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The Church in the New Testament: Its Form, Function and Purpose

"Church" as we've come to know it looks nothing like what we see in the New Testament. We can either look to Scripture to define what it means to be the church, or to vain human traditions.

By James Wright, a church planter in Virginia with Fulcrum Ministries.

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The Church in the New Testament: Its Form, Function and Purpose

  1. 1. Its Form, Function and Purpose James C. Wright, J.D. Fulcrum Ministries
  2. 2. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! All that you think of as "church" is about to be challenged so God can woo us back to being, once more, the multi-faceted, wonderful, exciting Body of Christ. (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 2
  3. 3. To Understand "Church" …  We must understand God's ultimate purpose in history  We must understand how the Lord designed His Church to help fulfill that purpose  And then we must understand how we personally fit into that purpose, both through the Church and also individually (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 3
  4. 4. Reconciling the World to Christ … God "through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 5:18-20 ESV) … Is God's Goal and Our Purpose (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 4
  5. 5. Reconciliation Comes As … "On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned … you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor…. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." (Isaiah 9:2-7 NIV) … Christ's Kingdom & Rule Forever Expand (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 5
  6. 6. Jesus Confirmed His Mission …  "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come." (Luke 4:18-19 NLT)  "… he said to them, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.'" (Luke 4:42-42 ESV)  "The time promised by God has come at last!" he announced. "The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!" (Mark 1:15 NLT) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 6
  7. 7. And His Mission is Now Our Mission "Jesus [after His resurrection] said to them [His disciples] again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." ( John 20:21-23 ESV) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 7
  8. 8. We Engage In Reconciling All Things … "And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." (Col. 1:18-20 ESV) … As Christ's Body, The Church (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 8
  9. 9. Reconciling "All Things" Means All Things! Jesus uses the Church to reconcile to Himself, in our lives personally but also in our society and culture, all that Satan previously possessed: "And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ['ethne', meaning cultures], baptizing them in [i.e., bringing them into full identity with] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" (Matt. 28:18-20 ESV) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 9
  10. 10. The Body of Christ Has Much Yet To Do Jesus has captured full authority and legal title, but not yet full possession:  "He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets." (Col. 2:15, The Message)  "'You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.' Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him." (Heb. 2:7-8) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 10
  11. 11. The Church Is Not On Defense! "Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'" (Matt. 16:16-19 ESV) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 11
  12. 12. We Knock Down The Strongholds of Satan In Jesus' time, the city represented the seat of power for a region and its society A city's main gate and plaza were the locale for any society's vital functions: Political, Religious, Economic and Military Power Justice Commerce and Money News and Socializing Arts and Culture (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 12
  13. 13. So What Does Reconciliation Look Like? The Triune God decided, before time began, to expand their fellowship and love to others, and created us for that purpose! As Jesus prayed: "Father, it's time. Display the bright splendor of your Son so the Son in turn may show your bright splendor. You put him in charge of every- thing human so he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge. And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent." (John 17 MSG) The Trinity's Love, Fellowship & Unity … (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 13
  14. 14. … Extended To Us and Between Us "For the message you gave me, I gave them.… For I'm no longer going to be visible in the world; they'll continue in the world while I return to you. Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life that you conferred as a gift through me, so they can be one heart and mind as we are one heart and mind…. Make them holy – consecrated – with the truth; your word is consecrating truth." (John 17 MSG) Holy & Consecrated in Truth … (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 14
  15. 15. … To Then Reconcile the World to its Creator "In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world…. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind – just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they'll be as unified and together as we are – I in them and you in me. Then they'll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you've sent me and loved them in the same way you've loved me." (John 17 MSG) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 15
