathered. But in my world, the church gathered is nothing like an institutional church “service.” For us, the gathering of the ekklesia is related to God’s highest intention, i.e., His eternal purpose. God has had an “eternal purpose” that’s been beating in His heart from the beginning of time, l

    ong before humans fell. That purpose is what provoked Him to create, and He’s never let go of it. The eternal purpose of God isn’t the salvation of humans or to make the world a better place. (Remember, the Fall hadn’t occurred when He created.) There was something else He had in His heart before He said “let there be.”

    That purpose has to do with obtaining a bride, a house, a body, and a family, all of which are by Him, through Him, and to Him. The purpose of God is not centered on the needs of humanity, but rather, to meet a desire in God Himself. So God’s end is to have a bride, a house, a body, and a family in every city on the planet. The ekklesia – properly conceived and functioning – indeed benefits humanity and blesses the world that God made; but His goal for her is higher than that.

    Having Christ formed in us is an important aspect of God’s purpose (Rom. 8:28-29; Ga. 4:19). But for us, we don’t use any of the typical discipleship methods to accomplish this. Instead, we have learned how to encounter the Lord Jesus in Scripture together, to seek His face, to fellowship with Him, to be in His presence, and to share and express Him to one another.

    This typically happens in groups of two and three during the week (sometimes in the early mornings), but also in the corporate gatherings. I call these groups “pursuit teams” – teams that pursue the Lord. The focus is not on us but on Christ. Paul said that we are transformed by “turning to the Lord” and “beholding His glory” – so that’s a large part of our church life experience (2 Cor. 3:16-18). In short, we experience together – in pursuit teams and as a church – perceiving and following the Lord’s indwelling life, What Is Organic Church? Interview with Neil Cole & Frank Viola by Keith Giles page 8 of 17 allowing God to shape us by it. That, to my mind, is what spiritual formation/transformation is all about.

    Watchman Nee once pointed out that when the Lord called people to His work, their God-given ministries were often prefigured by their secular occupations.

    For instance, when the Lord called Peter, he was casting his net and bringing fish onto the shore. What was true in the natural ended up being true in the spiritual. Peter’s ministry centered on fishing for men. His emphasis was evangelism, and he brought many lost people to Christ (just think of Pentecost in Acts 2).

    When the Lord apprehended Paul, he was building tents. And his future ministry reflected this. Paul was more of a spiritual builder, a “master builder” as he put it in 1 Corinthians 3. His emphasis was to build the church into the fullness of Christ. So Paul spent most of his time grounding and enriching the believing communities to gather under the Headship of Christ, establishing them deeply into Christ, unveiling to them God’s eternal purpose – or “the whole counsel of God” as he once put it.

    When the Lord apprehended John, he was mending a torn net. We see in John’s later writings (1 John, 2 John, and 3 John) that he is bringing the church back to center . . . back to first things . . . back to “the beginning” of Christ as life, love, and light in a time when these elements had been lost. The tent that Paul built was falling apart during John’s day, so John prophetically began to repair it by restoring God’s original thought, bringing His eternal purpose back into view.

    So Peter casts the net, Paul builds the tent, and John mends the tent. All three men were Christian workers in the Lord’s vineyard, but each had a different emphasis and disposition.

    In my observation, Neil is a lot like Peter. His major focus seems to going out to the sea, casting the net, and bringing the fish on dry land and encouraging God’s people to do the same. Some have described my on-the-ground ministry to be more like Paul’s – the building of the tent – the constructive work of building the house of God to fulfill the eternal purpose “from eternity to here.” By contrast, my writing ministry in books like Pagan Christianity and Jesus Manifesto are very much along the lines of John’s ministry of repairing the torn net.

    Whether that’s accurate or not, here’s my point. The ministries of Peter, Paul, and John are not to compete with one another. Instead, they are to complement one another. The body of Christ needs the ministries of Peter, Paul, and John. And each person needs the other.

    That’s how the terrain looks from my hill, anyway.

    Neil: From my reading, I assume that Frank and I are pretty close to seeing church as a body connected to the Head. Jesus is the main thing for both of us and we both emphasize that in our teaching. If there is a difference I believe that Frank exalts the purpose of the church and I tend to emphasize the purpose of disciple-making. Not that we don’t both teach both, but we do have our own priorities. These could be simply different focus rather than a difference of opinion. How organic church starts and multiplies is probably different in our minds.

    Does the model of church really matter? Isn’t it more important what fruit is produced or how the people in the church grow spiritually?

    Neil: Well, I tend to agree with this statement, but…if reproduction and multiplication is desired, model of church is an important consideration. More complex models will not empower ordinary people nor reproduce easily. Another important consideration is that many models tend to usurp the leading of Jesus with our plans, personalities and programs.

    The more scripted the church is the less spontaneity will be possible. We cannot expect Jesus to lead if we are all busy maintaining the script and all our time together is scheduled down to the fraction of every second.

    This may step on a lot of toes but a performance with preaching on Sunday mornings (or Saturday for some) is not conducive to a changed life or a responsive body. If the body wants to have a gathering where they praise, preach and pass the plate, fine, but if that is your sole model of church and where you think the most important work is done and than you have a bankrupt model of church. Our society today is reflective of that bankruptcy, and we must make some changes now. It is the forth quarter and we are down by twenty…it is time for a shift. I believe that organic church is not a model but a mindset that can work in any model…but will work better in some models than others.

    I also believe that any model that is built upon a hierarchy of leadership is probably less healthy in most aspects. When a few are responsible to hear from God and tell the rest what God is saying the church is separated from God by a middle-man and that is not what Jesus died and rose to birth. We are all priests in His kingdom and we all have direct access to God. None are more spiritual, more connected or more responsible for the advancement of the Kingdom, but all are agents directly connected to the King Himself.

