To see His Church the way Jesus did is to view a company of people imbued with His light and changing the world. He saw them as world changers when he said, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14) and taught them to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10).
Can Darkness Help the Light?
If He said, “I will build my [Company of Light-Giving World-Changers] and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18), why do we look to politicians as the source of help for the Church and its causes? After all, can darkness help the light? “Many seek audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice” (Prov. 29:6). Often politicians come as angels of light, offering the kingdoms as Satan did to Jesus, but though they may give something, they often end up taking and destroying far more.
Change Is Grassroots Work, Not Drive-Through Politics
Change doesn’t come by placing quick-fix plasters of promises and executive orders on the cancer of sin. True societal change comes through grassroots efforts of love. It begins with me and you taking the plank out of our own eye so that we can really help others. Change is often incremental before it is exponential. It is grassroots work, not drive-through politics.
To many, the idea of church leadership through consensus sounds like leadership is taken from God and given into the hands of men. Nevertheless, it is precisely God’s way of seeing His will done in and through the Church. Sadly, the church is full of stories of leadership abuse, which could have been prevented if we had implemented God’s way of directing the church.
Church leadership only has authority to implement God’s leading concerning the whole church when group consensus is reached by the whole church. While one person may have God’s word on a subject, and with that the authority to share it, he or she still needs to obey God’s way and seek consensus before action can be taken.
Consensus Builds True Unity
This may seem like a painful process, but in the end it builds real relationships and true unity around issues. Outside of consensus, leaders easily default to the sin of preeminence where they employ the world’s ways and steam roller their ideas into action. Sadly, many church leaders justify this style by the success of their ministry, but the end never justifies the means! An environment of love is the only way to the outcomes that we seek and may often be more important than our goals.
Consensus Protects the Group and the Individual
Consensus is a way of protection. For example, in the case of church discipline in the New Testament, consensus is sought by involving everyone. This way a fair judgment can be reached through unity and also the fear of the Lord can be on everyone involved.
Consensus is the Fruit of Faith
Seeking consensus puts faith into practice. It is the belief that Jesus really is the head of the Body of Christ and is able to lead each member in unity.
Right and Wrong Examples
Acts chapter 15 is a good example of how the whole church is involved in resolving serious decision making and of how everyone was involved. Conversely, 3 John 1:9-10 shows Diotrephes as a leader who sought preeminence and bullied his way in the church.
For more on this subject you can read these related posts:
Many who appear to be apathetic Christians are in actual fact bored, burned-out or broken by religion. Any excitement that they once had as believers has long been snuffed out by what has masqueraded as Christianity, but really isn’t.
Instead of a dynamic relationship with Jesus that’s shared with other believers, they’ve been restricted to pews, messages and tea. They’re ever learning, but never really fully participating. Feeling uninvited and restricted for too long, some are now totally uninspired by what even the “best” preachers are saying and missionaries are doing.
Others are simply burned-out, having been burdened by the church to attend all sorts of meetings, behave in set ways and, to top it off, reach the lost. Operating outside of their calling, gifting and in their own strength for too long, they resemble sheep driven like cattle with overloaded wagons.
Now, if this is how we operate, it’s no wonder many outsiders see the sham that much of Christianity is and stay disinterested.
Then, sadder still, from among those who are bored and burned-out are those who have left their first love, mistakenly thinking Jesus to be the same as the church that had hurt or disappointed them. They’ve turned to the world to find satisfaction, only to be broken by its empty promises.
Maybe you’re a part of the masquerade. Maybe even leading it. If so, how long before you are a casualty too?
Whatever your condition, to each of His servants Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light!” This tells me that Jesus Himself wants to employ us, and with something that’s not harsh and burdensome, but instead a delight. Now, tell me, doesn’t that have the potential to interest you!?
False religion will cause you to lose out, while Jesus will empower you to serve Him and leave you supremely blessed (happy to be envied).
The Ecclesia (or Church) is one way that God is able to govern and affect individuals, as well as all spheres of society. Christians (born-again believers), are able to bring personal and corporate issues to Him, as well as the social and environmental issues of this world. And, because Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth,” He is able to bring about God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”.
