August 2008


Tomorrow morning I head off to Dallas, Texas to attend the 2008 National House Church Conference. This is going to be a great time of building relationships and networking with simple church folk. I will be facilitating the Missions Track (3 sessions) along with my friend Steve Lyzenga. We will then host a roundtable discussion that will launch a network called House2Harvest Network. If you want to know more about this you can read the dialogue we have been having at the House2Harvest Missions Weblog.

Talk to you when I get back!

Advertisements

I just finished reading Frank Viola’s new book: Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity. You’ve got to read it! Frank has done an excellent job putting together the theological and practical aspects of organic church. This book’s message will transform the Christian who has left the institutional church as a reaction to their pain, their offenses, and their disgust and will turn them towards the theological, biblical reason why they need to do church organically.

It seems as though there are two types of people who have abandoned to institutional church; 1) those who have left out of a reaction and 2) those who have left out of biblical conviction. The first group tends to be bitter and angry. Their dialog about church life can be judgmental and caustic. The second group has gotten beyond the reaction and is attempting to be a constructive advocate for the Church as Jesus designed it. If you find yourself in the first group, this book will help you climb out of the hole of negativity and become a constructive proponent for church as it should be based on biblical evidence.

Frank does not pull any punches, and anyone whose life is tied up in the business of churchanity may have trouble with his conclusions. But be careful – truth changes hearts of clay, but will harden hearts of stone. He is also truthful when it comes to the errors seen throughout the house church movement. In fact he even goes as far to say that some of the institutional models are being used by the Lord more than “so-called house churches that are elitist and sectarian.” (pg. 267)

If you choose to read “Reimagining Church”, (and I hope you do) you will certainly be challenged and encouraged by what the Lord is doing as he builds His Church. Frank’s observations and wisdom shines through his attention to detail. This book will serve the Church for ages to come and serve as a tool to keep us focused on real Church. It is truly a benchmark for the body of Christ. Thank you Frank!

[This post was in my most recent newsletter “The Davis Report” which I send out to friends and partners.]

Recently I was listening to a presentation by Alan Hirsch who shared a few things that caused me to reflect on what God is doing in our lives. One of the areas in which the Lord has directed us is to be a blessing and aware of the opportunities he brings to us on a daily basis. In Hirsch’s presentation he talked about what it means to be missional. Now that is not the same as having a missions emphasis or doing missions. It’s not even the same as having an active missions program in your church. It has to do with who you are, not what you do. Then what you do emerges from who you are as disciple of Jesus. In being missional he shared these three traits:

1. See God differently – as a missioning God. God is always doing mission – seeking and saving the lost, establishing His Kingdom in the lives, homes, cities and nations.

2. See the Church differently – as disciples called out to do the mission of God. We are to be imitators of God, therefore we are to be on the same mission as God. His mission is our mission. Instead of seeing the church as a recipient of God’s benefits, or a gathering of worshipers, our focus should be to be more like him, a missioning people.

3. See People differently – as people created in the image of God waiting to meet their King. Humanity is not the enemy of God nor the Church, but a people whom Christ died for, even while they were sinners. So we see them with that potential, wanting to be a part of their lives and serving them, loving them, and forgiving them until they come to know Jesus and are transformed by his grace and power into citizens of the Kingdom of God.

This is where the Lord has us, learning to see God as He really is, to see His Church as she really is and to see our neighbor, humanity as it really is. About 2 years ago the Lord had us move to a neighborhood in Portsmouth, Virginia to begin to be a light to that community. Not in the way you would normally do it in a church evangelistic campaign or program, but to integrate our lives with the lives of our neighbors. That is one of the characteristics of being missional – being in proximity of the world we are called to reach. I had spent so many years being isolated from the world, almost living in “spiritual bubble” surrounded by Christians. Now we are attempting to live near those who are in need of Jesus. To be honest this is more difficult than we had imagined since our lives have been so segregated from those whom Jesus has called us to serve.

