CHURCH AS JESUS INTENDED PART 3

The only “building program” in the New Testament is the building of men and women up in Jesus Christ. In the New Testament God did not reinstitute a new physical building program as He did in the Old Testament. God sovereignly destroyed the only physical building in the world that had any reflection of Him!

In the New Testament, in every town and city, Christians gathered in house churches. It was through all these small house churches everywhere in cities that Christians so rapidly multiplied and “turned the world upside down” for Christ. Only when we follow God’s model can we expect to do the same.

In the New Testament Jesus’ followers came together to “break bread” and “remember the Lord” only in house churches. Why only in houses churches? Jesus may have many more reasons that we don’t think about or understand, “His ways are not our ways.” But I can think of at least 10 pretty good reasons:
1. Identification: God does not want to be identified with a lifeless dead building anymore but rather only with life – the life of Spirit-filled believers.
2. Invitation: No one ever feels defensive when invited to come to a home, but rather gratitude and appreciation.
3. Extension: A house church is like a large family. It is just a large spiritual family. How a family operates is similar to how a house church family functions. Thereby, a good family becomes a good model for a house church and a good house church becomes a good model for a family.
4. Participation: A group as small as a house church allows everyone to participate and enjoy doing so. There is no such thing as “pew warmers”. House churches naturally foster real spiritual growth among everyone. In a traditional church, you are like a “spectator”. You walk in and are ministered to, spoon-fed, and entertained. You sit, you listen, you hear music, you hear a sermon and then you walk out. It’s like a spectator sport where you go, sit, watch and walk out. But believers in the New Testament church were not spectators ꟷ they were participators!
5. House Unity: Believers that meet in small house churches all feel very close to one another and experience true practical unity, quite unlike and impossible to experience in a large church congregation.
6. City Unity: Small house churches feel a greater need and desire to have unity with the larger body of Christ throughout their city, breeding a citywide spirit of love and unity with all believers in their city. The big building church congregations are so large that they often don’t see outside of their own big organization, unlike the small house churches.
7. Multiplying Leaders: The more leaders that develop within any group in society, the greater that group will multiply. Small house churches automatically stimulate spiritual leadership where large church building congregations with their professional clergy intrinsically suppress multiplying leaders.
8. Spreading the Gospel: Preachers are more apt to follow the New Testament example of going out to the public to preach the gospel when they don’t have a big church-building organization for people to come into. They’re more apt to follow the New Testament command to “GO and make disciples…”
9. Money: Billions of dollars are spent on church buildings, while if the same dollars were spent directly on people it would have an explosive impact the world over for the Kingdom of God.
10. Our Heavenly Father knows best: If we are not able to see any good reasons for house churches, we should still defer to house churches for no other reason than it is the only New Testament example that God Himself gave us. Does not our heavenly Father always know what is best? “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?” (Isaiah 45:9).
The implications of the precedent that God set in the New Testament for meeting in-house churches is staggering once you understand all the benefits and implications of it. Here are 8 more important implications:

  1. Spiritual growth explodes qualitatively and quantitatively because everyone is committed and involved in a house church.
  2. Real accountability with all the believers becoming close, loving one another, and being “subject one to another”, as the Scripture instructs.
  3. Potential leaders have real and practical opportunities to develop and multiply rapidly unlike possible in traditional churches.
  4. All Believers can be more individually encouraged and motivated to share their faith in all their workplaces and marketplaces.
  5. Eliminates the destructive clergy/laity class system so unbiblical and oppressive in traditional church organizations. In house churches, all the Believers are not just “priests” in theory but in practice (1 Peter 2:5, 9).
  6. Stimulates all Christian men to rise up and see their spiritual opportunity and responsibility to become mature men and spiritual leaders within house churches, thus greatly benefiting and affecting their own physical family, their workplace, and their whole community (1 Timothy 3).
  7. Allows for and galvanizes the “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers” to get out of their “church” buildings and follow Paul’s example to preach in public areas and from house to house (Acts 20:20).
  8. No money is diverted into building programs or church bureaucracy etc. but all funds go to help any faithful believers that are in genuine need and into the growing number of spiritual leaders to “fill all the city with their teaching about Jesus” (Acts 5:28).

Extracted from Jim McCotter’s book Church Revolution Today.

GOD USES CATASTROPHES FOR HIS PURPOSES

Just as Covid has caused massive disruption to the world now we have Russia invading Ukraine which has caused an enormous refugee crisis. Just as we see in the Book of Acts, catastrophes are opportunities for the church to innovate and to step in and help.