The scope and change that the apostle Paul envisioned possible through prayer is seen in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 where he writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.” “First of all” clearly shows prayer to have been priority for the early church (ecclesia).
Blockages to Change
Our lack of faith that Jesus really is Lord of heaven and earth and wants to respond to our prayers is perhaps the reason why we see so little change around us. This kind of prayer is no longer a key part of many of our meetings and, where it is, not all the members of the ecclesia come to its meetings.
Then, sadly, meetings are high-jacked by well-meaning leaders whose own views, on the necessity of prayer and people’s involvement, often shapes the meetings. Thinking of themselves more highly than they should, they place themselves above others and circumvent the authority of the Head of the ecclesia. As a result, much of the potential of the gathered body of believers is lost. (For more on this, see my posts on Hierarchical Leadership – The Number One Hindrance in the Body of Christ.)
Creating an Environment for Prayer
Our meetings must allow each member to participate. When it comes to prayer, everyone should feel free to bring and share prayer requests. Also, room should be given for anyone to share a related word from God, or even a dream or vision from God, and also to lay hands on those in need.
Our prayers make a difference! Pray and watch and see His kingdom come and His will be done.
Jesus’ ecclesia is the most powerful group on earth, way above any parliament, congress or senate. And, amazingly, all Christians are called to be involved.
Ecclesia was a term used in ancient times for a political assembly of citizens who were “called-out” from a local community with the purpose of governing the community. Jesus uses this same term for His true followers in Matthew 16:18 when He says, “I will build my ecclesia”.
Built on a Foundation
That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is the bedrock on which He builds His ecclesia. Through faith in Jesus, people are reborn and included. Effectively, He calls people and those who respond with faith are miraculously changed. They’re given a new spirit and God’s Spirit comes to live inside each one of them.
Nature of the Ecclesia
Members of His ecclesia are individually and corporately led by Jesus, filled with His Spirit and trained in His ways. They have a new outlook on life, recognizing that Jesus is really in charge of everything. And, God’s love is their key distinguishing mark.
The Task of the Ecclesia
Jesus’ ecclesia is light to a dark world. They exhibit God’s governance, pray for more of it to come and offer it to all by proclaiming God’s love and forgiveness of sins. In turn, more people are brought into relationship with the living God and under His loving rule. And, they automatically form part of Jesus’ ecclesia too.
The Kingdom of God is offered and not forced onto people. But where it is accepted, the light and life of the Kingdom begin to take hold and transform lives and communities. For more on bringing change into this world see my next post, The Ecclesia – “Thy Kingdom Come”.
(Essentially, Jesus is the only gateway into the kingdom in the analogy in John 10:9. This post uses the picture of a gateway for the ecclesia in a closely related, yet different way.)
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Thank you for all who participated through reading, commenting and sharing on Real Church Life. I trust that you found things that were meaningful, helpful or even challenging. And, whether you agreed or not, that you considered God’s word, the Bible for your answers to life.
Let’s be constant in fervency for the Lord as we see the end approaching.
Seek Jesus more and share more of Him with each other.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.
Messianic Judaism is a term coined to distinguish Jewish believers in Jesus as the Messiah. But, despite the joy of Jews believing in Jesus as their Messiah, it is sadly a movement within Christianity with cult-like tendencies. The movement parades itself under the guise of mere cultural Christianity, but it often carries menacing and divisive traits by its adherents. And, basically, by design, it’s a divisive movement.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that all cultures should be able to enjoy the Christian faith within their own culture and to the extent that their culture doesn’t conflict with the Gospel. Likewise, Judaism carries a number of cultural-religious ideas and practices that Jewish believers in Christ can also hold onto. In this way, Messianic Judaism should be no different to say Zulu Christianity or American Christianity or Chinese Christianity or any other people’s expression of the Christian faith and culture. However, sadly, Messianic Judaism is often foisted, subtly or forcedly, on Jewish and non-Jewish believers as the ultimate Christianity to which all should aspire. A sort of superior Christianity!
