A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Two

[This six part article on a strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone but is merely theoretical. Join with me in this discussion! We ask: with the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days.]

FOUNDATIONS AND DEFINITIONS

Below are several points that will help to define and give foundation to this strategic plan. These of course are not exhaustive and there are many more points that can be discussed and many reading this would want to add those points. Feel free to do so by replying to this post.

  • Church: The presence of Jesus among His people, called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet (1).  It consists of a specific DNA: Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships and Apostolic Mission.(2)
  • Simple Church: It is being the Church wherever we live in relationship with Christ, his body and the world he has called us to reach. This is done without being dependent on facilities, professional clergy, elaborate services or structured meetings, but dependent on knowing what the Father is doing and obeying Him. Typically when simple churches gather they follow the pattern for the church meeting described in 1 Corinthians 14:26. The life of a simple church is a 24/7 experience and extends well beyond weekly gatherings.(3)
  • Organic Church: A term first coined by T. Austin Sparks. It is a non-traditional church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grass roots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every-member functioning, open-participatory meetings (opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering. (4)  The church is best described in scripture as a family, a vine, a seed, a field or a body. The church is a living system which reproduces more rapidly and simply than an institution or manmade structure.
  • Church Growth: In the traditional model, growth is inward, focused primarily on gathering. In simple, organic churches the growth is outward focusing on scattering. (See Genesis 11:1-9 & Acts) Therefore the emphasis is on multiplication and simple models which multiply easily and quickly and is not based upon attending a worship service alone.
  • Making Disciples: This is the main task of the follower of Jesus. Making disciples should be the priority of the church so that each one is able to hear the Lord’s voice and become obedient to Him. A disciple is then able to “feed” themselves and not be dependent on an institution or an individual such as a member of the clergy to feed them. Maturity is the goal rather than dependence on an individual or a service. There is a tangible, real relationship with Jesus who is there source of spiritual food and direction. This is done in the context of the church as believers grow together and learn from each other rather than from one human source.
  • Leadership – Jesus corrected his disciples and told them that they were not to lord over others as the gentiles do. He strongly stated that this practice should not be among them. (Matt 10:25-28) Therefore all leadership will be that of a servant, equipper and willing to put others first. Leadership will not be defined as he who holds an office over others, but those who serve to undergird others. Thomas Wynn a friend of mine has described leadership: Leadership is like a skeleton, it supports, gives definition and strength, but if it is seen the body is either sick or dead (5).  For more information watch the video “Upside Down Leadership” at http://vimeo.com/16525058 .
  • Incarnational – Incarnational means you live among those whom God has led you to reach. Your lifestyle, while holy and reflecting Christ, is like those you are called to reach. This causes the gospel to penetrate areas, locations, peoples, cultures that would normally never attend church services.
  • Missional – Missional means to be outward in our movement rather than trying to attract people in – we go to where they are.
  • Gathering and Scattering – This is a blend of church life which incorporates a gathering model (slightly attractional) in order to scatter thus still being missional, simple and organic (6).

A few key scriptures (emphasis bold, underlined):

These are certainly not exhaustive regarding the strategic plan, but touch on a few critical areas.

•    Matt. 16:18 –“…I (Jesus) will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
•    1 Cor. 14:26 – What shall we say brothers:  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
•    1 Pet. 2:9 – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
•    Mark 4:26-29 – He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Biblical Issues Regarding a Simple, Organic Church:

1.    The simple, organic church holds fast to Jesus Christ as its only Chief Shepherd [Senior Pastor] (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:10,19).
2.    The simple, organic church recognizes the Bible as the sufficient and authoritative guide for its beliefs and activities (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The Scriptures in their fullness have no need for modification or supplementation by outside philosophies, fields of study, or other influences (cf. Col. 2:8; 1 Jn. 2:27). The authority in any teaching, gathering or activity of the church is the Word of God rather than a denominational statement of faith or a leaders interpretation and traditions.
3.    The simple, organic church depends upon the Holy Spirit’s supervision and empowerment in all areas of ministry. (1 Cor. 3:8; 12:1-11; 1 Pet. 4:10; cf. Eph 3:7, 4:7; 1 Cor. 12:1-11).
4.    The simple, organic church strives to maintain truth and unity, not sacrificing one for the other (Eph. 4:1-16; 1 Tim. 3:15). It is non-divisive both in name and character (Jn. 17:20-23; 1 Cor. 1:10-13).
5.    The simple, organic church acknowledges the priesthood of the believer, each having direct access to God through Christ, and with responsibility and authority to minister to one another. (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Gal. 5:13; 1 Thess. 5:11; Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:14; Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24; James 5:16)
6.    The simple, organic church accepts all believers in Christ as members, one of another (Rom. 12:5; cf. Gal. 2:9). In keeping with its non-divisive character, it does not seek to establish a separate, local church membership in the traditional sense.
7.    Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teaching gifts are functions, not offices or positions. For example, the simple, organic church is pastored by those gifted to function as pastor rather than a position held by one professional clergy. (Acts 20:17, 27; Eph 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:14).

