RETHINKING THE NATURE AND FUNCTION OF CHURCH
BY: ROBERT FITTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FROM THE SANCTUARIES TO THE STREETS
FROM CHRISTIANITY TO CHRIST
FROM CHURCH HOUSES TO HOUSE CHURCHES
FROM UPWARD TO OUTWARD GROWTH
FROM “PROFESSIONAL PASTORS” TO “HOME GROWN PASTORS”
FROM SPECIAL DAY CHRISTIANS, TO EVERY DAY CHRISTIANS
FROM HIERARCHY TO SERVANT LEADERS
FROM WEEKLY WORSHIP TO CONSTANT WORSHIP
FROM BRINGING PEOPLE TO THE CHURCH TO BRINGING CHURCH PEOPLE
FROM SYMBOLISM TO REALITY IN THE LORD'S SUPPER
FROM DENOMINATIONS TO SPIRIT-LED NETWORKS
FROM SOCIAL RESPECTABILITY TO SALT AND LIGHT
FROM PERFORMANCE BY PROFESSIONALS TO OPEN CHURCH FORMAT
FROM TEMPLE BASED CHURCH TO HOME BASED CHURCH
FROM THE SEMINARY SYSTEM TO THE APPRENTICE
FROM TENTH TO TOTAL
FROM SELECTIVE SUBMISSION TO COMPLETE SUBMISSION
FROM TITLES TO FUNCTION
FROM INDEPENDENCE TO INTER-DEPENDENCE
FROM PAPER MEMBERSHIP TO BODY MEMBERSHIP
FROM THE WHEEL TO THE VINE
FROM ORGANIZATIONAL UNITY TO SPIRITUAL UNITY
FROM SEEKING PATTERNS TO SEEKING GUIDANCE
FROM “US AND THEM” TO JUST “US”
FROM PLANNED CHURCH TO SPONTANEOUS CHURCH
FROM BONDAGE TO FREEDOM FOR WOMEN
FROM OLD COVENANT TO NEW COVENANT
FROM ARBITRARY GUIDELINES TO BIBLICAL GUIDELINES
FROM RAISING UP LEADERS TO APPOINTING SERVANTS
FROM LOCAL VISION TO WORLD VISION
FROM BUILDING MY EMPIRE TO BUILDING HIS KINGDOM
FROM INTELLECTUALISM TO SUPERNATURAL ANOINTING
FROM REJECTING ONE ANOTHER TO ACCEPTING ONE ANOTHER
FROM LAW KEEPING TO LIVING BY GRACE
FROM OVERWHELMING OVERSIGHT TO RESTFUL OVERSIGHT
FROM “WE WILL BUILD” TO “I WILL BUILD”
FROM DEPENDENCE ON PROGRAMS TO DEPENDENCE ON PRAYER
FROM SINNERS TO SAINTS
FROM RELIGION TO RELATIONSHIP
THE HOUSE CHURCH IN TH NEW TESTAMENT
THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
THE MINISTRY TRAINING SCHOOL
STARTING A HOUSE CHURCH
THE HEALING PRAYER CLINIC
No one who has his eyes open and his ears attuned to present trends can deny that a new reformation is taking place in the church today. IT IS A TIME OF BREAKTHROUGH! We are breaking through religious barriers that have hindered the growth of the church for centuries! Multitudes are beginning to see and understand what it is to be free from stifling formalities of religion and tradition. Honest seekers are taking the risk and walking out into the fresh air and sunshine of a new day of freedom in Christ!
The following forty trends are only part of what God is doing in the earth today to bring the Church, the Body of Christ, out of traditionalism, institutionalism, and commercialism back to the dynamic simplicity of the early church.
Some of what I have called a "trend" is actually more of a beginning than a trend. However, I have felt it to be the beginning of something that will go on and become a trend that will bring the present day church back to the simplicity and power of the first century church.
The form I have chosen to use, "From this to that" is not always clear-cut.
These forty trends are written to and for the whole Body of Christ worldwide. Several years ago the Lord began to teach me to embrace the universal Body of Christ, not just my church or my denomination or my ministry. He gave me what I call a Declaration of Unity. He told me to say it out loud often and to teach others to speak it out loud as a declaration of our unity as one Body in Christ Jesus. I invite you to join me in making this Declaration of Unity.
I belong to everything that belongs to Jesus and everything that belongs to Jesus belongs to me. It is not us and them. It is just us! There is only one Body of Christ. And the problems of the Church, the whole Church, are our problems, for we are The Church! And we can do more united than we can do divided. So let's unify, simplify and multiply!
As we think of the trends of the church today, we must not forget to factor in the divine plan of God. We need to see this picture as He sees it. One of the most profound statements I have ever read on the ultimate victory of the Church both on earth and in heaven was made by Watchman Nee in his final days as a prisoner in China under communism. It was so encouraging to me that I have it framed and hanging on the wall in my study. Here is his statement that I call "Seeing the Accomplished Fact."
SEEING THE ACCOMPLISHED FACT
BY WATCHMAN NEE
"We are His masterpiece."
We look around and see breakdown everywhere and we wonder, "What is the Church coming to?"
We do not look forward to discover her goal; we look back.
As we move in the light of that eternal fact, we witness its progressive manifestation - you advance spiritually by finding out what you already are, not by trying to become what you hope to be.
It is when you see you are dead that you die (i.e. manifest ones death in Christ);
It is when you see you are risen that you arise;
It is when your see you are holy that you become holy.
The end is reached by seeing, not desiring or working. The only possibility of spiritual progress lies in us discovering the truth as God sees it; the truth concerning Christ, the truth concerning ourselves in Christ, and the truth concerning the Church, the Body of Christ."
As we consider the following trends, it will be good to go back from time to time and re-consider the words of Watchman Nee concerning how God sees the Church already in its perfection in Christ.
TREND No. ONE
From the sanctuaries to the streets . . . doing the works of Jesus wherever we find a need.
As we read through the life of Jesus in the New Testament it is difficult to find him organizing a religious gathering or an evangelistic meeting, or in fact, any kind of meeting.
It seems that all of his large meetings, such as the feeding of the five thousand or the multitudes that gathered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, took place more or less spontaneously as crowds would gather to hear what he was saying and to be healed of their diseases.
Jesus sometimes spoke in the synagogues on the Sabbath.
Jesus’ strategy was to go where the people were, see the needs and minister to those needs.
Once as he sat near a well waiting for the disciples to return with food for lunch he spoke the word of life to a woman of Samaria who had come to draw water. This resulted in so many people coming to him and receiving his word that he stayed in that town two days preaching the Kingdom of God.
Nicodemus came to him at night seeking to know who he was and Jesus shared with him the message of salvation. It was to Nicodemus that Jesus spoke the immortal words that night,
As he walked along a crowded road one day he saw Zaccheus, a man small of stature, who had climbed a tree to get a better
As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee and through the streets he called out twelve men to be his disciples; to be with him and to learn from him so that he could send them out to do the works of an apostle.
He healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever when he arrived at their house for a meal.
Jesus' primary ministry was spontaneous responses to the needs of people as he walked through each day. In every place where he found people in need, he met that need in the power of the Holy Spirit.
At the age of seventeen, when I first started going to church, it was a tremendous challenge to learn "church talk." The King James Bible was the only Bible people used in the early fifties where I lived in West Texas. Everybody prayed using KJV language. It was unthinkable to address God in our prayers as "you." To be respectful, we had to use "Thee" and "Thou." Then there was "wouldest" and "couldst" and "whence" and "whither." But finally I got used to it. Then I had another problem, I was finding it difficult to talk to people about
From the time I was a very small boy, I was always very shy and bashful around people. The fear of man was on me something awful for as long as I can remember!
But something was still missing. It was not the spontaneous, unplanned kinds of things that Jesus did. All our evangelistic and teaching ministries had to be planned well in advance so that we could be well prepared and most of our evangelistic efforts were inside the four walls of a church building.
From Christianity to Christ . . .
Not a philosophy or a system but Christ in you,
The word "Christianity" is not found in the Bible.
No other religion from that time to this has been established on the same ground as that of Jesus Christ. Every other religious leader who ever lived also died and remained in the grave. Jesus died and rose again, but more than that, he reincarnates himself in the lives of his followers. CHRIST IN YOU is the genius and the uniqueness of the religion of Jesus Christ! I know some of you winced when you read the word "religion", but "religion" is not a bad word!
Perhaps the most powerful personal letter ever written explaining this mystery of the indwelling Christ was written by the man who founded the China Inland Mission, the Englishman, J. Hudson Taylor. Here is his letter to his sister written while he was still in China in the early days of that Mission:
A letter from
"My own dear sister - So many thanks for your long dear letter.
As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone.
I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful - and yet, all is new!
Perhaps I shall make myself more clear if I go back a little.
I knew that if I could only abide in Christ, all would be well, but I could not.
Then came the question, “Is there no rescue?
I felt I was a child of God; His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, “Abba, Father”, but to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless.
I do not think I was striving to attain it in my own strength.
I would not give you the impression that this was the daily experience of all those long, weary months, but it tended to be a too frequent state of soul and I almost ended up in despair.
All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was how to get it out.
As gradually the light dawned on me, I saw that faith was the only prerequisite to laying hold of His fullness and making it my own.
When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never seen it before.
As I read I saw it all!
But this was not all He showed me; nor one half.
Oh, my dear sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Savior, to be a member of Christ!
If we ask anything unscriptural or not in accordance with the will of God, Christ Himself could not do that; but “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us; and . . . we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.”
The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings.
It matters little to my servant whether I send him to buy a few dollars worth of things or the most expensive articles.
All this springs from the believer's oneness with Christ.
I am no better than before (in one sense, I do not wish to be, nor am I striving to be); but I am dead and buried with Christ - yes, and risen too and ascended; and now Christ lives in me, and
I now believe that I am dead to sin.
I am sorry to have to confess it, but I cannot say that since I have seen this light I have not sinned; but I do feel there was no need to have done so.
Faith, I now see, is “the substance of things hoped for” and not mere shadow.
And now I must close.
Nor should we look upon this experience, these truths, as only for the few.
Your own affectionate brother, J. Hudson Taylor"
From church houses to house churches . . . simplify to multiply
For the first 250 years of the Christian movement there were no church buildings. We are told that during that period of time the church grew faster and with more power to leaven all of society than at any other time in history.
A close friend of mine, Dr. John Amstutz, a leader in the Four Square movement, wrote me a very balanced letter about the desirability of house churches while also making room for other ways to gather and worship Jesus.
Dear Brother Bob,
Your article on house churches was excellent!
In our denomination, our most rapidly growing works in restricted access nations are house church movements.
Bob, I suggest that you encourage house churches wherever you go, especially in third world countries.
The great need today is for unity in the Body of Christ.
If the fulfillment of the Great Commission is our goal, then let's use any legitimate means available to get the job done.
From upward to outward growth . . . the rapid multiplication of simple church networks
God is teaching us to pray for the rapid multiplication of simple church networks, and it is stretching our faith. It stretches my faith to pray for the birth of one church. It is harder to pray and believe for two or more. It is more of a challenge to pray for the multiplication of networks of simple churches, but in India they pray for “The rapid multiplication of house church networks!“
It is normal to have a desire to see the work grow that God has called me to do. The problem comes when I only have eyes for that little patch of ground God gave me to tend and forget about the larger field which is THE WORLD!
It is okay to grow upward so long as I am willing to release that growth outward from time to time. Too many Christian workers get caught up into an obsession to keep on adding to the numbers within their own sphere of control. This often leads into the subtle snare of "Empire Building" and there is no room for two kings in the Kingdom of God. There is only one . . .
One way to multiply house churches is to send off two or three couples from time to time to start another church. When you are starting house churches, it is very simple. We don’t have to think in terms of "losing" those families anymore than we think of losing our children when they get married and start another family, live in a different house, and have their own kids. That new little family is our pride and joy!
If we ever catch the vision for church multiplication, we will never again have to go through a church split. It will be called a "church birth" or something that will elicit dancing, singing, and shouts of joy just like the celebration of a newborn baby!
Don’t wait for and dread that awful "church split." Plan a church split!
TREND No. FIVE
From "professional pastors" to "home grown pastors"
Many of those who desire to serve God as leaders in the church go away to Bible colleges and seminaries with their hearts full of faith, fervor and zeal. A few years later they graduate and they come away with most of that faith, fervor, and zeal all washed away in a sea of intellectualism.
In the average Bible College or seminary the students are trained to serve the churches as a special priesthood. They are no longer classified as a layman. They are called "men of the cloth." Men of the Cloth? What cloth? They are now to wear a priestly garment, priestly cloth!
"For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
Certainly we all have special gifts and callings, but we are all on the same level in the Kingdom of God. We are all to function as a kingdom of priests. The work of a priest is to represent men to God and to represent God to men. As the priest in the Old Covenant would go before God in behalf of men, so are we to stand before God in intercession and prayer for the lost and needy. And as the priest was to go before men in behalf of God, we are to go as ambassadors for Christ and share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness to all men everywhere.
There is no room in the Kingdom of God anymore for a system of clergy on one level with God and the layman on another level. There should be nothing that we wear, or say, or do as pastors, evangelists, prophets, teachers, and apostles that is calculated to set us apart as a different breed of "holy men" or a special priesthood. Jesus is our High Priest and every born-again believer is a priest unto God and unto men.
When I went away to Bible College, we were told that "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" was the call to preach, to enter the "ministry." The world was divided into two classes . . . "preachers and creatures." We, the preachers, were to preach the gospel to the creatures, to every creature! Others could testify or witness, but that was not preaching.
I have since learned that every believer should be a preacher and that the word, "preach" simply means to herald the good news or share the simple message that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS. (I Corinthians 15:1-4)
Not only is every believer to be a preacher, but according to Ephesians 4, every believer is also to be a minister. The apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher all have the job of equipping the saints (all of them) to do the work of the ministry. That makes them ministers! (Ephesians 4:11-13)
There is no longer a "priesthood" separate from the common people. We are all a "kingdom of priests." We are all called "saints" meaning "holy ones." We are "A Royal Priesthood, a holy nation." And that includes every believer.
From special day Christians,
My Dad was born and raised in Texas and my Mother was born and raised in Arkansas.
Religion opens the door to a lot of superstition. Jesus came to fulfill the symbolism of every holy place, every holy thing, and every holy day. Jesus is our Sabbath rest for we have entered into His finished work. (Read Hebrews 4)
Paul, an apostle in the early church, was given the revelation of the gospel of the grace of God beyond all his contemporaries. In his letter to the Colossian believers he makes it clear that Jesus is our Sabbath when he says,
Jesus is the substance. The Sabbath day is the shadow that predicts his coming and finishing the work of salvation. Just as God finished the work of creation and rested, Jesus finished the work of salvation and rested. He is our Sabbath Rest. He said,
In saying this, Jesus did away with any significance of holy places. Even the Holiest Place was done away with. When Jesus died the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, signifying, first of all that only God could do that, and that the way was now open for all to enter the awesome presence of God in the Holiest Place. In those days, that was open to only one person, the High Priest, and that only once a year on the Day of Atonement.