    Frank: For me, organic church is a shared-life in Christ; it’s not a model. It’s not about a new structure; it’s about a new relationship with the Lord Jesus. One that is real, intimate, deep, and corporate. A common remark that my co-workers and I hear from people who attend our conferences is, “I came here to learn how to ‘do organic church,’ and instead, I received a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    The idea that church is an “event” or an “organization” was foreign to the New Testament believers. For them, the ekklesia was a community of people who lived a shared-life together in Christ and who gathered together regularly to express the fullness of Jesus. Their minds thought in terms of “us” and “we” rather than “I” and “me.”

    Their identity was tied to their union with Christ and their bond with one another. They pursued their Lord together, expressed Him together in regular meetings, took care of one another, married one another, and buried one another. Think of it as an extended household . . . a new polis (city) that is blind to race, social status, economic standing, etc. They were a new kind of humanity . . . a new civilization . . . the “third race” as the ancient Christians called themselves, where all earthly distinctions, separations, and barriers were not recognized.

    The church was a colony from heaven . . . a community of “resident aliens” on this earth . . . the corporate manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself . . . a microcosm of the kingdom of God . . . the house of the living God where the heavens and the earth intersect and meet . . . the foretaste of the New Jerusalem and the aftertaste of the fellowship of the Godhead that has been going on from before time. In short, a local church that is functioning properly is Jesus Christ on the earth (see 1 Cor. 12:12). And therein do you have yet another definition of organic church.

    For those who are burdened for evangelism and being missional to a post-Christian country (as the USA now is), the ekklesia – when she’s functioning the way God intended – is the greatest evangelist on the planet. There’s nothing that bears witness more to the reality of Jesus as the world’s true Lord than a group of believers who share their lives together and demonstrate what the kingdom of God looks like. This point is completely overlooked by those who would argue that the expression (structure) of the church doesn’t matter.

    By contrast, today’s Christianity is very individualistic – this is true both in and outside the organized church. But authentic Christianity is intensely corporate and therein was their power and testimony.

    A careful reading of the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles shows no distinction between being a Christian, being saved, being a disciple, and being a functioning member of a local body of believers. (I’ve discussed this point at length in another place where I added a plea to learn our history regarding modern discipleship methods.) Note that when Luke describes how Paul and Barnabas planted the church in Derbe, he says they preached the gospel to the city and “made many disciples” (Acts 14:20-21, NASB & NKJV).

    The organic expression of the church in a given place is the true habitat of every child of God. Separating spiritual growth (“discipleship”) from the ekklesia (properly functioning) is like separating child-rearing from the family. This again touches evangelism. One of the young men in an organic church that I relate to was a leader in a very large para-church organization that’s known for evangelism. About a year ago, he said to me after one of our gatherings, “I just go back from one of our leadership conferences and the more they talked about saving the lost, the more disinterested I was. I come to these meetings here and while nothing is said about evangelism, I’m so excited about my Lord that I want to share Him with others. There’s no guilt or duty in it at all. I’m fired up about Him.”

    Properly conceived, the ekklesia is the environment in with we live, move, and have our beings. While it will never produce perfect Christians who are beyond making mistakes (we will all make mistakes on this side of the veil), their depth in Christ is unmistakable. So for me at least, it’s not about a different model, but about a different habitat. Those interested in learning more may want to take a listen to an audio excerpt where seven members of a fairly new organic church answered common questions about organic church life at a recent conference (Threshold 2010). The excerpt contains only one question that they answered (there were 7 questions in all). The question was: How has your relationship with Jesus Christ changed since you’ve been part of organic church life? People can listen to it here.

    How do you define – and better yet practice – the idea of leadership in the model of church you promote?

    Neil: Leadership is not about a position, an office, or a title, it is influence. Leadership is not functioning as a delegated decision-maker for an absentee King. We are servants that distribute empowerment rather than delegate it. Leadership is all about connecting people to the King and allowing them to listen and follow His word. We do not need more servant leaders; we need more servants…period. Many leaders don’t mind being called a servant; they just don’t like being treated like one. To lead is basically to go first and let others follow your example. Often in the NT the words, “go before” or “stand before” is used to describe our leaders, but unfortunately they get translated as being above or over the others.

    There is a form of servant that exemplifies maturity and can point to spiritual children and even grandchildren in their lives. We need more of these servants in the body. Their role is to equip others to function in the likeness of Christ together. These are apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (Eph 4:11). They do not do the work but equip others to do it. For example: Evangelists are not called simply to reach the lost, but to equip the church to do so. Teachers are not called to teach the saints, but to equip the saints to teach. All are saints, so of course evangelists evangelize, that gives their equipping even more authority and practicality (besides, I can’t imagine an evangelist who wouldn’t). A teacher is good at teaching, but needs to be very good at training others to teach. We need to rediscover this type of leadership if we are going to change ourselves, and then the world.

    Frank: In my experience and observation, leadership in an organic expression of the church seems to fall into three categories:

    1) It’s expressed through itinerant traveling ministry where Christian workers lay the foundation for a new church, equip the believers to know the Lord deeply, to function together, to build community, and to have open-participatory meetings where Christ is made the visible, functioning Head. Their leadership is strong in the beginning, but then it literally leaves and moves to the periodic. You find this sort of leadership all over the New Testament in the ministries of Paul, Peter, Timothy, etc.

    2) It’s expressed by consensual decision-making where the believing community plans how they will pursue and reveal Christ week by week, how they will handle problems, and how they will take care of one another and serve the lost in their city.

    3) It’s expressed by the different giftings that will organically emerge in the community in time. Eventually shepherds will emerge who will care for those with needs, overseers will emerge who provide oversight, teachers will emerge who will bless the church with the ability to unveil Christ from the Scriptures, exhorters will emerge and function according to their giftings, etc. In other words, each person will lead according to their unique gifting. In this way, all believers lead in their own way.

    The goal of each expression of leadership is to lead the church to Jesus Christ, the true and only Head of the body.