In Acts 8, a massive disruption upset the Christian world. Led by Saul of Tarsus, massive persecution drove Christians from their home base of Jerusalem. Up to that time the new Christian movement was centered in Jerusalem and was confined to Jews. By the end of the book of Acts, the church was more Gentile than Jewish and the church at Jerusalem was a side note. What made the difference? During the disruption, one church used it as an opportunity to innovate, and innovation changes the world.

Churches in countries neighboring Ukraine have opened their doors to shelter and aid refugees as the United Nations refugee agency estimated Thursday that 1 million people have fled the Eastern European nation since the beginning of Russia’s invasion last week. 

“In just seven days, 1 million people have fled Ukraine, uprooted by this senseless war,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement. “I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one.”

Many of the displaced have fled to neighboring countries such as Poland, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary, while many more remain in Ukraine. 

Churches in neighboring countries are among community centers and camps sheltering refugees who’ve fled from the violence, with some seeing hundreds of Ukrainians coming and going in recent days. 

Refugees from Ukraine are pictured after crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border in Korczowa on March 02, 2022. – The number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine has surged to nearly 875,000, UN figures showed on March 2, as fighting intensified on day seven of Russia’s invasion

As Poland has taken the brunt of the Ukrainian refugees, one church that has served as many as 400 refugees is a Baptist church in Chelm. According to the Baptist Federation of Europe, the church is “filled with life” as it has pushed its pews out of the way to make room for beds. 

“It is not tension that you feel as you enter the building but life, peace, and joy,” a statement from the federation reads. “Children laugh and play while mothers prepare for onward journeys. The church piano plays a variety of tunes, none of the hymns, as the children practice their piano lessons.”

“Pews are in the pulpit and beds fill the sanctuary, the balcony, and every available space,” the statement adds. “Ukrainian and Polish families work side by side, making food, receiving donations, and cleaning the toilets. The laundry vibrates as the three new washing machines continue their endless 24-hour cycle. The supply rooms are full of children excitedly selecting new clothes and discovering new toys that have been donated.”

The church’s kitchen has supplied soup, snacks, and hot meals for the refugees arriving while packing lunches for the refugees that depart. The church receives help from local hotels that provide clean linen for the beds. 

The Polish Baptist Union hopes to house as many as 1,000 refugees. Polish Baptists have established 40 shelter camps. The PBU provides the camps with bedding items, food, and hygiene items, while Send Relief, IMB’s relief arm, provides funds to assist in the relief efforts. 

First Baptist Church of Gdasnk, Poland, will host one of the refugee centers, according to IMB missionary Ken Brownd. “It’s just cool to see Polish Baptists stepping up and taking care of their neighbors. They’ve done that for a long time now, but this is a different level,” Brownd was quoted as saying in an IMB report “Our team is trying to organize the Send Relief help … but really, this is mostly driven by Polish Baptists, so we’re not the main players in this at all. We’re helpers, and so it’s amazing.”

If nothing else Christians all around the world need to be in prayer and look for ways to financially support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and the surrounding nations that are reaching out to help the refugees.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH CHURCH

A major issue afflicting the Church is the “clergy-laity mentality.” It is a pervasive mindset where the paid clergy leads the church and they are called “pastors.” They do most of the ministry work and laypeople serve the ministry of that pastor.

The Apostle Paul writes that the Church, the household of God, is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:20

Paul continues that the Lord gave fivefold offices for the edification of the Church, specifically

apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-12

All five of these gifts are needed and on a broad-based level, you need the apostles and prophets working together, hearing from God together. To use military terminology: apostles [are] the generals. The prophets being the seers, they’re the ones getting the intel [from God],

For a local church, there needs to be impartation from all those gifts, equipping from all those offices to equip people to minister to those who are not part of the Church, not just to minister to each other. The apostles are the builders, the church-planters, those who are trainers and equippers. And the prophetic is to come alongside them to help guide and speak to that — what is the Lord saying right now in the present. All five offices are needed to work together so that the Church can hear the full counsel of God.

 

Episcopal church ordains lesbian Bishop

Unfortunately, the institutional church came up with the model of training one man, then one man or woman and now transgender as well to be the pastor/leader of the church. This model is not Biblical and is in fact the apostate church Jesus (Matthew 24:12) and Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 ) spoke of as one of the “end times” signs. It has no understanding of the fivefold gifts working together to see each and every believer functioning and bringing the Kingdom into their workplace, in the marketplace, into their school, then a greater expression of Jesus is manifested in society. What is needed is small-a apostles?