Concerning special days, Paul says in
Paul is showing graciousness to those who are immature in the Lord for the sake of unity and peace. He made it clear that he was one who considered every day alike when he wrote in
To the Galatians he wrote,
All truth is God's truth and all error has a measure of bondage connected to it. If I am walking in the shadows instead of the substance, I need to be released into the full liberty of the truth of God. There are whole denominations that were formed over the issue of what day is actually the Sabbath Day when we should rest and worship God. Paul made it clear that those who believe and know the truth can worship God and rest on any day of the week. There is no day that is more sacred than another. Jesus came and fulfilled all the types and shadows of the Old Testament, including the Sabbath.
If we walk in the light that Paul walked in, we will not put any special significance on one day above another, nor will we put our brothers down who still do not see this truth. I have a dear friend who sets aside every Saturday as his day of rest and worship. It is a great blessing to him to go aside and spend hours and hours in prayer, Bible study, worship, and meditation. I do not see it as he does, but I bless him and I thank God for him. Paul also said,
The more truth and light we walk in, the more freedom, liberty, joy and peace we have. God is bringing us out of religiosity into reality.
From hierarchy to servant leaders . . . recognizing
The dictionary definition of hierarchy is, "a ruling body of clergy organized into orders or ranks, each subordinate to the one above it."
Jesus said the Kingdom of God is a brotherhood.
After Jesus said this, he demonstrated the servant spirit by stooping down to do the work of a common servant . . . washing the feet of all twelve disciples. Then he said,
It is difficult to find Christian leaders who are not seeking to climb the ladder of hierarchy. Thank God for those who walk in the spirit of Jesus and are humbly serving the brothers and sisters. How refreshing it is to find a servant leader whose aim is to pour out his life for the saints and for the world!
From weekly worship to constant worship . . . worshiping everywhere, all day long
We often call the Sunday morning service at church a "Worship Service." The word "Worship" is a contraction of two words; worth and ship. When we "worth-ship" God, we are declaring His worth; how much we value our God! He is worthy of our praise.
That act of submission carries over into all the activities of every moment of every day. We are worshipping God all day long if we are walking in his will. Doing the will of God from the heart is an act of worship, no matter where we are or what we are doing. I may be sweeping or mopping the kitchen floor, taking out the trash, washing dishes, driving to the store to get groceries, taking a bath, or writing a letter, but everything I do, if I am in God's will, becomes an act of worship. Worship is more than singing songs in a church service! Singing his praises certainly has its place, but we put too much emphasis on how we sound or whether or not it is producing goose bumps on our goose bumps. We tend to worship our worship and praise our praise. The starting point of true praise and worship is a total abandonment to God. It is laying my life on the altar as a living sacrifice.
The singing that really matters comes after that act of spiritual resignation to God. The singing of songs and hymns that does not begin with that full and complete consecration of our lives to God is not worship at all. It is just . . . singing words that put us into the category of those whom Jesus rebuked when he said,
We do not have to be in a so-called House of Worship, or Sanctuary to be fully worshipping God. One of the snares we have laid for the saints is that very thought. It is not taught in so many words, but the idea is given off that "this is the sanctuary, the holy place. This is the place where true worship happens. This is the house of God." It has been a tremendous release to me to know that as I go from one thing to another throughout the day, doing the will of God from the heart, I am worshipping God and giving Him the praise due to his name! It is my life that praises as well as my lips, and if my life is praising God, then my lips can praise him, too.
From bringing people to the church to bringing church to the
Pray the following prayer sincerely everyday and eventually you will become a minister and an evangelist wherever you go, all day, every day!
"Father, give me a divine appointment today with someone who is hungry for God, or sick, or in need and give me grace to minister the love of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit."
God will always answer that prayer. You may miss a day or two now and then, but if you faithfully make that your prayer every morning, some time during the day the Holy Spirit will nudge you and say, "This is the one. Tell him about Jesus!" or "This is the needy person that you can help, or the sick person you can minister to in the name of Jesus."
God will give you much fruit and you will live a very exciting life as a consistent witness for Jesus. The following story was sent to me by email. It is a remarkable instance of how God will answer the "divine appointment" prayer. The following is a true story told about
Beth was sitting at an airport terminal waiting to board a plane. She was sitting there with several other people whom she did not know who were also waiting for their flight.
She turned to see what everyone was looking at and when she did she saw a stewardess pushing a very old man in a wheelchair.
She didn't know why, but she felt drawn to the man, and thought at first that God wanted her to witness to him. In her mind she was thinking "Oh, God, please not now, not here." No matter what she did, she couldn't get the man off her mind. All of a sudden she knew what God wanted her to do. She was supposed to brush this man's hair.
So this time, she was almost yelling, “Sir, May I please have the honor of brushing your hair for you?” Everyone was watching to see what his response would be. The old man just looked at her confused, and said, “Well, I guess if you really want to.“ She said, “I don't even have a brush, but I thought I would ask anyway.“ He said, “Look in the bag hanging on the back of my chair, there is a brush in there.”
So she got the brush out and started brushing his hair. Beth has a little girl with long hair, so she had lots of practice getting tangles out, and knew how to be gentle with him. She worked until every last tangle was out.
Just as she was finishing up, she heard the old man crying. Kneeling in front of him, she put her hands on his knees and looking directly into his eyes she said, “Sir, do you know Jesus? “ He answered, “Yes, of course I know Jesus. You see, my bride told me she couldn't marry me unless I knew Jesus, so I learned all about Jesus, and asked Him to come into my heart many years ago before I married my bride.”
He continued, “You know, I am on my way home to go and see my wife. I have been in the hospital for a long time, and had to have a special surgery in this town far from my home. My wife couldn't come with me, because she is so frail herself. He said, I was so worried about how terrible my hair looked, and I didn't want her to see me looking so awful, but I couldn't brush my hair, all by myself.”
Tears were rolling down his cheeks, as he thanked Beth for brushing his hair. He thanked her over and over again. She was crying, people all around witnessing this were crying, and as they were all boarding the plane, the stewardess, who was also crying, stopped her, and asked, “Why did you do that?“ And right there was the opportunity, the door that had been opened to share with someone else the love of God.
We don't always understand God's ways, but be ready, He may use us to meet the need of someone else, like He met the need of this old man, and in a moment, also calling out to a lost soul who needed to know His love.
One of the most powerful ways to win others to Jesus is to write your own story of what life was like before Christ, how you came to Christ, and the changes that have come into your life since you became a follower of Jesus. Type it out with your picture on the front so the person who receives it knows this is not a generic tract, but your own personal journey of faith. You may be surprised how God will use your story to lead others to Jesus.
For a sample of how to make up your own "My Story" brochure, send me a letter or email requesting one of mine and I will send it to your mailing address. It is easier to send you one than to try to describe how to make it. You can make copies at any of the office super stores, or use your own copy machine. It can be done on one sheet of typing paper using front and back, tri-folded.
Three times in the book of Acts we read the story of Paul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Paul told his story wherever he went. His story was so important that God had it repeated over and over. It is just as important for us to tell our story as a means of winning others to Jesus. WRITE IT OUT! You will use it all the rest of your life. (See appendix "A" for My Story)
From symbolism to reality in the Lord's Supper . . . taking it often
We are not only preaching the simple gospel message when we take communion; we are also declaring that Jesus is our Lord and our life and that he is coming again.
But Jesus went on to say,
He was saying that when we eat the bread and drink of the cup, we are spiritually, which is really, partaking of the blood and the body of Christ. Only those who are believers can partake of the elements in the reality of the spirit. An unbeliever cannot spiritually take it, for he is not in the spirit, but in the flesh.
Watchman Nee said that when the house churches in China, called "little flocks," started taking the Lord's Supper every time they met, it brought a dramatic new flow of life into the whole movement just before the blood bath took place when the communists took over China in 1949.
It is a good practice to have a meal together each time you meet and have communion either at the beginning or at the end of the meal. Have someone share a revelation God has given them about the meaning of the bread and the cup.
From denominations to Spirit-led networks . . . embracing the whole Body of Christ
Denominations and Christian Organizations can become a problem as to the cause of division in the Body of Christ. It opens the door to a subtle snare, a spirit of divisiveness. Israel was one people with one God, one nation, one religion, and one army, but there were twelve tribes, each having its own identity, its own space in the camp, and its own unique banner. So there can exist different groups with specific designations or names without a spirit of division and sectarianism. These "Spirit-led networks" come together by divine direction and not by the organizational skill of men. There is a free flow of liberty and freedom in each house church without any legalistic pressures from a denominational headquarters, and there is no "I am of Paul. I am of Apolos, I am of Cephas" spirit entrenched in the fellowship.
Sectarianism is a spirit. It is a spirit of exclusivity.
A heretic is a divisive person.
God draws near to open, broken and humble hearts no matter where he finds them. There are people in denominational churches with open hearts and there are people in house churches with open hearts. We need to receive our brothers and sisters everywhere, regardless of their denominational label or organizational affiliation. Anything less than that is a spirit of division.
We are not compromising our beliefs when we reach out to one another in this way. There are a lot of people in all the churches who differ with me on certain points, but we are committed to walk together while we work out our differences. That is also my commitment to my wife and hers to me in our marriage relationship and it has been working for us for over fifty years now! We are committed to keep on walking through life together while we work out our differences.
From social respectability to salt and light . . . turning the world upside down!
When Paul and his team arrived in Thessalonica and began sharing the good news about Jesus, they caused quite a stir.
A strong, vital, Spirit-filled, anointed church will be sending out teams to turn the world upside down, which, in reality, is turning it right-side up! This is done by the bold proclamation of the simple message of God's love and forgiveness as well as seeing the Lord confirm our words with signs following. This is the ministry of Jesus being multiplied in the lives of his followers.
Along with proclaiming this message, we are to do as Jesus and the early church did; we are to heal the sick, cast out demons, get every believer baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit and freed from all demonic bondage. Such a church, no matter what size it is, be it a traditional church with thousands in attendance, or a house church with a dozen in attendance, that church is in the business of turning the world upside down.
We cannot hold to the idea of "business as usual" unless that business is the bold, aggressive, radical proclamation of the gospel everywhere, at all times, to everyone who will listen. This was the work of the early church and it is the work of the church today. It is not sufficient to proclaim the word only. It was said of the church in the book of Acts,
I remember well how difficult it was for me to enter into a "signs following" ministry. The only churches I had served as pastor were evangelical churches that had strongly resisted anything that slightly resembled anything Pentecostal or Charismatic. Then one day, as I was reading a book about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I received an overwhelming outpouring of the Holy Spirit such as I had never received before. I tried to keep it hidden and go on about my business, but the very next day one of the ladies in our church called and asked me to go and pray for her sick mother who had not been able to get warm or sleep well for several weeks.
I drove over to the lady's house and when I prayed over her, she felt an immediate release in her body and was remarkably healed. She was able to sleep soundly without feeling cold, for the first time in weeks. I had prayed for the sick before, but that was the first time I laid hands on the sick expecting them to recover. I actually did not touch her with my hand, but raised my hand about an inch above her head. It was the first time, as a Baptist pastor, that I have laid my hand on (in this case close) a person. These kinds of things began happening in my ministry and within a few weeks the deacons asked me to resign as pastor of the church. It was a "bitter/sweet" experience, but God opened the door to become an associate pastor of a newly organized church where there was complete liberty to talk about and move in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
That was the beginning of the most fruitful and anointed ministry of my entire life. Since that time God has sent me out to other countries to proclaim Jesus as Savior, Healer, and Deliverer from all the works of the devil. I have found it to be much easier to do the works of Jesus in other countries than it is in the USA. The people of Russia, China, India, Africa, Asia, and Latin America are much more open to the supernatural realm than most Americans are but, thank God, that is beginning to change! The church in America is beginning to stir and soon it will awaken to the most powerful spiritual revival it has ever experienced in the history of the USA! From the reports we are getting, it has already started. I just received this
"Perhaps the most stunning talk at the recent National House Church Conference was given by Thom Black who works closely with church researcher, George Barna. Black reported that year after year their research had indicated that 95% of born again Christians attended a local church. Then, about 6-7 years ago this number began to steadily decline until today their data indicates that only 70% attend a traditional local church. What's more, Barna is predicting that this number will continue to decline over the next 20 years. Until now, this huge shift in the religious landscape of America has been totally unknown to most church leaders. The implications of this development will be immense.
The financial challenges facing traditional Christian churches are often linked to building projects. Many undergo great tensions when considering the massive investments required, which are a burden for the
"Revolution", George Barna's new book, will be published in September. Barna leads a church research institute, and is currently the most-quoted person in the Christian church in the USA because of his statistical work. Below is a summary of the book's most important conclusions:
* The number of Christians attending local church in the USA is declining rapidly. Today, 70% of Christians attend traditional churches, but this will sink to 30-35% in 20 years;
* The number of followers of Jesus who do not attend a local church will grow from 30% to 70% in the next 20 years;
* Alternative fellowship forms (house church/simple church, post-modern churches etc.), currently home for 5% of USA Christians, will grow to
* Conclusion: a minority group presently not even noticed by many will become the mainstream of North American Christianity in only two decades.
"This is a revolution, and will change not only the recruiting strategies of seminaries and Bible schools, but also radically question church building
From performance by professionals to open church format . . . doing your part in the meetings
"When you meet, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in an unknown language while another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must be useful to all and build them up in the Lord."
To some it may come as a surprise to learn that there is nothing in the New Testament about church buildings, pulpits, pews, membership lists, or even a pastor of a local church! There were elders appointed, but the entire eldership was to be watching over the entire flock in the citywide church. There is no record in the New Testament of a pastor of a local congregation. We have some of the names of those hosting the meetings in their homes, but no mention of one pastor for one local gathering. (See Acts 20:20-31)
There was no such thing as a clergy-laity distinction in the early days of the church. All believers were taught to do the works of Jesus and proclaim the good news. The special priesthood and the distinction between the "clergy" and the "laity" emerged over a long period of time.
Much of what we see among the "clergy" such as priestly garments, robes, special shirt collars and special titles are a carry over from the Old Testament priesthood. We tend to forget that the Old Testament shadows, symbols, and types were all fulfilled in Christ. The Old Testament priesthood was done away.
This certainly does not mean that God has done away with leaders in the Body of Christ. There will always be leaders. God gave these ministries to the Church. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are gifts from God to his people. These all have their place and function. We will only be blessed when we receive them in the name of Jesus and hear what they have to say.