The next part of this article will discuss the problem that prompts us to seek for change in the way we see the church and her function.

Don

Footnotes:

(1) http://www.cmaresources.org/organic-church-definition

(2) Cole, Neil and Helfer, Phil, Church Transfusion, Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out, Josey-Bass 2012 pg. 18

(3) http://hrscn.org/About_Us.html

(4) http://frankviola.org/2010/01/11/what-is-an-organic-church-a-plea-for-clarity/

(5) Thomas Wynn: Leadership in the Kingdom, http://vimeo.com/19847639

(6) Halter, Hugh and Smay, Matt, AND – The Gathered and the Scattered Church. Zondervan 2010

When Jeannie (my wife) and I came to the Lord in 1974 our decision was made with the confession, “if we are going to do this Christian thing, we are going to do it according to the Bible and not religion.” This has been true for most of my life, although there have been times that I preferred to go the way of the crowd. This confession has caused me to be a troublemaker, a rebel, a revolutionary, a dreamer and many times lonely. So I am going to share a few of those scriptures with you. Certainly we are to be led by all of God’s word, but here are a few that stand out.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not sharing these because I have mastered them and I have accomplished perfection, by no means. I must continually remind myself and correct myself. Many times I have found myself going “off the path”. Unfortunately I do not always listen. My point in sharing these is to hopefully challenge you as well as I am challenged.

Here are a few of those verses (from The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids):

1 Samuel 15:22-23 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination (KJV says witchcraft), and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

My goal is to ask the question before I do anything: “Do I do this because of obedience to the Lord or is it due to some religious or traditional obligation.” If don’t obey, then what I do has the potential of becoming a tool of Satan and is driven by the power of darkness no matter how “spiritual” or “Christian” it may seem. Any deviation from obedience is fertile ground for the enemy to deceive, manipulate and even blaspheme God’s intentions. Lord, help us obey your word!

2 Corinthians 5:17 – . “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come

I (and if you are in Christ – you) are no longer bound by the past. That means past sins, past nature, past generational curses, past anything. Therefore I remind myself that the power of Christ to bring victory in these areas has been accomplished and any religious practice, counseling technique, doctrine or spiritual experience that teaches otherwise is suspect of being from a source other than God.

Matthew 16:17-18“Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadeswill not overcome it.”

The only one who has the authority to build the church of Jesus Christ is Jesus. There is no “my, your, or our” church. It is his church. There is his church in many locations, and there are people who are part of his church who gather together in the name of another entity, organization, institution, or incorporation, but it is not Jesus’ church, but contains members of his church. The rock upon which Christ’s church is built is a revelation that comes from the Father and not from man’s attempt to educate, propagate or dictate! That revelation is simple and comes from the Father. (I’m not going to tell you what that is – ask the Father J )

Matthew 18:20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

When we gather in Jesus’ name (and no other) he will be with us. Why? Jesus is talking about the administration of his authority, his kingdom, his will, doing his business and even getting answers to prayer. Why is it that we relegate the actual presence of our Lord to another person when we gather? If Jesus is truly with us when we gather in his name, then let him lead! If we ignore his presence and lead in his stead, what does that say about our obedience to him, or should I say rebellion against him. We have already stated where that leads! This is why the world does not believe us when we say he is with us in our gatherings; we don’t act like it. It also reveals that there is a sickness in the body of Christ, it does not have a real, experiential connection with the head of the church – Jesus. We focus on figureheads and not the real head. Can you imagine a wife only paying attention to the self-appointed representative of her husband and not him when the husband is right there with her?! Absurd? Yes! Then why do we do it to our Lord Jesus? The activity of the church gathered then becomes a parody of the real thing, and it is not funny.

Ephesians 4:14-16 –“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

So much here, but my main point in this portion is that Christ is the head. We grow up “into Him.” The mature are those who acknowledge Jesus as the head, walks in love and does their part. It has nothing to do with submitting to a person who is functioning in place of Jesus, nor does it include aspiring to be in a position like that. But it does include living a life that acknowledges Christ has the head. If there is another head there is chaos, immaturity and lead captive by “the teaching and the cunning craftiness of men.” Unfortunately we have taught that one form of maturity is to lead as the head (senior pastor) a congregation. That is the far from the truth.

1 Corinthians 14:26What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”

When I come together with other believers in any context, my goal is that we fulfill this verse. It is the only verse in the New Testament that gives us an idea of what we should do when we gather. They key here is that everyone has a chance to share, and all of these are done. But as we know, most of them time these are put off in place of a performance and spectator format. Those on the platform do and the others watch and receive. The only giving that is expected from the audience is a monetary offering or volunteering for things such as nursery of parking lot duty. But the problem is that we cannot do this if our meetings are too large. Everyone cannot participate. That is why organizations have been deceived to believe that the bigger the meeting, the better. Church growth is being measured by the number of attendees to a meeting and not the number of disciples obeying Christ. Some congregations have tried to solve this with small groups. But if they do not consider these small groups an expression of church, and do not allow Christ to be head of these small gatherings then they are falling short of what God desires.