  16. 16. Individual Pietism – The Spirit of Our Age  Most Christians today act as though Jesus went to the cross to reconcile Himself to us – as though his greatest purpose is to meet our individual needs, solve our individual problems, and simply get us to heaven – rather than to reconcile us to Him so we can advance His agenda.  The belief that God's ultimate goal is a "personal relationship" – without integrating into authentic church to be equipped and work together in reconciling all things to Him as His multi-faceted body and presence on earth – is heretical.  If solo Christians are not part of Christ's body, how can they claim He is their head or that they are doing His will? (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 16
  17. 17. Autonomous "Christians" Doing Their Own Thing "for God" … "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" (Matt. 7:21-23 ESV) … Oops! (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 17
  18. 18. Solo Christianity: There's No Such Thing Question: Unless we become the "body" of Christ, with Him as the head, who will Jesus work through to reconcile "all things" to himself? Question: If we are not part of His body, the church, how can we even claim to belong to Christ? Question: How can we manifest Christ and be His presence on earth, apart from being the church (i.e., the multi-faceted Body of Christ)? Question: Is this even possible if we don't know how to "be the church"? (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 18
  19. 19. Authentic Church Edifies by Participation!  "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb. 10:24-25 NKJV)  "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." (Eph. 5:19)  "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Col. 3:16 NASB) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 19
  20. 20. Church Leaders Equip Us To Minister We reconcile all things to Christ as we are equipped and become mature, through the Church, in using our unique gifts in His service. (Eph. 4:11-16) "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds ['pastors'] and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry [i.e., service according to our gifts], for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. . . . (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 20
  21. 21. Through Love, Not Coercion or Compulsion "... Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." ( Eph. 4:11-16 ESV)  So we don't act by human cunning. Rather, we function as the Body of Christ through truth spoken in love, not by force.  We build through love and trust that our individual roles, when properly working, all fit together. (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 21
  22. 22. "Equip" – Fitting Properly into Christ's Body "The Greek word for equipping, 'katartismos,' is used as a noun only once – in Ephesians 4:12. But the word has an interesting medical history in classical Greek. To equip is to put a bone or a part of the human body into right relationship with the other parts of the body so that every part fits thoroughly…. A Greek doctor would 'equip' a body by putting a bone back into its correct relationship with the other members of the body." – R. Paul Stevens, Liberating the Laity (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 22
  23. 23. The Fully Functioning Body of Christ …  "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well." (Rom 12:4-6a NIV)  "God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 4:10-11 NLT) … Everyone Using Their Gifts to Serve (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 23
  24. 24. The Body of Christ, Reconciling All Things…  Coming under his headship and displaying unity thru loving service.  Proper facilitating (rather than dominating) church leadership equips us to be Christ's ambassadors – according to our individual gifts.  We become mature and able to effectively minister through love in those places and circumstances where we find ourselves or He sends us.  We don't rely on human cunning, craftiness or deceitful schemes.  We reflect Christ's love as we minister – both in and outside the Church – to woo people to, rather than impose, Christ's Lordship.  God is sovereign – He makes all the pieces fit! (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 24
  25. 25. … By Expanding The Kingdom of God  When the Church functions properly, we are equipped to act as Christ's wonderful, multi-faceted body – His arms, hands and feet acting in unity and love to make Christ visible throughout the earth.  We reconcile all things by loving one another and then loving others as we use our gifts in service to all through Christ.  Christ's rule and Kingdom thus continually advances, blessing all men and all creation: "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 14:17 KJV) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 25
  26. 26. Key Biblical Concepts for the Church To be the multi-faceted Body of Christ that reconciles all things to Him, the Church must return to Biblical principles and patterns: Intimate, smaller fellowships that facilitate ministry one to another Everyone is equipped to contribute and use their individual gifts No one person or group of "professional" Christians dominate Face-to-face participation rather than passive, anonymous pew sitting Diversified and engaged elders who facilitate rather than control Fully functioning, throughout-the-week community and fellowship, rather than focused on Sunday-morning "God Shows" (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 26
