CHURCH AS GOD INTENDED

Warning Against Idleness

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

Sadly, in many of the institutional churches, there are many who walk in idleness and are busybodies. This is more difficult in the church that Paul and the disciples established as described in the Book of Acts.

They Had Everything in Common

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power, the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.Acts 4:32-37

A Healthy Fear of the Lord

In those days there was a healthy fear of the Lord within the church as the Holy Spirit judged dishonesty harshly. As the story of Ananias and Sapphira demonstrates.
​”But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.Acts 5:1-11

Many Signs and Wonders Done

Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.” Acts 5:12. Not just the twelve but all apostles (sent ones). “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:12

House Churches

All New Testament churches only met in believers’ homes. None of the apostles, no church leaders, or Christians ever even mentioned meeting in or constructing any kind of church building. House churches were the only pattern for meeting in the New Testament. The New Testament home church pattern was the only church model for all Christians for over 300 years! Even after that time Christians themselves never started constructing church buildings. Rather, after 325 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine 1st and his mother, Helena, started driving out the mystic pagans from their large pagan temples and started having all the Christians meet in these temples! Constantine and Helena also began building additional large temples and started having believers meet in them all over the known world.

CHURCH AS JESUS INTENDED PART 3

In the early Church not only were there no church buildings but there was also no such thing as any Christian denominations. The denominational or independent churches of today are nowhere to be found in the New Testament except Corinth where they started to crop up and there were strongly condemned by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).

Even though the multitude of Christians in a city would regularly gather in their respective house churches, all the Christians in every city were viewed as one body, as members of one church in their respective city. And the spiritual leaders were not divided in a city but were a single overseeing body of pastors/leaders. Nowhere does the New Testament use the word “churches” (plural) in a city, but only “the church at Jerusalem” or “the church at Antioch” or “the church at Ephesus” etc. (Acts 11:22; 13:1; 20:17; 21:18; 1Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 4, 7, 14). And there are no exceptions to this fundamental truth.
In the New Testament the word “church” was used in three different ways:

  1. The universal church: All believers in the world were members of the one single universal world church ꟷ Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).
  2. The city church: All believers in every city were members of one city church ꟷ “The church at Jerusalem… the church at Ephesus” (Acts 11:22; 20:17, etc.).
  3. The house church: All believers were a part of one House Church ꟷ “They met in homes for the Lord’s Supper… in their home for church meetings” (Acts 2:46; 1 Corinthians 16:19, etc.).
    There was no other kind of church other than the ones condemned by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Every believer was a member of the universal church, a city church, and a house church. In other words, Jesus has His universal group, His city group, and His house group.
    All elders/pastors in a city were a single body of leaders subject to one another and all responsible together for unitedly overseeing all the Believers in their city. This has many extending implications for reaching cities for Christ and literally fulfilling the Great Commission in every nation. And this is one big reason why the early Christians were fulfilling the Great Commission in their generation. We’ll look at this in more detail later.
    The word “church” in the Greek is “ekklesia”. This word has nothing to do with any kind of building. The word means only a “gathering” or “assembly” of any group of people for any reason. It was not a religious or Christian word at the time and had no such connotation. It was a very common word used for any group of people that would gather when Jesus used the word, and He said, “I will build my church.” There were lots of “churches” or “groups” at that time for any number of purposes. Jesus was simply saying, “I will build My group!” In time Jesus’ group became so dominant in the world that the word “ekklesia” began to only refer to Jesus’ “group” or “church”.

In the 4th century when Constantine had Christians take over large pagan temples to worship in, the word “church” then began to take on a very foreign unbiblical meaning. Now instead of the word “church” meaning Jesus’ group or gang of followers, the word “church” began to be identified as a building! Today we say, “Let’s go to church.” But we don’t go to church, we are the church!

Extracts from Jim Cotter’s excellent book Church Revolution Today. http://www.housechurches.org

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.

A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW IS CRITICAL

A biblical worldview is critical because that’s what enables you to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Romans 12 talks to us about, ‘you have to have your mind renewed’, you must be ‘transformed’ by that ‘renewing of your mind’ with God’s principles at the core of all of your thoughts so that you can in fact live like Christ.”

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2

Moreover, this is impossible unless we have been born again with the Holy Spirit now indwelling our spirit. Proverbs tells us that the spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord and of course a lamp needs oil to function which is, of course, the Holy Spirit. To function as God intended we have always needed the Holy Spirit to be our counsellor, our comforter, and our teacher.