Larry Kreider of DOVE International — an interdenominational global family of churches and ministries on six continents believes that an apostolically inclined small-a apostle is motivated by and is thinking on a macro, big-picture level, and wants to see the Kingdom of God extend across their city, state, region, nation and world. As with any other spiritual gift and vocations, this gifting is to be called out and affirmed by others in the Body of Christ. To function in these gifts, one needs to see the gifting’s in others, It’s not just someone who prophesies or carries a prophetic gift, but someone who trains up and pours into others so they can mature spiritually. 

This is truly the church as described in the Book of Acts and will be the church that overcomes during the tribulation in the last days before Jesus returns “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The victor will never be harmed by the second death.Revelation 2:10-11

THE GREATEST PERSON WHO EVER LIVED

Megachurch Pastor Jonathan Stockstill recently released his debut bookThe Real Jesus, Challenging What You Know About the Greatest Person Who Ever Lived, as a way to combat cultural Christianity.

Here we have a megachurch pastor realising that the church has largely failed in its mandate to produce disciples who can produce more disciples but he is yet to realise that the church model he continues to pursue is a major part of the problem. Nevertheless, his new book conveys important truths and the following edited transcript of Stockstill’s interview with The Christian Post where he identifies the differences between cultural Christianity and the biblical mandate to follow Christ is helpful to understand the state of the church. Another observation of Stockstill in this interview; in my opinion, he does not give sufficient recognition to the Holy Spirit and His role in every believers life.

The Real Jesus: Challenging What You Know About the Greatest Person Who Ever Lived

Christian Post: What inspired you to write The Real Jesus?

Stockstill: Three things: 1) I have seen that we live in a cultural Christianity — whether seen in our Christmas and Easter holidays, or in the gospel choir on the Grammys. We are a product of Christianity. I wanted to put the person of Jesus Christ back in the center of what it means to be a Christian. 2) I had an encounter with God in October of 2007 that forever changed my life. I talk about it in the book. 3) Jesus said, “if you love me, you will obey my commands.” That verse pierced me to my core and sent me on a journey of discovering exactly what He taught. This book is all about the man, the model, and the message of Jesus Christ.    

CP: Does Western society have different versions of who Jesus is?

Stockstill: Absolutely. … People commonly confuse their church attendance, spiritual habits, and good deeds as a sufficient substitute for their own faith in and relationship with Jesus. Yes, all of those things are great, but unless these actions are the result of an intimate relationship with our Savior, then it’s all for naught. Our faith in Christ should be so flourishing and fruitful that we can’t help but regularly do those things. 

Sadly, the idea of Christianity has become a to-do list for many, while Jesus just desires to know each of us more intimately.          

CP: How do you keep your ministry focused on the real Jesus despite the many different versions of Jesus that exist in this day and age?

Stockstill: Here at Bethany Church, our mission statement is: “Bringing all people into the life, family, and purpose of God.” If our ministry isn’t bringing someone into a personal relationship with Jesus, connecting them with other believers to do life with, or empowering them to live out the God-given purpose in their life, then we know that what we are doing isn’t of the real Jesus that we read about in Scripture.    

CP: What can someone do to identify how they might be following the wrong gospel?

Stockstill: To be a Christian means to be a little Christ. The only way you can be a little Christ is if you study Him, follow Him, obey Him, and allow His Spirit to transform you into His image. 

Simply put, if you have a religious tradition, but not the things I mentioned, you may be on the wrong track!  

CP: Along with being a pastor, you’re also a worship leader. Does being a worshiper help your connection with God?

Stockstill: For sure! Whether I’m leading or not, there’s no doubt that entering into the presence of God through worship is powerful. 

There are many instances in the Bible where praise preceded a breakthrough. No matter what it may sound like, declaring whose we are and who He is will always create an environment where God can work in our lives and reveal Himself to us. 

A Jesus-centered mentality has changed how I lead worship. When I lead in worship, I focus all my attention on Jesus. His presence follows.      

CP: What do you say to those who might not believe in real-life encounters with the son of God?

Stockstill: It’s human nature to doubt and play the “what if” game. However, Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” When you pursue Jesus, and not just what He offers, you can’t help but encounter who He is. 