  27. 27. New Testament Church Podium Church  Networks of small, typically home- based fellowships in neighborhoods  Home-grown elders generally chosen from within the local church to pastor and equip God's people  Main meeting: Share a meal, minister to each other, foster community  Diverse leadership w/ diverse giftings  Deacons chosen by people to handle administration  Generous giving to help others and to support leaders actually bearing fruit in others' lives through their labors; almost no "overhead" or waste  Church buildings and programs  Pastor hired from outside to become sole proprietor  Elders, if any, act as corporate boards of directors; disengaged from people  Main meeting: Sunday performances that encourage passive and anonymous Christians  Single pastor becomes bottleneck due to limited (but real) personal gifts as he tries to oversee everything  Entitlement to tithes without regard to fruit; resources consumed by buildings, overhead & infrastructure (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 27
  28. 28. The New Testament Church Functioned Just Fine Without:  Church buildings (4th century)  Scripted and directed services (4th to 7th c.); church programs/bulletins (19th c.)  Pews (or other theater-style seating), podiums and pulpits (4th to 18th c.)  Hierarchical leadership over local churches, beyond multiple elders and deacons (evolved over late 2nd c. to 6th c.)  Sermons and monolog preaching (trend began late 2nd c.)  Entertainment-based worship (19th c.)  Old Testament tithing (Started 4th c., not generally taught until 8th c., formalized 11th c.)  Ritualized (late 2nd c.) and clergy-led communion (4th c.) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 28
  29. 29. Jesus Set The Pattern …  In Luke 10:1-11, Jesus himself established the pattern of advancing the Kingdom through home-oriented fellowships located where the people lived.  He sent seventy-two disciples, two by two, to find houses of peace and hospitality (likely headed by those who were not yet believers) to serve as focal points for bringing the Kingdom of God into a new town or village.  Without a house of peace and hospitality, the disciples could do nothing and had to move on.  Jesus' direct disciples were secondary to the house of peace and hospitality! (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 29
  30. 30. Peter and Paul Followed The Same Pattern  Peter and the apostles organized Jerusalem believers primarily into home churches where they fellowshipped and shared meals. (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 8:3)  Paul started new churches in new cities as home fellowships, then moved on so local leaders could emerge without overshadowing them.  Those churches often were hosted by hospitable women, such as Mark's mom in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), Lydia in Philippi (Acts 16:15 & 40), Priscilla in Ephesus and then Rome (1 Cor. 16:19 & Rom. 16:3-5), and Nympha (Col. 4:15).  Every church meeting place mentioned in the New Testament is a home (except for short-lived additional gatherings at the Jerusalem temple).  There's no historical reference to church buildings until the 4th century! (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 30
  31. 31. Vain Traditions or Biblical Authenticity? "The New Testament church had no fixed order of worship. The early Christians gathered in open-participatory meetings where all believers shared their experience of Christ, exercised their gifts, and sought to edify one another. No one was a spectator. All were given the privilege and the responsi-bility to participate. The purpose of these church meetings was twofold. It was for the mutual edification of the body. It was also to make visible the Lord Jesus Christ through the every-member functioning of His body…. They were informal gatherings that were permeated with an atmosphere of freedom, spontaneity, and joy … they did not serve as a platform for any particular ministry or gifted person." – F. Viola, Pagan Christianity (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 31
  32. 32. We Can't Become Rigid, However  The whole Jerusalem church met outside at Solomon's Court in the temple for worship & foundational teaching. (Acts 2:46 & 5:12)  Smaller home churches would then meet throughout Jerusalem to "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching." (Acts 2:42)  The large gatherings at the temple didn't last long, however. Persecution came, and according to The Book of Acts, God used that to force the church to expand by scattering and decentralizing!  In Ephesus, Paul held "daily discussions [not monologs!] at the lecture hall of Tyrannus" from 11 am to 4 pm for two years. (Acts 19: 9-10 NLT) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 32
  33. 33. Solomon's Court at the Temple in Jerusalem (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 33
  34. 34. We, And Not Some Building, Are God's House! "Christianity was the first and only religion the world has ever known that was void of ritual, clergy, and sacred buildings. For the first 300 years of the church's existence, Christians gathered in homes. On special occasions, Christian workers would sometimes make use of larger facilities (like Solomon's Porch and the Hall of Tyrannus). But they had no concept of a sacred edifice nor of spending large amounts of money on buildings. Nor would they ever call a building a 'church' or the 'house of God.' The only sacred building the early Christians knew was the one not made with human hands." – F. Viola, Pagan Christianity (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 34
  35. 35. Local Church Leadership  Unlike today, where churches organize around catalytic leaders, appealing personalities or visionary builders, the New Testament example is different.  Paul, John, James, Peter (and other catalytic and visionary leaders) generally started or helped young churches, but didn't stay.  They allowed a diverse group of local elders to emerge, encouraging them.  They carefully avoided the natural tendency of churches and new believers to defer or lean on them – thus failing to develop diverse gifts.  They were mentors and spiritual fathers who encouraged and admonished – rather than control, dominate or rule over – local congregations and elders.  They expanded the Kingdom of God, not their own Kingdoms! (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 35