The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.” Proverbs 20:27

 Also, according to Barna, the only way to achieve cultural transformation is if people choose to “believe God’s truths,” which in turn will allow them to “act upon those truths based upon those things that you believe.”

“We are here to be salt and light. That’s what transformation is: changing the world around us forever based on God’s truths. But in order to do that, we need a healthy church. We need believers who get it, believers who are willing to put their lives on the line. Today’s traditional church and leadership model has veered far from Christ’s New Testament model of disciples making disciples typically in house churches.

In fact, a study released earlier this year by the Cultural Research Centre of 1,000 pastors found that only 37% of Christian pastors in the United States have a biblical worldview. The majority possess the hybrid syncretism worldview.

“As you read the Scriptures, you find that biblically, it is the role of the community of faith, i.e., our churches, to be supporting families and particularly parents in that process, equipping them for raising up their children to be dynamic followers of Jesus Christ,” Barna advised. Only the church model Jesus established, as described in the Book of Acts, will achieve that goal. I a convinced that the House church model is Jesus model and the institutional church will not survive the prophesied “end times” tribulation.

CHURCH AS GOD INTENDED

Church Revolution Today

The first Christian leader who read this book changed what they had been doing in starting new churches. Following the Biblical model in Church Revolution Today, in 5 years they started over 6,000 house churches and saw over 60,000 new baptized believers. This book is indeed revolutionary.  

available from http://www.jimsbookstore.com for a donation

The author, Jim McCotter, has personally started countless house churches and a worldwide movement of churches. He has trained thousands of believers in how to win others to Christ and how to work together to grow and multiply churches in cities throughout the world. Some that Jim has trained internationally and that have read this book are now starting, on average, more than one new house church a week.
Jim has proclaimed the Gospel in person to tens of thousands in cities and universities all over the world. And through newspapers, radio networks and television stations, which Jim and his team have owned and operated, he has communicated to literally millions of people nationally and internationally advancing the Kingdom of God. Now Jim and his team are developing new media, interactive multimedia, to reach every nation in the world.

Think about it… without any modern-day transportation, communication, or technology the New Testament churches were literally fulfilling the Great Commission in their day. It was even the heathen that were saying, they are “turning the world upside down for Christ!” Yet today, Christians have not even turned one city upside down for Christ, much less the world! Something is wrong! The church and church leadership must dramatically change. We must humble ourselves and acknowledge that the churches, spiritual leaders and we are missing the mark. It is we that must be revolutionized. We need a spiritual revolution.

Charles Otieno Owino of the Kenya House Church Movement brought Jim McCotter to my attention and I am glad he did. Make sure you read it and bring it to the attention of all those who want to be obedient to God’s call to preach the Gospel, particularly to pastors in traditional denominational churches.

LIFE IN CHRIST FOR YOUR FAMILY

Seven years ago Robert and his wife Evelyn decided to take a leap of faith to leave their jobs and careers behind, trusting God to provide for them and lead them further. In this video Robert shares what happened since then and the things they learned. Living eternal now being directed by the Holy Spirit believing God’s Word.

“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:28-30

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34

MORE FROM THE LAST REFORMATION MOVEMENT:

I want to say that this is not only a life Robert and his family are called to live. I believe this is a life many more people are called to live! Not that everyone should do exactly as they did, but everyone CAN do so much more than we are often doing! Start where you are! Use the free resources we have – The Kickstart Package, the online Pioneer School, etc… all the resources which are available for you to use to bear fruit!

But I also want to challenge many of you out there – I think many more people ARE called to do like Robbert and his family! We have just done a new page on TheLastReformation.com called FAMILY ON A MISSION. You can see the link here: youtu.be/lXvMqdLzGyo

On this page, you will find other stories of other people who started to see amazing fruit! What you can see is that every story is different, but every person is the same in the sense that the Holy Spirit is leading, God is providing, and there is amazing fruit!

So I want to challenge you even more, especially in the times we are living in now – don’t get old and look back at your life regretting that you did not take some big steps for Jesus! Don’t stand in front of Jesus one day when He comes back very soon, not having anything to show! Do what He has called you to do! And let us know how we can help you!

