ReThinking Church, Part 10 – Biblical Leadership

America was born out of the seed of representation and democracy. It has given us the greatest freedoms of any civilized nation. Of course, baggage and error always comes with liberty and freedom, but that is the price for genuine freedom. Along with the secular government given to us by the trials of the forefathers, there is another pattern given to us. Unfortunately, it was given to the Church. That pattern is that the American church, for the most part, adopted the same forms of secular society and imposed it upon the ecclesiology of the church. Many fellowships take a vote from the local members to decide just about everything, or at the very least, have a board of Deacons who run the church on all matters. (physical and spiritual)

Is this the New Testament pattern? Is this the way Paul and the early apostles established leadership in the expansion of the church? Is this the polity we should use in our local churches?

Upon a casual reading of the NT we find the biblical pattern for church government to be quiet different from the American version. Here are the constants we find throughout the survey of the New Testament.

ReThinking Church, Part 9 – Christianity is NOT a Culture

Continuing our look at ReThinking Church, we find another difference between the modern church from the New Testament norm. It is in the area of culture. Today, especially in the West, there is little room between the Church and culture. In fact, the lines are so blurred that when we send out missionaries, they carry the baggage of the American culture and incorporate them into other cultures. (e.g. buildings with steeples, church furniture, meeting times, religious garments, etc..)

What was the position of the Church in the Scriptures? How did they view culture? What can we deduce from looking at their example of handling the various cultures as they were involved in the exponential expansion of the Faith? What did they understand that we miss?

Let’s answer these questions by stating some observances from Scriptures while ReThinking Church and culture.

  • The Faith is a Message – In the NT the Gospel proclamation is never seen in terms of having its own culture or subculture. Christianity is a message we are to proclaim to and among all cultures… to all nations. (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8)
  • Culture Not Transferable – Paul and the Apostles did not take their native Jewish culture and attempt to impose it on the Gentiles. In fact, this is part of what the Jerusalem council was all about. (Act 15)  Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 9 – Christianity is NOT a Culture”

ReThinking Church, Part 8 – Church Planting is NOT the Mission

Now, before you have a stroke, let me explain. Of course church planting is part of the overall strategy of evangelism and the spread of the Gospel. However, if we count the establishing or planting of a church as the final goal, we miss the heart of Jesus and the example of the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts.

When church planting becomes the mission, several destructive issues arise.

  • Power Play – Fight over who’s boss (Can involve family ties, social clicks, racial profiling, etc…)
  • Satisfaction – We have arrived.
  • Pride – Look what we have accomplished.
  • Inertia – At ease in Zion.
  • Self Absorbed – Can we build a larger building to impress the community. (Of course, the building is always for the ‘Glory of God.’ …sarcasm intended.)
  • Old Testament Paradigm – Come and hear, as opposed to New Testament model of ‘go and tell.’

The above problems, and many others associated with them, is what we see in the majority of fellowships in America.  However, these all contrast the teachings of Jesus and the outworking of His teachings which are demonstrated through the early church, Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 8 – Church Planting is NOT the Mission”

ReThinking Church, Part 7 – Instantly Evangelistic

When we examine the Biblical text we find another stark contrast between evangelism in the modern church verses what it looked like in the New Testament church. Today, for the most part and with few exceptions, evangelism is relegated to and seen as the responsibility of Pastors and Evangelists. Pastors, because they are continually teaching and preaching to inquirers and visitors on Sunday mornings. Evangelists, because soul winning is innate to their gifting and the thrust of their talents and calling. (Much could be said about this, but it would take us off topic.)

Evangelism in the New Testament church was an immediate and ordinary action following conversion to Jesus as Lord. Fishing for men became the instant and expected norm of a new believer. Today, we make converts comfortably inactive by giving them all the excuses why they need to wait: you’re not prepared, you need to learn, you are not an evangelist, bring your friends to church, get your friends to call the Pastor, etc…  Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 7 – Instantly Evangelistic”

ReThinking Church, Part 6 – God Uses the Wrong People

As we continue investigating the New Testament model of ‘church,’ the next thing which stands out is how the Lord uses all the ‘wrong people.’ Of course, I say this tongue in cheek as only the Lord can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. However, when we compare the members of the early church to the our middle and upper class fellowships, we see a stark contrast.

We leaders hate to admit it…but we target the ‘money people.’ They can fund our projects, support our needs and put our church finances at ease as they immediately come with a dividend. This stings, but time and time again I have seen fellow Pastors ‘suck up’ to those in the community who have financial success, while ignoring and even standing aloof from those who were in real need. To appease our conscience we send outreach into the poor neighborhoods and projects, but we dare not have these poor little unkept families come and smudge up our nice rooms and sanctuary. So we use a place out side our facilities to minister to them. God help us! We are hypocrites. Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 6 – God Uses the Wrong People”

ReThinking Church, Part 5 – Biblical Conversions

The greatest missing element we witness today within the local church is the lack of actual biblical conversions. We have committed flesh, rock star leaders, motivational speakers, talented musicians, dedicated workers, religious skits and plays. In all of this we seem to lack the first and foremost part of a New Testament Church…men and women who are actually changed by the gospel through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.

