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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Can we serve your calling on one of our mountains?

mountain-water_2188_1024x768We have been given a mandate to set up a governmental hub/apostolic resource centre to facilitate the emergence of a heavenly Ecclesia which we believe will be foundational to transforming the mountains of society which in turn will restore dominion over the earth. Helping people find their scrolls and link in benches of 3 is critical to this.

We believe this will be the emergence of new expressions not run by paid pastors but by facilitators allowing the full expression of gifts and calling of all and building organic quickly reproducible expressions which will use resources from all areas . So 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:

Develop materials to enable people to understand heavenly realms  revelations.

Communicate the principles in the heavenly Ecclesia blueprint document.

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).

Facilitate benches of 3 meeting around a scroll.

Train up hub leaders who understand how to prevent the return to traditional church ethos.

Promote all aspects of the body not just our own to see one United body.

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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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.

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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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Myths and heresies in church today

It is with a sad heart that we at the ecclesia framework write this article but felt the leading of the spirit to spell this out for the done with church and God’s heart to return  to a pure ecclesia  modelled in the heavenly realms. These are ones I have seen numerous examples of in my work as a Christian leadership coach.

We also saw a hard heart when contacting over 750 churches where few showed any openess to consider what they were doing despite figures like 65m in America alone being done with church but in love with God.

It is our conclusion that the majority of church practice is not biblical and not a good learning environment and has lost significant influence in society as a result . We are often keeping Christians busy thinking they are learning about God and serving him in church but dominion in society is the real biblical purpose and restoring  it to “as it is in heaven.”

Traditional church models are not good learning models with little evaluation done of whether people are growing. A lot is based around numbers attending which is not a good signal that people are really having dominion over the earth or loving. Many social projects are done on a small scale whereas working with more professional operations can increase the visibility of Christians and impact on a greater scale. (More principles to

  •  We need to go to a church in one fixed location for years – organic constantly changing and morphing was the OT and New Testament model
  • Church is face to face otherwise it is not real discipling
  • Real ministry is done in church not in everyday life so our calling is not that important as we are serving church vision
  • If we question anything in church it is not honouring – debate was part of early church and is healthy to stop heresy
  • The bible is the be all and end all. Jesus is the word of God and to fully hear from God we must know how to recognise the Father’s voice. We can make the bible say many things by using it out of context. A lot of teachers only know what they were taught in college
  • We support the pastors vision
  • We must tithe all our money to the local church
  • Paying pastors salary is biblical- helping the poor was priority not buildings in the bible.
  • Bringing people into church is the best form of discipling
  • Worship is singing songs written by others – worship is being a living sacrifice . Praise and thanksgiving should come from our own lips from genuine reflection on the goodness of God like the cherubim over the arc.
  • Finances are private in churches. Accountability and excellence are biblical models.
  • Boards of business men or young elders  over a church is biblical
  • You submit to the leaders. Mutual submission is biblical.

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JaneJohnson new smallCEO. Jane Johnson B.Com Grad Dip LD, Dip Coaching.

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

Connect with her on LinkedIn athttps://www.linkedin.com/profile/viewid=287940854&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

 

12 Challenging Questions for Every Christian Leader

8questions_blog1By Peter Sewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Luke 14:28; Mar 7:13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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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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.

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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.

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The Hard Work of Christian Unity

By Dr. Stephen R. Crosby

Romanticism and Idealism Hinder the Work of Unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does Genuine Christian Unity Look Like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

The Prophetic Manifesto

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

By Dr. Stephen Crosby

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

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

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

ARTICLE I – PROPHETIC IDENTITY

Prophets:

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

Prophets are:

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

Prophets accept:

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

ARTICLE II – OUR REPENTANCE

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

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

ARTICLE III – OUR DECLARATIONProphetic_Ministry1

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

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

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

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

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

By the grace of God.


