Conclusion of Further talks on church and ministry
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Leadership is primarily the function of helping people ‘get out of their rooms’. It is the process of leading people away from feeling content and satisfied in our little rooms of fellowship and doctrine, which cause us to feel superior to our brothers and sisters in Christ. The end result of this little book shouldn’t be ‘now that I see these things I have found a ‘new’ room to dwell in [the room of the doctrine of ecclesiology/house church] but the result should be seeing ourselves as free in Christ and being built up as co-equal members of Christ’s body, Paul said knowledge puffeth up but charity buildeth up [edifieth]. As we all come out of our peculiar rooms of various doctrines [some of which are true!] we don’t advocate the belief that doctrine is not important but want to bring people to a place where we find our identity in the person of Christ as opposed to the doctrines of men.
I would like to end this little booklet in an unconventional way. I want to simply share some thoughts from my own personal mission statement. Also I want to speak directly to all of our friends who either listen to us on radio or who I relate to in some way in the kingdom. Over the years of sharing these truths I would often have people who have heard us or read one of our books and after seeing certain truths would express their concern about their church, or so and so’s church. I without fail have always defended the church or pastor. The reason is I feel that the truths in these books are not to be used to personally come against a particular church or pastor. I do believe we all need to examine our motives and readjust our thinking when it comes to why we do the things we do ‘for God’. Its possible to be involved in church building and without realizing it, to be building monuments that will burn up in the day of judgment. All true church building consists of unselfishly depositing into other people for their growth and benefit. Ministry is not a ‘career choice’ as if someone were choosing between auto mechanic/fire-fighter/pastor. Ministry is a gift that God deposits in all his people for the mutual edification of the whole body. What we fail to see in many present forms of church is how we are simply empowering a few individuals at the expense of the people in the pews.
I have seen many well-meaning men go into ministry and immediately feel a sense of fulfillment because they are flowing and speaking and giving out of themselves to others. The writing of this book as well as the radio programs I do give a sense of fulfillment in that we are all created to give ourselves away. But in many current situations the main speaker is finding fulfillment at the expense of the rest of the body. God designed the church to be a place where all of Gods people would find fulfillment in giving themselves away. The unnatural act of submission that we often teach is not true biblical submission. We often tell people if they are not satisfied with their passive role as listeners that they are in rebellion. While in reality true rebellion is not developing into the mature functioning person that God wants all of us to be. My purpose is not to give Christians excuses to ‘not go to church’.
The mindset of ‘I can worship God on the golf course’ mentality. But to cause us to radically rethink what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. The Pharisees of Jesus day were involved in all types of religious activities, but Jesus said their main motivation was to simply attain a certain status amongst their fellow peers. He said that’s what they were in it for and that they already received their reward [the honor of men]. Why do we want to build big ministries? Is it truly for the glory of God or are we unconciously enjoying the natural success that comes with the adventure of any big project? I’m not against big projects in and of themselves, but we must examine our motives for doing the things we do. True New Testament Church planting is simply depositing Jesus image into the people we relate to over our lifetime. What legacy did Paul leave behind? Was it some huge earthly institution? We find him at the end of his life living in a rented house, receiving visitors and declaring the kingdom of God [Acts 28; 30-31] he left behind a legacy of gentile communities who believed in Christ!
Here are some of my own personal thoughts from my mission statement.
1 spend time making quality friends, all ministry takes place in this type of atmosphere.
2 true leadership is relating directly to groups of people in cities, not starting some type of organization.
3 the apostle Paul had relationship with believers in different locals, but he didn’t own them.
4 don’t try to produce only one type or way of church, but allow Gods natural process to work in various ways.
5 relating to areas/groups of people regularly is building the body. Either a church building, home or any regular place of contact can be the format for building the house of God.
6 planting churches in the New Testament sense was not the concept of setting up regular meetings in which Paul would preach to them week after week as a pastor, but planting churches was an apostle going to a location and making believers of the gospel of grace, and then trusting the Spirit in them to continue his work. Paul did speak of recognizing and ordaining elders in these cities, but it wasn’t a weekly church concept.
7 in the book of acts the focus wasn’t on setting up meetings, but sharing Christ with groups of people and relating to them as a family of children of whom you will always have relationship with, but allow them to mature and grow up on their own and eventually become independent.
8 the focus isn’t meetings but ecclesia. That is the actual people you disciple. when Jesus sent them out 2 by 2 it wasn’t to start home groups, but to bring the kingdom to regions. Don’t sacrifice the freedom of touching people directly. Jesus and those he sends simply speak, do, share and communicate with people. His great commission to go and make disciples and baptize. Direct authority to do kingdom without having to start or set up a movement. The movement itself is ‘Jesus family’ [ecclesia]. You will meet with people, but the focus is the people not the act of meeting. Learn to relate to people without having an agenda. Simply be free to love people.