Separate and Superior
Now, you have got to wonder about a group that speaks of themselves in such separate terms to all other Christians. I mean, a Zulu who comes to faith doesn’t go about saying, “I am a Zulu Christian” or use the term “Zulu Christianity”. That would smack of separateness and could lead to having an air of superiority! Yet, this is precisely what “Messianic Jews” do and what Messianic Judaism is. Also, and especially annoying, is that non-Jewish converts to this form of Christianity participate in doing this.
Redeeming Messianic Judaism
Now, the term Messianic Judaism is useful if used among Jews to distinguish Jewish believers from other Jews, but it should not be used in the church, as it fosters a sense of division. And, where this happens, mischief is at work, because, Christ is not divided!
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters. What matters is faith that is active through love” (Gal. 5:6).
Exploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion
When we elevate individuals in the church by kowtowing to them and their opinions, they can easily begin to think that they are superior to the group. And, very quickly they can seem distant and untouchable in the minds of regular members. It’s already a challenge to hold regular people accountable to one another and God’s word; imagine how much harder if someone has the idea of having preeminence. And, all the harder still if others believe the preeminence to be true.
These elevated individuals can subtly influence the flock or even blatantly rule them. Either way, it’s an environment for fostering false teaching. Paul warned the elders of Ephesus saying that “savage wolves will come among you and not spare the flock. Indeed, some of your own men will come forward and distort the truth in order to lure the disciples into following them” (Acts 20:29-30). Ever wonder why we have anointed men and women speaking different messages to one another to their own band of followers? I suggest that elevating people or allowing them to elevate themselves has contributed to this.
Paul readily used terms of equality when referring to people that he was a leader among; terms like, brother, partner, co-worker and fellow soldier. It shows his mindset and that of the early church. Super-gurus existed, but weren’t elevated.
There are, no doubt, some incredibly anointed teachers in the body of Christ, but as anointed as they may be, they are not above anyone else or above having their message examined in the light of God’s word. The Bereans, in Acts 17, didn’t dance around Paul, and they were commended for testing his message against scripture. In the same way, we should be able to test a speaker’s message and openly share our opinions if we believe the Bible to be saying something different. Also, this kind of interactive environment with a teacher can allow for more growth than simply hearing a one-way message.
Leaders Entangled in Sin
God’s word speaks of “the sin that so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). Here, the author, a church leader, has clearly included himself with the pronoun “us”. By putting our church leaders over us, they are easily isolated and are more susceptible to fall into sin. Then, once involved with sin and without help, like a python strangling its prey, things can get more and more serious for them. Or, having begun with something small, the sin escalates to something more devastating.
Allowing formal or even subconscious hierarchy amongst us is a trap that can bring awful damage to the leader and to those who have wrongly elevated him. When leaders go astray, it is far less of an earth shattering experience if they are among the flock and not over them. Having been seen as equal to everyone else and just as vulnerable to sin and error, they are more reachable and easily helped.
Leading without Hierarchy
This requires brave leadership. No fear to lose people. Jesus lost many, but gained true followers through the Spirit. Don’t control; Jesus didn’t! You cannot really hold it together anyway. Members are designed to learn and grow in freedom. They are not yours!
For the sake of unity and fellowship it seems that if we focus on agreement over issues and on doctrine that we will always divide and be divided. If, however, we fix our eyes on Him who fellowships with each of us, despite our differences, then we may be able to accept one another with the same mercy and grace shown to us. He lovingly holds us together in fellowship in His body, made possible by His death, resurrection and ascension.
If the Sadducees and the Pharisees, with all their differences, could come together under one roof, how much more can’t we who are unified by God’s Spirit and placed in the body of Christ. Jesus came under the same roof as people who rejected Him and who would have Him crucified! How far are you prepared to go?
Too idealistic for this world?! Yes, but, remember, we are not of this world!
Exploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion
We Cannot Separate
It’s sometimes really tricky handling people of different persuasions in the Body of Christ. In fact, some are so weird and wacky that I am inclined to want to dismiss them altogether. Creating separation seems the easiest and safest resort, but as previously discussed; this only causes the problem of endless schisms.
So, instead of separating ourselves from other parts of the Body, (which is a ridiculous notion if we consider that the metaphor of a physical body suggests unity), what should we do? Can’t we simply point out what we consider to be error while recognizing and esteeming the truths held in common?