For those with their own questions, I encourage you to seek out Jesus wholeheartedly for your answer(s) because you’ll soon experience for yourself everything that He is and wants you to become in Him.      

CP: Why do you think people do not have a real, raw and relevant relationship with God? What are the roadblocks? How can we cultivate that?

Stockstill: Life happens, and it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the things of today. Intentionally creating time and space for any relationship is difficult. With a world full of distractions, it’s no wonder that people lack authentic relationships with others and God. You may be doing a bunch of good things but that doesn’t mean you’re doing what’s best. And it’s hard to know what’s best unless you’re in constant communication with who has given us His best. Being still and knowing that He is God is most definitely easier said than done. 

We can’t hear His voice unless we’re close to Him and have removed ourselves from the things of this life. Until we are disciplined enough to create space for God, it’s crazy to think that we’ll know Him fully. Jesus was intentional about His relationships with others and even sought refuge in a garden to get clarity from His father, so shouldn’t we learn to do the same.

CP: What are the benefits of being a true disciple of Jesus and not just a fan?

Stockstill: Being a disciple of Christ means that we have everything through Him that God’s Word promises. As His sons and daughters, we will never be without because we are one with Him. 

A fan of Jesus may temporarily experience these things, but being His means that it’s ours for eternity.    

HOW THE CHURCH GREW AFTER PENTECOST

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the LordActs 11:19-24

It was the church at Antioch that first reached out to non Jews and note the “hand of the Lord was with them”. “And a great many people were added to the Lord.”

When a famine struck Judea, the church at Antioch was the first church recorded in Scripture to voluntarily collect resources and send them to assist another church.

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3

The church at Antioch had prophets and teachers. It was a worshipping church and its members fasted. It was Holy Spirit led, sending out disciples to spread the gospel and plant new churches.

How do our churches line up today to the Antioch model? It is an important question to ask. Could they be more like the church in Paul’s day back in Jerusalem? They were busy forcing Peter to defend his action of entering a gentile’s home and trying to get the gentile Christians to become Jewish. In other words, they were involved in activities other than those Jesus commanded church to do.

available on Amazon as a paperback and ebook.

I was prompted by the Holy Spirit in late 2013 to start a website
http://www.livingeternal.net. The circumstances were strange. I was in Isaiah 52 and 53 and had been thinking about the Pharisees and Sadducees and how blind they had been to Jesus first coming and yet so many Scriptures presented the facts of Him coming as a “suffering servant” and “pierced for our transgressions”.
Suddenly, the Holy Spirit cut across my thoughts and it was as if Jesus, Himself, said, “Let me tell you Ron, there are many more Scriptures about My second coming and the church is blind to it, they are asleep and are not prepared for the coming tribulation and persecution of Christians that is already upon us and will
escalate in the years ahead.
I have now published 1413 posts on livingeternal.net and into my seventh year. Its purpose is to not only alert the church to understand we are living in the “end times” exactly as prophesied in the O.T and N.T Scriptures but to convict Christians that church is about making disciples who make disciples as described in the Book of Acts and to connect them with movements that can help them get in step with God’s call on their life in these last days. This book is a distillation of the posts on livingeternal.net and is also available as an eBook on Amazon.
“Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12.
I am a pharmacist by profession. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry in senior management positions:
General Manager, Hospital Products Division of Abbott Laboratories Australia. General Manager, Abbott Diagnostics Division Australasia, Managing Director, The Ramsay Group, Division of C.R Bard.

After being born again in 1982, I purchased Christian Press in 1983 and managed it and Care & Share Products Pty Ltd for 30 plus years. God now has me now preparing the saints for His second coming with livingeternal.net and powerpointsermons.net.

HELPFUL ADVICE FOR A VIBRANT CHURCH

It is interesting to read the comments of a pastor from  the Grace Capital City, which meets at the Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, D.C. It is a growing congregation, with Lead Pastor Chris Moerman estimating that about 80 percent of its membership is millennial. Whilst I believe church growth can be a problem and the ideal church is the one described in the Book of Acts which is home groups, Chris Moerman makes some useful comments on how to reach millennial’s.

“I would attribute this growth to a combination of genuine and authentic relationships, a vibrant spirituality expressed through worship, teaching and community, and a passion to give people a vision for God’s work in their lives that impacts not just their Sunday’s at church, but their everyday existence,” Moerman added.