    The interesting thing is that in this type of church life, we don’t use labels or titles. So the reality of the gifts and ministries are present, but in most cases, we don’t earmark or point them out. (Sometimes those who are engaged in itinerant ministry will acknowledge who the overseers are, but this is dependent on the specific situation of a particular church).

    In my experience, the believers in these types of churches are so busy pursuing and expressing the riches of Christ that “leadership” never comes up as an issue or subject. Jesus is their Head, and they seek to know and follow Him together. That’s about as much time they spend talking about leadership in the churches. It’s really a non-issue.

    I have the impression that it was this way for the early Christians too. Just count the number of times the words “elder”, “shepherd”, or “overseer” are mentioned in the New Testament, and then count the number of times Christ is mentioned or referred to. That says volumes, I think.

    Which scriptures would you point to as being reflective of your views concerning organic church?

    Frank: I’ve come to the conclusion that there are only two subjects in the entire Bible: Jesus Christ and His church. Everything else can be juiced down to those two realities.

    Someone may object by saying that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are the subjects of the Bible. But remember, the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ. God is Father because He has a Son. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and He has come to manifest and glorify Christ. Biblically speaking, there is no God outside of Jesus Christ. God is known in and through the Son.

    Jesus Himself said that “all Scripture testifies of me.” So Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is an unfolding of Christ and the church on every page. I add “church” because the church is never separate from Christ – it is His body and bride. She is depicted through many of the types of the Old Testament, such as all the brides of the Patriarchs, the tabernacle, the temple, the nation of Israel, etc.

    Jesus Himself incessantly talked about the church. In fact, He did so more than He did the Kingdom of God. If you’re only counting the word ekklesia you’ll completely miss this.

    Jesus never used the word “Trinity” or “Godhead,” yet every time He spoke of His Father and the Spirit, He was talking about the Triune God. In the same way, every time you see that little band of Twelve men and some women who lived in community with one another with Christ as Head, you’re looking at the prototype – the earthly embryo of the ekklesia – that Jesus Christ said He would build. And when the Lord spoke of the vine and the branches, “my brethren,” the light of the world, the salt of the earth, etc. He was referring to the church. If we understand what the Kingdom really is, we’ll discover that after the ascension of Christ, the Kingdom came in, with, and through the church.

    So for me, it’s not a matter of going to certain proof texts to build a model for church. It’s seeing the whole sweeping, epic saga of the biblical drama from Genesis to Revelation. And that drama is all about the Triune God known and expressed through Jesus Christ and His eternal quest for a bride, a house, a body, and a family (which is the church). I unfold this thesis in From Eternity to Here, which seeks (in an admittedly frail way) to unveil the eternal purpose of God – the mission to which we are all called – throughout the entire Bible. Once our eyes are opened to see His eternal purpose, we suddenly have a new Bible in our hands and a new vision of the Lord before our eyes. The Bible turns from blackand-white to Technicolor, and the Lord becomes infinitively greater to us.

    Neil: Wow, um, all of them? All scriptures are profitable for training in righteousness. In our training, we point to the parables of Christ a lot (especially Mark 4). Jesus’ usage of the word church in Matthew is important to us (2xs). Ephesians is a powerful treatise on church for us as well. Acts is foundational of our view of a church multiplication movement. The letters to the seven churches in Revelation is also very important to us.

    Have you ever met one another in person and/or read one another’s books?

    Neil: To my knowledge, we have met twice, emailed a couple times and talked on the phone once. I have read Pagan Christianity, How to Start a House Church, and Finding Organic Church. I skimmed Reimagining Church, but haven’t read it entirely yet. I think Pagan Christianity is Frank’s best work and we carry it in our online store. I am grateful that he invested the time to produce this seminal work. Thanks Frank. I have also listened to a couple of his talks online, visited his website a few times and read some of his articles. Frank: We’ve met face-to-face twice at conferences, but we didn’t have much time together. So far I’ve read one book by Neil and several articles.

    We have a number of  good mutual friends. I have a lot of respect for Neil and am thankful for his contribution to the body of Christ. I’ve made this statement to a few people, but I’ll say it publically for the first time. I’d love to see a Summit that includes all those who are pioneering and influencing the missional church movement/phenomenon to be locked in a room together for 3 days. The first day would be an informal “get to know one another” time, very casual and relaxed. The next day, each person would have a solid hour to share their heart, their burden, their vision, and their present work with everyone else. A time of questions from the group and answers would follow.

    We would all get to know one another better as people rather than from a distance as authors and speakers. If no homicides occurred during those 3 days :), it seems to me that the worst case scenario would be that we’d all better understand one another and what makes each of us tick. That alone would be worth the time, in my judgment. In the best-case scenario, we’d all be sharpened, adjusted, and perhaps we’d even see some colaboring going on in different degrees. And a lot of misunderstanding, assumptions, and confusion would disappear.

    I am pessimistic that someone could actually put such a Summit together; but if they were able to, I’d move heaven and earth to attend and participate. (I’d even offer to help with the planning.) Incidentally, Pagan Christianity is fairly well known, but it’s not my most important or best work. It’s just the first half of a conversation – the deconstructive part. Its objective is to blow the rocks out of the quarry. But that’s all it does. Reading it by itself is like listening to the first fifteen minutes of an hour-long phone conversation, then hanging up the phone – never knowing what was said afterward. For this reason, Pagan was never meant to be a stand-alone book. It’s part of a multi-volume series. My most important and best book (hands down) is From Eternity to Here with Jesus Manifesto perhaps tied neck-and-neck.

    What do you see as the most striking differences between your version of “Organic” church and the other person’s version? Why does it matter?

    Neil: Frank does not seem to be as favorable to multiplication movements as I am. I gather that he sees church taking a long time to mature to the place where it can give birth to another church, while I see reproduction as able to occur much faster. Ironically, we both point to Acts to support our point of view.