All of these are traveling ministries, including the pastor/teacher. The pastor/teacher has a smaller circle geographically than the apostle, prophet, and evangelist, but according to Acts 20:17-31 Paul expected the elders of Ephesus whom he called overseers (bishops) to shepherd (pastor) the flock (one flock) in Ephesus. So in some sense, every pastor/teacher in Ephesus was responsible to move about among the believers and feed the Flock of God in Ephesus. This means that no pastor could put his brand on a few of God's sheep in Ephesus, build a sheep pen (sanctuary) and call them his own. They all belong to Jesus and the job of the
Paul gave a solemn warning to the shepherd who would "draw away disciples after himself." trying to make them exclusively his own. (Acts 20: 29-31) The entire flock within the city was the responsibility of every pastor. Radical?
The opposite error is also wrong, and that is the hireling shepherd who sees the wolf coming and flees, or even worse, a shepherd who never takes up any responsibility for the sheep at all.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that it was not his purpose to lord it over their faith, but rather to work with them for their joy.
The biblical plan is for apostolic ministries to "appoint leaders in every city" as Paul instructed Titus to do all over the Island of Crete.
Moses appointed rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens for one simple reason; to meet the needs of the people.
There is nothing wrong with organization in itself. That is exactly what is done when we fight a war.
My wife cannot plan and present a meal without some organization going on. I cannot plan and present a prayer meeting or a house church meeting without some organizing happening. That does not disqualify the meals or the meetings. The problem of organization is not in organization itself, but rather in those who would manipulate the organism to the point of suffocation. I can kill the life and spontaneity of church by over-organizing and making everything depend on me if I am a self-serving leader.
But we have become so fearful of self-serving leaders in the Body of Christ that we tend to despise all leadership.
For years I refused to organize anything for fear of producing a denomination. As I continued to pray about it and seek the mind of God, he showed me that organization, in itself, is not evil.
The simplest definition I know for organization is to make a plan and implement the plan.
Moses organized and began meeting the needs of the people in a much more efficient way by appointing men of integrity in places of leadership . . . servant leadership. (Ex. 18:13-26)
Jesus gathered seventy of his followers and sent them out in teams, two by two, into all the towns and villages where he himself would later go and preach.
On another occasion he appointed twelve to be his apostles, taught them and sent them out two by two with a command as to what they should do and not do. That is organization.
The deterrents to self serving leadership are: the Word of God, the Body of Christ, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Godly leaders and the example of Jesus.
Paul said to Timothy, "If any man sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task."
What is servant leadership? Consider the following:
The scout in the pioneer days of the march West who rode ahead of the wagon train to find water in a desert place and then led the wagon train to the water, saving the lives of the early pioneers . . . that is servant leadership.
The pastor who faithfully feeds the saints the truths of God . . . that is servant leadership.
The husband who loves his wife as Christ loved the church and daily lays down his life for her and his little ones . . . that is servant leadership.
With or without organizational structures, we will always have to deal with our motives.
Did Jesus put himself in places where he would be seen?
Did he draw large crowds?
Did he claim to be The Son of God at the risk of his life?
Did he cause a stir wherever he went?
Was he famous?
Did he challenge the religious leaders and the religious system of his day?
Was he doing the will of the Father?
Over the past several years the Lord has repeatedly spoken two statements in Paul's writings to me:
Paul had the liberty, even the responsibility, given by the Lord Jesus, to systematically establish churches city by city, and also, in some way, to watch over and care for them. On one occasion he even appointed (ordained) Titus to appoint (ordain) elders in every city on the Island of Crete. This would be equal to appointing someone to take on the responsibility of appointing elders (leaders) in every city within a state or province.
Since 1990 God has led me to help plant simple churches both in the US and in other countries. It has been a challenging assignment and we have seen good fruit from this effort. After nineteen years of experience, I am convinced that I have been overly careful and have lost the heart of what Paul expressed in the verses above. He had a God-given call to start churches in every city, ordain elders in every city, appoint others to ordain elders in every city within a larger geographical area and continue to give oversight and care to those churches.
After holding back for all these years from any kind of organizational structures for fear that it would grieve the Holy Spirit or somehow dishearten or confuse house church people, many of whom are fearful of anything that looks like organization, I believe the Lord is saying that it is time to appoint elders (leaders) to plant and care for the churches, as well as to train and release others to do the same. In doing so, we will not try to shield them from input from the larger Body of Christ. We are all admonished to receive pastoral, apostolic, prophetic, and civil authority wherever it crosses our path. We are not seeking to create a kingdom within a kingdom. The words of Oswald Chambers ring thunderous and clear here:
These appointed leaders will start house churches that will seek to relate to the whole Body of Christ in the city and to participate with what God is doing in the city-wide church. They will reach out to the world by networking with missionaries, foreign workers and missionary organizations to help spread the good news. They will submit to every spiritual authority that God sends into their lives including pastoral, prophetic, apostolic, civil, and Biblical authority.
Our responsibility will be to encourage and help the churches.
What is the purpose of an organization?
We will be doing what Paul was doing. He established churches, returned to strengthen them, and at times would send someone else to help them. He wrote to them, prayed for them, and maintained a working relationship with them. But can we have organization without hierarchy? YES! The ground is level in the Kingdom of God. Servant leaders are not ladder climbers.
The word elder, apostle, evangelist, pastor, prophet, teacher, all speak of a function and not a level of authority or importance in a pyramid structure. Every leader in this ministry will look to the Lord for his financial supply. God's work, done in God's way will not lack God's supply. What God orders, he pays for, and where guides he provides.
Our purpose is to obey the Lord's command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone in the power of the Holy Spirit.
From temple based church to home based church
If we divide the Body of Christ into three major groups, liturgical, evangelical, and informal, and ask the question, which of the three has more meetings and more people per week, worldwide, the answer would be . . . Informal. By "liturgical" we mean churches with a prescribed form of conducting public services such as Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, or Episcopal. "Evangelical" would be the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal and every other denomination that regularly have public services that meet in a sanctuary or temple. "Informal" is the category into which house churches would fall.
We might also ask, "Which has been around longest?" And the answer to that question is that house churches have been around longest and, worldwide, there are more informal house church meetings and more people that meet in house churches every week than in either evangelical or liturgical churches. Of course this includes China, India, Africa and many other countries around the world which are beginning to explode with house church movements.
According to church history there were no church buildings for the first 250 years of the spread of the gospel into all nations. The house church is mentioned often in the New Testament. Here are a few:
"The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house."
"Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house."
"And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their food with gladness and singleness of heart."
"And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him."
This is how the First Century Church spread throughout the known world within a very short time. They were not slowed down by the need to buy land, build buildings or hire a staff. They just did church in homes and found that it worked just as well for them as it did for Jesus.
From the seminary system to the apprentice system . . . using Paul's method
Just before the start of the Second World War, Dawson Trotman was a sailor on a battleship in the Pacific Fleet. He was a dedicated Christian who believed in Paul's method explained in II Timothy 2:2. He led another sailor to the Lord and began to "entrust" the things of God to this young man. For several months he met with him regularly and taught him to memorize Bible verses, to share his faith with others, to pray, to give, and to walk with Jesus daily.
After about a year he commissioned his friend to go and do the same for some other sailor as he had done for him. Dawson then began to disciple another sailor and his first disciple began to work with one of his friends. Now there were four. In time there were eight, then sixteen, then thirty-two. By the end of World War II Dawson Trotman's ministry had multiplied to such an extent that there were disciples on every ship in the Pacific fleet that could trace their lineage back to Trotman and his first disciple.
Out of that "one on one" experience, he formed a ministry called The Navigators who now have disciples in nearly every country in the world and are still growing. All this happened because one sailor had a vision to invest his life into one other sailor and teach him to do the same. It still works and it is the best form of teaching known to man. It is the way the greatest teacher who ever lived did it. He had a small group of disciples, but he still made it a one-on-one approach even within the small group.
No one has ever improved upon the apprentice system for education. The ideal for teaching is the teacher on one end of the log and the student on the other.
If I know how to swim, I can teach you how to swim. If I can speak the Spanish language, I can teach you how. One on one is always best. Small groups are next best. But even in the small group, one on one must also take place.
The formal seminary and Bible school format is too close to the cloistered life that takes the student out of normal life and puts him into an artificial situation for a period of years. When he comes out of that environment, he has a difficult time spanning the gap back into real life situations. Some never do.
Classroom teaching has its strong points, but it is significant that Jesus chose to call his students alongside him while went from town to town, from place to place, doing the works of God in the presence of his students (disciples) and teaching them to do the same things he was doing. He not only told them how; (classroom) he showed them how; (workshop). Even with all our modern methods and tools of education designed for the classroom, the apprentice system is still unbeatable. More than that, it is essential!
From tenth to total . . . giving generously and expecting the promised blessing
Most of us were taught that when we give our tithes and offerings to God, we are to expect nothing in return. In one sense this is true. We are to give without expecting anything in return from the one to whom we give. But all through the Bible when God admonishes us to give, there follows a promise of blessing to the giver. This blessing is to come from the hands of our heavenly Father himself. Here are a few of the passages that encourage us to give, followed with the promise of material blessing:
"There is one who scatters, yet increases all the more. And there is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want."
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every material blessing overflow to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will overflow in every good work."
"Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will overflow with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine."
"The generous man will be prosperous and he who waters will himself be watered."
"Give and it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return."
These verses and many others make it clear that we are not only to give generously to the Lord but we are to look to the Lord to fulfill his promises to bless those who give.
We cannot ignore any of God's promises without offending his goodness and mercy toward us. The reason these promises have not been fulfilled in many lives is because we have been taught to give without any expectation of return; that it is wrong to give expecting something in return. It is not wrong to give and then expect God to do what he has clearly promised in his word that he would do. That is called FAITH, and without faith it is impossible to please him.
It is dishonoring and disrespectful to God to completely ignore a promise he has made to me. I am father to two sons and five daughters. If I make any one of them a promise and they take it lightly or completely ignore it. That does not make me feel good. It makes me feel sad. It says they don't believe me.
God gives promises to us so that we may take hold of them and be blessed. It is a trick of the devil to blind us to these promises of material blessings by making us think, "You're just giving to get which is pure selfishness." You can give unselfishly, then after you give just remember his promises and expect to see them come to pass. For many years I gave expecting nothing in return and that is just what I received. Then one day I saw my error and began to give with expectation of material blessing. I have found that God keeps his promises to the one who is trusting in his promises. I call it GENEROSITY WITH EXPECTATION!
From selective submission to complete submission
In the late nineteen seventies and early eighties I got excited about what was then called, "The Discipleship Movement" also called the Shepherding Movement." The main proponents of that movement were some of the most prominent Bible teachers in the USA and the world. I fed on their teachings by cassette tapes and ultimately joined the movement, submitting myself to the oversight of one of their leaders.
Most of what we were doing was very good and needful in the Body of Christ, but there was "poison in the pot." One of the main problems was what I call, "Selective Submission." After my wife and I, along with our children, had languished in the movement for four years, we walked away from it and felt a huge release! But for those four years I tasted the bitterness of a system that taught us to submit to one special shepherd and close our minds and hearts to any other voice. The Holy Spirit was grieved and so were we. Day after day in my early morning walks I prayed, "Father, what is it about this movement that is sapping my spiritual life away?"
To me, those four years were like going to a university and coming away with a degree in how to recognize legalism in the Body of Christ. Since that time I have been able to sense legalism a mile away. It is a very subtle thing, but once you have suffered a lingering death in the throes of legalism, you can easily detect it when you get near it. Since that time, if anyone asks me the question, "Who is your covering?” or “Who are you accountable to?" or "Who are you submitted to?" I look straight into their eyes and say, "I am accountable to you and if you have a word from the Lord to me or a word of wisdom, or caution, or admonition, or encouragement, I am listening." That person has the responsibility to deliver that word and I have the responsibility to weigh it to see if it is truly a word from the Lord or not.
If I am submitted to the King of the Kingdom, I am automatically submitted to His delegated authority wherever it crosses my path.
Submission is a heart attitude and stays with me at all times, toward every authority. I cannot arbitrarily choose some special person to whom I will submit, thereby leaving others out. I must live life with an attitude of submission toward the Lord Jesus Christ and every God ordained authority, everywhere and at all times.
God will give me certain close relationships, but that is not the criteria for submission or accountability. We are accountable to God at all times and we are submitted to God at all times. For that reason, we remain submitted and accountable to any and all of God's people who represent His authority. If we are truly living a submitted life, we will welcome the input of the Body of Christ in all places at all times. This includes spiritual overseers but is not restricted to them. God may speak to you through a perfect stranger. That’s what happened to Paul when Ananias, a perfect stranger, came and spoke the word of the Lord to him as he was on a three day fast right after the Damascus Road encounter with the Risen Lord. Did Paul recognize God's authority in Ananias? Yes, he surely did!
To be sure, there is a submission for all of us to God ordained authority, and we do not have to fear the idea of submission, for the good news is that Jesus is our King! If we are submitted to the King of the Kingdom, JESUS CHRIST THE LORD, then it follows that we will automatically be submitted to His delegated authority anywhere and everywhere it touches our lives. We will also have a spirit of submission to one another. This is the Spirit of Jesus. Submission is a heart attitude toward God and toward every God ordained authority He sends into our lives. I do not have to submit to an authority that does not exhibit the spirit of Jesus Christ.
What about the word, "Covering?" Has anyone ever asked you, "Who is your covering?" I do not use the word "covering" because people who use it usually want to bring you under their "covering" and take control of you in spiritual matters. The word "covering" is only used one time in the New Testament and that is in I Corinthians
"Who is your covering?" This is never a valid question, for it implies that you need to select some individual or ministry to watch over your life to the exclusion of everyone else! We are to be submitted everywhere, at all times, to every spiritual authority that crosses our path, and we will be, if we are truly submitted to Jesus. The "covering" question is usually tied to the idea "selective submission" which is WRONG! We cannot choose to whom we will submit. We MUST submit to all spiritual authority as unto the Lord himself. There is no such thing in the New Testament as selecting a certain ministry or individual to whom I submit.
From titles to function . . . designating the function, dropping the titles
Jesus was hard on those who were out to call attention to themselves. He publicly rebuked the religious leaders of his day for the way they tried to look important and special and great and learned and holy and indispensable.
There is a fine line between title and function, but there is a difference.
The word "apostle" simply means, "one sent forth."
So, what is the difference? It is the difference between a title and a function. Jesus said,
I was standing in the hallway of a church, talking to Bill, the pastor of the church when one of his church members passed by and said, "Hi, Bill!" as he walked by. The pastor immediately called him back and said, "My name is Bill, but you are to address me as ' Pastor Bill,' okay?" It was an embarrassing moment for me and especially for the poor church member who received such an unnecessary, stinging and open rebuke. There are many ways to show respect for our spiritual leaders without violating the command of Christ to avoid the use of titles.