9 look at Jesus and the 12. Later in acts, even Paul when going to a region, he holds meetings for a limited time [though the longest was around 2 years] preaches Christ, has a give and take with the community and then leaves. No ‘starting’ of anything, but a revolution in the hearts and minds of people. Later when re-visiting these communities, these are the ‘churches’ of the New Testament. We must see and operate in this simple way. This simple way is New Testament church planting.
10 his yoke is easy and burden light. Go into all the world and preach the gospel. Don’t loose the simplicity of doing Gods will. He requires nothing more than to go and touch and share and love. The people you touch are the ecclesia.
11 in these friendships the main truth will be Jesus and his grace, these friends will be encouraged to continue in Jesus and his grace. Prayer, bible study, fellowship and their journey with God. Be available to baptize and communicate with them, but allow God to grow the seed.
12 you never get the sense/feeling from Jesus or Paul that they were going somewhere to recruit people to their ministry. The sense was bringing this great message and kingdom to people! The people continued in the apostles doctrine and fellowship with each other and later Paul would come back to see how they were doing, not to start some type of ministry, but true long term friendships in the kingdom.
13 the freedom isnt ‘house church’ or ‘temple worship’ but the kingdom being amongst us now! Obeying Jesus command to love! This command is free from all forms and structures of ministry, and allows us to daily love in action, always sharing in word and deed Jesus. A willingness to baptize those who believe and share and love and relate on a friendship basis. Jesus style.
I would like to note here that at the present time [2000’s] there are many worldwide Christian movements that are actually doing many of the things that I mentioned in this book. There are many ‘ex-pastors’ who have left their former roles as the central figure of the people they were pastoring and have continued to serve the body of Christ in a bi-vocational way [not getting paid to pastor!]. While I am not advocating this for every pastor who might read this book, I share this to emphasize that these thoughts are presently being practiced on a large scale worldwide [I do a lot of research!]. When people are confronted with new truth there is a tendency to discredit the messenger, so I wanted you to see that there are many thousands of believers who are walking this path right now. There are also many brothers who have seen these things before I did and I appreciate the role they played in helping me to see new truth. In many cases the believers who have left there former churches to live in simple community have been ostracized and looked upon as backslidden rebels. This has created in some a resentment in those who are technically correct in their seeing the church as the community, but many wont hear their voices because of the barrier of resentment that they pick up from them. So you have some who remain in the old way of seeing church and justify it by the fact that some who moved on have a bad attitude. We are all responsible before God to respond to truth when confronted with it, regardless of how much we resent the messenger! I personally believe that after reading this little book that your level of responsibility has gone up. You must ask God how He personally wants you to respond to the truths presented to you.
A few weeks ago I had a dream that I felt was prophetic, over the years I have had many interesting dreams and visions. I have never shared any of them in book form, but have spoken about them through our radio program. I dreamt that I was going to a Christian university, when arriving at the university there were many scholarly people dressed in suits and ties. There were many classes going on and discussions taking place about theological subjects. As I continued on my tour of the university there was a classroom where all the professors were gathered in a circle examining something. As I got closer I saw in the middle of these scholars there was what looked like an Indian warrior, he was crouched and just sitting there as something to be examined. He was severely scarred, not just normal scares but sort of a grotesque mutilation. He was there as something to be examined [I thought of the verse in Isaiah where it says he was marred more than any man, that he was wounded to beyond the point of recognition]. Later when I woke up I felt part of this dream spoke to the danger of us as Christians being able to learn and study truth, while never fully embracing the mystery in Christ. We have a tendency to build people up with all sorts of doctrines and never arriving at the point of fully grasping Him. My goal is after reading this book that your focus will not be ‘now I am going to go do the things in this book’, but that you would be able to see Him to a greater degree. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
Let me close with this, the apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he was given authority by God to build them up and not to tear them down. He actually regretted being so hard on them in his 1st letter, but later said he was glad he made them sorry for a season because it would later bear good results. While I’m not comparing myself to the apostle, I do see a similar situation in some of the teaching we do. Its seems to upset people initially but after a while it will produce good fruit. My intent in examining our whole idea of church and ministry is not to give people ammunition to fight against their church, but rather to cause us all to embrace a more biblical concept of church and ministry. I personally do not advocate the total deconstructing of all present day church practices. I personally believe there is room for both building based churches [the church building] and the house church movement. My appeal is for us to look at all these issues and come to our own conclusions on how to embrace these truths at our own pace. I thank the lord that he has been patient with me as I walk this journey and I want to give you all the same room and grace he has extended to me. May God bless you guys until the next book!
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