    I believe Frank teaches that one must be part of an organic church to start one and that an apostle must be involved. I think that is probably one of the best ways, but not the only way. It seems to me that Frank teaches that apostles start churches and that not everyone can do it. I tend to go the opposite direction and teach that anyone can start a family. Not everyone is an apostle and not everyone can lay a foundation for a church multiplication movement, but they can certainly reach their friends and start a spiritual family. Anyone that has Christ in them has what it takes to start a spiritual family. Some families are less inclined to reproduce rapidly and start a movement, because an apostolic and prophetic foundation is necessary for this.

    I also see that an apostolic foundation can be extended without the apostle needing to be present. Colossians, Hieropolis and Laodicea were begun by Epaphras but it was Paul who laid the apostolic foundation so he could write to them as their apostle even though they’d never seen his face (Col. 2:1-3).

    I see maturity for people and the church to be a life-long process so I believe that the church can reproduce throughout that process, even in the first year. We have experience in this as well. I have personally started probably six or seven churches, but grand-parented and great-grand-parented dozens more. Our training has catalyzed the start of thousands of churches. The church I currently am part of has been in existence for ten years and sent off 35+ church planters all around the world. It has birthed other networks and has several generations of churches.

    Frank emphasizes the spiritual life together connected to Jesus, and I admire that. We do as well, but we tend to emphasize apostolic mission much more in addition to the presence of Jesus and our nurturing relationships. I see church as the fruit of disciplemaking, not the other way around. Our life together is better because each of us is connected to Jesus, each other and our mission to the world. We refer to this as the DNA of organic church, which stands for Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission. We teach emphatically that all components of the DNA must be in every part of the church from the smallest unit of disciple in relation to another disciple. We teach that the components should not be supplanted, supplemented or separated. The organic life of the church springs from the DNA at work in the heart of disciples together.

    Frank: I think the only way we can accurately answer that question is if Neil and I sat down for several hours to discuss our views, observations, and experiences.

    I’m pretty convinced that Epaphras was a “sent one” who received training from Paul in Ephesus, then went back to his hometown in Colosse and planted a church there that met in Philemon’s home and in two other nearby cities in the Lycus valley. I detail this account elsewhere with documentation, but that’s a short riff.

    Regarding church multiplication, I’ll simply say that I believe in the multiplication of the church (I usually call it “transplantation”). But I don’t regard it as a template or metric of anything. In my experience and observation, as well as my study of the New Testament, a specific church should follow the Lord’s leading on when and how to multiply. Like so many other things in organic church life, discerning the season is imperative.

    Consequently, when and how to multiply a church is more of an art than a science. It’s dependent on the art of hearing the Spirit and rightly perceiving the season. Thus it will differ depending on the season of a particular church’s life, the spiritual maturity and development of the group, the kind of foundation that has been laid, and many other variables. If these elements are ignored, multiplication can easily lead to quick dissolution of one or both groups. That’s been my observation anyway.

    It’s also not wise to push toddlers outside of the home and expect them to reproduce. So again, I’m of the opinion that there’s a danger of making multiplication a method, a science, or even a goal. I believe the goal should be God’s eternal purpose, the heavenly vision that Paul labored under and that provoked him to plant and nurture organic believing communities.

    Regarding church planting, I don’t believe that an organic church can only come into existence by the hand of those who are called to plant churches. Organic church life can occur spontaneously . . . and it often does. As I write these words, it’s taking place right now among numerous college campuses across this country. The students who are touching and tasting it don’t know exactly what it is (except that it’s glorious), and they are probably not calling it “organic church life.” Yet the problem is that body life (the way I’ve been describing it) is extremely fragile, and it doesn’t last very long. It invariably dies within a short period of time. It either dissolves or it devolves into an institutional form and a clergy figure emerges to take it over.

    Its chances of survival are much better if there is experienced outside spiritual input that knows how to center the group on Christ, help prepare and navigate it through the inevitable pitfalls, and give it the kind of equipping to sustain it in a spiritual way without human organization or control. This sort of spiritual input can take many forms, but the traveling ministry of broken, experienced, Christ-centered, humble, and non-sectarian itinerants who eventually leave the group to the Lord is one of the most common in the New Testament narrative. It of course isn’t a panacea (nothing is), but it can be a tremendous benefit.

    As for the subject of movements, that’s too big of an issue to go into here, I think. And it’s quite complicated. (I plan to address it in the future.) I’ll just say that numbers don’t impress me at all. I grew up in a movement that stressed numbers and “counting.” The problem came with exaggerating the data (which is the scourge of virtually every movement – whether Christian or nonchristian). To get the “accurate/real” figure, you had to cut it in half and divide by two [Symbol] Einstein couldn’t be more correct when he said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

    I believe this applies to the work of God.

    All told, my impression is that Neil and I probably agree more than we may disagree. Both of us are often associated with “the house church movement,” yet I get the impression that we share a common feature here. Neither of us makes the home our center. The living room isn’t our passion. As I’ve often said, meeting in a home doesn’t make you a church anymore than sitting in a donut shop makes you a police officer. 🙂

    While a house has many advantages as a gathering place, there’s nothing magical about meeting in a living room. Not all house churches are “organic” (the way I’ve been using the word) – so “organic church” is not a synonym for “house church.” I suspect that Neil would agree with this.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………….

    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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    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

    …………………………………………………………………………………………….

    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.

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………

    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.                   

     —————————————————————–

    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.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    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.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    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

    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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    Please Contact Us if you want further discussion with a free call.

    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.

    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.

    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

     

    10 REASONS CHURCHES ARE NOT REACHING MILLENNIALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1.) THERE IS A STRONG RESISTANCE TO CHANGE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Craig Groeschel

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

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

    3.) MEDIOCRITY IS THE EXPECTATION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Gabe Lyons

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

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

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

    6.)  TRANSPARENCY AND AUTHENTICITY ARE NOT HIGH VALUES.

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

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

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

    7.)  MENTORING IS NOT IMPORTANT.

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

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

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

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

    8.) CULTURE IS VIEWED AS THE ENEMY.