But why would our Lord make a point of forbidding us to use titles? Is it not an obvious fact that titles are intended to impress, to intimidate and to establish a sense of superiority or importance by those who use them? Why should it be necessary for God's people to boast about any of their accomplishments? Isn't using a degree as a title an advertisement of your accomplishments?
If someone asks you if you have a degree in one of the arts or sciences, and you answer the question, this is not a problem. But to go around advertising it is another thing. To insist on being called by a certain title after you receive your degree is falling right into the snare Jesus warned us to avoid.
The most obnoxious of all religious titles is "Reverend" and some denominations have gone to the extreme by using the title "Right Reverend." The word "reverend" is only used one time in the Bible. Here it is:
The word "reverend" in the above verse is from the Hebrew word "Yare" which means, fearful, dreadful, terrible, to be feared, awesome. The NIV uses the word "awesome" instead of "reverend" in this verse.
May God help us to take the words of Jesus at face value in this matter and refuse to be entangled in this subtle snare of using impressive titles!
From independence to inter-dependence . .
Everything that belongs to Jesus belongs to me and I belong to everything that belongs to him. That's what it means to be an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus. I am a member of every church in town and every other ministry that belongs to Jesus, worldwide!
I do not have the same measure of responsibility for every other church or ministry, but it still belongs to me and I belong to it. On the other hand, every ministry that God has given me belongs to every other believer, too. We are members one of another, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. We do not have the same level of involvement or responsibility, but we all own it jointly.
How does this play out in practical ways? It should cause us to pray for and bless one another; to give us a sense of oneness or unity; to melt away a feeling of competition, and to dissolve the walls that separate us. It should also cause us to fellowship with one another and even admonish one another when necessary, even though we may not attend the same fellowship. All the "one another" verses in the New Testament were directed to the city-wide church, not to a local fellowship.
A few years ago a pastor friend of mine was going through a strong temptation to leave his wife for another woman. The woman in question was a member of his church and his wife would not attend the church.
I saw the direction his marriage was going. Everybody was talking, but nobody wanted to say anything to the pastor about it. One day on our weekly prayer walk I decided to talk to him about
I have to admit I was not prepared for the violent reaction from this brother when I admonished him about this problem. "What right do you have to stick your nose into the affairs of my life and family? You're not a member of my church!" With that simple argument he felt he had every right to push me out of his life.
"That's where you are wrong, my friend!" I said. "You and I are both members of the Body of Christ and we are both members of his Church! There is only one and you have every right and responsibility to admonish me and I have the same right and responsibility to admonish you concerning things of this nature even though we do not attend the same worship service weekly. There is no such thing in the New Testament as local church membership. Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, in Corinth, in Rome as one body, not as several groups. We are all one in Christ."
He did not agree with me and that was the last time we ever walked and prayed together. He finally left his wife and family and married the other woman. He had to leave the church, but he went out and started another one. The last I heard, he was still leading that new group. If we had a better conception of the church in the city, things like this would not happen so often. Somehow we have drifted into the idea that we are only to obey the "one another" admonitions in the New Testament with those with whom we fellowship in the local church and not the city-wide church. I am happy to report that this concept of the city-wide church is beginning to be received by more and more of God's people everywhere.
From paper membership to Body membership . . . rejoicing in our unity
One of the most subtle and grievous problems in the Body of Christ today is that of paper membership. This is a practice that goes directly against the warning Paul gave to the elders not to "draw away disciples after themselves." Consider his words to these elders in
That should be warning enough, but somehow it has not penetrated the minds of many church leaders who are doing exactly what Paul warned not to do. They require believers to register themselves into their particular church as members and then gently lead them to the understanding that since they now belong to "their" church, they do not belong to any other church in town. They seek to brand them with their own particular brand so that they will feel constrained to show their loyalty and allegiance to that church and that pastor to the exclusion of other churches and other pastors.
"But isn't that the way it should be?" some will say. "How can anyone be a member of more than one congregation and how can they have more than one pastor?" The book of Acts presents ONE CHURCH, One Body of Christ to which all believers felt joined. This comes across loud and clear! It was the Lord who added new converts into the membership. It is the Holy Spirit who baptizes us all into THE BODY OF CHRIST, which includes all believers everywhere! (Acts 2:47 and I Corinthians 12:13)
And do not believe the deception that we are to "make covenant" with those with whom the Lord has given you relationship in your local church. We are already in covenant with every other believer in the world! There is one covenant; the one we celebrate every time we take communion together. There is no such thing as a special covenant between special friends in the Body of Christ. To do this is to open your life up to exclusivity and to a spiritual bondage of the worst sort.
Certainly there are more intimate relationships that develop within the Church, but that is not another covenant. When we take communion we are celebrating the ONE COVENANT of blood that joins every member to every other member of the Body of Christ. We should be able to take communion with every other believer at any time and in any place. Depth of relationship has nothing to do it. We are all born into the same family through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is only one Body and we are all members one of another.
Some of the problems of paper membership are:
First, we are presuming that we know who is truly born again
"But where will my salary come from?" cries the unbelieving under-shepherd.
Every local church within the city must see itself as a vital part of the citywide church and of the church worldwide.
Pastors and leaders must never lay claim to any of God's sheep as belonging to them.
The elders (also called shepherds, pastors, teachers, and bishops) of each locality should develop working relationships so that they can more effectively watch over the flock of God over which the Lord has made them overseers.
From the wheel to the vine . . .
Many traditional churches are recognizing the need for small groups that meet weekly in homes for the purpose of encouraging and strengthening one another in their walk with Jesus. There is a dynamic dimension of in-depth nurturing in the small group that does not happen in the larger celebration.
The largest church in the world led by Pastor Cho, says "we are the largest church and the smallest church in the world." They have thousands of home cell groups that meet during the week, and on Saturdays and Sundays they fill their huge auditorium many times over with tens of thousands of worshipers.
The early church grew even faster by taking a different path. The difference is similar to that which exists between a wheel and a vine. The wheel has spokes going out in all directions and coming together at the hub, the center of the wheel.
The Vine church could be compared to a strawberry plant. It grows out in all directions, multiplying itself over and over as it puts new roots down, giving birth to multitudes of baby strawberry plants which, in turn, put out vines that put down roots that give birth to more and more strawberry plants. It is the same principle as
The most dramatic growth in the history of the church since the first century is taking place now in China, India, and Africa. And they are all house church movements. The advance of the kingdom of God through the rapid multiplication of house church networks is thoroughly embedded in the history of the church, both in ancient times and in modern times, right up to the present.
This means that it is not enough to start a house church. We must start a house church movement by starting house church networks. This can be done by sending off two or three couples from time to time to start a new group either within the city or in a town nearby. Normally it is not best to divide a group into two groups. There is too much tearing in the relationships and it is discouraging to the people. It is better to send off missionaries to start the new groups. The church planting team can even continue to meet with the original house church for a time, which will make the separation easier and strengthen the hands of the new church leaders.
From organizational unity to spiritual unity . . . discovering the one simple step to unity
There is only one step to unity in the Body of Christ and the key word is found in the following two verses from Paul's letter to the church at Rome.
"Receive those who are weak in the faith but not for the purpose of contending over different opinions."
"Therefore, receive one another as Christ also has received us to the glory of God."
Unity is an attitude. It is an attitude of the heart. It is lovingly receiving each other as members of the same Body even though we may not agree on all points of doctrine or methodology. If you have come out of darkness into His marvelous light by being born of the Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, then God is your Father and I am your brother and we can walk together and work together while we work out our differences.
On and on we are given to understand that even though the early Christians had differences, they continued to receive one another as brothers in the Lord and worthy of their love and acceptance. That is keeping the unity in the bond of peace.
Some of them did not receive each other and they were severely admonished by their leaders when they exhibited a spirit of sectarianism. Paul gave that kind of admonition when he said, "I am informed of you, my brothers, by the household of Cloe, that there are contentions among you. Some of you are saying, I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; and I am of Cephas; and I am of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?"
In all of this the goal of the New Testament church from its inception was to hang together while they grew in their understanding of the truth. Any other attitude was rebuked in clear and certain terms.
We are not all called to be doing the same thing together, but we are all called to receive one another with the proper love and respect as brothers and sisters in the household of faith.
Denominational walls are getting thinner and thinner throughout the world and the day will come when we will not be looking over any walls. We will be inviting each other to come through the doors and partake of all the Lord is doing among us all. Oh, Father, hasten the day when we will see and experience this kind of unity in the Church worldwide!
From seeking patterns to seeking guidance . . . following the Early Church’s example
The early church did not look for a "pattern" in the Old Testament for fulfilling Jesus command to go into all the world and preach the good news, and they did not have the New Testament to read, for it had not yet been written.
Several years ago I worked with four different churches that tried to copy the methods of Pastor Yonggi Cho of Korea. After all, he had built the largest congregation in the world and the largest in the history of the Church, he had the ear of every church leader in the world. We were listening, too, but all four churches failed to grow by meticulously trying to copy Cho's methods.
A few years later I was listening to an interview of Dr. Cho on the radio. When asked,
But there is one little word in that formula that needs some
Most of our praying is talking to God. But prayer is also listening.
If there is one "bottom line" pattern in the New Testament for building the Kingdom of God and conducting the affairs of the church, it is Cho's six powerful words, or rather four powerful words "I pray. I obey." The pattern is prayer . . . listening prayer.
From "Us and them" to just "Us". . . Rejecting an "us and them" spirit
One of the problems among some house church people is that of a critical attitude toward the traditional church. It is true that God is dealing with some very basic problems that exist in the traditional church. But He will also deal with a sour, sick, ugly attitude toward any part of the Body of Christ if I allow it to exist in my church or in my own heart.
We cannot afford to nurture an attitude of antagonism toward the people of God, no matter what their problems might be. We are to receive our brothers and sisters who belong to Jesus as part of the Body of Christ. They belong to us and we belong to them.
The prophet Daniel fully identified with the sins of the people of Israel in his prayer of repentance in
"O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and keep your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets who spoke your messages to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land. Lord, you are in the right but our faces are covered with shame just as you see us now. This is true of us all, including the people of Judah and Jerusalem and all Israel, scattered near and far, wherever you have driven us because of our disloyalty to you. O Lord, we and our kings, princes, and ancestors are covered with shame because we have sinned against you . . . We have not obeyed the Lord our God, for we have not followed the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has disobeyed your law and turned away, refusing to listen to your voice."
Daniel could have easily taken a different attitude and stood in a place of censure and condemnation toward his fellow Israelites.
Jesus took his place along with sinful man when he presented himself to John the Baptist to be baptized with a baptism of repentance even though he had never sinned and had nothing to repent of. Even so must we all identify with the sins of the church, even if we feel we are not personally guilty. This is the ministry of the true intercessor. The problems of the church, the whole church, are our problems for we are the church! It is not us and them . . . it is just US!
From planned church to spontaneous church . . .
Certainly we will plan and we will attend our regular church meetings, but we will also be open to spontaneous church, too! Jesus said,
Spontaneous church happens more often than we have realized or recognized. If we can receive it, Christ is in the midst of every gathering of believers even if it is just for recreation, a meal, a work project, or whatever. However, to experience the dynamic and the blessings of church, we must recognize and honor His presence, but He is there, in the midst, nonetheless.
Jesus did not say that he would be in the midst of two or three who come together in his name to study the Bible, or pray, or sing praise.
The Body of Christ, the Church, is made up of people and is to function as Church in every area of life, not just in so called "religious" gatherings inside the walls of a "sanctuary."
Can the Church go fishing together? Can the people of God work on a building project together? Can the Body of Christ paint a house together? Can they play a game together? Can they eat a meal together? Can they go on an outreach together to share the good news? To all these questions, the obvious answer is "Yes, they can!" But the other obvious question is, "Is Christ in the midst of gatherings that do not look like "religious gatherings?" Again, the answer is, "Yes." Jesus said so himself.
The Church of Jesus Christ is a "they" not an "it."
If we begin to understand this we will begin to honor and respect his presence and treat the most ordinary and common activities with the same honor and respect we are used to giving him in a special building called a "sanctuary." The whole world becomes a sanctuary when we know and believe the truth. I can never say, "I am the church," but I can say, "We are the church," even if there are only two of us together.
It takes at least two to make a Church, and they must be together in the same place, but they do not have to be in any special place or doing a special activity to be the Church, the Body of Christ. Let us determine to
From bondage to freedom for women . . . Releasing the
More and more books are being written today to point out the need for women to be released to function in the Body of Christ. I will only add the words of the two scripture references I have cited below, taken from the New International Version of the New Testament:
"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy."
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
It is not insignificant that the largest church in the world, located in Seoul, Korea, began its explosive growth when it defied the traditions of the church and of Korean culture and allowed women to do the work of the ministry. Read the life and ministry of Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, the pastor of that church. You will be amazed!
The amazing multiplication of house churches taking place at this time in China and India is being initiated mainly by young people and the majority of them are girls.
Please read and meditate on the words in Acts and Galatians above and read some of the books listed below. Every woman who names the name of Christ needs to have the same liberty to function in the gifts and callings of God as men. Paul made it clear that women were to function under the spiritual authority of their husbands, but men are also commanded to be submissive to God-ordained spiritual authority. I am aware of Paul's words,
The following is a list of books which examine the various Bible passages on the subject - Genesis, chapters 1-3, Acts 2:17-18, Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 5:21-33, 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, 14:34-40, 1 Timothy 2:8-15, and
Bushnell, C. Katherine, God's Word to Women, privately reprinted c/o Ray B. Munson, P.
Bristow, John Temple, What Paul Really Said About Women, Harper Collins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022,
Cervin, Richard S., Does kephale ("head") Mean "Source" or "Authority Over" in Greek Literature?
Gundry, Patricia, Heirs Together, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 49506, 1980, 186 pages. Gives insight into Jewish, Greek, and Roman marriages of the First Century.
Haubert, Katherine M., Women as Leaders, MARC, 122 East Huntington Dr., Monrovia, CA 91016-3400, 1993, 101 pages. Basic, easy to read.
Hull, Gretchen Gaebelein, Equal to Serve, Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, 294 pages.
Keizer, Walter, Hard Sayings of the Old Testament, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 60515, 1988, 259 pages.
Keener, Craig S.
P. O. Box 3473, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1992, 350 pages, a look at Marriage and women's ministry in the letters of Paul. A Scholarly work.
Kroeger, Richard and Catherine, I Suffer Not a Woman, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, 1992, 253 pages.
Kroeger, Richard and Catherine, Women Elders, Sinners or Servants? Council on Women and the Church, The United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., 475 Riverside Dr., New York, NY 10027, 24 pages about the possibility of women elders.