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

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

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


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


THE IMPORTANCE OF APOSTOLIC MINISTRY

From the CEO of the Church Excellence Framework

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

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

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


By Brad Brisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


15 SIGNS YOUR CHURCH IS IN TROUBLE

 

12Feature_Church_is_in_trouble_1102_149459859

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

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

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

 


By Perry Noble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. The church is reactive rather than proactive.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


 

 

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

The Living God Who Speaks Audibly

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

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

Yahweh’s Thundering Audible Voice

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

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

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

The Living God Who Speaks to/through His Prophets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Need for Obedience

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

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

Yahweh as the Shepherd of His People

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

Consequently, Yahweh:

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

Responsibilities of Yahweh’s Flock

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

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

The Good Shepherds of Israel

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

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

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

The Bad Shepherds of Israel

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

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

Yahweh’s Judgment of the Sheep

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

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

Yahweh’s Judgment of the Bad Shepherds

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

Israel’s Mistakes

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

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

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

Indictment on Israel’s Leaders

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

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

Cleansing of the Church as God’s Restored Vine

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

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

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

Genuine Disciples of Christ

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

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

Putrid Communication

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

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

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

Leadership Structures of God’s True Vinebible-05

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

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

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

Church Excellence Framework

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

Restoration of God’s Destroyed Vineyard

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

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

The Useless Wood of Israel’s Vine

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

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

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

The Tender Shoot of God’s New Vine

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

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

The Root of Jesse

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

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

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

The Messianic Vine

Therefore, it is highly significant that:

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

Jesus as the True Vine

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

By Dr. Stephen R. Crosby

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

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

Comparing Creation with God’s Temple

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

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

The Christian Rest

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

The True Temple

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

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

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

Planted in the House/Temple of Yahweh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus as the Permanent Link Between Heaven & Earth

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roles in God’s New Cultivated-Field/Vineyard

The agricultural side of the imagery is significant in that:

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

Jesus the Foundation of God’s Temple

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

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

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

Growing the Temple in God’s Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

The Christian Priesthood

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

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

Community Responsibility

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

 

 

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

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

The Paradox of the Christian God

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

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

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

Demonstrating the Three-in-One God Relationally

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Distinctiveness of the Three Divine Persons

 

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

 

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

 

The Relational Dependence of the Three Divine Persons upon Each Other

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

God’s Perfect Union Together

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

God’s Perfect Equality Together

 

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

 

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

 

Yet:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Paradox Solved

 

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

 

Modelling the Trinity on Planet Earth

 

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

 

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


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

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


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


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

 

Healthy Fathering God’s Original Design for Making Disciples

By Jose Bosque

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jose Bosque


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

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


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

Church Revolution The Need for a Biblical Emancipation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jose L. Bosque


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

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


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


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

 

Restructuring the Church to Find Rest (Part 2)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

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

rsz_lego-church-building-pictures

The Yoke Jesus Offers

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

Jesus, on the other hand:

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

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

The Yoke Jesus Himself Wore

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

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

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

This Yoke Was Offered to Us Communally

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

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

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

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

Contemporary Church Governance

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

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

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

Restructuring Under God’s Governance

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

 

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

Joke or Yoke

By Ian Thompson B.Theo, Post Grad Thoelogy

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

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

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

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

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

Western Individualistic Cultural Influences

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

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

Common Basis for All Forms of Democratic Government

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

Democratic Influences on the Contemporary Western Church

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

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

First-Century Cultural Influences

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

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

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

 

First-Century Church Structure

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

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

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

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

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

Old Testament Language of Matthew 11:25-30

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Form of Government

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

21 Paradigms to Move Towards in Western Churches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15. Balance between organisation and divine inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planting Churches or Making Disciples? by Steve Crosby

We are delighted  that we have permission  from Steve Crosby, an author from the excellent site www.godsleader.com to post an illuminating article on apostolic discipling versus church planting.

Have you ever made a passing comment that you thought was benign, but it ended up causing a hostile reaction? I had that joy recently. I made what I thought was a mild and self-evident comment on a social media site (my first mistake!). It met with that special spiritual gift of the Christian social media world: vitriol and venom!

Planting Churches is it really scriptural?

My crime? I suggested that “church planting” is not inherently the same as making disciples. The irrational nature of some of the responses indicates to me that some strong vested interests were kicking in. Normally this level of hostility only occurs when an individual’s identity is wrapped up in “ministry,” one’s belief systems, or the individual’s access to money is threatened by the comment. Perhaps the nerve I hit . . . needed to be hit.