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

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

    Gabe Lyons

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

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

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

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

    9.) COMMUNITY IS NOT VALUED.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

    The Continued Rise of the Nones

    By James Emery White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Churches as God’s Vineyard Bearing Fruit (Part 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.

    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 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.

     

     

     

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

    By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

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

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

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

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

    Conclusions from Paul’s Two Calls for Oneness of Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Agreement Reached by the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15

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

    Rather, the actual elements of the text are that:

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

    Basis for the Assembly Reaching a Unanimous Agreement

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

    By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

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

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

    The Corinthian Church Problem

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

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

    Paul’s Solution to the Corinthian Problem

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

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

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

    A similar sort of progression can be discerned in Philippians.

    The Philippian Church Problem

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

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

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

    Paul’s Solution to the Philippian Problem

    In this case, Paul’s overall solution is:

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

    Summarising this Solution

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

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

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

    Final Exhortation by Paul

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

     

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

    By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

    The Paradox of the Christian God

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

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

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

    Demonstrating the Three-in-One God Relationally

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

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

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

     

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

     

    The Distinctiveness of the Three Divine Persons

     

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

     

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

     

    The Relational Dependence of the Three Divine Persons upon Each Other

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

    God’s Perfect Union Together

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

    God’s Perfect Equality Together

     

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

     

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

     

    Yet:

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

    Paradox Solved

     

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

     

    Modelling the Trinity on Planet Earth

     

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

     

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


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

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


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


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

     

    Healthy Fathering God’s Original Design for Making Disciples

    By Jose Bosque

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jose Bosque


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

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


    Copyright 2013 Jose L. Bosque http://www.JaxChristian.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact   JaxChristian1@aol.com

    Restoring a Relevant Church in the 21st Century

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

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

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

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

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

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

    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.

    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

    Maximizing Effective Disciplemaking in Churches

    From CEO of Church Excellence Framework

    We are pleased to announce the introduction of another blogger to our team who comes with extensive experience coaching pastors and working with church growth tools. He will be blogging shortly.

    Part of the framework is to communicate good learning and development techniques so we see quality disciples being made. Without this we can be under the illusion that we are making disciples. This is a tragedy if good learning is not taking place.

    To do that it is critical that ministry workers understand principles of adult learning. So we have listed some key points here.

    church growth# Adults require a great deal of motivation   –they need to know why they need to learn something. This is so important to keep reinforcing in any learning intervention particularly how it links with the strategic plan.

    #Adults have a strong self-concept-   adults learn they are responsible for their own learning. As such they resent others imposing their wills. We need to present the material in a way that respects and consults the learner. This may be done by: –

    1. Involving participants in the process of identifying needs and in the planning
    2. Encouraging the learning process to be more of a mutual responsibility where the trainers role is more of a facilitator and co-inquirer
    3. Helping the participants to manage their own learning and self-evaluate.

    Adults come with lots of personal experience.   Adults often have a well-developed sense of values, attitudes and knowledge, which can make them less, open-minded. The implications for training are:

    • Relate new situations to past experiences
    • Respect past experiences as an active component in learning
    • Recognise prior learning and don’t ask them all to start in the same place.
    • Employ training methods that use the learners experience e.g., role plays, testimonies

    Adults are under pressure- so they want to learn things that relate to their concerns or immediate issues.  By focusing on these concerns and restating the learning process in terms of these immediate needs, learners will be more open to receive training. This may require consultation with the congregation

     Retention of Information Presented

    retentin of info

     The facts  speak loudly that we need to involve people in learning interventions and not just speak to them. If we do speak it has been shown that on average 20 mins is the maximum for retention.

    If we do use speaking it is better to contain vital elements such as power points, application questions and some interaction. Talking heads can be a poor way to learn particularly if there are multiple sessions such as in a conference.

    We know there is power in God’s word to transform but we also need to ask what percentages of our sermons are actually talking about scripture to quote this reason?

    The standard lists some creative ways of engaging particularly in Sunday services. Here are some more: –

    • Youtube
    • Webinar software
    • Twitter or text message sent from congregation asking questions that pastor answers ( so can be filtered)
    • Q and A from Microphone
    • Ensuring themes to build on material
    • Books and handouts recommended on a theme to ensure the learning are reinforced for those interested.
    • Props
    • Banner at back of the stage to reinforce a theme
    • PowerPoint presentations with main points which are then reinforced at the end of the sermon
    • A handout with application questions to ponder through the week
    • Asking for a response for people to come forward after a message
    • Moving the worship so that it can be used as a reflection time for God to speak after the sermon.
    • Interspersing testimonies in between a message (a page on the website can collect testimonies on ongoing basis). Video testimonies can be powerful.
    • Panel discussions.
    • Sheet given to guest speakers as to the minimum requirements in terms of presentation( eg title, summary ,application, powerpoints, bible references)

      Action Learning Illustration

    Action learning is a buzzword that is currently being used to demonstrate different ways a learning intervention can be presented to ensure quality learning.  The diagram below shows some elements. The more that are  incorporated ,the more dynamic the learning. TALKING HEADS are not a good style when it is overused. A lot of churches are now bringing in shorter 20 min sermons with other tools to incorporate learning.