Krupp, Joanne, WOMAN - God's Plan, not Man's Tradition, Preparing the Way Publishers, 2121 Barnes Avenue SE, Salem, OR 97306-1096, 1993,
Martin, Faith, Call Me Blessed, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, 1988, 180 pages.
Mickelsen, Alvera, Women, Authority
Penn-Lewis, Jessie, The Magna Carta of Woman, Bethany Fellowship, Minneapolis, MN 55431, 103 pages, a book on the release of women by the author of War on the Saints. This writing is also available on-line at www.LighthouseLibrary.com .
Torjesen, Karen Jo, When Women Were Priests, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022, 1993, 278 pages.
Trombley, Charles, Who Said Women Can't Teach?
Tucker, Ruth A. and Liefield, Walter L., Daughters of the Church, Academie Books, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand
Wright, R. K. McGregor, A Response to the Danvers Statement, Christians for Biblical Equality, P. O. Box 7155, St. Paul MN 55107-9998, 1989, 33-page paper.
Also, Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton's book, WHY NOT WOMEN? Published by YWAM Publishers
These are recommended as starters. Most of these books are available through Christians for Biblical Equality, P. O. Box 7155, St. Paul MN 55107-9998; phone 612/224-2416, fax
The list above has been prepared by Nate and Joanne Krupp, 2121 Barnes Avenue SE, Salem, OR 97306-1096; phone 503/585-4054, fax 503/375-8401, e-mail email@example.com. Used by permission.
From Old Covenant to New Covenant . . . moving away from a sacred/secular dichotomy
Many of the most entrenched problem areas in churches today come from either ignorantly or stubbornly hanging on to the shadows and types of the Old Covenant. The vestments, the altar, the emblems, the priestly garments, the incense, the special priesthood, the stilted language, the tithes to the priestly tribe, the teachings, special holy days, the temple, and the temple furniture all tend to hold the people under a certain bondage to the old covenant. Read all of
"But our High priest has been given a ministry that is far superior to the ministry of those who serve under the old laws, for he is the one who guarantees for us a better covenant with God; based on better promises. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But God himself found fault with the old one when he said, 'The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. And this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel on that day . . . I will put my laws in their minds . . . and write them on their hearts so they will obey them. And I will forgive their wrongdoings, and I will never again remember their sins.' When God speaks of a new covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and ready to be put aside . . . The old system in the Law of Moses was only a shadow of the things to come, not the reality of the good things Christ has done for us."
There is no special priesthood anymore. The Church of God is a Kingdom of priests who offer up the sacrifice of praise to God continually and point men to Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
We need to read the book of Hebrews again and again till we see clearly that we are living under a new covenant. Some of the things we are still doing are no longer to be done, the special priesthood being the most prominent and most destructive to the covenant of grace.
From arbitrary guidelines to biblical guidelines for appointing elders
Looking for godly character more than scholastic achievement
God has ordained spiritual leaders just as certain as he has ordained that there should be civil leaders or civil government.
God has ordained civil authority and spiritual authority. Men have abused civil authority and spiritual authority, but that does not negate the fact that these authorities exist and they are for our good, for God is good and he only designs good for us. Some would like to totally obliterate the whole idea of spiritual leaders who have some measure of spiritual authority in the Kingdom of God, but that will never happen. Just remember that those in authority will answer to God for how they exercise that authority.
Not all spiritual leaders are using their authority to "Lord it over God's heritage." Paul certainly exercised his authority, but never for any purpose but for the good of the Churches. He gives us some very clear guidance as to what to look for in a person we are thinking of putting in a place of leadership.
It is not primarily a matter of how much intellectual training, but first the character of the individual that matters, such as purity, truth, devotion, anointing, and faithfulness. He is not to be a novice, but neither is he required to have a degree in theology.
An elder can be any one of the four ministries mentioned in Ephesians four; apostle, prophet, evangelist, or pastor/teacher. There will always be a difference of opinion as to whether it is four or five different ministries in Ephesians four, but I believe it is four. A teacher is a pastor in the sense that he is capable of feeding the sheep, and a pastor is a teacher, otherwise he is not a pastor. And if you are teaching you are doing the work of a pastor by feeding the sheep. You do not have to be an evangelist to do the work of an evangelist, or a prophet to prophesy. Even so, you can teach without assuming that you are a pastor. A teacher is not necessarily a pastor, but a pastor must be a teacher.
We do not have to appoint (ordain) elders as soon as we plant a church. A study of Paul's first missionary journey shows that you can plant churches first and appoint leaders later. In most cases that is probably the best way. It gives leaders that God has gifted and anointed and called time to begin doing the work of leading and becoming recognized as leaders before they are commissioned as elders. Let them function in their office for a time and then let them be recognized for what they are. They are elders. Each one of the ministries listed in Ephesians chapter four is an elder. If you are an apostle, you are an elder. The same applies to the evangelist, the prophet, and the pastor/teacher.
Here are the requirements for spiritual leaders Paul lists in his
"It is a true saying that if someone wants to be an elder, he desires an honorable responsibility. An elder must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money. He must manage his own family well, with children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church? An elder must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud of being chosen so soon and the devil will use that pride to make him fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not fall into the devil's trap and be disgraced."
"I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. An elder must be well thought of for his good life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who are not wild or rebellious. An elder must live a blameless life because he is God's minister. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or greedy for money. He must enjoy having guests in his house and must love all that is good. He must live wisely and be fair. He must live a devout and disciplined life. He must have a strong and steadfast belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with right teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong."
A leader is a servant of the people, not a king, or a ruler. We have to look at the life and ministry of Jesus to find out what a true leader is. A true shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep and a godly spiritual leader will pour out his life for the saints. He will also bring adjustment and correction to those to whom he ministers. This is clearly seen in such passages as
Correction is not rejection, but what we do not correct we will eventually reject. Let us remain open to godly input and correction into our lives by men and women of God whose lives and ministries touch our lives. I must
From "my pastor" to "my pastors" .
When Paul called the elders of Ephesus together he referred to those elders as overseers (Bishops), and pastors (shepherds).
In this passage, Paul refers to the elders by three different names: Elders, Bishops and Pastors (shepherds). Therefore, a bishop is an elder and a pastor is also an elder. An elder is to serve the Lord and the Church as an overseer (Bishop) as well as a pastor (shepherd).
It is also important to note in the above passage that Paul refers to all the saints who lived in Ephesus as "The Flock" and not "The Flocks" as if there were more than one flock of God’s sheep in that city. There was only one Flock and the elders were all commissioned by Paul to shepherd that one Flock.
We are not told how they all collectively went about to watch over, feed, and nurture the flock, but we are told that they were all responsible for the spiritual oversight of all the sheep in that city. They were not to divide the flock up and dole out a certain number of sheep to one shepherd and some to another. They were not to divide up the flock till all the sheep had their own favorite shepherd and every shepherd had his own following. We know this was not the norm because of Paul's stern warning to them in this same passage,
How would it sound if I said, "My apostle", or "My Prophet" or "My Evangelist?" Sounds very strange to me and completely unscriptural! It should sound just as strange to say, "My Pastor" when it implies that you only have one pastor and could not possibly have pastoral input from more than one spiritual leader.
As to how this is to be put into practice, God will direct us if we are willing to obey his clear teachings, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is already a lot of cross-pollinating going on within the Body of Christ, which has not been happening for centuries. The trend is definitely toward more networking among denominations, churches and ministries. People are feeling more freedom to attend different churches and relate to the whole Body of Christ within the city without feeling like they are being disloyal to one particular congregation. More pastors are catching the vision for doing away with paper membership and opening their arms to receive God's people into their meetings without making requirements regarding "signing in" and becoming exclusively "a member of my church . . . one of my sheep."
Pastors are getting together in many cities across America to pray together, seeking to break down denominational barriers which have caused devastating divisions within the church for hundreds of years. We praise God for this new day! More pastors and leaders are building bridges and tearing down walls than ever before in the history of the church! This is cause for rejoicing! Could this be simply because there are more walls to be torn down than ever before in the history of the church? I think so.
From raising up leaders to appointing servants . . . keeping the ground flat in God’s kingdom
The phrase "raising up" gives the impression that in order to be a leader you have to be "raised up" or elevated above the common, ordinary people. In some of the older church buildings, especially in Europe and New England the pulpits were raised high above the people, so high that the speaker had to climb a winding stairway to reach it. This gives the wrong impression. (a gracious understatement)
In reality the process God usually employs to prepare true leaders rather than "raising up" would more accurately be described as, "battering down" leaders! You may be going through the "battering" process and know what I mean. The process of spiritual preparation that God puts us through to become servant leaders inclines us to be servants rather than "lords." Jesus said,
The "clergy-laity" system has fostered the idea that the common people should be pouring out their lives to minister to the spiritual leader, as if that leader were some sort of a "queen bee" of the hive; that they are more important and need lots of attention. In some churches the impression is given that the only way to give to God is to give to the "man of God." As if giving to the poor or to missionaries would not count. There is more about giving to the poor in the Bible than about giving to meet the needs of pastors and ministers.
Another way the clergy puts themselves above the common people is to quote this scripture from the Old Testament, "Touch not God's anointed," as if the pastor is anointed and the people are not. The New Testament makes it clear that all believers are anointed; not just certain leaders.
It will not take long to discern if you are following a servant leader or not. The servant-leader pours out his life for others. He lives to give. The self-serving leader leads a life of taking. He may be ever so smooth, gentle, and polished in his teachings and in his public ministry, but he is still a "taker" more than a "giver."
One of the most amazing facts about the Kingdom of God is that the way up is down and the way down is up.
From local vision to world vision . . .
Obeying Jesus' command to go into all the world,
A very encouraging word concerning the progress of the Christian Movement into all the world came to me recently by email about a book that describes a tidal wave of Christianity. From this and other reports that come to me from week to week, it is clear that the church is returning to the simplicity of the book of Acts and the gospel is going forth with greater speed and power. Read the follow and rejoice!
A Tidal Wave of Christianity
Source: CBN -
September 11th focused a lot of attention on the growth of Islam. What most pundits and scholars have missed is the incredible growth of Christianity, and where it's growing. We like to think of ourselves as the Christian West. But there is growing evidence that the center of Christendom has moved. Africans are running to accept Jesus Christ. It is a scene playing out all across the developing world.
It may sound like an exaggeration, but it's not: Christianity is sweeping across the southern hemisphere and Asia like a tidal wave. 'The scale of Christian growth is almost unimaginable,' said Dr. Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University.
Jenkins shocked and probably panicked some of America's political and media elite with his acclaimed book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. Jenkins argues the greatest movement of the past century was not communism or capitalism. Do the math and the winner is Spirit-filled Christianity, or what he terms in his study as "Pentecostalism."
'The modern Pentecostal movement begins at the start of the 20th century,' Jenkins said. 'So, say this begins with a few hundred, a few thousand people . . . today you're dealing with several hundred million people, and the best projections are by 2040's or 2050's, you could be dealing with a billion Pentecostals worldwide. By that stage there will be more Pentecostals than Hindus. There are already more Pentecostals than Buddhists." Jenkins says in just 20 years, two-thirds of all Christians will live in Africa, Latin America or Asia."
Back in 1900, there were about 10 million Christians in Africa representing about 10 percent of the population. Today, there are 360 million, representing just under half the population. That is one of the most important changes in religious history, and I think most of us didn't notice it,' he said. A lot of people still haven't noticed it.
Then there is China. There are about 80 million Christians in China, according to former Time Magazine Correspondent David Aikman, who predicts China will be a Christianized nation in 20 to 30 years. He does not predict a Christian majority, but a China that is 25 to 30 percent Christian. Enough, he says, to change society and government. "If you have a Christianized China, the leadership of China would reflect a Christian worldview to some degree,"
The reports of the growth of Christianity below are from the Friday Fax 2004 Issue 46, 26 November, 2004
1,000 NEW CHURCHES PLANTED EVERY WEEK
The mission agency, Christian Aid, was founded in 1953 by Bob Finley, who worked closely with Billy Graham. It was one of the first American mission agencies to support local missionaries instead of (expensive) Americans, particularly in nations where Evangelical Christians are an oppressed minority. Today, they support 90,000 missionaries, and are training 40,000 mission workers in hundreds of Bible schools. They plant over 52,000 new churches every year! That's 1,000 each week. Source: www.christianaid.org
GOD AMONG THE TRIBES
"How do we recognize when a new Christian church has been planted in a people group?" asks New Tribes Mission, which works among unreached people groups around the world. "Is it the presence of a concrete church building, or a straw-thatched meeting room? No, a new Christian church has been planted when the locals start to tell their own story of how God freed them from their life of sin to worship him. Source: New Tribes Mission
We are indeed living in exciting times! The people of God are moving all over the world in a powerful way and more and more of His people are catching a vision to evangelize the world!
From building my empire to building His kingdom . . . equipping and releasing the saints
Church, in many countries, has become big business, especially in the USA! Whether it is taught or not in the seminaries and Bible colleges, the philosophy of success that is embraced by many pastors and leaders is that success is measured in nickels, noses and beautiful temples. A big offering, a big attendance in a gorgeous big temple brings with it the sweet smell of success!
We need to heed the words of Oswald Chambers,
Along with this philosophy comes a large open front door and a tightly closed back door. There is a huge welcome to everyone to "come and participate in this ministry," but, in most cases, there is no way to be sent out from that ministry to start new ministries in other places. After all, "if we are going to get bigger and bigger and build that larger building and have a larger staff, we need to have a larger and larger attendance ourselves!" It is not, "Come and let us help you fulfill your calling and your vision." It is "Come and help us fulfill our vision."
I have noticed that the ministries that help people find the will of God for their lives and do everything they can to help equip them for their calling or ministry and get them started in it are the most successful in extending the Kingdom of God. It is the primary task of church leaders to
The following is a word from
The local churches are the primary equipping and sending agencies. We live in a time when Bible colleges and seminaries have tried to take over this responsibility and it is just not working! The best way to equip men and women to do the work of the ministry is to have them begin doing it right there in the local assemblies. This was the way Jesus did it. His disciples were with him in the work he was doing and learned to do it by first watching him and then by doing the things he did under his supervision. It is the best method under heaven for equipping the saints and sending them out to do the work of the ministry. There never was a better way and there never will be. If God used it when he was here in the flesh, it must be the very best way possible. (See Appendix D for information on how to start a home based training school based on Ephesians Four, "Equipping the Saints for the work of the ministry.")
From Intellectualism to Supernatural Anointing . . .