The phrase “church planting” is never used in the New Testament. Jesus never said: “Build/plant a church for Me.” He said to make disciples, seek the kingdom, and He will build the church. The scriptures exhort us to build up one another individually through agape and charis exchange, but never tell us to build an entity, “a local church.” Paul planted the gospel seed in souls. Others watered that seed. That seed birthed disciples. Those disciples in a given geography gathered together in that locality, and a local church was born.

There are those who think this is just semantic fussing over synonymous terms: the exercise of theologians with too much time on their hands, right up there with the number of angels that can be accommodated on a head of a pin. I disagree.

Advocating for the use of biblical terminology should not be so controversial, unless in so doing, one’s efforts for Christ are perceived as disvalued. Dead men can’t be offended.  Perhaps our efforts for Him are not as free of a personal agenda and the need for self-validation as we might wish. Those who ask potentially embarrassing and self-reflective questions requiring personal change among the consensus orthodoxy(1) of establishment religion, are normally not welcome. I understand the human dynamics of it all.

However, for the moment, let’s concede the point. Let’s say the terms are synonymous. The values andmethods embodied in one’s understanding of “church planting=disciple making” make all the difference.

My premise is that there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of “planted churches” that neither make disciples, nor seek the kingdom. Whatever may be “planted” often bears little resemblance to what Paul believed or did. What follows are some of the reasons why I believe apostolic disciple making(2) and modern church planting are not synonymous in their value systems. This is not necessarily a comprehensive list, and not listed in any priority.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Jesus’ kingdom goes forth in and through us by sharing and experiencing life together in a community.

Modern Church Planting

  • Is built around inviting people to our church and meetings. It isn’t the same as inviting them into our hearts and lives. The former costs us nothing, the latter will cost us everything.

 Apostolic Disciple Making

  • The churches were not Paul’s. He did not have absolute authority over them. You do not end up rejected, alone, unsupported, and in jail, if you have absolute authority over the churches you “plant.”

Modern Church Planting

  • Leaders often require inordinate, and absolute submission to themselves.

 Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Paul was content to establish local elders after only three years of “training,” and to leave them without his future involvement, knowing that so doing would result in negative dynamics in the congregation. (3)

Modern Church Planting

  • Modern church planters micromanage church affairs. They would never think of leaving a local church in the charge of converts from paganism, with only three years of training, and no other oversight from “senior leaders.” Many “church planters” require years and years of “loyalty” to themselves from  individuals, and that they be mandatory tithers, before consideration as a local elder.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Birth disciples relationally.

Modern Church Planting

  • Establish churches organizationally and administratively.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Loving well and living well together in Christ, in community, and loving and serving others is the practical expression of existence.

Modern Church Planting

  • The sermon and the music/praise service in the “meetings” are the practical expression of identity and existence. How well we live together matters little. The only things that matter are: “Is the sermon revelatory/inspiring and is the worship anointed?”

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Includes the normative expression of supernatural gifts and manifestations.

Modern Church Planting

  • In some climates the supernatural element is often dispensationally deleted, or viewed as a vestigial nonessential. Our “church plants” are little more than eternal classrooms keeping people in dependent infancy upon information acquisition, or endless counseling/therapy sessions.
  • In other climates the manifestation of the supernatural is worshipped, faked, or counterfeited.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Emphasizes the increase of the name and kingdom of Jesus in a geographic community.

Modern Church Planting

  • Much modern church planting is not about Jesus’ kingdom interests in a community, but perpetuation of a private brand identity (denomination, group, association); franchising a spiritual brand, rather than increasing His kingdom.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Personal financial support is not mandated. Paul did not mandate personal financial support from churches he was in relation with. Economics flows from love, not obligation.

Modern Church Planting

  • It is frequently all about the money. Teachings about a mandatory tithe and other mandatory financial schemes abound. Money dictates decisions.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Allows the Holy Spirit to cross-pollinate His own. Paul allowed unhindered access of all the Eph. 4 ministry gifts in congregations, cross-pollination in diversity, without his express permission in advance.

Modern Church Planting

  • Local church planters have a death-grip control on congregational access, based on “protecting the flock,” when it is often about assuring an income stream for themselves.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Requires loyalty to Jesus.