    Examples of how to empower others: –

    • Ask them what their passion, calling, gifting, past experienced are and help them move closer to this. An individual meeting can be offered to ascertain this and facilitate the use of their gifting. See checklist at Tools note 1, as a tool for use.
    • Provide resources, contacts and authority for them to act. Check how they are doing and if you can help overcome any obstacles .ie use coaching skills to empower them.
    • Be willing to trust and delegate and work through their learning issues. You were given a break when you were learning. Church is not meant to be a professional organisation but a learning organisation with a sovereign people so all are entitled to play a part and deserve to be trusted initially. With a good interview and management process any people not suited for a role can be directed to a more suitable position rather than excluded initially until they have proved themselves. This can be very demotivating to new people.
    • Check how much you aAction learningre not delegating in the name of protecting your people or not trusting. The world needs empowered Christians. Doing is the best way of learning.
    • Encourage them to serve as a way of engaging them. If they are not right for the role then be bold and find something more suitable but don’t let this be a reason to not empower them in the first place. We are all the priesthood of believers so have a right to have a part in a church.
    • Encourage those with authority not to ask permission on small items so small issues are not overburdening senior leaders.
    • Encourage people to give prophetic words to each other.
    • Find out what the person you are empowering is doing and coach them to find their own solution ( as opposed to offering unsolicited advice or assuming you know what  the problem is  without confirming it )

    The framework contains lots of notes to help you implement the principles and draw on the vast expertise of many researchers and implementors. Do contact us for the full version. At the moment this initiative is funded by personal benefactors  so we are providing this at no cost. http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com/contact

    New Diagnostic Tool to Assess the Health of your Church. Is your Church conducting any Church Health Exercises?

    BLOG from CEO of Church Excellence Framework

    We are very excited to announce that we have put together a simple diagnostic tool to direct attention to a few key elements that have been shown to produce the greatest impact. This has come from collating the best practices from multiple studies. We think it offers a unique tool that is comprehensive in a way that is not offered by many others. It can beBUILDING A Church that is relevant for future generations backed up by actual research on actual churches and population studies. When we look at the questions it directs us to a few critical activities which are often not carried out by the bulk of churches.

    So we ask the question-  are we directing our time to things that are not making the greatest impact?

    Resources and time are often scare so it is crucial leaders really consider in detail their strategy and ask if it is based on best practice today or is it strategies that worked before but are not working today. Leaders can  often be the ones doing the implementation and so not direct much of their time to strategic planning. This is where it is key for many believers to be asking their church what church health activities they are doing. We all have a part to play to support hard working pastors who are often overwhelmed.

    We must be constantly contextualising our operations to stay relevant. Many view church as so outdated – we can fight this by showing that we are aware of the latest research . We have also followed many patterns based on incorrect biblical premises for centuries. We sense God leading us to a new reformation of church where there is a greater role for the believer. If we work to mobilise the committed we are confident we can see a radical improvement in our impact.

    In studying church operations it has come to my attention that many have mentors but not leadership coaches. To run an effective and healthy church we have to constantly be in touch with the current world. Leadership Coaches are trained  in extracting good strategies from their client that are relevant to where they are at. They can be crucial in helping a church  conduct  vital church health exercises. Constantly re-evaluating is critical to avoid stagnation and traditionalism.  The early church was constantly adapting and using people. We see that with the massive growth in Asian countries. They move fast, raise disciples fast and are not scared to promote. Jesus was not scared to use the average person and with belief built them into mighty leaders.

    We have now collated  lots of research from well-respected and longstanding studies to draw up a diagnostic tool to assess the health of your church. Do pass this on to church board members, pastors and people concerned with strategy in your church. The more churches we can get looking at key strategies and not repeating things that don’t  work, the healthier our nation will be. Starting at rebuilding the temple is the first step .

    Diagnostic Tool to assess the most effective place to start church health initiatives

    • Do you put good resources into children and youth work as this is where the greatest conversions come from?
    • Do you have a  clear outline of where you are going in the next few years?
      •  People want a community with real purpose where they can serve and grow.
    • Do you have transformation outcomes rather than attendance measures?church growth
    • Do you have a Church planting strategy as this has been shown in surveys to be where the most growth comes from?
    • Is your church missional in the sense that its existence is based around reaching those not currently in the church or is it needs based?
    • Have you considered organic church models and principles  as ones that represent the early church model more closely?
    • Do you know what the younger generation want ?
    • Do you support people’s calling and provide processes, not just give them a job in the church ?
    • Do you teach them how to share their faith in the marketplace not just invite friends to church?
    • Do you find out if you are meeting people’s needs in your church and what they say about how you are meeting the values of the church? Authenticity is massive now.
    • Do you delegate and empower people so they are engaged not just spectators?
    • Do you provide a clear pathway to growth?
    • Do you seek to have a balance of all major areas of church life and work on the weakest area as this will be where the fallout will occur? (see NCD material for backup)
    • Do you inspire a sense of Church ownership?
    • Do you provide a chance to serve those in need?
    • Do you encourage people to take responsibility for their own growth and not just rely on what church offers?
    • Do you encourage creativity in methods by using all talents and empower people to go out on their own?

    Score 1 point if you meet the indicator fully, half if partially, and then add the score in total

    You can then work on those areas that you were unable to tick after prioritizing them

    If in doubt begin developing some good transformation outcomes of what you want to see in the lives of others and begin expressing your desire to see various areas grow. The more that can be given to others the greater the growth. The notes of the framework can explain examples and more of what to watch out for.


     

    Summary of Key strategies for Growth from our research data- How much does your pastor know?

     Barna a well-known american researcher quotes in his  study 

    •  2/3 unchurched Americans say they are spiritual peoplechurch growth
    • More than ½ say their faith is important to them
    • 99% are aware of Christianity and 69 % hold a favourable view of it

    YET nearly half see no value in attending a church.

    People want GOD it would seem but not how church is doing it.  If we change we could win them back. People will always need some form of church. Here are some of the key strategies that have come out of our research across a lot of studies and  organisations.

    • Put good resources into children and youth workers as this is where the greatest conversions come from
    • Develop a clear outline of where you are going in the next few years as people want to know where they are going and what distinguishes you from another church. Why should they invest their time and money in this church?  People want a community with real purpose where they can serve and grow.
    • If you want real growth consider Church planting as this has been shown in surveys to be where the most growth comes from and future generations do not want large auditoriums but more sanctuaries where they can find God.
    • Planting by going out to serve the community not your own internal project making others come to you. Generates an outward looking church and one that knows how to relate outside.
    • Contextualise the presentation of the message and provide lots of opportunities for debate.
    • Support people’s calling not give them a job in the church. Provide processes
    • Teach them how to share their faith in the marketplace not just invite friends to church.
    • Find out if you are meeting people’s needs in your church and what they say about how you are meeting the values of the church. Authenticity is massive now.
    • Delegate and empower people so they are engaged not just spectators.