As we live in among, and serve our neighbors, we desire to do three things that will make a difference:

· Mirror Jesus – imitate Christ. But to do this we must know Him because the Gospel IS Jesus. Our level of intimacy with Jesus has become a priority. Not in the normal “let’s go to a worship service” intimacy, but a moment by moment conversation with our Lord so that we will see what He is doing, and then do what He does.

· Depend on Jesus’ power and not our own. What I mean is, instead of flaunting success or material wealth to the point of depicting a people who can do anything they wanted, we strive at being a people dependent on God’s power. This is another shift in our thinking that is taking some effort. In the past the Church has presented herself as having wealth, power and all the material strength she needs to build, buy all she needs. I always felt this was to show the prosperity of the Lord, but in reality it shows an arrogant and prideful heart. God forgive us and help us to present humility and be a people who are powerless so that only the power of Christ will shine. It should be our goal that our flesh or efforts will not take any glory.

· Proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom. That is why we are here. As we truly develop friendships and become a part of our neighbors lives we can then speak the truth of the gospel to them not as hired preachers, or guilt manipulated door to door sales types, but out of the experience of being among them as friends. That way we can not only share our lives, but make disciples. Jesus never said go and make converts, or go and plant churches, he said go and make disciples. This means we become a part of people’s lives in a genuine way, and proclaim truth and life.

I share these things to encourage you to look around and see the opportunities the Lord has made for you to make disciples. It is refreshing and liberating to know that you don’t have to go off to some school somewhere, become a member of the clergy, spend hours in seminars and trainings, but merely get to know Christ more and more, live in proximity of the world we are called to reach and be that Jesus you have gotten to know where you live. Don’t try to impress others by your wealth, your knowledge or your religion; but remain meek and humble in the image of Christ and not in the image of religion. Then your opportunities to tell others about Christ will be genuine and effective.

One of the house churches in our area has done just that by becoming friends with some Asian Muslim refugees. They are teaching them English, how to live in the USA and become close friends with several of these families. They are certainly misplaced and in need of a friend. Maybe there are some folks like that near you that you can serve.

If you build a house and it looks like a corn field – what is it? It’s a corn field! When we discuss church structure, we have what we build it to be. I have been discussing the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head and setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer, misunderstanding of leadership, the misunderstanding of anointing, and ignoring the priesthood of all believers and the departure from making disciples of Christ.

In this post I will be discussing the development of a separate entity other than the Church of Jesus Christ. The practice of establishing a clergy class leads the members to submit to another Christ. This could be a leader, a system, an organization or something other than Jesus. These churches are Christ’s in name only. They may have many valid believers in their ranks, but as an organization they serve another because they have pledged their allegiance to another (who is a member of the clergy) rather than to Christ. This can even happen in organizations who minimize the clergy system. If they establish a class of leadership such as their governing structure prescribes it is not far from the governmental structure of Roman Catholicism. The senior leader (pastor, overseer, apostle, director, CEO, president, superintendent etc.) is being the pope, the other leaders his ranks of bishops and clergy, and the members serve the church and the edict of the leadership rather than Christ. It wasn’t until almost the third century of the church that leaders became and official ruling class and this quickly led the Church into the Dark Ages in which we are still attempting to escape. There was always leadership, but never as an office. This practice was a reaction to the desire of Constantine to initiate the same system he saw in pagan religions. This was a system of priests, temples and sacrifice attempting to make Christianity acceptable to the masses as well as conducive to his system of control or leadership. He wanted to endorse this new religion, but in order for it to work under Rome’s rule it had to take on the characteristics of Rome and her pagan practices.