“At The Table Church, we’re passionate about Jesus, we create ministry around peoples’ gifts and empower them to put those gifts into action. We also have fun, do our best to love people well and we’re obsessed with helping people experience community. All of these things resonate with millennial’s, but I think everyone is hungry for the same thing.” We’ve discovered that millennial’s are looking for the many things other age demographics are. They’re looking for a church where the mission is clear and the path to getting engaged in community is simple and easy,”

Lum told CP that “keeping a clear mission” and helping people “use their gifts in the context of community” have enabled his church to stay vibrant.

“Congregations should look like the cities where God has planted them. If you’re in a city exploding with young people, then your church should definitely be reaching young people,” said Lum.

“Pastoring millennials requires a different approach to giving, but I think it’s a healthy and much needed transition. Millennials don’t give out of guilt or obligation, but instead they want to know that their generosity is making an impact.” Lum added that a key feature of giving in his church was “transparency,” adding that “everything is an open book.” “We provide quarterly financial updates that highlight the impact of our congregants’ investment in our church and our community,” he said.

While some majority-millennial churches are thriving, others have become a source of concern for what some believe is too great a focus on reaching out to one generation.

Jessica Lair with New Season church, a multi generational, multi ethnic congregation in Sacramento, California, told CP about a time when she worked with a millennial-centred church in Los Angeles.

Lair argues that millennial-centred churches deprive themselves of good spiritual wisdom from other age groups. “We as a generation need to quit with the attitude of ‘we can do it better,’ because sometimes, we can’t do it better,” wrote Lair, herself a millennial. “We as millennial’s NEED the generation before us. I have learned more life lessons at a multi-generational church in seven months than I did at a millennial church in two years.”

IS THE CHURCH NO LONGER RELEVANT?

What are the cultural realities that are crippling the church?

1. Not Holy Spirit led. It is rare to see anything like what you read about in the book of Acts happen in churches today. When’s the last time the Holy Spirit has moved among the people of your church? If you can’t point to something, that may be a sign of a powerless (Acts 1:8) church.

2. Not serving their community. Simply protesting against sin in the world without proactively working for good causes in the community creates a negative impression in the minds of those who drive past your church on Sundays. Also, consumerism has most definitely infected the church and it is reflected in how praise and worship is conducted. When you have Christians (no matter their age) content to sit and attend services (no matter the type) while refusing to stand up and serve others, you have an irrelevant church.

3. Bible knowledge alone equals spiritual maturity. Bible knowledge is foundational to spiritual maturity, but it does not in and of itself equal spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity comes with obedience and love towards others. Paul warned about this in 1 Corinthians 8:1 when he said, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

4. No John 17 unity. Jesus himself prayed (John 17:23) that his followers would be one, so that the world may know that we are his disciples. The early church brought men and women, Greeks and Jews, slaves and free, all together under the name of Jesus. Do we see that same unity today, or is the church divided along racial, political, theological and socio-economic lines?

Image result for pictures of empty churches
Anglican church in the UK

Regardless, God is still on His throne. Jesus is still building his church. The Holy Spirit continues to do his work. My prayer is that the church will start being part of the solution.

Live a Prayer-Care-Share Lifestyle

In Mark 9, Jesus modeled this for us:

  • Prayer = Jesus said His disciples couldn’t heal the boy because it required prayer
  • Care = Had compassion on the boy and his dad
  • Share = Jesus asked the boy’s dad to proclaim faith in Him before healing his son

Powerful Christians live accordingly, not content simply to invite people to church or stop at “telling their story”.  They understand that bringing people to Christ involves taking personal responsibility for all 3 – praying, caring and sharing.  

JESUS IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH

Another video from Torben that will encourage you as to what God is doing to build His church. Listen to the testimonies of three young people who were sent out as Jesus sent His disciples with no money, no two pairs of shoes. They were to be dependent upon God as provider, and their instruction was to find a person of peace in the town who would invite them into their home. Who is the person of peace – one whom the Holy Spirit is already at work in their life. Jesus told them to stay in that at home and bless them and train them. The stories are powerful and an inspiration for us all to do likewise.

WHAT ON EARTH ARE WE HERE FOR?

Dave Benson gave this presentation “What on Earth are we here for?” at Movement Day in Sydney, a gathering of Christian leaders interested in impacting their community for Jesus Christ. Most people there recognised that institutional church for the most part is not equipping the saints to do the work Jesus commanded us all to do.

You will need 16 minutes to view the video and I would encourage you to share it with other church leaders. Time is short let’s make sure we are in the centre of God’s will for our lives. Start living eternal now.