    To find out the studies and why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available by contacting us. http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com

    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.

    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.

    Does Your Church Help People Identify Their Calling ?

    BUILDING A Church that is relevant for future generations Many churches talk about empowering people to influence the Kingdom, but one of the principle ways to do this is to help people know their highest calling. Without this, a lot of empowerment has minimal effect, as our greatest role is in what we do every day. Without knowing our highest calling we are missing out on the ways in which we can impact our own lives and the lives of those around us, whilst maintaining dominion over Gods Kingdom.

    Working in a church capacity which does not   fully use our gifts is not how we change the world. This is particularly true if your church has become very inward looking and is not growing or evolving in line with current trends and is spending time with people who are not really serious about growth. The key to success is the people who want and make that change happen.

    If this is not something your church has in place maybe you could be the one to raise it with your pastor?

    As the Church Excellence Framework is being viewed by many people who we hope will utilize it in a positive way, we have decided to be generous and release one of the tools we have developed over many years to help you find your calling and share that journey with others.  It is included in the Church Excellence Framework together with a process to help churches identify the types of people in their church and how they can support them fully, allowing them to become more connected.

    We do need to ask ourselves how this calling intersects with a need in society and what is in God’s heart for people now. At the end of the day we do not want to develop a role that is not needed in society. Please pay this forward and share it with friends and your church.

    CALLING TOOL

    Tools to Find your Calling and Gifts by Jane Johnson pdf

    If you would like to offer additional coaching to people to work through the gaps then there is a wonderful service with free online live coaching 24/7 that can help you keep moving with this tool and applying it or helping you overcome obstacles. It can be found at http://www.groundwire.net – just click to talk to a coach.

    Church Planting shown to be more effective than other forms of outreach for real growth

    One of the indicators we have put on the Framework for churches to consider is ” considering the value of church planting as one of the more effective tools”. This is based on research shown below:-

    The NCLS report on Church planting, concluded that Church plants are more effective in connecting with newcomers to church life.  In the Church plants surveyed, 16% of attenders were newcomers to church life in comparison to 10% of attenders in established churches.  Church plants are more effective than other forms of outreach. “…Church plants have higher percentages of newcomers than churches engaged in street evangelism, churches conducting services for the unchurched (eg ‘seeker services’), churches conducting mission activities at schools or churches offering social services such as training or support programs” (Steve Addison).  The NCLS survey indicates that healthy Mother churches continue to grow after the expenses of planting a daughter church. (http://givemetruth.net/infocus/needed-new-churches/)

    Also, conducting research into the needs of the local community before planting a church has been shown to be very effective in making sure that it is an outreach church and also in bringing people in. Tools are available to help churches do this from NCLS.church growth

    Join our blog via email to ensure you don’t miss out on getting the key facts for church health.

    Consider piloting the Church Health Framework for more creative ideas on how to become a healthy church with a good reputation. 

    http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com

    5 Ways to Connect with Millennials

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

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

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

    Here is the article and research results

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

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

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

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

    Copyright 2015 Jane Johnson http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact orchard.j.johnson@gmail.com

    25 practical ways to bring Church Back to More Relevance

    Blog from CEO of the Church Excellence Framework

    Bringing the church back to more relevance

    We are excited that many are now interested and sense God calling us back to a more biblical ecclesia definition of church and away from institutional Christianity which we believe has a lot of ways of operating that are not working and do not have the DNA of the bible .  The framework proposes some practical methods and principles to move us in that direction.

    Here are a sample of some principles that are incorporated in the frameworkchurch growth

    • Returning the church to the original definition of Ecclesia that all people have authority and involvement, not just leaders
    • Church serving the people not the people serving the church vision
    • Moving to 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 church activities
    • Priesthood of All Believers and Every Member Ministry ( 1 Peter 2: 9) to allow less pressure on paid  pastors
    • Bringing back the  Five Fold Ministry (Eph 5) ensuring tha tevery church has apostolic oversight, their is a role for the evangelist  and teachers are not the senior pastors responsible for a lot of admin that is not their gifting.
    • 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.
    • Moving from  “Connecting to a Church” to Measures of Transformation
    • Moving away from Attraction Model to 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 appointing by critical Functions such as HR and Communications, Head of Spiritual Operations, Head of Evangelism. Avoiding pastors seeking to do numerous tasks not in alignment with their gifting
    • Principle that Quality Relationships result in engagement more than  content so reducing heavy listening content and more netweaving.
    • Allowing Debate and Questioning as a key tool for Learning
    • Encouraging greater unity with other Christian denominations and Christian organizations by seeing more products advertised and working with other churches and city council.
    • Allowing people to share  prophesy in services and minister to others as a regular event
    • Encouraging  Trust and Believing the Best in Others particularly new people moving from ” we need to get to know you” philoshosy 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 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” ie  preaching in a church mainly full of believers  to “Immersing in thflowcharte Culture”
    •  Encouraging lots of resources to be given to people even if from different parts of the Body of Christ
    •  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)
    •  Encouraging Creativity in Spiritual formation and Cross fertilization of Ideas
    •  Interactive Action Learning that supports developing a genuine relationship with God
    • Going to Non-believers in their situation and Walking with Them (Missional Community) rather than inviting people to our environment
    • Supporting Christians in the Marketplace (Being Salt and Light)
    • Returning the church to the original definition of Ecclesia that all people have authority and involvement not just leaders
    • 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 found a great resource on helping people understand more of the disciple making principles encouraged by the framework –

    see here http://churchanarchist.com/real-discipleship-creates-disciple-makers

     

     

    This blog can be reproduced as long as we are notified.

    CAN YOU HELP US?