  36. 36. No Single Pastors in the New Testament  The fact remains that there is not a single example in the entire New Testament of a single or sole-proprietor pastor over a church, except for Diotrephes (who John strongly condemns because he "loves to be the leader" and elevated himself over other leaders). (3 John 1:9 NLT)  There simply is no office of a "pastor" separate from, or over, a plurality of local elders.  Rather, being pastors (also translated "shepherds") are what elders are commanded to do! (Acts 20:28-29 NIV)  In the New Testament, local church leaders are always referred to as elders – plural! (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 36
  37. 37. Properly Functioning Leaders Are Vital  Among the Apostles and elders in the Jerusalem church, some functioned as "first among equals" – like Peter, then James – but decisions were still by consensus rather than dictated. (Acts 15:22)  An elder (interchangeably translated "bishop", "overseer", "presbyter", "teacher" and "pastor") is to be a good shepherd, rule well, teach sound doctrine, study scripture, minister to the sick, be hospitable, of good reputation and respect, and facilitate the equipping of God's people for works of service. (Eph. 4:11-12, James 5:14, 1 Tim. 3 & 5:17-22)  Deacons are to handle money, administration and responsibilities to free the other leaders to focus on their separate duties. (Acts 6:2-4, 1 Tim. 3) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 37
  38. 38. Elders in the New Testament  Plural and diverse, but never solo over a local church.  Accountable and subject to higher ethical scrutiny and public rebuke, although there's no church "office" hierarchically over them.  Engaged and actively involved in the lives of the people they serve.  Equipping God's people for service and ministry, both inside and outside the church, according to each person's unique gifts.  Facilitating, not by controlling or directing the meetings or God's people, but by creating an open environment where others will participate, come forth in their gifts, minister, and feel secure in doing so.  Lead by humbly serving rather than hierarchically lording over others. (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 38
  39. 39. Elders Don't Dominate, but Care for God's Flock by Humble Example "I WARN and counsel the elders among you (the pastors and spiritual guides of the church) as a fellow elder … Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits [belonging to the office], but eagerly and cheerfully; Not domineering [as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons] over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation)…. Clothe (apron) yourselves, all of you, with humility [as the garb of a servant, so that its covering cannot possibly be stripped from you, with freedom from pride and arrogance] toward one another." (1 Pet. 5:1-5 AMP) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 39
  40. 40. Yet Balance Is Needed Regarding Leadership  The New Testament mandate for a diverse plurality of elders (the "presbytery") does not mean leadership by lowest common denominator.  The radical belief that a plurality of elders will or must be co-equal in gifting, function, influence or respect is unrealistic and not scriptural  Some may be worthy of "double honor" or serve full time, supported by the fruit they produce in others. (1 Tim. 5:17-18, 1 Cor. 9:6-14)  Other elders may be especially respected or gifted as catalysts, visionaries or coordinating leaders within the church and the eldership – perhaps generally or in specific areas – but never with hierarchical authority over the other elders. (Acts 15:13-23) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 40
  41. 41. Shared Meals: Integral to Church Meetings  "All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper ), and to prayer…. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people." (Acts 2:42 – 47 NLT)  There are numerous New Testament and historical references to the fact that the early church, as it met in each other's homes, incorporated a shared meal into their gatherings. (1 Cor. 11:20-21; Acts 20:11; 2 Pet. 2:13; Jude 12) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 41
  42. 42. The Importance of the Shared Meal  The importance of sharing the Lord's Supper ("communion") as a full meal – historically called a "love feast" by early Christians – as a normal part of being the church was emphasized by the 1st Jerusalem Council: New Gentile converts were to refrain from only two things: eating practices (consuming meat offered to idols, blood and strangled things) that would be highly offensive to Jews and thus prevent shared meals while fellowshipped together, and from sexual immorality. (Acts 15:28-29)  Sharing a meal helps forge friendships and community because it allows us to related informally. It fosters fellowship, love and unity. (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 42
  43. 43. If Good Enough for Jesus, Peter and Paul …  Home-based, participatory fellowships with diverse, facilitating and equipping leadership, for the first three centuries, were the primary model for the church – consistent with the pattern established in the New Testament.  The church advanced as believers built community thru face-to-face fellowship, ministering to each other and sharing communion together as a full meal in their homes.  These churches transformed the culture, as per the Great Commission. … Why Not Good Enough for Us? (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 43