Modern Church Planting

  • Leaders require loyalty to themselves personally, and to the organizational identity corporately.church pic

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Paul led by relationship, influence, and spiritual authority.

Modern Church Planting

  • Many modern leaders lead by position, rank, and carnal authoritarianism.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Births relational disciples within an apostolic framework of understanding

Modern Church Planting

  • Modern “church plants” are done with only a pastor-teacher framework of understanding.  The apostolic and prophetic graces are not understood, nor expressed, and often denied.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Paul’s ministry centered around the Person of Jesus Christ, not “his ministry.”

Modern Church Planting

  • Often centered around the senior leader, his/her personality and gift; celebrityism.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Is based on the operational reality of death and resurrection, His increase and our decrease. Paul was willing to lose his association to the local churches. They could readily disassociate from him.

Modern Church Planting

  • Pastors/leaders treat churches as if they belonged to them like a commodity: “my church,” “my congregation,” etc. Ministry is done by “gift exercise, administration, and control” rather than death and resurrection. Leaders are unwilling to lose it all, until the Holy Spirit loses it for them, often through much personal pain, and pain in those who have associated with the “leader” rather than Jesus.

 Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Paul gave his life and resources for the churches, though he was loved the less for it.

Modern Church Planting

  • Members of the congregation are expected to give their lives (time, talent, and finances) to fulfill the leader’s “vision;” honor is an entitlement of spiritual position rather than merited through service.

 Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Apostolic churches have a diverse expression of spiritual gift manifestation.

Modern Church Planting

  • Modern churches are overwhelmingly dominated by a singular individual, with a singular gift: the pastor-teacher. All other gifts are sublimated to that gift, if functioning at all beyond a sporadic and token level.

 Apostolic Disciple Making

  • The goal is the increase of the life of Christ in the earth, through discipleship, regardless if it results in local congregation increase; increase through scattering, release, and liberty.

Modern Church Planting

  • The goal is in the numeric and financial increase of the local congregation; increase through gathering, corral, and control.

Apostolic Disciple Making

  • Emphasizes transformation into the image of Jesus through discipleship

Modern Church Planting

  • Emphasizes “salvations.”(4)

So, what should we make of this? The good news is, the depth and breadth of God’s great redemptive plan is enough to sanctify and  bless any effort done in faith, for Him. He can, and will, bless any mess offered to Him in relational faith. If methodological perfections were required, we would all have no hope.

On the other hand, we should not presume upon His great grace and redemption to normalize error and continue practices which misrepresent His purposes in the earth, and which harm the people of God.

References

  1. The accepted norms of belief in practice in any group or association; present reality is “fine,” and sanctioned by God.
  2. Apostolic Disciple Making: my term for the process of making disciples with the same values and methods used by the apostles, primarily, Paul. It is not meant as a limiting term as something only apostles are qualified to do. Every believer should be “apostolic” in the disciple-making mandate.
  3. Paul was in Ephesus for about three years. He raised up elders, left them, never saw them again, knowing that “wolves” would enter the congregation and some of the very elders he was talking to would regress into self-aggrandizing ambition. See Acts 20. I once heard a well-known apostolic level “father” teach that unless someone is a “tither” who has proved his loyalty for at least twenty years, he should not be considered a candidate to be an elder.
  4. George Barna has documented that fewer than one in ten pastors believe transformation into the image of Christ has any bearing on the spiritual health of a congregation, believing instead that how many people attend, and how many programs are offered indicate spiritual health. More than four out of five pastors never mention issues of transformation in their congregations, preferring to emphasize “salvation.”

Copyright 2012 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby http://www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.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.

 

We are pleased to say the Church Excellence Framework includes the concepts listed under Apostolic Disciplemaking. We are convinced getting a deeper understanding of  disciplemaking is  one of the fundamental issues in restoring our nation back to Christ.  By raising up genuine disciples who want to honour God, know God and know how to multiply their lives  then we contend our society will be a different place.

ANNOUNCEMENT

The actual framework is now on the site for download at no charge as we have private funding  https://growingpeopleframework.wordpress.com/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.

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

 

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

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