    If you agree with these principles can we ask that you send this to your pastor and talk to him about his response- also asking if they undertake any church health exercises. It is Gods Church and the peoples church,  not the pastors church remember. We have a right to discuss good biblical principles with our leaders and if they are good leaders they will be happy to discuss things without being defensive.

    We would like to post on topics you are interested in so please do let us know  in the comments section below , what you want to know about and also we are interested in hearing from you on what you want to see in church that you are not currently.

    Also we would appreciate you sharing our blog with others to help build a more relevant church that is reaching a greater number of people.

    To see the actual framework for a limited time go to www.churchexcellenceframework.com

    Continue reading

    12 profound ways to actively engage people in Church?

    Diagram 4

    Here is a small extract from the accompanying notes in the framework on one of the  indicators  – “evidence is sought that people are actively engaged with the body of Christ”.

    Here are some ways to actively engage people so they will want to continue in their walk with God and stay in church:-

    • Feeling you are needed. We suggest a process here in the notes to engage people in a conversation so you get to know them and what God has laid on their hearts.
    • Your passions are taken seriously and you are helped to see some small progress. This need only be  in a few small areas to be really encouraging for someone.
    • Serving in a  community project run by people outside the church ie ( not your own), so you are mixing with the community. This done as a group with the church can be very engaging as you are serving with a purpose not just socialising.
    • Empowering  others to empower people.- we have coaching models to share in the framework.church pic
    • You know and believe in the vision values and goals (hence good communication of them)
    • Someone is loving you and encouraging you to be a part (This is where coaching can really help with connection outside of activities)
    • You have meaningful relationships that challenge you to grow (Can come from plenty of networking time in meetings, encouraging people to stay and not have excessive content meetings). This allows the power of netweaving to take place.
    • Churches encourage a culture of noticing the newer members and taking initiative to ask them how they may serve them or love them.
    • Being asked what you would like to see – this could be done via various methods such as a blog, forums with different categories of people, including new people, surveys, etc.
    • Being provided resources, encouragement, placing people above the needs of the building or organized  programme
    • Sermon key points could be placed on an e-newsletter with reminders.
    • A video sharing key learning points from the last sermon and the next sermon could be placed on Facebook, website or e-newsletter to spark interest and give them a reason to attend. Subjects posted in advance also do this. Commenting on how the spirit is speaking to us generally is very engaging.

    By asking the people maybe in a survey whether they feel engaged with the church and if not some of the reasons , could dramatically help planning and maybe keep some of those who are risk of becoming dechurched or struggling with their faith.

    Sign up for our blog to get more of the notes on building a relevant church at www.churchexcellenceframework.com

    Download a copy of the framework now on the website.

    Will you Help US?

    We really need people to share our blogs to get the message out as to how church needs to change to reach our generation.

    How to ensure your sermon is engaging and people are learning

    We all know that listening to sermons can be a poor way to learn. In the framework we have a lot of methods to allow engagement of people and ensure they are experiencing quality learning. For more info sign up for our email blog at www.churchexcellenceframework.com. The framework without the notes is now on the website without cost for a limited time.

    Here are some more suggestions taken from the notes to the framework: –

    • YouTube
    • Invite people to SMS Questions to pastors phone who filters them and answers relevant ones for 10 mins after message. This allows people to concentrate and engage with the material and for us to get feedback about what people care about. Questions can always be returned to the next Sunday if  they are challenging!!!
    • Webinar software
    • Q and A from microphone, ensuring themes to build on material
    • Books and handouts recommended on a theme to ensure the learning is reinforced for those interested.
    • Props
    • Banner at back of the stage to reinforce a theme
    • PowerPoint presentations with main points which are then reinforced at the end of the sermon
    • In the e newsletter –  application questions to ponder through the week – this keeps the theme fresh. People like lots of communication to keep them engaged with their church and feel they are moving forward. This makes testimonies easier to get of what people have learnt.
    • Asking for a response for people to come forward after a message and offer ministry in-line with the sermon
    • Moving the worship so that it can be used as a reflection time for God to speak after the sermon.
    • Interspersing testimonies in between a message (a page on the website can collect testimonies on an ongoing basis). Video testimonies can be powerful.
    • Panel discussions.
    • Sheet given to guest speakers as to the minimum requirements in terms of presentation( eg title, summary, application, Powerpoint, bible references)church growth

    Moving from MINISTRY Roles to FUNCTION

    Typical Ministry Roles  are Youth Leader, Senior Pastor, Operations Pastor, Small Group Co-coordinator .

    Moving away from Pastor Roles to FUNCTIONS is important because it moves from an employment model to a deployment model. This is critical so that vital aspects of the church are catered for and resources and time go to those, plus good coordination takes place. Critical aspects of church are good church growthcommunication, developing clear strategy, ensuring good networking, ensuring learning is taking place and good outreach is taking place.

    Without this we can focus on activities rather than processes. Processes allow for greater growth. Activities may not mean anything at the end of the day. We can have lots of small groups and preaching but it does not mean people are learning or have a vital relationship with God. We also can avoid the trap that one person is doing multiple tasks that are not in line with their gifting. A teacher is very often not a good administrator for example and vice versa. If we pay for these functions or share them amongst churches we can ensure they are done, whereas the other functions can be done by congregation members to engage them with the people, and so stay connected with the vision.

    The church excellence framework is available for viewing at http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com

    FINANCE MARKETING SPIRITUAL OPERATIONS or MINISTRY ORGANISATIONAL DEVELOPMENT LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT ADMIN AND HR AND BUILDING OPERATIONS
    FINANCE and Funding Communications and Marketing Both within and with fringe Christians or the outside world Program Support and Ministry Operations(Designing What is the  Strategy for Learning , overseeing small groups, Prayer ) Networking, New People integration, Deployment of People and Relationships to ensure people are engaged and transferring from one sector to another Learning,  setting up Coaching, Recruiting Qualified Trainers, Designing Competencies for Church Goals, Program for Sermons and evaluation of those methods Human Resources and Admin