Going into all the world, but waiting till I have my clothes on
Jesus said to his disciples after his resurrection,
"It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
The primary equipment of the early apostles and evangelists was not intellectual furniture, but a divine touch from God that enabled them to do the works of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was not just the words of Jesus that attracted the crowds. It was mainly the miraculous works of God that he was doing. These included:
Healing the sick
Raising the dead
Casting out demons
Walking on water
Feeding a multitude with a handful of food
Turning water into wine
Calming the storm with a command of authority
Withering a fig tree with a word
Exposing the inward thoughts of people
Disarming his detractors with the word of God
Telling people details about themselves that only they would know
Predicting things to come
Here is a list of things we count as essential in our day for taking the gospel into all the world:
Temples, Sanctuaries, Buildings, etc.
And lots of money!
Jesus listed one thing that would be sufficient to get the job done: POWER! Miracle working power!
We may say, "But there is nothing wrong with using every available means to take the good news to all the world." And we would be right, but it still stands that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was the only equipment Jesus mentioned both in Luke 24 and in Acts 1 as essential preparation to becoming effective in getting the gospel into all the world.
Check out the list above. How much of that list did the early church have? None! They had a few scrolls of the Old Testament, perhaps, but no books. They were taking a very simple message to share with all who would listen . . . Christ died for our sins!
This is not to minimize the training that they had in walking with Jesus for three years, but still Jesus said in effect,
"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command, 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised which you have heard me speak about, for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'"
The apostles understood how important it was to minister in signs and wonders like Jesus did. The church came under severe pressure and threats from the authorities who commanded them not to preach in the name of Jesus. They apprehended them, beat them, threatened them, and let them go. They went immediately to their own people and reported what had happened.
That is a prayer the church today should be praying continually in every country and among every people group.
The immediate results of that prayer was amazing!
Some things are essential and some things are extra. We thank God for the extras such as the list of modern inventions listed above, but none of them are essential in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. The one thing that is essential is a man or woman preaching the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with signs following. Using that equipment, within the first 250 years the early church took the gospel to the known world, and they did it without any of the things on the list above; things we consider to be essential.
It is significant that Jesus did no miracles until after he was anointed on the day of his baptism in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit came "upon" him right after his water baptism. He had the Holy Spirit "within" him all his life, but he received the Holy Spirit "upon" him on that day. After that, he did hundreds of miracles.
But is this a trend in the church and in the world today? Are we moving away from intellectualism to the anointing Jesus spoke of in
RECENT REPORTS FROM CHRISTIAN AID:
Laos: miracles bring many to faith Despite the Communist authorities' best efforts, hundreds of people in Laos are turning to Jesus, many of them after they have witnessed a healing in Jesus' name. The Government is doing its best to intimidate Christians and prevent the Gospel spreading further; officials threaten Christians with jail and severe punishment if they witness to others. Church buildings were closed, but many brave Christians continue to meet in them.
Many members of mountain tribes, traditionally Animists and Spiritists, are becoming Christians. The obvious authority the indigenous missionaries have over demons speaks for itself, and many miracles open the people's hearts for God. The churches in Laos are growing faster than they have for many years, and even the most determined government cannot stop that.
From rejecting one another to accepting one another . . .
Recognizing our brothers and
Like Jesus, we can only work closely with a few individuals, but we can receive, accept, and bless every other believer God brings across our path. Not everyone will be excited and blessed that you are seeking to multiply house churches throughout the city. Some may ask,
ORGANIZATIONAL UNITY AND SPIRITUAL UNITY
What is the difference between spiritual unity and organizational unity? We are all members of the same Body, therefore we are one spiritually.
ONE CITY-ONE CHURCH
Paul never wrote to the churches of any city.
KEEP THE UNITY
In the above passage Paul did not say, "Establish the unity of the Spirit." He said,
UNITY WITH DIVERSITY
We can have all the diversity we want to have as far as organizations, denominations, and fellowships are concerned and still have unity in the Spirit.
The "bond" in Ephesians 3:4-6 speaks of something that ties together, like a rope or belt.
AN INWARD STEP
The one step to unity, then, and there is only one, is found in
TAKE THE STEP NOW
This one step to unity can be taken right where you are this very moment.
When you sincerely pray that prayer, you have taken the one step to unity.
ONE CENTRAL TRUTH
There is only one central truth around which we can all declare our unity and that truth is not a teaching or a concept or a principle or a doctrine.
RECEIVE ONE ANOTHER
In every church, whether it is a house church or a traditional church, we must accept every other believer as members of the same Body without regard to denominational affiliation.
MANY LEADERS - ONE ARMY
We are all in warfare and there are many generals, Lieutenants, captains, and foot soldiers, but there is one Head, our Commander in Chief, Jesus Christ himself.
MANY TRIBES - ONE NATION
There were twelve tribes in Israel, each with its own territory, genealogy, leaders and banner.
The church in Jerusalem was one. It was one Body. There were many house churches, but the unity of the citywide church remained intact. There is not a hint of division within the Body. In those days no one was
One of the worst offenders of this kind of freedom which the first Christians enjoyed was the introduction of church membership in the local church, which says, "If you belong to this congregation, you cannot belong to any other congregation." And the motivation behind that, in all likelihood, is the profit motive. More sheep means more wool. More adherents means more income. More members means more money. The Old Testament teaching of the tithe was strictly incorporated into the mix which promised a curse upon those who did not give a tenth of their income to the Lord, which meant, "into the offering plate".
Some years ago when I began to understand how free I was to fellowship with all believers within my town, I started saying,
We are one! We are born into spiritual unity "for there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all." We are members one of another whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not! That's just the way it is! To acknowledge that truth and live as if it is true is "maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
From law keeping to living by grace . . .
Standing fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free
It is a sad fact that a great segment of the Body of Christ is either bordering on law keeping as the means of salvation or they are blatantly teaching salvation by works rather than salvation by grace through faith.
This is not something new. It was the most serious disagreement within the early church. The question was then as it still is today, "Are we saved by grace as a gift of God or by keeping the commandments of God, or by a mixture of the two?"
Paul met the law keepers head on when he confronted Peter in Antioch. Peter had no problem eating with Gentiles until the leaders of the church in Jerusalem came to check things out, then Peter pulled away from eating with Gentiles and would only eat with Jews. Here is Paul's version of what happened that day:
"When Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him publicly, speaking strongly against what he was doing, for it was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who don't bother with circumcision. But afterward, when some Jewish friends of James came, Peter wouldn't eat with the Gentiles anymore because he was afraid of what these legalists would say. Then the other Jewish Christians followed Peter's hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was influenced to join them in their hypocrisy. When I saw that they were not following the truth of the Good News, I said to Peter in front of all the others, 'Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you trying to make these Gentiles obey the Jewish laws you abandoned? You and I are Jews by birth, not sinners like the Gentiles. And yet we Jewish Christians know that we become right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ. We have believed in Christ Jesus that we might be accepted by God because of our faith in Christ and not because we have obeyed the Law. No one will ever be saved by obeying the Law.
"I make myself guilty if I rebuild the old system I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, I realized I could never earn God's approval. So I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ. I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not one of those who treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.'"
Many are beginning to see what Paul saw so clearly and to embrace their freedom and to stand fast in that freedom. There will always be religious leaders who are ready to bring you right back under the bondage of law keeping. The
Read the entire book of Galatians. It was Paul's letter to the Galatians that sank into the soul of Martin Luther and exploded into a major move of God throughout the world, beginning in Germany.
In the following brief overview of Paul's letter to the Galatians I have been greatly helped by Kenneth Wuest's summary of Paul's message to the Galatians, chapter by chapter showing the apostle's central message to them and to us. You will find the full treatment in the book, Word Studies from Galatians in the Greek New Testament. Published by WM. B. Eerdmans.
In Galatians 1:1-10, Paul establishes his apostolic authority and by emphasizing redemption through the name of Jesus, he protests their doctrinal error. He rebukes the
In 1:11-14, Paul's revelation of the gospel came directly from Jesus Christ and not through man. His whole life training had been directly opposed to the teachings of grace, but rather based in law keeping.
In 1:15-24, Paul was not taught the gospel by the apostles in Jerusalem for he had not seen any of them except Peter and that for only a period of fifteen days. It was all revealed to him by Jesus.
In 2:1-10, Even when he returned to Jerusalem, he was not subservient to the other apostles, but was on their same level as an apostle, being sent out by Jesus.
In 2:11-21, Paul exercises his God given spiritual authority when he rebuked Peter for mixing law and grace in the matter of eating with gentiles and then not eating with them, then requiring gentiles to keep the law.
In 3:1-5, Paul reminds them that they had received the Holy Spirit by faith and not by obeying laws.
In 3:6-9, Abraham was justified by faith and not by keeping any laws therefore the true children of Abraham are justified the same way.
In 3:10-14, The Judaizers were teaching that keeping the law was God's way of bringing us to justification. Paul taught that the law brought only condemnation and that it is only through the cross of Christ that we are released from that condemnation.
In 3:15-18, God made provision for both Jew and gentile to be justified and to receive spiritual gifts before the law was ever given. Therefore the law cannot set aside God's previous provision.
In 3:19-4:7, Why, then was the law given? It was given to show that sin is a direct violation of the laws of God; so that being convinced that we have transgressed God's law, we would then be willing to receive God's remedy for sin, the sacrificial lamb of God that had been prophesied for centuries.
In 4:8-20, Paul appeals to the Galatians to maintain their freedom from the law, and not go back to law keeping, reminding them of how they had received him and his message with joy and of his desire to be with them again.
In 4:21-31, The history of Hagar and Sarah illustrates the present status of law and grace. As the son of the bondwoman gave place to the son of the free woman, so law has given place to grace.
In 5:1-12, Paul exhorts them to hold fast to the freedom from law which the Lord Jesus procured for them by the blood of His Cross, and not become entangled again in a legalistic system.
In 5:13-26, Having been liberated from the law by the blood of Jesus, they are not to think they now have liberty to sin. They have been liberated from an elementary, extrinsic method of controlling conduct and released into an exciting, powerful intrinsic, inward control of the individual by the indwelling Holy Spirit who will give them power over sin.
In 6:1-5, In this life of victory over sin, we are to help restore any who fall prey to Satan's wiles, considering ourselves, that we are all capable of falling into sin, sin of the worst sort.
In 6:11-18, Paul's final warning against the Judaizers, those who would seek to blend law and grace, and his final words. 'May God's mercy and peace be upon all those who live by this principle. They are the new people of God. (margin "the Israel of God.")
It is a matter of much rejoicing that this is a day in which the message of grace is beginning to be taught and caught by the Body of Christ worldwide. There is no greater bondage than religious bondage, but Jesus said,
From overwhelming oversight to restful oversight . . .
Allowing the church to function
A few years ago while making the transition from serving as pastor of a traditional church to getting involved in the house church movement, I began to pray that God would show me what changes this would involve. Over a period of a few weeks the Lord showed me that there would be a lot more rest for pastors than I had ever thought.
First he reminded me of the words of Jesus in
One night as I was ministering in a church in Mexico City, I woke up in the middle of the night and felt impressed to read Ephesians chapter four in my Spanish New Testament. As I read about the ministry gifts to the church, God spoke a parable to me. He said, "In every car there are two motors, one that runs on gasoline; the other on electricity. The gasoline motor is huge in comparison to the electric motor, but it is the tiny little electric motor that is designed to start the gasoline motor, and it is the gasoline motor that is designed to provide the power to move the car. As soon as the big motor engages, the little motor disengages. If it did not, it would burn out in a very short time."
The apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor/teacher are servants to the body of Christ to act as initiators (starters) to get the body functioning and then, just as the starter motor disengages as soon as the big motor starts, so it is with the wise leader. He must not stay engaged or he will burn out, just as a starter motor would do if it did not disengage after starting the big motor.
As long as the little starter motor is trying to move the car by the power of a single battery, the car will never function as it was designed to function. It is only the big gasoline motor that has been designed to move the car. And it is only as the Body of Christ is released to do the works of Jesus will it ever attain unto the fullness of maturity in Christ and be able to win the world to Christ.
A TOMATO PLANT
A few days later the Lord spoke to me again on the same subject. He gave me another parable, the parable of the tomato plant. While eating lunch one day with my wife I remarked how tasty the tomatoes were we
"How much work did you do to produce that tomato?"
"Not very much," I thought to myself, "I just prepared the soil in a clay pot, bought the tomato plants, put the roots under the soil, and watered them from time to time. A couple of times I put some plant food in the water."
"That's how it is with the church" the Lord said. "You didn't have to do very much work to produce those tomatoes.
A FIRE ON THE BEACH
Not long after that the Lord gave me another analogy: I was down on the beach early in the morning as was my custom when we lived in Laguna Beach, California a few years ago. I used to go down to the beach almost every morning with a beach chair, some matches and old newspapers, some books and my Bible. There was always plenty of driftwood that I could gather off the beach to build my fire.
As I sat there, looking into the fire, the Lord spoke to me, "That's how the church is. It is like watching over this fire. The church is a spiritual fire and when it dies down, you can help rekindle the flames as you see the need. You cannot bring the fire of my Spirit, but you can help set the stage for his coming. I want you to enjoy overseeing the church. All you have to do is just be ready to stir the coals and put on more fuel. The fire burns of its own accord. This is the nature of the church and this is the work of an elder."
Many years ago Roland Alan wrote a book entitled, THE SPONTANEOUS EXPANSION OF THE CHURCH. In his day he did not see much fruit from what he wrote in that book, but in our day, his book has re-emerged as a major confirmation to what is happening in the house church movement in China, India, Africa, Latin America and, to a lesser degree, in almost every other country in the world.
From "We will build" to "I will build" . . . rethinking Jesus' words,
At times we are guilty of changing the words of Jesus to mean what we think they ought to mean. When Jesus said,
"CHURCH OUTSIDE THE WALLS"
BY JOHN ARNOTT
The following information first appeared in Spread the Fire Magazine and was sent out over the Internet.
More and more we hear the term, “church without walls” but what does this mean? While it can mean sending teams from a local church outside the church’s walls to minister in homes and in the marketplace, I believe it is much more than that.
If we are going to reach this world for Jesus, we need a completely new model of doing church. I don’t know why we can’t have 'church' in homes, offices, schools, coffee shops, or even outside for that matter. Why can’t we have church meetings that are facilitated by an army of non-professional yet anointed Christians and have them meet whenever and wherever it works for them?
Maybe we need to take a hard look at what has happened to the Church in the last 2,000 years and see how we can return to Jesus’ model of “doing church?” Jesus said,
In spite of man’s attempts to organize and institutionalize the Church, it has thrived through the centuries because Jesus’ eternal life is in its people. But I believe that the Church fulfilled the mission of Jesus better when it was unorganized and decentralized and even persecuted. Back then it depended more upon the foundation of Jesus as the Anointed One, rather than on structure, and it was a supernatural church!
Today around the world, our evangelical faith is experiencing a massive revival. According to information obtained on the web site, World Christian Encyclopedia, China, Africa, and Latin America are exponentially growing with new converts.