Living With One Another’s Nonsense
It should be everyone’s right to openly discuss and if necessary lovingly confront the teaching of anyone else both within the body of Christ. However, when pointing out error, we must avoid tarring people. They are more than the crazy things that they may have said or done. They are loved by God and have often enriched the body of Christ in many ways, and still continue to do so.
My own challenge is to remember that the errors and outcome of a man’s ways don’t totally disqualify all that he has said and stood for. If that were the case, then I would have to stop reading what Solomon, Luther, Calvin …and, dare I say, what even I have written :).
You see, although the source and outcomes might not always be healthy, those propagating their beliefs may nevertheless be gifted, anointed and used by God to be dispensers of certain truths. And, despite their flaws they are making a significant difference. For example, I grew up as a Catholic and although I would warn against a lot of their teaching and practices, I nevertheless appreciate the truths that they taught me. Luther might have felt the same.
If I am truly following the Shepherd, then I can recognize when He is speaking through the various members in the Body. Especially, if I dismiss any claims to hierarchy and the trappings of the guru culture that so often form around certain gifted personalities.
Even though it’s difficult at times, let’s choose to foster healthy relationships with all in the body of Christ and realize that a somewhat unhealthy body part can still be beneficial to the parts around them. Remaining in touch may be the route to their recovery.
“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:2-3).
Let’s allow for environments that champion fellowship based on discovering truth in love. This means getting comfortable with open disagreement over issues rather than needing consensus around our personal beliefs in order to enjoy fellowship.
Expecting consensus around details of our faith is a naïve ideal that when pursued at all costs, ultimately produces division. It then goes on to breed false conformity maintained through ignorance and fear, constant immaturity, and guru followers rather than Jesus followers who are students of God’s word.
In my next post I’ll share more on this hope of growing in unity through recognizing that it already exists!
Exploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion
Is it really such a problem that we are so divided over differences of opinion? Well, yes and no! Let me explain. When a group shows a lack of consideration or any hint of inflexibility to the idea of members holding differing views then there is a problem. Whether it’s a study on the Amish, or any denomination, church or a sweet little home group, where there is inflexibility, there are problems, all be they hidden.
Defaulting to Control and Conformity
Strangely, we gravitate to control and conformity of thought, finding security in it, rather than recognizing the threat that environments with enforced views have on liberty and healthy grow. And, in this bubble-like environment, we become threatened by those who bring different views. Yet, it’s a God given liberty to individually discover and hold different views as long as it’s in an honest pursuit of Biblical truth in relationship with God. Denying a person that is wrong! True growth and genuine unity is based on love, not enforced ideas.
Developing Unity: Embracing Messy People
While we should affirm that the Bible is the only sure expression on which to base doctrine, we should nevertheless allow for messiness in interpretation to be a part of normal growth. And, rather than shun, or try and control those with various views, we should expect this to be a normal process of the development in peoples’ understanding. Paul seems content to allow for differences in thought as a part of growth when he writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Php. 3:14-16).
The potential disunity created by various views can be overcome if we give room for each to hold onto his or her convictions. For example, the practice of the Christening of infants with confirmation and the practice of believer’s baptism need not be divisive. Must we really go to separate buildings and worship apart from one another because we differ on issues like this? Let each do according to how they best understand God’s word and let God who fellowships with us all be blessed by seeing us lovingly fellowship despite our various opinions.
The Sin of Preeminence
Fervent opposition to the culture of guru following and any form of hierarchy and control is essential to avoid being led by some whacko (brother) or narcissistic leadership. And, I propose that it is easier to have unity with diversity under one roof if a decentralized, non-hierarchical, organic model is followed, where the Bible is the foundation for truth, and where room is given for individuals to have and share varied opinions and persuasions in the light of God’s word.
If we fellowship based on commonality of thinking then we will always be divided and will continue to divide. Unity based on control does not foster the loving fellowship that is founded solely on our brotherhood in Christ. Only in the cases of serious discipline, because of ongoing unrepented sin, should someone be kept from fellowship.