Matthew 28:18-20 – “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Why are we here? Why don’t we just get translated into heaven when we get saved? Jesus has called us to go and make disciples of all nations. These nations are not political nations, but all ethnic/people groups. I am compelled to examine the ministry I do and if it is not making disciples, if it is not teaching others to obey Jesus, if folks are not getting baptized then I must be doing my own thing no matter how religious or “Christian” it may seem. Note that he did not say go and plant, start, or establish churches. That’s what Jesus does. I constantly fight the battle of losing my first love of telling others about Jesus. But it is more than just getting a “decision for Christ.” Discipleship means we walk together, following Christ together and help one another along the way know what Jesus is saying.

Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Much of my live has been devoted to missions. That is because this verse challenged me when I was a young pastor who had planted a church and served as its pastor for nine years. I soon resigned and moved my family to Southeast Asia to encourage others to reach those who have not yet heard the gospel of the Kingdom. Over 6000 ethnic/people groups are still in darkness and have no one telling them about Jesus and the gospel of the Kingdom. This dilemma that faces the church today is what drives me go, serve, compel others to go to these people groups and preach the gospel of the kingdom to them – as a testimony (a life).

John 5:19 – Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

This has been my greatest challenge of all. It goes against my ambition, my initiative, my “get r done” attitude, my pragmatism, and yes, my flesh. My desire is to see what the father is doing and only do that. But what happens is, there is an increased amount of time that you may do nothing until you learn to see what the father is doing. There are scores of individuals with good intentions who want to tell me what the father is doing, but my responsibility is to learn it from the father first hand. I don’t want to follow retail truth, I want wholesale truth. Not milk, but meat. This is where I am now learning to follow only what the father is doing. I wish I had started with this one!

There are a few more versus and I am sure there will be more as I grow. But for now I will leave these with you to ponder.

Blessings!

Don

I recently had the opportunity to guest lecture at Regent University during their Church Planting Methods and Models class. I put together a PowerPoint of my lecture and thought I might share it with you here.

I posted it up on YouTube, so I have broken up into four parts ten minutes each.

Enjoy:

Simple Church Planting – Part One:

Simple Church Planting – Part Two:

Simple Church Planting – Part Three:

Simple Church Planting – Part Four:

Hope these are a blessing to you!

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.

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.

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. There are several errors and misunderstandings that occur due to this heretical practice. So far I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer.

The second error or weakness is the Misunderstanding of Leadership. I am referring to leadership in the Kingdom of God and NOT a business or the world’s leadership – these are not the same. A leader is to be a servant from the start. (Matt 20:26) He is not to climb a ladder to ascend to a position of high ranking and then attempt to humble himself as a leader. He is to be a servant – that is it. Servant and minister are basically the same word. If we serve, in the biblical context we do lead from that position of washing feet. Leadership is never ruling. This is reserved for Christ. Leadership is needed, but it is more like the skeletal structure of the body, not the skin. It is never the head. The skeleton is never to be seen. If you see someone’s skeleton they are either very sick or possibly dead. Biblical leadership is unseen and supports the ministry of the body. If all we see in the body is the leadership, then that congregation, denomination, or even a fellowship of ministers is very sick and possibly dead!

In my next post I will continue to share the errors and weaknesses of creating a class system within the church and discuss the misunderstanding of anointing.

I started this discussion by relating to a conversation I am having regarding the development of a church’s governmental and leadership structure as prescribed by their By Laws. In my last post I discussed the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head. This leads us to the second error. That error is 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. This leads to many problems within the Church and I would like to discuss of few of those here. This has been major error which is in direct relation to the first error previously discussed (The error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head).

The problem is rooted in the tendency that men (and women) want to be in power. Therefore, there must be an “us” (the clergy class) and a “them” (the laity class). How does this happen? Sometimes they set themselves up as a separate category of disciple or class of believer. Then they proclaim that if you want to grow, if you want to mature, if you want to have gifting and even our degree of anointing, then you must allow us to govern, rule over you as your overseers. There are even claims of financial success, prosperous lives and good marriages if you remain submitted to this man or system. This cuts the believer off from the head who is Christ and replaces Christ with an elite class of clergy. We see that this happened historically and it originated in the Church out of Rome as well as the perversions of pagan practices of the Constantine era.

It does not matter if the church structure minimizes the titles and offices normally labeled as clergy. If they continue to set a group apart as being superior or closer to Christ because of their anointing or position the same erroneous practice is at play. The clergy laity system ignores the biblical pattern of a body and has established a hierarchal order based upon the professional and the non-professional Christian. There is no biblical precedent for this at all. This class system causes several errors and weaknesses in the body of Christ. I will be discussing in later posts six of these errors or weaknesses:

  • A misunderstanding of overseer
  • A misunderstanding of leadership
  • A misunderstanding of anointing
  • Ignoring the priesthood of all believers.
  • A departure from making disciples of Jesus Christ
  • The development of a separate entity other than the church of Jesus Christ

In my next post I will continue to share the errors and weaknesses of creating a class system within the church and discuss the misunderstanding of overseer.