What is happening? It is His Church, without walls, without central government, moving in His authority and power to see supernatural miracles and conversions happening at an unprecedented rate. Isn’t it interesting that the weaker we are in terms of finances, political power, central government or ability to move forward through self effort, the more we rely on Him, the true source of Kingdom power and advancement?
It is no secret that the Church in developing nations is advancing rapidly. The Lord is filling the earth with the knowledge of His glory. (See Habakkuk 2:14) But in North America and Europe, the historical strongholds of the faith, many people have been inoculated against the Church because they have seen the sins and the failures that arise when the Church turns into an institutionalized political system, and they have rejected that.
Many people have criticized the fact that there are so many hundreds of different denominations in the US and Canada alone. But I often wonder if God has allowed it to happen in order to weaken our political, organizational and financial power so that we will return to prayerfully depending upon Him.
So how does this work then? Seemingly, the Holy Spirit has no problem coordinating hundreds and thousands of different individuals and congregations for His eternal purposes. Things really do work much better when Jesus Himself is the head. Once we understand that there is not to be only one or two who represent Christ as His vicars (deputy, ambassador, representative) on earth, but in fact, every believer is to be His representative, we will each more clearly demonstrate Jesus to a needy world.
Look once again at China, Africa and Latin America. In China every day, it is estimated that thirty thousand new believers are added to the Church. How is this possible? Because the Church is underground and decentralized, the few cannot tell the many what to do. I recently heard a report of a young Chinese girl, seventeen years of age, who pastors a church of 20,000 people. How is this possible? There is no central
It is time for those of us who live in the West to take a reality check. Church as we know it is not really working here. Many of the so-called “success stories” of church growth are merely transfer growth, people who are already Christians moving to a new church. We need some new models for having church which allow ordinary “lay people” to easily and quickly get involved in ministry.
Somehow the point of entry into ministry has become too difficult throughout the centuries. It is so different from the way Jesus equipped His followers. He first took twelve, and then 70 willing men and women, trained them enough in one year to start sending them out into the surrounding territory to spread the news of the Kingdom of Heaven. They ministered very effectively and came back rejoicing that many healings were taking place, and even demons were subject unto them. (Luke 10) After one to two years of equipping, those fishermen and tax collectors who were considered uneducated and untrained began changing their world.
JOHN WHITE'S COMMENTARY
John White is a house church coach who lives in Denver and connects with
"About 10 years ago I had the opportunity to spend several days at what was then the Toronto Airport Vineyard.
"First, there were lots of people who were falling deeply in love with Jesus (over 4 million people have been touched since the revival broke out).
"Second, the Sr. Pastor, John Arnott, was giving mature and thoughtful leadership to a situation that often seemed wild and crazy. A recent email from Felicity Dale pointed me to an article by John Arnott, entitled "Let's Get Back to Supernatural Church", clearly articulating many of the basic concepts of simple church. By "supernatural church", Arnott means "one that depends on "the foundation of Jesus as the Anointed One, rather than on structure".
"What a concept!
"The article is also significant because it reminds us in the house church movement that meeting in a home (or Starbucks) is no guarantee of supernatural church.
"The house church movement meets the requirements that John Arnott proposes above. In fact, it is a house church movement in China that is
BILL BRIGHT'S BILLION SOUL INITIATIVE
Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ who died in 2004, prompted the Billion-Soul Initiative founded at the end of last year. Close colleagues and participants in consultations with Bright report that he explained his personal missionary vision for the future shortly before his death. He called on Christians to cooperate to call 1 billion people to follow Christ in the next 10 years by planting 5 million house churches. James O., Davis, John C. Maxwell and Steve Douglass subsequently formed the Global Pastors' Network. A global church planting congress is planned for September 2005, in which over 350 Christian leaders will gather to plan this "largest evangelistic initiative in human history."
While researching his soon to be published book 'Apostolic Genius', Alan Hirsch, author of The Shaping of Things to Come stumbled upon some extremely notable, even astonishing, discoveries by important observers of the global Christian scene." Already in 2001, Professor David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson mentioned that there were already 111 million Christians without a traditional local church.
Barrett highlights particularly the development of the so-called 'Neo-Apostolic' networks and movements, of which there are already over 20,000 around the world, numbering around 394 million Christians. According to Barrett, these Christians reject historical denominationalism and all restrictive central authority, and attempt to lead a life of following Jesus, seeking a more effective missionary lifestyle. They are the fastest-growing Christian movements in the world.
Barrett estimates that by the year 2025, these movements will have around 581 million members, 120 million more than all Protestant movements together. Hirsh, who has invited all of Australia's missionary movements to a conference in Victoria, confirms the trend from his own experience, and believes that these new Christian movements "are simply under the radar of traditional Christianity", at least as long as it holds on to the classical Constantine church structure (pastor + building + programme = church).
Source: Alan Hirsch, www.forge.org.au
From dependence on programs to dependence on prayer . . . adopting the strategy of the early church
Some time ago, I was studying how central prayer was to the church in the book of Acts.
First prayer, Second miracles, Third explosive growth!
As you read the following passages from Acts, you will see these three steps:
The strategy of the early church was simply to pray, preach the gospel, baptize the new converts and expect miracles. Then they welcomed them into the fellowship of the Body of Christ, both in the smaller house groups and in the larger gatherings throughout the city. Consider the following accounts in the book of Acts:
(Peter preaches the gospel to them in verses 14-36)
Peter preaches to the people who have gathered
On and on the evidence grows stronger that the early church moved forward with a very simple strategy . . . the prayer strategy.
In Acts 10 Cornelius prayed and the angel instructed him to send for Peter who would give him the words of life. In the same chapter, Peter goes up to the housetop to pray and God prepares him to go and preach the good news to Cornelius' family and friends.
In Acts 12 Peter is delivered from prison and certain death by a super natural visitation of an angel as the church prayed.
In Acts 13 as the church was praying, God spoke and sent out Saul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey which resulted in miracle after miracle and a multitude of new converts among the gentiles.
In Acts 14 new churches were formed and leaders appointed within the context of fasting and prayer.
From the above accounts it would be difficult not to conclude that the primitive church had a very simple strategy . . . taken from observing their Master. It was the strategy of prayer. As the disciples walked for almost four years with Jesus, they observed him operating in this mode continually:
He fasted and prayed 40 days to begin his ministry.
He would get up very early to pray.
At times he went up into the mountains to pray.
He often went out to solitary places to pray.
Sometimes he would pray all night.
He taught his disciples to pray.
The church of Jesus Christ worldwide has been involved in a powerful prayer movement for the past 25 or more years and we are beginning to get wonderful reports of revivals, releases, breakthroughs, and multitudes coming out of darkness into the light. In a recent report from George Otis Jr. producer of the Transformations Videos, we are told that 157 Cities and Nations on 5 continents are experiencing Transforming Revival, restoring community life, reducing crime and addiction, restoring hope, with multitudes coming to faith.
Otis said he receives reports every day of more cities around the world where transformation is happening as God responds to the PASSIONATE PRAYERS of His people. In studying all the stories of real revival, he finds a number of conditions that are always present before the powerful intervention of God. These include
God is leading us in this ministry of church planting and church multiplication to emphasize prayer. All the rest will come to birth as we pray and seek God with all our hearts.
From sinners to saints . . .
It is when I see that I am holy that I become holy. Wow! That is a powerful statement! As a new believer I was taught to say, "I am just a sinner, saved by grace." We all felt that was the only humble and truthful position to take.
We were warned never to say anything that would make us to appear, "Holier than thou." That little phrase is taken from Isaiah 65:5 where God is rebuking Israel in their sinful condition and yet they are saying to others,
The fear that I would appear, "holier than thou," made me run from anything that would make me look like a Pharisee. As time went on I began to see that there is not one instance in the New Testament where believers are called sinners. In every case they are called "saints" meaning "holy ones."
There are many statements about those who are in Christ that make it clear that we are to confess our righteousness and our holiness in Christ, never in ourselves, but always considering our position in Christ.
"It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written; 'let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'"
To be righteous is to be declared "not guilty" even though we are guilty. The innocent one has suffered for the guilty one and the broken law has been satisfied. To be holy, is to have clean hands and a pure heart. This is what we have as our heritage in Christ. Jesus said,
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
The old man is no longer who I am. I am a new man created in Christ Jesus, and that new man is clean, pure, and holy, by the blood of Jesus. Paul admonishes us to
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
When did I become the righteousness of God? I became the righteousness of God in Christ when Christ came into my life. He is my righteousness, my holiness, and my redemption. Holiness is not an attainment. I cannot attain to it by my effort, but I can obtain it by faith in the finished work of Jesus. When Jesus cried out from the cross, "It is finished!" It was all finished, not only my justification, but also my sanctification. It is not an attainment; it is an obtainment, and that means I cannot work for it, I just reach out and take it by faith as a gift from God.
Many are being taught that we are to strive to be holy for God commands us to be holy, but God knows that we can never be holy. Nevertheless we are to strive for it. But the truth is I cannot be made holy by my works any more than I can be saved by my works. Justification and sanctified are both received by faith in the finished work of Christ. My hands are clean and my heart is pure by the blood of Jesus, not by any works of righteousness that I have done. I am justified by faith and at the same time, in the same instant of time, I was also sanctified by faith, made holy by the blood of Jesus.
The only thing that gives me confidence to say with all assurance, "I know that I am saved, that all my sins are forgiven, and that when I die I will go to be with Jesus" is because of my faith in the finished work of Christ. And the only thing that makes it possible for me to say with confidence and assurance that my hands are clean and my heart is pure is also because of the finished work of Jesus. It is just as erroneous to say, “I am striving to be holy” as it would be to say, “I am striving to be saved.” They both come by grace through faith and are received instantaneously.
This truth concerning our righteousness and our holiness in Christ is gaining recognition and acceptance within the Body of Christ all over the world. May the light of this glorious truth continue to dawn upon God's people everywhere!
In the Foreword of this book we looked at the words of Watchman Nee in the light of what the Church, the Body of Christ is, in the mind of God, corporately. We need to look again at the words of our Chinese Christian Brother, who would remind us of who we are in Christ, individually:
"I am His masterpiece."
From Religion to Relationship . . . following Jesus back to Simplicity
Dick Eastman, in his book BEYONE IMAGINATION - A Simple Plan to Save the World, says,
When we look today at the institution we call "Christianity," the amazing pomp and ceremony, the huge sanctuaries and expensive cathedrals, the stilted language, priestly garb, intricate liturgy, mysterious rituals, and complicated theologies, it is hard to find Jesus in the midst of it all. But his life, his teachings, and his ministry to people still stand as our model. We cannot do better than to follow his example in how to evangelize the world.
The fastest growing segment of the Body of Christ worldwide is the Pentecostal movement that started on the day of Pentecost, was strong for about three hundred years, then went into an eclipse during the dark ages. Then there was a sudden resurgence back in 1900 A. D. at the Azusa Street meetings under the leadership of James Seymore. If there was one thing that was outstanding in that movement, it is the stark similarity to the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. Pentecostals spend much time in prayer crying out to God for miracles, signs and wonders just like the early church did in Acts 4:29-30 and they receive the same anointing.
In the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movement there is a dependence on the awesome presence of God. The primary equipment for taking the gospel to the nations is the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the tools of the ministry are the gifts of the Holy Spirit that come with that fiery baptism.
The Pentecostal Movement got
The clarity of the word of the Lord is so powerful to His Church today as to be overwhelming! What is the Spirit saying to the churches? Certainly, God is speaking specific direction to His people in various places, but there are two strong words to the church that calls for our response:
"Accept Christians who are weak in faith and don't argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you, then God will be glorified."
"I belong to everything that belongs to Jesus and everything that belongs to Jesus belongs to me. It's not us and them. It's just us! There is only one Body of Christ.
"And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. Send your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders by done through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
From the time they prayed that prayer, on throughout the book of Acts we follow the explosive events that took place. They were actually the works of Jesus continuing on through His Body, the Church. The increase and the spread of the gospel in that time through supernatural manifestations, primarily through divine healing, was so astonishing to the general public that even the enemies of the gospel cried out,
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus one night and said,
The main reason the primitive church grew by leaps and bounds, was the same reason that Nicodemus was totally convinced that Jesus was of God, because of the miracles he performed. The same applied to the apostles and the church. God was working with them, confirming their words with signs following.
Consider the following glimpses into the ministry of Jesus and the early church and the ensuing flood of new converts as a result of witnessing a display of God's power to heal and to deliver:
"Jesus . . . surrounded by crowds of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem and as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be healed . . . and healing power came out from him and they were all cured."
"Philip went to the city of Samaria and told the people about the Messiah. Crowds listened intently to what he
"As a result of the apostles work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter's shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came in from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed."
Peter and John healed a lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, which drew a huge crowd of people. They preached Jesus to them and
Isn’t it strange that in that day, women and children didn’t count? It has changed some in our day. They do count women now. But in most places, the kids still don’t count. I always count the kids! I am reminded of the story told about
“How did the meeting go tonight?”
“Really well!” said Moody. “Two and half people got saved tonight.”
“What? You mean you had two adults and one child received Jesus?”
“Oh, no” said Moody. “Two children and one adult got saved. The adult’s life is already half gone!”
Concerning the supernatural ministry of Paul in the city of Ephesus we read,
In all of the above, we have sought to awaken the Body of Christ to the tremendous opportunities that await us in this day of visitation, both in the USA and around the world.
I will never forget the words of the four lepers outside the gates of the city of Samaria as the city was under siege by the armies of Syria. (II Kings 7:3) I heard those words for the first time when I was seventeen years old: They have had a deep impact upon my life since that time.
The four lepers reasoned together as they sat there in their hunger, their sickness, their weariness and weakness.
So, in the twilight of the day, four dying men stepped out to take a risk and began to walk toward the camp of the Syrians, laying their lives on the line.
God help us to be willing, in all our weakness, to stand up and take a step of faith when the Spirit calls to go.
When Paul prayed and pleaded with God to take away his infirmity God said,
BY: ROBERT FITTS
Psychologists tell us that the four most dramatic and life-changing events in anyone's life are: first, spiritual conversion; second, marriage; third, the birth of a baby in the family; and fourth, the death of a family member. I have lived long enough to see all four of these events take place in my life: conversion, marriage, birth, and death.
My earliest awakening toward God was when I was a very small boy.
As I listened to my mother and father talk about God in our home after those meetings, all I understood at that age was that God is good and the devil is bad.
So, as a very small boy I started trying to be good.
As I listened to adults talk about the Bible and the things of God, the understanding that began to form within my very impressionable mind was that if my good weighed more than my bad when I died, God would let me into heaven.
It may seem unusual for someone so young to have such thoughts, but looking back now, after spending several years in a ministry called Child Evangelism Fellowship, I have no doubt that very small children can as truly believe on Christ and be as soundly converted as an adult if properly instructed.