Conclusion to Church Structure

Let me conclude this series by saying that the comments I have made are not a judgment of individual’s relationship with Christ, but the practices in which I have described. I have participated on one level or another in all of the erroneous practices I have discussed in this series. While I was functioning this way I never thought I was in error. In fact I assumed I was doing things the right way. Could it be that we are many times blinded by the traditions of men and the status quo and never able to break out of the mold in which we were raised up in? I ask that you take a long look at your structure, systems, government and leadership development practices, discipleship tools and church membership training and analyze it to determine if Christ has been removed from the process; or are we even willing to go deeper and see if he has been removed from the head as our King, our Lord and our God.

When we discuss church structure, there is a tendency to get lost in the details of governmental theory and attempting to develop a way to control Christ’s Church. Up to this point I have been discussing the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head and setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. So far I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer, misunderstanding of leadership, the misunderstanding of anointing, and ignoring the priesthood of all believers.

The fifth area is the departure from making disciples of Christ. This error causes the members of a church to serve the system in which the clergy/professional leadership have erected and become a disciple of that system or individual rather than of Christ. Making disciples is at the core of the church’s purpose and the clergy laity divide has greatly hindered that purpose. This has led to denominationalism, sectarianism and the development of a clergy elite in the Church. The new apostolic movements or ministerial fellowships are not exempt, in fact many have fallen into the same trap, building kingdoms of men’s ministries rather than making disciples of Christ whose allegiance is to His Kingdom. Certainly the intention of many is not to forsake Christ and His Kingdom, but the structure and system in which they have designed and promoted leads to this error.

In my next post I will continue to share the errors and weaknesses of creating a class system within the church and discuss the error of the development of a separate entity other than the Church of Jesus Christ.

I have been discussing the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head and setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. So far I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer, misunderstanding of leadership, and the misunderstanding of anointing.

The fourth area I would like to discuss is the practice of ignoring the priesthood of all believers. When it is clear that every believer has within him or her the spirit of Christ, and they are now priests and kings then to place them in a category of being lesser in the body of Christ is not only error but is an affront to the work of Christ’s grace and redemption. If someone does not allow another member of the body of Christ to function in the work of Christ on earth because they have not attained some degree of education, financial responsibility, joining an organization, or submission to an individual; they are ignoring what Jesus has done for them. They are ignoring the position in which cross brings them to in society by submitting to the King of kings. Every member of the body of Christ has the ability and the freedom to minister as the Lord has gifted them and instructed them. He is their head. He is the administrator of those gifts via the Holy Spirit. To not allow them to preach, serve communion, teach, pray, lead small groups, baptize and serve others based upon some qualifications beyond what scripture teaches is to ignore what Christ has done.

When this practice is done in the church, the members who are held back refrain from growing in Christ beyond those who are over them and their growth is stunted to the maturity level of their ruling class or clergy. The only way to break out of that cycle is be ambitious and practice carnal ways of advancement or to ignore the clergy class and possibly leave that congregation of Church group. This causes them to be labeled many times a rebel, when it is really the other way around.

In my next post I will continue to share the errors and weaknesses of creating a class system within the church and discuss the church’s departure from making disciples of Christ.

So far we have been discussing the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head and setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. So far I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer and the misunderstanding of leadership.

The third area of error and weakness is the misunderstanding of anointing. There is no evidence in scripture that there are levels of anointing, but there are diversity of gifts. These gifts are determined by God, not man. The anointing we receive is Christ’s anointing in us (1 John 2:20-27) The Spirit of Christ is in us and leads us into all truth, teaches us, convicts us of sin and righteousness. It is not for the purpose of position other than the position that all believers have in Christ as priests and kings (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6, 5:9). Therefore all believers are equally anointed and destined to rule under Christ. The anointing should not determine position over others or to establish a clergy class based on that anointing. In regards to the diversity of gifts the New Testament teaches that we are not to judge or position ourselves based upon that gifting (1 Corinthians 12:14-26). We are a body and all members are equally important though some may have greater value based on the needs of the body at that time, but not based on the position of the individual.

In my next post I will continue to share the errors and weaknesses of creating a class system within the church and discuss the ignoring the priesthood of all believers.

Next Page »