  44. 44. Where Did We Go Off Course?  The switch to buildings and clergy dominated churches occurred in the early 4th century, when Emperor Constantine officially recognized Christianity for the first time as a legitimate religion.  He then used Christianity to unify the Roman world through a massive campaign of building "churches" (i.e., buildings) in most Roman cities and consolidating religious authority under official "clergy".  Until then, authentic church had always been primarily home based, community-rooted, participatory and fellowship focused. (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 44
  45. 45. The Body of Christ? The "church" degenerated over several hundred years:  From active, face-to-face fellowship and community to directed meetings with passive "members".  From local elders and ministering to each other, to ministry by hired, professional, hierarchical clergy.  From facilitating, equipping and serving leadership to leadership with an attitude of entitlement, expertise and ownership over God's people.  From advancing God's Kingdom through organic growth and reproduction, to accumulating power, prestige and wealth through centralized control. After the shift fully occurred, Europe entered the "dark ages"! (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 45
  46. 46. Some Things Never Change … So why do we still pine after the such things today, constantly chasing after leaders who make us dependent – with the best of intentions! – and following after vain traditions? "An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so." (Jer. 5:30-31 NKJV) We all want what is familiar, what is religious, what feels safe, and what doesn't demand much of us! … But what does God want? (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 46
  47. 47. God Help Us All! "When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business." – Richard Halverson (national church leader and former U.S. Senate Chaplain) • The inescapable fact is that a podium church is seldom good for the one- man pastor or pastoral staff (see pastoral burnout statistics), and never so for the people. • Yet we keep doing the same things, while expecting different results – but instead produce the same disengaged, passive, generally immature and ineffective kinds of Christians who mirror the world more than Christ. (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 47
  48. 48. Why Does This Matter?  With large, clergy dominate meetings, we can't minister one to another.  We can't fully develop our gifts because the focus is directed ministry.  With a Sunday service mentality, where we fellowship with the back of people's heads and watch the "God Show", it's hard to develop community.  We can't be the wonderful, exciting, visible, multi-functional and participatory Body of Christ where all serve in love according to their gifts.  My observation is that although podium-focused churches produce some growth, it's limited. People hit a plateau because the whole structure and mentality fosters passive and anonymous Christians. (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 48
  49. 49. For all practical purposes, is your church … a showcase for … organized around … dominated by … and structured primarily to support and facilitate … … one man (or leadership team) and his (or their) gifting and ministry? – or – Is it structured primarily to support and facilitate … … everyone ministering according to their multi-faceted gifts as the diverse, fully-functioning Body of Christ? (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 49
  50. 50. Equipping Others Using Others Allow Them to Function Give Them Functions Believe in Them Make Them Believe in You Delegate Authority Expect Submission / "Team Players" Further God's Plan for Them Make Them Part of Your Plan Give Them What You Have Take What They Have to Give Dialog & Discussions Monolog Sermons & Teachings Freely Spend Time with Them Require Appointments Serve Them Let Them Serve You Unleash Them into Their Calling Rope Them into Your Calling (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries Based Partially on a Chart by Wolfgang Simson in The House Church Book 50
  51. 51. Nonetheless, Let's Stop Blaming "Podium" Churches, Solo Pastors & Others  What are your expectations when the church meets? To be ministered to and blessed, (i.e., to receive)? Or to minister and bless, (i.e., to give?)  "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35) When we meet: If you love one another enough to bless one another by lifting up Jesus and sharing the unfolding grace He's given you, then you will truly receive – far more than you contributed!  No church will ever rise above the expectations of its people, (i.e., you!). (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 51
  52. 52. The Problem Often is Us!  If your meetings encourage participatory ministry one to another, and your "needs" are still not being met … … then it's likely because you are refusing to edify others and lift Jesus up by contributing what you uniquely have to offer.  Here's a secret: Your needs usually arise from your giftings. For example: Those with the gift of mercy need intimacy with the Lord (worshipful prayer & singing) and with others (sharing from the heart). But their gift best equips them to be the ones who initiate in those areas – thus bringing forth in the church the very thing they most need!  Your needs will be met when you contribute to the meeting what you need – because it's rooted in your gifts – thus blessing you as others join in! (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 52
  53. 53. The Wonderful Body of Christ: Reconciling All Things by Showing Christ as We Each Minister, Participate, Edify & Equip in Love and Unity "So here's what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight… Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other… This goes for all the churches – no exceptions." (1 Cor. 14:26-33 MSG) (c) 2010, Fulcrum Ministries 53