When I was eleven years of age I attended a tent revival when we were living in Chester, Arkansas. My big brother and some more of our gang were with me.
One night the preacher said, "If you are ashamed of Jesus before men he will be ashamed of you before the Father and the holy angels." The fear of the Lord struck me deeply when I heard that.
While I was struggling with this decision, suddenly my brother stepped out and walked down the isle to where the preacher stood.
When we walked home that night, I felt such a wonderful peace in my heart!
I was raised in a home where there were no Bibles and no one ever went to church anymore. The time that Mother and Dad attended the revival meeting in Roscoe turned out to be a very rare event.
One day I was alone in the house when I saw a woman’s purse laying on the kitchen cabinet.
So I prayed a short prayer,
I was numb with guilt and regret.
But that was the beginning of six stormy years of living the life of a Prodigal Son. I did not return to God on my twelfth birthday.
After Mother died, I knew I had to turn my back on my life of sin and get right with God. There was a little Baptist church on the corner one block from my house and I made up my mind to start attending. After two or three services I made a public confession of my faith and was baptized in the Concho River near San Angelo, Texas in July of 1952.
Jesus became my Lord, my life, my joy, and my strength.
Ten years later I graduated.
While still a teenager I committed my life to be a missionary.
All our children are following Jesus.
If you have read my story this far, you are more than mildly interested in the things of God.
"Dear God, I know I have sinned, but I believe you love me and sent your son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die in my place to pay for all my sins.
If this prayer is the desire of your heart, pray it right now and Jesus will come into your life and make you a new person.
THE HOUSE CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The scripture passages below show that common, ordinary dwellings were used for spreading the gospel and for discipling new converts both during Jesus' lifetime as well as during the expansion of the New Testament church in the book of Acts.
A HOUSE WHERE JESUS IS WORSHIPPED
"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.
The very first time a group gathered to worship Jesus and offer him gifts was in a house, the house of Mary and Joseph.
PETER'S HOUSE IS USED FOR A HEALING MEETING
"When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in a bed with a fever.
In the early days of his ministry, Jesus used the house of Peter to conduct preaching, healing and deliverance meetings.
THE FIRST COMMUNION SERVICE IS HELD IN A HOUSE
In the last week of Jesus' ministry he said to his disciples,
JESUS PREACHED TO CROWDS ASSEMBLED IN HOUSES
"Several days later he returned to Capernaum, and the news of his arrival spread quickly through the city.
The things we do in our church buildings today, Jesus did in houses, in the open air, and in the temple courtyard during his years of public ministry.
PENTECOST CAME TO A HOUSE CHURCH
"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Many of us have never considered the number of foundational events that took place in someone's house.
The gospel was first preached to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was in a house.
And the first churches that the Apostle Paul started were all in houses.
Over the centuries we have lost the dynamic of simplicity and have added many things that have slowed the spread of the gospel into all nations.
IN THE STREETS AND IN THE HOUSES
"They worshipped together regularly at the Temple each day, met in small groups in homes for communion and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness."
The early church not only met in small groups in homes but also in larger gatherings in public places.
SAUL, THE PERSECUTOR, ATTACKS THE HOUSE CHURCHES
"But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house: and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison."
Where did Saul of Tarsus go to find "the people to the way" to drag them to prison and to death?
HOUSE MEETINGS AND OPEN AIR MEETINGS
"Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the news that Jesus is the Christ."
They did not meet in the temple proper, but rather on the temple grounds, or in the vicinity of the temple where the people were gathered.
A PRAYING HOUSE CHURCH DELIVERS PETER FROM PRISON
"Peter, therefore was kept in prison, but prayer was made without ceasing
It is clear that "the church" in this verse was meeting in the home of Mary the mother of John Mark for after Peter's miraculous release from prison through the visit of an angel he went directly to where the people were praying for his release and in
Consider the powerful influence one house church can have in the events of history. They, no doubt, saved Peter's life through their persistent prayer that night!
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY by
In his book, CELLS FOR LIFE,
THE HOUSE CHURCH THAT OPENED THE GOSPEL TO THE NATIONS
"The Following Day, Peter arrived in Caesarea.
This is a good example of how to start a house church.
LYDIA'S HOUSE WAS EUROPE'S FIRST CHURCH.
"After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house where they met with the brothers and encouraged them."
The church of Philippi was formed in the house of Lydia. We are not told how the church grew, but when the group could no longer fit in Lydia's house, they probably formed another group somewhere in the city and continued to divide and multiply.
PAUL'S RENTED HOUSE
"For two whole years Paul stayed in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.
These final words in the book of Acts reveal that Paul not only made use of the homes of others for the proclamation of the gospel, but that he also used his own rented house for spreading the good news of God's love.
FROM TYPES AND SHADOWS TO SUBSTANCE . . . JESUS CHRIST!
All the types and shadows of the Old Testament were totally fulfilled in Christ.
A woman of Samaria said to Jesus "Sir, our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
Jesus made it clear that the time had come and that Jerusalem was no more a holy place than Samaria was for HE HAD COME. In his coming he forever brought an end to the idea of holy places, for he himself had fulfilled all the types and shadows of the Old Testament.
Let us rejoice and praise the Lord that we have been released from all bondage and legalism as to a place where we are supposed to worship God!
THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
More and more people are hearing about the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a definite experience in which the Holy Spirit, who is already dwelling within the Believer, is released to overflow and empower him.
Jesus himself is our pattern and our example in this matter.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is given for the purpose of exalting Jesus Christ in the life and service of the believer.
IT IS PROMISED TO EVERY BELIEVER.
"For the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
"The promise" refers to the outpouring of the Spirit.
IT IS A GIFT
We do not have to beg for it.
IT IS ADMINISTERED BY JESUS
"John answered, saying to them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I is coming, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose; he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
There is a baptism in water administered by men; (Mt. 28:19)
There is a baptism into the body of Christ by the Spirit; (I Cor. 12:13)
There is a baptism in the Holy Spirit administered by Jesus.
BAPTISM IN WATER
Throughout the New Testament water baptism always happened on the same day (or night) that someone received Jesus.
BAPTISM INTO CHRIST'S BODY
Baptism into the body of Christ happens instantly when we take Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is administered by Jesus and there may or may not be a physical experience of it the moment it is received.
"And being assembled together with them, Jesus commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem but wait for the promise of the Father which, he said, you have heard of me.
Ten days later they all received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
"When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
Receiving the Holy Spirit when we are born again and being baptized in the Holy Spirit are two separate events.
I am fully confident that they did receive the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them that day and that is the "new birth," being born of the Spirit.
We read in Acts eight that the Samaritans had been baptized in water after having believed in Jesus and yet they did not receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit until Peter and John laid their hands on them and prayed for them to receive it.
Saul of Tarsus received Jesus on the road to Damascus.
We know that if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ in him he does not belong to Christ.
Also in Acts 19:1-7 the disciples in Ephesus had not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit although they were "believers" and were called "disciples."
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not the same as the born-again experience.
IT IS THE WILL OF GOD THAT YOU RECEIVE THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.
God commands all believers to be filled with the Spirit: "Be not drunk with wine
When you pray for the baptism in the Holy Spirit you are asking according to the will of God.
"And this is the confidence we have in Him that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us; and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know we have the petitions that we desired of him.
It is not enough to pray for the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
"Jesus, I do acknowledge you as my Lord and Savior.
The Bible says "The just shall live by faith" so do not seek to have an emotional experience.
Now that you have prayed and by faith received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as an expression of your faith that God has heard and answered your prayer, just begin to praise God, but not in your own language.
You are offering perfect praise to God in the Spirit. You are doing what the apostle Paul did when he said "I will pray with my spirit and I will pray with my understanding also.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit will bring wonderful changes into your life:
You will have a desire to minister to others in the power of the Spirit. It will be easier to share your faith in Jesus with those who do not know him.
Now that you have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, it is important to walk in the Spirit by faith moment by moment.
To live a consistent Spirit-filled life, observe the following: Walk by faith! Do not depend on your feelings.
Act on your faith.
Confess God's Word, not your doubts. Satan is the author of doubt and fear.
Make it a habit to praise God for all things and in all things.
Have a daily quiet time.
From time to time, spend a day in fasting and prayer. There is a spiritual synergism that takes place when we mix these three things:
MY EXPERIENCE OF THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
I first received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in 1959 at the age of 25.
I began to see supernatural things happen and I was excited!
This went on for several years and I experienced a measure of God's power and anointing, but I was not satisfied.
The years have passed since the baptism in the Holy Spirit invaded our family.
We are hearing about revival in many places and it is simply and only the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
I encourage you to seek this blessing and do not give up till you have a satisfying portion.
They need to hear the good news of the love of God in Christ Jesus given in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Will you receive it?
MINISTRY TRAINING SCHOOL
The goal of the Ministry Training School is to equip and release the saints to do the work of the ministry according to Ephesians 4:11-13.
For this reason the modern church probably has more in common with a spectator sport than the biblical model we have of the church - you basically have a few people playing the game and everyone else watches and cheers them on. However, this will begin to change and change quickly. We have come to the time of the restoration of all things, and it will begin with the church being restored to her purpose, and maturing in it as a light to all people of what they were created to be.
As the church is restored to her purpose of truly restoring all who are joined to her to their purpose, Christians will become the most fulfilled, confident, bold, peaceful, graceful, loving, people on the earth. This will be in striking contrast to what is happening with everyone else."
In Acts chapter nineteen we witness an amazing thing in the life of the apostle Paul. In the opening verses Paul travels to the city of Ephesus. He finds twelve disciples and discovers that they have not yet been baptized in the name of Jesus. So he baptizes them in Jesus' name, then lays hands on them and ministers to them the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Then, for about three months, he and this little group of disciples reason with the Jews in the synagogue persuading them about the things that pertain to the Kingdom of God. But some
The amazing thing is what resulted from Paul’s little school in the city of Ephesus. The NIV version puts it like this:
The province of Asia in Paul’s day was about the size of the state of California in our day. Can you imagine the influence of one school reaching the entire state of California? Even his adversaries acknowledged the effectiveness of Paul’s school when they said,
It must not be overlooked that it was more than just teaching the word of the Lord that gave Paul’s school such a dynamic impact on the people of Asia. It was miracles of healing and deliverance added to the teaching of the word. The ministry of healing and deliverance was the major drawing power in the ministry of Jesus. They not only came to hear Jesus' words but to be healed of their diseases and delivered from demonic oppression.
The discipline of the Ministry Training School (MTS) is to learn the word through discussion Bible study and to become proficient in ministering healing and deliverance in the name of Jesus, following the example of Jesus, and of Paul, and the primitive church. Here are some of the questions we seek to answer for those who are interested in getting involved in this school:
• What is a Ministry Training School?
• What is the purpose of the MTS?
• Where will we meet?
• What is the Cost?
• How Long Does the School Last?
If you are interested in starting an MTS in your city, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
STARTING A HOUSE CHURCH
Thoughts from the heart of my dear friend, Bruce Gordon
In talking and corresponding with folks who are interested in starting house churches, I felt moved to write up a summary of some of what I would say if we were face to face.
Starting a house church is not difficult.
Think of your times together more as a family get-together rather than as a formal ‘meeting time.’ There’s no need to think of it as ”Starting A Church”
As you come together, be intent on discerning what the Lord wants to do among you.
One of the first questions often asked is, “What do we do with the kids?”
In general, it’s good to experiment with how to incorporate the young ones into whatever goes on as fully as possible.
Eat together whenever you meet.
Look for ways to be a blessing to the poor, the needy and the hurting.
Don’t worry about whether you have good music or indeed any music at all.
Don’t feel like you have to have a special teaching.
Pray for each other’s needs, as well as lost people who are in relationship with you.
Don’t be too concerned about whether you seem to have the right kind of leaders or leadership structure, especially early on. There is One Leader, and He is well able to speak to you and your group regarding any recognition of leaders, and how they should function in your group.
Try not to worry about whether you are ‘under authority’ or ‘have a covering.’
The church functions best when it’s not seen as a certain kind of meeting, a special kind of experience, or the outworking of a special set of teachings, however Biblical.
SCHOOL OF HEALING & DELIVERANCE
MINISTERING HEALING IN TEAMS OF TWO
Jesus said to his disciples as he sent them out two by two to preach the Kingdom of God,
The School of Healing & Deliverance (SOH) is a ministry of training healing teams of two to pray together by phone daily. They are encouraged to pray a divine appointment prayer asking the Lord to give them someone to minister to that day as they go about their daily routine. A close study of how Jesus and the apostles and the early church ministered leads us to believe that the best way to have a healing ministry is to pray for God to set up appointments for us as we go about our daily lives, always ready to be used of God to bring healing to the sick, to share the gospel and help anyone in need.
My healing team partner is David Croom of Arizona and I live in Kona, Hawaii. Here is my divine appointment prayer: "Father, give David and I a divine appointment today with someone who is hungry for God or sick or in need and give us grace to minister the love of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit." Each day you will connect with your partner by phone to pray for a divine appointment and to share what happened the previous day.
The fastest growing movement in the world today is the Christian Movement. The leading edge of this movement is supernatural ministry that includes miracles, signs, and wonders; specifically that of healing the sick in Jesus name! Until recently, the most rapid growth of Christianity took place in the first three centuries of church history. The prayer of the early church was,
Then slowly that supernatural fire began to die down and almost went out during the dark ages! However, in our day there is a powerful resurgence of the healing ministry all over the world, in large crusades, in small groups, and one on one.
The School of Healing and Deliverance will help fuel the fires of this powerful movement. Normally the SOH starts on Friday evening and ends at noon on Sunday. In some instances we do it all on one day when it is not possible to do the longer seminar.
Jesus’ primary ministry as he went about preaching the kingdom of God was healing the sick. His fame spread abroad primarily because of the miracles of healing which he performed. People flocked to hear what he was saying because of what he was doing. Even Nicodemus, a well known teacher in Israel, said to Jesus,
The early church "turned the world upside down" because everywhere they went they healed the sick and cast out demons. They simply did it like Jesus did it. They preached Jesus as King of the Kingdom, healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out evil spirits.
The main reason that more Muslims have received Christ in the past 25 years than in the previous one thousand years combined is that there has been a growing awakening in the Body of Christ worldwide since 1900 AD; a greater openness to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit which enables us to minister in spiritual gifts, including divine healing.
The School of Healing and Deliverance trainees will come back together on a monthly basis to pray together and encourage one another in this evangelistic ministry. My book, Healing the Sick in Jesus Name will be given to each trainee. You are encouraged to read interactively through one chapter at each monthly meeting until it is completed. A leader of the larger team will be appointed at the end of the school.
Let us know if we can be of help to you in launching this ministry in your area.