The modern church measures success by the numbers sitting in the seats. This is foolish and is based upon the wisdom and pragmatism of secular society. Success in the church is first measured by biblical conversions; not activity, small groups, outreach or any other effort. These efforts must come out of the heart of those who are born of the Spirit or they are nothing more than dead works. We see a lot of things being accomplished by the arm of the flesh these days and yet revival is not happening. We see very little happening out of prayer and the power of the Spirit, and this reveals that our techniques are motivating the flesh instead of pointing to the cross. God help us!

What are some of the signs that suggest that many we lead may be lacking a biblical conversion? There are several which demonstrate that we are preaching and spending our time prompting and petting the flesh rather than encouraging genuine believers. All of these are not innately wrong. They become a problem when used to coddle unbelievers instead of equipping genuine believers! Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 5 – Biblical Conversions”

ReThinking Church, Part 4 – Flexibility of Meeting Places

A huge advantage we see when we look at the New Testament model of church is their flexibility of meeting places or locations. As we saw in a previous post, it was illegal for the early Christians to build facilities in the Roman Empire…they could not have a permanent location even if they desired one. However, we see that this limitation did not hinder the growth of Christianity, and it is very possible that it contributed to its expansion. Simplicity and flexibility are our friends in church planting, not our enemies.

The early church did not look for or depend upon permanent facilities. They simply adjusted to their situation and never missed a step. The interesting thing to know is that at the beginning, when the church was mainly comprised of Jewish converts, the Christians knew they were leaving their temple and pursuing Jesus “outside the camp.” (Heb. 13:13) However, they quickly discovered, as Jesus had taught to the Samaritan woman, that true worship was in spirit and truth…not in a mountain, temple or city. (John 4:19-24) Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 4 – Flexibility of Meeting Places”

ReThinking Church, Part 3 – People are God’s Building

We saw in Part 2 that, according to the NT model and mindset, the term church never referred to a physical location or building. We saw that permanent physical worship facilities were non existent in the early church for multiple reasons. That brings us to the following point: we must allow the Holy Spirit to re-establish the biblical meaning of church in our heart and mind.

In the NT, we are introduced to a plethora of terms used by the Holy Spirit to communicate the meaning of what church is. These terms reflect various images and thoughts which force us out of our natural perception and into the understanding and intention of God’s heart. Here is a list of some of the words the authors of the New Testament used to convey the Holy Spirit’s meaning of church. Let us reflect and pray over them as we ask the Lord to open our hearts to see His heart. This can be dangerous…but it will also be liberating! Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 3 – People are God’s Building”

ReThinking Church, Part 2 – Church is not a Building

The problem is not that we have buildings but that we have substituted them for the meaning of church.

When we examine the New Testament, the first glaring difference between the first century concept and our modern concept of ‘church,’ is that to the early believers the term ‘church’ never referred to a building. The early believers had no ‘church buildings,’ and yet, they shook the Roman Empire with the gospel. They thrived, flourished and had exponential growth of church plants…all without having a single building program or permanent facility.

In the NT account of the expansion of the Christian faith, we are looking at the infancy of the movement. It is easy to explain away the lack of cathedrals and religious monuments, mainly because Christianity was an illegal religion and believers were not allowed to construct buildings for worship within the Roman Empire. But the model they were forced to use brings up several questions: Did their lack of permanent facilities actually enhance their outreach by decentralizing their gatherings? Was the explosion of outreach linked with their inability, both legally and financially, to create the monuments which glorify man? If they had Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 2 – Church is not a Building”

ReThinking Church, Part 1 – Dangerous Questions

If we are going to reach our generation, especially those growing up in our post-christian culture and homes, and falling through the cracks of our outreach programs, we must rethink church. Our Western culture has inbred in us, and passed down to us, a view and model of church which appears to be foreign to what we see in Scriptures.

This is not an ‘anti-establishment’ diatribe of what most of us have called church. Neither is it an attack against denominationalism. I’ve pastored, ministered and spoken in various denominations for nearly 30 years. I love God’s people and the promise Jesus made to “build His Church.” (Matt. 16:18) And therein lies the impetus into the questions we will examine. It starts with the simple and honest question, “What exactly did Jesus promise to build?” Does our modern concept of Church in the West resemble what Jesus intended to build? Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 1 – Dangerous Questions”