BIBLE DISCOVERY HOME GROUPS

An important step in making disciples for Jesus. You don’t have to be a graduate of a Bible College to conduct these Bible studies. Family as a Mission to Make Disciples.

In this video, Torben introduces you to three simple steps you can take to see a Bible Discovery Group begin! These three steps provide a simple but amazing tool you can use to host your own Bible Group. Last Reformation (L.R.) is already seeing many new groups start all over America!

Last Reformation plans to network with groups who are ready to start a Bible Discovery Group or host THE KICKSTART PACKAGE. The goal being to see a reformation of the church, back to the REAL JESUS FELLOWSHIP – just like the early church, with love, power, and growth! Then they will make disciples and see Jesus build HIS church!

L.R. expects this is going to explode! I think they are right! So watch the video! Share the video!

CHURCH LEADERSHIP

Even as far back as the 1970s many church goers began to be suspicious of ordination and all that went with it. The spectacle of some leaders being given special status among the people of God seemed contrary to the essential equality of all people in creation, fall and redemption. When accompanied by the wearing of special clergy robes and designation as “Rev” and then the clambering for such giddy titles as “Right Rev.” and “Very Rev.”, the whole ordination thing seemed reminiscent of Matt 23:1-12 (Scribes and Pharisees). Women clamoured after these top jobs.

The liturgical construct separated ordained clergy from the people of God and from the eldership. Clergy were placed on a pedestal (with all its perils), the eldership was diminished (with all its perils) and the people of God were left behind in this hierarchical understanding of church (a tragedy).

The present rising pattern of non-ordained persons being entrusted with significant pastoral ministries in our churches may be a reaction against the abuse of ordination as noted above. Which makes it time to look at what God’s Word says about the appointment of pastors and leaders.

1 Timothy bear witness to an orderly process:

  • 1 Tim 2:7 on Paul’s appointment as a preacher, apostle and teacher;
  • 1 Tim 3:1-13 on the criteria of character and gifting applicable to church leaders;
  • 1 Tim 4:6 on the value of training in the ‘words of the faith’ and ‘doctrine’;
  • 1 Tim 4:13 on the key word ministries to be undertaken by leaders;
  • 1 Tim 4:14 on the recognition of the role of the ‘council of elders’ (πρεσβυτέριον) in recognising gifts of ministry (see also 2 Tim 1:6b);
  • 1 Tim 6:2 on expected standards for the content of teaching by church leaders.

The context of 1 Timothy is relevant to this discourse. Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to continue his own ministry elsewhere (1 Tim 1:3). This was an apostolic delegation which many see as part of the transition from the extraordinary and time-bound office of apostle to the more enduring office of pastor or shepherd. We do know that Timothy had been well-reared in the faith by his maternal ancestors (2 Tim 1:5; 3:14). However, he was also young, subject to youthful passions (2 Tim 2:22), possibly subject to self-doubt (2 Tim 1:7) and open to dismissive treatment because of his youth (2 Tim 4:12). The recognition and affirmation of Timothy by Paul and the council of elders was important as testimony both to him and to the church as to his suitability for ministry.

Therefore, by all means let’s scrap the titles, robes and assumed status that can be implied by the traditional construct of ordination. Equally, let’s locate the work of pastor within the eldership rather than as a separate order and let’s recognise the gifting and service of the whole people of God. However, let’s not lightly dismiss the value of orderly processes to test and affirm those called to pastoral ministry.

Of course, the same applies to all roles in church service. The youth leader, small group leader or teacher of children all need processes of testing, training and affirmation before being appointed to their roles. However, the high potential of pastoral leaders to do good or harm demands that they receive particular scrutiny before their ministry is recognised.

This article is adapted from an article by David Burke “Rethinking Ordination” David was a lecturer at Christ College. He was almost refused ordination in 1979 for his views on clergy titles and robes.

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.

ARE YOU IN A CHURCH LIKE THIS? IF NOT FIND ONE.

I have across another great sermon from Francis Chan. He starts in Revelation and its importance for these “last days” including sound teaching on the “Mark of the Beast of Revelation 13:16-18, but he concludes with information on how they are doing church. It lines up with the church we read about in the Book of Acts: small groups that require all participants to use their Holy Spirit given gifts, no buildings, no paid pastors and those small groups giving rise to more small groups – disciples making disciples. The centrality and inerrancy of Scripture is KEY.